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Published: March 16th 2014
Crispy Pork Belly, Fava Beans and Spicy Ajitaracloud
And wow was it good. The roasted Beets were amazing as well. This was the main course of the tasting menu, Restaurant Gustu.
and I had agreed to meet at 6:30 to head up to restaurant Gustu for our sumptuous tasting menu dinner. She was going to take a bus in from Copacabana and I would spend a leisurely afternoon in my hotel room working on blogs and organizing pictures. After checking in, I headed up to the small café in my hotel and had the most wonderful club sandwich with fried egg, ham, chicken, bacon and some fries. Follow that with a Café Americano and I was fully refreshed, recharged and ready to head down to Miraflores to fight with the airline. It wasn’t a long taxi ride to reach to proper address, but the place was closed and locked down with metal rolling gates. I had no choice but to hop out and wait, hoping they were only closed for a long lunch. After a medium, not short mind you, period of time, I saw someone climbing out the small door cut into the gate. A la Tres is what I was told. In English that translates to wait one more hour. Ugh. I didn’t bring my Kindle or anything, so I had nothing to do. A shoeshine guy around the
Tara and Brendan Meet Again
Two times in two years. I am so happy that this worked out.
corner took the layers of desert dust off my shoes, making me very happy. I was very close to the big stadium, so I walked around it and then sat on a bench and watched the people of La Paz go about their daily lives. At one point I was going to ask one of the ladies if I could pop her bowler hat on for a picture, but once I thought about it, I realized that doing so would be disrespectful. To me it would be a fun picture, but to her it is her national dress. I don’t want to be one of those travelers who don’t respect the culture and history of the countries I visit. Even now I look back at some things I have done and shake my head.
After a successful ATM visit, thank you very much for taking care of that, I went to the airline’s office. It took quite some time, but I feel that the tickets I just purchased will in fact be refunded. If not, a dispute is on the way. Finding a taxi back to the hotel took a little doing. The first taxi had no idea where
my hotel was, so I had to hop out and find another one. When I did make it back to the hotel, I had just enough time to work on a blog before heading downstairs to meet Tara. The plan was that she would grab a cab at her hostel, stop in front of my hotel and then we would head to the restaurant for dinner. Traffic was bad, making the ride stressful. The driver was a jerk who tried to overcharge Tara, didn’t know where he was going and wanted to drop us on the street even though none of us knew where we were going. We finally arrived at the restaurant, a sanctuary in the madness of La Paz. Restaurant Gustu is designed to help promote local Bolivian foods, while training young people in the culinary arts. Tara read in another Travel Blog about this place and offered to take me there as a thank you for being the Sherpa to bring her goodies. Would I like to go? Silly question that one was I thought. Sign me up and call me happy. The restaurant was all dark woods, dark slate, I think, and colorful accents. We had
a quiet table affording unobstructed views into the glass enclosed kitchen. All of the cooks and servers were students, which meant that we had many different people bringing our food and clearing the tables. One of these students had gone to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, the same school that I had gone to back in the day. We ordered the 5 course Chef’s Tasting Menu paired with beer and wine. Unfortunately I can’t tell you the name of many of the ingredients or dishes, since they are local Bolivian fare. What I can say is this. I was very very impressed with not only the quality of the food, but the artful presentation. This restaurant would be right at home in San Francisco, London, or Paris. We spent over 3 hours savoring every morsel of food right down to the house baked rolls and three kinds of butter. Who knew that coca leaves would blend well in butter, or that quinoa butter could be so magical? I took pictures of the first 4 courses, but we had asked to meet the Chef, so when she personally brought out our final course, I just plain
Our small starter plate at Gustu. It was hearts of palm with cactus fruit.
forgot to take pictures of it. I can honestly say that I have not had a dining experience like this in a very long time. Tara, I cannot thank you enough for this treat.
The next morning, we had a tour arranged to the pre-Inka temple site called Tiwanaku. I was the first one picked up by the bus and spent the next hour and fifteen minutes riding through the hellacious La Paz traffic. We finally found ourselves at the ruins of ancient temples. Most of the site is still buried, but work is slowly being done to excavate it. Still, there were impressive walls of stone, the shape of the large Pyramid de Ahapana was visible and there were lots of precise cut stones scattered about. It was a typical day here in Bolivia; first it was warm, then a breeze came up and it was chilly, then the sun went behind some clouds and it was cold, then the sun popped back out and once again we were back to hot. I would like to think that I get some credit for all of the aerobic exercise of putting my coat on, taking it off, putting my
Young Papalisa and Dehydrated Beetroots with Jamaica Flower
Holy cow man, this was amazing. The beets were so intense. This was paired with a dark beer and honestly, they knocked it out of the park.
sweater on, taking it off, putting both the coat and sweater back on, and so on. Still, it was a very pleasant day to be out enjoying some ruins. We saw magnificent monoliths, a stone sun gate that served as a lunar calendar and a sunken pit with 175 carved stone heads jutting out from the wall. Even today one can make out the facial features on these stone faces. Many of the stones were fitted with slots where hot metal would be poured in to harden, thereby connecting two stones. I saw lots of this in Peru as well.
After spending a good amount of time looking at the ruins, it was time for lunch. We were offered a choice of four different entrees. I chose the trout, thinking it might be the least offensive option. My hopes of a good lunch were in the lower end of the spectrum, but I was happily surprised. We all received a delicious quinoa soup. I have really enjoyed trying so many different variations. Instead of bringing us a plate of food, we received our entrée on a plate and then went through a buffet of roasted beets, fried potatoes, Bolivian
Humacha Cheese-Fresh Cheese, Vegetables and Yellow Aji Cream
I wasn't sold on this until I tried it, and then I wouldn't stop eating it.
corn, something I think may have been quinoa fritters, and some other choices. Lunch was really quite good and started the afternoon off on a happy note. Following lunch we went to another site of ruins and then to two museums. The one had a huge monolith called the Monolith Bennett Pachamama that was remarkably well preserved. Unfortunately we were not to take pictures, so I opted to follow the rules. If I recall correctly, this monolith was 15 feet tall and weighed several tons. The other museum was filled with pottery, artifacts and whatnot. I was more than ready to board the bus for the drive back to La Paz. My initial thought for naming this blog was going to be “Don’t Keep Your Eyes on the Road”. Driving and traffic here are horrendous. It is the typical game of chicken between cars, but pedestrians just add to the confusion by walking anywhere, anytime they want. I understand that this is everyday life here, but it stressed me out watching it.
Tara and I split up and I went back to my hotel for some quiet time and to unpack and repack my luggage for the flight to
Red Berries, Mint and Evaporated Milk Ice Cream
The portions may look small, but they were intense and very filling.
Chile. I have discarded enough things that my luggage is noticeably lighter and less full. I may be able to fly home with just one suitcase. It was my last night in La Paz, so I treated myself to dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. I had eaten here my first night, but wasn’t feeling well enough to enjoy it. This dinner was a real treat. I started with a trout tartar served in a zucchini alongside tomato confit. I was not sure what to expect, so was happily surprised at how good it was. For an entrée, I chose a roasted chicken breast with Provencal sauce, julienne vegetables and potato croquette. The potato was tough and doughy, but everything else was quite tasty. It was a nice close to a nice time in Bolivia.
In the morning I met Tara in front of the San Francisco church. We spent time walking through the cloister enjoying the play of light and shadow. Slowly we made our way up to the roof where we stood in the warm sun and talked. The views were amazing. I took a picture of jagged mountains framed by city buildings. We climbed back down and
went to a Dutch restaurant for lunch. I had a tomato soup with meatballs and chicken sate with an awesome peanut sauce while she had and entrée of chicken sate. We both had beers to celebrate having had such a nice time together. All too soon it was time for me to catch my cab to the airport and await the next part of this adventure. I hope you have enjoyed Bolivia as much as I have, especially since you weren’t the one dealing with altitude ick. Thank for reading and until next time, ciao.
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