Monday, March 29, 2010

Los Mejores Restaurantes in Guatemala

Xela is a gringo-friendly town. Thus, there are plenty of restaurants that cater to a diverse range of appetites. Most of these are not particularly something to write home about, but there are a few gems. Pasaje Enrique is a building across from Parque Central with numerous restaurants, bars, a hostel, and travel agency. My favorite place there is called Salon Tecun. Boasting itself as the oldest bar in Xela, Salon Tecun has a wide variety of food on their menu. However, I wouldn't know this because every time I go, I order pizza. Because it is delicious. And yummy. And scrumptious. I can tell your their fries are pretty good because they came free with a half a bottle of vodka, but trust me, go for the pizza. They have lots of options with crazy ingredients and interesting combinations. My first weekend in Xela Steve and Dave brought me here to watch football. Dave and I split a pizza with olives, broccoli, and hard-boiled eggs. It was my first time eating hard boiled eggs on pizza, and I really enjoyed it. I also tried their spicy margherita pizza which wasn't very margherita like with olives, jalapenos, and sliced tomatoes. For my last dinner in Xela, I decided to finally go for the eggplant pizza. I find eggplant can be delicious when done right. I've seen it sold at the market and on menus all over Guatemala, but I was always too afraid to try it in Guatemala. To be honest, I avoid it in a lot of places in the States because I find it often just soaks up the oil and lies flat on flavor and textures if not prepared well. But it was my last night and I knew I would regret it if I didn't try it. I felt guilty immediately that I had doubted Tecun's pizza abilities. Matched with sundried tomato and mint. It was a delicious way to say goodbye to Xela. I will miss you Salon Tecun Pizza!

One drink you can always count on in Guatemala is a delicious, refreshing liquado-a smoothie. The abundance and variety of fresh fruit available at all times and blenders makes for a wonderful combination. At most restaurants liquados show up on the menu for about 8-16

quetzales ($1-2). They offer them with water, milk, or yogurt. I started out drinking lots of mango, pineapple, and strawberry liquados, but ended loving watermelon. I had though watermelon would be a strange texture in a smoothie, but on a hot day, it is very refreshing and hydrating. At Lago Atitlan, for my last weekend, I was obsessed with drinking cheap, refreshing, and healthy watermelon liquados

My last meal with Paula, my roommate, in Antigua was perfect. She was in the mood for Thai, so we wandered the streets for a while unsuccessfully. We ended up running into Fonda de la Calle Real. Despite being touristy, it was very cute and had a beautiful ambiance. There was a kitchen in front of the courtyard where the tables were set up so you could watch your food

being cooked. The veggie entrees were not terribly priced for such a nice, touristy place at 57 quetzales (about $7). I was very excited to see Pepian sauce, a traditional Guatemalan dish, matched with veggies rather than meat. The second dish was grilled vegetables in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. For dessert we ordered plantains in mole sauce. It was dark, complex, and chocolaty. I was so satisfying to have one of my last meals so elegant, authentic, and delicious!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mi Despedida

Its so haaaard to say goodbyyyyyeeee......

Besides volunteering, I have spent the last 3 months cooking, discussing Spanish grammar, exchanging cultural experiences, goofing off, watching tv, traveling, growing, and living with three amazing roommates in our cozy little Xela apartment. It all started when Erika and I decided we couldn't stay in with host families anymore (although families are great curfews, lack of control of food, inability to cook, and the lack of a common area to relax became very difficult after 4 months). After a week or two of searching we came upon Casa Latina, a tranquilo little apartment above small Spanish language school. It was clean, had wifi, comfortable enough beds, a kitchen, television, an amazing balcony with a view, hot water (in the sinks too!!), and-get this- you could flush the toilet paper. It was amazing and were were so excited.

One of the owners is from Holland so Saskia, a friend of hers, had also moved in when I returned from Atlanta. Soon after, Paula, another Dutch chica arrived to make our group a foursome. We all got along swimmingly. When it came time to say goodbye, there was no better way to do so than with food. The night before Saskia left to travel and a week before I left the country we had our goodbye dinner. Paula made the salad: cucumber with her delicious honey mustard dressing made from scratch. Erika made the refried beans and Saskia made the dessert. I prepared the main dish: enchiladas (from Mexico-very different from enchiladas from Guatemala which are tostadas with a mayo covered vegetable salad or meat).

I started with a roasted tomatillo salsa:

1 pound of tomatillos roasted
5 cloves garlic-roasted
salt to taste
lime juice (about 1.5 medium size limes)
enough water to make the correct texture
1 small white onion
either 1 jalapeno with seeds or 3 small serrano chiles-mine ended up being medium heat

As you can see, I husked, rinsed, and roasted the tomatillos in a pan along with garlic for about 7 minutes. It took a few rounds to roast all of the tomatillos. I threw in the rest of the ingredients in the blender and added water slowly until I achieved the desired thickness. The cilantro ended up giving it a tangy flavor because it was a bit old or a bit too new....not sure.

Next, I cooked up some güicoy ,which are like small green pumpkins and taste a lot like zucchini, with onion and garlic. Then I put two pans on the stove over low-medium heat and added a cup of the salsa to one and a cup of salsa with vegetable broth to the other. I used the pan with only salsa to dip in the corn tortilla (I bough some that were made by machine in a local store rather than the thicker hand made tortillas). I followed this recipe below and heated the oaxcan cheese in the salsa, then put it into the tortilla with some of the vegetable mixture and topped it with queso fresco.

Here you see the enchiladas accompanied by refried beans topped with queso fresco. Also some wine (thanks to Erika
and MeMe), mini floral arrangements, and cucumber salad.

Saskia spent a lot of time and effort to make delicious cookies. I especially enjoyed the preparation because I got to lick all the bowls and spoons!

As I sit in my hostel on my last night in Guatemala I realize it was not only my love for the country, but the amazing people I shared it with that made this experience so meaningful. I love you ladies and will never forget the times we spent together. Ya les extraño.