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Panaderia Canadiense

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  1. Whenever I hear this, I keep expecting to get a mouthful and then hear the chef yell "surprise! It's raspberry!"
  2. And here's my sendoff - after a quick cheese sandwich with pickles, and inspired by picking molle (which is one of the hidden spices in really good Mole Poblano), I had a tortilla night! But first, a word about Ecuadorian pickles. So, that plate in the background of my sandwich looks like common pickles - some bread n butter, and some gherkins. You would be shocked upon tasting them, if that were your expectation. The sliced ones are closest to hamburger dills, and the gherkins are some of the absolute strongest, sourest pickles I have ever eaten. They go well with other strong flavours, like aged gouda and rye, which was the sandwich. However, I remember that upon having recently moved here I bought a bag of them thinking they were going to be the sweet-ish little cucumbers I was used to from Canada, and getting a really rude shock when I popped the first one in my mouth! Now, tortilla night. I realized at about 4 o'clock last night that I hadn't actually managed to find any tortillas on my week's wanders. But! I'm lucky, in that I live close to the barrio of Los Sauces, which is where most of Ambato's Mexican expat community has settled. As a result, the tienda for that barrio, which is just three blocks away, stocks ingredients for Mexican cooking including handmade soft corn tortillas, and something any of you who has visited Mexico will instantly recognize: Bimbo flour tortillas! I was lucky enough to get there close to the milk truck from Cotopaxi as well - it meant there was Nata (cultured clotted cream) still in the coolers. With a bit of spiced ground chicken, guacamole, diced tomato, lettuce, and cheese (and palm hearts!) it made a filling and delicious soft taco and burrito kind of dinner.
  3. We take a taxi from home to the downtown, and the rest of it is done on foot. It's impractical to have a delivery vehicle in downtown Ambato, where the streets were designed for horse and buggy - there's almost no parking, and traffic can jam up easily. I don't think I touched on it in this blog (although I have talked about it extensively in the past), but the short version is that my parents retired here. I followed for a vacation, and basically never left because there was much more opportunity for me here, and because I'm not a huge fan of northern Alberta winters. They're not only edible, but a very expensive spice when you buy them commercially! Pink peppercorns are perfectly ripe when the berries are bright pink and still firm to the touch. Just a word of caution, though - the Molle tree is in the same family as Cashews, and if you're at all sensitive to tree nuts the pepper can cause an allergic reaction.
  4. And here's the Molle! These trees, Schinus molle, are common in Ambato and other parts of dry highland Ecuador; they're native to the Peruvian Andes and are all along the old Inca trade routes. These ones in particular are in a very steep public greenspace, which means that harvesting them is not for the faint of heart. These are fairly young trees, probably around 50 years; harvesting them helps keep the trees healthy and productive. The older pepper trees in the city are thought to be close to 400 years of age, and they're also productive. However, they're in easy to access parks, so they're already stripped clean. It's been a pleasantly sunny day, which has wreaked havoc on my photos, but the harvest is really good this year. It's always smart to wear gloves to harvest Molle; they're spicy, and the juice will persist on your hands, making it fairly horrible if you scratch your nose by accident. Mom and I picked a 10-gallon pail full of racemes of peppercorns; when we get home, we'll pick them through. It's probably about two pounds of total yield once it's been winnowed; we barely harvested the tips of the two lowest-hanging branches. It will be enough pepper for the kitchen and to share, for the upcoming year. The general philosophy of things growing on public land is that one takes what one needs, and leaves the rest for other people who need it. This particular greenspace has four big Molles on it, two of which bear fruit and two of which are males, which are necessary for fruiting. The amount of pepper produced on just one of them is close to half a tonne if it were all harvested at once. The greenspace also has wild spinach, yacon, berry lantana, and a number of medicinal plants growing on it.
  5. While I wait for my video to upload, I want to talk a bit about a neat phenomenon in Ecuadorian barrios - Hornado Solidario, or solidarity pig roasts. When someone in the community needs that bit of extra help, everybody will pitch in to buy a pig and roast it, then put up some speakers and sell it to whoever passes by. A dish of solidarity roast usually costs about $3 and features a generous portion of wood-oven roasted pig, lettuce, mote (exploded flint corn), and encurtido (fresh-pickled onion and tomato salad). Sometimes there are also llapingachos, the potato tortillas that traditionally accompany pork dishes. This one was in Barrio La Vicentina in favour of Kevan, who is trying to buy a new prosthetic leg. This is an older barrio, and it still has its urban orchards very much intact. This lot has two big guabo (ice-cream bean) trees, a couple of walnuts, an Abyssinian apricot, a pear, and a capulí (Andean weeping cherry) in it, from what I could see - and there are probably also pear, peach, and plum trees in there. Out on the sidewalk in front of the wall is a large pile of oca, a traditional Andean tuber, which have been laid out in a sunbeam to break down their natural oxalates and make them sweeter. I was in the Vicentina to deliver a pie to my chiropractor - and I'm disappointed to report that only my pictures of the raw pie turned out - the others overexposed. So, here's a raw black cherry pie! It smelled amazing coming out of the oven this morning.
  6. Kim, just wait! I'm off to harvest fresh pink peppercorns in a moment - I'll be taking a video of this as well, because it's not an opportunity than many people get in life.
  7. Dinner last night fell into the "I am too tired to be inspired" category - a fresh tomato sauce with ground beef and veggies, over pasta. This is one of my fallback meals when I'm exhausted, because it takes about 10 minutes for prep and 20 for cooking. Oh, and it's delicious, so it's got that going for it.
  8. After a quick lunch of chicken tetrazzini "fridge cleanings" (wherein I look for overlooked leftovers, and nuke anything that doesn't smell iffy - mom had chicken stew) it was time to head out for a delivery to Pelileo, a town about 20 minutes (ha!) from Ambato on a good day. I'm laughing at the idea of a 20-minute trip, because about the highway between Ambato and the 493B turnoff is ripped up right now, so it's one lane and very slow going - it actually took close to an hour to get there. Pelileo was a bit of a bust - everything there seems to be closed in the afternoon! However, I did find a stall preparing the town's signature empanadas - they're cooked on a clay tiesto, and they're amazingly soft and crisp when they're fresh off the pan. I was hoping that the big Mercado República de Argentina would be open for hot chocolate, but no dice - everything inside was wrapped up tight, and the third floor coffeeshops were all closed.
  9. And this morning's breakfast happened on the fly, on my delivery circuit. Friday delivery is four totes of food, packed full (about 120 pounds), strapped to a wheeler, and the basket is stuffed full - it normally weighs around 30 lbs at the beginning of the day. I always run a little bit late getting out of the house on Friday mornings, which means that a typical breakfast will happen based on which other vendors I encounter on the route. And today was no different. First up was a Venezuelan refugee with two-for-a-dollar empanadas. These are always a bit of a tossup, but in this case they're stuffed with ginger pork, and although they're cold they're quite delicious. The second was an Argentine refugee, and a chicken empanada which was liberally stuffed with saffron rice, chicken cooked with ají peppers, and vegetables; this came with a cup of fresh guacamole for dressing. Neither vendor wished to be photographed, unfortunately - but I understand their reluctance. They're ambulatory vendors with large styrofoam coolers that have "Empanadas, $1,00" written on the side in magic marker. One learns by experience which of them have the best snacks.
  10. Holy schnike, I missed all of yesterday's eating? Thursdays usually slam me, since they're the preparatory run-up to Cheesecake Friday on the delivery circuit. So, with apologies, here's Thursday... I was so busy that I skipped breakfast entirely, and went straight to lunch at FoodBalance. This is another version of Ecuadorian fast food, an Almuerzo place. This kind of restaurant typically seats about 20-25, and serves a fixed menu with binary choices for two of the three courses. At FoodBalance, lunch is $3.00 and Thursday's was Locro de Papa con Queso, a potato and cheese soup, followed by seco de pollo (stewed chicken). Dessert was a tiny deep-fried banana morsel, and the drink was colada, in this case naranjilla cooked with oats and then strained. I love this kind of restaurant. From the time you're seated to the time you're served the first course is less than 5 minutes; the second comes out as you're finishing your soup. Total mealtime, when you're hungry, can be less than 30 minutes. This is very much the Ecuadorian concept of fast food - good food, served fast. Almuerzo restaurants typically turn over 200-300 covers a day, and the best ones have lineups to get a seat (and when this happens, tables become communal - if you're only one diner and there's a space, they'll just shoehorn you into someone else's table where there's a seat.). Most of them also offer tiffin service, where you bring in your lunchbox and they fill it for you - often for a discount. Incidentally, that was an enormous chicken leg; Ambato and area are kind of famous for this. The most common breed of chicken in the province is what's commonly called a naked-neck, or churkey. These chickens, when they're mature, can get quite large - which means that pieces served in the restaurants are uniformly large and meaty. Dinner was more chicken, this time as stew with heavy butter biscuits made according to my grandmother's 1933 Purity Cookbook. These biscuits aren't as light and fluffy as the Colorado Institute yoghurt biscuit recipe that I usually use, but they're quite a bit richer and compliment stew better. What was I doing all day Thursday, that I barely ate? Well... Cheesecake Friday is a festival of variety in my delivery basket. I was making Nutella Cheesecake, Mojito Pie (a take on key lime pie with a hint of mint), and Strawberry-Blackberry Cornmeal Shortcakes. This is labour-intensive, but totally worth it.
  11. I'll see what I can do. I generally only eat ceviche when I'm actually on the coast - it's a freshness issue. I've had severe food poisoning from improperly prepared ceviches up here in the Sierra.... BUT! Later today I'll be going to Pelileo, so I might have a cevichocos. We'll have to see what I find!
  12. I'm GenX, and I thought that the very first time that I heard the story. So I think it's made in squarely into the cultural lexicon...
  13. What I use is very close to Hellman's/Best Foods, actually - it's Los Andes brand, which I wouldn't expect anyone to be able to find outside of Ecuador. Ala Cena, from Perú, is also quite nice as a rice dressing - it's less a mayonnaise than an aioli, though.
  14. Oh my goodness... "Cannot survive long in here. Caviar is so bad, even when served with blini and crème fraîche. Doing another riot to-morrow." I'm snorting ovaltine out my nose right now...
  15. Snacktime after the inspection (which took close to 2 hours) was the Berliner and one of the Empanadas de Pinllo. The Berliner is a strange creature - it's named for the German baker who started making them here about 60 years ago, due to a misunderstanding. Someone apparently asked him what the pastry was, he thought they were asking where he was from, and said "ein Berliner" - meaning that a simple custard bun is now associated with Berlin. Every bakery that offers these does them a little differently - some have only a little dollop of custard in them, like the one I bought from Cinco Esquinas; others are more custard than bread. They're only called Berliners in Ambato - everywhere else in the country, they're pan de nata. The Empanada de Pinllo is an exemplary version of itself - the pastry is light and tastes slightly smoky, and the cheese is almost but not quite sweet. This empanada came from one of the older wood-oven bakeries across the valley, which are run by several generations of the same family. And dinner was simple fare: breaded black sole, steamed veggies, and more rice. I'm becoming very Ecuadorian in some ways - I'll often add mayonnaise to my rice by way of condimentation. It's less disgusting than it sounds, I promise!
  16. Maybe... I do weigh most other ingredients, but both powder and soda are measured by levelled graduated 5mL teaspoon. We checked yesterday; that's 6g for soda. It's another hoop to jump through - the rules they operate under are more logical when you think about big industries that use a lot of different restricted chemicals. This is the risk I run; it's one I run happily in order to do my duty under the Constitution of my country (part of which is to speak out when the government infringes human or environmental rights.). I won't get more political than that here on this forum, but I do get intensely so in courtrooms nationally. I'm aware of how dangerous this is, but as I said before, I don't really let it stop me. I just choose what I do, and how, to ensure that there's enough press involved to give me some international safety.
  17. Aaaand... You know how back upthread I talked about the restrictions on baking soda and mentioned that occasionally I get subjected to spot inspections? I just had one! The SETED representative is a lovely woman, and the inspection process is fairly painless. This time around, they want me to calibrate my scale and to begin daily recording of exactly how much weight of soda I use in which products. As a result, the lunch post is coming a bit late. I had a couple of sandwiches left from the morning's deliveries, which I pressed because it was a chilly round to walk and I got rained on. There are a couple of things about lunch that I should mention. The first is just visible off to the left of this photo - it's a drinkable yogurt, peach flavour. Mom had guanábana (soursop) flavour, which is not my favourite. The second is that little pot of relish. It's made with Achogchas, which are a totally bizarre cucumber relative, tomate de árbol, and red peppers, and it approximates a North American sweet curry relish. A little later, I'm going to venture up the hill in search of Quimbolitos... Wish me luck!
  18. It would be if my content wasn't already under scrutiny. Unfortunately, it is, so spoofing my IP to a different country now won't do me any good - the government knows where I am.
  19. I'm still in my home kitchen, the same one I showed you back in 2016! The search for a dedicated space continues.
  20. And now, the reason that I've been lax with updates last night and today: Wendesdays are downtown delivery days. This meant making a fresh 16-piece pumpkin chocolate chip cake, and both quinua and rye breads for sandwiches. This is the delivery basket for the day, contents of which are dropped off at a number of local government offices, lawyers, and medical professionals.
  21. I'm nearly impossible to offend - you can always ask about that kind of thing! Let's talk beer! (And also yesterday's dinner) I needed a little something, and since I'd used half the bottle in my rye bread, I decided to finish off a Biela Original. Unlike all of the other big-brewery bottles available in Ecuador, which are lagers, Biela Original is an American Blonde Ale. It's got a nice, delicate flavour with good balance and it's quite refreshing. My only complaint is the over-carbonization. Dinner, after all that rich and exotic empanada fare, was simple: roasted root veggies, steamed cauliflower, and roast chicken breast.
  22. I've got a moment before dinner, so I'll dig into this... First off, expats. I'm assuming you use the term to mean people from first-world nations who maintain substantial ties with their home countries (this is the normal usage - primarily North American residents in other countries.). In this sense, the expat community in Ambato is still vanishingly small - maybe 10 people total. However, and this is key, I don't consider myself or my family to be expats. We're immigrants. The difference is that we left everything behind to make the switch, and maintain only cursory ties to Canada, and this is actually the situation of the bulk of other North Americans and Europeans in Ambato. Many immigrants here have married Ecuadorians and consider Ecuador to be their home (rather than the countries they came from.). Equally, Ambato is one of the biggest sanctuary cities when it comes to refugees, so our population tends to be quite international but the people have no intention or ability to return to their original countries. I've been pointing out throughout this current blog how that attitude, of receiving and becoming a new home to refugees from around the world, has shaped the city's food culture. It happens quickly, too. In the classic "gringolandia" meaning, Ambato doesn't have an expat community. People who choose this city, regardless of their starting country, become Ambateños after living here for even a short time; the North Americans who live here integrate into their barrios rather than forming their own pockets of culture. The expat-proper community in Tungurahua province is in Baños de Agua Santa, a hot-springs town about an hour downhill towards the jungle. The general sense of expats here is an almost stalwart refusal to adapt to the local culture, insisting on the superiority of their own and trying to change the areas around them by force. This has varying degrees of success and leads to a lot of resentment by the locals and the immigrant community, the first for the disregard of the culture that's already here, and the second because they're often tarred with the same brush used for expats. We chose Ecuador after about a decade of careful research, took a holiday to see Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia, and Argentina, and fell in love with Ecuador almost as soon as we touched down. After that, it was mostly the matter of liquidating Canada and making the move. I don't regret a single second of it; I've been here now going on 13 years, and became a naturalized Ecuadorian citizen in 2012 (another reason I'd call myself an immigrant.) If you choose to expatriate or to immigrate, there's really only one thing to hold in mind: you're not in Kansas anymore. If you're adaptable and able to roll with the sometimes absurd circumstances that moving to a completely new culture and country entails, you'll probably enjoy yourself immensely; if you're unable to change, you'll have a horrible experience. Personally, I love this country, for all its ups and downs. During all of the previous blogs I've written, Ecuador was under what's referred to as a "soft dictatorship" which got increasingly more severe towards the end of Correa's unprecedented third term in office. This is, incidentally, why I disappeared not just from the eGullet but from most social media, after 2016 - the government cracked down hard on freedom of expression, especially through social networks, and it was safer for me to go quiet - I respect the rules here about politics, so I never really talked about how politically active I am here (which is very - I'm kind of a thorn in the side of whatever administration is in power. This isn't a particularly safe pastime, but it's a patriotic one.) Under the new administration, which has been in power a little over a year, things have opened up considerably, and it was safe to reestablish my digital presence - and I'm also poking the administration harder than ever.
  23. Now... Let's talk empanadas and bakery culture! Today's fare is thanks to four bakeries within walking distance of my house. Ambato is probably unique in the world for there being a small bakery within about 10 blocks of anywhere in the city (and that's being generous with the distance), and for most of the corner stores stocking fresh bread daily. Ambateños proudly say that part of what makes us Ambateño is that there's fresh bread at every meal. Bakeries here run the gamut: I'm the only catering bakery, but we've got the home branches of three large chains here, a number of family-owned industrial bakeries, and a healthy population of artisans. Four types of oven are used: electric, LPG, diesel, and ancient wood-fired ovens. And with all this variety, there are plenty of empanadas on offer every day. First up: DeliFruit de Los Sauces, which is furthest uphill of me (4 blocks). This isn't a bakery in and of itself, but rather a full-service mini market that stocks the bread of Ambato's largest industrial bakery, Cavisa (incidentally, if you go waaaaaay back to my very first foodblog here, I lived 4 blocks from Cavisa!) as well as Pan de Pinllo. This is important for two reasons: one, because there isn't another bakery serving the uphill communities for about 8 blocks, and two for the Pan de Pinllo. Pinllo is a township barrio in Ambato that's famous for a couple of things, most notably for having wood-oven bakeries that have been in continuous production for nearly 200 years. Pan de Pinllo is always wood-fired, and it's sought after for the unique flavour this gives to the bread. I'm here to buy Empanadas de Pinllo, which are a white bread enriched with lard, stuffed with cheese, and lightly sugared. They're $0.25 each. Next up, Pan de Casa, which is a local family bakery with two locations. They produce probably 5,000 buns a day in various shapes, sizes, and types, and I'm here for their really fabulous Empanadas Integrales (whole wheat empanadas) which are also cheese-filled, but without the sugar. Pan de Case is also about 4 blocks from my house, but less uphill than DeliFruit. . Third up, Cinco Esquinas, a large-scale artisan bakery inside a mini market of the same name, just one block from Pan de Casa, and 4 blocks from my house by a different walking route. I'm here for their sweet empanadas, which are the best in the area. You'll notice that these last two bakeries have been open-bin, serve-yourself affairs with actual bread baskets for your purchases. This is common in Ambato bakeries, which trust you not to fondle the buns. Finally, there's Delicious, which is another large-scale artisan bakery. I'm here hoping against hope that they've still got Empanadas Chileñas (Chilean-style empanadas), because theirs are among the best in the city. Delicious is 6 blocks from my house, which makes it "far away" by Ambato standards. I was in luck, and they also had Humitas - bonus! Now to examine the haul! I spend $4.20 all told, and what I got for it is this: five big salt empanadas, three dessert empanadas, and a humita. This is actually more than two of us can eat for lunch; the Pinllos and the Berliner will have to wait until we've got room again. . Clockwise from top left: Empanadas de Pinllo, Empanadas Integrales, Empanada Chileña Clockwise from top: Berliner, Enrollado de Chocolate, Empanada de Piña To accompany the feast, we're having big mugs of instant bouillon. So... Let's start with the Empanada Chileña! This is a big pastry, enough to feed one person for lunch all on its own, and it's stuffed with ground beef cooked up with tiny shreds of onion, raisins, and finely chopped walnuts. This doesn't sound like a normal combination for flavours, but it's both savoury and sweet in perfect measure, and leaves me initially wishing I'd had more than just the half of it. Chileñas get their name from the Chilean refugees who brought this style of empanada with them in the 1970s and 1980s; they're very similar to Cornish Pasties in size, dough, and texture. Next up, the Humita! This is a steamed, slightly salty cornbread, in this case stuffed with a chunk of fresh cheese, and a very popular accompaniment for coffee or light lunch. They're always sold in the corn-husk wrappers that they're steamed in, which give them both form and a delicate flavour of cornsilk. Humitas are most common in Loja and Azuay provinces (south Ecuador), where the best corn to make them is grown, but they're available nationally. Sweet Humitas are also available, which are stuffed with either raisins or prunes, and fully savoury Humitas might feature onions, pulled pork, or chicken. After the Humita, it was time for the Integral. This is a much more humble pastry, simply filled with fresh cheese curd; what sets it apart is the soft whole wheat bread that surrounds that cheese. Most bakeries here bungle whole wheat, turning out dry and crumbly results, but this location of Pan de Casa gets it right. At this point, we knew we didn't have room to have both the Pinllos and the desserts, so we opted for the desserts. First up is the Enrollado de Chocolate, which is Ambato's answer to a Parisian Pain au Chocolat. The difference here is that the Enrollado doesn't use a puff dough, opting instead for something closer to a light brioche. Next up is the Empanada de Piña, which, as its name suggests, is a leaf pastry stuffed with pineapple. It's an example of the Ecuadorian tradition of Viennoiserie, and another food that came to the country with refugees, this time Austrian and German Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. Ecuador has adapted Viennoiserie to its own palate, producing strudel-like empanadas, fanciful puff pastry confections filled with chocolate or dulce de leche, and the king of dessert pastries, the Mil Hojas. For this last, I'll have to hit up Ambato's French bakery later in the week. I'm particularly fond of Cinco Esquinas' take on the pineapple empanada, because their filling isn't over-sweetened, letting some of the natural acidity of the fruit shine. I didn't have room for the Berliner, so that one is going to have to wait for later...
  24. Oh, a blender is definitely involved! It's more that nobody owns a centrifugal juicer the way most North Americans do. I'll make more juice for dinner tonight and give you all a step-by-step at that point, but basically you toss chopped fruit of your choice into the blender with a bit of water, vrrrrp! and strain. Or don't strain, if you were juicing something not-too-seedy that you enjoy the pulp of.
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