Off The Beaten Path
My tour guide is quickly becoming one of my favorite people. He’s sharp, observant, funny, and he seems to know exactly the right places to take me to put the smile on my face. Of course, I did tell him what I want, and the fact that he is taking me to the places that I would take me shows that he listens and that he understands. I really appreciate that. But, of course, that’s not what I really want to talk about here…
The suffixes “era” and “eria” indicates a place that makes what they’re selling. So a baker would be a “paneria,” which is literally translated as “makes bread.” Obviously there are places that stretch these titles. You see this particularly when looking for authentic Dulcerias, which is a place that makes and sends “dulces.” Here dulces are typically soft brown-sugar fruit candies. I’ve seen them made with every variation of coconut, most of the sweet fruits, and occasionally using white sugar for some specific candies. The two that I am most familiar with are a brown-sugar coated coconut cookie, called a “Panelito.” It’s traditionally made with only natural brown sugar, milk, and coconut chunks. The Dulcerias seem to understand that the traditional natural brown sugar that they use is special to the flavor, and hav we protected their recipes from the cheaper garbage-sugars in most grocery stores. I applaud that! The other candy I am most familiar with in these Dulcerias is “Bocadilla.” This is a special candy in South America and seems to appear in various different forms in most of the countries here. Bocadilla is a white sugar and guava paste, heated until thick and then cooled in a platter. It’s quite sweet and has a very distinct guava flavor. It’s typically served with a salty cheese, which balances the flavor.
I walked into Las Margaritas with the group I’ve been traveling with and sat down. I looked at the menu, slowly ticking things off my mental list. “Nope.” I thought, looking at the drinks. “The hot chocolate will be made with soy and cheap sugar, as well as who knows what else…” After I had had all the time I needed to eliminate the entire menu, the server came over. I ordered a water and my group started making their orders.
As an aside, it amuses me now when people see my physique and my eating habits and consciously brush off my physique as “good genes,” or “he works out.” I used to be that person. I used to assume that the fit guy was being silly with his eating habits, because he obviously has good genes. This group is giving me the same response. I hope they learn, as I have, that they’re not powerless to achieve peak health. Ok, back to the food.
The food started arriving and I noticed a peculiar pattern. “That looks hand-made.” I thought as the server set down the sausage and cheese in front of the first person in our group. The thought repeated twice more before I was curious enough to ask. To my delight and surprise, everything in the store is hand made! I quickly got up to re-evaluate the menu.
It’s been a long time since I have had a great sausage. I’ve begun to despair that sausage making is a lost art. If that’s the case, my tour guide found it!! These sausages were the most fresh sausages that I can ever remember buying! The only sausages I’ve ever had that were better were venison sausages made by a friend for me in college, and that was a long time ago!
Before leaving, I ended up picking up a Bocadillo and a Panelito too, and was quite satisfied with those as well! Las Margaritas gets two thumbs up!