When we picked what country we were going to go to though I did have some concerns about feeding the kids as well as myself. I'm not a picky eater, I just want my food to be tasty and preferably healthy. And, I'm not really that interested in being overly exotic. New kinds of fresh fish or veggies to try? Sure! Innards and insects? Not so much.
Our first dining experience in Costa Rica was...yep, pizza! Lonely Planet is right in Playa Coco and has a really fun and funky coffeehouse meets bar meets island pizza joint feel. The service was amazing, and the pizza was pretty awesome too. Costa Rican pizza (which is way more common than you'd think) is very thin crust and a much lighter meal than you'd find in the US. Everything is in moderation and you don't feel like a stuffed whale after you eat it. A lot of the pizza is wood fired, which, depending on the restaurant, adds a nice smokiness to the whole dish. If pizza seems too western to you though, there are always other great choices on the menu at the restaurants here that are familiar but with a local flair.
I highly recommend trying some new toppings-these next pictures are from an INCREDIBLE pizza and sushi (yes, you read that right) restaurant called Donde Johann. It's owned by a French expat and not only is the food great, but his whole restaurant concept is very cool. Local ingredients used in a way that is familiar to our Western tastebuds but that still makes the most of Costa Rican flavors.
This pizza had artichokes, locally smoked ham, and mushrooms. Easily one of the most delicious pizzas I've ever encountered. It was crispy and chewy and had a fantastic balance of toppings. You can see the cheese pizza in the background that we got for the kiddos as well.
Being so close to the ocean, there is of course a lot of local seafood. Fish is one of the most inexpensive protein sources, which we were very happy to discover. We've been exploring the local "pescarias," or fish markets, and the local tuna, snapper, and mahi mahi are right off the boat at a fraction of the price you'd find in the US.
At Donde Johann, we sampled both the shrimp and fish ceviche as well as the marlin sushi. Ceviche, if you haven't had it before, is a MUST in Costa Rica. Fish and/or shrimp are chopped small and marinated in lime juice, cilantro, and thinly sliced red onions. The acid in the citrus juice "cooks" the seafood and it is served in a bowl or stemmed glass (or sometimes in a plastic cup if you're on the beach) with tortilla chips which are just a little sweet. Those chips are so good!
On a more traditional note, something that you can find everywhere that is pretty much always good is something called a "casado." This seems to be the national dish of Costa Rica, although I'm not sure that's official. I've tried it in almost every restaurant we've been to, and it's always good. In essence, a casado (which translates to "married couple" in spanish) is rice and beans (bean type depends on region), a small salad and/or chopped veggies, usually a plantain slice or two, and the protein of your choice. This time around I chose shredded beef cooked in a salsa. Muy delicioso, very filling and nutritious, and often one of the least expensive items on the menu. I've also had it with fish, chicken, and pork.
Since food is one of MY favorite topics, I'll be sharing more about the local fruits and veggies, bakeries, and markets, as well as tips for shopping for food in Costa Rica that will save you a LOT of money in upcoming posts. Pura vida!