Garces Trading Company with the girls


Sometimes you just need a girls afternoon – a sunny day with maybe an out-of-town friend on a surprise visit and nothing to do but play. I got one of these delightful days and it corresponded to the opening weekend of Garces Trading Co., the new casual dining/gourmet food store by Jose Garces. The line was long, and you can’t call a reservation in, but I arrived early, put our names in, requested a long window table, and browsed. First the olive oils and vinegars, then the cheeses and pastries, and finally the PLCB boutique insidethe restaurant. A revelation. Specialty selected bottles from $10 – $200 that go directly from the glass enclosed display area to your table. And if, like me, you happen to pick up a blush bubbly for the fun of it, the host will chill it for you until your table is ready.


I can’t say enough of about the blushingly good service, the olive oil, baguette and flake salt on the table, the casual but clean design of the space. Unfortunately, we devoured our chef’s selection of cheeses with condiments before I could take a photo. The piquillo peppers, with sherry and olive oil pictured above, were suitable, but nothing special.

Alongside antipasti, pasta, grill, soups and salads and more ambitious plates du jour, Garces Trading Co. offers a brief pizza menu. Wood-fired on stone, the pizzas have the crispy, thin crust that you would expect, and a slightly sweet sauce. Though I longed for the Funghi with maitakes, royal trumpets, taleggio,
black truffles, I was among mushroom haters (why do I hang out with these people!) so we settled on a classic Margherita with fresh mozzarella and basil. Surprising light, among three people it made for a perfect snack, not a hearty meal. But we had our blush bubbly, our long afternoon, our wonderful service, and it was a certain kind of heaven.

Garces Trading Company on Urbanspoon

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Cauliflower and Mushroom Potpie with Black Olive Crust

Though this week in Philadelphia has felt more like Summer than Spring, it’s the early lettuces, peas, and rhubarb that are starting to appear in our farmer’s markets. Cauliflower, staple of the long hard winter, will find itself in the shadow of more colorful veggies. Why not make one more big cauliflower dish before you get distracted by our upcoming fresh produce abundance? I’ve flipped past this cauliflower potpie in Veganomicon numerous times, but until recently I never had all the ingredients in the house at the same time. While the recipe seems a little bit long and complicated with three separate parts, it comes together quickly. And if you’re a fan of salty, cheesey mustardiness with your veggies like I am, you’re sure to love it. Throw it with a green salad, a nice bottle of red and some rich chocolate dessert and you can knock your dinner party’s socks off.

Breakfast Burrito: The Road to Taos

Breakfast Burrito
Breakfast Burrito

On the road! I flew out out to New Mexico to visit family (hi Dawn, Anne, and Mary!) and took a roadtrip up to Taos. Just a few hours in state, and I needed a breakfast burrito in a bad way. If you take St. Francis Drive from Santa Fe up to Taos, you travel through a lot of pueblo land. I stopped at spot on the side of the road  in Ohkay Owingeh called Fairview Cafe.

Fairview Cafe
Fairview Cafe

A classic breakfast burrio comes in two sizes – hand-held and plate. I got the handheld (slightly smaller) in which all the ingrediants go inside the tortilla, instead of the chili slathered on top. I skip the breakfast meats, and but keep the rest of the ingrediants – scrambled eggs, hash browns, cheese and chili. I can never decide between red or green chilies (I want whichever is spicier that year, but also the other!) so I always order my burrito “christmas” – with both red and green chili. The burrito  hit the spot, and I got back on the road to Taos.

Guatemala, bocadillos

Cow on Pacaya
Cow on Pacaya

Snacks are plentiful in Guatemala. Many of them lean towards the sweeter side as Guatemalans, especially city-dwellers, typically take an afternoon snack and coffee break. But savory snacks (more my style) are also popular. Tostadas, little sandwiches, and my favorite (and sadly unpictured) the licuado, or fruit shake with yogurt, ice, or milk. Pictured above is a cow on the mountainside of Pacaya, an active volcano between Guatemala City and Antigua. Perhaps it is having late-afternoon grass snack?

Michaladas
Michaladas

Mmmm, michaladas. One of my favorite afternoon snack, the michalad (lime juice, beer, tomato juice, salt and chili) is one of my favorite afternoon snack, extra spicy please. Shown here with Gallo, lo mejor cerveza in Guatemala.

Soda in a Bag
Soda in a Bag

Guatemalan sodas are made with pure cane sugar – not that corn syrup crap we pour into everything here. The real sugar makes it much more delicious (especially in cola form). If you buy a soda  “to go” at a small store, they will pour it into a bag and give you a straw for it. That allows them to recycle the glass bottle. Nice and also fun. Shown above is a Rica soda in pineapple flavor.

Fruit Cart
Fruit Cart

Fresh fruit, served mixed in cups or chopped in bags, can be purchased off of fruit carts, like the one pictured above, or at tables in the market. I love fresh pineapple or mango sprinkled with salt and cumin.

Icies
Granizadas

Eating fresh ice in Guatemala can be a little risky, but if you’re up to it, these fancy little hand-powered machines with grind the ice fresh, and then you can choose a (real sugar) syrup to pour on top.

Tamatillos
Tamatillos

Tamatillos, or little tamales, are a perfect snack served with spicy tomato sauce. These little goodies are made of white corn, filled with roasted red pepper and cheese.

Helados
Helados

There’s always room for ice cream. Helados come in wonderful flavors in Central America. I love coconut.

Snack Cart
Snack Cart

Little carts like these, also seen as box tiendas and even baskets that enterprising Guatemalan carry around heavily populated areas, sell home-made candies, chips, gum, lollipops, and cigarettes. The one above also sells granizadas, or icies.

Black bean and cheese dip with blue corn chips
Black bean and cheese dip with blue corn chips

Anglicized, for sure, but this black bean and cheese dip with hot, fried, thick hunks of blue corn tortilla were delicious.

Guatemala, Desayuno

Chicken Bus
Chicken Bus

I’ve returned from Guatemala, and am still adjusting to the cold, rainy weather of Philadelphia. While the above photo isn’t of food, the “chicken bus” or public bus is commonly used to transport food from villages to town markets, and then back again, either inside the bus or in large baskets attached to the racks on top. The above bus is in the market at Antigua, and heads to San Lucas.

Desayuno Tipica
Desayuno Tipica

Breakfast is the easiest meal for vegetarian in Guatemala. The desayuno tipica, or typical breakfast, consists of eggs (in some style), black beans, fried plantains, cheese (though I got the above breakfast, at Las Brisas comedor in Santiago Atitlan, with guacemole instead).

Huevos Revueltos
Huevos Revueltos

Scrambled eggs, especially with tomato and onion, are called Huevos Revueltos. And fried potatoes in Guate are not messing around. Just look at those hunks of deep-fried goodness. Serves with salsa, and Senor Lanky’s singular “side” of bacon.

Huevos Rancheros
Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros, or Mexican-style eggs, are usually just fried eggs served with a side of tomato salsa, and not at all spicy. You have to add your own chili sauce, and I added it plentifully. Shown here shaded by a palm tree at a little place called Posada de Jabailito in Jabailito, Lake Atitlan.

Desayuno mas typica
Desayuno mas typica

I ordered this very basic breakfast at a small food stand in the center of the Sunday market at ChiChicastenango. Just beans, scrambled eggs and rice with salsa, and of course, fresh corn tortillas. And sweet, instant coffee. Delicious, and around $1.20.

Crepes
Crepes

More exciting, these crepes (which are very popular in Guatemala, perhaps due to the international expat scene) were served to me at La Iguana Perdida in Santa Cruz. Sweet, and stuffed with black beans, eggs, and cheese (are you picking up on a theme yet?)

Macademia Nut Pancakes
Macademia Nut Pancakes

Guatemalans LOVE pancaques, or pancakes. We hiked two hours outside of Antigua to Valhalla, and experimental macadamia nut plantation, for the beauties. Studded with nuts, topped with fresh macadamia nut butter and blueberries, and served with a side of fresh papaya, they were worth it.

Blue Corn Pancakes
Blue Corn Pancakes

The hotel Posada de Santiago in Santiago Atitlan is famous for their blue corn pancakes, and rightly so. I ordered two of these beauties, served with macademia nut syrup, and two fried eggs, which, alongside a bowl of fresh fruit, got me through a long drive to Guatemala City. Notice how orange the yolks of the eggs are. It’s called free-range, and not corn-fed, and infinitely more tasty.

Fruit Bowl
Fruit Bowl

The fruit, especially the papaya, bananas and fresh pineapple, are out this world. I miss it already.