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Fall in love with guacamole, all over again

By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3

Travel is a wonderful pastime when you are afflicted with the wanderlust gene, as am I and my children. We used to take our children to as many places as possible and that hasn’t changed a bit.

My 13-year-old was fortunate enough to travel to Costa Rica with a friend’s family last month, and my oldest son spent a week in South America. He swears it was nothing but work, but I have faith that he did at least one fun, cool thing while he was down there.

Sitting on the couch one night, the girls lamented the fact that they haven’t been anywhere this year, and they were concerned that we wouldn’t be doing much after the restaurant opens (that’s for a later date and not for this column), so I grabbed my laptop and made reservations for the three of us to fly to Central America for five days, just to get away and check out a place we had never been before.

Knowing many people locally who vacation in CR, I hit them up for information and we found ourselves in the country’s Badlands, or Mal Pais. This is a town as well as the name of the region, as it is a fairly lawless area with practically no infrastructure to speak of. And it was stunning, from its pristine beauty to empty point breaks and authentic Costa Rican foods served at the Sodas Tipicas, which is the name for a traditional restaurant. The locals were wonderful and easy to talk to, and it was certainly a place that I would go back to the instant the opportunity arises.

Being off-season, the traffic was light and many of the locals in the small town of Montezuma wasted no time in learning our names. I hired a guide for two days; a young man named Steven who spoke five languages, including Swiss, who led us on harrowing back roads and through the jungle to give us a taste of the local-life. Seaside waterfalls, great surf breaks, perfect swimming beaches and authentic food were all in order.

Returning home after one especially long day, I asked Steven about the tourists and where they come from. He said, “Amigo, they come from Iraq, Canada, the U.S., Africa, Australia, Mexico, South America, India … you name it. They come from everywhere in-season.”

I nodded my head, contemplating what he was saying. And in a somber, deadpan moment, I looked at him and slowly said, with a touch of grief, “Yeah, we live in a beach town, too. But, all of our tourists … come from … Pennsylvania.”

Of course, my girls got it but didn’t let on, and he nodded with great sympathy. It was truly one of those moments that I wish that I had recorded.

On that same trip, we passed Soda Tipica Las Palmeras, a remote restaurant outside of town on a bumpy, rocky road that overlooks jungle, rocks and the Pacific. And this is truly the gift of Costa Rica; the food was unrivaled compared to the rest on the trip, and the best that I’ve had in years.

Fresh, vibrant and flavorful, it filled the bill and the girls fell in love with guacamole all over again, as it was served with chunks of yucas fritas. I make these quite a bit, but I’ve never served it with guacamole; definitely worth the extra steps!

So as I cross Costa Rica off my list and get ready for a trip to the Keys for a friend’s wedding, I look forward to exploring the food and drink of the region, and knowing that yes, there will be a touch of Pennsylvania down there, and that is just fine. It’s just a joke people. Simmer down.

Guacamole, Yucas Fritas
Serves 4

3 Fresh, soft avocadoes
Juice of 1 lime
Handful of cilantro, half finely chopped and half whole
1/2 medium tomato, diced
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1 Jalapeno, finely diced
Fried yuca to dip (recipe follows)
Char-pickled Jalapeno (recipe follows)

  1. Smash the avocado until they have a little chunk left but are mostly creamy
  2. Add juice, chopped cilantro, tomato, onion and jalapeno and combine
  3. Adjust seasoning and serve with the fried yuca and char-pickled jalapenos.

Yucas Fritas
Serves 4

2 fresh yuca roots
1 quart Chicken stock
oil for frying
Salt & Pepper

  1. Peel the root and cut into long quarters lengthwise
  2. Remove inner, fibrous core and discard
  3. Cut the quarters into 3-inch pieces as shown in the picture
  4. Bring the stock to a boil
  5. Add the roots and cook until tender, removing to a paper towel so that they can “steam out” as I call it
  6. When ready to serve, simply deep fry until the outside is super crispy and the inside is a molten fluffy pillow
  7. Season with salt and pepper

Char-pickled Jalapeno
makes about a cup

1 cup sliced jalapeno, seeds in
dash of salt
1 tsp. Sugar
1/4 cup Good sherry vinegar

  1. Spray a pan with vegetable oil and get very hot
  2. Add chilies in a single layer and let them sit until darkened
  3. Toss a little and ensure that they have cooked through and have a nice light char to them
  4. Remove from heat, add the salt and sugar and toss and finish with vinegar
  5. Allow to cool