We got a taste of the local area yesterday in Manzanillo, Costa Rica. About 15 of us gals on a Women’s Quest Retreat had spent the week surfing and doing yoga. We had lunchtime free to explore the area, and Colleen suggested we all go try out this local restaurant with local food. Nobody seems to know the name of the restaurant. Becca, one of our hosts, says its “the bar in Manzanillo.” And, frankly, it was the only place I saw. It may comprise all of Manzanillo as far as I know. Most everybody was game to go on this adventure. So, we all loaded into a Central American bus and drove down a gravel road in the mountainside.
The trip up was uneventful except for the fact that it felt a little weird to be on this bus on a road that was probably only suitable for a jeep. We bumped up and down as we laughed and talked about the week and got to know each other better. The restaurant was an open air place right on the beach. Pia, our local tour guide and friend, said,” Now, look. This is Costa Rica. Remember what we said about the time. It’s not going to be the service we are used to. They work on Costa Rican time….SLOW.”
It was sort of a family run business and had some fabulous tables that looked like they were made from shellaced sections of tree trunks cut out. We sat looking out at the beach. They never came to the table to take our order. We all walked up one at a time and ordered drinks. Most of us got glass bottled Coca-Colas. A few others got beer, and I think there may have been a Pina Colado or two. I got a Coca-Cola (that’s what they called it in their lyrical Spanish accents), but when the menu came I had to have a drink that was made from Coconut Cream, milk, bananas and vanilla. OMG…it was heavenly.
We ordered platters of homemade tortilla chips, ceviche and guacamole for appetizers since we were starving from a morning of surfing, and we knew the service would be Costa Rican slow. The guacamole was the best I ever ate. There just wasn’t enough of it. The ceviche is fish that is soaked in lime and flavored with cilantro, sweet peppers and red onion. It is not cooked, but it is marinated in the citrus juices for preservation. It was actually very good, but I was so hooked on the guacamole, I didn’t have time to eat it.
After awhile, Pia, who was acting as translator and waitress, came around and took our orders. One of our surfing instructors, Ismael, told me to order the Red Snapper which is a whole fried fish. I didn’t really want fried food, so I got the casado with fish. I have to say that I was extremely jealous when Ismael’s fish platter came. It looked unbelievable. But, my favorite thing on the platter were fried plantains. They were absolutely delicious! They were crunchy, chewy, greasy and slightly sweet. I added a little salt which is served here on little plates to make it perfect for my tastes. Thankfully, Ismael was open to sharing those plantains!
The casado was a platter comprised of sea bass (not the same as the sea bass in the U.S), black beans, rice, french fries and a small salad. It was fresh, only slightly spicy and very filling. It tasted like everything was freshly prepared and very healthy. Ismael ate and ate and ate until he was rubbing his tummy he was so full. We all had to go back to yoga, and that was not really a good thing with bellies full of Costa Rican food- even if it was healthy.
After a couple of hours of laughing and feasting, we all loaded up into the bus to go home. The bus started dragging itself up this really steep incline next to the ocean, and a motorcycle came around the bend. The bus driver had to slow down to keep from hitting him. With that move, he lost the momentum, and the bus couldn’t get up the hill. He tried to accelerate a couple of times, but we started to roll backward. Uh…oh…how will we get out of this? We all laughed about eating too much and asked if we should get out to lighten the load. Our driver insisted that we back down the hill, get momentum again and try it again. As we went up the hill, we were all chanting, “I think we can”, and putting on our best “woman power yells” to help energetically push the bus up the hill. An eternity passed, and we made it up and over the hill.
It was a fun afternoon, and I loved the experience of dining with the locals eating their native food. The people were so nice, and so excited to be feeding us. If all of Costa Rica is this happy and well fed, it is a wonderful place to be. I think next time I might get that Red Snapper. It really looked good.