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Quito

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We are heading to Quito this summer. We hope to stay in the old town 2 nights and Otovalo 2 nights. Any great dining tips and any good hotel recommendations? We love local but nice boutique style accommodations for Quito and maybe a hacienda for Otovalo. I do not eat pork and the innards and organ kind of foods common to Quito will certainly not appeal to our group but we are very open to beef, fish and chicken. Your suggestions are very welcome.

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  1. oops - I was going to recommend the latest episode of Bizarre Foods on Travel Channel, but Andrew mostly ate innards :-)

    Fish, usually corvina fillets, is readily available; shrimp is also popular (you probably have eaten Ecuadorian shrimp already).

    Chicken is most likely to a rotisserie version (see Peru threads), unless you opt for a more traditional soup.

    Chateaubriand (tenderloin medallions) is the beef dish that comes to mind. It isn't traditional, but there is enough of a classic European influence in the better dinner establishments.

    paulj

    1. A quick reminder, Folks, Chowhound is about finding great food and drink, posts that only discuss lodging will be removed.

      Thanks for helping us maintain the value of Chowhound as a narrowly focussed food site.

      1. I did discuss food...I thought...sorry for the lodging post..sometimes good lodging had great dining rooms? N'est pas??

        1. Paulj, I saw that episode this week on Travel Channel and that is just the food I want to avoid. Oh the poor Guinea Pigs..I could NEVER eat one..wahhhhhhhhhh

          4 Replies
          1. re: phelana

            Of course Andrew sought out the unusual and traditional. Though I was struck by the contemporary look (complete with steam tables) of that one Quito establishment that specialized in traditional soups.

            Here's a list of restaurants in Quito. I couldn't tell you the pros or cons of any of them, but it gives you an idea of the range of options.
            http://www.thebestofecuador.com/qrest...

            Have you looked at the Lonely Planet guidebook?

            1. re: phelana

              Andrew has a journal entry online at Travel Channel for his Ecuador visit. There isn't a list of foods that he at, yet.

              By the way, the 'mote' that he mentions, is hominy. It is used in soups in Mexico (pozole) but gets wider use in Ecuador. It is not unusual for a traditional style meal in Ecuador to have 3 types of starches, such as rice, potato, mote, platano, yuca.

              There are some relatively unique items that you should try if you see them on the menu - mellocos (or oco), a tuber in the potato family, but not as starchy
              chochos - lupine beans
              tostadas - 'corn nuts'
              chifles - plantain chips
              cebola encurtida - lightly pickled red onions
              dulce de higos - green figs cooked in a brown sugar syrup served with white cheese
              llapingachos - fried potato cakes, usually served with a peanut sauce
              (many soups are finished with a bit a milk and ground peanuts - that's the nutty finish that Andrew noted)
              naranjillas - a tropical fruit normally used for juice
              maracuya - similar to passion fruit - again, used for juice

              paul

              1. re: phelana

                I just had my first taste of cuy (guinea pig) on Saturday. Let's just say my anticipation that it would taste like rabbit couldn't have been more wrong. There isn't a ton of meat, it's expensive in the city, it has a bit of an odor (like when cooking pork), and I had indigestion for two days afterward. My cuy was served whole and fried, so I'm not sure how other preparations are different. Not too eager to find out, though. Only really worth trying if you pride yourself on being adventurous.

                1. re: phelana

                  It really kills me when I see programs which delve into the ridiculous proclaiming that eating guinea pigs is something Ecuadorians do. WRONG!!!! Guinea pig is an acquired taste for a small group of people in Ecuador (who mostly hail from the hintherland region of the country) Roasting guinea pig has a distinct smell which if you ever smelled you will never forget. I would only recommend roasted cuy to the most outlandish, and adventorous eaters (which I consider myself to be except when it comes to cuy--I guess we all have our limits) and then with a huge caveat...it's an acquired taste. But hey...to each his own. Beyond the non-appetizing look, and the smell, there is always the issue of health. Back when I was living in the country, from now and then a story will always come up of some fool who found a piece a tail along with their roasted cuy. The culprit was usually some cuy provider who had unwittingly not provided the necessary security for the cuys and some stray rat had infiltrated the coop--you can divine the rest. For me just looking at these creatures in their fully roasted glory is enough to put me off meat for a while. But if you must eat it do so...but don't say you weren't warned!

                2. When in Quito, do you eat any street food? What fruit is especially delicious? I had posted a request related to food safety in Quito here a week ago or so, and it was totally disappeared by the moderators, along with some helpful answers, because apparently we are not allowed to discuss safety. So just tell me if any street foods are delicious and if you ate them, and I will draw my own conclusions.

                  As I suspected, I was at the doctor's office for vaccinations today and was told NEVER eat any street food, never eat anything that is raw, never eat anything that is not hot and thoroughly cooked, basically, stay totally on the tourist track, don't eat anything! The materials they gave me also informed me how dangerous the world is once you cross the borders of the US and how medicine is never as good anywhere else as it is in the US, and I know good and well that this is ridiculous. I also know there are in fact germs out there... but don't tell me about them!!! Just tell me what you actually eat that is good.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Anne H

                    With increased international trade in fruits and such, one could argue that the same precautions that apply in the USA apply elsewhere, and v.v. I'd recommend looking at an up to date edition of a guide book like Lonely Planet. With an orientation towards adventure travelers, they probably steer a balanced path between caution and risk.

                    One rule of thumb for fruits is if you can peel it yourself, fine. Bananas would be the obvious example. Plus, you don't eat the skin of most tropical fruits.

                    From street side establishments, it would wisest to stick with the hot cooked items, soups, and fried items untouched by bare hands. A street vendor of juices or jello with informally washed glasses would be risky, in any culture. I wouldn't have tried that alovera 'health' drink that Andrew sampled from the open market stand.

                    Quito is noted for vegetable salads - crisp cooked vegetables like potatoes, green beans, dressed with onions and a vinaigrette. I would have no problems with those. For green salads and such it is probably better to stick with nicer, more formal establishments.

                    Last time I was in Ecuador, which admittedly was a number years ago now, we only drank bottled items at restaurants, pop, 'Guitig water' (a local mineral water), beer, hot drinks. Guitig mixed half and half with pop is pretty good.

                    Looks like this Otavalo hotel has good tips:
                    http://www.alishungu.com/Ecuador%20Tr...
                    http://www.alishungu.com/Ecuador%20Tr... (food tips

                    )

                    paulj

                    1. re: Anne H

                      I pass a few really, really tempting street stalls each day and I'm still wary, since I've been told the same thing. The family I'm staying with don't generally buy street food themselves, basically because you still can't be very sure.

                      1. re: Angry_Sam

                        Well, if the family you are staying with says they don't eat it, that sounds fairly persuasive. Sad, but persuasive.

                      2. re: Anne H

                        I had both naranjilla juice and maracuya juice in Ecuador, mentioned in Paul's post above, and loved both! Delicious, healthful....and the soups are always good. You don't need to stay on the tourist track to enjoy soup!

                        By the way, I have often been led astray by recommendations in Lonely Planet. I just get the sense that while the writers might be adventurous, they aren't Chowhounds. There is a difference. Can't remember if I used them at all in Ecuador, but in Aqaba Jordan I ate at what Lonely Planet described as the best restaurant in town. Um..No. I've actually had much better luck with restaurant recommendations in Fodors.(outside of the US).

                        And please do report back! I wasn't into CH when I went to Ecuador, and wish I remembered more names of some of the good places I ate...

                        1. re: Anne H

                          I lived there for a summer, and basically ate most things. Quito is essentially a modern city, you have little to worry about, just wash your fruit if it doesn't peel. You want find many raw meats around so you are okay there, everything is delicious. My only word of caution is to not eat anywhere you don't see other people eating. Quitenos know what to eat and not to eat....

                          I bought and ate a ton of street food when I was there, all of it was delicious. The mango vendors are especially great....also anytime a lady gets on your bus with some empanadas, you pretty much want one of those!

                          1. re: dagoose

                            Did you try 'allullas', the biscuits sold in paper bags by ladies at the main highway junction near Cotopaxi? When I think of street vendors, their 'allullas, allullas' competes with 'La loteria' calls in my memory.
                            paulj

                          2. re: Anne H

                            I have travelled extensively and I have always indulged on anything that looked appetizing to me, including street food. I think for people who are visiting Ecuador for the first time they imagine a view right out of some African famine torn country with flies and all and are therefore terrified of eating anything not cooked to death in some high-end eatery.

                            I think like with everything in life you need to exercise some judgement; however, Quito is a cosmopolitan city with restaurants that cover the whole economic spectrum. I leave the issue of whether it's safe to eat street food to your consideration/ and observation of the food seller but I will tell you something that travel books don't mention much which is that the last place where you should be eating is in the major hotels which offer buffet lunches.

                            Like in other Latin countries in Ecuador some of the best restaurants are inside hotels. Some of those restaurants offer a buffet lunch which looks like a bargain for someone coming from abroad. Yet you are more likely to get sick eating at any of these places--trust me I speak from experience. The reason is that these places charge what's a very expensive price for locals therefore the food sits around for a while. And I don't mean a day, I mean days.

                            The food will look impecable, the place itself will be elegant and mayb even grand but you are basically playing Russian roulette with your stomach. You will be safer in a smaller local jaunt where the almuerzo del dia will be finished, and all food gone by 2 pm that at one of those buffet lunches.

                          3. How's the coffee in Ecuador? And do they drink it with milk? Hot milk, steamed milk? Is cold milk okay? Do they drink espresso? Anything special to look for? I'm a very big coffee drinker...

                            18 Replies
                            1. re: Anne H

                              Commercially bottled milk is fine now. Last time I was there it was usually sold in plastic bags. The brand with the best reputation is (or at least was) Avelina.

                              I believe they grow some coffee there, but the country doesn't have much of a reputation for it. 'cafe con leche' is the normal breakfast drink - add some rolls, butter and jelly, and that is the normal breakfast. But what you normally get is a pitcher or cup of hot milk, and instant coffee to flavor it, or in better places a cruet of 'tinto' - a dark coffee essence. I'm not sure how the tinto is made; in some places it could be espresso.

                              There must be some espresso there. I have vague memories of a 'Cafe Vienna' in a downtown arcade, with the shiny brass Italian boiler.

                              It is possible that in recent years the American latte culture has made a foothold there. And the big hotels may have something to satisfy the international jet set culture.

                              I don't think Ecuador has had much of an Italian immigration (in contrast to Argentina, for example). They did get a number of German refugees, both before and after the war, so you can find European deli items. Curiously, European style pastries are also common. Palmiers are called 'orejas' (ears), and can be found in the smallest towns. Napoleans are 'milhoja' (thousand leaves).

                              paulj

                              1. re: Anne H

                                Get ready for pain. I've been here for a little over two months, and I've had a terrible time with the local coffee. Much of the coffee is Nescafe and most of the "espresso" is actually normal coffee run through an espresso machine.

                                Not sure where you'll be, but your best bet anywhere around Quito is to head to the touristy part of town, the Mariscal (AKA "Gringolandia"). The cafes on Amazonas south of Foch are decent. The Magic Bean (Foch and Reina Victoria) has good black coffee and espresso, though it's pricier by local standards. There's also an organic/fair trade place in that neighborhood I haven't tried yet -- the one time I made an attempt I walked in on a Global Exchange tourist meeting and was made to feel like a Martian.

                                If you make a trip out to Mindo, which is a popular weekend tourism trip for Quitenos, you can find excellent coffee grown locally.

                                1. re: Angry_Sam

                                  If the Magic Bean is the place across the street and just up from the well-known bookstore with lots of English language titles (whose name also escapes me) yes, they do have good (and quite pricy) espresso.

                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                    Would that be Libri Mundi?

                                    My favorite Ecuadorian cookbook is from that store, Comidas del Ecuador, by Michelle Fried. A store like that is a good place to get information on food, and sights.

                                    If you want beef, check out a place that offers parillades, a table side grill of mixed meats. Years ago there were several semi-open places with thatched roofs. The grills were clay flower pots with charcoal. That's were I first encountered the Argentine style chimichuri sauce.

                                    paulj

                                  2. re: Angry_Sam

                                    I am just glad to be warned, as I would have associated Ecuador with good coffee, based on nothing but being in South America... As long as I get a daily dose of caffeine, I can make it through a week.

                                    1. re: Anne H

                                      This is just a guess, but relative unsophistication of the Ecuadorian coffee culture may be due (in part) to the fact that neither of the population centers in ideal for coffee. Quito at 9000ft is too cold, and Guayaquil on the coast is too hot. Rivers drop rapidly from the mountains to the low lands, so there are few intermediate levels where coffee grows well.

                                      Ecuador's big agricultural export has been bananas, with shrimp and flowers becoming important in recent years. Good cacoa is also grown there, though quantities have fluctuated. There seems to be a growing number of artisanal cocoa growers and processors.

                                      paulj

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        Thank you for the information! what a wonderful thing it is to have so many experts to provide advice! I did ask my son what I could bring him, and offered chocolate, and he said, no, chocolate was plentiful there, by the way, in line with what you are saying.

                                        1. re: Anne H

                                          In case you haven't seen this, there was a good Ecuador 'treats' thread a few months ago
                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/358871

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            Thanks, no I missed that. Perhaps because I was selfishly thinking more of myself who will be going there than of husband and son who are not going...

                                            One of the people in the thread recommends street hot dog stands in gringolandia -- would this be an exception, that it is safe to eat this street food? I ask this more for my son than myself, my son who is in Ecuador for four months is a hot dog addict. Myself, I'm not sure that hot dogs are what I would go to Ecuador to eat. ; - )

                                            1. re: Anne H

                                              I recall your thread having to do with food safety in Quito got terminated. If I can't say that street food is safe, I can say that I've eaten street food all over the globe, including in neighboring Ecuador. Really good foods to be had. Go where others go. Check out the nice ladies in their starched white aprons and compare to the dirty aproned cigarette smoking singlet wearing image we have of the cook at Dagwood Bumstead's diner. Soups are good. meat on a stick is good. Coffee is not so good. Ecuador does produce some good coffee for export; but a good cup is hard to find in Quito. Same as in Colombia.

                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                Thanks Sam, this is helpful. I can't quite imagine not eating street food. Ladies in starched aprons it is.

                                              2. re: Anne H

                                                They have had hot-dogs in Ecuador for years, though at one time you would have had to 'settle' for crisp rolls and natural casing dogs. Some Peruvian threads talk about salchi-papas, Salchichas (weiners) with fries. Apparently this combo has become a popular street food in Ecuador as well. In Venezuela a popular toping to a hotdog is crushed potato chips. I wonder if that has spread elsewhere.

                                                paulj

                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  Same in Colombia: street dogs and burgers have crushed potato chips, lots of gloppy salsa rosada (ketchup and mayo), and other stuff.

                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    This is hilarious. My son the hot dog addict grew up in Chicago, where catsup on a hot dog is a major gaffe. And mayo is beyond even discussing. I'm very curious to see whether he has decided that it's all right to eat these things since it is what people in Ecuador do (as opposed to Peoria or Bismarck) or whether a hot dog is a hot dog, and catsup is verboten. Perhaps he is going for the cross-cultural, and trying to interest them in good mustard.

                                                    1. re: Anne H

                                                      Hilarious! Mustard in Quito?? Ketchup and mayo verboten? Senf wird nicht hier benutzt. Sie müssen rosafarbene Soße benutzen! Go have a local hotdog with him.

                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                        I'd want mine with the pickled onions that are served with ceviche.

                                                        The other distinctive Ecuadorian sauce is Salsa de Mani, a savory peanut sauce, but that is mainly served with potato cakes.

                                                        By the way, Sam, do you know if the red onion popular in Ecuador, piten'ia, is distinct from the common red one in the USA?

                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          I don't know.

                                                          But pickled red onions in a dog! Good idea. I'm goingto make some and try it.

                                          2. re: paulj

                                            That's not entirely accurate. Back in the 60s and 70s Ecuador was a major coffee exporting nation. Then came the diversification of crops with the results you mention, but shrimp and flowers et all came much later.

                                            Coffee is more popular in the hintherlands which Quito is part of, locals do still to this day enjoy coffee in the middle of the day (think English afternoon tea but with coffee instead) Quito is not really that cold though, to experience real cold weather you need to visit Cuenca. Quito is called the city of the eternal spring--so Quito can sometimes get colder but all in all it's not bad.

                                            My memories of coffee are very strong since my family was in coffe exporting business and my grandfather was a coffe nut. Parts of my childhood were spent visiting all kind of esoteric coffe places in Guayaquil--including places where my grandftather got his coffee especially roasted to his specifications. I think it's still customary for most Ecuadorians to begin the day with a cup of coffee. You're right though in that with the hastening of the economic pace (some may say Americanization of the country) and with families where mom and dad both work has come a break with traditions and now instant coffee rules.

                                            But that's not the tradition of the country, quite the contrary. I remember living in New York city for years hankering for a truly great cup of coffee and one day finally finding it in an Ethiopian restaurant where the coffee truly was exceptional and reminded of the coffee back home. Unfortunately soon after the restaurant did away with the coffee ceremony and that was that, but for a brief moment in that little Ethiopian restaurant I was transported back home.

                                    2. La Choza is a good, if more expensive, restaurant to sample what Ecuador does best: soups and ceviches (a sort of fresh seafood salad). It's near the SwissHotel in Quito, and most cabbies in Quito know where it is.

                                      As far as boutique hotels, check in the neighborhood known as the Mariscal. Bunches of hotels, B&Bs, and hostels.

                                      1. Although it has been 3 years since I have eaten there, you might want to check out El Rincon de Cantuna, in old Quito. The restaurant is in the Hotel Patio Andaluz. It is a delightful, boutique hotel of about 30 suites. A beautiful, recent restoration of a really old, colonial building. I never did make it back there to try their tapas bar, Marques de Jerez.

                                        We went there so late that we virtually had the place to ourselves. Service was special and, even though we kept them open past midnight, they never tried to rush us. A couple of lovely, young, smiling, English-speaking, indigenous ladies waited on us. The food, IMHO, was unremarkable until dessert. I'd go back for the Leche Frita.

                                        The Hotel Patio Andaluz is in the heart of old Quito, about a block from the Plaza de la Independencia. http://www.hotelpatioandaluz.com/inde...

                                        A more recent boutique hotel restoration is right on the plaza, The Hotel Plaza Grande. I have not been inside yet. http://www.plazagrandequito.com/