A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Friday, February 11, 2005

Feb. 11.


Tom's Pan German Bakery - Arenal, Costa Rica
Plate of assorted meats and cheeses, a German pretzel, some of Pat's sauerbraten and bacon dumpling, a bottle of Evervess ginger ale, a cappucino, an apple strudel, a bobo (pastry filled with macademia nuts, caramel and chocolate)

Pretending we're Lebowski

Dinner -

Taberna - Monteverde, Costa Rica
Chuleta ahumada (smoked pork with rice, mashed potatoes, and lettuce and tomato), a White Russian and a Vodka on the Rocks
3567 colones (~$7.67)

The road to Monteverde was a rocky one, complete with extended detours, rough roads and missed turns. We got there at night after a long drive, but decided to go out anyway. The nightlife paled to the scene in New York, but we managed to find a hotspot called Bar Amigos still going strong at ten.

It was the Costa Rican equivalent of a country western bar, with some of the men even dressed in cowboy hats and denim. An energetic live band charged into song after upbeat song, and for every number, the dance floor filled up with couples performing an elaborate variation on swing dancing. The few groups of tourists in the place watched in curious awe on the sides, a few of them even clapping along. I had a few Imperials and an extremely potent Rum and Coke and happily watched the men and women swerve and turn and twirl like ballroom champions.

After we left Amigos, we had trouble finding another place to go. I was also starving as I hadn’t yet had dinner. The prospects in the small town looked bleak as we drove around. Then on our way back to the hotel, another brightly lit bar blaring tunes appeared like an oasis. It was called Taberna and the sign advertised “Full Party and Dancing all nigth” [sic]. Even better, it said they were serving food.

Spending time in Taberna, I started to feel like a character in a soap opera. It was as if the only people in the town were the ones I knew. Even after only being in Monteverde for a few hours, I recognized about fifteen people dancing to the three-year-old hip hop and drinking. It seemed like Pat and I were the only ones there to eat, not much of a good sign. Another question mark was the menus, which were printed in the shape and style of a vinyl record. Since Taberna was the only game in town though, I shrugged and went for the smoked pork. Pat selected the fried fish.

His came first and from the first bite, he raved. He said it was some of the best fried fish he’d had, and as a former Long John Silver’s employee, his expertise was especially prized. My anticipation, not to mention my incredible hunger, built for my dish as more people packed into the crowded club. Half an hour passed. I slugged back a bitter but rockbottom-cheap glass of Stoli on the rocks. Just as I was about to ask, my pork appeared. It could have been disgusting and I would’ve wolfed it down. Thankfully, it proved mostly very good.

The pork was lean and very well seasoned, its taste falling somewhere between ham and corned beef. The lettuce, tomato and rice were nice healthy counterbalances to the meat, creating a filling meal. The only problem was the mashed potatoes, which were lumpy and strange. This was the second time I was trying a Costa Rican take on mashed potatoes (the first at a hotel breakfast) and both times they were misses. Either I hit upon two bad versions or, as I was starting to suspect, mashed potatoes were not a specialty in this country.

Still, as yet more familiar faces poured onto the dance floor, I knew it’d been a very good night. I was glad to have reached Monteverde safely and to experience their nightlife for myself. Next time I happen to stop in at Taberna, I’ll have to try the fried fish. Or at the very least, ignore the lumpy tuber lurking next to the delectable pig.


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