July & August were full of ALL the adventure! My sister and I jetted off on yet another adventure to South America and immediately dove into the food, wine and beautiful culture.
Our adventure started off in Bogotá, Colombia for a quick layover involving some exploring of the city centre and a desperate need to locate fresh, authentico Colombian coffee! We found a spot pretty quickly (no surprise there) and sipped away. Sweet, pure nectar of the Gods! South American coffee is dark and pure and doesn’t require milk/cream or sugar (and trust me, I usually load it up). The next order of business was a little snack of sorts, in which we found empanadas. A little empanada shop with $0.89 bundles of perfection and fresh guac is my kind of snack! After these and a couple hours of walking at the base of the mountains and through the streets where they film Narcos, we headed back to the airport and onto Ecuador.
Ecuador- like I titled this post-I ecuADOR(E) you! If you ever get a chance, please visit this beautiful country! I imagine I’ll keep saying that every time I return to South America, however here I go again. This country has amazing food, wine from its surrounding countries that are top wine producers, adventurous activities, the Amazon, the Galapagos Islands, and some of the most stunning views in the world. My sister and I flew into Quito where we met our friend Eric from L.A. and then took a bus to Tena (in the Amazon) to meet Matthew, our friend from Cayman Islands, and thus begun our big trip. Starting in Tena, we enjoyed breakfast (fresh pressed coffee, fresh fruit, and and fresh-squeezed juice) with a view of the jungle. We trekked through the Amazon and tried some different fruits and seeds of the jungle- and we ate ants…yes…I am now one of those bug-eating freaks who loves the jungle. They’re called lemon ants and they are a citrus delight! If it was appropriate to bring them back and put them on my salads, I would. Later that night, we actually enjoyed some more typical cuisine. Not jungle food, not even Ecuadorian, but Asian fusion from an American woman who opened her own restaurant after consistent cravings for dumplings and beer! Needless to say, I had my own little tasting of 3 beers of different styles.
On to Baños! This city is considered an overly touristy place and simply a good ‘bar town’. I have to disagree fully. When we visited, there was hardly a tourist in sight (minus us) and a lot of beautiful food, wine options and crazy adventurous things for us to do. We stayed in an amazingly ‘homey’ hostel and became fast friends with the owner, Ana. Our first day, we went to a recommended spot called Chevere for authentic Ecuadorian food. We started with veggie, cheese and pork ‘rice’ balls with a spicy chili pepper sauce, then a dish of thick breads with chicken, queso, and mixed vegetables, and finally some classic quesadillas. As for our first night there, we enjoyed BBQ’d sausage and Chilean Merlot from Maipo Valley made by the people working at our hostel. Day two, we went crazy with all thing adventure. Early in the morning, we went canyoning waterfalls, then exploring the largest waterfall, and finally ‘puenting’ (like bungee jumping but you’re attached at the waist). After this day of craziness, we were quite hungry and ready to dig into a home-made meal by Matt! Apparently, he’s quite the chef. A huge pasta dinner with garlic bread was just what we needed. The evening following, we checked out a nice place Eric said he was craving (a little more like home), a steakhouse. We started with nachos and guac, and then shared a bottle of the Casillero del Diablo cab sauv with our rosemary steaks. Our final night in Quito before Galapagos, we enjoyed the ‘Cafe del Cielo’ (cafe in the sky) which overlooked the city and allowed us to enjoy our potato cakes, cream of avocado soup, chocolate mousse and Argentinian malbec with a incredible view. Our final night together in Quito (after Galapagos), we went to a beautiful restaurant in ‘La Ronde’ in the city centre for more wine, more steak, and more chocolate. My sister and I had one last night to OD on deliciousness. We found this sweet cafe with records on the wall and a great menu. I had mushroom and mixed pepper fondu with crostinis and several glasses of Argentinian malbec (apparently, I can’t get enough). The last photo show is a final toast to Quito and to Ecuador for its beautiful views, beautiful coffee and beautiful people.
I thought the Galapagos Islands 5-day trek deserved its own section of this post. I can’t believe how lucky we are to have experienced the land and marine life of this magical place on a tiny boat with some incredible people. To be honest, the whole reason I am writing a post about Ecuador is for the man below- Carlod. Carlod is the chef on a 10 passenger ship cruising through the Galapagos every single day. He has a kitchen that’s the size of a box, and the skills of a culinary master! This man amazed my to no end. Two times on the trip, we stopped to pick up food for the boat- which is store in every possible bench and cupboard (even upstairs on the deck outside). Every day, we would be woken up by a smiling face and a beautiful breakfast of fresh-squeezed juice, fresh fruit and some form of sustenance for the day ahead. We would snorkel twice a day and in that time, we would have an impressive snack when we got back, then lunch, then round 2 of snorkelling, then dinner and dessert. Lunch always consisted of a homemade soup (which was perfect considering it’s winter in South America and the water is freezing!), and a main dish of either fish, or chicken with a fresh salad. I have to say I think dinner is where Carlod really showed us that no one has an excuse not to cook amazing things. For dinner, we would have a type of meat or fish, with potatoes or rice, a fresh salad and warm bread. I’m not really doing this justice, because I can’t describe how impossibly delicious the flavours of the dishes were. He would then whip up a dessert-or in the time we were there- an entire chocolate cake for Matt’s birthday. This was by far the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten. I don’t know if this guy is Jesus, or maybe a magician, but he has officially become my chef idol.