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Enchanted Expeditions: The Gastronomic Secrets of Ecuador

The biological mega-diversity of Ecuador transcends its many ethnic groups and their traditional cooking styles.

In Ecuador we can find one of the largest variety of soups in the world. For their preparation, a great amount of products is normally used among which we count the quinoa, maize, barley, green plantain, different varieties of beans, manioc or potatoes considered as king of tubers. These items when cooked together with different kinds of meat or fish or simply using dairy products and a great variety of legumes, fruits or vegetables can be deliciously combined to produce nutritious, tasty soups.

The chroniclers from the time of the Spanish Conquest tell us about a dish prepared by the Indians of the “Puna Island” in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Province of El Oro where fish was “cooked” or marinated in a lemon juice. This special variety of lemon grows in the coastal region and the dish is known at present times as Ceviche. This typical dish has spread to other coastal provinces and can be prepared in many different ways using different types of seafood as its main ingredient.

The various geographical zones and climates allow the production of native fruits and vegetables in addition to the exotic plants introduced by the Conquistadores. Certain fruits are restricted to small areas such as Naranjilla, a juicy tart orange coloured fruit in the family of tomato that only grows in the surroundings of the Cloud Forests on the slopes of the Andes. The great diversity and contrasts of the Ecuadorian cuisine is the result of merging the local products of the traditional cooking styles under the influence of the outside world.

This tour takes you through various regions of Ecuador where you will sample the typical foods and dishes of those areas. The journey begins with historic city and market tours of Quito. In Imbabura province guests sample bizcochos con queso de hoja (biscuits and cheese rolls) in Cayambe, are introduced to the role of the guinea pig in dining history and visit a cheese factory.
Agricultural enterprises are explored between the Ecuadorian highlands and the coastal area to San Lorenzo. A visit to Pedernales embraces a traditional cebiche manabita before a stop at the fishing village of Puerto Lopez where breakfast will include bolones de verde (plantain dumplings). On another day after a typical Guayaquilanian lunch the tour moves into the southern highlands to Cuenca, Ecuador's most beautiful historical city, for tours of the famous Gualaceo food market.

There is the option of going on to Galapagos on board one of our vessels… there you have a chance to savor all the dishes from all the regions. The grand summary of it all (this will add 8 more days to the journey).

Durarion: 9 days / 8 nights, with option of Galapagos extension
Highlights: regional food and dishes, Ecuadorian countryside

Price: From $1,718 per person double occupancy for two people to $902 for tours with more guests

More info and booking

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Equatortrekking: Cacao & Culture Tour of Ecuador

An inspiration for this itinerary was the Latin America release in May 2011 on the Gourmet Channel of the documentary, “El Cacao.”  After traveling around Mexico touring the Aztec cacao, chocolatier Jose Ramón Castillo and the Gourmet Channel went to Ecuador to document the finest cacao in the world, the cacao fino de aroma. Equatortrekking and The Gourmet Channel produced the documentary that blends culture with cacao.

As seen in the documentary, this tour showcases cacao from its origin on cacao plantations, the culture, labor, exportation and preparations of different brands of chocolates. Most of the gourmet chocolate produced in Ecuador is exported to Europe. Every brand of chocolate has its own character: fair trades, contributions to sustainable living, development of organic chocolate projects and more.

As a good chef and chocolatier, Jose Ramón visited some of his Ecuadorian colleagues to cook with them and check the latest Ecuadorian fusions using cacao and its derivates leading to exuberant dishes. The tour includes several restaurants in different regions of Ecuador tasting all the flavors that are enhanced through the use of cacao with typical dishes.

ITINERARY 9 days/8 nights:

DAY 1: Guayaquil arrival

Arrival to Guayaquil City-Transfer In.

DAY 2: Vinces “Little Paris”

Vinces is located 100 kms away from Guayaquil. The named “Little Paris” is because the strong commercial relation with France at the beginning of the last century. Inside of Eloy Alfaro Boulevard, we can find an Eiffel Tower as symbol of the Bonanza of the “Pepa de Oro”, also known as Cacao. Vinces, once the capital of the Cacao World, shows its legacy and tradition in a Cacao “Arriba” chocolate bar from the community that gave chocolate its one true meaning. Vinces’ history is a contrast between success and legend. This old town, buried deep in the heart of the “Arriba” Cacao history, became the forefront of an industry that made Ecuador the main exporter of Cacao in the world in the beginning of the 20th century.

DAY 3: Chocolate factory

Once we leave Vinces, we return to the industrial Guayaquil were we will visit a chocolate factory to learn the different process necessary to have a chocolate bar. Here we are able to appreciate how a gourmet chocolate is cooked and what aspects determine the quality and grade characterize a good chocolate.

DAY 4: Hacienda Cañas

By narrow and rural trails of 100 meters maximum (328.08 feet), the tourist enters the guided tour of the cocoa and banana plantations with personalized information on the history, production and harvest processes of Ecuador’s two most important crops. Visitors also witness the propagation of cloned cocoa plants at the biggest cocoa nursery in Ecuador, the “Hacienda Cañas.” This huge hacienda has 320 hectaries (800 acres) of CCN-51 cloned cocoa plantations. Its leading technology management, bean quality, high yields, infrastructure, environment protection, and the preservation of cocoa farming tradition has earn it many domestic and foreign acknowledgments. Recent research (2 years) in “Hacienda Cañas” has produced a “new fermentation process” that gives beans an excellent flavor and aroma free of defects. This added to the high seed yield (1.4 grams each), the high fat content (54%), and a 0% impurity makes the CCN-51, also known as “Don Homero” a “must” for the fine chocolate or the semi-elaborated cocoa industry.

DAY 5: Rio Muchacho – Make chocolate – from the bean to the cup!

Rio Muchacho Organic farm in the Rio Muchacho community, is located 35km north of Bahía de Caráquez Ecocity, in the province of Manabí. It is the first farm on the Ecuadorian Coast to have been certified as an organic farm, producing food without the use of chemicals since 1989. Here in Rio Muchacho, we will be able to experience how to make chocolate from the beans to the cup. We will follow simple steps, taught generation by generation on to grandmothers on how to do chocolate by roasting, grinding and adding some spices in order to have a prefect combination between flavors and texture, cook by an old wood stove. The origin of this Cacao is the specie “cacao fino de Aroma”, but the characteristics of this land gives the cacao plant an specific aroma and flavors, differing according to were the cacao is grown.

DAY 6: Ecuadorian organic chocolate

This day, we have the opportunity to visit a role model of farming in small-scale cacao growers to preserve their traditional way of farming. Useful to understand how important is to safeguarding the biodiversity of cacao in Ecuador by protecting the priceless (irreplaceable) genetic stock of Ecuadorian cacao. This model allows sustainability for the benefit of the cacao-growing communities.

DAY 7: Quito. Capital of Ecuador

This day we are going to spend walking throughout Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Quito was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city and stands at an altitude of 2,850 m. Despite the 1917 earthquake, the city has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America. The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañía, with their rich interiors, are pure examples of the ‘Baroque school of Quito’, which is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art.

DAY 8:Cooking the cacao

We depart from Quito to Baños de Agua Santa. Baños lies in the heart of Ecuador, close to the rainforest and surrounded by majestic mountains. On the three-hour drive from Quito, you can admire the magnificent and famous Avenue of the Volcanoes, with Cotopaxi, a perfect cone of eternal snow; Chimborazo, the furthest peak away from the earth’s center and Tungurahua, probably the easiest volcano to climb in Ecuador. At La Casa del Abuelo Art Hotel, the chef Rodrigo is going to prepare a culinary workshop using cacao ingredients. With him you are going to be able to learn Ecuadorian fusion cuisine surrounded with amazing landscape that only in Baños you can find.

Day 9:

We finish our delicious journey, having enjoyed the different types of cacao, different ways to prepare it and also visit the amazing regions of Ecuador. We transfer you out to the Airport.DEPARTURES:June 20, July 15, 30 July, august 15, august 30, September 15PRICE PERSON: $2430

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