STUPIDLY SIMPLE SNACKS IS BACK! After a two-month unintended hiatus from video awesomeness, I’m excited to say that Stupidly Simple Snacks will soon be a weekly feature of Amy Blogs Chow and on Hungry Nation, a network of web-based food shows created by Next New Networks, the leading independent producer of online television networks.

I can’t tell you what makes NNN the leading indie producer of online TV networks (it’s the only one I know, quite frankly) but I am pumped to join the ranks of Hungry Nation veterans and fellow food lovers Dan of VendrTV and Rebecca of Working Class Foodies! Also joining the network is Food Wishes, which is like the godfather of online cooking shows. Chef John is a pretty big deal in the food blogging world.

Stupidly Simple Snacks will launch on Hungry Nation at the end of July, so I’ll be making many more videos going forward. I already have some super silly stuff lined up, including a ceviche video I made with Jenna Meister, my BFF and cast member of Jet Set Zero: Quito, while I was in Ecuador last month. It’s going to be great! Now, without further ado, I present my first video from Quito, Ecuador – Stupidly Simple Snacks: Guacamole! amy july 13, 2010

WHAT YOU NEED 2 avocados | 1 tomato | 1 lemon | half onion | salt & pepper


MUSIC Darwin Deez Radar Detector

July 13, 2010. Hungry Nation, news, South America, Stupidly Simple Snacks, videos. 10 comments.


Machachi Sunday Market, EcuadorView of Central Park from 57th Street building, NYC photo by amyblogschow.comIT’S BEEN TWO WEEKS SINCE I RETURNED FROM TRAVELING IN ECUADOR. I was so excited – and thankful – to step off the plane at LaGuardia having successfully avoided pickpockets while in Quito.

I’ve fond memories of my trip, but am relieved to have left some things behind – the vehicle exhaust emissions which blackened the air, for one, and having to call out bus ticket vendors for quoting higher prices in their attempt to nickel-and-dime tourists. On a more superficial level, I missed warm weather clothing, which I’d left in New York to avoid drawing attention to my ankles and elbows. While I enjoyed getting to know Ecuadorian food and a different way of dining (cheap, fresh, home-style, street) I missed the variety of foods and many restaurant options in New York.

On my first day back in the States, I bought an overly frosted cupcake from Magnolia Bakery by Rockefeller Center to sate the sweet tooth that went mostly without icing or cake while abroad. For breakfast, I wandered into Macchiato Espresso Bar – home of my favorite chocolate chip cookie – and took an hour to write and indulge in the end of a long unfinished novel while my latte grew cold.

I miss traditional Ecuadorian food, which features fresh produce and deep-fried goods like empanada and fritada, a bit. Are those two contradictory? Perhaps, but it makes sense when you realize both fruits and greasy grub are easy to vend from street stands and food carts.

Ultimately, traveling always reminds me that we live in an unusual gastronomic bubble here in New York. There really is something for every palate and price point. And I’d almost forgotten how lucky we are to be able to walk down the street, take a train or even a ferry to reach whatever we may crave, whether that’s key lime pies in Red Hook, soul food in East Harlem, or French pastries at Village Tart. The world in one bite – that’s good ol’ New York. amy july 12, 2010

Devouring Quito With Jet Set Zero
Looks Like Chicken, Tastes Like Guinea Pig
To Mercado, To Mercado In Santa Clara, Quito
VIDEO Stupidly Simple Snacks • Guacamole!

July 12, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . South America. 1 comment.

TO MERCADO, TO MERCADO In Santa Clara, Quito

Avocado and lime seller lady outside Santa Clara mercado in QuitoCutting the meat off the pig photo by amyblogschow.comJugos sellersJenna and tree tomato jugoSausages at the Santa Clara mercado in QuitoSanta Clara Mercado vender selling ox stomachTHE DAY AFTER I ARRIVED IN ECUADOR, Jenna and the Jet Set Zero guys suggested lunch at Santa Clara Mercado, an open-air food market located around the corner from where the cast lives on a bustling commercial street.

Inside the mercado, juice sellers stand behind plastic vats of jugos while hot food sellers do a brisk lunch trade. Toward the back of the cavernous building, produce sellers watch over towering stacks of fruit and vegetable-filled boxes. Upstairs, seafood sellers, poultry purveyors, and butchers share the floor.

My group and I weaved through the market, passing whole roasted pigs on display to lure hungry passersby away from neighbors selling similar plates. Piece by piece, crispy-skinned porkers are diminished with each $3 lunch order. We finally stopped at one of these counters for a meal and chatted with the owner who told us his family has owned and operated that spot in the market for 55 years.

I’ve since made several more trips to Santa Maria mercado and each time still leaves me marveling at the Ecuadorians’ economy. How does the old lady sitting on the box by the entrance make a living by selling avocados for 25 cents a piece?

A few feet away from her, a small indigenous woman touts slippery cut-up pieces of ox stomach from a bucket. With so much to see, Santa Clara market is a feast for the eyes, so long as you don’t mind the sight of gloveless hands, ox organs, pigs feet. amy june 25, 2010

VIDEO • Make Guacamole!
Devouring Quito With Jet Set Zero
Looks Like Chicken, Tastes Like Guinea Pig

June 25, 2010. Tags: , , , . markets, South America. 1 comment.


Jenna Eating Guinea Pig at La MirageLa Mirage floral screenI’VE BECOME SOMEWHAT OBSESSED WITH FINDING GUINEA PIG aka cuy (sounds like coo-ee) since I arrived in Quito last week to see Jenna Meister and collaborate with Jet Set Zero. I soon learned, however, that cuy is a regional Ecuadorian food that, contrary to popular belief, is not native to Quito. To find traditional cuy sold by street vendors, I’ll need to venture two hours north of Quito to a town called Ibarra. There, I’m told skewered guinea pigs are roasted over fire pits (with head, teeth, claws, feet…) in the street.

Knowing that, Jenna and I were surprised to find cuy on the menu at the restaurant of luxury Relais & Chateaux hotel La Mirage when we stopped in on Monday. The hotel owner recommended the dish, reassuring us that the delicacy is specially prepared to suit “their type of clientele”, which basically means that all rodent-like features are removed toCrispy Cuy at La Mirage photo by Amy Cao accommodate squeamish eaters.

We ordered one guinea pig to share and gaped as the plate of fried thighs and rib arrived topped with paper wrappers, like frilly hats, to protect fingers from greasy ends where guinea pig feet used to be. The owner compared the taste of guinea pig to chicken, but I think a better comparison would be really lean duck with salty fried skin and sinewy, dark meat.

For $20 – roughly equivalent to twelve set lunches at an average Quito cafe – I sampled an upmarket version of a downscale dish. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my first, overly salty guinea pig eating experience though. Some might consider the cuy mission accomplished, but when the catch is handed over on a plate with the scary bits removed, it just doesn’t feel like a goal achieved.

Thus, one overpriced guinea pig-in-disguise down; one whole roasted beast yet to go. amy june 24, 2010

Devouring Quito With Jet Set Zero
To Mercado, To Mercado In Santa Clara, Quito
VIDEO Stupidly Simple Snacks • Guacamole!

June 24, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . South America, Travel. 2 comments.


Lunch in La Floresta, QuitoCeviche de Camaron in La Floresta, QuitoAlmuerzo in La Floresta, QuitoJet Set Zero in Quito having lunchKid playing in the restaurant while JSZ lunches in La FlorestaI LAST SAW JENNA MEISTER TWO YEARS AGO when we convened in South America for a two-week trek from Buenos Aires to Rio.

In Argentina, we spent our pesos on extra large steaks – roughly equivalent to a small loaf of bread – and washed away our twentysomething woes with Malbec. In Brasilia, we breakfasted, lunched, and dinner-ed on pão de queijo and sliced meats at the buffet-style churrascarias. In this way, we made new memories over food while reminiscing about those blissful college years when we were roommates who spent the bulk of our days in the dining hall. Minus the collegiate setting, not too much has changed.

Last week, Jenna emailed me from Quito where she’s been living with the cast of Jet Set Zero since early May. Jet Set Zero is a travel web video series that follows four wanderlusters in their mission to see the world. That’s Jenna on the left with her co-cast members Ryan in purple and smiling Freddie in gray. It’s like The Real World with less glamour, more hustling; fewer five-star hotels and more five-dollar-per-night hostel stays.

I wanted to visit Jenna in South America, but didn’t plan to leave til July. In a surprise turn of events – and because petty thievery abounds here – Jet Set Zero‘s camera got stolen and the team learned the hard way that Ecuadorian customs and security checks makes the mailing of electronics near impossible. Would I be their camera mule?

So here I am, four days into Quito. Internet is spotty here, but the living, eating, and traveling is cheap. One US dollar buys a cab ride to La Mariscal, the “tourist ghetto”, where Jenna works in an Irish-run Vietnamese restaurant; two dollars is a one-way bus ticket to Mindo Nambillo Cloud Forest – home of orchids, lush canopies, and a gazillion types of birds, like roosters who crow without stop between four and seven in the morning – two hours away; and fifty cents equals two homemade cheese empanadas sold by ebullient bus-hopping food vendors en route to Mindo.

The Jet Set Zero clan went rock climbing yesterday while I maintained my stubborn fear of heights and took photos from the ground. Afterward, we stopped by a small cafe for almuerzos aka daily set lunches comprised of potato soup, a rice dish with chicken or beef, and a glass of juice. At around $1.50 for three courses, almuerzos are a steal, but I chose to splurge and spent four dollars on a tangy shrimp ceviche instead. “This is how the locals do it” Freddie said, topping his own bowl of ceviche with popcorn.

While waiting for our meal, I spotted the cafe owner’s young son peeking at us from under a table across the room. Behind him, Mexico just beat France on the cafe’s staticky 20-inch TV. I was struck by the distance between us and the World Cup in South Africa just then and, for a second, I thought of other far away places, like New York City. amy june 18, 2010

Looks Like Chicken, Tastes Like Guinea Pig
To Mercado, To Mercado In Santa Clara, Quito
VIDEO Stupidly Simple Snacks • Guacamole!

June 18, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Seafood, South America, Travel. 5 comments.