Cooking Classes in Chile: Uncorked Cooking Workshop

Disclosure: My cooking class was provided courtesy of Uncorked Cooking Workshop, however I was not otherwise compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugCeviche. Oh, my love for ceviche knows no bounds.

It’s one of the dishes that I’ve tried up and down the continent of South America and have pretty much loved in all its variations – although some more than others. After having an ungodly amount of ceviche in Lima, I gave it a rest for a bit as I headed back up into the mountains of Peru and Bolivia.

So I was thrilled when I saw that ceviche was one of the dishes we would be making in my class with Uncorked Cooking Workshop! Just reading the menu made me salivate for the sour-citrusy seafood goodness. (Say that ten times fast!)
Continue reading

Looking Back: South America

Looking back on our time in South America, it’s hard to imagine that I would have fallen in love with the continent quite the way that I did. When I first decided to plan this trip, I was debating between going back to spend time in Asia, which I loved and knew that I could easily fall back into. But I’m so happy that in the end, I decided to try something new.

Colombia

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugWhen Kim and I landed in Bogota, the adventure was a “first”. I can still remember the first delicious empanada from a street cart, our caffeine-fueled days (including my first time riding a horse!) in Salento, and eating picada on Calle 70 or catching the cable cars in Medellin. We also made it up the 740 steps of La Piedra on our day trip to Guatape. But the highlight has to be getting to visit with Emily and Bryan once again (after six years) and toasting their engagement! In Cali, we also were able to experience country club living and to catch a futbol match featuring some of the worlds most energetic fans who made up for the world’s laziest cheerleaders. Returning to Bogota, I got a great education in street food and some of Colombia’s food traditions, thanks to my excellent AirBnB host, David.

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Colombia Photo Galleries (still being updated!)
>> Food highlights: caldo de costilla, ajiaco, empanadas, stuffed arepas, guanabana, guarapo, bandeja paisa, casuela de frijoles, lechona, pandebono con arequipe

Ecuador

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugWhere do I even begin? Ecuador was my favorite country in South America. I started out with a trip into the jungle near Tena with Andres and Carter, who later became partners in all kinds of food adventures. I fell in love with the beautiful mountains and volcanoes, the historical buildings in Quito‘s Centro historico, standing on the Equator line at Mitad del Mundo, the street food and the great friends that I made there. I loved my tour down the Avenue of the Volcanoes to visit Cotopaxi the Nariz del Diablo train, plus a side trip to Banos (where I got to try ziplining!), the “swing at the end of the world”, and Lake Quilotoa, which literally took my breath away – and not just because of the altitude! Celebrating my first thanksgiving away from home with the Espinoza family really made my time in Ecuador special. Meeting fellow travel blogger, Dyanne (aka The Traveln Lass) in Cuenca and spending a food-filled and family-centric 24 hours in Loja made it so hard to want to catch my bus on to Peru, but eventually I did.

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Ecuador Photo Galleries
>> Food highlights: hornado, choclo mote, chuntacuro (not my favorite, but happy I tried them!), seco de chivo, cevice, locro de papas, emapanadas de morocho, salchipapas, guayusa tea, encebollado, picada, mote pillo, cecina, horchata, cafe lojano

Peru

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugWhen I first got to Peru, I was coming off of such a wonderful time in Ecuador that it never really had a fair shot. But all was forgiven with my first bite of ceviche in Lima. Oh, the seafood! I spent my time in Lima gorging myself on ceviche, including my last meal at one of the mercados in Surquillo, where I got to meet up with Henry and Megan of the Borderless Project, before heading onto the overnight bus to Cusco. I loved the cool temperature and the holiday atmosphere there as the town got into the spirit of Christmas. I took a fantastic cooking class on Christmas night after a Google Hangout with my family, and returned to my hostel to find the entire place gathered around a holiday meal. I also made some great friends to come along on food missions (hola Noelia, Ross & Diego!) and even to drag me out for a night dancing! To celebrate the new year, I headed to Machu Picchu with a day trip to the Sacred Valley en route, and then the train from Ollantaytambo. I spent New Year’s Eve overnight in Aguas Calientes and woke early the next morning to greet 2015 among the ruins of Machu Picchu. Finding my own little corner to sit and reflect and to watch the clouds swirl in and out of the ruins was exactly what my heart needed – time to sit and reflect and to breathe it all in.

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Peru Photo Galleries
>> Food highlights: In Lima, ceviche, ceviche, and more ceviche! In Cusco, anticuchos, rocoto relleno, pisco sours, chilcanos, chicha morada, lomo saltado, spicy adobo, and finally getting to try cuy.

Bolivia

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugBolivia is definitely a country that I’d like to return to revisit – the three weeks I spent there were not enough! I based myself in La Paz and slowed down enough to really try to get a feel for the pace of daily life – frequenting the mercados (I especially loved Mercado Lanza and the sprawling Mercado Rodriguez on the weekends), using local transportation, having inexpensive almuerzos for lunch. The ruins at Tiwanaku and the crazy lunar landscape of Valle de la Luna were both easily done as day trips. One day, my new friend Freddy and I caught a bus out to stay overnight in Copacabana and I can still remember the taste of the trout fried in garlic right on the shore of Lake Titicaca – yum! I found the perfect spot to burn my letter to the Universe looking over the town and the lake from the top of Calvario de Copacabana – truly magical. Eventually, I said goodbye to La Paz and headed south to the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni for a three day tour by Jeep, where I made new friends from Brazil, Paraguay and China. We had a blast and took hundreds of photos of the gorgeous natural landscape that still doesn’t do it justice – salt flats mirrored with water, volcanoes covered with snow, geysers and alpine lakes of various colors with flamingos, llamas, vicunas and even a fox!

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Bolivia Photo Galleries
>> Food highlights: silpancho, trucha al ajillo, chicharron, tucumanas, saltenas, sopa de mani, chairo, quinoa soup, wines from Tarija and of course the 7-course tasting menu at Gustu! (Mahalo Nate!)

Chile

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugI was coming off of the high from the salt flats and also months spent in the (literally) higher altitude of the Andes, so arriving in the dusty desert of northern Chile at San Pedro de Atacama was a bit jarring to my system and I quickly moved on further south to Santiago. I spent a week there enjoying the more European feel of the city – lots of green parks, quick wifi, and of course enjoying the Chilean wine! I had a lovely cooking class and mercado tour and on my last day I decided to take a day trip to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso which included a stop at Indomita winery. I loved the colorful streets of Valparaiso and although we didn’t get to stop at the Pablo Neruda museum, I could see why he chose to keep one of his three homes there – the views of the ocean were spectacular.

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Chile Photo Galleries
>> Food highlights: ceviche, emapanadas de pino, chorillanas, and having a real espresso after months of Nescafe. Reading Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s ode to Caldillo de Congrio while enjoying a bowl of it was especially memorable.

Argentina

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugI stopped in Mendoza only for a few days, which was enough time for my first taste of amazing Argentinian steak and excellent wine for less than the cost of water! I was fortunate to get to experience much more of the asado tradition when I headed to Buenos Aires – in a parrilla tour of San Telmo, a 5-course closed door dinner in Palermo Soho and four times at the steakhouse around the corner from our hostel! I was reunited with Kim after her Antarctica cruise and we spent a week staying in Recoleta to change things up a bit before being lured back to San Telmo. I loved the feel of the neighborhood and the tango, although I never did get to dance it. We used the bus to get around to other areas – for hip brunches in Palermo, to stroll the Caminito in La Boca, along the waterfront in Puerto Madero and downtown, but also caught the train up North to Tigre for a day. We toured the Presidential Palace and saw the balcony where Evita greeted the people. I also enjoyed just taking hours just walking around and taking it in, stopping into a coffee shop or restaurant to enjoy a meal or a glass of wine.

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Argentina Photo Galleries
>> Food highlights: asado/parrilla fare like steaks (lomo, ojo de bife, bife de chorizo), mollejas, chimichurri, salsa criolla and of course provoleta. Choripan, medialunas, empanadas, dulce de leche (in so many forms), excellent coffee. Lots of Malbec.

The journey continues…

And now another adventure begins. South Africa will be my 6th continent and 35th country – just before my 35th birthday! But really, it’s going to be a whole new world. I’ve got two months between my flight into Cape Town on Saturday and out of Johannesburg at the beginning of May. In between, I’m hoping to do a bit less moving around than I did in South America – perhaps even to find an apartment that I can rent and buckle down to do less exciting things like work and my taxes (ugh!). This new nomadic life is awesome but sometimes it’s good to slow the pace a bit to recharge…

Thanks so much for reading and coming along for the ride!

Cooking Classes in Peru: Cusco Culinary

Disclosure: My cooking class was provided courtesy of Cusco Culinary, however I was not otherwise compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.

In Cusco, there is no shortage of touristic sights to keep you busy – in fact, most visitors to Cusco opt to purchase the Boleto Turistico which gives you access to 16 sites over a 10 day period, many of them including Inca or pre-Inca ruins. And then, of course, visitors to Cusco are usually using it as a stopping off point before a visit to Machu Picchu. I’ve actually heard more than one person say they were “ruined out”, that is to say that all of the sites were starting to blend together. A shame to feel this way, of course, but I could relate after a few days spent touring the city and nearby historic sites.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugIn search of something different, I began looking into food tours and cooking classes and came across fantastic reviews on Trip Advisor for Cusco Culinary, so I reached out to see if they’d let me drop in on a class to share the experience with you. Despite it being Christmas Eve, I got a response within a few hours that there was a spot open for the dinner class the following evening, which sounded like a perfect way to spend Christmas night!

I’ve taken cooking classes all over the world and I can honestly say this was one of the best. Peru has arguably the most popular cuisine in South America, and the people behind Cusco Culinary have really put thought into the experience so that you leave with a real appreciation for the food as well as the culture of the country. The price tag of $59.99 may seem a bit steep to some, but if you’re a food lover, I would strongly suggest you consider it as an option when you’re planning your budget for day trips, tours and things to do in Cusco.

Dinner Experience with Cusco Culinary

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugThe cooking class with Cusco Culinary generally begins with a tour of Mercado San Pedro, but due to the holiday we skipped this and headed straight into the class itself. To begin, we were ushered into a room downstairs set up to give us a taste of life in the Andes. We began with a chilled glass of chicha morada (a drink made from purple corn and flavored with cloves, cinnamon and fruit) while our host, Sofia, described the various types of chicha and customs related to the beverage, including how it’s made, who’s doing the drinking and how to tell when a local chicheria has the mildly alcoholic version of the beverage available.

The rest of the room introduced other aspects of local life, including elements of an Andean kitchen – the stove and cooking utensils, various talismans placed around the home for good luck, and items found in the pantry. We got to see examples of various grains and flours, herbs, spices, dried peppers and potatoes of all shapes, sizes and colors. One that is important to Peruvian cooking is called chuño, which is a bit of an acquired taste and texture. It’s a potato preserved by a freeze-drying process, then ground into a flour or used in soups and sauces or sometimes just eaten with spicy aji sauce. With this method, indigenous people preserve the potatoes for years at a time! Continue reading

Managing Your Money on the Road

(null)I opened my eyes and looked out past the lace curtain on my time-capsule 70s hotel room. Without needing to leave the warmth of my bed and its four layers of thick blankets, I could watch the morning fog roll down the side of the mountains surrounding my hotel in La Paz, Bolivia. My eyes strained to make out the silhouette of the teleferico station perched at the edge of the plateau where El Alto begins, and the tiny cable cars rolling up and down the steep hillside, like toys.

My time in Bolivia was drawing to a close and I was contemplating how much money I would need for my last few days in the country. It’s always a tough balance – you never want to have too much, but of course you don’t want to run out either, so I in my sleep-haze I began attempting the mental addition to figure out how much I’d need to settle my hotel bill, book a tour in Salar de Uyuni to see the famous salt flats, and to get myself to the Chilean border in the next few days.

I reached down to the floor to rummage around in my purse for my wallet to see how many Bolivianos I had left after dinner the night before.

My heart nearly stopped – my ATM card was missing!
Continue reading

Where to Eat in Cusco: Centro Historico

Cusco is definitely worth more than the few days that people give it, often as a pit stop to or from the nearby main attraction, Machu Picchu. In reality, the city has a charming historic center with the grand Plaza de Armas as a central meeting place, interesting museums and churches, a circuit of impressive ruins and – most importantly – many culinary delights, if you know where to look! Sure there is a well-established “backpacker trail” here, with the accompanying pubs, pizzas, mass produced souvenirs and cheap massages. But not to be overlooked are great options for foodies in the markets, street stalls and even cooking classes.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Budget Eats in Cusco: Street Food

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugIf you’re on a budget or just looking for a snack, look no further than the streets! Around the mercados and plazas you can often find stalls dishing out small plates of local favorites like arroz con huevos (a fried rice dish topped with egg), sopa de pollo, trout ceviche, boiled quail eggs, popcorn, churros, seasonal fruits and even chicha.

In the evenings, you can often find my favorite snack – anticuchos – for just a bit more than $1. Anticuchos are skewers of meat, usually topped off with a boiled potato and drizzled with spicy aji sauce, if you’d like extra flavor. The classic anticucho is corazon (beef heart) but I’ve also seen kidney, chicken, sausage, and regular beef. The most reliable spot, usually with 2-3 stalls open each night, is on the steps near San Francisco church.

>> If you want to go where the locals do for anticuchos and aren’t afraid to venture a bit further, check out this recommendation from CuzcoEats.com: Anticucheria Condoritos. Highly recommended!
Continue reading