Vegetarian Delights Concocted in Ciudad Colón
EARTHLYDelights Café ischarged with energyand creativeenthusiasm. Loveand talent workhand in hand totake you on ahealthy gastronomicjourney fullof fresh vegetables,fruits, imaginativewholesomeingredients and amyriad of spices.In the center ofCiudad Colón, a farming town southwestof San José, dedicated vegetarians WarrenSonberg, Rose Elias, Marco González andWendi Patrick used to hang out at the smallCafé Cómo No. When they heard theirfavorite haunt was for sale, they bought theproperty and, with a spirit of inventiveness,used their culinary and artistic talents tocreate a coffee shop atmosphere reminiscentof the ‘60s.The setting suits the mood. In the diningroom, Elias’ stunning wall hanging, acollage of vibrant colors, mirrors, jewelsand glitter, depicts the café’s logo of sun,moon and stars. The glass-topped tablesdisplay maps of the world with appropriateanimals roaming the corners of the earth.Rotating exhibits by local artists, plus abook exchange, games for adults and kidsand a box of toys for the tots, all add to thecoffeehouse atmosphere.“We want people to come here to relax,read and enjoy themselves,” Patrick said.“Earthly Delights is a favorite with studentsfrom the University for Peace; someof them drop by for coffee, others for ameal and to study here.”THE delightful brick patio wasdesigned and built by Sonberg, who isalso a sculptor. A cool, shady spot by day,it’s lit with festoons of tiny lights at night.The most impressive feature is the billowingroof – a white canopy made from aparachute.Of course, the tour de force of anyrestaurant must be the food, and this iswhere González is the maverick. An innovativecook himself, he works in conjunctionwith the restaurant’s gifted chef,Pablo Vásquez, and its organic-producesuppliers.“Together we’ve devised a menuinspired by many countries, focusing onAsia, the Mediterranean and a fewAmerican dishes,” said the energetic,charming González. “Our fusion cuisine –we invent many recipes – is strongly influencedby organic tropical ingredients andthe fragrance of fresh herbs, as well as flavor,color and texture. We love experimentingwith weird and wonderful combinationsof spices to give our dishes theirdistinctive characteristics.”“Most of the time it works; even carnivoresare in danger of being converted byEarthly Delights’ wonderful antidotes tomeaty meals,” he added with a chuckle.THE evening I visited the café, I wasaccompanied by three friends – excellentcooks well versed in vegetarian and Asianfood. We were all delighted by the earthlyofferings.A large choice of nonalcoholic drinksis available; the “toad water” (agua desapo, in Spanish), a gingery lemonade, wasextremely refreshing, despite its strangename. All entrées come with soup and/or afresh, crispy salad. The choice of dressingssounded wonderful, but the two that tookmy fancy were the raspberry yogurt andpungent Thai citrus. I opted for the latter,an excellent choice. The regular menuincludes a Middle Eastern platter, summer rolls – veggies wrapped in rice paper,served with a satay or tamarind dip – pitapizza, a large selection of sandwiches andmany other tempting choices.Spur-of-the-moment daily specials areconcocted at the whim of the cook. Thatevening, there was a choice of two soups:the tangy broth laden with chunks of vegetablesincluding a whole cilantro root andthe soothing potato, peanut and gingersoup were both delicious. A unique watermelonceviche – same ingredients, but withmarinated watermelon replacing the fish –was a strange and interesting combination.Not on the menu that night, the hearts ofpalm pie and the palm ceviche come highlyrecommended.IN main courses, the red Thai currybrimming with colorful veggies couldn’tbe faulted, the Indonesian noodles withsteamed Swiss chard and baked tofu werevery tasty, and the eggplant parmigianaserved on a crusty roll would satisfy anyrobust appetite. A wonderful combinationof herbs and spices add a special zesty flavorto all the creations that emerge fromthe small kitchen.To conclude, the coffee brewed fromfresh organic beans was excellent, and themango flan was a hit when it came todesserts.“Anyone who loves chocolate must trymy ‘Death by Chocolate,’” commentedPatrick, a devotee of her own inspiration.Oreo cookies, chocolate ice cream andsyrup topped with whipped cream andnuts. What a way to go!FRIENDLY service, a relaxed, casualatmosphere, large portions and reasonableprices all combine to make eating atEarthly Delights a thoroughly enjoyableexperience. For the soup, salad and main coursecombos, expect to pay ¢2,500($5.40). Salads, sandwiches and pita pizzarange from ¢1,000-2,000 ($2.15-4.30),desserts from ¢600-1,500 ($1.30-3.25).My accolades go to the owners for includingtax and service in the prices listed. Iwish more restaurants would do this.Whether you want to drop in for coffee,an ice cream sundae or an excellent vegetarianmeal, Earthly Delights certainlylives up to its name. In the future, breakfastand weekend brunch will be served on thepatio. The restaurant is also available forprivate parties and special-events catering.Call 249-3074.Location and hours: Heading westinto downtown Ciudad Colón, turn right atthe one-way street, left at the next cornerand, after three blocks, left again. The caféis one block north and a half block west ofthe church across from the ICE tower. Opennoon-10 p.m. every day except Tuesdays.
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