New World Adventures in Food

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ecuador Ecuador shares many culinary traditions with Peru, for indeed, both were part of the Inca Empire, whose New World culinary treasures introduced the conquering Spaniards to the potato (more than 100 varieties), chilies, chocolate, vanilla, fruits such ascherimoya and granadilla, and the meat delicacy of cuy (guinea pig). Ecuador contributed the banana, and today, the country has dozens of its own specialties, some of which clients learn to prepare at the 23-room La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa in the Andean highlands. During a 5-night program combining cooking and adventure, foodies don aprons each morning for the hands-on preparation of Ecuadorian haute-cuisine dishes, under the guidance of chef and hotel owner Jorge Espinosa. On the cooking menu might be gazpacho with coriander sorbet, timbal of quinoa topped with ginger, or Asian-style fricassee of duck. Afternoons are reserved for such activities as a visit to the Condor Park and the Otavalo Market, learning about the process of baking native bread, or leather-goods shopping in Cotocachi. On day five, travelers return to Quito, visiting en-route an Ecuadorian winery, and check-in at the Hotel Mansion del Angel for the night, with a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. Based on four persons, the cost is $1,960 pp dbl, including roundtrip transfers from Quito, accommodations, all meals, excursions and cooking classes.

argentina We think of Argentina as a country all about beef, prepared asado style by roasting over a smoldering wood fire. But of course there is more to love and taste, as Ladatco Tours shows in its 13-day Culinary Argentina tour, highlighting gourmet cooking tours, workshops and other culinary experiences.

The tour begins with a 4-night stay in Buenos Aires at the Alvear Palace, clients spend one day at Estancia Santa Susana, where the pampas experience includes a traditional bbq lunch, tango music and dancing, gaucho “games,” and carriage and horseback rides. Other highlights include a cooking workshop, whose chef teaches the techniques of preparing empanadas Argentinas (meat-filled turnovers) and pastelitos (pastries), and an afternoon at Lo de Joaquin Alberi, a boutique wine shop to learn all about wine and taste the fruit of the vine, pared with cheeses. That’s followed up with a 3-night stay at Cavas Wine Lodge, a Relais & Chateaux property outside Mendoza. Daily activities include visits to three wineries and two sports activities such as rafting or horseback riding; lunch is included daily either at Cavas, a winery or on a vineyard picnic, and each evening features a la carte dinners in a choice of restaurants, including Francis Mallman’s 1824 at the Bodega Escorihuela. It’s all topped off with a 3-night stay in San Carlos de Bariloche at the Hotel Llao Llao, where sightseeing includes private car touring of the Lake District, golf and spa time, as well as a culinary outing to the gorgeous Los Juncos Lake House where clients join the chef in preparing a full meal, enjoyed with cocktails, appetizers and appropriate Argentina wines. This luxury tour with deluxe hotels, private car transport with guides, and most meals, is priced from $8,450.

On a 9-day Taste of Argentina tour, Adventure Life takes cuisine and culture lovers to another corner of Argentina, the northwest, starting in the colonial town of Salta to enjoy its treasures of colonial architecture and colorful markets stocked with avocados, peppers, spices and calabashes, then moving on to the vineyards of Cafayate to learn about the region’s distinctive wines and sample Malbec-Cabernets. This region—one of spectacular landscapes—is also a center of Andean cuisine: tamales, humitas, meatempanadas and casseroles of grilled goat meat. During the tour, sightseeing mixes with visits to a cheese-producing farm in Cafayate Valley, a pottery studio, and a local silversmith in Barraco. One tour highlight is a hike through Humahuaca Gorge with its multi-colored canyons; another is an afternoon in the Andean kitchen of chef Gloria Diez Pena’s Kusika Restaurant in Purmamarca. Using traditional regional products, tour members learn to prepare tamales de Carqui with dry Andean maize, and have for lunch other local specialties such as mankaskanca, hajchalorcro and chairo de tunta.

Tours are offered monthly through 2011, and the cost is $2,495 pp dbl, including local air, accommodations, breakfasts and four lunches and private guide services.

chile We are accustomed to excellent wine touring options in Chile, with vineyard visits and tastings now possible at many estates producing award-winning wines all through the Central Valley, and between Santiago, west to the Pacific coast. Chile is a land of splendid vegetables and fruits, among them notable strawberries, and Chilean cooks make wonderful chupe (much like New England fish chowder), extra special meat empanadas with raisins, and porotos Granados, a vegetable casserole of beans, squash, pumpkin and corn. However, when travelers leave Chile, they are raving about feasting on fish, for the cold Humboldt Current gives the country the most unusual seafood in the world: giant sea urchins, giant abalone, giant crabs, mussels, clams, shrimp, langostines, oysters and congrio—a splendid fish native to these waters. The fish markets in Santiago and Puerto Montt in the Lake District are good places to go to survey these creatures of the deep.