Today’s post is going to be pictures of a few of our favorite places to eat in Cuenca and the dishes we love. Well, not all, but just a few. When I lived in Ecuador back in the mid 70’s as a Peace Corps Volunteer, “Cuisine” was not exactly a word that readily came to mind when discussing Ecuador…but that has all changed….for the better!
Sure, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables have always been available in Ecuador, but back in the 70’s the variety was much more limited….and bacon was non-existent. Or good butter, cream or cheese. This picture was taken at the central mercado, where they were making their own cheese that they use in the pancakes. It’s so much different today, and good cuisine and great chefs are everywhere. In fact, cheesemaking has become an art in Ecuador, and you can buy fresh cheese, slightly aged cheese, or sharper aged cheese. Truly aged or imported cheese can also be found in the big box stores.
Yummy Mousse de Maracuya with chocolate & bananas. Maracuya, or passion fruit, grows wild everywhere in Ecuador. Mousse de Maracuya is on the dessert menu at many restaurants in Cuenca – sometimes very tart, sometimes very sweet…. This concoction was very creamy and delicious, and full of fruit and fiber. We ate it, along with 3 other wonderful desserts and coffee, at a lovely, modern restaurant in old town, next to a hotel. Can’t remember the name, but here’s a foto of a wall hanging made of clay, very detailed, depicting Cuenca old town, on the wall inside.
It is possible to find just about every type of food and vegetable and fruit and meat and spice that you may want to eat or cook in Ecuador. You might have to search a bit for it, but you will find it. I’m amazed at the wonderful variety that abounds. I also love the fact that most everything is cooked fresh. Packaged food is available, but why would you want it?
This is a foto of our favorite Gringo meal @ Bananas restaurant in old town, and the ladies who make the wonderful freshly grated potato hash browns to order. I’ve tried to make them at home, they don’t taste the same. Not as good. And I think I’m a good cook!Panaderias, or bread stores, are everywhere. When you walk around old town, if you pass by one of these, you can’t resist the rich, yeasty aroma of the bread and pastries baking…especially in the morning. A whole bag of fresh bread, pan dulce (sugar buns) pan chocolate (bread stuffed with chocolate) and even cheese or meat stuffed buns (or plain ones, great with butter and jam) runs about a couple of dollars.
If you love roasted pork, potatoes and beer, Ecuador is the place for you. Potatoes originated in the Andes, and every color, size and type of potato can be found here. Top floor at the main mercado in old town, a plate of delicious roasted pork and potatoes with mote, a starchy hominy, is about $1.85. Pilsener, a huge bottle of cold beer is pretty cheap, too. Select a pork seller, with a big roasted pig, point to the part of meat you want, say yes to potatoes and mote, and she’ll heat it up in a pan for you. Great lunch. Try the crunchy skin for a salty treat.
At a favorite restaurant in Quito, next door to the Holiday Inn Express, wonderful bread appetizers with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and spices along with a glass of wine could have made a meal for us. But we went ahead and ordered Italian pasta dishes, anyway.
On a side note, Holiday Inn Express will pick you up at the airport when you arrive late at night if you make arrangements ahead of time, and they have a lovely breakfast that’s part of the room rate. And you can go next door for lunch, or around the corner are a number of other great places to eat.