Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I love arepas!

I'm addicted. After a weekend in Venezuela, I can't stop thinking about them. In fact, I almost asked my cabbie to make a pit stop at Caracas Arepas Bar in the east village on my way home from the airport...but I realized that might be a bit unreasonable.

Prior to departing, I dragged Pallavi to Guayoyo in east village for a primer in Venezuelan food. We shared yuca fries and a cachapa, which is a dish that looks similar to an Indian dosa, but thicker and made with corn and stuffed with meat, vegetables and or cheese.

I was now more than ever excited for my next food adventure in Venezuela!

I was flying out of LaGuardia airport, I haven't been there in over a year. While the Delta terminal is great, with several food options (including Pat La Freida burgers!), and an iPad ordering system, the United terminal is downright terrible. There isn't a bar past security. There isn't a lounge, either. Worst of all, the only food option seemed to be an Au Bon Pain. No sbarros? Horrors. I decided I would make up for it in the Houston lounge while waiting for Sanjay's flight to arrive.

{Dinner in Houston. Very balanced diet, you can see.}

After a glass of celebratory champagne and more beloved cheese and crackers for me, we boarded our Caracas bound flight. Sanjay fell asleep, but I took the liberty to grab a dinner for him too. The meal service included an option of a fajita or an enchilada. Um, we're flying to Caracas, not Cancun, but I'll take it, I guess.

{Oops. Sanjay didn't wake up so I just ate his enchilada too.
You should have seen the look the woman next to him gave me.}

{Can Carlos Garcia be the on-board chef instead next time?}

Once we figured out how to get on our connecting flight (more on this later), we naturally decided it was time for breakfast. Empanada-esque snacks? Done.

{Filled with cheese and a strip of bacon}

{Filled with curried beef}

Sanjay and I flew to a STUNNING archipelago, Los Roques. This set of pristine islands is one of Venezuela's national parks. Seriously the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to in my life. As soon as we landed, and arrived at our posada, I had some freshly squeezed juice. One of my favorite things about South America in general - there is always a supply of yum freshly squeezed exotic fruit juices for less than $2. Beat that, Juice Generation/Blue Print Cleanse/Liquiteria/et. al.

After finishing our fresh juice, we were required to change into our swimwear and were promptly whisked away to another island, lunch and beverages packed. We even drank diet coke! (I reserve soda for special occasions such as pizza and vacation on a spectacular beach).

{A tuna sandwich on some fluffy bread}

Los Roques is frequented by Venezuelans and Italians. We actually did not see any other Americans, oddly enough. After our rough day at the beach, where no amount of sunscreen will protect you from the blazing sun, our posada made us a nice snack of a bruschetta type dish (catering to the Italians?) and PASSION FRUIT JUICE. 

We also had a lovely dinner beloved our Posada.

{Eggplant pasta}

{Fresh tuna}

{A tart with pears and freshly shaved chocolate}

{Look at this beautiful arepa!}

We met a nice couple from Caracas at our posada, I just took their cue on how to eat our breakfast arepa. They spread mantequilla (butter) on it, and filled it with scrambled eggs. 

At a fruit market with some of the juciest strawberries I've ever seen, I saw some fruits I haven't had or seen before:

{I believe this is a custard apple}

{Can anyone identify this fruit?}

Another thing I love about South America in general is THE COFFEE. Let's flash back to the time Becca and I were in Cuzco and our hotel served us some coffee with breakfast. It was so thick that we were actually disgusted by it...only to find out that we were supposed to pour hot water into it to make it slightly more diluted, to our taste. Oops. #embarrassingamericansabroad. 

Anyways. Venezuela was no exception for rich, dark coffee. While waiting to catch our flight back to Caracas, we spotted a coffee shop at the "airport". This coffee was delicious, perhaps because of the amount of condensed milk and simple syrup our barista poured in. And very refreshing considering it was about 90 degrees outside.  

If you recall this post, you remember my dining experience at Astrid y Gaston in Lima. I figured it would be fun to pay another visit in Caracas. I think we got a few remarks from people as to why we were eating Peruvian food in Caracas, pero, por que no? I will say the one in Lima has a more lively atmosphere, but the food in Caracas is equally delish. 


{Ceviche mixto. Scallops, peruvian corn and cilantro never tasted so yum}

{Assorted croquettes}

{Peruvian chicken curry. This fried chicken
was the amongst the crispiest I've had!}

{Suckling pig. Drooool.}

{The trifecta of any hom nom meal:
sparkling water, champagne, and espresso}

Sanjay and I couldn't quite decipher the dessert menu, but I know that maracuya means passion fruit so I figured we couldn't go wrong there. 

{A mousse with passion fruit ice cream/sauce underneath}

My guidebook listed several arepas restaurants that are open 24 hours, so Sanjay and I planned in advance that we would stop by one on our way home after checking out the Caracas nightlife scene. We picked Gran Horizonte given its proximity to our hotel. 

Help. I'm in love. You can see carne mechada (shredded beef) con queso blanco below. With just a little bit of green and red sauce, I was in heaven. 



The last time I had papaya, in Tanzania, I nearly gagged. This time, it was definitely palatable, in a fruit salad below. Note my take-away coffee off to the side. Our coffee was always served in small plastic cups. 


Oh, you again! Last time I had this in Peru, filled with arequipe. 


For lunch, we stopped for arepas again. I ordered a pernil (pork shoulder) con queso guayanese. Queso guaynese is a white cheese (see below) that looks like mozzarella, only saltier. It is made in Guayana, which I believe is to the south east of Caracas. 


Sanjay and I ventured to a neighborhood about 45 minutes out of Caracas named El Hatillo. This village is known for its food, so it should come as no surprise that we were willing to sit on a hot and sweaty bus to make the trip. 

Here, we found golfeados (a cinnamon roll-esque dessert), coffee, hot chocolate, churros, ice cream, and all other kinds of treats. 




{Chocolate con crema basically means you 
get a mound of whip cream on top of your hot chocolate}


{Venezuelan Coffee}

For our last night in Caracas, we visisted the restaurant Mokambo. We actually wanted to try out Alto, the restaurant of famous Caracas chef Carlos Garcia, but sadly it is closed on Sundays. We can save that for next time. We could not really decipher the menu, and thought we ordered pork when in fact we ordered a steak. Luckily the steak was delicious. 

{I ordered a cavalli tiger - mixed with PASSION FRUIT juice!}

Longing for one more arepa on our way to the airport, I realized we hadn't yet tried cachapas. Luckily, we had a few bolivares left over and Sanjay picked up two cachapas - one with queso guaynes and one with shredded chicken and mixed vegetables. The outside is sweet, so with savory fillings, it is kind of like having bacon and pancakes together. But even better.



My sad egg and ham sandwich on the flight home.

The take away from this is that I am going to master sugar laden iced coffee and the perfect arepa. Next time I go home, I might try my hand at making a cachapa with dulce de leche. And maybe a side of passion fruit ice cream.

I love you, arepas, and I vow to return to Venezuela to eat more arepas at the top of Angel Falls.


Unknown said...

So amazing! And I loved the memories of other south American countries with you! Like how we almost gagged trying to politely stomach the undiluted coffee the first day in cusco haha. Also, LOVE the picture of the beautiful beach with a huge sandwich in the foreground haha. CLASSIC!

Lavina said...

great post and pics jyo. love the amount of passionfruit available, yum. and of course arepas. the ones i get in ny always have Queso guaynese actually and i love it!