Agua de Sapo is a traditional Costa Rican drink made from tapa de dulce (unrefined sugar), limes and ginger that originated in the Limón province on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, an area that takes on a much more Afro-Caribbean feel than it’s more Latin flavored Pacific side. According to Monte Azul, a lovely hotel on a private mountain reserve near Chirripó National Park, the region’s cultural roots are apparent in the language which is a Patois based on Jamaican English, with French, Spanish and Bri Bri (the principal indigenous people of the area) influences.
Most guidebooks tell you not to go to Stabroek. Not just the market, but the entire area of Georgetown, Guyana. City tours will drive you past the market, but they tell you to not get out and keep your hands in the car. Stabroek market is indeed chaotic. Tends of thousands are streaming in and out of the market and wandering the surrounding streets at any given time, preventing most traffic from inching forward, giving it the feel of a festival.
“Rum is the history of America in a glass,” says author Wayne Curtis, in the introduction of his excellent book, And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World In Ten Cocktails. “It came out of the confusion of a freshly settled land, and its production became one of the dominant industries of the new economy,” writes Curtis. Through ten cocktails, Curtis explains not just the evolution of the spirit, but the development of the entire New World.
How do you fit the whole world into a single room? Ask chef Gabriel Coquel and he’ll tell you, easy, that room just needs to be a kitchen. This is a man who divides the globe up by regional cuisines and local specialties and through his restaurant Tandory, quietly tucked away in suburban Montevideo, he is fulfilling his self-imposed task of bringing his world of flavors and textures home to Uruguay.
If you happen to grab a bite in Peru’s Amazonian region and come across plates of yellowish balls served all around you, don’t panic! It’s nothing out of the ordinary, just one of the most wonderful dishes Peruvian cuisine ever invented. Served in every village, town and city in the jungle, tacacho is part of a strong gastronomic tradition that still remains a secret to the rest of the world. Although Peru has been enjoying a culinary boom for the past few years, its Amazonian region hasn’t gathered much international attention. However, it’s a solid gastronomic identity simply craving to be discovered.
I love the sound of an Argentine barbecue. It’s gentle and unhurried; a sizzle here and there as another goblet of fat falls onto the coals and if you lean in close you can hear a slight crackle and pop (yes, like the breakfast cereal, just sparser, and crisper), the sound of meat slowly searing to perfection.
Monte Azul, a hotel on a private mountain reserve near Costa Rica’s highest point, Chirripó National Park, about two hours from Manuel Antonio, has become something of a beacon of culture in the middle of the rainforest since it opened in 2005. While the hotel is best known for their promotion of Costa Rican art at their residency programs and gallery, Monte Azul Contemporary Art (MACA), their world with Costa Rican food has become perhaps equally as impressive. The following recipe is for a Tico version of Piononos, a small traditional pastry that originated in Santa Fe, a town near to Granada, Spain, and has taken a life of its own in Latin America.
In 2009, after expanding his restaurant empire around the world, Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio opened two new restaurants in the provinces of Peru, his first outside of the confines of the capital of Lima. The two restaurants, both named Chi Cha, bring Acurio’s signature style to two of Peru’s largest cities: Arequipa & Cuzco. Each skews toward regional dishes and ingredients, though also serves a wider national cuisine and Acurio originals. The dining rooms are elegant, yet they’re not stuffy nor is the food over priced. As with most of Acurio’s restaurants, the bar menu is creative with a dozen or so Pisco based cocktails that go beyond a traditional Pisco Sour.
I was recently given a sneak peak at Solbeso, a spirit being distilled from fair trade fresh Peruvian cacao fruit. It’s the first spirit of its kind. It’s not a chocolate liqueur, but a clear spirit with a consistency like that of pisco. It is said to have the same the chemical benefits of dark chocolate, yet none of the sweetness or flavor. On tasting it, I smelled chocolate notes immediately as soon as I brought the glass to my nose.
The Argentine asado is a true wonder, a celebration of fire seared bovine flesh, an orgiastic festival of the consumption of cow, a glorious litany of … I could go on… excessive description comes easy when dealing with a fine asado.
No asado, however, is complete without a good chimichurri, an intensely flavoured salsa good for a chorripan or as a relish for your meat. To really impress your argentine guests, have a jar of berenjenas a la escabeche stading on the table. The berenjenas (eggplant / brinjal) are cooked and bottled in a pickling brine (escabeche) and are excellent with bread as an accompaniment to the salami and cheese tabla as well as with your meat. The flavours of both improve with time – particularly the berenjenas should be stored for a few months before tucking in.