Wednesday, October 5, 2011

To Market, To Market

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a thing for good food. At first glace, Costa Rica leaves something to be desired in this department. The fact that gallo pinto (fancied up rice and beans) is their national food...well, that says something.

Sweet Julia has tried her damnedest to find exciting restaurants that she thought we would love...and she has succeeded many times. We had grilled fish at a lovely little cafe in downtown San Jose, lots of really delicious cappuccinos, and the other night she took me out for sushi!

Realistically though, we can't go to a restaurant for every meal...

Our first visit to the local supermarket proved to be less than appetizing. The meat department alone turned me into a temporary vegetarian. And my less-than-stellar Spanish skills caused me to buy skim yogurt instead of skim milk...which of course I didn't realize until the next morning. Boo.

But, I wouldn't be admitting all of this to you if I didn't have better news to report.

Things started to take a turn for the better when we visited San Jose's Central Market...

Colorful mountains of spices

Vendors with different types of cheeses

Enough tropical fruits to make your head spin

I was crushin' on this hang in our kitchen...ooooh, lovely.
After we meandered through the tight, windy aisles of fresh food, there were countless small restaurants ("sodas" as they're known in Costa Rican) serving everything from cerviche to hamburgers to felt like I was walking back in time, as clearly so many of these sodas have been here for years and years...


One of my favorite views was a long table full of older women sitting around a big pot of soup, talking and cackling. 

 We continued to wander and found a string of stalls that had local herbs, to be used for cooking and medicines. There was one friendly lady that wanted to tell us all about her plants and herbs.

We bought some spearmint from her to take home and make tea. She didn't let us pay for it at was like we had made a new friend!

 Loved his hat.

Outside the Mercado Central. Such a tourist.

Our fresh spearmint tea!

I've always loved a local market. It says so much about the community...and the ways they express their tastes.

Clearly a place with this much of a focus on food has to have some other good markets and grocery stores that are a bit closer to our, I did some research. The owner of our guest house, who is a real dear, educated me about all of the grocery options in the area. It was this conversation that led me to inform Julia that we needed to take a trip to the AutoMercado. Apparently, this is where most Costa Ricans actually shop.

We went yesterday...and we both agreed it was one of the most pleasant grocery shopping experiences we've had in awhile (and yes, this includes our visits to groceries in the U.S.!)

It was so one was in much of a hurry, everything was clean and well-organized, and they had an employee in every section waiting to answer questions or offer assistance. Tuanis, I said.

We filled up our cart with organic chicken, fresh spinach, deli turkey, sopressata...the list goes on. It was a feeling of 'lions and tigers and bears, oh my!'

Since our guest house has a kitchen, we're able to cook most of our meals at home and save our dining out experiences for special occasions. Most of the meals we make at home are pretty 'American'...but if that means I'm not eating too much rice and beans, I'm ok with that!

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