Wednesday, February 29, 2012

“Gallo Pinto”, who cares who invented it, just pass the Lizano Salsa Please!

“Gallo Pinto” is easily identified as one of the most traditional dishes of both Costa Rica and Nicaragua, but is found throughout the Latin American countries. This economic dish consisting of a mix of rice and beans with a variety of other condiments that help make it unique to each country in which it is being prepared, has even become popular in most every Latin American Fast food restaurant. During the cooking process, the rice takes on the color of the beans, giving the dish a speckled appearance, hence the name, “Gallo Pinto”, or “Speckled Rooster” in English. This wildly popular dish has a long history and has been an important part of popular culture of numerous Latin American countries, although its actual origin remains a bit uncertain. In Costa Rica and Nicaragua, ask anyone and the debate begins as to who “invented” the ubiquitous Gallo Pinto!

Found in every Costa Rica Hotel restaurant, local “sodas”, or on just about and breakfast table in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua, this standard breakfast staple has a variety of other latin names and ingredients that help differenciate it around the World. Here are a few examples:
• Costa Rica: “Gallo Pinto”. Using spices such as sweet chile, garlic, culantro and onion.
• Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica: Commonly referred to as “Rice and Beans” it is prepared with the milk of coconut and often times spiced with Panamanican Hot Chilis.
• Nicaragua: Prepared similar to Costa Rica, but almost always with red beans.
• Colombia: “Calentado” (heated)
• Cuba: “Moros & Cristianos”, which refers to the “bean & rice” and often contains cumin, laurel and other spices.
• El Salvador: “Casamiento”, which basically means a marriage of the rice & beans.
• Guatemala: Also known as the Basic “Arroz & Frijoles, on the Caribbean coast they also add the coconut milk and call it “Izabal”.
• Honduras: “Casamiento” like El Salvador or along the Northern Coast just “Rice & Beans”.
• México: “Pispiote”.
• Panamá: “Gallopinto” (one Word) anda long the Caribbean coast “Rice & Beans” with Coconut milk.
• Puerto Rico & Dominican Republic: “Frijol gandul or frijol de palo”.
• Perú: “Calentado” or another variance known as “Tacu-tacu”.
• Puerto Rico: “Arroz con habichuelas” (another way to say Rice & Beans!). República Dominicana.

Suspected Origins
The origin of this plate has never been completely verified or proven, so although the Nicaraguans insist it was their creation, the true origin is thought to have come from Costa Rica during either the times when the Atlantic Banana Companies were a prominent force in this country or it may have originally been brought with the slaves from Africa to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica during the construction of the railroad along that coast. Mentioned in literary works in history books, the origins of Gallo Pinto were thoroughly investigated by Patricia Vega of the National University of Costa Rica, and original writings of Gallo Pinto date back to the late to early 18th & 19th centuries.

Alternative History
Another traditional legend from the 1930’s, claims the name of this dish had it’s origin in San Sebastián, one of the older rural suburbs South of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. According to this well told legend, a rich landowner invited many people to celebrate San Sebastián day at his “Quinta”, where it was announced that they would kill the “painted rooster” (ie; Gallo Pinto), which they had been fattening up for months for this happy occasion. So many people showed up for the celebration, that the rooster was going to be insufficient to give each guest a piece of it’s fine meat. Scrambling for a solution, the cooks made an emergency mixture of rice and beans meant to mask that there was really not enough meat to go around.

Of course, people noticed that they did not get any of the coveted “fattened” rooster meat and felt deceived, and from that day forward took to ridiculing the host family asking “Have you tried the Gallo Pinto of Don Bernabé?, It is made of only Rice & Beans”. The name “Gallo Pinto” caught on and has stuck over the centuries and now is even common place at fast food joints!

Recipe Sample
There are many ways to prepare Gallo Pinto, much depends on what country you find yourself in, or perhaps what ingredients you might have available at the moment. The original recipe generally contains more rice than beans.

Ingredients for Beans
2 Cups of Black or Red Beans (small)
1 Tablespoon of oil
Salt to taste
1 Stalk of Celery
1 Onion
3 or 4 Sticks of Thyme
3 Cloves of Garlic
Sufficient water

Preparation of Beans
Soak the beans in water for 6-8 hours or overnight. The following day, change the water and begin to lightly boil them in a large pot or use a pressure cooker. Heat the oil and fry the chopped onion, garlic and celery, and add them to the beans. Make sure to have a sufficient amount of water covering the beans, usually at least double the height of the quantity of beans. Add the salt and thyme to taste toward the end of the 2 to 4 hours of low boil when the beans are becoming softer. (Salt can make the beans take longer to soften, so add near the end.). If prepared in a pressure cooker, allow around 45 minutes for the beans to completely cook. Drain the beans, keeping some of the cooking liquid for later.

Ingredients for Rice
2 Cups of uncooked Rice (better cold)
3 Tablespoons of Vegetable Oil
3 Cups Water
1 Large Onion Chopped
½ Cup Chopped Onion (keep separate)
1 Chopped Sweet Chili (split in two parts)
4 Cloves of Garlic
Salt to taste.

Preparation of the Rice
Fry the ½ cup chopped onion and garlic cloves in the oil. When the onion crystalizes, add half of the chopped chili. Add the rice and fry everything for around 2 minutes stirring well. Add water to about one finger digit above the level of the rice, bring to boil and then reduce to a low flame for approximately 20 minutos or until the rice is the texture you prefer. When done, turn off heat and leave covered for 10 minutes without removing the lid to allow the rice to finish cooking. Rice is BEST if cooled and left in the refrigerator overnight.

Mixing Step
Heat a small amount of oil in a large fry pan. Add the remaining chopped vegetables and fry for around 2 minutes until onion crystalizes. Add the cooked (drained) beans and other spices to taste and allow to cook until somewhat dry and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the cooked (cold) rice and mix well, heating as you go. If you like your Gallo Pinto a little more moist, add some of the liquid from the beans and continue cooking to add moisture and a little more color. At the last minute add finely chopped cilantro to taste and cook slightly until sostened, then serve.

Most Costa Ricans serve this with a small dollop of sour cream (natilla) and of course, you must serve it with the famous Salsa Lizano or it just won’t be the same!!

The rivalry between Costa Rica and Nicaragua has not died down over the years. In 2003, when the Costa Ricans, under close watch by representatives of the Guinness Book of World Records and a handful of notaries and lawyers made approximately 965 pounds of rice, beans, sweet chile, garlic, salt and pepper in their attempt to make a new world record. Annoyed by the feat and that Costa Rica then claimed that gallo pinto was their national dish and creation, the Pharaoh’s Casino in Nicaragua announced that they will outdo the Costa Ricans. As stated by Pharaoh’s representative Javier Lopez, "We are going to prepare the biggest gallo pinto in the world because it is 100-percent Nica!" Two weeks later, 15 chefs from Managua’s hotels and restaurants prepared 1,200 pounds of rice and beans, which fed 9,000 people.
But year after year the neighboring countries battle raged on, each one making a larger batch of Gallo Pinto then the next. Although the Guinness Book of World Records officially states that Nicaragua holds the world record for making the
largest pot of gallo pinto, this remains in question. The World Record recorded on September 15, 2007 (proclaimed "Gallo Pinto Day" in Nicaragua) when a steaming vat fed 22,200 people in a widely publicized event again held at the Pharaoh’s Casino in Managua. To answer that achievement, Costa Rica blew away the competition in 2009 by feeding 50,000 people after cooking 3,300 pounds of rice and 2,640 pounds of beans. It was prepared by several dozen chefs at the Hotel Ramada Plaza Herradura, located west of San José. This was considered such a huge feat that the Pharaoh’s Casino in Nicaragua currently has no plans to try to best it, or to even continue its "Gallo Pinto Day."

Argue if you may…’s Costa Rican! No, it’s Nicaraguan! But honestly…..Gallo Pinto is simply one of the culinary gems of Latin America and should be enjoyed by all wherever the heck it came from! Don’t forget the Lizano Salsa!!

Here is an easy to follow video on how to make Gallo Pinto. Note that it is the “National Nicaraguan Dish”, though they show the many countries that consume this delicious Latin Breakfast staple! Buen provecho!!

Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What Tour is most Commonly Associated with Costa Rica? Why Canopy Zipline…of Course!

Imagine yourself streaking along a canopy zip line high above the rainforest - the thrill, the adrenalin, the extraordinary views! This, along with an exciting tour through a butterfly garden and serpentarium, is what you'll experience on a trip to the Canopy Safari. Located approximately 45 minutes from Manuel Antonio, in the Peso Real area, Canopy Safari is a true experience in adventure and excitement.

can•o•py-noun \ˈka-nə-pē\ plural-can•o•pies
Definition of Canopy-a: a cloth covering suspended over a bed b: a cover (as of cloth) fixed or carried above a person of high rank or a sacred object : baldachin c: a protective covering: as (1): the uppermost spreading branchy layer of a forest

sa•fa•ri-noun \sə-ˈfär-ē, -ˈfa-rē\
Definition of Safari-the caravan and equipment of a hunting expedition especially in eastern Africa; also: such a hunting expedition. 2: journey, expedition

Zip Lines-What the heck?
Sail high above the rainforest canopy and experience Manuel Antonio's most popular adventure sport: the canopy zip line. This exhilarating tour was actually invented in Costa Rica, and has since been featured on the Discovery Channel. This is an adventure for people of all ages and interests, and is certainly one of the highlights of Costa Rica.

What are we about?
Canopy Safari provides tourists a unique activity and ecological experience, and almost anyone of any age can participate! Young children can be carried by the guides. You do not need to be in great physical condition and it is not strenuous. This tour offers an adventurous tourist the opportunity to ascend into the forest canopy and see jungle life from a perspective available previously to only a select few researchers and photographers.

And the Point is?
Canopy Safari’s objective is to provide tourists a unique activity and ecological experience while at the same time helping to aid in the preservation of the world's endangered rainforest through direct financial support to conservation, education, and reforestation efforts. The canopy course is constructed so that there is very little impact on the sensitive ecological balance that exists in the rainforest.

Is this safe?
The platforms, pulleys and cables are made of non-corrosive steel and safety is our staffs top priority. We perform safety checks daily on all equipment including anchors, cables, and connections. Our harnesses, carabineers, and other equipment pass all standards set by the international association the ACCT, and approved by ICT (Costa Rican Tourist Board)

About us at Canopy Safari:
Canopy Safari is the pioneering canopy tour operator in the Southern area of Costa Rica. The company built its first canopy course in 1997 with the help of a team of experts who build high ropes courses in the United States and in Europe. Our tour begins with an amazing drive through the rainforest out to our canopy site located in the outskirts of Quepos. During the ride there are many stops for everyone to learn about the unique flora and fauna of the area. Our local bilingual guides have a vast knowledge of the area and love to share the many secrets that the rainforest holds with our clients. The canopy site is located approximately forty-five minutes from Manuel Antonio Park, in an area called Paso Real. Here we have a brand new ranch house with full facilities, located next to a pristine river, this is where we serve a full breakfast or lunch (depending on tour time) made from typical Costa Rican ingredients. A spectacular river is the backdrop for these meals as well as the platforms that have been carefully built unobtrusively into the canopy of the rainforest in Costa Rica. Clients are able to traverse from tree to tree and platform to platform using pulleys on horizontal traverse cables, as they sail through the treetops of the tropical rainforest canopy, and over the trails far below at exhilarating speeds. This tour has become a worldwide phoenomena, found in many other countries now!

18 platforms
10 “zip lines”
2 rappel lines
1 suspension bridge
1 " Tarzan Swing"
A butterfly farm
A serpentarium
Our expert guides assist the clients in this exciting journey through the different layers of virgin and secondary rainforest. They point out and explain the many different types of flora and fauna; from poison dart frogs, to the “walking palm tree”. As a result; at the end of the tour our clients are able to walk away with a newfound knowledge of Costa Rican wildlife and the wonders that Costa Rica has to offer travelers.

What to Bring:
Sturdy shoes, shorts, camera, insect repellent, change of clothes in rainy season.

Tour Includes:
A five hour door to door adventure, an exciting ride through the tropical rainforest, typical style breakfast or lunch, ACCT & ICT professionally trained bilingual guides, all equipment, professional photographer (rates do not include pictures), pick up and drop off at your hotel in our air conditioned vans, tour of the butterfly farm and reptile exhibit.

At Canopy Safari, safety is the top priority. We perform safety checks daily on all our equipment including anchors, cables, and connections. Our harnesses, carabiners, and other equipment pass all standards set by the international association ACCT. We are proud to announce that Canopy Safari is one of only few canopy tours in the country approved by ICT (the Costa Rican Tourist Board). To receive this certification our company has undergone extensive and constant training regarding the safety and construction of our entire tour. All Canopy Safari guides are individually certified by ICT as canopy tour guides, and have taken numerous courses on safety, rescue and first aid. We also hold extensive insurance policies for our vehicles and for our clients, in case of emergency.

Sustainable Community Mission:
Canopy Safari is very proud to start a new Sustainability Project for Eco-Tourism. This new initiative from our Group SAFARI TOURS is our way to help and improve in the conservation of our world for our next generations.
Recently this company worked closely with Los Delfines Educational Center to start this new stage on their goal to Eco Tourism. A group of second graders from this elementary school took a ride to our Canopy site where they learned about the very important part humans play on the conservation of nature. The kids also helped us to plant new trees in a large part of our farm. The kids also had the opportunity to visit our butterfly garden and serpentarium, where our experts shared with them a little about their knowledge about the life cycles of these animals. They visited our lab to take a closer look at the different stages of their development. It was an amazing experience for both the kids and the staff. During the next following weeks the experience will be repeated with other schools of the beautiful Canton of Aguirre, to further share the wonders of Costa Rica with the next generation.

Butterfly Garden:
This is one of the newest additions to the Canopy Safari zip line tour in Costa Rica and is quickly becoming a favorite attraction for all family members. When you finish the exciting canopy course our guides will take you into our butterfly farm where you can enjoy a wide variety of native species that can be found all around our country.
Some of the butterfly species that you will find in our garden, and are featured above, are:
Alinote ozomene nox, Appias drusilla, Ascia monuste,Caligo brasiliensis sulanus, Chlosyne janais janais, Danaus plexippus plexippus, Greta morgane oto, heleconius erato petiverana, heliconius cydno galanthus, heraclides anchisiades idaeus, heraclides androgeus epidarus, heraclides thoas nealces, mechanitis polymnia isthmia, morpho helenor marinita, papilio polyxenes stabilis, phoebis philea, plexippus-plexippus, siproeta stelenes biplagiata, all excellent choices for picture taking….that is if you can get them to stop long enough to snap the photo!

One of the new attractions to this already interesting and exciting tour, is the walk through our serpentarium to see the many different species of snakes, both poisonous and non poisonous. For some people it is a little scary, for others just impressive. (The snakes are all behind glass, don’t panic.) Come and experience some of these incredible creatures and get a rare chance to see them close up!

Experience a little of the Canopy Safari Zipline Tour Video:

Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.