What is it about kids and water? It just doesn't get any better. Today we celebrated the (nearly) end of the school year at Escuela Santo Domingo with a pool party at Casa Mango and Casa Papaya in Playa Samara, Costa Rica. Hot dogs, watermelon, ice cream cones and diving competitions.
The answer, of course, is a “Casado” because it includes 6 traditional Tico dishes on one grand plate.
- White rice – there is no other.
- Black beans, but not mixed with the rice – that’s only for breakfast (Gallo Pinto).
- Fried plantains, sweet and crisp.
- Cabbage salad. Because lettuce doesn’t holdup in the tropics, most salads are cabbage-based with additions of tomatoes, carrots, etc. Dressing is usually a slice of limón or mandarina garnishing the plate.
- Tico cheese – this is the one unfortunate inclusion. It’s rubbery and tasteless, but it provides some salt and protein and I’ve gotten used to it.
- These are the basics of a Casado Then you order it with a portion of chicken, meat, or fish. “Carne en Salsa” is my favorite, chunks of beef stewed in tomatoes and herbs. Steve usually orders it with fish.
The Casado – it roughly translates as “married man” – is offered at every restaurant in Costa Rica for lunch. It’s not typical for supper but can be found. It is usually the cheapest thing on the menu, delicious, and filling. Douse the whole thing with Salsa Lizano. Top it with a couple of pickled vegetables from the jar on the counter. Good food!
As you drive the highways of Costa Rica towards Casa Mango and Casa Papaya, you will find everything for sale along side the road. If your timing is right, you'll find fruit stands lining the roads with fresh ripe deliciousness. Melons: watermelons, cantaloupe, casaba. Farm-made honey. ever-present papaya. Avocados. And green coconut water called "Agua de pipa" or simply "Pipa Fria". It's cheaper than Coco-Cola and way better for you. A glass a day will cure what ails you. Seriously.
Two of our guests at Casa Mango and Casa Papaya, Ronald Araya Garcia y Jose Joaquin Mora Quiros, won the Soledad in their categories: Open and 60+ respectively. I knew these guys and their compatriots were serious when they arrived with 6 mountain bikes strapped to the roof of 3 matching white sedans. They looked like a winning team.
The Soledad Recorrido event is organized by Ciclo Guilly (the closest approximation in English is “seeclo Weegy” and named after this guy on the right) and returns to Samara /Carrillo twice each year. Throughout the country, Ciclo Guilly holds more than 40 races annually.
A lot of tourists in Costa Rica make the mistake of expecting Mexican food. On her first visit my friend, Kathy, famished from a long plane ride, erroneously ordered a taco before I could warn her. What arrived on her plate was a flat corn tortilla, topped with chunks of chicken, shredded cabbage, ketchup and a generous swirl of mayonnaise. Just because it’s on the menu doesn’t mean you should order it. Steve and I have made the same rookie mistake, and all too recently.
You have to remember, that even though we’re south of the border, Costa Rica isn’t Mexico and the culture is very different. The Ticos don’t have a taste for spicy flavors. Traditionally, food here is fresh but mild. Beans are always black, tortillas are always corn, and everything is cooked with garlic and cilantro. Until now.
Finally, in Samara we have good Mexican food at Coco’s Mexican. Steve and I tried it last night and I know we’ll be back. The food was delicious. His chicken fajitas came heaped on a sizzling platter with a side of mildly seasoned pinto beans and accompanied with soft corn torillas and three sauces: guacamole, natilla, and fresh tomato salsa. I enjoyed the marinated steak tacos. The guacamole side was nice but the mango salsa was a little sweet so I ate it like compote for dessert. Although still not picante, it was richly seasoned with Mexican flavors.
Coco’s has long been one of our favorite restaurants in Samara. Through several owners in the same location, the food and service has been consistently good. Located in a shady garden off the street and behind the Samara Travel Center, this Mexican version has expanded with more tables near the street. It’ll be great for people watching. Open for lunch and dinner.
The Tico/spanish name for the Oriole is “Bolsero” meaning “bag maker”. When I saw a nest recently in Palo Verde National Park, I understood why. The nests hang out over the road – I suppose that clear air space is insurance against egg theft from predators.
Steve has a dream of climbing every volcano in Costa Rica. That’s a lot of mountain peaks.
Albergue Heliconias Lodge and Rainforest is a cooperative, owned by 10 local families who wrestled the 73 hectare (175 acres) patch of forest from impending deforestation for agricultural use back in 1985. With international and governmental support, they’ve achieved a new model of conservation and preservation as a privately owned rainforest reserve, managed by the local community. They are committed to the conservation of biodiversity, environmental education, and sustainable community development,