Rave #4: Graffiti Restro Café & Wine Bar

Graffiti Jaco Dining RoomGraffiti Restro Cafe & Wine Bar is a small restaurant tucked into the back corner of a nondescript little strip mall on the main drag in Jacó. Two diminutive dining rooms are joined by an open arched doorway. It’s definitely worth searching this place out.

Graffiti Jaco Menu

The small regular menu features a few apps, a few salads, some main courses, a tasty children’s menu, and a call-out box with a few good bargains, including $10 taco and slider plates.

A justifiably popular signature dish here—that has a permanent spot on the regular menu—is the cacao and coffee encrusted beef tenderloin.  I also love the seared tuna salad with honey basil dressing and soy caramel.  And, you can’t go wrong with the blackened tuna fish tacos.

Graffiti Jaco Skewers

 

However, it’s the regularly changing chalkboard menu that usually piques my interest. The chef and owner, Danny Clark, is Alabama-born and cut his teeth cooking in New Orleans. He also opened the original Tsunami Sushi in Jacó many years ago. The nightly menu may contain some southern U.S.-inspired fare, a tip of the hat to Nuevo Latino cuisine, or an East Asian flavored concoction using local ingredients. On a recent visit we had the Pad Thai with lobster and shrimp.

Graffiti Jaco Tuna SaladFor dessert, we went the “Elvis Special” some decadent French toast sandwiched with ripe banana and peanut butter and doused in a sweet rum syrup.

The well-thought out wine list here features several good by-the-glass options.

You’ll also sometimes find live music or a DJ spinning tunes here.

Graffiti Jaco SurfboardsDanny, whose business-card job description reads: “Visionary,” also is a surfboard shaper, who has taken to crafting laminate, hollow-core, wooden surfboards that are functional works of art. These are on sale and display in a small shop adjacent to the restaurant, where you can also pick up his hand-crafted skateboard decks and unique wooden body-surfing aids.

Graffiti is open Monday through Saturday from 5pm to 10pm. Tel: 2643-1708. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends, and throughout the high season.

Jaco Graffiti Chalkboard

 

Taste of Belize: Costa Rica’s Neighbor Cooks It Up

A Taste of Belize is our Central American neighbor’s main culinary competition and industry trade event. It features the best this small Caribbean coastal country has to offer.

I’ve been traveling to Belize for over 30 years. I’ve written Frommer’s Belize for the past 15 years. I know and have eaten the cooking of all the chef’s featured in the video below. And, there’s always some Marie Sharp’s in my pantry.

Chef Rob served a homemade papaya ketchup alongside some fresh snapper that lives on in my memory forever. Chef Sean wowed me with his fusion recreations of Belizean classics when he opened the kitchen at Ka’ana Resort.

And well, you haven’t had gibnut  (agouti paca) till you’ve tried Chef Calbert’s gibnut.

 

More Thanksgiving In Costa Rica

I posted below about a Thanksgiving meal at El Tigre Vestido, but thanks to the Tico Times, here’s a list of a few more places for you to indulge in turkey, stuffing and all the fixins today.

Me, I’ve got a 9-kilo bird defrosting in the fridge and a bunch of friends coming over on Sunday… Yup, everyone’s working hard today and saving it up for Sunday.

And yes, we’ve found fresh cranberries again this year. Thanks Automercado!

In the meantime, the following is my favorite cooking tip video for Thanksgiving

Just put the f*ckin turkey in the oven…

Carl’s Jr. In Costa Rica

Carl's Jr. In Costa RicaOK, I just learned that Carl’s Jr., the U.S.-based fast food burger chain already has 6 restaurants in Costa Rica.

That’s right, they have six already and plan to open five more in 2013. Dios mio.

 

The Costa Rican expansion is part of a global push that has seen Carl’s Jr. outlets pop up everywhere from Brazil to New Zealand, and from Vietnam to Turkey.

I admit it, I’ve never eaten at a Carl’s Jr., either here or in the United States. Although I have found their sexy car washing ads clever and smart from a PR point of view.

Read the Tico Times article on this phenomenon here.

So what’s the deal, and what’s your verdict? Has anyone tried one yet? How does it stack up?

Thanksgiving Dinner At El Tigre Vestido

El Tigre Vestido - Finca Rosa Blanca Plantation InnEl Tigre Vestido, up at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn is offering up a contemporary version of a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

The four-course feast features several options and costs $45 per person, tax and tip included.

Here’s the menu:

Starters

Roasted squash soup with lemon grass and cilantro

Baby lettuce and garden fresh vegetables in a pineapple and balsamic vinegar reduction

Mains

Grilled Sea Bass in a blackberry and pineapple sauce

Boniato and potato puree and a basket of fresh vegetables from our garden

or

Grilled medallion of Turkey with a strawberry and blackberry chutney

Roasted boniato with fresh herbs and green beans sautéed with cashews

or

Garden fresh vegetable curry

Brown rice with toasted nuts and boniato with fresh herbs

Desserts

Chayote tart with a Rosa Blanca lemon filling

or

Trio of homemade ice cream

Coffee, Strawberry and Vanilla bean

 

I’m having mine at home with friends (on Sunday, since apparently this isn’t a national holiday and most people have to work on Thursday).

Gotta go get a 7 kilo bird and hope there’s fresh cranberries available…

What’s your Costa Rican Thanksgiving tradition?

Second Starbucks Opens In Costa Rica

Costa Rican Coffee BeansWhile I don’t think Starbucks is inherently evil, there’s something just not right about the Seattle-based chain spreading and gaining popularity in Costa Rica.

Neither my wallet nor my waistline have much use for Starbucks. And I brew a pretty decent cup of organic, fair-trade Costa Rican grown dark roast at home.

The new store opened in the new Lincoln Plaza Mall in Moravia. It will face competition from several other coffee shops and similarly themed restaurants in the same mall, including Ily Gourmet, Kafe Haus, and Spoon.

Costa Rican Coffee PlantThe first Starbucks in Costa Rica opened in June 2012 in Avenida Escazu. It’s not clear how many more storefronts the chain plans to open here. This is the 565th store the chain operates in Latin America. Although, that’s not such an impressive number, considering they operate nearly 20,000 storefronts worldwide.

On the upside, Starbucks has traditionally and historically been a large buyer of Costa Rican coffee, and some of their offerings are distinctly local.

For fans of Starbucks in Costa Rica, you can connect to their Facebook page here.

 

The Best Grilled Cheese Ever: No Costa Rica Content

OK, I know, there’s no Costa Rica content here. But the chef is named Eric Greenspan (no relation, but close enough). And, I sure would like to eat one of these, here in Tiquicia.

This grilled cheese is decadent. Nah, it’s way beyond decadent. And in fact, I think the amount of butter is just over the top. And, I worry about cousin Eric’s health.

That said, there’s some damn good ideas here, and the video is pretty fun to watch.

I get the funny feeling this video would go over well in Colorado and Washington states these days…

So, what ingredients do you use here in Costa Rica to make a great grilled cheese? What bread? What cheese? What additional ingredients.

There’s a lot of great possibilities and, with Eric’s ideas in mind, I might just come up with something pretty good…

Costa Rica Officials Ban Shellfish Consumption Due To Red Tide

Bad news for lobster lovers, the Costa Rican government has placed a ban and warned against eating shell fish and mollusks, due to red tide phenomenon.

The article in The Tico Times doesn’t specificy locations, but I’m assuming that this refers primarily to shellfish and mollusks harvested on the Pacific coasts, primarily around Nicoya and Guanacaste.

I’m assuming those coming from the Caribbean sea are still safe to eat.

Costa Rican Crab