Vivi, my new local chef friend, suggested we meet up again on Saturday morning for a look at one of the city’s newer markets, the Feria Verde de Aranjuez, an organic food market that’s held every, well, Saturday morning.
It’s held on the grounds of a local sports park in the zone of Aranjuez. Originally it started out a couple of years ago as a sort of home-farmer’s market – things that people grew themselves at home and sold to each other and local foodies. It’s grown, and now includes a section devoted to things other than food, like clothing and art, as well as strip of booths that operate as little open air restaurants and coffee bars. The groundrule seems to be that everything has to be either grown organically and/or be handmade by the people selling it. There are a couple of home cheesemakers, jams and jellies, herbal tonics, and all sorts of other stuff. The second picture there is a pile of fresh turmeric root, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it fresh before, it’s always been dried, and either in little bricks that are hard to grind, or in powder.
We did, of course, need to fortify ourselves, and the little arepa stand seemed a good spot – I went for a white corn arepa filled with an egg. It comes with a sort of mayo based hot sauce, which the woman running the stand stood near to me, and as I ate, she’d spoon on a little bit more, so that the sauce would continue all the way through.
Vivi and boyfriend completed their food purchases for the market and were headed back home, they very kindly dropped me back by the Teatro Nacional, which I mentioned the other day I wanted to return to and see inside. It’s pretty spectacular. There was a kids’ orchestra practicing on the stage, but they were letting folk in to wander around.
I then headed over the Museo Nacional, the national history museum. Entering it from the Plaza de Democracia, the first thing one does is pass through a butterfly garden. They do love their butterflies here. I spent a half hour wandering the garden and snapping photos, then on to the rest of the building, which was originally a fortress.
The building itself isn’t much to look at, it’s just a bit concrete blob with one corner turret remaining, but it does have a nice courtyard and a view out over the city. Inside, mostly it’s just nicely curated exhibits to the anthropology of the native population and the historical events during and since colonization. Perhaps the most notable thing about the building is that it is the site on which the government abolished Costa Rica’s military back on December 1, 1948 (though it didn’t go into effect until the next year).
A short wander in the area led me to Plaza Morazon and the Edificio Metalico – yes, that second building is an all steel structure, these days used as a school. It was originally, strangely given the structure, a place where drovers, or oxherders, spent the night when in town – it seems a rather fancy looking place for that, and then afterwards was the home of the national liquors factory.
It was not to be a big food day – I have my limits. But a couple of days earlier, when I’d explored what there was of “barrio chino”, I’d stumbled across this little restaurant hidden behind the neighborhood church, called Ramen Fusion. And in theory, they were kind of a modern day foodie’s wet dream – offering up gourmet ramen and pizza – I mean, what else do you really need after those? My dining out life would be so much easier if I’d just be one of those sorts who devotes their life to trying every version of one particular thing, like the guy who set out to try every pizza in New York City and created a website around it. But, I like my variety. Still, I do like a good pizza, and I do like good ramen, and I’d tucked it in the back of my mind, and found myself in the mood for pizza – a little online research revealed that this place has some pretty strong proponents, particularly of their house specialty pizza, the Luna Roja, or Red Moon.
The pizzas come in three sizes. All they’ll say about the “luna roja sauce” is that it’s a house secret. The pizza is made what I think of as “Detroit style”, except round – the cheese is baked right onto the crust, then it’s topped with sauce and any other toppings afterwards. This is one seriously good pizza, and it really is the sauce that makes it (not that the crust or cheese were slouches) – if I were to guess, it’s a slightly blended sauce of charred tomatoes, onions, garlic, and chilies. The smokiness of the charred vegetables is what truly works – there may be some more stuff in there, but it’s my guess and I’m sticking to it.