Imported Food Items in Costa Rica
I adore the local cuisine in Costa Rica, but like most long-term expats I get a hankering for a taste of home (or the exotic) from time to time. There are plenty of American chain restaurants throughout the country to satisfy a craving for a burger and fries or fat slice of pepperoni pizza. And upscale supermarkets like Auto Mercado, the Fresh Market and the newly revamped Maspormenos (which translates to "more for less") continue to expand their selection of imported food items.
Combined, the three chains have over 50 stores scattered amid the Central Valley and coastal towns. Competition is fierce, especially in dense expat suburbs like Santa Ana and Escazu, where stores run specials on imported wines, beers, cheeses, meats and canned goods. Prices are generally higher than in the States, but this proves no deterrent around the holidays when frozen turkeys and cans of cranberry and pumpkin pie mix fly off the shelves.
In addition to holiday staples, you will find an extensive selection of ethnic goods, including entire aisles brimming with rice wine vinegar, sushi rice, seaweed wraps, pickled ginger, Thai noodles and curry sauces. Go to any Auto Mercado and you’ll see rows of your favorite condiments, from creamy blue cheese dressing and Hunts BBQ sauce, to aged balsamic vinegar. I’d classify most price tags in the “reasonable” range, but there are exceptions: a tiny jug of pure maple syrup (Grade A) will set you back nearly $30! I love a good pancake, but can settle for the fake syrup at that price.
The good news is that supermarkets in smaller towns such as my own are also catering to American tastes. In our modest Atenas grocery store, I can purchase a variety of Roland brand products, such as pesto sauce, Greek olives, and soba noodles. I typically shop at our local coop market and visit an Auto Mercado or Maspormenos once a month, to stock up on specialty items.
Prices and some available products:
- Jar of Roland Kalamata Olives: $6.75
- Package of Frozen Smoked Salmon: $6.30
- Bottle of Guinness Beer: $2.75
- Bottle of Yellow Tail 2008 Shiraz: $13.00
- Bottle of Kendall Jackson 2007 Chardonnay: $33.50
- Small Wheel of Camembert Cheese: $7.50
- Box of Kraft Velveeta Shells & Cheese: $6.00
- Package of Johnsonsville Brats: $9.00
- Tube of Wasabi: $3.50
- Jar of Tahini: $9.50
- Tin of Thai Green Curry: $3.50
- 1 pound bottle of Siracha Chili Sauce: $7.75
- 3 pound bag Ocean Spray Dried Cranberries: $10.50
- Jar of Vlasic Kosher Dill Pickles: $5.65
Families or those who want to buy in bulk should consider a membership at one of Costa Rica’s PriceSmarts, or shopping at Walmart. In addition to household products, both have a nice array of produce, meats and cheeses, as well as a large selection of imported liquors and wines. If you’re ever in need of a five-pound bottle of ranch dressing or an oversize bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies, PriceSmart is your store! Moreover, pet owners will be relieved to find economically priced bags of Pedigree dog food and huge buckets of cat litter. Currently, Walmart and PriceSmart have five stores apiece, all located in the San Jose metropolitan area. Alajuela dwellers now have access to their own Auto Mercado and PriceSmart.