Saturday, July 26, 2008

the tasty southern cone

And I'm off again as I try to catch up on the two weeks I missed! As authentic as my last few meals were with my Ecuadorian family my final official meal at the Hotel Quito ended up being quite the mix of cultural foods- Chilean wine, a French mushroom quiche, and a Swiss chocolate torte. I guess globalization does have it's benefits ;)

Please note that this beautiful (and incredibly delicious) creation was shared at my table of 4!

My flight left early afternoon so we had a quick brunch (similar to the one from the beginning of the trip) and checked out. The airport was as I expected it to be, horrendous, I don't like airports to begin with plus one bag was overweight so I ended up leaving shoes in my friends carry-ons and I got chosen for a random security check so I had to watch as a man completely tore apart my other piece of luggage. Needless to say I was stressed out and, as a result, got a splitting headache :(. I sat unhappy and uncomfortable for a what seemed like forever before it went away. Luckily I still had time to grab lunch at a super nice cafe near our gate. My Sandwich Vegetariano was the perfect antidote for my hunger and wiped out self. Not only was there a wonderful medley of vegetables but they were also grilled to perfection!
After the airport experience and a 4-hour flight I was absolutely exhausted... that is, until we landed in Santiago. Have you ever been over-tired and excited? My friends and I were so completely hyper, haha.
And why not? We made it to our ultimate destination in one piece. Mind you, when I say destination I really one of my favorite cities in the world! I'll take some pictures ASAP but if for nothing else, Santiago stole my heart with it's cuisine. Yummy! Our flight got in late the night before and we had a less than spectacular breakfast the next morning but lunch. Oh. I'm speechless. We began with Cream of Spinach soup.
Followed by the vegetarian option of Vegetable Quiche and Mixed Greens. Everything was light and tasty and so very fresh. I wouldn't exactly call the quiche a quiche (it was closer to a frittata) but I loved it nonetheless. And mesclun lettuce? My, how I've missed thee!
Quite unfortunately my heavenly lunch had to end eventually. It's a good thing I had this warm pear dessert to ease my sorrows ;).

Our next meal, dinner, was "libre" so my friends and I walked to a farmers market 2 blocks from the hotel and went all out! We bought bananas and copious amounts of vibrancy in the form of veggies, of course! Zucchini, Bell peppers, Broccoli, Cucumbers galore and with a little bit of garlic and olive oil our dinner was served. Oh and I forgot to mention that we had a kitchen in our hotel room :) that would account for the home-cooked meal and necessity of a good glass of wine alongside it. Talk about eating for pleasure!
Yay and the next day's lunch was a hit too! Reminiscing about good food is so nice :). We had another group lunch at this FABULOUS vegetarian restaurant, El Huerto. If you have a chance to check out the website, it's quite the paradise! I had a vegetarian burrito and a glass of fresh lemonade which made for a divine and filling meal. It was exactly what I was craving and even better than expected... I am heading back over there as soon as I can though, there are so many options!
That night was spent with my new family. Dinner was exquisite and nutritiously balanced but the photo seems to have disappeared. Sorry about that! We had Baked Carrots, Brown rice with peas, Celery and Tomatoes with EVOO and Cilantro. Yes ma'am. I knew right then that this was my kind of family :) at least diet-wise. Not to mention that afterwards I helped my Chilean dad make bread. Although I was quite satisfied I couldn't help but try a piece of our creations. A+
Then we left, practically as quickly as we came! I had mixed feelings about the field seminar because I didn't want to leave my new family or new city that would be my home but I was excited to travel. However, those thoughts were soon forgotten as our flight to Buenos Aires commenced and we flew over the Andes. It's hard to believe that I saw their majestic peaks above the clouds with my very own eyes.
After a painless flight (I slept through most of it) we landed in the "Paris" of South America. Right away we had a quick city tour to familiarize with the city. There were millions of things to see and just by looking at the diversity of buildings architecturally it was so clear how many influences had built the city to what it is today.
Which in my book is another winner in the food department! Our dinner was a late one, around 9, so we ended up eating at a bar downtown. Do you realize that they call this bar food?! Salad, Bean sprouts, Soy burger, Sweet potatoes & cheese, Broccoli & Carrot slaw, Brown rice, and finally, soy sauce for dipping. I was beyond pleased!
The next day we spent time in La Boca, an eclectic neighborhood at the main port of Buenos Aires. The artistic scene is huge here so everything that could be decorated most definitely was. It was a really fun day and I bought a lot of cute things to bring home for my family (the one in the US, I love that I have to specify, haha).
For lunch we went to one of the best Italian restaurants ever! I know Italian food pretty well, not only is it one of my favorites but I grew up in a town with many other Italian immigrants and their descendants and this is definitely up there. In the early 1900's Argentina received a large immigration of Italians to it's cities too. Lucky us! I had Vegetable & Ricotta raviolis in  Rosa sauce. There was a lot more culinary adventures in Argentina but unfortunately my camera died before I could document them and I did not have a converter to charge it. In addition to exploring the city we also had the academic portion of the trip consisting of classes and lectures. They were incredibly interesting and we met a multitude of powerful, influential people. I am learning so much about the culture and it's history.
This program continued in our next destination, Montevideo, Uruguay where I encountered my favorite memory to date. With our Uruguayan guide we drove out into a shanty town of the city. I cannot even explain to you how humbling of experience it was. The level of poverty and the unfortunate results it can have on people, families, and especially children is entirely devastating. We were blessed to be able to visit a recreational center for the local kids. It is here that children from impoverished families, orphans, and those living on the streets come together to play, learn, and study, created to keep them off of the streets. It was amazing the kind of difference something so seemingly common at home can make in the lives of these individuals. I will never forget them, we had so much fun together.
Unfortunately we had little time to enjoy the food aqui (here). The one meal I did have that's worth mentioning was delicious, Grilled Salmon and Salad, another camera pic. Simple enough but a touch of Aged Balsamic Vinegar and sublime Extra Virgin Olive Oil made it out of this world! This was my last meal there too so I know I'll always fondly look back on this little city. And here we are, at the end of these marathon posts! Or nearly :) I still have to update you on my Chilean meals the past few days. How do I put this? Hm, let's just say I don't think it's possible to have fueled and honored my body better. Hasta manana!

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