This edition of TBT takes us to Costa Rica circa 2007. In 2006 we packed our bags and moved from NYC to a small town in the Central Valley of Costa Rica called Atenas. Atenas is approximately 20 km from Juan Santamaria International Airport, and 35 km from the national capital city of San Jose, all the while surrounded by mountains and coffee plantations.
While the district of Atenas has over 25,000 inhabitants, the town itself (which is where we lived) has only about 5,000. Quite a change from the big city life we were used to. The best part of our decision to move to Costa Rica was that we got Flaca, our 4-legged offspring who has changed our lives for the better. But more on Flaca another time.
While Costa Rica is indeed an amazing place, to my knowledge, no one has ever called it a “culinary capital” for anything, except maybe ceviche. And let me tell you, they do have some amazing ceviche. But in general, most meals (when not living it up in a resort town or hanging by the beach) are eaten at “sodas”. Sodas are small restaurants that serve up the best local flavors. Pollo, o cerdo, o bistec encebollado (translation: chicken, or pork, or steak with onions . . .) While tasty, it does get a little boring after awhile. With that said, this is a little story of how two NY Jews finally got a little deli in CR. Sadly, the restaurant is no longer there but we thought a story worth sharing nonetheless.
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Of those that know us well, no one is surprised when we talk and write about our meals. This will be no exception.
The food in town has been getting a bit routine. Not that in most cases it isn’t delicious, but just the same old, same old. Mike, Francis, Bruce, Kayla and I have taken to hitting the road on Sunday’s to explore both new towns and new restaurants. And yesterday we hit pay dirt!!
The day started out at Cariari Mall so Francis could return some clothes that Bruce had picked up for her. Just an FYI for anyone thinking about clothes shopping in this country: Unless you are a stick figure . . . just say NO!! I have never seen such small and narrowly cut clothes . . . and these are the LARGES!
After the ordeal of returning the clothes, we thought we would grab lunch at one of the “”foofy”” restaurants in the mall. Granted this mall has one of the largest fast food Food Courts around, but it was Sunday and Father’s Day so we wanted something special. Our restaurant choices at the mall included: Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and good old American bar food. With 5 differing opinions we opted for the one restaurant that we happened to be standing in front of: the Spanish restaurant, whose specialty was paella. The only problem was that the menu was ENTIRELY in Spanish and other than grilled meats and paella, they weren’t able to explain their offerings.
Even though we had already ordered our drinks (the men were quite testy after shopping and were itching for beers), after perusing the menu we decided to drink up and go elsewhere.
Once in the car we decided that since it was Father’s Day it was up to Bruce to decide. We had been talking for weeks about how we should just get in the car on Sunday’s and just wing it. With that in mind, Bruce suggested TGIF (yup . . . Friday’s!!). OK, maybe not what I was expecting in Costa Rica, but it was his day and to be honest, at least I knew what I would be getting.
We had actually passed TGIF the previous weekend when we were heading to The White House for brunch (an amazing buffet brunch for $20 a head filled with breads and bagels, cheeses, salads, omelettes, sushi, pastas, meats, desserts and more . . . a 5 star hotel, casino, restaurant, spa & plastic surgery facility) and since we actually knew where it was we figured we would give it a shot.
When we arrived the place was rather crowded and loud as there was a soccer game on the TV . . . and we all know how seriously the Costa Rican’s take their soccer. As we settled in at our table for 5 in the smoking section to peruse the menu, I think there was a collective “”holy crap”” out of all of us.
This place was a fortune!!! $10 for a burger . . . $10 for 12 chicken wings. . . $7.00 for a Bloody Mary. Geez . . . where was I, NYC??? Well, we managed to leave one restaurant already, so what was one more?? Within minutes we were up and out.
Back to the car we went. Since we weren’t too far from The White House (and since the week before we had passed a number of restaurants that had looked good) we decided to venture back in that direction. EUREKA!! Bruce remembered a restaurant he had eaten in a few years prior called “”Famous Wall Street Restaurant Bar & Grill””. Sounded perfect to us NY’ers!!
I figured it was going to be a good old fashioned NY deli . . which was fine by me. A roast beef sandwich or a rueben was sounding really good about now. But I was taken aback when I looked in the window and saw fancy tables and chairs with table cloths and wine glasses on each table. You don’t see too many delis like that back in the Big Apple.
We ordered our drinks and sat back to look over the menu. Again, there was a collective noise, but this time it was “”HURRAY!!!”” The menu was long, detailed, different, reasonably priced and best of all . . .we could read it!!
I don’t even know where to begin . . . the choices were varied and plentiful. They included:
TEX MEX EGGROLLS, BRUSCHETTA, MINI CHICKEN SHISH KEBAB, MINI BEEF SHISH KEBAB, POPCORN SHRIMP, HUMMUS PLATTER, CALAMARI RINGS, GREEK PLATE, SMOKED TROUT, ESPARAGOS CHEESE TIPS, and TOMATOES WITH ROQUEFORT PINENUTS.
PHILLY CHEESESTEAK, ROAST BEEF, PASTRAMI, RUBEN, VEGGIE LOW CALORIE, CHICKEN CLUB, STEAK, FRIED EGGPLANT, TERIYAKI CHICKEN, CUBAN, CHICKEN CORDON BLUE, SMOKEN SALMON, CAPPPRESE, CRAB SALAD, FALAFEL, TOSCANA CHICKEN, LEMON PEPPER CHICKEN, DIET CHICKEN
JAPANESE EGGPLANT, HERB CRUSTED SALMON, CHICKEN JAVA, PORTOBELLO, TUSCAN, CHINESE CHICKEN, TUNA, CAPPRESE, NICOISE, GREEK, CRAB, CHICKEN CAESAR, POPCORN SHRIMP, ANTIPASTO, VOLCANIC CHICKEN, MIKONO, ANDES AVOCADO, SANTAFE MEXICAN, ITALIAN
In addition they also had meats, chicken, fish, pastas, burgers and the MOST amazing selection of homemade desserts this side of Veniero’s in the East Village in NYC.
Mike and I split the hummus platter (hummus with pita and carrots and celery to dip). Mike the Israeli knows his hummus, and this was the good stuff. Tasty pitas too!! I had the portabello salad that filled an entire 12″” dinner plate. Mounds of fresh romaine lettuce with grilled and marinated portabello mushrooms, soft fresh mozzarella cheese and marinated, roasted red peppers all swimming in a delicious balsamic vinegarette dressing.
Bruce had the Philly Cheesesteak, Mike went with the Romeo & Juliet sandwich (real Italian salami, mozzarella cheese, olives and olive oil lightly pressed . . . a true Italian pannini) and Francis had the fried fish. All three came with very, very tasty homemade french fries. Kayla also went the salad route, opting for the popcorn shrimp salad (a cesear salad with fried popcorn shrimp).
We just couldn’t or wouldn’t shut up about how good everything was. As stuffed as we were – the portions were very generous and there wasn’t much left over on anyone’s plate – we knew we also needed to try the desserts. I don’t know if this is all of them, but if not, it sure is the best of them:
CHEESECAKE —-BLUEBERRY, CHERRY, OREO, MARBLE, ETC ETC ETC, CHOCOLATE FUDGE CAKE, CARROT CAKE, APPLE PIE, CHOCOLATE MOUSSE, LIME MOUSSE, COCONUT FLAN, KEY LIME PIE, RAISIN PIE, 4 MILK MOUSSE, CREPES, TIRAMASU, APPLE BLINZE and PROFITEROLES.
While the rest of us were up looking at the display case trying to make our decisions, Bruce had quietly ordered cherry cheesecake and was happily enjoying it before we even knew he was eating!! A few minutes of peace before it was time to share.
It was at this time we had met the owners, Susie and Salomon Hane. They hail from Columbia and have run this restaurant for the past 7 years. This was also when we learned that Susie made ALL the desserts. Quite the impressive feat. We asked them their favorites and while Susie tries not to indulge too often, Salomon told us that his is the chocolate mouse.
Mike and I decided to split a tiramisu (made the real Italian way, minus the alcohol since there are a number of neighborhood children that like it too!) while Kayla opted for her favorite, cherry pie. Francis took Salomon at his word and ordered the mouse. I think whipped chocolate fudge would have been a better description. It was amazing!! At one point I took a bite of the mouse and the cheesecake together!! A potpourri of tastes in my mouth!!
We washed this down with either tea, coffee or espresso.
As we digested we ordered the bill and started discussing what we were going to order the next time (which might very well be this weekend!!)
When the bill came, we realized that all this cost less than 5 burgers and sodas would have at Friday’s!!