Searching for rosso cavolfiore

Four days before Christmas and the streets in town are bustling. Narrow sidewalks mean

Rosso cavolfiore (red cauliflower) and jumbo shrimp were today’s market acquisitions, here teamed with local garlic, olive oil, red vinegar and an orange from the tree in the courtyard outside. Oh, and a loaf of fresh bread from the corner store.

dodging pedestrians, most of whom are oblivious to your presence. Traffic is very busy and many of the streets around the central market are almost impassable mid-day. Of course, there is a bright side: lots of hot women in tight jeans and boots. They like to be stylish here.

I know this because I decided to venture to the central market again today. The colder weather means I need some warmer clothes, plus I’ve wanted to sample the red cauliflower. Judging by how many vendors were selling the huge red and green vegetable at the market, it must be in-season. Of course, there was a variety of vegetables to choose from – tomatoes, potatoes, onions, fennel (there’s a lot of this plant here), zucchini, eggplant (another staple here), a variety of lettuces, spinach. Plus, of course, all kinds of fruits.

I’m getting more comfortable with the market the more I go. The walk is nice, about 3 miles round-trip, and the route takes me by a store where I can buy Jim Beam for less than in the U.S. Plus, if I want, there are several tavola calda (local quickie eateries) on the way, that are inexpensive and, I’m told, offer excellent meals. The crowds in the market are still a hassle, but I’m getting used to being jostled around like a pinata.

The food stalls are amazing, and I wish I could do all my grocery shopping here. But it’s too far to carry a heavy load. Today, however, I did make an exception. First, however, I had to control my urge to buy every beautiful, and very fresh, vegetable I saw and instead head directly to the clothing aisles, where the people were wall-to-wall.

First, I found the stall where I had previously bought a sweatshirt for 3 euro. There are a number of tables in this area where the clothes are just sitting in a rumpled pile. You go through the pile one item at a time, throw what you don’t like aside, while trying to stay out of the way of people trying to get through the narrow aisles. I found another sweatshirt like the previous one, which was odd because nothing in the bins looked the same. Price was again 3 euro.

Next it was on to find the Chinese stall where I bought a long-sleeve shirt previously. Of course, there are a number of such stalls, but through the hustle and bustle, I think I managed to find the exact same one as before. Anyway, found a shirt for 8 euro – and it was time to brave the food stalls.

The busiest stalls in the food area seem to be the ones selling marinated olives and other

This vendor offered dozens of varieties of olives

marinated vegetables. These stalls often have 5-6 dozen varieties of marinated dishes, many of which I have no idea what they are. It is a challenge passing by these stalls, both because of the crowds five or six deep and because I want to stop and sample everything.

Then, there is the problem of deciding just which vendor you’re going to deal with. All the vegetables look clean and fresh, and interestingly, the prices are consistent from vendor to vendor. In other words, everyone seems to have the same prices. So a small head of cauliflower (actually it’s huge) will cost you 1 euro regardless of which stall you choose. The larger heads cost 1.50 or 2 euro. I bought one of the smaller heads (see photo at top), which should be good for at least four meals.

Before getting the cauliflower, however, I decided to splurge on some seafood. Again, my choice of stalls, as well as the type of seafood, were numerous. Either shrimp or swordfish was the choice.

One stall had large prawns displayed in front for 10 euro a kilo, they looked fresh, so why not? I only wanted half a kilo but I used the wrong word for “half” (medio instead of mezzo). The older man helping me had no idea what I was saying, as he happily scooped way too many shrimp into a container. Finally, I took my forefinger, mimicked a slashing sign across the 10 on the price sign, and he understood. For 5 euro, I received 14 large prawn that should be good for three meals. In fact, I had four for lunch when I returned (sauteed whole in olive oil and garlic, with fresh lemon juice), along with steamed red cauliflower sprinkled with butter and Parmesan, and some fresh bread. Yes, it was delicious. Next time, swordfish.

Weather report: It has turned a bit colder here and today the rains arrived. The skies were clear for my trip to the market but it’s raining now.

Thanksgiving 2010/Puntarenas

Nov. 24

Jack stocks up

Interesting trip Monday to Punteranes. Left at 7 so we could be at the seafood dock early. Quite a chaotic scene. Boats backed up to the dock to unload shrimp, fish and whatever. You could buy right there or across the street at the pescaderia. Jack knew several market owners and walked from place to place like one of those white Europeans in the early 40s flicks about Africa. So he bought 10 kilos of jumbo shrimp, 10 kilos of jumbo shrimp at another place, and 20 (turned into 27) kilos of mahi-mahi at another place. A stop at the city market for a few vegetables and beef filets and he was almost ready for his guests. Total cost – more than $400.

Next, we picked up some ice and headed up the mountain. Last time I was at the restaurant, we had worked on the exterior but the kitchen and bathrooms were a mess. This trip they were spotless and ready for visitors the next day.
We proceeded to pack the mahi-mahi and shrimp in smaller parcels for future use. Efficient operation. I got a few of the tail end filets and had one tonight (Monday). Absolutely delicious – and I don’t really like fish! Simply breaded it, with herbs, and grilled it in a skillet. I also bought about 1.5 kilos of jumbo shrimp at about $10 a kilo, or $5 a pound. Going for $20/kilo in Jaco. Will make some nice dinners.


While this is not a holiday celebrated in Costa Rica, I am going to put together a sort of faux turkey dinner – chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy. Stuffing mix costs $3 so I passed on that and will try to make my own. Heck, it’s just for me anyway, so what’s the difference. An alternative might be JacoTaco, which caters to gringos and possibly could be serving turkey. My wallet is getting a little flat after buying groceries today, though, and what I have left needs to last me at least a week until my new ATM card arrives.

Puntarenas tour

Oct. 25, 2010

Magical Mystery Tour

Friday night while playing pool, neither one of us fit even to walk home, Jack says he will think of something to do the next day. He’s worse then me when it comes to sitting around with nothing to do. Saturday he shows up at 10 and says we’re going on a mystery trip. Hadn’t eaten breakfast/lunch yet but packed up and off we went. Figured out pretty quickly that we were headed up the coast to Puntarenas, about an hour’s drive north of Jaco. Puntarenas is a town of about 27,000, about twice the size of Jaco. It is the port for the cruise lines and also for the ferry that goes to the Nicoya Peninsula, which you can see from this side of the bay. On the way, we stopped at a bridge that had a number of tourist shops and restaurants for people who want to see the crocodiles below in the river. We walked across and, sure enough, there were about 15 crocs getting their tans on the shore, some more than 10 feet long and pretty large.

Puntarenas, which is also the name of the county that Jaco is in, is a long, rather industrial strip of population. First, you go by the container port and shrimp boat anchoring area. Then you travel down this long, straight road with the beach on one side and a bay on the other. The actual town is spread out and densely populated. There is a long, very long beach on the Pacific side, with a boardwalk running down the length, and tourist shops all along selling trinkets and stuff. A number of beachside restaurants, as well. There is a long pier for the cruise ships where a number of people were fishing. No one was catching anything but I did pick up a few pointers just watching the hand-liners techniques. I brought my fishing tackle with us but the pier would have taken an all-afternoon commitment.

On the bay side is where the fishing boats come in with their catch, with a lot of seafood shops across the street from the dock and a number of street vendors, as well. We walked up to one old grizzled guy who knew Jack and was peddling jumbo shrimp for $10 a kilo (less than $5 a pound). We thought about buying some but didn’t. We then walked through the “seafood mall” looking for lobster but were told next week. This was part of our mystery walking tour, where we went into various stores – just looking. Except I did find some picture frames, four for roughly $14 total for 8×10 photos. Also found my latest necessity – a recliner. You wouldn’t believe how uncomfortable my rented furniture is and I’ve decided to make the purchase since it looks like I’ll be in my present apartment for awhile. I checked out recliners in Jaco and was price shopping. The same chain in Puntarenas had one I liked and dropped the price from 218,000 colones to about 180,000 colones, about a $70 savings. The price was the same as in Jaco, so I’m going back to the original store to see if they have the model I liked. If not, the Puntarenas store can send their chair to Jaco and I can have it delivered to my apartment.

The Tico way

While I finally got the last screen door installed in the back, I found that the latch didn’t really secure the door. A slight breeze would pop it open and let the bugs in. I was, therefore, left with holding it tight with tape. My landlord called the installer several times trying to get him over here to fix it, but I guess since he’s already been paid he didn’t feel an urgency. He was supposed to come Saturday at 9 but didn’t show up. Again, Monday morning, he was going to show up between 8-9 but didn’t get here until 11. At least it’s fixed now. The landlord just shrugged and said, “It’s the Tico way.”  I’ve found, however, that I’m not really in that big of a hurry to get such things done.

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