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Food Tour in Old Town Quito
June 25th, 2013


Join Casa Gangotena’s executive chef, Andrés Dávila, as he explores markets and food shops in the traditional neighbourhoods around Plaza San Francisco. 

Chef Dávila, whose culinary style draws from his local background and enthusiasm for ancestral ingredients, introduces guests to the flavors of fresh produce in the San Roque barrio, or neighbourhood.

Leaving the hotel at 9:30am, the chef takes guests through the narrow and busy streets that bustle with commerce. Quito’s World Heritage-designated Old Town is a treasure trove of traditions which the hotel is keen to value. It aims to strengthen these by purchasing all the ingredients for its kitchens (minus proteins) from suppliers in the barrio, as well as by paying visits to shops with international guests. The shopkeepers are proud of their produce and their ways, and are even prouder when foreign travellers are curious about them.

Visits along the route include shops selling local sweets, such as traditional colaciones (sugar-coated peanuts) roasted in a huge bronze pot, guayusa, a leaf from the Amazon which is a natural stimulant for its inhabitants, or heaps of chamomile and stacks of aloe vera from the Coast. Up the hill, passing the barrio’s small chapel, lies one of the Old Town’s numerous markets, where the chef takes guests to the stalls, beginning with women who serve energetic juice drinks containing alfalfa and eggs, followed by stalls overflowing with produce from the Andes: a great spot to learn more about the dozens of varieties (actually over 300) of potatoes that grow here. Over on the fruit stalls, there’s a chance to explore and savor the flavors of the amazing and delicious fruits grown in this tropical South American country.

To one side of the market, the colorful booths of local healers line one wall. These women, whose knowledge is passed down the female line of the family from one generation to the next, provide on-the-spot limpias, a traditional Andean energy-equilibrium restoration treatment. The shelves of their booths sag under the weight of bundles of herbs and plants from every corner of the country. People form lines for treatments, mainly for children who might be suffering ailments ranging from bad sleep to muscle pains. Here, Doña Rosa Lagla explains her work and heritage, and guests can also book a treatment in the privacy of their hotel bedroom later in the day.

Finally, there’s a stop at the last-surviving mill in the Old Town, Molinos de San Martín, run by the same family for three generations. Here, the owners gladly show visitors the myriad varieties of flour they produce from all sorts of Andean grains and pulses, many employed in preparing the restaurant’s delicious dishes.

The Food Tour of Old Town Quito exclusive to guests of Casa Gangotena; $45 per person, including taxes; maximum group of 6.  Reservations required with at least 48-hours notice.