Guatemala Travel Planner - (Page 13)

Tasting Guatemala According to Mircini Molviati, a leading chef and television host, "Guatemalan gastronomy is one of the country's cultural treasures." She points out that "our cuisine is linked to every activity we do as a society: the celebration of life and the embracing of death; the dismissal of the old year and the welcoming of the new; the cultivation of earth at planting and harvest time; and the observation of Mayan and Christian ceremonies." Pre-Hispanic civilization provided the staple ingredients of corn and beans on which much of Guatemalan cooking is still based today; however, it was Spanish cooking styles that introduced many other native vegetables, fruits and meals in a variety of ways. Most meals are served with beans, prepared in two ways: cooked, mashed and then refried or served whole with onion and garlic. Maize is the other essential, most commonly consumed as a tortilla-best eaten when warm. A staple dish is a tamale, made from corn meal, pork or turkey, tomato sauce and olives, wrapped in a banana leaf and boiled. Traditional dishes are chunky soups or subtly spiced tomato-based stews found regionally. In the norther Las Verapaces region, kakik is a turkey stew requiring 24 ingredients. Spicy meat dishes include pollo en jocon (chicken in a tomatillo-cilantro sauce) and pollo en pepian (chicken in a tomato-pumpkinseed sauce). Guatemalan sweets are very sweet. They range from pastel borracho soaked in rum syrup before being iced, to mole de platano, which is plantain served in a sweet-spiced cocoa-flavored sauce. Preparation of these, and many other dishes, is the focus of cooking classes offered to visitors in Guatemala City, Antigua, Quetzaltenango and in villages around Lake Atitlan. The Mayan Inn in Chichicastenango teaches its guests how to shop at the market then prepare kakik or pepian on a wood stove and oven. The eastern coast of Guatemala has a different culinary tradition. In Puerto Barrios and Livingston, Creole and Garifuna cooking is the fare, incorporating the influences of the Caribbean and Africa. Seafood dominates the scene, along with coconut and plantain. Tapado is probably the region's signature dish, a seafood soup that's a superb mix of fish (typically snapper), prawns, coconut milk, peppers, plantain and spices. Also on the menu will be plenty of grilled fish, lobster, conch fritters and pan de coco (coconut bread). W h en D i ni ng A r ound I n. . . . Guatemala City: Tops in quality (and price) in traditional Guatemalan cuisine and atmosphere is Kacao in Zona 10. In the same corner of the capital are such highend restaurants as Tamarindos, where Italy and Asia are the dominant influences on the extensive international menu, and Zumo, serving up its delicious international fusion dishes in a converted old home. There's a heavy Asian influence and lots of vegetarian items at high-end al fresco Ambia, hard to find but worth the search in Zona 14. When craving a steak, one can do no better than the Hacienda Real in Zona 10, with other branches around town, and for tops in Italian brick-oven pizzas and pastas, head for Zona 4 and L'Osteria. Zona 1 is the place to be for Old World charm and traditional Spanish fare at Restaurante Altuna; however, for tapas and a more modern take on classic Spanish dishes, try Tapas y Canas in Zona 10. Antigua: High-end dining in Antigua comes with a lot of romance. The ambiance is fabulous and the food with a wide range of international fusions is superb at Meson Panza Verde. Matching it on the refined restaurant scale is Welten, an Antiguan institution that occupies an old mansion and offers a menu full of wonderful Continental fare with strong French and Italian influences. A French-bistro choice at mid-level pricing is Bistrot CINQ, offering a wide range of classic French dishes, while the bustling and popular Hector's mixes its French menu with at least one pasta dish. Another fine French-food pick is Tartines, where the covered secondfloor patio offers a view of the Cathedral, and for crepes of every flavor-sweet or savory-it's Luna De Miel. For a change of pace, the hip Nokiate does a good job on its sushi/pan-Asian/Latin fusion menu. There are three branches of La Fonda de la Calle Real, serving up some of the best Guatemalan cuisine in restaurants with colonial ambiance, and for Mayan specialties, the best bet may be La Cuevita De Los Kis Urquizu. Coffee Time Guatemala is known around the world for its excellent coffee, grown mostly in the Western Highlands. There are many opportunities to visit coffee farms in the Western Highlands, as well as on the Pacific slopes and the Verapaces. Activities include touring the coffee plantations as well as observing the process from harvest to roasting. Some properties are on large private reserves and combine birdwatching, hiking and other outdoor activities with a visit to the farm. For instance, right in the city of Coban is the Finca Santa Margarita, a working coffee plantation whose 1.5-hour tour includes the history, techniques and culture of coffee growing and processing, with a tasting afterward. And near Antigua, Finca Filadelfia offers excellent coffee tours and cupping demonstrations, as well as mule rides, birdwatching, mountain bike and hiking tours, and a zipline canopy adventure. On site also are luxury rooms and suites, and an excellent restaurant. 13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Guatemala Travel Planner

A Colonial Heritage
The Living Maya of the Highlands
El Mundo Maya
Call of the Wild
An Appetite for the Arts
Land of Active Adventures
Tasting Guatemala
Festivals Galore
Marvelous Markets
Marvelous Markets

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