The morning sun has barely peeked up, but Antigua’s Mayan farmers’ market is already swarming with action, a chaotic kaleidoscope of vendors in vivid traditional clothing selling their produce. Guiding me through the Technicolor maze, chef Kenny Aldana points out neon-orange cashew fruit; avocados, mangoes and melons of all sizes and shapes; edible flowers; fresh fish; and meats including bizarre displays of dried iguanas. Bags filled, we return to the El Convento boutique hotel where Aldana holds court in the kitchen. At noon he delivers a market-sourced gourmet feast — chicken bathed in a luscious sauce of pepitoria (traditional roasted and ground squash seeds) with local izote flowers, baby zucchinis and a slice of jicama-like ichuntal lightly battered and fried, perched in a puddle of tomato puree with mild chile. Antigua, with its 18th century cobblestone streets and colonial Spanish architecture that earned it UNESCO World Heritage stature, has long been a cultural destination, charming and walkable with courtyards tucked off main avenues opening into lavish gardens, restaurants, bars and small hotels. “Guatemala is very diverse culturally, and cooks are starting to gain a sense of pride about it,” says New York and Argentina-trained local chef Rodrigo Aguilar, who specializes in pop up restaurants. Recently, a wave of younger cooks is showing our roots in a more globalized way, embracing change but respecting tradition by exploring the richness of our ingredients. The 5,029-foot altitude provides consistent temperatures between 76 and 82 degrees, an idyllic climate the early Spanish dubbed “eternal spring”, perfect for growing just about anything. After an insightful two-hour tour of the mountainside facilities, I sip the premium roast on the sunny dining terrace with a lively group of international caffeine enthusiasts. En route, church bells ring and horse-drawn carriages clatter across cobblestones beneath blossoming jacaranda trees raining mauve petals onto the sidewalk. Exotic hot pink and purple bursts of bougainvillea clamber over stone walls, and the air is filled with the smells of coffee, warm chocolate, tortillas, fresh bread and pastries. Frequent roof-rattling earthquakes that eventually persuaded the Spanish to move their capital to more stable Guatemala City have left picturesque remnants of convents, monasteries, churches, a prison and villas now repurposed as settings for pop-up restaurants, live music concerts, souvenir markets and movie screenings. Earthquakes are the growling side effect of three enormous steep-sided, often-active volcanoes that form the city’s backdrop. “The minerals in volcanic soil are responsible for our intensely flavorful produce,” explains Karin Rudberg of Caoba Farm, an organic farm/shop/learning center and cafe 20 minutes by foot from Antigua’s main square. Caoba also supplies many of Antigua’s best dining spots, and they are a diverse lot, from gourmet delis with innovative lunches like Epicure to traditional Guatemalan and European restaurants or those experimenting with various degrees of fusion. Sabe Rico — “tastes good” — is a welcoming warren of enterprise that includes a local deli, an on-site chocolateria, and a restaurant where fresh, healthy and often vegetarian takes on traditional dishes from enchiladas to chili rellenos are served amid a tropical garden. “I researched food vendors for six months, because I knew people wanted to try street food, but were afraid to get sick,” she says. Street food is actually illegal in Guatemala, but she guides guests to hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop treasures and through the farmers’ market, where she whips out her Swiss Army knife for tasting bites. Prowling the shop-lined streets, I come across a chocolate museum and the remarkable Dulceria Doña María Gordillo, a landmark 1872 store decorated in religious relics and famous throughout Guatemala for its vast selection of artisan sweets made exactly as nuns did in the city for centuries to raise money. There are macaroons and marzipan, fig delights and candied squash in exquisite forms, but the addictive classic convent candy that will forever haunt me and many expat Guatemalans is canillitas de leche — literally “legs of milk” that melt in your mouth. Fat Cat lists a dozen ways you can have your coffee created, from French press and AeroPress to siphon and Chemex, along with an equally long list of local plantations from which beans are sourced. The coffee is so fresh and smooth that one day I couldn’t resist hitting three cafes, including La Parada and the Refuge, before heading to the rooftop Antigua Brewing Company bar for a craft beer to calm my caffeinated nerves with skyline views of volatile volcanoes. “Pour a little cusha on the floor for the dead,” Jose Mario Aguirre of La Cantina instructs me as a local crowd of hipsters settles into his funky, barn-board bar that, in the afternoon, morphs into an offbeat mixology workshop. The Mayan Drinks and Spirits School introduces keen liquor enthusiasts to cusha, a traditional and largely clandestine Mayan drink distilled from corn and fruit. “Usually we make pepian, tortillas, Guatemalan rice, a plantain desert and a corn flower drink called atol blanco,” says manager Anna Lena Hofmann. There are also frequent daily two-hour tours of the coffee plantations, processing facilities, roasters and including a tasting: $20. Garden cafe features farm-to-table cuisine for lunch and occasional dinners, often with live music.
NYS Entity Status
NYS Filing Date
JUNE 11, 2013
NYS DOS ID#
NYS Entity Type
DOMESTIC BUSINESS CORPORATION
2013 - LA LUNA DELI & CAFE INC
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