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Costa Rican Food: What I Ate, Drank, and Sent Back

When I was 20, my travels took me to the island of Jamaica where I stayed at a lovely American resort, ate American food and drank (what was then) American Budweiser. Ah, how times have changed.
Now, when a vacation takes me to parts unknown, my objective is to sample those little bits of life that otherwise might have never crossed my path.

Beer and Guaro

Craft beer aficionados: the Costa Rican brew scene may prove to be a disappointment. If you’re lucky, you might run across one of the random craft breweries scattered about the country, but for the most part, your choice is limited to four labels — Imperial, Pilsen, Bavaria and Rock Ice. (Good luck finding those last two.) Imperial, a lager style brew, or one of its derivatives, Imperial Silver or Light, offered easy drinking at a cheap price and was hands down the local favorite.

costa rican food pizza and beer

Beer and pizza is a world-wide phenomena.

And if you’re looking to go beyond the brewski, forget the vodka, rum and tequila: in Costa Rica, the distilled spirit of choice is guaro.
Manufactured from sugarcane, guaro tastes only slightly sweet, thus lending its neutral flavor to all kinds of alcoholic concoctions. The Pura Vida (translation: pure life), made by mixing guaro, orange/pineapple juice and grenadine, is the number one seller on every Costa Rican cocktail menu.

Food of the Gods

My tour of a working cocoa farm brought to life the importance of cocoa in Central American history — it was once used for currency! — how the fruit is grown and harvested, and, of course, how it is turned into chocolate.

costa rican food cocoa pods

Mature cocoa pods contain almond sized seeds, which once dried are used to make chocolate.

The best part: free samples!
I thought I knew chocolate. God knows I’ve eaten my fair share, but I had never tasted pure, unadulterated chocolate made from nothing but ground cocoa beans, natural sugar and a bit of cinnamon. My chocolate palate may never recover.

The Fish

Costa Rican food is wholesome and fairly simple. I thoroughly enjoyed the traditional cuisine of beans and rice and was astonished with the quality cuts of beef served at ridiculous low prices, but what’s up with the fish?
For a country that is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, I expected to see loads of fish on the menu, but didn’t. And when they did offer fish it was always this:

costa rican fried fish

Pescado frito or whole deep fat fried fish.

Sometimes you embrace the culture and dive right in … and other times you push back. This unappetizing, deep fat fried bit of goodness got the push back! It seemed like a waste of good seafood to me.
Do you adopt the “when in Rome” philosophy while traveling? What local fare have you pushed back on? —Karen

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