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Selling our products is a fine way to meet people and find other great products. There are a number of small artisan food producers in Quito and in other parts of Ecuador, and we have the good fortune of working with many of them. I’m going to try and profile some of the great people, and especially their products, during the next couple of months. We have met many of them during holiday bazars and at the mini “farmer’s market”,  held at the house of a German family every Saturday from 9-2 in Tumbaco, just outside Quito.

Local food in Ecuador is not an oxymoronic term as it so often is in the US. This is one aspect of food in Ecuador that is taken for granted. Nearly everything fresh can be considered “local.” From Ipiales in the northernmost part of Ecuador at the Colombian border, to Huaquillas in the South at the Peruvian border, its 346.1 miles. If you’re in Quito, then your about 250 miles from Huaquillas and little more than 150 or so from Ipiales. So all your fresh produce is never more then 100-200 miles away, but in all likelihood it’s from a lot closer in, under 100 miles most of the time. The geographical variation makes it easy to get guanabana, passion fruit, and bananas from the coast or the Amazon, and highland staples like potatoes and carrots. But on to our foodie friends.

Farmer's Market Tumbaco

Greens and Reds at the Tumbaco Market

Regina Schimmele is one of the great people we’ve met, and she makes a number of fantastic goat cheeses. She’s German but has lived in Ecuador over ten years, and learned her cheese-making skills during a one-week course in Austria. She must have learned a lot in that one week, because her cheeses are spectacular.

The cheese are sold in several small stores in Quito and she is a regular, always at the Tumbaco Biormercado. She sells it under the “Black Forest” brand. Too bad it’s not for export because it would be a hot item.

Regina has her own flock of goats, but also buys milk from another local goat herder, and makes all the cheeses at her house. She also sells fresh oyster mushrooms from the amazon, a number or quinoa and amaranth products, hearts of palm from the family farm, and a few baked goods.

You can find all kinds of fresh produce and goodies you won’t find elsewhere; fennel, carrots, potatoes, a variety of lettuces, and herbs, rhubarb and rhubarb pie, fresh sauerkraut and breads, german bratwurst and other sausages, smoked salmon and trout, passion fruit preserves, and other good stuff.

There are no regulations to follow here, no standards to adhere to, but since it’s a private market and everything is fresh and homemade, it’s of the best quality. But let’s cover the cheeses for now.

The chevre with herbs, the 2 month or 3 month aged hard cheese, the goat cheese ricotta, or the brie, I can never decide which one to pick they are all so delicious. Whenever I can, I am over at Regina’s table munching on samples. I usually end up going home with at least two different kinds, and Regina likes to barter with me for our chocolate covered almonds. The chevre is a tangy, smooth cream cheese, best served when it’s soft and spreadable. It’s got chives, parsley, dill and a few other herbs mixed in, and some fresh garlic. My five year old son devours crack after cracker covered with it. The hard cheese is slighly sharp, nicely tangy. The ricotta is one of our favorites; I often get it half price because I don’t think a lot of people here know what to do with it so it’s not a big mover. We like to serve it mixed with a tomato and mushroom sauce over pasta. As it breaks up it clings nicely to the noodles and adds a farm-fresh cream flavor, heightening the tomatoes and accenting the mushrooms. Are you hungry yet?

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Condiments, preserves and other items

Regina and Her Cheeses

Cheeses and Oyster Mushrooms

Assorted Cheese, Hearts of Palm, and Rye Flour

Most of the year goes by without having to deal with too much corruption, but permit renewal is one period when I sometimes ask myself just why I put up with it. Every year around this time, we have to renew our health permit. It doesn’t matter that we already run a clean shop, abide by higher than normal hygiene, and do our best to make sure our products are safe and clean. The authorities are willing to recognize that. What they’re not willing to do is let anyone get away with being law abiding without paying a hefty fee, which is really all that matters to them.



This year, as usual, things have changed since last year. Instead of simply getting our health permit renewed, we now needed an inspection from the Fire Department. Last year we were supposed to have a fire department inspection, but in spite of contacting the fire department and setting up an appointment, they never showed up and never issued a permit.

But our “expediter” who is actually the same guy who issues the health permit from the Ministry of Healthy, insisted it was necessary that the inspection be carried out. He needed the inspection report from the FD before he could issue the permit.

After waiting several weeks, a man from the Fire Department showed up when we were out of town. This he made clear to us on his second visit; his motive for making this clear was cash. Since most government agencies don’t have budgets for things like transportation, it had cost him to come once and cost him again to come twice, and he insinuated that some kind of “compensation” should be given for having had to make two trips, since had to pay cab fare, or bus fare, to arrive.

During his inspection, he noted that we needed a 10 pound chemical powder fire extinguisher, in addition to the five pound one we already had, properly situated emergency evacuation lights, and smoke detectors in all four rooms of our workshop. He sat slowly making his notes and purposely forging an uncomfortable silence, obviously waiting for some offer of cash which would just make this all easily go away.

What he got was acceptance on our part to comply with the request, and no cash. He wasn’t happy about it. The form he left us noted what was needed; once we had put in place the requested items, then he or someone else would be back to re-inspect and have the form signed off on by the head of the fire department. But he didn’t really want to come back-he wanted the cash so he wouldn’t have the onerous burden of actually having to do his job.

We called our “expediter” at the Ministry and told him we had the inspection report. He told us straight-out we really didn’t need to actually comply with the requested items on the report. A copy of it sent over to him would suffice; my guess is he knows the fire department chief and would get it signed off on, probably sharing with the Chief a portion of the “fee” we pay him to get the permit issued.

At the same time, he sent us a form to sign off on stating that we would comply with the request in the Fire Department’s report within 90 days, and if we did not do so the Health Ministry had the right to revoke our permit. But of course, he is the Health Ministry, or at least he is the official in charge of enforcing the Health Ministry’s issuing of permits-so this form will probably just end up buried deep in some rusty file cabinet in some shadowy and dusty half-abandoned file storage closet in the Ministry. Ah, such is corruption!

See the full photo set here.

This is where the chocolate for www.aequarechocolates.com starts!

You can now purchase our products online at www.aequarechocolates.com.

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You can also visit and purchase from our store on Foodzie
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This morning at Hacienda Limón we went over to see fermentation and drying. Samuel does a “pre-drying” where he takes the harvested cacao, lets it dry for 4-8 hours on the patio, and then begins fermentation. This is sort of his “signature” fermenting process; he claims it helps remove the agua sangre, a phenomenon that occurs here in Ecuador with a buildup of liquids after several hours of fermentation. He claims that by pre-drying, it helps eliminate the acidity that “agua sangre” creates. He’s being working with cacao processing for well over a decade and research on cacao for more than two decades, and this is his theory.
Samuel examining fermented beans.
He showed us a small batch of beans he had fermenting just for demonstration purposes, since harvest is basically over.
Beans fermenting.Small batch of fermenting beans.

Drying Patio
And the last batches of already fermented beans were drying on the patio, soon to be packed up.

We did some tasting of beans from local farms prepared on site. First, the bean were roasted by hand, then peeled by hand. Then the beans were ground in a small lab grinder right on site.
We then did the tastings of the pure liquor.

You can definitely recognize differences in each one, some being surprisingly much more palatable than others.
The House at Hacienda Limón.

There´s a small house of concrete and bamboo where we stayed, with two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and small living area on an open patio. We got lots of bug bites, though it was nice to hear all the bug music at night.

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Welcome to Destination Ecuador!

Welcome to Destination Ecuador! My family and I have been living in Ecuador for the last four and a half years. We’ve dealt with the worst kinds of red-tape, searched out or ended up making hard-to-find ingredients ourselves, imported equipment for making chocolate confections, learned the import-export business...Continue >>

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