Copacabana and Isla del Sol


One long (rainy) journey later, we made our way into Bolivia, boarding crossing and all.

Copacabana is a small, waterfront town. Bolivia was drastically different in that everything was dirt cheap, and the city was much more run down than anywhere we had been in Peru. It was lovely walking around town, exploring, but it was clear Bolivians struggle to make enough for the basics. But the views of Lake Titicaca were breathing taking  and the trout, or trucha,  rocked.

After a day in Copacabana, we booked a boat for Isla del Sol to spend the night. Isla del Sol is famous as the mythological, origin site for the I can creation story. It has over 80 ancient Incans ruins along with gorgeous lake views.

It takes 3 hours to walk around the island, but its worth the journey.

We made some new friends on our walk and found a nice hostel with a spectacular view to spend the night. Next day, is was back to Copacabana then off to La Paz!

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Cusco and Machu Picchu


And so the saga continues.

Cusco was one of my absolute favorite cities. It’s very touristy, but I fell in love with the old churches and rolling green hills surrounding the Spanish style houses. There is so much to do in Cusco too; not just Machu Picchu. There is the Sacred Valley, horseback riding, and all kinds of adventures sports in addition to exploring the city.

First day in Cusco was spent meandering the churches and the city as a whole. All the the cathedrals were quite spectacular and had such an interesting history, combining local traditions with strong Spanish influence (to put it nicely).

I particularly liked the San Blas neighborhood, where we had a delicious aji de gallina lunch.

Speaking of Peruvian food, there was quite a slew of new foods I got to explore on this trip. Here’s a quick list for those interested:

Aji de gallina

Ceviche

Chicha (fermented corn drink, sometimes with other flavors like blackberry, or chicha de mora) 

Rocoto relleno, or stuffed spicy peppers

Guy or cuy (pronounced goo ey) (guinea pig)

Alpaca

Fried banana

Chupe de Quinoa

I plan on trying to make chupe de quinoa and rocoto relleno sometime soon.

Pictured below was a fabulous dinner out with ceviche, chupe de quinoa and alpaca! And of course, pisco sours.

Unfortunately, this dinner gave me food poisoning, but it was so good, it was almost worth it. Almost.

It definitely made the day of exploring ruins on horseback a bit uncomfortable.

Finally, we set out for Machu Picchu, and it was everything I wanted and more. After a difficult, hour long hike up steep, stone steps  in the morning in Aguas Calientes, we finally made it to the ancient Incan city. It was absolutely magical, surrounded in mist. Definitely a big highlight.

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Arequipa, Peru


I’m back! After two and a half weeks of wandering Boliva and Peru, I made it back to Santiago. After some rest, an emergency computer purchase, and some serious laundry doing, I’m ready to write about my trip. It was not always easy, but that’s why its travelling, not a beach holiday. I learned a lot in a short time, and came back overwhelmed by my experiences.

So, the beginning.

We took a 1am flight from Santiago to Arica. It was exhausting, but everything went smooth. At 4am, we found a “collectivo” (basically just a random van) and got dropped off at a sketchy bus stop. We waited two hours, cold and tired, among quite the colorful crowd (families with all their belongings, drunks, backpackers) for the gate to open. At 6am, they finally unlocked the gate and everyone rushed to get put into a taxi for the border. Once we got shoved in a car, they took our passports. This made me nervous, but they were returned, thankfully, and we headed towards the border. At border patrol, we had to wait another hour, in the middle of the desert, for it to open. Once it did, their was lots of yelling in Spanish, lines, getting in and out of cars, but we finally got through the border, confused but fine.

Once we got to the Tacna bus stop, we had to kill 7 hours for the next bus to Arequipa. I’m not really sure how we survived. All I know is I ate a lot of chicken empanadas, and we must have done 20 different word searches. But, after our long, hot, wait and a few Inca colas, we were on our way.

Arequipa was worth the journey. Our hostel (Flying Dog) was lovely and the city was stunning.

My absolute favorite was the Santa Catalina Monastery. It was so colorful, so drenched in history. I loved roaming this small city within the city.

The main plaza:

The market was also interesting. So many different varieties and colors of potatoes. Even some sheep heads, for those so inclined.

Our last day we did a day trip (3am wake up) up to the Cañon de Colca. It was a five-hour, cold car ride, but the views of the mountains were breathtaking and the canyon was gorgeous.

We were lucky to see many, many condors swooping around.

One of my favorite meals of the trip was the restaurant we stopped at for lunch, with a buffet style special.

Featured is a variety of goodies: fried bananas, alpaca, rococo relleno, papas fritas, beets, stews, and vegetable salad. So delicious.

We also had one fancy dinner out at a restaurant called Zig Zag.

I ordered the fish carpaccio and Katie got the quinoa gnocchi with pesto. My my.

We barely made our bus for Cusco in time (there was panic and running and gringa yelling) but then it was a comfortable Cruz del Sur overnight bus for the ten-hour journey.

Stay tuned for my Cusco blog!

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Ensalada Chilena and Despedidas


Hello! Feliz Domingo a todos

This weekend there were three different despedidas (or goodbye parties) for gringos happening. I was only able to go to two of them, both on Saturday. The first was for my housemate who only recently returned from here month-long vacation, so I only got to meet her briefly. My housemates decided to have a lunch party, and I volunteered to cook. I ended up making a lot of food.

Some of it was not very interesting (deviled eggs, cole slaw, pasta salad) but I did make my first ensalada chilena as well as my first, whole roasted chicken.

The ensalada chilena turned out well. The truth is, this is one of those chilean dishes that’s so simple it’s almost not a dish, but there are a few secrets to make it turn out just right. It’s a lovely side dish for any type of grilled meat and is really lovely with humitas or pastel de choclo.

Ensalada Chilena

4-6 large whole tomatoes, peeled and soaked in chilled water.

1 large white onion, sliced into very thin pieces (almost shaved with the knife) and soaked in a little vinegar, sugar and water.

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, minced

2 tablespoons of olive oil

sea salt

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

Slice the tomatoes in half, then cut them into thin half moons and arrange on your serving plate. Drain the milky water from the onions, and plop the onion on top the tomatoes. Sprinkle the cilantro on top, and drizzle the olive oil, vinegar, and salt to finish.

The chicken turned out nice as well. I can’t say I had any type of exact recipe, but below is a good base recipe that you can play with. Pick any spices you like! Any and all taste delicious…

Grace’s Whole Roasted Chicken

1 whole chicken, bones in

1 tablespoon of butter

3 tablespoons of olive oil

oregano

black pepper

salt

red pepper

rosemary

thyme

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 400.

Put the butter in the bottom on the pan and place the  whole chicken on top. Mix the olive oil and the spices in a small bowl, and brush over the top of the chicken. Make sure to get the rub mix into all the little crevices. Cover the pan with tin foil and put into the oven for about a half an hour. Take the bird out of the oven after 30 minutes, and flip it so it is breast down. Baste the bird in its juices, then put in back in the oven for another half hour or so, until the skin is nice and golden, and there is no red by the bone. Remove from the oven, baste it in its juices, and let it rest for 20 minutes.

The despedida lunch was a nice way for my friends to meet my housemates and to send off my housemate back to Germany.

A lot of gringos have left recently, which has been a little hard. It makes me homesick and also has reduced my group of friends over the last few months. However, I’m excited to travel soon, and the good thing about living in Santiago is you meet new people all the time.

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Santiago’s Persa Bio Bio Market


It’s been about 10 months here in Santiago and I’ve never been to the Bio-Bio market. I’d heard some great things (see this article) and had to explore for myself. Honestly, one of the main reasons I wanted to go, was to try this famous burrito joint and Thai food stand I’d heard so much about.

So, yesterday, my friend Katie and Becky and I ventured down the yellow line, down to Franklin, to see what the fuss was about.

The Bio-Bio market is huge. Think La Vega times three. The majority of the market just sells furniture, but it is a mecca for those looking to furnish a new apartment.

We did eventually find the awesome burrito stand called Mi Jugo (Located at 606 Franklin). It was excellent. Tastes like back home, with yummy salsa and guacamole. We ordered the pimentón con crema (roasted peppers and cream) filling, and it was really tasty, and cheap, at about 2,400 CLP for a burrito (5 dollars). They also had a tremendous list of fresh juices, all for about 2 dollars each. They had everything from chirimoya, avocado, tuna (fruit), mango, beets, and even a few fruits I didn’t recognize. The mango juice I ordered was spot on, but I definitely recommend you order it sweetened.

I did not have enough money or room in my stomach to try the Thai place (Lai Thai) next door but it looked excellent and will make a trip back to try it.

We meandered the market for a bit, looking at odds and ends. There really is a strange arrange of items, such as old vinyl records, door handles, and some hair products if you so desire.

In the end, I think I’d rather hit up Patronato for most items (clothes), but this place is perfect for furnishing and decorating a new apartment.

Stay tuned for more food news, recipes, and my adventure to Peru and Bolivia!

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Christmas and New Years 2012


During these lazy summer days I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus.

Christmas was nice. I went to Catholic mass and then to my friend Rocio’s house  for a lovely, multi-course meal and present opening at 12pm  (The tradition in Chile).

We started with some yummy Ecuadorian shrimp in cream sauce, followed by a fresh salad

And a delicious, fresh pastel de jaiba (crab) for the main course

Christmas Day I spent cooking latkes and brisket and sitting by my pool. Delightful.(For more on typical Chilean traditions, read my column here).

I spent New Years in Santiago with friends and caught the fireworks show at the Entel Tower. I was unable to go to Valpo (they have one of the biggest fireworks displays in the world), due to my own issues (just moved, money, unorganized) and havn’t heard the end of it still, but I had  a great time nonetheless.

The new year has meant new changes for me. New apartment (literally moved December 30th), new office building at work, and many friends have left in the last few months or are leaving soon (shout out to Isabel, Melody, Amanda, and more). I still have classes, but the pace is much slower, leaving more time to think about my time thus far in Chile and what lies ahead.

Reflecting back on the year, a lot has happened, but mostly the entire year has been all about Chile. A year of adventure, independence, and adapting to new people, sights, and general everyday life in South America. This was one, if not the best, decisions I have ever made and when I think about how unhappy I was at this same time last year, and how much I’ve grown as a person, I feel so proud that I was able to conquer my fear and take the plunge. And thus commences what I’m calling Part Two of my time in Chile. Part Two will include a two or three-week long trip in February (Peru, Bolivia), and generally more traveling which is exciting

Therefore, I have some new goals to start out 2012 but I’m trying to keep them simple. Last year mine was really simple: Drink more water. This year I’d like to…

1. Keep working on the Spanish. Living in an all-Spanish speaking apartment is a step forward, which si good.

2. Stay active and healthy. Keep the weight down.

3. Keep open and positive towards future possibilities. My plan as of now is to return to The States in June or July, which means I’m gonna need a “plan”. Not sure what that will entail, which causes me stress. I will try to keep positive and follow my gut.

4. Eat more greens! Always a good goal.

5. Aquire as much South American food knowledge as possible (in the works).

It could be that the recipes are a bit scarce for a while, because I’m in a new kitchen,  with new rules, new equipment, but I hope to sneak in a few before my trip in February.

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Pickled Ají Peppers


Hello Hello and Merry Almost Christmas!

It’s been a strange week for me here in Santiago: Hot, mellow, pools. Not Christmas in any way. BUT. I ain’t complaining, because it feels like vacation everyday.

Christmas food definitely sounds awful in the heat, so I’ve been eating a lot of Mexican and pickled foods. What is it about a cold, juicy pickle on a hot day?

Also, summer weather means the markets are in full bloom, selling gorgeous produce like strawberries, bananas, basil, melon, and aji peppers.

Inspired by my friend Isabel (who recently moved home) I decided to make some pickled aji peppers to keep in the fridge.

Chileans like pickled foods (sauerkraut, pickles, onions, etc) but you normally don’t see a lot of pickled aji. This is a fun way to give Chilean food a modern twist.

Here’s a quick, outrageously easy recipe to make your own batch (yes, you can use ANY hot peppers like jalapeños, banana peppers, whatever).

Pickled Aji Peppers

INGREDIENTS:

Aji peppers (3-8 big ones)

2 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoon crushed red pepper (merken might work too!)

3-4 cups of white vinegar

seal salt

DIRECTIONS:

First, sanitize your jars by bowling them in hot water (this recipe makes two jars).

Next, wash and dry your peppers.

Bring a small saucepan of the vinegar to boil for 5 minutes, then reduce to simmer. Add peppers, garlic, salt, and hot peppers. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Once the peppers are a little soft, add the whole mixture into your jar and screw the lid tightly.

Refrigerate for at least 1-3 days for optimal flavor.

Happy pepper eating!

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