Costa Rica in Review: Dolphins, Plantains, and The Best Fish of My Life

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Unfortunately, I have to ship off for a work conference tomorrow for the rest of the week, I’m just now starting this post at 11 PM, and I have not packed a damn thing. So, I will have to keep this brief and mostly photo-centric.

Costa Rica is holycraptasticunfuckingbelievable. It really is God’s country, and while there I was routinely reminded of the power of truly fresh food.

I had some great meals there and one rage-inducingly bad one. But across the board, the fish was always outstanding (except in said aforementioned shiteous meal). We stayed in Manuel Antonio/Quepos which is home to some of the best deep-sea fishing in the world, and it really shows in the local cuisine. Basically, if it comes out of the ocean in this region (mahi-mahi, tuna, grouper, marlin, squid, etc.) then you can bank on it being fresh caught that morning. And awesome.

The way I started most of my mornings was with the Typical Breakfast, which consists of eggs (I always went w/ fried), rice and beans, fried plantains, and tortillas. The rice and beans were shockingly flavorful and the eggs were always perfectly runny. All of that rolled into one tortilla was simple and sublime.

Typical Breakfast

Typical Breakfast

The public beach in Manuel Antonio has a cool little town with a cluster of restaurants. Unfortunately, I only got to hit this area up for lunch once, but it was one of my favorite meals of the trip. But the calamari! Oh, the calamari!

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Calamari 1

Calamari 1

Calamari 2

Calamari 2

Probably the biggest highlight of the trip was our all-day deep sea fishing trip. We boarded the boat at 7:30 AM and didn’t come back until it was dark. Well…”boat” may not do it justice…

Got my swim trunks and my flippie-floppies

Got my swim trunks and my flippie-floppies

All told, the fishing itself wasn’t that great. We only caught 3 fish: a bonito, a 30 lbs. mahi-mahi, and a 100 lbs sailfish. Guess who caught the mahi-mahi? This guy. You know how? ‘Cause I fucking rock, that’s how.

In addition to rocking, I also happened to draw #2 in line.

Be it through rocking-ass or sheer luck, I still got to reel in this sucker:

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The crazy thing about mahi-mahi (AKA Dorado) is the way they change colors. When it was first brought onto the boat, it had very dark green and blue stripes. Within minutes he had changed to what you see above. And when they die the color changes completely. It’s odd…you can actually see the moment that the fish finally passes on just by watching its scales. He eventually looked like this:

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I tan so well, don't I?

The coolest part about catching this fish was that our crew filleted him up right on the deck as soon as he died.

And this was, to date, the single best fish I have ever eaten in my life. Honestly. We devoured at least 10 lbs of this thing and were like crackheads begging the cook to give us just one more taste.

All he got was salt, pepper, a little lemon juice, and a few minutes on a hot grill. That’s it. But the sheer freshness of the fish, and the impact it made on the flavor, was really eye opening for me. I have long since known the power of fresh ingredients, but this was the most striking example I have ever experienced. Simply perfect.

Non-food related side note: While hopelessly searching for more fish, we happened upon one of the coolest things I’ve seen. Ever. We rode straight through a pod of Bottlenose dolphins that was AT LEAST 1000 deep. Seriously. They went as far as the eye could see. And we circled the group for 2 hours (sailfish hang out in dolphin pods).

I took this video from the front of the boat, with my feet hanging down just a few feet from the water. I must warn you: we have been drinking HEAVILY at this point. Bonus points for anyone that can name the song playing in the background.

These guys partied with us for the entire 2 hours we trolled amidst their pod. It was pretty powerful. Not to mention, it was cool as hell to have a dolphin escort while sucking down tequila shots in the middle of paradise.

Ok…back to the food, and I’m going to pick up the pace now.

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More mahi-mahi

Ok…I HAVE to say a few words about this place, just because I still have not completely figured this out. In fact, just two words: Pirate Sushi.

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WTF does that even mean?!

WTF does that even mean?!

However corny their theme is, when you have access to this much fresh fish it is tough to crank out bad sushi. They didn’t disappoint.

Clockwise from top left: Marlin, Mahi-Mahi, and Tuna nigiri

Clockwise from top left: Marlin, Mahi-Mahi, and Tuna nigiri

Ocean Roll

Ocean Roll

Piratin' Roll....seriously, that is what it is called.

Piratin' Roll....seriously, that is what it is called.

The only meal that I didn’t get any shots of, but was still in my top 3 favorite meals of the trip, was a $1 roadside Empanada Carne (beef). En route to the airport we stopped for breakfast at a shack about 3 hours inland. I considered buying ten more, sealing them in a plastic bag, and eating all of them during the flight.

Well…here I am at 1 AM, and I still have not packed a damn thing. It would seem that, no matter how much I want to be concise at the beginning of a post, I’m just not really into the whole “brevity thing”.

I hope you enjoyed this dose of Costa Rican food porn as much as I enjoyed devouring it.

See you kids in another week.

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