This edition of Pura Vida will center on the most fundamental and important part of life: food.
We begin this discussion at the request of my mother, a lady who has several pressing questions:
1. What are you eating?
2. Are you nothing but skin and bones? Eat more.
3. Have you seen Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen yet? Those two are in Costa Rica, you know.
First, hi, hello, Mom. Answers: 1. Lots, 2. No and will do regardless, 3. Not yet.
Eating in Costa Rica
Here in the land of bliss, I do try to carve out 4 solid hours of writing each and every day. Because the internet is unreliable at the house I’ve rented, I walk a mile along the beach to get to my favorite little café: La Botanica Organica. It’s a completely open air bungalow that serves organic breakfasts and lunches, exquisitely bold Caribbean coffee, fresh fruit and veggies juices & smoothies (called batidos, which are an ultra smooth blend of fresh fruit with ice and most often milk, though yogurt is also used), and my favorite homemade jam to date: papaya vanilla.
So, you’ll find me at La Botanica Organica nearly every morning from 8am to 1pm, laptop open, in semi-decent clothing (often as little as possible for heat reasons), with my earbuds in, listening to the most raucous mix of early nineties jams. While there, I always drink two cups of heartbreakingly good café con leche (coffee with whole milk) and eat one of two breakfasts (each cost roughly $6):
1. Huevos fritos, pan tostado, y fruta: Two fried organic eggs, locally baked whole wheat toast with butter and papaya vanilla jam, and a bowl of mixed tropical fruit: mango, pineapple, and papaya. The fruit is, without even a moment of hesitation or consideration, the best I’ve tasted in all of my 27 years. I’d go so far as to say that I didn’t know fruit could be this sweet, this luscious.
I have morphed into the world’s slowest eater and this meal will take me no less than 30 minutes to finish.
or I eat:
2. Organic granola made with goji berries, nuts, flax, and raw cocoa nibs with full fat yogurt and fruit.
When I’m done eating and reading emails, I write for at least four undivided, undistracted hours.
And then I walk a mile back home and put on my uniform: a bathing suit.
At which point, I also make myself a Caribbean salad to tote to the beach.
This salad is almost always the same: a mix of green leaf lettuce, shredded cabbage, one cup of cumin-spiced black beans (Camille and I soak then simmer a big pot of beans at the start of each week and then saute them with garlic, onion, cumin, and chipotle chilis in adobo- these work well on salads and for dinner with rice and vegetables), fresh mango, half of the world’s creamiest, most buttery avocado, fresh pico de gallo (another staple that Camille and I make each week in bulk), corn, a squeeze of lime juice, and sour cream.
And then I go to the beach.
Around 5pm, Camille and I are sufficiently sunned, pruned from excessive swimming, and ready to head home for what I’ve established as a house rule: Wine Hour.
It couples with Snack Hour.
Wine Hour is very official and it involves tremendous amounts of Bossa Nova music (Girl from Ipanema most often) and it ends promptly when I say so. Which is to say, never.
I force each of us to drink a whole coconut from the trees in our yard. Once the juice is drained, we then eat the soft white coconut flesh inside.
We both shower off the sandstorms that we’ve become and by 7ishpm, we’re embarking on our favorite task: dinner.
Most often, this meal is some hefty combination plate (casado) of spicy refried black beans, rice, more pico de gallo, guacamole, enough hot sauce to singe my lips, and garlicky sauteed vegetables.
On a few occasions we’ve bought fresh snapper and served it with a chipotle cream sauce (a stirring of chipotle chili in adobo with sour cream, fresh lime, and garlic) and fresh shrimp, which Camille perfectly sears and tosses with a sweet garlic lime butter.
One to two times per week, we fancy ourselves and go out for dinner.
We’ve tried almost all of the local hotspots and have found that, unlike the lodging in this part of Costa Rica, food is fairly expensive. Or at least, it costs roughly the same that it would in the States and when you compare that to the fact that I’m paying to rent a home for $10 per day, you shrug just a bit. My favorite eateries have been:
Beach Hut – which sits directly on the beach and allows you to eat in a hammock if you so choose. I always so choose. There, we dined on an outstandingly flavorful shrimp and mango salad with avocado and cayenne sauce. Each of our salads, including beachfront hammocking and ample breeze, cost $8.
El Pescador– “The Fisherman” is a restaurant owned and run by one of our friends here in Costa Rica, Elie. Each and every fish has been caught that morning by Elie’s father. Camille and I split a whole fried snapper with fried plantains and coconut milk rice and beans . It was, to put it very articulately, crazy good. Ultra tender and flavorful. Here we paid roughly $30 for a shared entrée and two beachy cocktails.
La Pecora Nera– a spectacular Italian restaurant that we chose for Camille’s birthday. There, we ate one of the most delicious meals of my life: Handmade sausage bruschetta, fresh ravioli with meat ragout, homemade focaccia bread, garlic shrimp, panacotta, and profiteroles. Our bill, including a perfectly crisp bottle of white wine from Orvieto in Italy, was outstandingly $150. A delicious birthday for my girl.
Que Quilombo– an Argentinian grill. I ordered and devoured a well-marinated beef tenderloin, cooked to a delicate pink medium rare, with fried potatoes and salad.
Since we’re so very [very, very] active, it’s important that we eat enough to maintain energy and, more importantly- happiness. We drink close to two liters of water (each), everyday. All of our meals include unnerving piles of vegetables, rice and beans, and a heaping portion of fat in the form of: butter, avocado, oil, and/or full fat sour cream. Each food that we eat is fresh, almost entirely unprocessed, and natural. Fruit- papaya, pineapple, and mango- it’s our purest joy outside of $1 tequila shots. And this way of eating- it’s as close to living at a health spa as I can imagine.
Perhaps interesting to some (and wildly uninteresting to others), I find that while my calorie intake at home in the States naturally falls around 2000, I’d imagine my here that it ranges, uninhibited and roller-coasterly, between 2300 and 2600+ each day, including vigorous physical exertion, but not including all manner of daiquiri and colada consumed. Those, I’m fairly certain, are health foods and therefore do not count.