When I travel, I like to experience the culture of my destination. To me, there is no better way to do that than through the local cuisine.
I recently traveled to Costa Rica, and like most of my trips, my day was centered around what we were going to eat.
My first venture into local cuisine was at a soda (little restaurant) in Santa Teresa.
There are no menus at sodas — just a home-style buffet of the day's freshest food — or casado.
My lunch plate overflowed with rice, beans, vegetables, chicken, plantains and salad — all fresh, all delicious.
It didn’t take me very long to get used to eating big plates like this for lunch, as opposed to my normal sandwich or salad.
My friend Sarah had been living in Costa Rica for 11 months at this point, and so when we arrived in the town where she lived, Jaco, she introduced us to her favorite soda, Soda Nenita.
Tucked back in the heart of a neighborhood, Soda Nenita was family-run and changed its menu daily based on what was fresh that day.
On my first visit for lunch, I was pleased to be able to try some new foods with the staples of rice, beans and plantains. In my casado, I also got a huge piece of lightly breaded, pan-fried fresh-caught fish, a mixture of vegetables (that I can’t remember the name of), and a tangerine-lime.
I soon found out that lunch is not the only time the soda is good. Breakfast was also a prime time to stuff your face.
My breakfast experience at Soda Nenita was just as good as my lunch, with rice and beans, eggs, fried cheese, sausage and of course plantains. I had forgotten how much I love fried plantains.
There was a point in my trip however, that casados became too much food. That was when my friends and I turned to ceviche.
Throughout our trip, we had tried a couple different ceviche’s. They were ok, but not near what our expectations were, until that is, we went to The Hookup at the Los Suenos marina.
Ceviche at the hookup was like non-other I’ve ever had before. The fish was fresh, it was in big, and I could taste it. It wasn’t muddied by ginger ale or unnecessary ingredients.
The fresh, chunky fish was complimented by peppers, onions, cilantro and lime juice, with chips on the side for full effect. Hello Costa Rica.
As I packed up by bag to head home to the U.S., I was sad to be leaving the fresh produce above all. I wished I could pack my carry-on full of the perfectly ripe mangos and avocados.
But alas, those stupid customs laws don’t allow that. What the laws did allow, however, was to bring back some of the freshest whole-bean coffee I have ever tasted.
If I can’t have casados, ceviche and fresh avocados everyday, then I guess I can settle for a true cup of Costa Rican coffee every morning — until supplies last, that is.
Share your travel food stories with me by commenting. I would love to hear about your experiences.