Monday, November 7, 2011

Cuenca Foods

Sorry, but I have been writing on my novel and haven't dedicated time to completing my Ecuadorian blogs, as promised. Omar and I are food aficionados and have experienced many excellent restaurants in our time, working and traveling together. I am not sure exactly how he will respond to this, but I found a smorgasbord of eateries in Cuenca and the surrounding areas, unparalleled in my life.

As mentioned in a prior blog, Alberto the manager and owner of Casa Ordonez, was instrumental in obtaining a reservation for Omar and myself our first night in Cuenca at Tiestos. This establishment is what many consider the premier dining experience in the city. Our first night was a Saturday and it is unheard of to obtain a last minute reservation, but Alberto in his wisdom procured one for Omar and I at 7:30 PM. That would seem the busy time of the evening to most of us, but the evening meal in Ecuador is usually served at 9:00 PM or after and this is actually a slower time for most restaurants.

Yet, when we entered our table was the only empty table. Immediately we noticed that the patronage was mainly Ex Pats from Europe and the US. We struck up a conversation with a group from Europe and they told us we had to order the Langostinos. There really wasn't a wait and we were seated almost immediately.

One of the details you will learn, if you visit Cuencan eating establishments, is that most serve small condiment offerings that are excellent and have amazing flavors. We usually had a tomato based "salsa" (not what you might expect if you are comparing with our salsas), but Tiestos was supreme. Additionally there is an eggplant condiment and various vegetable and spice combinations. They are unbelievable and sufficiently whet your appetite.

They brought a shrimp and potato soup that Juan Carlos Solano (chef and owner) recommended was exceptional and I am glad that Juan Carlos convinced us to order the soup. Our entree was the Langostinos recommended by the European group. The prawns were the size of small lobsters and had the same texture. I am drooling now thinking of the meal. It was a dinner I will remember the rest of my life. The secret is that we had this meal with tip and tax for less than $50.00.

Tiestos Shrimp and Potato Soup

Juan Carlos Solano with Omar and I

Tiestos Infamous Langostinos

Hopefully these pictures will assist you in your evaluation of Tiestos. If you are in Cuenca please stop by and you will not be disappointed. This is a link to the web site for Tiestos Restaurant:

The next night we ate at a place called Dorados I believe. It was one of the few places open on Sunday. As I stated above most dinners are eaten at 9:00 PM or later and after lunch most Ecuadorians take a two hour siesta from 2:00 PM until 4:00 PM and a great deal of the businesses close these two hours.

Dorados is located in a hotel and this is where we met Monica and Tom Mac Naughton. Tom and Omar had the trout which Omar literally cleaned to the bone. Monica had a beef entree I believe and she finished it. I had Paella as mentioned in a prior blog. It was so full of seafood that I couldn't finish the meal. First time for everything people. The bill for all four was right at $40 with tax and tip.

We had dinner one night at I believe La Vina which is an Italian place and I had a shrimp fettuccine. Omar had a risotto if I remember correctly. For appetizer Omar ordered a small pizza which La Vina is known for. The problem is that is was a large by our standard. He had a couple of slices and I had one and then could not finish my shrimp fettuccine. The food again was unbelievable and the bill with tax and tip was $35.

There were a multitude of places we ate at and lunches ran $2.50 to $7.00 and dinners were from $7.00 to $25.00 on the extreme high side. You can literally get by on around $15 a day for all three meals if you don't frequent high end establishments and eat out all the time.

The food is amazing, cheap and the service is beyond reproach. I would imagine over time that Cuenca will climb the "tourist trap" destinations and become very popular with the cost of living so cheap and the great food. It is already described as the number one place to retire according to International Living.

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