It’s not every day one is invited to dinner with the Ambassador, odd for me as the Global Ambassador for AGA Rangemaster and honored an Ambassdor of British Food by Farmers Weekly. His Excellency Juan Falconi Puig is a relatively new Ambassador to his post representing Ecuador in the UK. Pro-Ecuador invited a few food journalists (myself included) to a delectable evening of the best of Ecuador. A country with 4 regions and beautiful fine foods.
Regular readers will know my concept of Googling on the Tube, well, if organised it can be done as one passes through a station to read the pages as we travel through the tunnels, ready for the next down-load of data as “mind the gap” is billowing through the tube PA system. Intelligent conversation is not hard to do when one has a little learned knowledge, and conversations with the Ambassador have to be intelligent. What do I know about Ecuador… all that ran through my head was the song by Sash the German musician called ‘Ecuador’ that played in nightclubs when I was at university. The tune is running through my head, and I’m convinced its better for the titles of a game show than a national anthem. How clubbing music has influenced my reckless youth! Google reveals 3 things:
- There are 4 regions to Ecuador
- They produce a lot of bananas
- Panama hats don’t come from Panama, they come from Ecuador, obviously.
I’m sitting one seat but next to His Excellency, a kind man, passionate about his country, a lawyer by trade, not aloof, interesting company, the sort a 3 hour dinner party flies past with good conversation who knows his producers.
So, here is what I learnt.
Ecuador is on the equator, is extremely fertile and consists of regions in the Andes, the Amazon, a costal region and the Galapagos Islands. Export is to the USA (via the nearby Panama Canal), Europe, Middle East and East Asia. By no means is this country a small exporter, and that’s really what the dinner was all about. Over 2,500 ships of export leave Ecuador every year filled with bananas, prawns, coffee, chocolate and roses. The list of Fortune 500 companies investing in Ecuador impresses me and just highlights the claim His Excellency makes as he proudly tells us about the economic stability.
From what was displayed on the table, the cuisine is nothing but rich and diverse and each course related to one of the regions, the stories His Excellncy and the Trade Minister told us about the producers made it very clear how dedicated this country is to export and how the different areas are used to produce nothing short of ‘fine food’.
The prawns in the Ceviche (a dish of marinated seafood in lemon juice) was as fresh as I imagine a gentle breeze on the beach at the Galapagos would feel at sunset. The Ceviche had a new ingredient to me, a Heart of Palm. A tender stem of a palm tree with a subtle crunch, perfectly al dente. I was volunteered to help Ecuadorian Chef David Reyes cook the Quinoa main, after all, Ecuador is one of the most important exporters of Quinoa. Being the international year of Quinoa I was subtly impressed. Dessert followed with an Ecuadorian chocolate dish with goldenberry ice-cream.
As one of the worlds leading prawn exporters, the worlds second largest tuna exporter as well as supplying 25% of the worlds Banana needs and 63% of the worlds cocoa beans needs I see the importance of this country in the global food system, a topic I’m very passionate about.
And as for those roses on the table. Stunning, vibrant.
His Excellency asks me if I would like ‘one’ as he passes a plate in my direction. Surely Ferrero Rocher is not Ecuadorian too I think to myself… but no, His Excellency is spoiling us with fried plantain with the creamiest guacamole I have tasted. Drinks are served, a red wine with an odd nose is commented on, yet the body and flavour of a sophisticated Chateau perfectly named: Paradox. The Ecuadorian Rum arrives, Hardeep Singh Kohli from BBC is sitting opposite, his Glasweigen accent illuminating the table in the equivalent style to the colour of this Turban. “A little Rum, James?“, as his Excellency said, “it IS good“, called 100 Fires. I see why.
Obligatory photocall with said hat, carriages. The song from Sash plays in my head. Oh Sash, you did not do this equatorial regional heaven justice. Ecuador, I want to visit. If it’s like what I discovered over dinner, you are blessed with a bounty from Heaven.