It started out with an invitation to dinner. Would we like to be guests to an enchanted evening? One never knows what to expect, especially when details are sketchy (but that makes it even more fun!).
We were to meet our friends at their residence at 5:30 p.m. Then, the four of us caught a taxi to the residence of another invited guest. After being greeted and ushered into this palacial residence, we quickly learned that this person's taste in decor was exquisite. He was a retired Hollywood producer, and singer living out a quiet life on the outskirts of Cotacachi.
Once all of the invited guests arrived, we then started our caravan up the mountainside to a 300 year old hacienda. Typical haciendas, historically, encompass over a thousand acres. With cattle grazing on the side of the volanco Cotacachi, large farming areas and stables, these haciendas were long ago designed to be self-sufficient, and this one is no exception. (We felt like we had taken a step back in time.) When Hacienda San Isidro was built on the side of the volcano, transportation was by horseback, so the condition of the roads was not that important. However fast forward to the 21st century, and the 30 minute drive "up" the mountain was, shall we say, a little bumpy!
Upon arriving at the Hacienda, we were greeted with a hug and kiss by the hosts, just like we were long-lost family. We were escorted to the candlelit parlor, complete with a warm fireplace and an aperitif of hot wine, served with cheese and crackers. Our host explained that the candlelit parlor reminded him of when they didn't have electricity and lived by candlelight, so even though they have electicity now, it brings back wonderful memories of days long past.
We relaxed in the parlor, sipping our wine, and engaging in conversation as we waited for our host to announce that dinner was being served. We made our way into the large dining room, where there were three tables of varying sizes.
Our party (of ten) sat at the largest table (a rectangle shape). The family waited until we were all seated before they then sat at the circular table set for eight. Included at the family table was a childhood friend of the matriarch of the Hacienda. We learned that this beautiful lady was the daughter of a past president of Ecuador.
But who was the square table for?
We learned that our dinner was prepared by a visiting Italian chef staying with the family, and she had created a tasting menu for the evening.
The first course was the antipasto, consisting of focaccia, salumeria (Italian salami, pepperoni, olives., etc.), Italian cheeses, and insalata mixta (mixed greens and tomato salad with dressing). Of course, we all had a glass of wine, either red or white, according to our preferences.
It was at this point in the evening, that the other guests arrived -- two couples in their twenties, who we assumed where the children of the family. They greeted everyone in the room before sitting at the small square table behind us.
Before being served the main course, we were all given a small serving of a light sorbet to cleanse our palate. The main couse consisted of homemade pasta, made that day. There were three different kinds of pasta: ravioli, fettucine, and linguine. And three different kinds of sauce: bolognese, puttanesca, and pesto.
The pastas were served one at a time, with enough pasta for two people being placed between each group of two, and we served ourselves. After each serving of pasta, our plates and silverware were changed so none of the flavors mixed and our tasting menu stayed pure.
Sitting at our table were a couple that had traveled the world and in fact were getting ready to spend a month in Thailand. Also, there was a couple from England who are land developers and building a retirement community in Cotacachi. And, there was the Hollywood producer (we now have his CD of smooth romantic jazz). Very interesting conversation ensued.
After dinner comes dessert, actually three different kinds. Of course one being tiramisu, which was light and creamy. Following dessert and ending the evening, we were served a digestif of cognac.
Even though I spent about three hours at the dinner table sampling incredible cuisine, I didn't feel stuffed when it was time to go home. We arrived back at our hostal at 11:30 p.m., and had to ring the doorbell and wake up our host to let us in as we were locked out. But what an enchanted evening it was!