Having the same weekday breakfast over and over again can be a drag. How many egg-and-cheese wraps or bowls of oatmeal can one person eat in his or her lifetime?
Yet when it comes to breakfast, Americans seem caught in their own particular egg-cheese-bacon box. Which is why Stowe's Café Latina is so refreshing. Yes, they serve breakfast sandwiches and burritos, but those can be dished up with chorizo or pork carnitas. There's also yogurt parfait, but it comes layered with coconut and mango coulis.
Here, guests might be surprised to encounter gallo pinto — traditional Costa Rican rice and beans — which appears as a hulking plate of rice, black beans, red peppers and onions, seasoned with hearty amounts of cumin and red pepper, showered with minced cilantro and topped with two poached eggs. Anything topped with a poached egg is scrum-worthy, but gallo pinto, with its spicy-earthy appeal, was especially cosseting; a dose of Vermont Pepper Works hot sauce spiked it up nicely.
Cafe Latina's owner, Karen Nielsen, lived in Costa Rica for many years before moving to Stowe to open this place, and warmth infuses everything, from the colorful interior — complete with gas fire and comfy red chairs — to the Latin-inflected food.
As filling as gallo pinto was, I didn't stop there; I also opted for some jalapeño-sesame beef tenderloin tacos, and they were delicious — the beef succulent, a subtle sweetness (from honey, apparently) infusing the entire thing.
Nielsen is committed to importing and selling coffee beans sourced directly from Costa Rican farmers, and while I couldn't quite enjoy one of her lattes — it was too late in the day for caffeine, at least for me — Café Latina's Aztec hot chocolate was creamy, dark, spicy and complex. Nielsen is also committed to gluten-free baked treats, and the peanut butter cookie with which she sent me packing was rich and sinful, and left tiny oil spots on the bag in which I transported it.
Café Latina is at 407 Mountain Road and serves the breakfast-and-lunch menu until 2 p.m. every day.