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Monday, 28 February 2011

Review: 'Indigena' Pampas tour, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia


A popular stop on the backpacker trail in Bolivia is the town of Rurrenabaque in the north of Bolivia.  The journey there from La Paz itself is amazing.  Most chose to fly on either Amazonas or TAM budget airlines and as the planes are so small you get some fantastic (and slightly frightening at times) sights from the plane!  On arrival into Rurrenabaque the heat instantly hits you and by the time we arrived at a hostel we were ready for our first shower!  We stayed a day in the town before heading off on our pampas tour.


‘Pampas’ means wetlands in Spanish and so as you may have guessed, the tour is along the river.  Our tour with Indigena was 3 days, 2 nights and you stay at an ‘eco-lodge’ each night.  The conditions are very basic and many don’t bother to shower whilst there as you would find yourself sweaty again very quickly, but mainly because of the threat of the giant mosquitos!  


All food is included on the tour including eating some of the fish you catch on your fishing morning which is tasty!




The food, like the accommodation is basic, but there is plenty to go round and its tasty.  The first day’s lunch was the best – it was in a restaurant on route to the boat point.  After a long, cramped journey in a van everyone was relieved to get out for lunch!  After that we enjoyed meat, pastas, soups and donuts for meals across the day.  Of course, the food is not really the purpose or highlight of the trip so if you go remember that and enjoy your time exploring the life on the river.





Sunday, 27 February 2011

Food Glossary: Chuno


This (not so appetising) food is a freeze-dried potato which is common in Bolivia and Peru, as well as being found in other South American countries.  (on the above picture it can be seen with pork)  I have read various bits about the history of this food but one particular piece that interested me was that the slave mining workers in Potosi, Bolivia, were almost exclusively fed chuno whilst the rich invaders enjoyed the best of everything from around the world.  Potosi, was once one of not only South America's, but the world's richest cities.  Quite ironic given that Bolivia is now one of the poorest countries in South America.

The 'cerro rico' - rich hill, was the reason for Bolivia's wealth.  It was a mountain where silver was discovered and consequently mined by slaves from across the world.  Even today there is still a saying in spanish, 'valer un potosi' - 'to be worth a potosi' (or a 'fortune').  The mine town is now famous for the horrific conditions that miner's have worked under and still do in the cerro rico.  The average age of a miner is around just 40 years and many contract diseases such as silicosis from the poor conditions they work under.  As a tourist you can actually go into parts of the mine to gain some kind of insight into the terrible conditions people have worked in and still do.

Today, chuno can be found amongst street vendors and in markets, which is where I tried it and it certainly seems popular amongst locals.  However, I did not see it on a menu in any restaurant in Bolivia whilst there, perhaps highlighting that it remains a cheap, not massively nutritious source of food for many Bolivians.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Food Glossary: Salteña



Salteña actually originate from the city of Salta in Argentina, however, Juana Manuela Gorriti, who historians claim first made the Salteña, was exiled to Bolivia.  Her family endured extreme poverty and came up with this recipe in the early 1900s in order to earn a living.

It is a type of empanada different to those we had become used to and so fond of in Columbia and Ecuador.  It is slightly sweet and typically contains peas, meat, potatoes, egg and then other variants such as raisons or olives.

They are a typical morning snack, with many people eating them for breakfast.

Review: Kiosko #19: ‘Pamela’ – Copacobana, Bolivia


Lining the sea front in Copacobana bay are multiple kiosks selling trout, the fish of the area.  As you stroll along the owners will try to convince you that their kiosk has the freshest and best trout of all!  We went with Kiosk #19 – Pamela’s.


As you can see by the photos you can eat trout in most imaginable ways!  We sampled a couple of ways and as it was quiet enjoyed watching them prepare and cook our food.  The kiosks are very basic and small but a lovely way to enjoy the sunset over the bay whilst eating cheap and lovely fish.






Friday, 25 February 2011

Review: Hotel La Cupula, Copacobana, Bolivia

After spending a fantastic few weeks in Ecuador we flew to Bolivia (as unfortunately we did not have time to also visit the sites of Peru).  We spent our first few days in La Paz organising our tour of the Salt flats and then decided to head to Copacobana at Lake Titicaca for a few days and stay at the Hotel la Cupula.


Lake Titicaca is (by volume) the largest lake in South America, is located on the border between Peru and Bolivia and is absolutely stunning.  We stayed in a great budget hostel/hotel on the hill overlooking the town of Copacobana with beautiful gardens.  The hotel has a restaurant attached to it so on arrival we ate there and enjoyed the stunning views.  The menu is varied and interesting, the staff and very friendly and the food when it arrived was tasty.  We also had a pitcher of fresh orange juice which was delicious.


The restaurant made amazing sandwiches which you could also order as a packed lunch if you were going on day trips around the area.  We did this after tasting how good the food was!  I also sampled the fruit museli from the breakfast menu which was huge and very satisfying.




In addition to a great restaurant the hostel has a kitchen available for those who wish to cook for themselves.  The kitchen is lovely, as it is set in a cottage building overlooking the gardens.  We cooked for ourselves in here with food bought down at the food market and had a fun evening.

If you don’t stay in the hostel then its definitely worth visiting the restaurant for the spectacular views and delicious food.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Review: The Brownie festival, Dirty Sanchez, Quito, Ecuador





After returning from an amazing week exploring the Galapagos islands we returned to Quito and were reunited with our good friend Euan.  After chatting lots and having a great lunch we wondered past a café where a brownie festival was going on…clearly we could not miss this event!  We spent the next few hours ‘brownie tasting’ the 9 varieties available which provided an entertaining and tasty afternoon.

Local baker Maria Elisa Balarezo has been baking brownies for 20 years now but this is the first time she has ran an event like this.  She currently sells the brownies at the Plaza Foch as well as at Dirty Sanchez.I had a quick chat with her (in espanol : ) !) which you can listen to as part of the video entry!

Brownies deserve to be taken seriously and so as a panel we put together a marking system and set about finding the best brownie there.  Each option was marked out of 10 for texture and flavour as well as general comments.

Results:



Taster 1 (James)
Taster 2 (Euan)
Taster 3 (Me!)
Taster 4 (Eric)
TOTAL

Flavour
Texture
Flavour
Texture
Flavour
Texture
Flavour
Texture

Amaretto
9
9
8
8
9
8
9
9
69
Plantain
9
7
6
8
8
9
7
7
61
Cinnamon
7
10
9
8
8
9
3
5
59
Coconut
6
8
8
8
6
6
8
7
57
Raisin
8
7
7
7
8
8
4
7
56
Vanilla
6
6
7
6
4
4
5
5
43
Hazelnut
7
6
7
5
5
4
3
5
42
Cognac
5
5
5
4
5
5
5
7
41
Almond
4
3
7
4
3
3
6
7
37


I hope you enjoy the video accompanying this blog – I decided that written words could not do this event justice!



Please let me know where the best brownies are that you have tried!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Review: La Ronda, Quito, Ecuador


La Ronda is one of the oldest and most historic streets in Quito.  This small lane displays Quito's spanish colonial background and was once the home to some of the most influential people in Quito due to its proximity to the river.  Since the 1970s restoration work has taken place to preserve this street as well as change its image and reputation as one of the most dangerous areas in the city.  It is now home to many restaurants, galleries and tourist shops and is well worth a visit to sample the canelazo drink, yummy empanadas and to step back in time and imagine what the city was like in the 18th century.






Sunday, 20 February 2011

Food Glossary: Almuerzo

If you travel in South America, then a common meal to see on boards outside restaurants is the 'almuerzo'.  Translated it means lunch and that's exactly what it is...a set lunch!  This really is a great way to eat as its cheap, usually good and tasty food.  You always have a soup first (which are ALWAYS good), then a main meal which usually consists of a meat or fish, rice and salad or veg, then a small dessert.  Sometimes you get a juice included also.  The most we paid for an almuerzo on the trip was $3.50 and the least was $1.50 so you can see they really are great value.






Food Glossary: Casado

Casado is a typical Costa Rican meal available, and popular, for either lunch or dinner.  It is really yummy and a cheap meal and one of my favourite discoveries on my trip to Latin America.  The word 'casado' means 'married-one' and the dish gained this name by customers requesting a typical home cooked meal (similar to one their wife would prepare) which generally included gallo pinto, or separate rice and beans, plantain, meat, salad, possibly a tortilla or potato salad.  You MUST try!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Food Glossary: Empanadas


Empanadas are one of the greatest inventions in food history!  They are such a great snack and when in many South American countries they are available EVERYWHERE!  These cheap and tasty delights are pastry parcels (similar to a pasty) and filled with either meat, egg, vegetables, tuna, cheese, ham or a combination.  We had really nice ones in Columbia, Ecuador and Argentina.

Empanadas originate from Spain, and the name comes from the verb 'empanar' - meaning to wrap or coat in bread.  You can find either fried or baked empanadas and can also buy ready made pastry circles to create your own.  Stay peeled for my post on how to cook your own empanadas.


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Food Glossary: Choclos con queso

A popular drink in Ecuador and Columbia is hot chocolate with cheese inside.  Being both a chocolate and cheese lover I had been looking forward to trying it, and for a while when I ordered it they had sold out!  Finally I was able to try and it was definitely goooooood!  The small chunks of cheese were similar in texture to mozzarella so they melted a bit but were stringy which makes it quite fun to eat/drink too!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Review: La Mama Negra – Latacunga, Ecuador


Back in time for the annual Mama Negra festival in Latacunga we had not prepared ourselves for the event…the streets were FULL of people everywhere, who were simply drinking and drinking!  It was quite a contrast to the festival in Cuenca where there had not been much alcohol and plenty of families were around.

We had a wonder around the town and festivities before deciding to eat in the restaurant named after the event: La Mama Negra.  We had read that you could find the best Chugchucara food here so wanted to see if we agreed.  The restaurant has interesting décor inside and was busy with locals.  We ordered a couple of Chugchucara dishes to share and all enjoyed.  It was definitely not as good as the Pastoria restaurant just outside the town, or those we had eaten up at the Otavelo Animal Market, however, it was still good food.




Sunday, 13 February 2011

Review: Cloud Forest Hostel, Chugchilan, (part of the Quilatoa loop) Ecuador


Whilst driving the ‘Quilatoa loop’ we stayed overnight in Chugchilan at the Cloud Forest Hostel.  We were one group of 3 guests staying there…it being off season so we had our pick of the rooms!  It’s a great little find and the staff are really helpful and friendly.


Your food is included in the very reasonable $10/15 a night and we were even more pleased when we were served a 3 course evening meal!  Not only was there a lot of food but it was lovely home cooked healthy and yummy food.  Our starter was an amazing soup, followed by fresh salad and vegetables, rice and really great fishcakes.  The desert was a freshly baked biscuit from the cabinet we had spotted earlier!  We also selected some nice wine and after dinner drank the wine, ate many more of the fresh biscuits and played cards.  Meanwhile the place livened up with locals from the village visiting, playing music and chatting away.  It was a really nice atmosphere and place to relax and prepare for our morning walk and afternoon drive.




The next morning we were given a breakfast which was also included and after our walk we decided to buy another bowl of soup and the remainder of the biscuits for the drive!