Assuming you’ve been following my “spin-off” blog, Bingo Abroad, you know that for the last six months, Brice and I have been traveling internationally. We have spent most of that time in Latin America in Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Colombia and Peru. As it turned to winter on that side of the world, we hopped over the Atlantic and are now touring Europe for the summer.
Needless to say, the last half year has been an amazing whirlwind. Read more about what life on the road has been like here.
Obviously a huge part of experiencing new cities and cultures for me is food. Not only does it tell you a lot about the region and their history, but it also bonds you with your travel companions and locals alike.
So despite knowing that I should limit myself on occasion and not eat everything in sight, I’m taking one for the team and trying lots for you! Here are my key foodie takeaways from the last few months:
Sometimes There Are Challenges – The Disappointing Eats
- No Meat, Please: As a pescetarian (while I eat the occasional seafood, I don’t eat meat), some places in Latin America have been more challenging than others. In particular Costa Rica seemed confused by the vegetarian concept and had little non-chicken options outside the touristy zones. However most places were always very accommodating and I have still been able to eat quite well.
- Too Much Rice & Beans… Costa Rica was definitely not our ideal food destination. Their meals mostly consist of rice and beans with little flavor, and so much chicken in everything. Case in point: after 3 months of Tico food, we got overly excited about dinner at PF Changs. Not a place I would usually rave about – or typically even go to – back home, but after so long of food lacking spice or having many vegetarian options, it was a treat to have a spicy tofu dish with broccoli (I am weird that that made me happy, I know).
- Hangry Happens: Like most European countries, Spain doesn’t really do the traditional breakfast, instead having a croissant with some coffee to start their day. All we wanted were some eggs. We also struggled regularly to find midday meals that were not a $100 sit down restaurant, nearly everywhere closed for siesta afternoons. Sounds nice for them, but challenging for us especially when getting hangry.
- I Need Vegetables! Despite my love of sweets, I do really need something healthy on occasion. Particularly in Spain, it has been sometimes hard finding something in the way of greens. I’m certainly not trying to be a snobby American, but sometimes a girl just needs a salad of fresh vegetables!
But oh, all the good things we’ve eaten!
Bakery Mission – The Best Cafes & Bakeries
- El Pan de la Chola in Lima, Peru: Listed as one of the world’s best bakeries for good reason. Their focaccia was phenomenal, especially when you topped it with their creamy burrata and marinated tomatoes.
- La Despensa in Arequipa, Peru: Thick slices of hearty freshly baked breads, perfectly baked cookies, WiFi, cozy space. This place was just what I needed.
- PiCNiC Deli & Cafe in San Jose, Costa Rica: Two months in, we finally found this place with a cute space, delicious pastries, and loaded avocado toast. If it wasn’t a 20-minute drive from our apartment, I would have been there all the time.
- La Rabona Peruvian Deli in Cusco, Peru: Finally a place that has house made whole wheat seeded baguettes that they will top with banana and peanut butter! I was in heaven
- Pergamino in Medellin, Colombia: Your typical hipster coffee shop with excellent lattes and super chocolatey brownies. Another place we frequented multiple times in a 5-day span.
Eat Like a Local – The Best Street Food
- Buñuelos in Medellin: These little balls of deep-fried fluffy cheese bread were addicting, especially at only 20 cents a piece!
- All the tacos in Mexico City: Any stand seemed to be flattening masa for tortillas and grilling tacos to order. Everywhere was delicious. For a more sit-down set up, we also loved the fish tacos at Tres Galeones.
- Local fruit everywhere: I have a fruit obsession and the things you could get the markets all throughout Latin America were outrageously delicious and cheap. My fave was uchuva, the tangy yet sweet cape gooseberry you could just pop in your mouth like a fruitier cherry tomato.
The Experiences – Best Food Outings
- That’s a Vanilla Plant? Quepos, Costa Rica: Turns out, despite my love of food and cooking, I knew very little about where spices came from. The farm tour at Villa Vanilla was one of the most fun, interesting and educational experiences, seeing vanilla pods, cloves, cinnamon, pepper all growing. Did you know that vanilla is actually an orchid plant and looks like a bright green pea pod before it’s dried into the sweet flavoring you know?
- All the Tapas in Logroño, Spain: This little town is known for tapas and for good reason. Three blocks are filled with almost nothing but tapas bars. Like locals of the Basque region, we stopped into about 5 or 6 places for a couple bites and small glasses of wine. Lively atmosphere, great bites and so much fun.
- Food Day in the Sacred Valley, Peru: Salt ponds, traditional potato cooking, quinoa harvesting and Incan ruins used to conduct R&D on seeds. It was an incredible day followed by an outstanding meal. Read all about it on Bingo Abroad.
The Winners – Our Favorite Meals
- El Buda Profano in Arequipa, Peru: We loved this place so much we went back twice in three days and I keep thinking about it. Vegan sushi in Peru. I get it, it sounds strange and perhaps unappealing to some. But their unique rolls were full of flavor, true to Japanese culture and beautifully presented. And 35 pieces of sushi, miso soup, gyoza and green tea for only $24!
- MAP Cafe in Cusco, Peru: Restauranteur has 8 restaurants in Cusco, we ate at 5 of them… They were all amazing but my favorite was MAP Cafe. With a three-course meal, incredible waitstaff and beautiful space tucked inside Cusco’s art museum, it was all a fantastic date night. The house made bread and quinoa-stuffed cannelloni with a truffle based cheese sauce were highlights.
- Restaurante Donjuan in Cartagena, Colombia: A gorgeous setting, excellent service and incredible meal of beef wellington for Brice and a rich, creamy risotto with shrimp, tomatoes and mascarpone cheese for me.
- Casacomedor in Medellin, Colombia: This hip Mexican-influenced restaurant was a great find, in part because it has a hidden entrance. Delicious food, awesome cocktails and friendly staff.