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(506) 223-1327               Published Wednesday, June 20, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 121               E-mail us   
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Lawmakers on track to right wrong done to Mom
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is no image stronger in the Costa Rican culture as that of Mother. And the public does not like politicians messing around with that concept.

So it was predictable that Tuesday a legislative committee would report out positively a bill that would reestablish El Día de la Madre as Aug. 15 instead of the following Monday.

The previous legislature had changed the observance with the goal of creating a three-day weekend to promote national tourism. The public observed Aug. 15 anyway last year even though they were happy to take off the following Monday.

The Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Sociales send the measure to the full Asamblea Legislativa for a vote. There is no doubt how the vote will come out. In predominately Roman Catholic Costa Rica there is an additional aspect to the day. Aug. 15 also is the liturgical feast day of the assumption of Mary the Mother of Jesus into heaven.

That Mary was bodily assumed into heaven has been a strong belief among Christians since the beginning. The Roman Church only recognized the belief as a church teaching in 1950 and left open the question of whether Mary died first, as did her son, or entered heaven without experiencing death.

Aug. 2 is the feast day of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, the country's patrona, housed in the Basilica in Cartago. The strength of the faith is demonstrated each year as more than a million persons walk from all over Central America to
Assumption of Mary

As many Costa Ricans see their own mother

Cartago to be there that day. For many Costa Ricans their mother is only slightly lower in God's hierarchy than Mary.

Ana Elena Chacón, a lawmaker who is a member of the committee, said that she always celebrated Aug. 15 with her mother, and noted that Costa Rica is the only country in the region that does not celebrate the day in May.

Technically the bill is a change in the Codigo de Trabajo and established the day as a public holiday. This year Aug. 15 is a Wednesday, but it was unclear if the change would be this year or in 2008. A final copy of the bill was not available.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 121

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Three lawmakers support
measure for same-sex unions

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three legislative deputies announced their support Tuesday for a bill that would provide civil unions between persons of the same sex.

They are Ana Helena Chacón, José Merino del Río and Andrea Morales. They were joined in the press conference by Abelardo Araya of the Movimiento Diversidad.

Ms. Chacón of Partido Unidad Social Cristiana said that the bill being studied in the legislature responds to an order from the Sala IV constitutional court that established the need for such legislation.

She pointed out that recognition of a social and civil union of couples of the same sex also would cover properties owned by each.

Merino of Frente Amplio said that passage of the measure would enrich the human rights of the country and recognize the rights of those of the same sex who have chosen to share their lives.

Morales of the Partido Acción Ciudadana said that the bill guarantees respect and tolerance toward couples of the same sex equal to other unions that have rights established in the Código de Familia. He said the bill does not authorize marriage for these same-sex couples because this is a judicial and religious concept distinct from what is proposed in the reform.

Music festival is tomorrow
at points all over San José

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The streets will be alive with the sounds of music. It's the all-day Fiesta de la Música in the center of San José.

The event Thursday has musical groups posted at strategic locations. It is being sponsored by Alliance Française and the Municipalidad de San José.

Dozens of groups and individuals will play at the Museos del Banco Central at the Plaza de la Cultura downtown, Gimnasio Nacional in La Sabana, the Plaza del Correo, Parque Morazán, Parque Central, Parque San Vicente, the Centro Nacional de la Cultura, Escuela Fidel Chávez and the Plaza de las Artes, among others.

Patrick Lacombe, director of the Alliance Française, said this year's presentation will be the last sponsored by his organization.

The event is worldwide with its roots in France.

Land mine-clearing expert
is new Fuerza Pública boss

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who was a key figure in clearing land mines from northern Costa Rica is the new head of the Fuerza Pública. He is Comisionado José Fabio Pizarro, whose promotion was announced Tuesday.

As a member of the Unidad de Zapadores, he worked to clear mines on the northern frontier from 1996 to 2000. The mines were relics of the Nicaraguan civil war in the 1980s. The area is now mine-free. He also served as inspector general of the Fuerza Pública. He recently was named director of the new Policía de Fronteras.

Rigoberto Rodríguez Sojo and Daniel Calderón Rodríguez were named subdirectors of the force, which is in the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Osvaldo Alpízar, the former director general of the Fuerza Pública, agreed to a suspension without pay last October.

A former Fuerza Pública official living in Alajuela reported receiving threatening telephone calls since May. The Judicial Investigating Organization has reported that the calls appear to have come from three telephones, two government-owned phones used by Alpízar and one owned by a member of the Alpízar family.

The Alajuela man taped the calls, although the male voice was disguised by distortion. Alpízar denies he made the calls.

Our readers' opinions
He is not sure living here
is worth it for couples

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding your article about resources for would be expats, you really do provide very useful information . . . .
I think your statement "it is not easy to live or work here. This is not South Florida. But living here usually is worth it" is true for retired couples who can't quite afford Florida and for single men who want to enjoy an abundant love life with young, beautiful Ticas, but for couples who can afford to live in a warm part of the U.S.A. I think it is absurd to live here.
You have to put up with the crime, bureaucracy, few conveniences, poor services, and a general lack of the things that just make life comfortable, especially in your old age.
Walter Bibb
San Pedro, Costa Rica

Decision on China by Arias
called big step backwards

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I agree with Mr. Ruffin's letter regarding President Arias's decision to sever relations with Taiwan in favor of China. I recall reading that Arias attributed this decision to his embrace of "realism." It appears that this version of realism also includes hippocracy and a distinctly amoral philosophy.

Much of the world has admired President Arias for his steadfast commitment to his ideals. Peace, the environment and human rights have characterized his visions and decisions. Courting China, however, suggests that his new-found realism compels him to turn his back on these ideals.

China may be an economic opportunity for Costa Rica, but it may prove to be a costly one. Human rights and the environment continue to suffer appalling neglect and abuse in China, and its activities in other countries reflect this exploitative and brutal attitude and M.O. Costa Rica is now in a very vulnerable position. China may prove to be a far more threatening relationship than CAFTA.

Though President Arias has rejected sending police trainees to The School of the Americas due to its violent curriculum, he apparently now condones a country whose human rights abuses continue to shock the developed world. Though President Arias has set admirable environmental goals for Costa Rica, he now apparently condones a country whose continued abuse of its own environment results in mortality and poor health for many of its citizens and threatens the health of the entire planet and its population.

This is a big step backwards morally and environmentally for Costa Rica and its image.

Pamela Ellsworth
Nosara, Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 121

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U.S. urged to reclaim what it lost in international tourism
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports.

The United States lost $43 billion in spending by tourists in 2005, according to one industry calculation, and the downturn has prompted a consortium of American businesses to call on Congress to ease restrictions for visitors from nations outside North America.

At issue is the way the United States issues visas and treats visitors when they arrive. A survey commissioned by the group asked some 2,000 international tourists about their perceptions of the U.S. visa and entry policies. By more than a two-to-one margin, respondents said the U.S. had the world's "worst" entry system. Some 66 percent said they feared they would be detained for hours, because of simple mistakes.

Costa Rica likely profited indirectly from the fears of some Europeans who decided not to visit North America.

Also at issue, of course, is the continuing requirement that Costa Ricans obtain a U.S. visa simply to land and take off in the United States. That policy has been a boon to other air hubs like Caracas and Havana.

The U.S. Commerce Department says more than two million fewer people from five key nations visited the United States in 2005, compared to 2000. Those nations — Britain, Japan, Germany, France and Brazil —had been
America's largest source of overseas visitors, and their absence is being felt.

The Discover America Partnership wants Congress to approve a series of proposals, aimed at boosting incoming tourism. One of them is charging a $10 fee for travelers from so-called visa waiver nations. The U.S. does not require visitors from those 27 nations to obtain a visa for a stay of 90 days or less. The group says the proposed fee would result in $200 million annually, to pay for increased border security and tourism promotion.

Former U.S. Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge is a consultant for the Discover America Partnership. "Our connectivity to the rest of the world depends upon the rest of the world's access to us,” he said. “If we can improve access, we improve travel, we can do it in a way that we do not compromise security . . . . "

Ridge says speeding up the visa application process for non-waiver tourists would be a positive step. "If we could tell the world that there's a 30-day window, that we will process you, and interview and process you within 30 days, that creates an entirely differently kind of environment . We're not doing fewer interviews, we're just doing them quicker."

Ridge called the Visa Waiver fee a fair proposal. He pointed out that many countries charge international tourists entry or exit fees.

No resolution yet in airport contract changes sought by Alterra and its lenders
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The fate of the airport management firm Alterra Partners still is up in the air after nearly two weeks of discussions between its financial backers and the Costa Rican government.

Karla González, the minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, reported Tuesday that Alterra now has 60 days to come up with a viable plan to make changes in its contract that both the government and Alterra would accept.

A consortium of some 11 lenders  failed to come to an agreement with the government because of a series of demands officials made. Among other requests, the financing firms wanted Alterra's contract extended to 25 years. The government said 23.5 years.

Minister González said that if the deal fell through the
government would seek to find other firms interested in running the airport. However, the relationship with Alterra has been somewhat of a soap opera, and it is unlikely that any firm except one with a strong political relationship with officials would want the job. The more cynical observers say that the dispute of the contract is exactly that, opening the door to another firm.

Alterra, for example, is suing the government for alleged shortcomings on the airport contract. The situation has the  attention of the international community because the grant of a concession to run the airport was a pilot program the government seeks to use elsewhere.

Among the entities that could not reach an agreement is the International Finance Corp., an element of the World Bank. The consortium put up $120 million.

The government has fined Alterra $9 million for delays in improvements at the airport.

Democrats will spend July 4 signing up voters for U.S. primaries elections
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica will hold a signup program for U.S. voters Wednesday, July 4. Members will be at six public locations where expats are likely to pass by.

The organization used to provide voter signup information at the annual July 4 picnic, but that event has been canceled this year.

So Democrats will be at the AM/PM supermarket by the Hotel Cariari, at Café Delicias in Grecia, at the Auto Mercado supermarket in Multiplaza, Escazú, at the one in Moravia and at the one in Plaza del Sol in San Pedro and Rock & Roll Pollo, Amigo's Bar and Tex-Mex Restaurant, all Santa Ana. The signups will take place from noon to 2 p.m. except at Tex-Mex where the time will be from 4 to 7 p.m., the organization said.

Potential voters also can visit to register online or visit the Democrats Abroad Web site at
The Democrats have their eye on the start of primary elections in the United States which will lead to the selection of delegates for national political conventions. With changes in the laws of some states, there is the possibility that a presidential candidate could be chosen as early as February, the group said.

General elections are Nov. 4, 2008. A president, vice president, all members of the House of Representatives and a third of the U.S. Senate will be chosen.

Because as many as 20 states will hold their primaries Feb. 5, election observers are calling this Tsunami Tuesday when they expect voters will pick convention delegates that are committed to a particular candidate. One or two candidates many obtain a majority of delegates assuring their nomination.

President George Bush cannot run again.

U.S. expats usually are eligible to vote in the last U.S. state in which they lived.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 121

U.S. irked at referendum for Taiwanese membership in U.N.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States Tuesday said it opposes a plan by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian to hold a referendum on whether the island should seek membership in the United Nations. China has lashed out against the proposal by the independence-minded Taiwanese leader.

The U.S. State Department is urging President Chen to exercise leadership by withdrawing the idea of the referendum, which it says would serve no purpose other than to increase tensions with China.

President Chen, whose pro-independence moves have frequently drawn U.S. criticism, is backing a plan for a referendum on the idea of the island joining the United Nations under the name Taiwan. The referendum would be held alongside Taiwan's presidential election scheduled for March of next year.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States supports Taiwan's inclusion, as appropriate, in international bodies that do not require statehood for membership.

But he said consistent with the one-China policy the United States has maintained since switching recognition from Taiwan to the mainland in 1979, it does not support its membership in organizations that do require statehood including the United Nations.
"The United States opposes any initiative that appears designed to change Taiwan's status unilaterally," said McCormack. "This would include a referendum on whether to apply to the United Nations under the name Taiwan."

"While such a referendum would have no practical impact on Taiwan's U.N. status, it would increase tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is of vital interest to the people of Taiwan and serves U.S. security interests as well," he continued.

The Chinese government last week lashed out against the referendum plan, calling it a move to incite conflict and an attempt by President Chen to gain de jure independence for the island, which China considers a renegade province.

A Taiwanese spokesman said Tuesday the referendum would go forward despite the criticism, saying the proposed vote is supported by a majority of Taiwanese and does not violate any commitments by President Chen.

The United States and Taiwan maintain unofficial relations through nominally private institutions in their respective capitals under terms of the Taiwan Relations Act, approved by Congress at the time of the recognition shift in 1979.

That measure also says the United States would consider any non-peaceful attempt to determine Taiwan's future as a matter of grave concern, and authorizes sales of U.S. defensive weapons to the island.

Cuban consulate to open condolence book on behalf of  Vilma Espin Guillois
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services and local reports

The Cuban consulate in San José said it would maintain a condolence book starting today through Friday for Vilma Espin Guillois, the wife of acting Cuban President Raúl Castro. Those who wish to sign can visit from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., the consulate said.

Cuba observed a day of mourning for the woman Tuesday, flying its flags at half-staff. Ms. Espin, 77, died Monday after a long illness.
Ms. Espin was among Cuba's most politically powerful women. She was known for some 45 years as Cuba's unofficial first lady because Fidel Castro kept his own private life out of the public limelight. Ms. Espin led the Federation of Cuban Women, a women's political group supporting the communist government.

Ms. Espin was a rebel in the 1950's against dictator Fulgencio Batista. She and Raúl Castro were married in 1959 after the fall of Batista's government. The couple had four children.

Freed rebel leaves Colombia and says he will seek medical care in Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A senior Colombian rebel has traveled to Cuba after being freed from government detention.

Rodrigo Granda of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia went to Cuba Monday, accompanied by a Catholic priest.  Granda says he is visiting Cuba for a medical checkup.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe freed the rebel two weeks ago at the request of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  The French leader has expressed hope Granda
could help facilitate the release of a French-Colombian politician, Ingrid Betancourt, who was kidnapped by rebels in 2002. The rebels also are holding three U.S. citizens and a number of Colombians.  

Granda has downplayed hopes he will use his trip to Cuba to try to secure the release of the hostages.

He says hostages will only be freed if the government meets rebel long-standing demands for a demilitarized zone in Colombia and the release of two comrades held in U.S. jails.  President Uribe has rejected demands for a rebel safe haven.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 121

Three Costa Rican cyclists to participate in Canadian races
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three Costa Rican cyclists will be in two prestigious Canadian international events for mountain bikes.

The first, Manuel Prado, will participate in the Seven, during July 1 to 7. That is seven days of racing in British
Columbia in the vicinity of Victoria and Whistler.

Federico Ramírez and Iván Amador will be participating in the Trans Rockies Challenge Aug. 12 to 18.

The Trans Rockies is in British Columbia and Alberta. The mountainous route is 600 kilometers, some 372 miles.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wedneday, June 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 121

Offbeat movie features global warming and what else but a duck
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nic Bettauer was a student at Stanford University when she fell in love with movies, and she went on to earn a master's degree in cinema at the University of Southern California. She has made two documentaries and directed a 1998 dark comedy called "Zack and Reba," and a humorous short film called "Cloud Nine" in 2000.

She is busy these days marketing a film that she nurtured from concept to finished movie, a full-length feature called "Duck." She thought about making the movie while still in film school and living in Los Angeles near MacArthur Park, a public park with a duck pond in the middle. Police temporarily closed the park, which is notorious for its drug deals, and forced out the homeless men and women who had lived there. That incident gave Ms. Bettauer an idea.

"I found myself watching and wondering, where are all the ducks and the homeless people going to go? It's this strange image of this man and this duck looking for a life in Los Angeles in a world where they were no longer valued searching for community and purpose," she said. Page by page, the idea became a film script.

"Duck" is an offbeat tale that required a daring actor who was not afraid to costar with a duck. Ms. Bettauer found him in the person of veteran actor Philip Baker Hall. He liked the script and was willing to work on the low-budget project.

Hall plays a retired professor who has lost his wife and son and his sense of purpose. The story is set a few years in the future, when global warming is changing the urban landscape. At the opening of the movie, Hall is planting a tree using the ashes of his late wife.

"And this baby duck comes out of an accident scene and proceeds to think that this man is its mother. I guess the duck in a way gives him purpose. At first, he can't die until he finds
 the duck a place. And where this is set slightly in the future,
 this is the last public park in Los Angeles that is now being turned into landfill and a mall. And they're heading west on foot after he is evicted from his apartment in search of water and meaning in the desert that is Los Angeles," she said.

On their journey, the man and duck encounter a diverse cast of characters. Ms. Bettauer filmed each episode at a different location during 18 days of shooting.

"There are a lot of vignettes, so we pretty much scheduled out that it was one day per new character, and then they just have to keep moving on because they're heading west on their quest," added Ms. Bettauer.

One of the biggest challenges in making any film is getting the financing. Ms. Bettauer says she spent her own money and found a few investors. She says the picture was made for well under $500,000, and even then, it was only possible because key cast and crew members owned a piece of the project.

"Duck" has been shown at film festivals in the United States, Brazil and France, and Ms. Bettauer says the film has touched many viewers. It also has its critics, but she says the response has been mostly positive, especially overseas.

"It's a wonderful feeling, especially when you connect with an international audience. And the piece is in a lot of respects a universal tale about survival and hope and what it takes to make like worth living," she said.

The film ends as the man and his feathered companion reach the Pacific coast where they bask in the sunshine and find a ray of hope.

The filmmaker says "Duck" is an inspiring but cautionary tale about a future with little room for people to express their humanity. She is pleased with the film as a creative project, but says that as a commercial venture, it is too early to tell if this tale of a man and duck will be an inspiration, or a cautionary tale for other moviemakers.

How to handle A-Q, which may really be the second best hand
The most difficult hands to play in Texas hold’em are those that make strong yet second-best hands.  One such hand that too often comes in second is A-Q, which I introduced in a recent column.

Here are a few more tips that should make playing A-Q a little easier.

Don't call early position raises

We previously discussed how to play A-Q against an all-in bet, but how should you play this tricky hand against a simple raise? 

Well, against an early position raise, A-Q isn't the kind of hand you'd want to call with.   In fact, you'd be much better off with a 6h-7h than the Ac-Qs. 


An early position raise usually signifies strength, which means that your A-Q would be dominated against any of the following: A-A, K-K, Q-Q, or A-K. 

You want to be the pre-flop aggressor with A-Q.  Don’t be a caller.

Play cautiously after the flop 

When you do play A-Q, remember that unless the flop comes something like A-Q-4 or K-J-10, your hand will always be vulnerable.  Let’s say the flop comes Q-10-8.  Don't get so excited about playing a big pot here.  In fact, if an opponent raises in this situation, you should seriously consider folding. 

Why would you fold top pair with top kicker?

Because you can't beat any of the following hands: J-9, 8-8, 10-10, Q-Q, Q-10, 10-8, K-K, or A-A.  Even if your hand leads pre-flop, chances are that other players will have several outs to beat you.  The A-Q would even be vulnerable to a hand like J-10 should a 9, 10, or jack arrive on the turn or river. 

Holding A-Q, your goal should be to win the pot immediately on the flop.   If you don't, play cautiously and don't allow yourself to lose more chips than you need to.

Play aggressively from the blinds 

Playing A-Q out of position after the flop is no picnic.  It’s hard to win the pot if you don't catch a pair on the flop unless you plan to make a big, risky bluff.  That’s not a bad strategy when playing against a conservative, early-position raiser.

Facing a loose player’s raise, however, it’s better to simply call and then proceed carefully.

Now, if that raise comes from the same aggressive player, but he’s sitting in middle to late position, it makes more sense to try to win the pot before the flop.

Let’s look at a hand.

A frisky player has made it 600 to go before the flop.   Blinds are at 100-200 with a 25 ante.  It comes back to you in the big blind holding A-Q, and it’s 400 more to call.  Against a skilled player, put the pressure back on him with a big reraise. 

How much?

1,800 isn't enough to scare him off.  Lean toward a raise of 2,500-3,000.  This will quickly define your opponent’s hand.  If he folds, he obviously had a marginal hand; he was just trying to steal the blinds.  If he reraises, though, your A-Q is dead meat.  Fold the hand. 

Your difficult decision comes when he just calls your raise.  His most likely hands would be pocket nines, pocket tens, pocket jacks, pocket kings, or ace-king.  You must play very carefully from here on in.

But remember one more thing.  

If an opponent calls your reraise, don’t automatically make a continuation bet after the flop.  Respect his call and understand that he probably has the better hand.  This is no time to get reckless and melt away your stack with what very well could be the second-best hand.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2007 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

The A.M. Costa Rica library on our local food and restaurants
It's time for
They don't come here for the wings and the burgers

Old standby Machu Picchu continues to delight

Roast lamb like Grandmother used to make

Readers respond to listing
of top-10 restaurants

A list of restaurants
recommended by readers

Prescription for good steak: Just visit Hospital CIMA

If you wondered where all
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All about fish

For an example of the Comeback Kid, visit Mangiamo

Yes, a lobster without claws
is pretty good, too

Old food, new food,
cheered food, boo’d food


For the frugal, there are
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The guide you need
for cooking a turkey locally

Halloween yuckies
for the kids

With the marinated steaks
you also get a horse show

Imaginative fusions invite fine tuning in Escazú

Hidden behind national library sits a jewel

A chance to add a little zip
to munchies with dip

Soda Tapia's western branch
is drawing throngs

Fine Spanish food
with a Catalan emphasis

Cuban restaurant calls up
images of the past

Surprise: Brazilian meats
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Yes, there is a place
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A report on some nice people who are doing well

It may not be Portugal,
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An answer to the question:
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The Caribbean is just 
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There is a long-standing barrier to a kosher Reuben

Bacchus continues
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This food columnist 
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All the reviews are right: 
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After nine months, our food critic summarizes opinions

Here are ways to handle 
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Spartan surroundings 
with fantastic Mexican food

A discovery of Greek cuisine 
around corner in Escazú

Places where you can find 
a gaggle of Gringos

Argentine steakhouse 
in Escazú offers other options

Fellini has given way 
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One of the world's staples 
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Not much to beef about
at Donde Carlos in Los Yoses

Off to Heredia in search 
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A really long drive to sample authentic German food

Shogun is the first choice 
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So what are you going 
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A delightful sampling 
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The lowdown on soy protein
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A road show of great places 
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The contest between 
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The mango can be 
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Four-star French restaurant
with no surprises

All you ever wanted to know
about wursts and more

The No. 1 Italian restaurant
in the Central Valley

A bit of the 1960s
in Ciudad Colón

Heart concern and 
good finger foods

Some less pricey charmers

French cooking in the clouds 
sans pretensions

The many uses of squash

Friends' favorite foods

The Restaurant Del Mar

Cook that turkey!

The crazy apple: eggplant

Dim sum = Chinese smorgasbord

A very good fish restaurant

Some general concepts 
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A guide to stalking 
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Which breakfast delight is 
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New food writer will try 
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Every culture seems 
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Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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