Guest Post – Fresh From the Farm to Your Table

Costa Rica Family Farmed Organic Food…Comida Organica Express Delivers Puerto Viejo To Limon

It has been a life changing journey driven by the desire for a better, sustainable lifestyle. It has been an adventure of seven years leading my wife and I to life on a jungle farm on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast and inspiring us to gather and organize organic family farmers from various regions of the country. The result has been a beautiful organization which can deliver (within reasonable time) exceptional organic quality goodies at family prices anywhere from Talamanca to Limon with delivery coming soon to the San Jose Metro area. Continue reading

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Puerto Viejo – Bread and Chocolate

We hit another cheap food destination while on the Caribbean side last weekend. In case you didn’t see our other cheap breakfast post about La Botanica Organica, make sure you check it out. This particular Sunday was rainy on-and-off, which is typical Caribbean weather, but we didn’t care much. We had our sites on this little well-known breakfast nook in Puerto Viejo.

The restaurant and bakery is on a rustic porch similar to most restaurants in the area and unlike the usual weekend morning, there was a table open for us when we arrived. The place was filled with friendly faces and delicious food and coffee in front of most. To be honest, before even going in, our friends had told us the best part of the selection is the homemade chocolate brownies, so we were looking every which way to catch a glimpse before sitting down. And we found them, on a bamboo display not far from our table.

Our friends, whom we were visiting, work at a nearby hotel and thus know most other hotel and restaurant owners, so immediately upon arrival to Bread and Chocolate, the Maryland native owner came over. He was a great guy and being a born-and-raised Marylander myself, we reminisced about blue crabs and Old Bay seasoning before we ordered. The menu itself wasn’t huge, but it was full of meal descriptions that made me want to try them all. I was absolutely torn as to what I should order, so I of course asked my husband to split two (out of 6) of the dishes we were both curious about.

We settled on a fried egg sandwich (fried hard to my liking of course) served on a bagel with homemade home fried potatoes and an order of biscuits and gravy. Keep in mind we’re in Costa Rica here and biscuits and gravy isn’t something you can really find anywhere, so we were psyched about the prospect. The fried egg sandwich was served on our choice of an everything bagel, which was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, the way they should be. Not the way Bagelman’s makes them in the city. To our delight the potatoes were seasoned perfectly and while the biscuits were slightly dry, the unique mushroom gravy that topped them more than made up for it. My husband and I divided both plates in half and devoured our servings in no time flat.



So, after breakfast and another two cups of joe, we grabbed our brownies to-go. I chose the mint variety while our friends got the walnut type. When we got back to our friend’s Bali-style house on the beach we hung out with the dogs and later dove right into our mint brownies heated and topped with chocolate ice cream. It was bliss, I couldn’t believe I had never had a mint chocolate brownie before, knowing my affinity for mint chocolate chip ice cream, but this was awesome. The outside had a slight crust and the inside, extra fudgy. Heaven.

We can’t say enough positive things about Bread and Chocolate. We wished we could have tried everything on the menu and each dessert in the glass case, but our budget didn’t permit, so we’ll just have to wait until the next trip down there. Pura vida Bread and Chocolate!

Costa Rican Fire Sauce

Costa Ricans love their sauces. From Lizano’s to the typical veggies-in-vinegar at every soda table in the country, the Ticos can’t go without adding some extra kick to their dishes. I’ve adopted a similar mentality and feel like the table is empty without a bottle or two of various flavors on the table. My morning gallo pinto just isn’t the same without the chilero, nor the egg sandwiches with Tapatio. We know what we like and we check the labels to make sure they are not infused with MSG or any other preservatives, but sometimes we just want a homemade, fresh hot sauce to use for the month.

I’ve highlighted the most basic recipe for hot sauce that I know and we used our home-grown chili peppers that we bought from our neighborhood EPA in Cariari, Belen, Costa Rica. We planted the peppers back in March along with some basil, oregano, flat-leafed parsley, chives, thyme and cherry tomatoes. Are growing everything in planters so our dogs don’t stomp on them or sprinkle them with some unwanted flavor. The trick is mixing compost with good potting soil and keeping things fertilized with compost ever other month or so. We started a compost pile when we moved in, but haven’t yielded any good rich product yet.

Here is the recipe for the Costa Rican Hot Sauce and it’s certainly hot as fire so be careful how much you use as it stays with you for some time after your finished with it.

Costa Rican Fire Sauce Ingredients

• 9 ripe chili peppers
• 6 small to medium cloves of garlic
• 1 Cup white vinegar

Costa Rican Fire Sauce Directions

1. It’s best to use gloves when slicing hot peppers to avoid burning your eyes by touching them later.
2. Slice the tops off of all the peppers and discard. Slice each pepper into 4 large pieces and place into the blender.

chili peppers and vertical blender

3. Remove the skins from the garlic cloves by smashing them first and cutting off the tiny end which is inedible. Place into the blender as well.

chili peppers in vinegar

4. Pour in the vinegar and blend well, or use a vertical blender in a tall container.

hot sauce in blender
5. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid and carefully transfer the sauce without splashing or getting the fumes in your face.

Costa Rican Fire Sauce

Cheap Food Costa Rica Tamarindo – Falafel Mundo

To our surprise, we discovered Falfel Mundo, our new favorite place to eat in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, which is the unexpected cheap food place for under $10 per person, not at the overpriced seafood place on the beach. For my birthday this year I wanted to finally master this surfing thing. My husband and I have been trying to surf on our own for the past year with little success. I’ve been doing water sports behind a boat for 20 years so I assumed surfing would be similar, but I was wrong. Waves are much scarier than a boat. So, we headed to Witches Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo for a lesson with Maria and we learned a LOT. We corrected a few things and were riding waves before the lesson was over.

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So, getting back to the food, we stumbled on a place next to the Costa Rica Surf Club where we rented boards the next day called Falafel Mundo, a Middle-Eastern Cuisine place that only served three items, but served them VERY well; falafel, shawarma and shaksuka. Shira (almost like the He-Man counterpart) owns the place with her Israeli boyfriend where they have brought the delicious tastes of the Mid-East. They bring the spices for the dishes back with them from Israel or have their mom send a care package, so you know it’s authentic as it gets.

We bellied-up to the bar on the giant wooden stumps and ordered two half Falafel sandwiches and two half Shawarma sandwiches so that we could each share both. She asked if we wanted to add hummus and if we liked it spicy and of course we replied with a tandem ‘yes’. The hummus inside and the tangy yogurt sauce on each was the kicker to set things over the top. Falafel Mundo was a great experience overall and Shira was a pleasure to chat with while she prepared our food. This has become our “Bubba’s Fish Taco” of Tamarindo, the must-have when traveling through or coming within 50 miles of this beach.

Falafel Mundo is located next to Sharky’s and across from High Tide. Don’t miss this Cheap Food Here hotspot in Tamarindo.

Sweet Potato Chips (aka Boniato or Batata Chips)

A food that everyone else seems to love that I never really got into growing up or even as an adult was sweet potatoes. It’s not something that I ever ate at Thanksgiving, even if it was full of brown sugar with marshmallow topping. Call me crazy, but I never liked it. However, not too long ago a friend of mine made sweet potato fries and I’ve had them as well at restaurants before, and the sweet and salty combo was really delicious.

It wasn’t until my recent order of delivered organic groceries that I considered making sweet potatoes of my own. Plus, the version here in Costa Rica is called the Boniato or Batata, which has a purple skin and is white inside and with a different type of sweetness. When I came to them on the NaturaStyle list, I remembered the fries I had in the past and my friend’s affinity for Costa Rican coconut oil and decided now was the time to try them.

I decided on chips instead of fries and I absolutely loved them. It was a perfect sweet/savory snack and will be a regular on the list of party snacks. Here is how the recipe went:

SWEET POTATO CHIP INGREDIENTS

• 1 Kilo of sweet potatoes, boniatos or batatas
• 2 Cups of Coconut Oil
• 1 Tbl of coarse sea salt
• 1 Tsp fresh flat-leaf parsley

SWEET POTATO CHIP DIRECTIONS

1. Pour coconut oil into a large, deep skillet and heat on medium to medium-high heat (the oil should glisten and send up a slight wisp of smoke when properly heated.

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2. While the oil is coming to temperature, peel the potatoes and slice them to 1/8″ thick.
3. Place the slices of potato in the pan until no more will fit without overlapping.

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4. Cook for 4-6 minutes, turn with a set of tongs and cook for another 3-5 minutes until golden brown. For crispier chips, allow them to come to a rich brown color, but be careful not to burn them.

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5. Remove the cooked slices and place on a paper towel to catch the excess oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and parsley and allow to cool.
6. Repeat steps 3–5 until you’ve used all of the potato slices.

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Organic Groceries Delivered in Costa Rica- NaturaStyle

We’ve been toying with the idea of getting our groceries through NaturaStyle for several months now (okay, about 9 months) and remembering our delivery service in Charlotte (Absolute Organics), I’m not sure what took us so long.

WHEN DOES NATURA STYLE DELIVER?

NaturaStyle only delivers on Saturdays, so planning is essential. We placed our order the Sunday prior and just survived off of the fridge leftovers in anticipation for the motherload to come the next Saturday. It was very easy to get in touch with Silvia, the one in charge of orders, to verify the time of delivery. They make the delivery schedule the Friday before, so make sure you don’t have plans for Saturday until you know your delivery time.

Ours was scheduled for 10:30am and the guys were less than 30 minutes late, which is considered early here in Costa Rica. Tico Time usually means everything happens around 2 hours after it was scheduled, so we were in great shape. The delivery guys came and were very friendly and helpful to put the groceries in the house. Here is what we ordered, and keep in mind this is all organic:

WHAT DOES NATURA STYLE DELIVER?

• bunch of 4 ripe bananas ($0.30)
• 4 Whole fresh beets with tops ($2.70)
• 2 Large heads of broccoli ($2.73)
• 1 Whole coconut ($0.35)
• 18 pk of eggs ($3.80)
• 1/4 Kilo Goat Cheese ($4.47)
• 1 large bunch green onion ($0.68)
• 8oz jar of Honey ($4.96)
• 6 misc lemons and limes ($1.39)
• 1 bunch lemongrass ($0.75)
• 1 head boston lettuce ($0.90)
• 1 container of whole white mushrooms ($3.23)
• 4 heads of garlic ($1.63)
• Medium Pineapple ($1.25)
• 250g (approx 1 Cup) Raw Butter ($3.79)
• 1 liter Raw Milk ($2.38)
• 3 Bunches of spinach ($1.63)
• 1 Kilo Star Fruit ($0.75)
• 3 Sweet Red Bell Peppers ($2.28)
• 1 Kilo Roma Tomatoes ($4.61)
• 2.3 Kilo Whole Chicken ($13.31)
• 1 loaf whole wheat and herb bread ($1.86)

TOTAL: $64.30

So, as you can see the prices vary. Some items are surprisingly cheap, like the kilo of Star Fruit or a bunch of lemongrass for $0.75. However, some of the other items you would expect to be cheaper, especially here in Costa Rica, like the bell peppers at $2.28 for three. But, the rest is reasonable especially for organic. If you shop at the markets you’ll find better prices, but you can’t beat delivery and the quality is spot on.

The best items we received, when considering flavor, were the bananas, which had a richness we had never tasted before, the star fruit, the bread, and the raw milk. We’ve been reading about raw milk and the benefits of not drinking pasteurized milk, but this stuff is delicious. We’re not too picky about some food but we’re not into buying our garlic from China, because who knows what they’re doing over there and who is regulating what. So, although the organic garlic is expensive, we definitely prefer it.

Check back here for more posts about NaturaStyle and their products.

Cheap Food Escazú, Costa Rica – The Waffle Place

Costa Rica translates to ‘Rich Coast’. Christopher Columbus, the Great Navigator himself, was the first European explorer to encounter Costa Rica in September 18, 1502. As he was setting anchor off shore, a crowd of local Carib Indians paddled out in canoes and greeted his crew warmly. Later, the golden bands that the region’s inhabitants wore in their noses and ears would inspire the Spaniard Gil Gonzalez Davila to name the country Costa Rica.

No matter what the history books have said, I think the real gold wasn’t discovered until I walked into the Waffle Place in Escazú. This gold mine is located in the Golden Plaza close to Multiplaza Escazú. Talk about rich, delicious food. And affordable to boot! My husband claims that I’ve acquired a knack for choosing the best thing on the menu the first time, and in this case I did. Now, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been there and I have been lazy about posting, so I’ll let the pictures and descriptions do the talking.

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The owner spent two years in Belgium studying the intricacies of waffles and the cuisine specific to that country and region. The menu is probably bigger than it should be, but I have yet to find something I didn’t love. I always get the waffle with creamy bacon and mushroom sauce over a fried egg. The first time ordering, not having seen the actual waffles themselves, I imagined something completely different. But, to my surprise the flavor was bursting and the richness unrivaled. Also shown here is a waffle with bacon and a fried egg over hashbrowns and topped with honey mustard for the perfect balance of sweet and savory.

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They have a great lunch menu, as you can see from the soup in sourdough bowl (not uncommon in the US, but very scarce here in Costa Rica), there is more than just waffles here. Shown is a creamy tomato soup with avocado and a side salad. It’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll leave The Waffle Place more than just full, but completely satisfied.

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Farmers Market Pavas

Until about a month ago, we had been buying all of our groceries at the local supermarkets. We tried AutoMercado, Perimercado, Mas X Menos, Saretto, MegaSuper, PriceSmart, Palí and Hipermas trying to test out which has better quality of food, price per unit/measure and variety. I haven’t given my full research post yet, but it’s in the works. However, for now, we are realizing that some items, certainly not all, are cheaper at the markets. But, don’t be fooled, not everything is cheaper at the ‘ferias’.

Our regular shopping list includes onion, bell pepper, garlic, chicken, fish, lettuce, cilantro, tomatoes, broccoli, green onion and various fruit items. Finding cheap food in Costa Rica is much harder that it would seem and unfortunately for the citizens of this country, the cost of living has been rapidly rising for the last 5-10 years. So, the cost of food items is high along with the luxury and imported items we North Americans are used to. The grocery stores range in price on all items, as do the markets around San José.

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We have become regulars at the Saturday Pavas feria in our neighborhood adjacent to the Palí. The market runs from sun up to late afternoon and stretches about 500 meters down a through street (other than on Saturdays) with vendors on both sides. The people are friendly and the food is fresh, but do make sure you are getting a good price, specifically on eggs. I have found that they are no less expensive here than at any of the supermarkets. Buying frozen fish is certainly priced fair, as well as most of the produce. We can walk in with c 10,000 (about $18) and fill four reusable grocery bags. The flowers are beautiful as are the artisans handiwork available.

Grilled zucchini

Grilled veggies over coconut rice

When we got home after the second or so visit, we knew the best option for dinner was grilled zucchini and bell peppers over coconut rice. I don’t know what the open flame does to food but it always takes things up a notch. We’ve got a few other cheap grilling recipes on the site like grilled potatoes with onions and jalapeños and burgers with pineapple salsa. Also, check out the Food Costa Rica category to where you can find cheap food in Costa Rica.

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Empanada Argentina

Empanadas are something my husband and I regularly lust after and following a failed attempt at cooking our own, we tried a highly recommended place in San Pedro, Costa Rica just east of San Jose. Donde El Ché is the name of the joint and it’s specialties include empanadas Argentina-style and a chimichurri that will make you want to slap your mama (I’ve been trying to work that in somewhere). But seriously, these are definitely the best empanadas you’ll find north of Argentina. The directions to Donde El Ché is: from the Muños y Nanne, 100 meters East, on the left-hand side by the Jimenez y Tanzi.

The difference between Tico empanadas and Argentinian empanadas are the crusts. Ticos love them some corn and Donde El Ché’s are flour. I definitely prefer the flour and baking them as opposed to frying them. The filling on these guys were amazing. We tried the chicken, spinach and the tomato-garlic flavors with a clear winner. Surprisingly, the tomato garlic empanada had the most unique, intense and delicious flavor of all three. I of course ordered that one and didn’t want to share, but how do you brag about what you’ve got without letting others try it out.

Baked Flour Empanada with Tomato

Next course, my husband and I split the Vacío de Horno or something close to that, which means ‘Empty Oven’. And this is by far the best cut of meat I’ve experienced in San Jose. It was cured first similar to corned beef and then baked to perfect tenderness in a delicious savory sauce and accompanied by a baked potato and salad. Our friend ordered the Churripan, which was a slice of marinated pork on a homemade bun with chimichurri sauce to DIE for. The best I could do to tell what was in the chimichurri was olive oil, pimentos, whole black peppercorns, garlic, herbs and some sort of secret magnificence that I couldn’t quite detect.

My husband describes his cheap food experience at Donde El Ché as a fiesta in his mouth and vowed that if we ever opened a restaurant he would never be satisfied unless we could create the exact same feeling of wanting to return somewhere as they did. We’ll be back, you can count on that.

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Flor de Loto Chinese

Best Chinese Food in Costa Rica

Best Chinese Food in Costa Rica

One notably strange difference in the Chinese food in Costa Rica (besides most of it being crap), is that they are likely to serve French fries in the dish or on top. So, don’t be surprised when your chicken curry has a few mixed in and some of the other dishes have 5 or 6 fries thrown on top. I haven’t asked the reason or background on this, but it can’t be a Chinese custom. It’s strangely delicious, so don’t let it throw you off.

Since living in San Jose, Costa Rica and working in the Sabana area, the Flor de Loto Chinese restaurant just South of the Subway in Sabana Norte has quickly become a company favorite. The front of the building isn’t much to look at, with its dingy sign and lack of parking, but it’s what’s inside that counts. Upon walking in you’ll notice the ornately textured ceilings, pleasant wait staff and amazing food.

I haven’t quite figured out why you are given behemoth-sized rolls to start the meal and a teeny-tiny spot of butter to go with it, but all you need to do is ask for the ‘salsa picante’ and they’ll bring an unforgettable oil and chili pepper mixture that is great with the bread and all your food. I always start with the ‘Chinese Tacos’, which are essentially egg rolls. Again, great with salsa picante to mix with the sweet and sour sauce that comes with them. Next up, I recommend the chicken curry or any of the noodle/rice dishes, but I have been advised to stay away from the ‘crispy rice’. I was told it is much like Rice Krispies, so if you’re up for an adventure, go for it. But I consider yourself warned. On the occasion of wanting light fare, I have also had the wanton soup thinking it would be less of a meal, but it was hardly that. They give you a very healthy portion and the flavor is amazing. So, if you’re thinking soup first and then a main dish, maybe find someone you don’t mind sharing with.

The prices are fair. Certainly not cheap on the Tico scale, but you can get lunch with a Coke or a lemonade for about $7-10 per person. Flor de Loto definitely leaves you wanting to come back, and I often do. Especially as I have visited other Chinese places that left a lot to be desired (eg. Mil Sabores, or as my husband and I call it, Nil Sabores) and the prices were around the same. It’s worth the trip into Sabana if you are staying at the airport or living in Escazú.