Holiday Food Guide
It’s time to talk about holiday food. Last month we talked about how to cook like a Tico.
This month we are going to talk holidays. There are weeks, maybe days left by the time you read this, to get your holiday meals together. Where oh where will you find all the parts in a developing country to make the impressive spread on which you’ve built your reputation? Don’t fret. We have you covered.
Let’s just get this out of the way right up front. Auto Mercado is the one-stop shopping spot for most of your holiday needs. There you will find frozen turkeys, hams, veggies, canned pumpkin, and cranberries. If you want the easy fix to your holiday mealtime woes, skip reading this, and hit the big shiny grocery store at the edge of Tamarindo. But, if you want to save a few bucks, or even go boutique, then you may consider reading on.
“If God did not intend for us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?” -John Cleese
Nothing says Holiday dinner more than turkey and ham. Most expats are wondering where they will score the perfect bird or beast. Foodie Goodie, a local boutique food ordering service, is a great place to find meats and many items on this list. Find them at CheeseCollections.com to get on their mailing list. An alternative to Foodie Goodie is The Bulk Shop. They are both found in the Tamarindo Feria on Saturday mornings.
You may also consider shopping local butchers. There is one across from the hardware store in Villareal who may have what you are looking for. If you don’t mind the drive, there is an A-class butcher in Santa Cruz who has not only high-quality cuts but also rock-bottom pricing. Where this butcher is located exactly is a bit of a mystery. Reportedly, he’s two streets in, past the bank, on the left. It’s a one-way street, so you have to go around the block, and double-back. It’s a small town so you should be able to ask around.
La Oliva, in Brasilito at The Village Community Center in Brasilito, is a distributor for Pippo Italian food and several small providers. They can get you a fresh bird if you ask. There are also several farmers around the area who can provide a fresh bird for you. You have to ask around to find them, but you will never eat better.
Bread is easy enough to find in any Latin American country but some people prefer homemade croutons. If you have enough time you could buy some bread now, dice it, and put it in a paper bag or cardboard box to dry. You will have to get creative with keeping out pests, maybe wrap the whole operation in plastic. Go crazy and make your stuffing with cornbread.
“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” -Jim Davis
This is an area where we would strongly suggest not going to the Auto Mercado to make your purchases. The market in Villareal takes place on Fridays and Mondays and will provide most of what you are looking for at better prices. If you prefer organic, the farmer comes to the Tamarindo Feria on Saturdays.
Regarding Pumpkin Pie: Sure, you can buy pumpkin-pie filling in the can from the aforementioned grocer, but did you know that just about any squash will do to make your own homemade pumpkin filling? In fact, that filling at the Mercado is likely butternut squash anyway. Try this recipe and skip the pastry for a store-bought one if you want.
“…If you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb…” -Groucho Marks
*Waves white flag* This one you will probably have to surrender to the Auto Mercado. We have personally spent the national debt driving around to find these. You have some options with Auto Mercado: fresh, jellied, or just canned.
Pistachio Pudding is sold at the Mega Super in Villareal, but if you want to go for the handcrafted pudding, you won’t have a problem finding nuts. Around here we have plenty of them. You can use flan mix for making pudding. [Hint: they’re the same thing.] Throw in fresh pineapple to make things interesting.
“Think of ‘potato’, how’s it spelled?” -Dan Quayle
Sweet potatoes and regular potatoes, are as common in Costa Rica as… well, potatoes. Some people will skip over what is called “camote” (ca-moe-tae) here, not recognizing the purple-root as the yam-equivalent in Costa Rica. As a starchy alternative, you may consider swapping out Yucca root on your favorite potato dish. The flavor is subtly different.
“I call a fig a fig, a spade a spade.” -Menander
Figgy pudding is a little old school but graces the tables of the dedicated. Fortunately, figs are as easy to find in Costa Rica as are potatoes. Dates too. Shop your favorite market for these treats and try this recipe.
Eggnog is known around these parts as “Rompope.” It’s usually sold already loaded and available year round. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding this holiday treat, although you may not appreciate how the Ticos prepare it. You’re on your own for a recipe.
“The use of food metaphors is really well established English… Somebody is a peach, a hot tamale.” -Erin McKean
Of course, McKean is talking about peppers, not the traditional Latino dish known as Tamales. Tamales are searchable year-round in much of Latin America, and while each country has its own spin on these dee-lish treats, Costa Rica really nails the recipe down. The history of this holiday cadence is related to the banana trade, as tamales are traditionally wrapped in the leaves from banana trees. Tamales themselves are made of mostly corn flour but are stuffed with other treats, like meat and beans. Nobody will complain when you serve these hot tamales at your holiday feast.
Whatever you do this year, however, you find your holiday stride in Costa Rica, may you find it shared with others. The holidays are a time for love and good cheer. This is no exception in the happiest place on earth. May you try some new things this holiday season, and may you find the warmth of good hearts, and the pleasure of good times.
Horizon Pacific Management & Rentals is located in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Horizon Pacific offers vacation rentals, property management, long-term rentals, as well as a complete concierge service. Providing you with a local contact during your stay, Horizon Pacific is a company you can trust, with the experience you need.