In celebration of the new year, as well as Tina’s parent’s anniversary, we’ve spent the last week and a half in and around Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
While we were there, we stayed at the family-run Cashew Hill Jungle Cottages, which we can’t recommend highly enough. The website above hasn’t been updated since the place went under a change of management, but you more or less get the idea of what it looks like. We spent a fair amount of time hanging out with the proprietors, who clued us into a lot of really beautiful spots and great restaurants around the area.
Actually, Our culinary experience started on Cashew Hill itself, since we were able to eat starfruit and mamon chino from trees around the grounds. The owners are in the process of building a little bar on the grounds, so we left them with a starter bottle of starfruit-infused vodka. We also tried a very sour fruit that I can’t remember the name of. It was yellow and spherical, about the size of a small grapefruit, and the flesh inside looked like mango, but more yellow (rather than orange-ish). Can anybody identify this?
As it turns out, Puerto Viejo is very friendly to vegetarians and vegans – most restaurants have several vegetarian options and there were even a couple that focused exclusively (or predominantly) on veggie fare.
We visited a Bribri chocolate-making operation, where we got a demonstration of traditional cocoa production, including a tasting of 11 different flavors of their chocolate. This is our guide demonstrating the heating of banana leaves to make them more pliable in order to use them for as cooking wraps for food, etc.
We also brought home a small jar of their homemade achiote paste (I think there is actually a different name for this in Bribri, but I don’t remember what it is), made from trees grown on the property. Here are some of the achiote seed pods:
Apart from that, we drank a whole lot of delicious aguas frescas made from pineapple, tamarind, watermelon, mango, passionfruit, guanabana, and papaya. And we ate a ton of delicious plantains in the form of patacones.
One last thing I have to mention is neither local nor DIY or any of that, but is a classic Costa Rican condiment that I now can’t get enough of. Salsa Lizano is delicious and I want to eat it on everything, despite the fact that it is owned by Unilever, which is a gigantic corporation with very spotty business practices. Regardless, I may end up scouring the Caribbean markets on Church Ave for a bottle.