Cuenca’s Easter soup, fanesca, is considered by many to be the best in Latin America and it is a tradition among Cuencanos to have at least one bowl of it during Holy Week.
At luxury hotels in Latin America, you are often shielded from the local marketplaces. In Quito’s UNESCO world heritage colonial center, which is not an upscale district by any means, there are now a half dozen beautifully restored colonial buildings turned hotels, though only one that I know of is encouraging you to step out and see how the locals really live.
Sure Quito is home to 500-year-old church or two, though most don’t realize it’s also one of the centers of the world’s chocolate industry. Ecuador’s Arriba Nacional cacao bean is the most sought after the world over and Quito chocolate shops, cafes, and activities have become a point of reference for chocolate lovers:
The indigenous Kiwicha farmer’s coop, Kallari, that completely runs and operates their own single origin artisanal chocolate company has had a small shop and lounge at Wilson and Juan Mera in the heart of Quito’s Mariscal for several years. Traditionally you could have a cup of coffee or pick up a few bars of chocolate, fair trade coffee, vanilla beans, or handicrafts designed in the indigenous village that the chocolate comes from. On a recent visit I noticed it was turning into a full blown Amazonian café with Wi-fi.
For the past few months I have been pushing the NYTimes travel section to do a story on Peruvian chefs in the Amazon, but they had some similar story waiting to run. In last weekends travel section I discovered what that story was. Jay Cheshes, whose food writing I admire… Read More →
The Pure Nacional cacao bean, supposedly indigenous to Ecuador and wiped out due to disease a century ago, and was apparently rediscovered recently in northern Peru’s Maranon Canyon. As TastingTable clearly shows and the New York Times reports, American chocolatier Moonstruck has already released a Pure Nacional single origin chocolate bar (68% cacao), called Fortunato No. 4, as well as chocolate covered beans.
A new phenomenon in Ecuador’s large cities, Quito and Guayaquil, has been the commercialization of small shops and street stands that sell Yogurt with Pan de Yuca (Yuca/Cassava bread). Several chains have expanded all over these cities and have turned the very simple snack into a sort of Starbuck’s convenience.
In Ecuador guanta de monte is just another name for Paca, or Agouti paca. It’s a large rodent, not as large as a capybara that lives off the forest floor, eating fallen fruit, leaves, and tubers. In parts of the Amazon, it’s food. In Coca, where Francisco de Orellana set off on his journey across the Amazon in 1541, sidewalk stalls – some of the best places to eat in town – serve guanta in Salsa de maní – a peanut sauce (sometimes called gordo de maní ) that originated in the province of Manabí. PRice with a with a heaping pile of rice and a grilled banana = $1.50.
I’m not exactly sure of what to think of Ecuadorian Delfin Quishpe’s September 11 tribute. Is it comic genius or just innocently bizarre? I saw the video earlier this year and forgot about it until it was brought to my attention the other day. The singer, who calls his music Andean Techno Folklore, was born in a mud hut speaking Quechua in Ecuador’s province of Chimborazo. Most of his videos begin with him sitting at his house and watching the news on TV. In Torres Gemelas, which has been seen more than 7 million times since it was posted on Youtube in 2006, Quishpe sees the news of the twin towers and he sings about a loved one that he lost in the attack.
A few months before the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began, I was traveling around the Amazon rainforest observing the contamination that occurred there as a result of petroleum for an article with Penthouse magazine (forthcoming). One of the most highly publicized cases against the oil industry in the Amazon is in eastern Ecuador, where Texaco (now owned by Chevron) operated for decades. The case of Aguinda vs. Chevron/Texaco has been in courts for more than a decade and seems to be nearing an end. A judge in Ecuador estimated the damages caused by Texaco to be about $27 billion, making it the largest environmental lawsuit on earth (though the BP Gulf spill will likely dwarf this one), though Chevron continues to fight against that verdict.