The more Brazilian food I eat and the more I visit Brazil, the more I realize how little I really know about Brazilian cooking. The country is massive, a continent of its own. By Leticia Moreinos-Schwartz’s The Brazilian Kitchen (Kyle Books, 2010) is the best all around study on Brazilian food I’ve read thus far.
The food scene in Quito, Ecuador isn’t as glamorous as Buenos Aires, not as trendy as Bogota, nor as original as Lima. It’s often overlooked by South American foodies, though Quito should be considered among the top food scenes on the continent. There are brilliant chefs here doing interesting things with the diverse little country’s many endemic ingredients (try Red Tuna in any form). Even the chain restaurants, backpacker dives, snack shops, street stalls, and markets are inimitable. Here’s a round up of Quito, Ecuador’s food scene:
Merken is made from the Cacho de Cabra chile (translates to Goat Horn). The chile itself is extremely hot, though merken – which is mixed with salt and spices such as cumin and coriander – tends to vary in strength. Generally it’s mild. It’s more smoky and flavorful than spicy hot. The indigenous Mapuche people in the Araucanía Region of Chile use the all in one spice mix heartedly in soups and as a rub for meat. Merken is available for purchase in the United States at Williams Sonoma and Whole Foods Market.
The Peruvian documentary ‘De Ollas y Sueños’ will premiere at the Havana Film Festival this coming Saturday and then be presented the next day in Long Island City to the Peruvian community in Queens. The film, directed by Ernesto Cabellos (who we interviewed here) asks the question: “Can a whole nation be represented in its kitchen?” and spends 75 minutes traveling along the coast of Peru, the Andes, the Amazon, and visiting Peruvian communities in Madrid, London, New York and Paris.
In Barrio Chino (Lima, Peru) restaurants such as Wa Lok and Salon Capon Lomo Saltado simply means stir-fried beef. It is a direct translation from Spanish and the dish is the same as the stir-fried beef that’s on any Chinese menu in New York or Jamaica. Thin slices of stir-fried beef and onions (usually red onions in Peru, though) are served family style on a big plate. Scoop a pile of rice on your dish from a bowl served on the side and spoon the beef and juices on top of it.
The Pisco Sour is the national drink of both Peru and Chile and who makes the better cocktail is fiercely debated among both countries. In Chile, the drink isn’t blended, but shaken, lacks egg whites, and is served in a flute. Chilean Pisco is also sweeter.
If you want to capture some sense of what Brooklyn is or what Brooklyn is becoming, the Brooklyn Flea Market is a good place to start. While antiques and handicrafts are the main focus of the market, the food vendors are equally as enchanting. They’re reason enough to come and hang around and ponder over this weird sponge that Brooklyn has become. I consider the borough the foodiest place in America. There is more going on here than one would expect: organic rooftop farms, farmer’s markets, distilleries, indie bakeshops, Bacon Marmalade, sustainable butchers, Kombucha making classes, and of course Red Hook Soccer Tacos. New gastronomic ideas are being created every day in Brooklyn and the Flea is ground zero.
Paracas, South America’s first coastal desert resort, now has three Pacific facing hotels. Each is a little different and all of the hotels opened in 2009. The resort area sits beside the coastal town of Pisco, which was nearly wiped out in an August 2007 earthquake. Apart from breathing new life into what was a complete and utter disaster these hotels are helping the region rebuild and give visitors to Lima an easy 3-day getaway that’s a completely different side of Peru (the desert coast) from what most typically think of the country (Andes, Machu Picchu, the Amazon, Lake Titicaca, etc).
Cartagena, Colombia has transformed over the past decade to a faded colonial port visited mostly by Colombian vacationers to a chic hangout for the beautiful and wealthy (and occasional cruise ship). While Getsemani and other neighboring districts are looking better and better, the old walled city built by the Spanish, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the place to be. It is somewhat reminiscent of Puerto Rico’s Old San Juan, though it lacks the American chains and tacky cruise ship shops that have diluted the scene there. With the addition the addition of Colombian fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi’s new hotel and spa in late 2009, Cartagena seems to have entered a new phase in its evolution. Old world charm and jetset style have merged.
In Quito’s La Floresta neighborhood, Alkimia, which opened in 2008, has a young Peruvian chef who prepares Latin dishes with mostly locally sourced ingredients. The owners are the same as Teatrum, which is considered one of, if not the best restaurants in Ecuador.