The holiday season is a good excuse to stuff yourself silly, and spending it in Costa Rica doesn’t have to be any impediment. Traditional foods, from Thanksgiving turkey and holiday ham to wine and spirits to wash it all down, are widely available in the Central Valley and beyond.
Turkeys are usually imported to Costa Rica post-slaughter or, more rarely, are shipped from the United States as chicks and raised here (TT, Nov. 21, 2008). Smoked and uncooked birds are available at most major supermarkets in the country. Butterball-brand frozen stuffed turkeys go for about ₡5,400 ($11) per kilo. Those of the non-stuffed frozen variety cost about ₡3,600 ($7.20) per kilo. Most supermarkets will have these turkeys, as well as gobblers of other brands such as Hormel and Costa Rica’s Zar, on hand starting mid-November. Precooked turkeys can be ordered in advance from many stores at varying prices.
All the necessary fixings, such as cranberries, stuffing and sweet potatoes, will also be available in supermarkets.
Holiday hams run anywhere from ₡11,300 to ₡16,000 ($23 to $32) or more per kilo and will go on sale toward the end of November and through December. Most supermarkets offer seasoned ham, ham hock and whole pig with and without bones from brands like Hormel and locals Zaragoza and Zar.
Vegetarians and vegans craving Tofurkey may be out of luck, but ingredients for simple nut-roast recipes can be found in most supermarkets starting in November and December.
For Hanukkah, kosher products are available at specialty stores Little Israel Kosher Delicatessen in Escazú (2237-3935) and Kosher Center in Pavas (2232-2991, www.costaricakoshercenter.com), both west of San José. Look for fresh doughnuts and latkes, as well as poultry, beef and baked goods.
Carnes Don Fernando (www.carnesdon fernando.com) offers uncooked and roasted turkeys, smoked Virginia ham, roast beef, mashed potatoes and various pies. To put in an order for your holiday feast, call any of its four locations: Escazú (2289-9165), Santa Ana (2282-0181) or Curridabat (2271-3334) in the Central Valley, or Tamarindo (2653-2262) on the northern Pacific coast.
In addition to turkey, trimmings and ham, Auto Mercado (www.automercado.co.cr) stores carry preparation essentials like turkey cooking bags and trays, as well as piecrusts and fillings and gravy mixes. Auto Mercado also offers a fairly wide selection of spirits, including imported beers, wines and whiskies as well as vodka, rum, tequila and other liquors and liqueurs. The supermarket chain has locations throughout the Central Valley as well as in Herradura, Tamarindo and Playas del Coco on the Pacific coast.
Wal-Mart-owned Hipermás (www.hipermas.com) and Más x Menos (www.masxmenos.co.cr) supermarkets will carry the Thanksgiving basics, as well as a selection of alcohol for reasonable prices. The wine shelf isn’t lined with anything too fancy, but trusty Chilean and Argentine imports abound and range in price from about ₡4,000 to ₡10,000 ($8 to $20). Hipermás has six megastores around the Central Valley and Más x Menos has many more, as well as stores in Jacó on the central Pacific coast and Limón on the Caribbean.
PriceSmart stores (www.pricesmart.com) stock plenty of holiday goodies. A $30-a-year membership gets you access to affordable imported turkeys and ham, among other essentials. The chain has five locations in the Central Valley: Heredia (2262-4848), Alajuela (2441-7711), Escazú (2288-0008), Zapote (2283-9464) and Llorente de Tibás (2297-2343).
Muñoz y Nanne, a popular supermarket in the eastern San José suburb of San Pedro (2253-4646, www.munozynanne.com), will offer Thanksgiving products and has a good wine selection, including a bargain shelf and an entire room dedicated to foreign wines.
On the west side of San José, wine lovers can search for bottles by region at Vinum La Enoteca in Escazú (2289-5917). Aficionados can sample and purchase a wine of the month, offered at a 10 percent discount. Also, Escazú’s Saretto (2228-0247) offers perhaps the largest supermarket wine selection in the country.
HÅ&COM’s Bodega05, a specialty liquor store in Llorente de Tibás (2297-1212, www.holtermann.co.cr), north of San José, carries more than 450 different wines and liquors. During the holiday season, the store offers a variety of gift baskets and this year is introducing the option to “build your own basket.” María Pia Robles, company representative and wine expert, recommends a Louis Jadot Chablis or a Beringer Napa Valley chardonnay to accompany turkey or ham.
For those wanting to knock back a couple of traditional Tico Christmastime drinks, rompope, a variation on eggnog, is a tasty option and can be purchased at any supermarket or liquor store.