Image via WikipediaThere are a number of ways in which Costa Rica falls short of being an earthly paradise, and availability of wine is one of them.
Hideously expensive if imported, thanks to tariffs and taxes...a situation not likely to be amended even under the new free trade treaty with the European Union because, as remarked solemnly by a national daily paper, the reduction of tariffs on wine imports from the EU is a good thing as it will allow shops to make a bigger profit on selling it....
If produced in Costa Rica, then it is one of those tastes I have no wish whatsoever to acquire.
If I want warm, sickly stuff that fizzes then I'll just leave the Coca Cola out of the fridge.
So seeing a new brand of wine in the box on sale at Pali...Walmart's supposedly low price outlet...at about a euro cheaper than the usual brand.... I thought I'd try it, but it was an experiment doomed from the start.
Firstly, I managed to drop it on the floor and, clearly being made from low price cardboard, it burst.
I then had to balance the remains between my feet while driving home down gravel roads which would give the Big Dipper a run for its money in the thrills stakes...luckily the car is an automatic.
After all that I stuck it in the fridge to give it a chance to show what it could do...and it did.
It took the enamel off my teeth.
Examination of the box showed that it was a red wine from Spain...which claimed to be a world best seller.
As paint stripper, they might be right.
Whatever it was sold for, it certainly shouldn't be for drinking, so, flying in the face of all the advice that a lousy wine will make a lousy sauce, I made a beef stew with it...and the stew was brilliant!
Food was in the air that day.....The Return of the Native had been blogging about a curry competition at her local....then a friend told me about a chilli cook-off at a gringo cafe the other side of the Central Valley...so after all this I felt like going out to eat that evening.
But there was nowhere to go.
To be more accurate, there was nowhere that I would have wanted to go to closer than the capital, forty five minutes away, where there is a great choice of good places to eat, and I didn't feel like driving that far only to be obliged to go without wine because of the new drink driving laws.
That's why we go to restaurants at lunchtime...and travel on the bus.
Still, even though I had to settle for a home made stew that evening, it was not one of the things which count against Costa Rica as an earthly paradise.....there was nowhere to eat out in the evenings when we lived in rural France either...and there we didn't have the option of getting a bus!
I've always thought the French reputation for gastronomy over rated.....there were a few good places and a lot more for which 'pedestrian' would have been a compliment (here) and because I've usually lived out in the sticks it had to be good to get me to drive there and back.
Mark you, I was visiting my dear friend the Old Biddie, when last in France and she has a restaurant nearby which would have had me driving down there once a week...even if it took me all day to get there and all night to get back!
Food beautifully cooked and presented, a sensible wine list and good service. A real pleasure to go there.
I believe it is run by foreigners....
Why couldn 't they have taken over while I still lived in France!
Twice I've lived near enough to a village to walk down to the cafe in the square....the first time when I'd just moved to France and it was a steak frites sort of place, friendly and good value: the second time many years later in another village, another steak frites type of place, whose doorway I never darkened.
I had met the proprietor before in his previous establishment where he dished out the pork chop and frites that his wife cooked and then, having secured his prey, started moaning on about his hard life and times.
The story was not gripping and the pork chop was not fresh.
However, he clearly gripped someone.
A Dutch couple had been spending their holidays at the campsite at that village for years. The husband's hobby was star photography and apparently there was no loom of lights in that area to spoil his exposure...or whatever it was.
They must have been unusual for Dutch in that they did not bring all their provisions with them to France, but used to go to the pork chop dispenser for their evening meals and became quite friendly with him.
When an order was served on him to retile his kitchen and bring everything up to the norms for establishments serving food they offered to finance him, but then, on getting the estimates, decided it would be better to buy a cafe elsewhere and set him up in business, paying them a small rent.
Thus he arrived in my village.
He must have had a talent for making foreign friends, for an English couple living down the road from me were also friendly with him, and not only recommended him but also took their friends there. Frequently.
They must have been especially fond of pork chops.
French villages being what they are, events are kept local....so he was in line for everything from the old age pensioners lunch to the chasseurs' banquet. Captive trade as it were.
The OAP event passed off pretty well.. Delays in service don't worry the OAPs as long as there is wine on the table and the room is warm.
The chasseurs' banquet was not a success, however. They supplied the venison and he forgot to marinade it.
Those with false teeth found it hard going. The offer of pork chops instead did not meet with the appreciation he had expected..
Still, heartened by his experiences, he decided to offer a St. Valentine's Day evening...if you see what I mean.
The set menu went up in the window, and he even put an advertisement in the local rag.
Such was the response that he had to open up the second dining room....and by seven o'clock on the fourteenth of February the joint was jumping.
In honour of the occasion he had drafted in supplementary waiting staff and the aperitifs circulated rapidly...no delays this time!
His customers were seated and the first course was served...all was still going well.....it was by then eight o'clock and there was a happy buzz throughout the two rooms as people awaited their main course.
Let it just be said that the buzz became less happy as by nine o'clock only a fraction of the clients had been served.....and my English neighbour said that their party had finally been served at eleven o'clock, by which time the wine had been looked on when it was red and things were getting decidedly noisy.
Guy had not attended the St. Valentine's Day event...he always considered that the man must be allergic to dust and that the slow service was accounted for by his fear of raising any by some swift movement....but he did have all the gossip.
So what went wrong? He'd taken on extra staff after all.
Ah! In the dining room, yes, but not in the kitchen. He had over one hundred people there for his set menu.
Yes, but with a set menu it must have been arranged to be easy for the kitchen, surely?
You would think so, wouldn't you. So what possessed the cretin to make steak with bearnaise sauce the main course.....when the only cook was his wife and the only source of heat a two burner gas stove?
Just surprised it wasn't pork chops.