Back home in Guacima after a splendid three weeks in France. Loving our doting menagerie of clinging pets that obviously missed us, a bevy of blooming orchids in the palm trees, gentle breezes and innumerable shades of green on our finca, paying homage to the rain. First stop, lunch in San Jose in what used to be Café Roma on the northeast corner of Avenida 2 one block before (west) the crafts center and Plaza de la Democracia.
Sappores Trattoria has been its new name for the past year and a half. When charming owner David nearly perished in a motorcycle accident, the old place closed. After several surgeries he moves gracefully and smiles warmly. The new look of the trattoria is also perfect – black trim on white and grey walls bracketed in fieldstone and adorned with black and white photos of Rome, Florence, Venice and Sophia Loren. Red and white checkered tablecloths of course. The menu covers all the bases with expertly prepared and attractively plated dishes or meat, fish, poultry, pasta, salads, appetizers, pizzas and desserts. The menu del dia for less than ₡5000 offers choices among cold drinks, starters and main courses of meat, fish, chicken or different pastas. The a la carte prices are mid-range and offer good value for very nice unpretentious food.
We arrived just before noon on a Friday and beat the rush of well-dressed happy diners who filed in after us and all seemed to know and appreciate David. Our waiter Eduardo was an old acquaintance from his days at Saga. The food arrived hot, well seasoned and delicious. I had garbanzo bean soup as a starter and pasta amatriciana, a simple dish made to my taste. The sauce is rich tomato reduction seasoned only with a little basil and cured small pieces of pork cheek, called guanciale. It is hard to get guanciale on a regular basis so the kitchen mixes it with thick cut bacon 50/50. It works so much better than all salty bacon disguised under an overabundance of garlic and onion served in so many places. Add to it freshly shaved curlicues of pecorino sheep cheese and I am in heaven. Joan had a well-seasoned perfectly cooked cotoletta Milanese (veal cutlet similar to a German schnitzel but flavored with Italian herbs, spices and cheese) under an arugula salad with roasted potatoes on the side. Add a shared old fashion lemon flavored gelato and a creamy lemon complimentary digestif and we left very happy.
2222-8906 Sun 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Mon - Thu 11:30 am - 2:30 pm 6:00 pm - 10:30 pm
Fri - Sat 11:30 am - 3:00 pm 6:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Crema Y Nata A couple of months ago I sampled a bagel from Isau at a stand in the feria in old Escazu. It was the best I have ever had in Costa Rica. “Where can I buy these?”
“My cousin is opening a bakery in Atenas next to POPS:”
“Where did you learn your English?”
“I lived in New York City for a few years.”
Twice I drove to Atenas and looked for the bagel place without success. Shortly after we returned from France in early October, off we went again. The brand new bakery Crema Y Nata had opened less than a week before after a brief tenure in a closet-sized place that didn’t work. Leonardo the baker/owner and his assistant/friend Mariana greeted us warmly. I saw the bagels, but the one customer in front of us was raving about them and threatened to buy all of the last dozen. She settled for four and we bought the remaining eight. Wow! My preference is for New York style, dark-baked, extra chewy, dense bagels that have been adequately boiled before baking. Hooray!!!! Exactly!!! Isau brought back the knowhow from New York and Leonardo makes them fresh a few times a day with all natural ingredients. I can vouch for the plain, onion, and poppy seed varieties. They also have a variety of surprisingly moist cakes, that are far better than the usual dry Tico types, cookies, tarts, baguettes, ciabatta and coconut donuts with passion fruit icing. The immaculate little bakery, pastry and coffee shop is a short half block from POPS away from the park. They are open fro 7am to 6 every day but Sunday. Since Boston Bagel closed and Bagelman’s changed to a cakier recipe a year or so ago, I had given up on my favorite carrier of lox and cream cheese. I sure hope that Leonardo et al succeed and keep their recipe intact for years to come. Is it worth the drive to Atenas? I think so.
Phone: 2446-6232 Email: CremayNata.email@example.com
Ready for another rave? One of my favorite chefs is back in the restaurant business after a hiatus as a caterer/personal chef. Joanna, master of eclectic originality, artistic plating, gentle demeanor, warm smile, friendly conversation and lots of tattoos, has a restaurant in a house in Trejos Montealegre, Escazú that is off the beaten path, but very worthy of a little exploration. Cocina Eclectica has no sign. It is on Avenida O Las Acasias about 900 meters past Oasis restaurant and Aparthotel Maria Alexander. If you are coming off the pista into Escazú, turn right (west) at the large corner nursery Exotica, then left at the corner where the street becomes two way. Follow the street as it heads south then turns west. At the second speed bump, it is the white house with wrought iron gate adjacent to the bump on the right side of the road.
There is no menu. Joanna will greet you and seat you at a lovely table in her living room. She will ask you about you’re your food preferences and disappear into her home kitchen. There is no menu. She will simply bring you a series of amazing small courses until you ask her to stop. The average price runs ₡7000 to ₡10,000 per person depending on the number of courses and cost of ingredients. Joan and Sandy eat there often and have loved every meal. Here is a sample of what Joan and I ate the first time she took me there:
1. Fish jerky (tilapia) with fresh shredded daikon and seaweed
2. Olive oil poached tilapia with passion fruit sauce
3. Chicken soup with oyster mushrooms, yam noodle bundles, gingko seeds
4. Pork loin with sauerkraut and lavender fronds with pink peppercorns
5. Gorgonzola and nut ravioli, topped with slices of green apple, raisins and dressed with olive oil/balsamic vinegar, pink peppercorns and smoked paprika
6. Brandy, cinnamon and nutmeg homemade ice cream with Danish cookies
Each course pleased us both. Our tab was ₡9000 each.
Phone number: 8529-2509. It is a good idea to call first. She opens at noon.
Copies of Feasting in Costa Rica’s Central Valley are loaded with new and updated restaurant information. It is organized by restaurant ratings, location, type of cuisine with reviews and ingredients and is very user-friendly. Responses by readers have been amazing. Thanks. While they last, you can buy a copy for ₡7500 at any of the following restaurants:
1. Alajuela - Jalapeños Central
2. Ciudad Colon - Aroi Thai
3. Escazú - Banzai
4. San Jose - Tin Jo
5. San Pablo de Heredia - Mike’s Southwest Grill
6. Santa Ana - PHO Restaurante Vietnamito
For those of you in the states and Canada, it is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Booklocker in both paperback and ebook.
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