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 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:
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.
“I Love Ho’s” was the sticker I got with my check at the end of my meal at Uncle Ho’s in Quito, Ecuador’s Mariscal recently. I first heard about the restaurant from Tripadvisor where it was ranked in the Top 5 of about 150 of all restaurants in Quito. People were raving about it. Quito’s Mariscal District is a major hangout for expats in South America, many of them taking advantage of cheap Spanish schools or volunteering at the many non-profits based there.
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.
Zazu is the most renowned of the restaurants with Peruvian chefs to have opened in Quito, Ecuador in the past three years. Since opening in 2007, the restaurant has already been named one of Quito’s three best restaurants by LAN airlines and was awarded a Five Star Diamond Award by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. In 2009 Zazu won a coveted Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its impressive wine cellar, which is shaped in a planetarium like cylinder that might be the best looking, at from the inside, cellar I’ve seen anywhere.
The Capilla del Hombre in Quito, Ecuador is an art museum and monument designed by the famous Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamín (1919-1999). The exterior of the Capilla del Hombre, or Chapel of Man, is shaped similar to a Pre-Colombian pyramid, made mostly of stone and overlooking Quito from a hill in the Bellavista suburb.