With Gustu already making waves in La Paz, Bolivia, it’s important to note that the Andean country has plenty to work with. There are already several important gourmet products already coming out of Bolivia:
1.) Singani: Most don’t even realize Bolivia produce wine and spirits. The Melting Pot Foundation hopes to help develop this industry in the coming years, which is based in Tarija, just over the border from Salta, one of Argentina’s most notable wine regions. In keeping with the Bolivian only theme of Claus Meyer’s Gustu will only be serving Bolivian wines and spirits with the restaurant’s tasting menus. It would appear that Gustu’s sommelier and mixologist Jonas Anderson has his work cut out for him, though there is already more going on than it would appear. Singani, a sort of high altitude pisco with heavy floral notes, recently began being exported to the Unidted States by the company Singani 63, owned by Oscar winning director Steven Soderbergh, who got hooked on Singani while shooting the film Che in Bolivia.
2.) Rose Salt: Hand harvested from ancient sea salt deposits 2,000 meters above sea level that were covered by lava an estimated 3 million years ago and protecting it from pollution, Bolivian Rose salt is one of the purest salts on earth. It has a light rose/orangish color and its high mineral content gives it considerably less sodium than other salts. It’s becoming widely available in North American specialty health and gourmet shops.
3.) Alto Beni Wild Cacao: Single origin Bolivian chocolate has only recently been made possible. Some of the most highly sought beans come from a sustainable harvest in the Alto Beni or Upper Beni region of the Bolivian Amazon by an indigenous group, known locally as the Cambas. They have lived for centuries in this underdeveloped region and they know exactly where to find the wild cacao trees. During harvest they travel for days by horseback, foot, and dugout canoe to collect the wild cacao crop that is spread out across the landscape. For the wild cocoa, the roasting temperature is lower and the roasting time is longer than for any other cocoa beans. Look for the Cru Sauvage label.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.