San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S. Thanksgiving Serves Turkeys, All the Fixings

SOME U.S. expats and tourists inCosta Rica might want to spice up theirThanksgiving Nov. 25 with some Latin flavors,but with the help of local restaurantsand supermarkets, fried chicken and gallopinto don’t have to replace turkey andstuffing.Thanksgiving is not traditionally celebratedin Costa Rica, but the influence ofits northern neighbors and the presence ofthousands of U.S. and other citizens ofgrateful countries have established somethingof a Thanksgiving scene here.Hotels, restaurants and organizationsare offering traditional Thanksgivingmeals, some with gourmet touches ofstuffed apples, roast duck, wines or pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake, and all with themainstay turkey and stuffing.But many U.S. citizens living here do itthemselves.Michele Sims, a U.S. citizen whoteaches at an international school, is marriedto a Costa Rican and has celebratedThanksgiving here for the past five years.She recommends expats celebrate witheach other and divvy up the cooking in akind of potluck Thanksgiving.She usually celebrates the holiday withher family, which visits from the UnitedStates, but last year she made a traditionalmeal for her Tico in-laws. It was a newexperience for them – they had not triedmany of the foods before.“They loved the stuffing,” she said.It also became a history lesson.“I had to explain what the purpose ofThanksgiving is, the history of it, where itcame from,” she said. “We did that, it wasfun.”THE tradition began in North Americathe fall of 1621, according to the Web After a devastating firstyear in the New World, the Pilgrim’s fallharvest was plentiful. There were fruits,vegetables, fish packed in salt, and meat thatwas smoke-cured over fires. They hadenough food to store for the winter.They raised enough crops to keep themalive during the coming winter and theywere at peace with their Indian neighbors.William Bradford, their governor famousto middle school history students throughoutthe United States, proclaimed a day ofthanksgiving that was to be shared by allthe colonists and the neighboring natives.The custom of an annually celebratedThanksgiving, held after the harvest, continued,and since 1863, every U.S. presidenthas issued a Thanksgiving Dayproclamation, designating the fourthThursday of each November as the holiday.Not to overlook the U.S.’s northernneighbors, Canada’s Thanksgiving hasbeen celebrated on the second Monday inOctober since Canadians began to observethe day in 1879.Some of the foods the pilgrims preparedin that first year were unique to theAmericas and in spite of the effect of timeon the tradition, many of the aspects of theoriginal feast are preserved to this day onthe dinner plate including corn soup, fowl(turkey, partridge, duck), berries (includingwhole cranberries), maple sugar candies,corn starch candy, watercress, beans suchas red, black, green and pinto, squash,corn, sweet potato and pumpkin.THE traditional ingredients for ahome-cooked turkey dinner are not alwayseasy to come by while living abroad andwhile some are happy to add a Latin twistto their Thanksgiving dinner, others maybe convinced their mothers were right.So where can you buy the necessitiesfor a delicious, home-cooked, U.S.-styleThanksgiving dinner? Though CostaRicans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, thesupermarkets have certainly stocked theirshelves in preparation for the holiday.Lamms in Escazú, west of San José,sells turkeys, which chefs there are happy tocook, in case you don’t have time or anoven, at ¢2,250 ($5) per kilo raw, or ¢5,420($12) per kilo cooked. If ordered inadvance, Lamms will also make anythingfrom cranberry sauce to pumpkin pie andsells ready-made stuffing and gravy. Itsimported turkeys from the United Statesweigh 18-20 lbs, 22-24 lbs or you can buylarger national birds. Call 228-2814 for info.“We always try to get the ingredients inas early as possible, it is very noticeablethat people start buying at least two weeksbeforehand,” store manager EstebanFernández said.MUÑOZ y Nanne in San Pedro, east ofSan José, offers a wide selection of goodies,including turkeys at 16-18 lbs or 22-24 lbs(which in-house chefs can also cook foryou), canned cranberries and even pumpkinfiller. At press time the store hadn’t pricedthe turkeys, but representatives were proudto say that if they didn’t have something inits ready-made form, they would have allthe necessary ingredients for it to be made athome. Call 253-4646 for more info.Auto Mercado, whose outlets are allover the Central Valley, came up trumpswith fresh cranberries on sale, as well aspumpkin filler, turkeys, gravy and severaldifferent types of ready-made stuffing.Más X Menos also offers similar turkeytrimmings, and while the stores in Escazúwill probably have the most variety, don’tforget to check out the colorful local markets,with their abundance of fresh fruitand vegetables.Finally, the only place we found sellingany kind of Thanksgiving decoration isHallmark in Escazú, with plates, glasses,napkins and tablecloths offered. Call thestore at 228-6600.If you don’t have a Betty Crockercookbook handy, here are some Web sitesthat offer turkey dinner recipes:,, to save yourself the hassle ofcooking or maybe just to meet some fellowThanksgiving celebrators, many restaurantsare providing special turkey meals. The followingis a list of those we contacted, butnot a complete list of all those available.AMERICAN Legion lunch and dinnerat the Castillo Country Club: This isthe only group event we found. It takesplace tomorrow at the country club inHeredia, north of San José. The AmericanLegion group of U.S. war veterans Post 16will host a traditional “New England,American” turkey meal and a dance.Event organizers expect about 200 people,and judging by last year’s turnout,more than half of them will be Ticos andmany of them will be U.S. citizens livingin Costa Rica or just visiting.The event is for anyone, not just membersof the Legion or other veterans of U.S.wars and most of the guests will not bemembers, said Ken Johnson, a volunteeradministrator for Post 16.“It’s a social event and we hope it willimprove relations between the two communitiesas well – the American communityand the local community,” Johnson said.Festivities begin at 11:30 a.m. with asocial hour, followed by lunch at 12:30p.m., then three hours of dancing until theclose around 5 p.m.Admission costs ¢7,000 ($19.85) foradults, ¢3,500 ($7.75) for children.Guests can pay at the door, or for reservationscall Don Roberts at 290-0167, orJames Longshaw at 386-6572.MARRIOTT Hotel: The hotel’srestaurant will offer a full turkey buffetwith a dessert room and a game room withclowns for children, live music from thegroup Acusticos, wine specials, drawingsfor prizes of cakes, stays at the hotel andspa treatments.Lunch is from 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.(with a representative from the NationalChildren’s Museum instead of clowns forthe kids’ game room), and dinner is from4:30-9 p.m. The cost is $29, children under6 are free and children 6-12 pay $12. Forreservations, call 298-0000.WHITE House Hotel: The restaurantin this newly remodeled hotel will offer afull traditional Thanksgiving dinner from5-11 p.m. On a hillside in Escazú, it featuresa bird’s-eye view through the all-glassback wall. It’s surrounded by gardensand the restaurant is aiming for upscaleelegance and five-star quality. The pricewas undetermined at press time. It is located600 meters south of the cemetery in SanAntonio de Escazú.For reservations call 288-6362.EL Mirador del Cafetal: The Miradoris on the outskirts of Atenas surrounded bycoffee fields and has a view of the Pacificocean, Playa Herradura, and the mountainsof the Central Valley. It will serve a full,traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey prepared in three different ways, all the trimmings anddessert of honey pumpkin pie, cheesecake or any of a numberof traditional Costa Rican treats.Dinner costs $15. For reservations, preferably at leasttwo days in advance, call 446-7361.HOTEL Aurola Holiday Inn: The Aurola will serve atraditional Thanksgiving lunch and dinner, lunch from noon-2 p.m. in the Tropicana Cafeteria, and dinner from 6-11 the 17th floor Mirador restaurant with a view of San Joséand the Central Valley. In years past, diners have praised thefood as tasting as good as if it were at home.The meal will be buffet style, accompanied by live pianomusic and includes salads, turkey, ham, all the trimmings,pumpkin and apple pies and a glass of wine.Lunch costs $17.50 and dinner is $20. Valet parkingavailable. For reservations call 222-2424, ext. 235.THE Hotel Dunn Inn: The hotel’s restaurant will servea traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings,including an optional mushroom sauce, wine and a CostaRican twist for dessert: vanilla flan.Dinner costs $19, dessert is separate.The hotel is in Barrio Amon in San José, Calle 5, Avenida11. For reservations call 222-3232.CAFÉ de Artistas: This art gallery and restaurant inEscazú will serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal for the thirdyear in a row, a feast that grows more popular every year, saidthe café’s owner William Hill. It will offer two main courses –turkey or half of a roasted duck al’orange, and all the trimmings,even candied sweet potatoes and green bean casserole,with a glass of wine and pumpkin pie baked fresh in the inhousebakery. Thanksgiving meals to go are also available.The café is 100 meters south of the Plaza Rolex, Escazú,open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. The meal costs ¢6,500 ($14.50),and a whole pumpkin pie costs ¢4,500 ($10). For reservationsor delivery call 288-5082.HOTEL San Gildar: The San Gildar will serve a traditionalThanksgiving meal in its cozy restaurant with a terraceand inside dining for privacy. It is surrounded by gardens ofpalms and flowers, near a river and constructed in a tropicaland colonial style. Dinner includes a glass of wine and dessert.One kilometer west of Más X Menos in San Rafael deEscazú, on the left side of the road in the country club area.Dinner costs $20. For reservations call 289-8843.THE Wall Street Restaurant, Bar and Deli: The WallStreet will serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner withadvance reservations. It is in the Centro Comercial Plaza SanRafael de Escazú. For reservations call 289-6493 or 289-6654.MONKEY Bar: Enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinnerbuffet at the Monkey Bar in Playa Hermosa on the PacificCoast, 6-9 p.m. for ¢4,000 ($8.85) per person. Space is limited,so call 672-0267.HOTEL Rancho Río Perlas Spa and Resort: TheRancho Río Perla’s (Pearl River Ranch) restaurant LaTaberna del Capitán (Captain’s Tavern) in the Orosi Valleyeast of San José will offer a turkey dinner for Thanksgivingwith asparagus salad, stuffed apples, cream of leeks soup andwhite wine for $25. For reservations, call 533-3341.CAFÉ Mundo: The café is serving a traditional turkeymeal with home-baked bread, cream of pumpkin soup, otherdishes and a glass of wine. They will serve from 2-5 p.m.,5:30-7:30 p.m., 8-10 p.m. for ¢8,000 ($17.70) per person.For reservations, call 222-6190.NEW York Bar: The downtown San José restaurant andbar is serving a full turkey dinner, all the trimmings for $12,from 3-8 p.m. For reservations or information, call 257-8812.CASINO Club Colonial: The casino’s restaurant is servinga traditional turkey meal and barbecue ribs, dessert andchoice of a glass of wine, champagne or beer, from noon-10p.m. for $20. For reservations or information, call 258-2807ext. 125CHANGO Bar and Restaurant: The restaurant is servinga traditional turkey meal with choice of oven-roasted orsmoked turkey and all the trimmings, beverages not included,from 2 p.m.-close (around 11 p.m.) for $20.On Nov. 27 it will offer round two of the Thanksgivingdinner, same as above but with live music by blues and rockcover band Blind Pig. For reservations or information, call228-1173.

Comments are closed.