A fat, little bird stares up at me with disapproving look on its face from the cage on the floor at my feet. Six small canaries flitter and twitter behind me while a parrot silently observes them from its own cage atop theirs. Seated in the shaded corner of the patio of this beautiful restaurant, I can boast of having the best seat in the house. I have a view of the tropical plants that bedeck one side of the patio, as well as the parade of four ornate bird cages and their captives. I can watch the kitchen staff frying and chopping, the waiters picking up plates and the dishwasher cleaning off trays. I can glimpse the traffic outside and can observe almost all of the patrons inside as they order and eat.
Although I am the only gringa in the place, this restaurant is no stranger to foreign clientele. The menu carries bad English translations and the waiter brings butter with the bread and tortilla chips. Obviously, my fellow United Statians have passed this way before.
I order the menu of the day and receive the first course post haste. A lovely cream of carrot soup complements its bright yellow bowl and goes down easily. A ceviche of cubes of mango, red peppers, and cucumber spills over a bed of green and purple lettuce. My golden chile relleno arrives in a pool of blood-red tomato sauce, nestled alongside a mound of snowy rice.
I bite into a mouthful and taste the spicy pepper and its cheesey filling. But wait, there´s something else! A rose bud, perhaps? Some rather large, oblong-shaped spice? I flip the stuffing over and see a squadron of grasshoppers partially submerged in the white cheese. Continuing to eat my lunch, I think I understand the source of my avian neighbor´s sour expression: I refuse to share.
Dessert is a fried plantain with a swizzle of sweetened condensed milk. Having downed all the food and a pitcher of flower-flavored water (agua de jamaica), I feel full, content and maybe because of all the coffee I drank this morning, just a little bit jumpy.....