Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Costa Rica Part 2- Don Rufino

I recently told you about a great resort in Costa Rica, located near the famous Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, called The Springs Resort & Spa. While we were cocooned in this beautiful place for quite some time, we also ventured out to try some more of the local flavors. There is a traditional dish in Costa Rica called the Casado. A Casado is a common staple in the country usually consisting of beans, rice, plantains, salad, a tortilla, an egg, and a choice of meat such as chicken, beef or pork. It is similar to a Bandeja Paisa in Colombia or a Plato Tipico in Honduras, with just a variation in its components. The name of the dish is said to have originated either because it is a popular favorite for wives to make their husbands at home (casados)  or because all the components are eternally "married" or casados on the plate. You can pretty much find it at every restaurant, particularly the sodas, or small, family-owned diners.

We enjoyed the dish so much, we tried it at different places throughout our trip searching for the best one. We found it at Don Rufino, a busy restaurant located in the heart of Downtown La Fortuna. I can't give you a precise address because they don't use addresses in the same way we do in Costa Rica but if you mention Don Rufino, every driver knows exactly where it is. It is a special place, named after the grandfather of its owners, Senor Rufino Quesada Vargas, who inspired them through his pioneering efforts more than seven decades earlier, when he became one of the first 10 people to inhabit the area. He had the courage and vision to move his family to the less than hospitable rainforest, later to become the booming La Fortuna de San Carlos.

Ensalada de la Maison
Gazpacho Don Rufino
Most restaurants in La Fortuna do not have air conditioning but they're very open and breezy. The place was packed but we were able to get a spot underneath one of the ceiling fans. We started our meal with the Ensalada de la Maison or their House Salad, made with arugula, speck, buffalo mozzarella, grilled peaches and avocado, drizzed with dried cherry tomato vinaigrette.  It had a very generous helping of ham, that lasted all the way to the end. The salty flavor of the ham and cheese contrasted well with the sweetness of the peaches and the tangy kick of the dressing. We also tried the Gazpacho Don Rufino, a cold tomato soup with sweet & sour chili sauce, onions, peppers, lemongrass and avocado, and infused with a hint of ginger oil. It was a very refreshing and creamy beginning.


Now we go to the star of the show; the infamous Casado that blew all the others straight out of the water. The variety of foods that made up the Casado at Don Rufino definitely resulted in a marriage made in heaven. Fluffy white rice and black beans, a "picadillo of the day" which in this instance, happened to be picadillo de papaya (my favorite part of the dish), a hefty salad, plantains, a rolled up tortilla and my choice of meat: juicy strip loin - lustfully graced the plate. The colorful ensemble came topped with a bright, sunny side up egg. Can it get any better than that? It was one of those moments we wanted to savor - literally.

Chocolate Strawberry Dessert
Although my companion had to unbutton his pants by this part of the meal, (I'm a lady so I wouldn't dream of doing that) we decided to share a dessert. It was their Chocolate Strawberry signature treat, with chunks of fresh strawberries and strawberry jam sitting between two thin chocolate strips. It was rich and decadent but did not top my amazing entrĂ©e.

A visit to Don Rufino is a must if you are traveling to La Fortuna in Costa Rica. Service is very friendly and the food is excellent. For more information, you can visit their website at http://www.donrufino.com.

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