11
May 2012
POSTED BY Brad
DISCUSSION 23 Comments

The Guac-Off

Several years ago my dad opened a Mexican restaurant.  The main goal for any enterprise is to make money, and so it might seem strange that there was one item on our menu on which we consciously lost money.  Every time someone ordered guacamole, we lost $1.00.  Why?  Because our guacamole was like crack and it drove business through the doors, but it would have been too expensive if we actually charged people what it cost to make it.  We bought fresh ingredients  from the farmer’s market in Flagstaff and made it by hand.  It was with this proud guacamole heritage that Sheena and I prepared for the impromptu Guac-Off at Sole and Diego’s house in Playa Coco, Costa Rica.

As with most of the positive aspects of our life these days, we fell into this situation by way of not having a plan.  We had arrived on the Nicoya Peninsula that morning, and decided to head to Playa Tamarindo.  It wasn’t because of anything specific we’d heard about Tamarindo, it was merely the only place on the peninsula we’d ever heard of.

As we approached Tamarindo, we passed a break in the trees where we could see a beach.  People basked in the sun on the white sand and surfers were lined up in the water.  It had all of the ingredients of a good day, so we rolled Nacho to the roadside and pulled out the surfboards.

It might be of interest to know that neither Sheena nor I really knows how to surf.  We’ve been attempting, with varying degrees of success, to catch waves ever since we put down tracks in Baja California.  Nevertheless, I sat out there on the longboard while Sheena paddled around on the stand-up paddleboard (SUP), and we took turns getting pulverized by waves.  In between watery punishments, we noticed a guy and a girl successfully surfing on their SUPs.  After we’d had enough, Sheena decided to ask them for advice.

It turned out that the SUPing couple were Diego and Sole (pronounced ‘so-lay’), owners of a paddleboard tour company in Playa Coco, about 45 minutes up the peninsula.  With them were a couple of American friends who had recently moved to town.

“We’re having a guac-off tonight”, they said.  “You guys should come.  You can sleep in our guest room.”

And with that we abandoned the idea of Tamarindo and headed back the way we’d come.  There are rules to this game, and rule number 6 says if you get invited to a guacamole making party, you drop whatever you’re doing and go.  Especially when you have guacamole heritage in the family.  The thought of a real bed was also appealing.

And so it was that 45 minutes later we were stepping through the doors of Sole and Diego’s extra nice, super comfortable condo in Playa Coco.  It was the first time in three months that we’d set foot inside of a modern home; uniform walls, granite countertops, plush couches, decorations, curtains, and nice beds, not to mention a nice patio overlooking the town.

We weren’t there long before we were whisked out the door by the Americans Heather and Jeff, and their Costa Rican friend Sandy.  There was to be a guac-off, so we had to loosen up.  We drove Diego’s truck through the mountains and down a 4×4 track to a hidden beach in a cove.  Diego had told us that a red tide had come a few days before, but that it should have been gone by now.

I brought along my speargun and snorkeling gear, as I was told that this cove had crystal clear water, and was basically an underwater seafood buffet.  In the Pacific Ocean of all places, where my research has shown a distinct lack of fish.  Jackpot.  As I entered the water, however, something didn’t seem right.  Funky smell.  The water was rather opaque.  “It’ll get better”, I thought.  I spent a few minutes fumbling with my flippers and snorkel, then loaded my speargun and put my face into the water.  I’m color-retarded, so it took me this long to realize that the water was dark red.  I swam away from the shore, thinking that perhaps deeper water would mean more currents and clarity.

After a few minutes I had a boogie man moment.  I decided to see how bad the visibility really was, so I placed my hand in front of my face.  I couldn’t see it.  Being that I was born and raised in a forest, and had spent considerable time in deserts (all far from the ocean), this instantly sent my mind into all kinds of worst case scenarios.  Red tide!  Still here!  Can’t see anything!  Could be rocks!  Could be sharks!  I’m a sitting duck!  I’ve wet my pants!  Am I drowning?  I might be drowning!

I put my little blue flippers in high gear and quickly brought myself ashore.  Once I was safely out of shark territory I slowed down and adopted more of a David Hasselhof saunter towards the others.  Did you see me almost bag that roosterfish?

Once back at Sole and Diego’s house, it was game time.  There were three guacamole entrants; Sandy (using her husband’s secret recipe), Heather and Jeff, and Sheena and me.  Diego and Sole made homemade garlic aioli, salsa, grilled chicken, carne asada, and taco fixings.  While we made guacamole, Sole kept the margaritas flowing.  She may have been trying to throw us off our game, but Sheena and I took our margaritas in stride and perfectly executed our guacamole.

In the end, each of us put our own spin on the traditional preparation.  Heather and Jeff infused theirs with finely chopped bacon and ample bacon grease.  Sandy added a dash of sugar, extra lime, and some cream cheese.  Sheena and I blackened some garlic cloves, turned them into a paste in a mortar, and then stirred them into the guacamole.  The stage was set.  Judge Diego positioned himself in front of the bowls.

We looked on eagerly as he cycled through the bowls.  Chip…dip…taste…(shifty eyes)…chew…(eyebrows tilt)…nod of the head…swallow.  So much was riding on the verdict.  If we lose, I thought, I will never be able to look my dad in the eyes again.  Black sheep.

Finally he finished his rounds and we waited in anticipation.  He grabbed a bowl and held it up.  “This one is the winner!”

It was our bowl!  It had been a while since we’d won at anything, so this was thrilling.  Oh, the sweet taste of victory!  I strutted around with my chest puffed out while Sheena squealed with excitement.

In the end we had a really nice dinner with our new friends.  We rested in a clean and comfortable bed,  ate great food, and laughed our brains out, thanks entirely to the kindness of strangers.

We didn’t follow a recipe for our guac, but if you want to make it on your own, here’s approximately what we did:

Nacho’s Guac-Off Championship Winning Guacamole

Cut up the following and put in a bowl:

- One large tomato

- One small white onion

- A handful of fresh cilantro

- Five avocadoes (cut them in half and spoon the insides into the bowl, save the pits for later)

- A teaspoon of salt, and one of pepper

- The juice from one lime

Now do this:

- Throw five or six garlic cloves in a skillet with a splash of oil and fry them until the skin turns black

- Mash up the garlic in a mortar or in a bowl with a spoon.  Now add it to the guac bowl.

- Stir up all of the ingredients with a fork, mashing the avocadoes as you mix.  Once everything is a nice chunky consistency, stop mixing.  Don’t get it too creamy, you want it chunky.

- Throw the avocado pits back into the bowl and stir them in.

- Taste with a spoon, add some salt, taste, add salt, etc. until it blows your mind.


23 Comments

  1. Glad to see we’re not the only ones driving the Americas with a surfboard on the roof and practically zero ability to stand up on it!

    Comment by Brenton on May 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm

  2. I didn’t realize you’d brought one, Brenton. We thought (correctly) that it would be important to bring as many fun activities as possible, so we brought the surfboard, SUP, snorkeling gear, speargun, fishing poles, and so on. Might seem excessive until you remember that you have to fill your time doing SOMETHING, and it might as well be FUN!

    Comment by Brad on May 11, 2012 at 6:56 pm

  3. Sandy

    Hi! It was great to meet you two and face you in the Guac Off! Safe and happy travels to both of you and of course Nacho!!

    Comment by Sandy on May 11, 2012 at 8:18 pm

  4. Garett

    That honestly made my mouth water.

    Comment by Garett on May 11, 2012 at 9:41 pm

  5. Sandy, the pleasure was all ours! And remember, I chose your guacamole as my “stranded on a desert island” choice. mmm….

    Comment by Brad on May 11, 2012 at 9:55 pm

  6. Jeff

    Such a great time, the pictures are awesome. Remember how stuffed we were? Don’t doubt your sup abilities, you did well and I bet by now you’re killing it. Pura Nacho Vida

    Comment by Jeff on May 11, 2012 at 11:33 pm

  7. Barb Wieber

    Brad and Sheen, You lucky dogs!!!! Looks like you have new friends for life. What beautiful pictures of your enjoyable time, cooking, drinking and having a time of your lives that you always be in your hearts making your journey more complete. Love your pictures of all the tasting looking food but I love the most was all you both and your wonderful friends seeing such natural relaxing times with all of your inviting smiles to us all. I know your Dad and Pat are ever so proud!!! Excellent teachers showing you the ropes how to cook like that and being both Winners!!! Your Dad and I miss your cooking we could just taste anything what you ever made for us. Memories and the smell. Bradley your wording describing step by step of the mystery of how you describe anything is so delightful and so enjoyable. Sheena and Brad Thank you!!!! Luv you both Mom

    Comment by Barb Wieber on May 12, 2012 at 12:42 am

  8. Barb Wieber

    Brad and Sheen, You lucky dogs!!!! What beautiful pictures of your enjoyable time, cooking, drinking and having a time of your lives . Love your pictures of all the tasting looking food but I love the most was all you both and your wonderful friends seeing such natural relaxing times with all of your inviting smiles to us all. I know your Dad and Pat are ever so proud!!! Excellent teachers showing you the ropes how to cook like that and being both Winners!!! Your Dad and I miss your cooking we could just taste anything what you ever made for us. Memories and the smell. Bradley your wording describing step by step of the mystery of how you describe anything is so delightful and so enjoyable. Sheena and Brad Thank you!!!! Luv you both Mom

    Comment by Barb Wieber on May 12, 2012 at 12:49 am

  9. Gary

    glad you like to make good food, and congrats on the guac. glad you were paying attention in the restaurant. wish I could be doing what you guys are doing, but I really dont have it so bad.
    love Dad

    Comment by Gary on May 12, 2012 at 9:11 am

  10. Rob

    Way to enjoy yourself! Gave little old Nacho a break and good food to boot. Looking forward to the next update. -Rob

    Comment by Rob on May 12, 2012 at 10:51 am

  11. Osvaldo

    mmm delicious

    Comment by Osvaldo on May 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm

  12. Thank you for defending Flagstaff’s (and your own) honor in the Guac-off! I love following your adventures, and am so happy you guys are prospering out there on the long road to somewhere.

    I actually featured you in my blog post today at Convince & Convert:

    http://www.convinceandconvert.com/content-marketing-2/6-reasons-to-make-your-big-idea-small/

    Maybe you’ll pick up some new fans.

    Cheers!

    Comment by Jason Baer on May 12, 2012 at 2:35 pm

  13. Jay, your introduction of us in your blog was most humbling. Thanks so much for the publicity. I hope you’re having a great time in Indiana. Flagstaff misses the Hottie and the Fatso!

    Comment by Brad on May 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm

  14. What a fun story to read! The only thing missing was the Patrone!

    Comment by Glenn on May 14, 2012 at 6:20 am

  15. This is my favorite post I’ve read in a long time! A New Mexican who lived in Coco for a year, what’s not to love about a guac party IN Costa Rica. But that you were whisked away to little Coco from Tamarindo kicks it up even higher! And you’re very funny. Fun party!

    Comment by Abby on May 14, 2012 at 11:42 am

  16. Sole

    Oh no, Glenn, if I remember correctly, Patron DID attend the party, too!! ;)
    What a great day!
    Brad, Sheena… you’ll always have a home in Coco… you guys are Awesome!
    Take good care and save travels!!!!

    Comment by Sole on May 15, 2012 at 7:53 am

  17. Sole

    SAFE! jaaa, jaaa

    Comment by Sole on May 15, 2012 at 7:53 am

  18. Sally and Riley Rice

    Thanks for posting the recipe – we’re going to try it out today. I put all the info into my Recipe spreadsheet. Your great name for it was just a tad too long, so I dubbed it “Nacho Father’s Guacamole”.

    Also – to what degree do you chop or otherwise cut up the tomato, onion and cilantro? Inquiring recipe cards want to know. And BTW, a 1/2 cup serving is 100 calories and rich in lotsa great stuff, according to my spreadsheet’s recipe card’s nutrition label (Brad: “of course!”).

    Riley

    Comment by Sally and Riley Rice on May 19, 2012 at 12:42 pm

  19. @Riley, you can make the chunks as big as you like. I cut the onions into approx. 1/4″ squares/cubes, but it’s not an exact science. You want the chunks big enough so that you can taste them when you bit into them. For the cilantro, just take a whole bunch of it and hack at it a few times with a chef’s knife. Not too fine. I hope that nebulous description suffices :)

    Comment by Brad on May 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm

  20. guy

    opinions on your SUP? worth carrying for a newbie? do you find lots opportunities to try it out?

    i’m thinking about it as I am looking for things I can do to entertain myself on the road but I would be a comic sight I’m sure.

    Comment by guy on May 27, 2012 at 5:04 pm

  21. @Guy, I highly recommend the SUP. We use ours all the time, including in lakes. We also brought snorkeling gear, a speargun, hiking stuff, and fishing poles (saltwater rod and fresh water rod). I think it’s important to extend the number of activities you’re able to do in order to stay active.

    Comment by Brad on May 27, 2012 at 6:26 pm

  22. [...] black, icy cold pond carrying my speargun, and put my head under the water.  It was worse than the red tide in Playa Coco.  In a small pond containing hundreds of slimy, writhing water-breathing beasts, I [...]

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  23. [...] black, icy cold pond carrying my speargun, and put my head under the water.  It was worse than the red tide in Playa Coco.  In a small pond containing hundreds of slimy, writhing water-breathing beasts, I [...]

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