Galeria Gourmet: Where things that taste good meet good taste

06/Junio/2013 | 11:55

By Lance Brashear
lbrashear@hoy.com.ec

As they sauntered and sashayed down the improvised runway, the women modeling the latest collection by the mother-daughter design team of Jacqueline Muñoz and Diana Torres, showed how local talent combined with local production can offer a new way of thinking about Andean fashion.

Though made from alpaca fibers - Ecuador’s native pack animal - the outfits that comprise the new NATIVA collection are not the wooly sweater or thick ponchos that traditional tourists might imagine are produced in Ecuador. On the contrary, NATIVA, a brand from the Karfanny Group, is an ensemble of refined, ethnic motifs by contemporary designers.

“Exclusively, our Nativa line is made from alpaca and natural materials like cotton. This effort of love that was born between my daughter and I made what I believe is a love that we have in our earth and it is the first label that we have created together,” said Muñoz.

The new collection is exclusive for the Ecuador Galeria Gourmet, a retailer of fine, artistic gifts. Though Karfanny exports most of their clothing lines to other countries, the Galeria commercializes them locally.

“We know the taste of our clients and we made a collection for ourselves, for the gallery,” explained Adriana Alomia, who along with her husband Diego Castillo, own and run the gallery.

In a sense, the exclusive offer of NATIVA is an extension of the gallery´s mission: to offer top quality products with an “ethnic touch” from all corners of Ecuador.

The Ecuador Galeria Gourmet is a concept created three years ago that has garnered attention from international visitors passing through Quito. The gallery is exactly that – a space where producers can showcase their products while simultaneously offering them for sale. In a sense, it is all art. Some of it is worn, some of it savored, and all of it 100% Ecuadorean.

“We have 125 producers from every province in Ecuador,” said Diego. The store comprises more than 3,000 unique items.

The first and most popular room that all visitors encounter when they step into the gallery – a city heritage home converted into a high-end, retail artisan shop in the Mariscal District - is the chocolate and coffee room, with eight different brands of each.

“We have chocolates by percentages, chocolate with flavors, chocolate bars, toasted cocoa beans wrapped in flavors, and packages of bonbons…all of it is dark chocolate,” Castillo explained. “We have coffee by zone, organic coffee, high altitude coffee with certification. They are all special packs.” He shows the clever and colorful packaging of each – some sold with miniature wooden spoons, others with hand-crafted dolls from the same growing region.

The chocolate and café are perhaps emblematic of the store’s purpose. “Everything has a special quality,” explained Castillo. “It is an organic product or has a special packaging or has won a prize or it can be exported. The idea is added value for the client – something they can buy as a gift.” The Galeria is the ultimate gift store in Quito.

What else is worth sampling besides the chocolate and coffee? Try the vinegar and honey made with premium, organic rose petals, organic marmalades and jellies, dressings made from local fruits, locally produced energy bars, liquors, and teas.

But as the new Karfanny collection demonstrates, not everything in the Galeria Gourmet is for tasting, but all is done in good taste. Ethnic purses are made from penco, the fibers of an agave plant. Boots from Cotopaxi Province are manufactured by hand. In the accessories room, jewelry is made of pewter and the local ivory nut known as tagua. Another room is dedicated to the ceramic art of renowned artist Eduardo Vega and his talented family.

Throughout the Galeria it seems not a space is wasted and it takes more than one trip to see it all. On the walls along the staircase cocoa leaves hang with drawings that harken to the golden days of 19th century cocoa production in Ecuador.

Weavings from Gualaceo and Peguche are on display, as are baby orchids cleverly packaged for enjoyment and made for those who do not have a green thumb. Nearby are fused glass products and Galapagos Island stuffed animals

Natural products such as soaps and creams are made by honey producers. And no artisan shop in Ecuador would be complete without the famous Panama Hats, made from 100% Ecuadorean fibers and labor.

Finally, visitors often discover to their surprise that wine is also produced at the Equator. Two brands are available for sale at the Galeria. It is one more way visitors and residents alike often discover that Ecuador offers products with identity, defined not only by their location but by those who produce them. They underscore a reality that their producers live by.

In the words of Muñoz, “We have a different way of life.” The Galeria invites you to come and discover it.

The Ecuador Galeria Gourmet is located at Reina Victora N24-263 and Lizardo Garcia in the Mariscal District. Call them at 223-9469 or 255-8440. The Galeria is the only duty free shop outside the airport. Ask for a duty declaration form if you are headed outside the country with all that you purchased. Visit their website at www.galeriaecuador.com.

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