Wednesday, July 2, 2008

fulfilling international cravings

Considering that a lot of our (USA) best coffee is from South America, it's a shame that Ecuador, among other countries, doesn't take advantage of it. As a result I choose to have tea with breakfast as opposed to hot milk and instant coffee. To be fair, I suppose bad coffee isn't the only reason I opt for tea. I'm actually in the habit of my a large morning cup of green tea and I believe strongly in it's health benefits. I just figured I'd share my two cents :) most mornings begin like this:I add a lot of peanut butter to my toasted PBBJ sammy so that it will hold me the 5-6 hours until lunch. Usually it does. And usually the banana stays in the sandwich as well :P At about 1 pm Monday afternoon, the table was set with bowls of Crema de Espinacas (Cream of Spinach soup), toasted bread, and... popcorn. You have no idea how big of a thing it is here, like huge, Ecuadorians love it. Most restaurants serve you popcorn instead of bread before a meal and my host dad insisted I add it to my soup, cracked me up.
The main course was grilled chicken, a combination of eggs, hominy, and spices, and a cold mixed salad of beans, broccoli, and carrots. Well, that may have been what I was served but I can assure you that I hardly ate all of it. My "mom" made sure there was a lot of extra salad for me... so... I ate about 3 more servings of that and was able to satisfy myself meat-less!

Later that evening I was wandering with the 3 closest friends and found Cafe Austria. After my dismay with the lack of good coffee I was more than thrilled to be able to order a latte. Oh, how I've missed thee! It was amazing, so much so that I couldn't help myself before remembering to take a picture. It was visually more appealing before I started to make my dent in it, take my word for it :).

The next day I took a trip with my group to the Banco Central. It's the largest museum in Cuenca that houses an excellent ethnographic exhibit on the cultural and ethnic diversity of Ecuador. Furthermore, it was built on Pumpapungo ruins, so after our time inside we were given an tour of them. My favorite part, though, was the very end as we made out way through the gardens made up of native Ecuadorian plants. Nearing the end we came open a budding plant that our guide explained had been used by the indigenous people to for toothaches. She picked off a few of the "numbing" flora and enticed us to try it. I did. Hm, it was really weird. It had a minty taste to it and then made my mouth tingle. With enough of them I'm sure it would've had the same effect as novocaine. Interesting...

Afterwards my friends and I decided that we preferred to stay out and explore downtown a bit more. And so, as lunch time rolled around we found ourselves at Wunderbar Cafe, a funky German-owned place that serves international fare. I was all set to order La Ensalada de Aguacate but they ended up being all out of avocado. Now I was in quite the predicament ;) because I wasn't really too hungry and had wanted to eat something light and vegetarian. I finally ordered the Eggplant Primavera sandwich. It got the half-size of grilled eggplant and onions and an Italian tomato sauce with just the right amount of cheese with a glass of the house red wine. Mmm, mmm, good.
But after eying my friend's dessert, a yogurt parfait, I knew I wasn't done yet. She had ordered the Menu del Dia, a $2.50 4-course meal so it was brought out immediately as she finished her main course. I wanted one too and as soon as I could I ordered the same. Fresh fruit, plain yogurt and granola. Wowee, I missed this too!
And finally. To complete my nearly perfect lunch we walked over to our new favorite Cafe Austria where I enjoyed a real cup of Espresso. I couldn't have asked for more!

That is, until dinner time. I had 3-hour Spanish class, listened to an interesting but long speech, learned to salsa in dance class, and was hungry again. Another friend suggested pizza so we headed to La Fornace, an Italian-owned Cuencan pizza "chain." I devoured a Spinach personal pizza with a glass of the table's Sangria. Hm, that rhymes, I suppose all this happy eating is getting to me. Well, I'm off again to make the most of my second to last week here. There's going to be a few vegetarian restaurants in my future so stay tuned for those reviews! Hope everyone is having as lucky a week as I am!

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