Foodies hungry to enjoy the local bounty of distant lands will find a feast for the senses waiting in the capital of Ecuador with the new Food Tour of Old Town Quito from Casa Gangotena. Join Executive Chef Andrés Dávila as he explores markets and food shops in the traditional neighborhoods around Plaza San Francisco, where the beautifully renovated, historic hotel makes travelers feel right at home.
It takes a wide array of ingredients to create diverse Ecuadorian cuisine – and insider knowledge to track down them down in the city. Chef Dávila, whose culinary style draws from his local background and enthusiasm for ancestral ingredients, introduces guests to the flavors of fresh produce in the San Roque barrio, or neighborhood.
Leaving the hotel, the chef takes guests through the narrow and busy streets that bustle with commerce. They pass by stores brimming with decorations for children’s parties that congregate here, stores for hardware, knick-knacks, school supplies, local painters and restorers, and mini-warehouses hawking pot-bellied bags of fragrant spices whose aromas waft down the cobbled streets.
Quito’s World Heritage-listed Old Town is a treasure trove of traditions, which Casa Gangotena values. The hotel aims to strengthen these by purchasing all the ingredients for its kitchens (minus proteins) from suppliers in the barrio, as well as by paying visits to shops and stores with international guests. The shopkeepers are proud of their produce and their ways, and are even prouder when foreign travelers are curious about them and maybe have their photos taken with the vendors.
Visits along the route include shops selling local sweets, such as traditional colaciones (sugar-coated peanuts) roasted in huge bronze pots, guayusa, a leaf from the Amazon which is a natural stimulant for its inhabitants, or heaps of chamomile and stacks of aloe vera from the Coast. Up the hill, passing the barrio’s dinky chapel, lies one of the Old Town’s numerous markets, where the chef takes guests round the stalls, beginning with women who serve energetic juice drinks with alfafa and eggs, followed by stalls overflowing with produce from the Andes: a great spot to learn more about the dozens of varieties (actually over 300) of potatoes that grow here. Over on the fruit stalls, there’s a chance to explore and savor the flavors of the amazing and delicious fruits grown in this tropical South American country.
To one side of the market, the colorful booths of local healers line one wall. These women, whose knowledge is passed down the female line of the family from one generation to the next, provide on-the-spot limpias, a traditional Andean energy-equilibrium restoration treatment. The shelves of their booths sag under the weight of bundles of herbs and plants from every corner of the country. People form lines for treatments, mainly for children who might be suffering ailments ranging from bad sleep to muscle pains. Here, Doña Rosa Lagla explains her work and heritage, and guests can also book a treatment in the privacy of their hotel bedroom later in the day.
Finally, there’s a stop at the last-surviving mill in the Old Town, Molinos de San Martín, run by the same family for three generations. Here, the owners gladly show visitors the myriad varieties of flour they produce from all sorts of Andean grains, many employed in preparing the restaurant’s delicious dishes.
Casa Gangotena's tour is a food-tasting tour and travel adventure for those who love eating delicious foods, discovering new culinary finds, meeting people, and learning about the hidden food gems that make local neighborhoods so unique. Guests will feel the same sense of Ecuadorian hospitality when they discover the barrio as they do at the hotel, which has earned Casa Gangotena a place on both Condé Nast Traveler’s “Hot List” and Travel + Leisure’s “IT List” for 2012.
Food Tour of Old Town Quito exclusive to guests of Casa Gangotena; $45 per person, including taxes; maximum group of 6. Please book with 48 hours notice.
Rates at Casa Gangotena from $460 including breakfast, Quito-style afternoon coffee snack and taxes. Reservations are being accepted for Casa Gangotena at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.casagangotena.com.
About: Casa Gangotena