Cities and Vines: Chile

Ah Santiago, a beautiful cosmopolitan confluence of tradition and modernity with some of the best museums in Latin America, wide open parks and greenspaces and a bohemian nightlife similair to a small scale Buenos Aires. We arrived in Santiago with relatively few expectations but were soon embraced by the beauty and energy of the city. On our first evening in town we were looking for that Santiago “experience” and boy did we find it. Following a locals suggestion we headed to the first ever bar in Santiago, La Piojera, the oldest and still the best dive bar in town. Literaly translated as ¨The fleahouse¨, this dingy and lively indoor/outdoor spot is famous for (among other things) its bizarre concoction known simply as the ¨Terramoto¨, or in English… the Earthquake. A combination of white and red wine, Frenet Branca, bitters, grenadine and topped with a ball of pineapple ice cream, the Terramoto is designed to make the ground shake bellow you as you stumble out of the bar. Continue reading

Wild and Wonderful: Bolivia

“Go to Bolivia! You HAVE to go to Bolivia” was a statement we heard so often on our way south through Central America. A place not even on our radar when we were planning out trip back in the US last year. Who goes to Bolivia, seriously?! We were going to Bolivia, that’s who. The voices of so many people heading north could not be ignored and really, that is a large part of why we’re doing this anyway. To get out there and see where the world takes us. To change our “plans” because plans are made to be changed. Continue reading

Land of Mystery and Gastronomy : Peru

When one thinks of Peru they often think of the awe-inspiring steep mountains of the Andes, Incan ruins such as Machu Picchu and the indigenous local women in colorful traditional garb and bowler hats leading Llamas through the streets. Well, all of that is still a HUGE part of Perus identity but it is so much more than that now as our journey there would soon show us. Our first taste of this “New Peru” would come as we entered the impressive, modern, capital city of Lima. While still hosting an impressive old center, the skyscrapers and conveniences of other current metropolises of the world were hard to miss. We decided to travel back in time by first visiting the historic center which was certainly a sight to see with its gorgeous plazas surrounded by hundred year old buildings embellished with incredible architectural details. Continue reading

Local Flavors: Plates and Bowls of Panama

It is not surprising to me that Panama is often referred to as the crossroads of the world. Panama is an incredible place full of modern conveniences and progressive thinkers. Like all places in Central America, the people appreciate their accomplishments but still have great respect for their time honored traditions, achievements and of course their national recipes.

Ask any Panamanian what their national dish is and you will get one of two responses: Sancocho de Gallina or Ropa Vieja. Both of these dishes are a pleasure to eat and interesting to learn about.

Sancocho de Gallina is a soul coating chicken soup made with an incredibly savory broth and a variety of veggies including name´ (yam), yucca, corn on the cob, onion, squash, garlic and potato. There is also a delicious blend of herbs including oregano and a local herb called culantro (not to be confused with cilantro) which gives the soup its unique flavor and color. It is, as most things, served with white rice on the side.

Panama has experienced many tumultuous intervals throughout its grand history. There have been political uprisings, conflicts with the many countries that tried to control the country and its people and of course the economic recovery that occurred after the Noriega invasion. The many ingredients in this soup are meant to represent the extremely important racial diversity and unity Panama has achieved.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASancocho de Gallina

Ropa Vieja is an incredibly delicious dish of stewed shredded beef brisket in a savory, comfort inducing sauce. The slow braising of the meat and the combination of tomatoes, onion, cumin, oregano and wine make this a dish I would happily eat on a weekly basis.

Ropa Viejas roots reside in the Canary Islands. These islands were the primary midway stopping point for the many Spanish and Latin American ships that went to and fro across the sea. This is inevitably how Panama, along with many other Caribbean islands, ended up adopting the basic recipe (along with Canary Island immigrants) and making it part of their food culture.

The name Ropa Vieja literally means “old clothes”. The most popular story about how the dish received its name is about a family that was hosting their extended family for supper. Though the family was very poor and rarely had enough food for themselves, they invited the extended family over to be their guests. Realizing that there would not be enough food for everyone, the father went to his closet and began ripping up his old clothes to add to the bubbling beef stew. Because the father took this action with a heart full of love, the clothes miraculously transformed into beef and the entire family was able to eat to their hearts content.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARopa Vieja

Carnaval and Beyond: Ecuador

As we arrived at the airport in Quito, Ecuador, a sign above us read “Bienvenidos a Quito, Ecuador: Latitude 00° 00′ 00” “. We were on the equator. So cool. Cooler than cool actually, it was freezing. Apparently at 10,000 feet it doesn’t matter what your latitude, its all about altitude. For the first time on our trip, out came the warm weather gear. Quito, as any good South American city does, has an “Old town” which was our first visit. We spent our first day wandering it’s streets, but honestly, after the spectacular old towns of Panama City and Cartagena, Quito’s was a big disappointment for us. In fact the city as a whole left a lot to be desired. There was very little colonial beauty, every old church tried to charge us significant sums of money just to look inside, the people were not very friendly, etc. As a disclaimer I must say that this was just our personal opinion but we knew in four hours it wasn’t the place for us.  We left after one night instead of the three we had planned having heard about some hot springs up in the mountains in the town of Papallacta that sounded amazing.   Continue reading