Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Quito Food Tour, Summer 2012 - Fourth and final food tour post

The last part of my Quito food tour was a visit to the home of a woman who has her own family business preparing tamales and empanades for local workers. These are made in significant quantity, and I gather she makes good income from this. I had a chance to make a few, too, and Santiago and I had a sit-down tasting of these goodies.

The photos are a selection of the food preparation, the woman's family and the views from her very humble apartment - but views that a NYC equivalent would add a few $100,000 to the price. What do you think?

Again, I never did get her name. This was all too fast and I wasn't being much of a journalist on this tour. I could certainly get it if I needed it...

Here goes:





New Bronx City

I wrote this blog posting 4 1/2 years ago and it has been in draft since then. I'm going to post it today (December 24, 2013)and will be curious to see where it turns out in the order of blogs. This post described my first version of the New Bronx City tour. That tour has changed significantly, with a completely new meeting place, several new areas that we visit that we didn't then (including a block of Jerome Avenue filled with interesting shops and a stretch of White Plains Road in Van Nest that has an emerging Arabic-speaking community representing several countires) and the feel is completely different. I've led the tour three or four more times since then... So here goes: I'd like to reflect on my Saturday tour and add a recommendation. My New Bronx City tour, which took place on Saturday, has been a "work-in-progress." With the weather so lousy, there were just a handful of us. So I did something new: I told the folks that instead of paying me they'd have to lay out for all their food though but we'd do some extra exploring not in the original plan.

It turned out to be a long and fulfilling day - the tour lasted almost 5 hours! Our starting point at the Bronx Central Post Office to see a set of Ben Shahn murals painted during the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s turned out to be a bit of a letdown. I'd seen them myself prior to the tour, but I think we all agreed that although these are magnificent works of art, the setting is so drab that they almost vanish into the background. If the post office would install spotlights to showcase these murals, they would draw much attention.

The Shahn murals depict various aspects of American labor, and are especially pertinent today when the labor movement is undergoing a sea change - but there's almost a couldn't-care-less sense about them. This is a great contrast to the wonderful setting for the murals in the Flushing, Queens, post office that is part of my Flushing tour; I'll be scheduling it for the fall.

[In the years since, the Post Office has indicated possible plans to sell the building. Since its exterior is landmarked, and I think the Shahn murals are, too, it's hard to know who could possibly take it over except nearby Hostos Community College.0

We wandered to the so-called Bronx Walk of Fame, which consists of signs at corners from 149th Street north on the Concourse to at least 161st Street. (I didn't continue to follow it in the rain!)

Here are some recent photos from Joyce Kilmer Park at 161st Street and the Concourse - north side.

We then spent an unexpectedly long time at the Emigrant Savings Bank on the Grand Concourse north of Fordham Road looking at some beautiful murals depicting the early Bronx. What made this visit special was that the branch manager took time to give us some background on those murals and on the building itself, which is landmarked. This type of personal contact often makes the difference during a tour. However, at that point we hadn't eaten yet - our first tastes didn't come until afterward, when we visited a cluster of nearby markets - Cambodian, Guyanese and Bangladeshi - for beverage and snacks. However, it wasn't until we took the bus to the Pelham Parkway area and had lunch at Rawal Restaurant (641 Lydig Avenue) that we hit our culinary stride. This is where I took last year's New Bronx City tour for the first time and a large custom group in April. Sometimes I have to go back to a place to truly appreciate it, and yesterday's lunch was spectacular - flavorful, rich, varied, inexpensive, with nan and roti breads brought to us directly from the oven. We followed soon after with bureks at Burektorja Dukagjini 758 Lydig Avenue
The tour concluded at Enrico Caffe on Morris Park Avenue, a 15 minute walk from Lydig.

Quito Food Tour Part III: The candy nut maker - "colocaciones"

Santiago took me next to see the historic maker of "colocaciones," a type of sugar coated roasted peanut. This man's family has been doing this for years and he's apparently quite well known. He's just down the street from the Church of San Francisco, a huge structure with a large open court where I attended a couple of concerts, including one with fireworks.

The "colocaciones" are made on a  narrow street with other interesting shops. Here are a few photos I took:

Quito food tour, Summer 2012, Part II: A stroll through Quito's Old City

My guide next drove me to the Old City, where he took me to a number of food places I would not have even spotted.

One was place selling all kinds of nuts and similar snacks. Santiago showed me one - carmalized corn kernels - that he had me popping into my mouth. He was popping some in, too. An addictive treat - and be aware that in Ecuador corn comes in many sizes, including large ones we don't normally see (unless you go to Ecuadorean or other Latin shops in Jackson Heights or other neighborhoods serving this community. Here are a few snacks we saw - you'll recognize the huaraches, like tamales, on the bottom.

It turns out their nickname is "mierda de perro," or sometimes "caca de perro." Yup, dog shit. I even checked on line to make sure Santiago wasn't "playing" me, and he wasn't.  We went to one of Quito's oldest coffee markets, owned by one family. How I would have liked to buy some beans but it didn't make sense they wouldn't stay fresh...

I need to mention one little discovery of my own near these two places: An Indian man selling samosas on teh street. He described them as "Indian empanadas," which is certainly true: samosas are just another version of the stuffed dough savories we see in just about every culture. (Can you think of one that doesn't have some sort of stuffed dough goody?)
Here's a photo of him...  I'll be posting about street food in Quito on another post, so you'll see that shortly!

A food tour in Quito, Ecuador, summer of 2012. Part I: A family owned bakery

As I've mentioned before, I try to arrange a food tour and cooking class whenever I travel. This was tough for Quito - the food culture isn't quite as deep as in other countries. There is no Noshwalks equivalent in Quito! But some enterprising outfits, including Viatour and Urban Adventures, will create a custom tour for a client, and that's what Urban Adventures (which is based in Australia) did for me, using Viatour as the intermediary. It's not as complicated as it sounds, but the only glitch was that I didn't get a voucher and meeting place until the absolutely last minute - and it came through on the free Internet in my hotel in Quito. VERY frustrating. My guide was a man named Santiago, and I could still kick myself for failing to take even one photo of him, because he took me to lots of great places. In this post, I will show photos of the family bakery he took me to. We arrived early in the morning, when much baking was still going on. The bakery is in the shadow of Quito's Modern Art Museum and close to its amazing basilica. This was my 2nd full day in Quito and I didn't realize at that point that it wasn't too far from where I was staying in Quito's Old City. Here are some pictures. One of the products is a sweet quesadilla - completely different from quesadillas of Mexico, which are savories made with tortillas and from Salvadoran quesadillas, which are a like cornbread made with sweetened ricotta.