Killari Café in Quito, Ecuador- Allie

Scoping out coffee shops in an unfamiliar city is a favorite activity of mine. Interestingly, though Ecuador exports over 130 million pounds of coffee a year, few typical restaurants serve anything but instant Nescafé. (Gag). It was a challenge to find a good cup of coffee in the city.

When I found Kallari Café in the Mariscal district of Quito, I was reassured that there were people in Ecuador who love coffee as much as I do.
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Altitude sickness was affecting me with relentless persistence during my first few days in the country; I had an annoyingly mild headache that hadn’t gone away since I landed, and couldn’t seem to catch my breath, even after walking up the slightest hill. A relaxing afternoon cup of coffee was in order after a morning filled with activity.
One glance at the menu… and decided a second lunch and decadent dessert was actually what was in order.
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After a satisfying plate of parsley yuca cakes, I wandered a bit around the café. I soon learned that Kallari was more than an oasis of coffee and snacks  — it also sold an array of sustainable chocolate and artisan crafts in the back of the café.
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Kallari is a community-owned coffee shop, owned by an association of Kichwa  communities in the Napo province in the Amazon. To my excitement, I also learned the cacao they source for their bars are of the ‘Cacao Nacional’ variety. Cacao Nacional is a Slow Food Presidium product, an endangered food whose growers are given support by Slow Food’s Foundation for Biodiversity.
Here I was, 3,000 miles from Boston, reading a brochure in Spanish about how Slow Food had helped this community of producers flourish — it had my heart swelling with pride for our international Slow Food movement, and the piece of it that is alive at Northeastern.
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(The brochures say: “How delicious it is to eat healthy & eat the food of my land” and “Together we’re cooking up a revolution”)
So content with the Slow Food vibes I was receiving in this beautiful café, I lingered for another hour with my book, a latte, and some niblings from the Kallari chocolate bars I purchased. (Flavors included Andean Salt & Lemon Grass, Vanilla, Hot Chili & Wild Cinnamon, and Orange. Yup.)
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I visited Kallari as many times as possible before leaving Quito!
Kallari Café:
Wilson E4 -266 y Juan Leon Mera
La Mariscal Quito – Ecuador
Phone: +593-223-6009
Email: caféquito@kallari.com

Brazil- Angela

If you read my weird little blurb on the Meet Your Eboard page (and if you didn’t, do so), you know that I spent 5 weeks of summer 2013 in Brazil.  Although I was bit weary about the impending food challenges as I flew down to the Southern Hemisphere, I was also excited for the opportunity to try some new, delicious, and/or strange delicacies that I just wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.  The following is relatively unorganized babbling about some things I noticed regarding Brazilian food and eating, as well as an in-my-opinion grade:
-Buffets. Grade: A
I knew I was in love with the country on the second day, because we went to an all-you-can-eat pizza place. And no, this was not just ordinary zah. In Brazil, they go crazy; in addition to savory pizzas topped with who knows what kind of meats, they also had fruit pizza, doce de leite pizza, and CHOCOLATE pizza. Naturally, I gorged myself. (I’m always secretly proud when I can out-eat all the boys.) Also, most restaurants offer an inexpensive buffet for lunch, which is wicked popular with the locals and tourists alike. And they always had flan for buffet dessert… an acquired taste, perhaps.
-Timing. Grade: D
I would never be able to get used to the Brazilian schedule– their dinners are too late for my taste (no pun intended) and restaurants seemed to usually be closed during afternoons and on Sundays.  Any time we had a formal dinner, we would start eating around 9 or 10pm, which is bad for two reasons: 1) If I don’t eat between lunch and 10pm, I will get HANGRY, and 2) If I eat anything sugary, I won’t sleep for hours afterward. It seems to work for everyone else though.
-Churrascaria. Grade: A for effort, D for vegetarians
Now becoming more popular in the US, churrascarias are Brazilian barbecue places that take meat to the next level. At your seat there is a small card that you leave on the green side if you want more meat, or you can flip it to the red side if you need a break.  The friendly waiters come around to the people with green cards and cut off chunks of the meat slabs on a stick, as much as you want. One of my first dinners in the country was at a churrascaria, and I remember that the meats looked so exotic and weird. Really, nobody could tell what each slab-on-a-stick was. And sometimes, when I found out what it was, I had to hide my look of horror.  Thankfully they had a ton of vegetarian stuff at the buffet– I still managed to get into a killer food coma.  Rice and beans are extremely underrated.
-Social Food. Grade: A
I loveloveloved how much of a community was developed around food, and especially the interconnectedness between food, music, and partying. The first week in the city of Belo Horizonte, we stumbled upon what was basically a gigantic block party filled with food and drink vendors and live music.  Everyone there was so lively and happy and exuberant and dancing, and it was just so beautiful. It turned out that the event was held every Thursday night, so that was where I tried different street foods. As a vegetarian, I enjoyed the acaraje without shrimp (a pastry kinda thing with yummy beans), but I hear from the carnivores that the kabobs of chicken wrapped in bacon were pretty bomb.
-Government Helping the Hungry: B
There is still a ton of room for improvement to help those in poverty, but I was able to visit a couple of really neat places that fought public hunger. The Restaurante Popular was a government-subsidized eatery with the mission of providing nutritious food to the less privileged for very little money.  A meal there costs 2 Reais, or 1 USD.  They use food from local farmers and prepare everything there each morning.  It was interesting to see the kitchens, but I did not enjoy eating there that much because I felt like I was taking food from people who needed it more than me (and cutting them in line because I was in such a big group).  The place was also extremely packed with people, with lines far out the doors in the back.  I also visited a food distribution compound, which was gigantic and full of warehouses and storage and buildings where they sort and clean food. It was interesting to get a close-up look that the general public cannot see. They do some pretty cool things—for example, after they sort out all of the “bad”/rotten fruits, they smoosh them into a juice that they use to rehabilitate the soil. They also make juices out of the ugly (but still good) fruits that people wouldn’t buy, and they donate a whole lot as well.
-Teachers Bringing Students Snacks: A+
My Portuguese teacher, Ana, is the sweetest human being on the planet. Especially when she brought us food. She always had these cute little candies or sweets, but the best was the time she brought us acai (pronounced ah-sigh-EE). Acai is super popular there– it can be more liquidy like a juice, or more frozen as a dessert or smoothie. It is common to mix it with banana, granola, and honey– to die for. Oh, and I also tried cheese ice cream.
-Juices/Smoothies: A+
So cheap and so yummy! I never even saw the natives look at water; they were always drinking something sweeter. Juice and smoothie stands are ubiquitous, and for good reason. You can’t even begin to imagine the sheer number of fruits that they use that as Americans we have never heard of. Made in front of you with fresh fruit and your choice of milk or water and sweetened or not, these would always quench your thirst. Plus, you can buy a coconut from a stand on the street and drink the milk directly out of the coconut. How cool is that?
I could ramble for days about my Brazilian experience, but I guess my final thought is this: If you ever have the chance to go somewhere new, jump on it– and take in as much of the authentic food experience as you can. Seriously though, if you go to McDonald’s while abroad… we can’t be friends.

Iceland-Mara

This summer I had the good fortune to go to Iceland on a Dialogue program, and it was the most amazing experience I have had here at NU thus far (and maybe even my life). One of the perks was exploring the unique and interesting food scene around Iceland.
 
At the Cafe Loki, located at the base of Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik, we had the opportunity to experience several traditional Icelandic dishes. I ordered a cup of Icelandic tea, made from Icelandic moss, Arctic thyme, and Icelandic birch. I’m not much of a tea person but was pleasantly surprised by its tastiness. Others in my group enjoyed a Priest’s coffee – coffee with a shot of the famous Icelandic spirit, Brennivín. 
 
We also ordered rye bread ice cream, which is so much yummier than it sounds. The rye bread is ground up and added to vanilla ice cream, and then a rhubarb syrup is drizzled over the top of a whipped cream tower. HOLY COW. So yumma. Not sure if the bread is sweet to begin with, but to me the bread tasted almost chocolately when in with the ice cream.
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So as not to completely indulge ourselves, we also ordered fermented shark! It’s supposedly the national dish of Iceland, but our waitress smirked as she placed it in front of us as she said “Don’t breathe in, and good luck.” NOT comforting, but we went for it anyways. We all ate one piece and a few brave souls went back for seconds (I tried but my body did not agree that this was a very good idea and so the 2nd piece never quite made it down….). In short, it was disgusting. The long description is that the incredibly potent smell just overtook your sense of smell and taste and hung out in the back of your throat and nasal cavity and it took many swallows of beverages to clear the sensation. 
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Though we would likely never eat the fermented shark ever again, we  are so glad that we did eat it since it offered us a unique perspective of Icelanders’ culinary traditions, which stems from a need to use all their resources fully and let very little go to waste.
 
The scenery of Iceland was amazing, and the distinctive food memories I also hold from this country make the trip so memorable. I do have some other food experiences to share, so be sure to check the blog often for some more stories!

 

Poutine-Michelle

This summer I went on a bike tour of the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec with my boyfriend Ben, and we ate plenty of the regional specialties.  When thinking of Quebec, the food that immediately comes to mind is poutine, so of course we had to eat some while there.  If you’ve ever been to Quebec, chances are you’ve heard of poutine.  If you haven’t, it’s a dish of french fries, cheese curd, and gravy.  From what I can tell, people either love it or hate it, but in Quebec it seemed like most people love it.  I had imagined that it had some kind of interesting history, but after doing only a quick google search it seems that it was invented only about 50 years ago.  While it certainly isn’t slow, it’s definitely pretty appetizing after riding a bike all day.

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While we only had the standard version, there are supposedly variations depending on what town you’re in and what their local specialties are.  In Matane, QC, we had been told that the specialty was poutine with béchamel sauce (instead of gravy), cheese curd and mini shrimp.  We were either duped or just didn’t stop at the right restaurant, because we didn’t get to try it, but nonetheless were intrigued by this variation.

Our trip ended in New Brunswick, which has its own take on the dish.  When someone tried to explain to us what poutine râpée was, we imagined that it would be hash browns (râpée means shredded or grated) instead of french fries with the usual toppings. But we were in for a surprise.  The woman that we ordered it from had made them herself that morning, and wanted to make very sure before she placed out order that poutine râpée was what we actually wanted. When she brought them out a few minutes later, we must have looked shocked because she seemed concerned, and maybe a little hurt.  Instead of french fries or even hash browns, it looked like it was just a ball of potato.  She told us that people usually either put salt and pepper or sugar on them- we went with the salt and pepper and dug in.  The best comparison I can make to try to explain what it was like is that it was sort of like a giant dumpling.  It had a think potato “skin” and the center was some sort of mystery meat with a little bit of gravy.

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While I can’t say it was delicious, it’s a classic dish of the Acadian people that was certainly worth trying.  It also dates back a lot longer than poutine quebecoise- probably to the late 1700-early 1800s.

Since it’s been almost three months since we got back from our trip, Ben and I had a hankering for a little more poutine.  Ben was recently in upstate New York, and he picked up some local cheese curd, and I grabbed some potatoes from the farmer’s market in Government Center.  We made rosemary oven fries instead of actually frying them: the recipe we looked at said to soak the potatoes in cold water for about 15 minutes before cooking them to make them crispier, but the soaking didn’t end up really helping. We also made a mushroom gravy by just sautéing onion, garlic, and white mushrooms before adding a tiny bit of soy sauce along with the broth and corn starch and letting it simmer down.  Putting it all together couldn’t be easier: just put the french fries on a place, cover them with the cheese curd, and pour as much gravy on top as you’d like.

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We thought it might have even been better than the poutine we got in Quebec!

Turkish dishes- Jack

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Turkish delights, a traditional gummy pistachio candy served with tea.

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Overall I would say Turkish food is fairly bland and devoid of big flavors, but this little home turned restaurant served some great traditional fare like this hummus.

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Traditional fish and chips with home brewed hard cider to drink.

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A traditional Turkish lamb shank with a side of very mushy veggies.

Mushroom Pine Nut Dish- Jennie Vildzius

Summer is hot, I know, but sometimes you just gotta turn on your oven and cook something awesome. Well, let me tell you that this recipe is something awesome.

Some people don’t like mushrooms, and I guess I can understand why, but I think they’re great. They’re relatively mild and soak up whatever flavors you mix with them. This recipe has garlic, butter, white wine, and chives. What more could you want? Not much (except maybe dessert- always dessert).

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The real recipe name for this is too long, so we just call it the “mushroom pine nut dish.” Feel free to do the same, or dub it something else such as “garlic mushroom thing” or “yummy side dish of excellence;” I grant you creative license. The names may vary in the end, but this is how it comes to be:

Ingredients:

*1 lb. mixed large fresh spring mushrooms, such as morel, portobello, shiitake, oyster, cremini and white button, brushed clean

4 T unsalted butter, room temperature

4 garlic cloves, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 T. dry white wine or sherry 

1/3 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds

1 T chopped fresh chives

Directions:
1. Preheat an oven to 450°F.
2. Cut the larger mushrooms into pieces so that all the mushrooms, whole and cut, are about the same size. Arrange the mushrooms in a single layer in a large roasting pan.
3. In a bowl, using a fork, mix together the butter, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Dot the tops of the mushrooms with small dollops. Sprinkle the wine evenly over all.
4. Roast the mushrooms until they begin to sizzle and brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the pine nuts, and continue roasting until the mushrooms are cooked through and browned in places, 5-10 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a serving dish and sprinkle with the chives.


*Hey you. Yes, you. If you haven’t ventured outside of the plain, boring, white button mushroom box, then I encourage you to step into the fungi forest. Basically, the weirder the mushroom shape, the more flavor it has. I love really curly, freaky-lookin’ things because they taste unique and earthy and wonderful. Part of what makes this recipe great is using a variety of shrooms, so don’t be shy; give ’em a try!