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Life in Costa Rica: much as I left it

Coffee Shop / Bakery

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Not everything in Costa Rica is perfect, but life here as I write this is pretty much "pura vida" compared to what I left in Arizona. I don't know what is going on with climate change there, but since I arrived in Costa Rica I saw the very first day of rain for the entire year of 2014--yes, in Tucson it had not rained once in six months, as I left for our trip on June 30.

I have ascertained that what my doctor told me about food in Costa Rica is true, in that the laws do not permit the use of pesticides or fertilizers other than natural products. There is also no GMO going on here. I bought some very pretty platanos yesterday, along wih Costa Rican coffee and some lovely Kern products such as juice drinks. My Costa Rican friends think it is odd that I put sweetener and creamer in coffee because the majority of people here drink it black.

Yesterday our friends took me on a ride to a place called Herradura, in which there is a Marriott resort called Hotel los Suenos (Hotel of Dreams), that spills over a cliff down to a beach and land area that features a mall and a marina. My powers of description are inadequate to communicate the beauty of the place; perhaps you will see it for yourself someday. But it is very beautiful, with exotic plant life such as palmatified banana-like trees that look like bananas but have their leaves fanned out in a pattern. They do not bear bananas, but who cares? They are gorgeous!

The grounds are covered with flowering plants of every description, and we wandered through them on the way to the mall by the marina. There we visited the Dolce Vita Coffee & Sweets, where we bought some pastries, a pizza and of course had coffee. The coffee was what you would expect from a high-end place in Costa Rica, and they also supplied me with soy milk to lighten it with.

I ordered a pain au chocolat, a croissant rolled up with chocolate inside it. You can get the chocolate-in-sticks to bake them with from King Arthur Flour Company online, and after that making them is pretty simple. Mine was very good, but the apple tart that another member of our party ordered was a disappointment.

It seems that nowadays bakeries do not know what to cook when it comes to fruit. You do not serve raw apples in a tart, which was what we got. They were of course crisp and chewy, but definitely not melting and delicious. A tart is made by lining a tart pan with pastry and filling it with fruit, and baking. A very few tarts are made with something like fresh strawberries or kiwi fruit, but for apples, stone fruit and other fillings you bake it.

Many tarts also have a base layer of custard under the fruit, which is not harmed by baking. What you do to make an apple tart is lay down the pastry, pour the custard over and then add a well-arranged layer of apples. Then you bake it! When the apples are soft and luscious you take the tart out and let it cool, and then put a layer of caramel over it if you wish. You could also glaze it. Our party did not like the tart, which looked as though it had been baked, by the way, because of the caramel glaze.

I must say that I am surprised, I really am, that high-end sweets are done poorly nowadays, mostly over apples. You will find leathery dried apples in a pie in Tucson as well as unbaked chopped apples.

If you want to make an impression with an apple pie yourself, it's easy: just bake it.