Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Granada...Facts and Food

Facts and/or opinions:

Granada is a city in western Nicaragua with a population of approx.130,000, the 6th most populous in Nicaragua and historically one of its most important cities, economically and politically.  Founded in 1524 by Spaniard, Hernandez de Cordoba, Granada's claim as the oldest city in Latin America is evident in its rich colonial heritage, structure, and architecture.

Granada is located on the northwestern shores of Lake Nicaragua, the 10th largest fresh water lake in the world.  The climate and vegetation are tropical, and since we are visiting on the edge of the rainy season, our days are frequently a combination of hot, humid, overcast/rainy, thunderstorms, and/or perfectly beautiful. Temps are mostly in the mid-80s cooling down to low 70s at night. We are surrounded by volcanoes; Mombacho is located within 6 km. of Granada and is extinct, and Masaya, maybe 20 km., is very active and also accessible right up to the rim!  

Nicaragua is emerging as a big cocoa producer, as well as some of the best coffee. Cafe Las Flores Coffee plantation is situated nearby on the slopes of Mombacho Volcano where soil and conditions are favorable.  We can personally attest to the deliciousness of both!

The politics, according to Geovanny, are technically a democratic republic, leaning toward socialism, with President Daniel Ortega's regime and the Sandinistas currently in power.  Remember the infamous Ollie North's clandestine efforts on behalf of the Contras in the mid 1980's Nicaraguan civil war.  

The currency is the Nicaraguan Cordoba, (named after Hernandez) and is currently valued at 26=$1.00 US.  We usually just divide by 4 if paying in dollars.

Transportation is cheap.  A cab or carriage ride is $2 for both of us.  The hotel works with one family that provides drivers for us.  One of them picks us up for a trip to the market, waits for us, then helps to unload, for $4 round-trip .  We will also use them for sightseeing trips around the area.  There are no 1st class buses like Mexico, just the chicken bus and a few tour buses that are also inexpensive.

The top 3 sports in the country are: 1) Baseball, 2) Boxing, and 3) Soccer.  That was a surprise!


We left off where the blog(ger) went berserk and headed out for a Mojito and some dinner, which turned out to be tapas on the trendy pedestrian avenue, Calle Calzada at Toritos Bar & Restaurant; recommended by an ex-pat we had met.  It was fun but just OK food-wise. Which brings up the obvious....


Like most Central American and Caribbean countries, Nicaragua and Granada have their own style for preparing the simplest of fare with great flourish and flavor.  Meals are cheap, averaging $7-10 each when eating out.  That is unless you splurge! 

A typical meal will contain Gallo pinto (literally translates to spotted rooster), a flavorful combination of rice with kidney or black beans, a wonderfully piquant, vinegary cole slaw, plantains, and often fried farmer's cheese. (Food photos courtesy of Google.)

The big surprise for us was the steak churrasco, a tenderloin or shirt steak pounded thin, flame-grilled and served with a chimichurri sauce of pureed parsley, garlic, oil and vinegar; absolutely the most fork tender piece of meat I have ever eaten. Maybe the fact that we ate at what is rated the #1 restaurant in Granada, El Zaguan, had something to do with it!  That post-birthday meal also included drinks, wine, and a delicious ceviche for starters, and yummy moist rum cake for dessert, paired with espresso from coffee grown on the slopes of local volcanoes.  This meal cost a whooping $68 with tax and tip!  

Enjoying Vigoron at Gordito's in Central Park
The best street food is Vigoron, whipped up at Gordito's Kiosk at the Central Park and makes for a great snack or lite lunch.  Boiled yucca is served with crunchy pork rinds over a bed of spicy Cole slaw and served on a banana leaf.  There are a variety of cold drinks or frescos liquados and jugos naturales de frutas (fruit juices), and teas!

Ivania prepares the Pitaya for our fruit bowl

Enjoying a glass of grama tea with morning paper...
We discovered many exotic superfoods like Pitaya, or Dragon Fruit, and Grama tea made from lemon grass.  My current favorite drink is Agua de Jamaica, an infusion made with dried red Hibiscus flowers.  Not quite as sweet as some of the other drinks and tastes a lot like cranberry juice.  These are guaranteed to cleanse the kidneys and lower blood pressure!

Breakfast by the pool!
Our morning here at the condo starts with a bowl of fresh fruit, toast, pastry or croissant, and cafe con leche deliososo. We are being spoiled beyond belief by the best staff imaginable.

We are getting into our groove and doing some of our own cooking since we have a fully stocked kitchen.  There are 3 local Supermercados, La Colonia, La Union, and Pali.  La Colonia is our favorite with many products we enjoy from the US.  

The Market scene is a bit overwhelming...

Vendors at the Municipal Market
Street vendor in our neighborhood

Then there are the street vendors and the very large, and a bit overwhelming Mercado Municipal.  Many locals shop here on a regular basis for fresh fruits and veggies, meat and, well, most anything you can imagine and probably a lot you can't!  We only skirted the perimeter as it is a mass of humanity, hot, and claustrophobic (at least for me).

I'll leave you with an image of another excellent meal we had.  Guapote is a freshwater bass caught in Lake Nicaragua. It is called Pescado Frito (fried fish) and is served whole topped with fresh tomato salsa.

I'm sure I have left out many things of interest.  If you would like more info, please comment below.

Now, it time to take you sightseeing...
Yep, teeth and all.  The lemon makes for a nice touch!

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