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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.
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?