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Cuenca’s Tempting Gran Ferias 

One of the special joys of Cuenca is discovering so many delicious and fresh organic foods to prepare at home. All around us are sources of comestibles and meal ingredients: big mercados, supermercados, neighborhood fruit and vegetable tiendas, delis and butcher shops, panaderias, and pastelerias. 

As abundant as food is here, certain local flavors and foods and those we miss from home are not readily available but can instead be found at the gran ferias. 

Fortunately, Cuenca’s frequent “gran ferias,” staged for about four hours on selected Saturdays at various locations, are an especially fun way to shop for “artisanal” foods as well as for non-food items like personal care products,  jewelry, plants, and services.  

And for those, like me, who have been seeking a clear definition of “artisanal”, here’s one:  things made in a traditional or non-mechanized way. 

What follows is a quick and personal rundown of Feria host locations, some of my favorite vendors, and examples of the goodies they offer. No doubt you will discover your own favorites when you visit.  

Four Restaurants Hosts

A very frequent feria host is Sabatino’s Garden Restaurant, just off Av. Tres de Noviembre, one block west of Plaza Otorongo; at the end of a small street called Calle Roberto Aguilar. Sabatino’s ferias feature several dozen vendors and are held on the first and third Saturdays of each month, in the garden in front of the restaurant dining room. The dining room is open from noon and usually offers a feria lunch special, so you can combine a visit to the feria with lunch.

Sabatino’s Garden Restaurant

The sports bar and restaurant Common Grounds Sports Bar and Grill, a popular expat hangout at Gran Colombia and Unidad Nacional, also has frequent ferias. At Common Grounds, the vendors take up every inch of the establishment’s space, so there is no food served during the ferias. 

Common Grounds Sports Bar and Grill

Just a block east of Sabatino’s, in Plaza Otorongo, is the Otorongo Lounge, which occasionally hosts gran ferias that include vendor tables both inside and outside on the Plaza. The Sisa Bowl restaurant, farther east on Trés de noviembre, near the Broken Bridge, also hosts gran ferias. Other locations occasionally pop up so watch social media and your other favorite sources for their posts.

Artes Gringos Mesa De Trabajo 1
Sisa Bowl

Gran Ferias Schedules

Ferias are generally posted in advance in expat digital publications like the YapaTree Events Calendar page and published by us on Thursdays as well as on the Facebook pages of the host restaurants and in Expat Facebook groups.  Subscribe to the YapaTree Weekly Updates here. 

Abundant Bakery Goods

With Cuenca’s many panaderias offering high-quality, fresh, baked goods at attractive prices, one might not see the need for artisanal baked goods, but the bakers at the ferias have a range of unusual products. For example, Artesana Family Bakery sells loaves of sourdough bread, incredible cinnamon rolls, bagels, cookies, and sandwiches. 

Artesana Family Bakery

Another personal favorite of mine is the zucchini bread from La Mia. La Mia’s breads are a delicious complement to their line of goat cheeses including a delicious, goat feta cheese that I find preferable to those carried in the Cuenca supermarkets.

La Mia

Double D’s Delights brings a great selection of desserts and treats to every Sabatino’s feria as well as other meal components. Each time, they offer variations of their fruit-filled cakes and tarts, quiches, bagels, biscuits, and brownies. Many of their products are gluten-free, as are the products of Coco’s Green. One of Coco’s distinctive products which I tried recently was her gluten-free platano verde (green plantain) tortillas. Yum.

Coco’s Green

For me, simple baked goods like cupcakes found at Sabatinos’ ferias are my favorites. You’ll find these moist and tasty delights for sale by the kids pictured here, for $1 each. Remember when $5 cupcakes were all the rage in the US? These are better.

Uncommon Salsas and Specialties

One of the treats of attending a gran feria is sampling the salsas. Huertos Jesmer always has two or three of theirs to try and they also offer a selection of mermeladas (jams). Some other foods to put on top of your galletas (crackers) might be the goat cheeses of La Caprina Goat Farm, or those of the previously mentioned La Mia. For those who enjoy honey as either a topping or a baking ingredient, the gran ferias at Sisa Bowl are known for their varieties of flavored honey, like the organic honey of AmielAnd for something tart and savory, Terra Natura sells a line of fermented products, like sauerkraut in three flavors and tomatoes that are not only delicious but also claim probiotic benefits.

Terra Natura

Heat and Eat Ethnic Foods

Cuenca offers a few good Asian restaurants, but I can only find the Chinese “Baos” from the regular feria vendor Pei’s Potstickers. Baos are yeast-leavened, filled buns – and Pei’s are available in veggie or chicken varieties. They can be easily steamed at home for a simple-to-fix and tasty meal. As the name suggests, Pei also sells potstickers that can be pan-fried or microwaved as an appetizer.

Pei’s Potstickers

If you want to keep some ready-to-heat Mexican food handy, you can find it from Antojitos MX by Vicky Reyes. She offers such traditional Mexican foods as tamales, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and more. A visit to her booth has the added benefit of a chance to sample some tortilla chips and salsa.

Antojitos MX

Beverages to Jumpstart You or Mellow You Out

As an unapologetic coffee addict, I always make a point to stop at the booth of Tierra del Sur, a roaster of fine coffees from Loja province. One can find a variety of other non-alcoholic as well as artisanal wines and beers at most of the ferias.

Personal Care Products

Myle Cosmetica Artisanal is one of several vendors regularly selling at Gran Ferias to offer their handcrafted personal care products, like soaps, shampoos, and essential oils. Another unique product I’ve found especially effective is the Alidor Locion Analgesica (analgesic lotion). It’s a natural blend of menthol and eucalyptus for relieving muscle pain.

And more

Other vendors at the fairs include chocolatiers, ice cream and yogurt makers, pet food suppliers, florists, and jewelers. Also represented are community organizations like the English language Azuay Community Theater and Foundation Grace – an organization with the motto “de refugiado a vecino” (from refugee to neighbor).

Speaking of neighbors, the gran ferias are more than a place to shop. They give you a chance to meet up with friends and to mingle. While the attendees, many Feria attendees mentioned are ex-pats, the vendors are a mix of ex-pats and English-speaking locals, so you have the chance to build relationships among both.

Other Places For Specialty Foods

Yapatree has published three guides on where to find specialty and gourmet foods written by Rick Snyder:

Wrap Up

The suppliers mentioned above are only a sampling of those found. The pleasures of shopping at the Gran Ferias are finding new ways to treat oneself, as well as to revisit favorite vendors, restock their goods, and make new friends.

I recommend Cuenca’s Gran Ferias for its great variety of offerings and for the pure pleasure of experiencing the creativity of local artisans. So, head on over to a couple of ferias, and then tell us about your favorites in the comments!

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