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docsconz

A Family Trip to Peru

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When I travel, gastrotourism is always a major factor in choosing my destinations, but sad to say not the only one. I also love history, culture and great scenery. Happily for me and my family, Peru is a destination that combines all of those interests. Indeed, it is largely the combination of the latter factors that makes it a great destination for gastrotourism as well. The wide variation in topography, elevation and climate allows for unparalleled variety of food materials for a country its size. Peru’s history from the pre-Columbian agricultural mastery of the Incas and before to the confluence of cultures in Colonial and post-Colonial days provided a pantry that includes a wide diversity of ingredients and techniques from across the globe that made Peru one of the world’s great melting pots and is readily apparent in its cuisine today. That confluence of components also happen to make Peru a great destination for a family trip and one of a few of a dwindling number of destinations in the world where the dollar is still relatively strong and bargains can be had.

While the myriad of cultural, scenic and historical elements were all of great interest to me, for purposes of this topic I will focus primarily on the culinary aspects of the trip unless some of those other elements are directly pertinent to that. As this was a family trip that included my wife and three sons ages 17, 15 and 7, I will also attempt to provide some of their perspectives of our shared culinary adventures. As time has been and continues to be very tight for me at the moment, I will post on this sporadically over the next week or two so please be patient. Of course, I welcome any comments, questions, insights, experience or discussion you might care to post.

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John,

I had a great meal a couple of years ago by a visiting chef from Peru, Blondet Moreno (I think....I'm old) from La Rosa Nautica in Milaflores off of the beach.

The food was fantastic, and justifiably qualified as food porn.

And the setting, from what I saw, looked like something from a Miyazaki anime, built out on a pier out on the water.

Soo........What I'm getting at is, if you can fit it in, please give us a review and some pictures! This has been a country (and a restaurant) I want to hear more of.

Cheers!

Peter

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Bourdain did a nice show on Peru: Lima, Cusco, Amazon with some good highlights on the food market in Cusco cevicherias in Lima and a meeting with Gaston Acurio (Gaston and Astrid and La mar).

We followed somewhat in Tony's tracks and hit several of the smaller cevicherias in Lima. La Mar was great: prices reasonable for such style and food. Chino food is a distinct peruvian/chinese fusion and was not that great and the areas in Lima for it are not that kid friendly.

Cusco was fun: the market a great place to see and eat with locals. Cuy (ginea pig) is an aquired taste but worth it for the historical value of the meal.

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John,

I had a great meal a couple of years ago by a visiting chef from Peru, Blondet Moreno (I think....I'm old) from La Rosa Nautica in Milaflores off of the beach.

The food was fantastic, and justifiably qualified as food porn.

And the setting, from what I saw, looked like something from a Miyazaki anime, built out on a pier out on the water.

Soo........What I'm getting at is, if you can fit it in, please give us a review and some pictures!  This has been a country (and a restaurant) I want to hear more of.

Cheers!

Peter

Unfortunately we had very little time in Lima during our trip and so could only sample a small fraction of the delights it has to offer. La Rosa Nautica is indeed in a beautiful spot, though I have heard from Peruvians and others that it has perhaps become a little too content to rest on its laurels. Because of that and a desire to visit some other places, we did not choose to dine there in our limited time. In an ideal world...

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We arrived in Lima, Peru after midnight when our flight from Newark was delayed over an hour, but we were lucky to arrive at all as we left more or less on schedule on the 15th of February the day after the great valentine's day snowstorm of the northeast. Our house had been dumped on by almost three feet of snow. While we did have trouble getting down our drive way, fortunately the highways were clear and we managed to make it to Newark on schedule. We arrived at our hotel tired and miserable only to have to turn around early that morning to head back to the airport for our flight to Cusco. Luckily, I managed to have a decent breakfast of a mushroom omelet at the hotel. As a whole throughout the trip we had good breakfasts at the hotels. While they had eggs, scrambled or to order, bacon, sausage and other typical fare, they also had elements unusual for us such as fresh papaya juice, local charcuteries, breads and something that I really developed a liking for - quinoa cereals. These were typically crunchy pellets that went particularly well with yoghurt. I also enjoyed the amaranth cereals too. While I have had cereals in the US with either or both components, none have matched those I had in Peru. I will have to keep a particular lookout for them.

Another frequent accompaniment for me at breakfast, especially in the higher elevations, was coca tea, usually from free, dried leaves, but occasionally from a tea bag. Our first experience with coca tea was in the Sacred Valley at a place that we stopped at on our way out of Cusco to our hotel, the Sol y Luna in Urubamba. The place was a llama/alpaca/guanaco/vicuna ranch cum cultural center cum textile shop called Awana Kancha. Not being particularly well rested and already feeling some altitude effects, I rejoiced when I saw a refreshment stand and was particularly intrigued when they had coca leaves for tea. I leaped at the opportunity to try it. It was quite good with an herbal somewhat sweet flavor. My wife had a cup and though the boys tasted it they generally preferred hot cocoa to the hot coca.

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First cup of coca tea.

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Loose coca leaves for tea at The Hotel Sol y Luna breakfast buffet.

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John I'm so interested in this trip of yours! TallDrinkOfWater went to Peru before we met but was there more for trekking. Thanks in advance for taking the time to report!

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Really looking forward to hearing more about your trip -- we visited Peru last year and had some delicious meals, along with the gorgeous scenery and breathtaking historical sites.

I loved the coca tea so much I bought a box of 1000 teabags at the duty-free on the way back... after asking the staff about 23 times if they were sure it was legal to bring back to the U.S. It is. Or at least if it's not, nobody took it away from me.

Can't wait to hear all about the trip!

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One of my Vancouver friends had become very fond of another natural tea....I think it was yerba matte or something like that.

Any comments? What is it?

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Can't wait to hear more! I lived in Ecuador back in the early 1990s, and the food in the Andes is definately under appreciated.

C

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One of my Vancouver friends had become very fond of another natural tea....I think it was yerba matte or something like that.

Any comments?  What is it?

hey Peter, mate tea is coca tea but the yerba is drunk with a straw (I think,as it was long ago I was there...need more mate tea hehe)

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Peru actually happens to be a fairly big tea producing country including teas traditional to Asia as well as a number of different herbal teas. I did not try any of their black teas, but in addition to the coca tea, I really enjoyed tea made from Andean mint, a thyme-like plant native to the high Andes.

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Our next stop after AwanaKancha was for lunch - our first real foray into Peruvian cuisine. We headed to the town of Pisac, perhaps most well known for its Sunday markets. Unfortunately this was not a Sunday, but Pisac was interesting nevertheless. It is also noted for some significant Incan ruins on the mountain next to the town, which we would tackle, but not until after we re-fueled at lunch. The restaurant was selected for us by our guide. It was an atmospheric place with an upstairs room overlooking the central plaza. We had the room to ourselves. The menu was interesting with all sorts of intriguing choices. (Fortunately, I had some idea of what those choices were having read an excellent book that I would recommend to any aficionado of the culinary arts interested in visiting Peru or just interested in Peruvian food - Eat Smart in Peru: A Travel Guide for Food Lovers by Joan Peterson and Brook Soltvedt. The book provides a rundown of principle culinary options by geographic region, has some photos, a useful menu guide and an equally useful food and flavors guide. At least one of the authors is a member of the eGullet Society (IamAFoodie) and has posted here while doing research for the book.)

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The kitchen is in the back of the courtyard.

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The cook of Doña Clorinda.

As we sat down at the table a large bowl of corn off the cob was placed on the table for nibbling. The kernels, large and sweet, were an appropriate introduction to the Peruvian table and one aspect of the food that we were particularly curious about having heard my wife's recounting of the legendary corn that she had in Peru when she was there as a student in the early 80's. Also on the table was a salsa to be used as a condiment for whatever dishes one might desire it for.

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We each selected an appetizer and a main course as well as beverages. I forget to mention earlier that we had tried the much heralded Inka Cola on the airplane to Cusco, but it didn't really appeal to any of us. It was way too sweet for me and my kids didn't really take to the bubble-gum like flavor. My wife and I stuck to either water, pisco sours, tea or wine throughout the trip depending largely on where and when we were dining or other circumstances. The boys generally drank water, hot chocolate, Coke, Sprite or Fanta (a different formulation than either the US or Europe it seemed).

Our normally intrepid youngest son preferred to stick with more known elements for his meal as most kids his age would. He started with a chicken soup. It had a strange name that though it should have been more memorable as a result, somehow eludes me. I noticed this name for chicken soup in a number of places, so it wasn't just the restaurant's term. I would appreciate it if anyone can contribute the correct name.

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No. 2 son, 15, ordered Papas Rellenas, similar to a potato croquette. It consisted of mashed potatoes stuffed with a chopped meat filling reformed into a potato-like shape and fried. This may have been one of the tastiest treats I tried all trip!

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No. 1 son, 17, had Papas a la Huancaina, sliced boiled potatoes on top of lettuce and smothered in a cold yellow cheese sauce. The sauce, of course, had many other ingredients besides cheese, including lime juice, evaporated milk, aji pepper and other things that were blended to a very creamy state. The dish was garnished with black olives. Once again, this was quite tasty.

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My wife refrained from an appetizer and just ordered a main. I ordered a stuffed avocado. This was good, but I much preferred both of the potato dishes.

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No. 3 son stayed conservative for his main ordering pasta with a tomato sauce.

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No. 2 son had the Lomo Saltado, one of the most well known of Peruvian fusion dishes. This consisted of beef tenderloin and french fried potatoes sauteed with vegetables and a rich sauce. This dish too was very tasty. It was subsequently available on a number of menus throughout the trip. We never did order it again except at one place as part of a sandwich, but only because there were always too many other interesting dishes to try. This is one dish though that I wish I had more of.

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No. 1 son had Rocotos Rellenos, large peppers stuffed with a mixture of chopped meat, olives and other spices and fried. Similar to chiles rellenos from the Mexican kitchen, these had a more European and particularly Spanish sense to them with the inclusion of the olives into the stuffing. They were simply delicious and thankfully we did have the opportunity to try several versions of these during the trip.

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I had Kapche with Mushrooms. Kapche is considered a soup, though it is so thick it seemed more like a porridge to me. It was made from fava beans, eggs, potatoes, queso fresco amongst other ingredients and seasonings. This version had fresh mushrooms in it. It wass hearty and delicious.

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My wife had Ajiaco con Tarwi. Tarwi, a leguminous plant otherwise known as lupine, was one of the more interesting and unusual ingredients that we came in contact with. Ajiaco is another thick, stew-like dish made with a base of potatoes and, in this case, tarwi, as well as onions, cheese, garlic and aji peppers. This too was hearty and tasty.

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Our fuel tanks filled with fine fuel, we unfortunately did not have time for dessert as it was getting late and we still needed to climb up to the ruins.


Edited by docsconz (log)

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One of my Vancouver friends had become very fond of another natural tea....I think it was yerba matte or something like that.

Any comments?  What is it?

Yerba mate isn't the same as coca leaf, and this is way off topic... but... Yerba mate, as I undestand it is a quichua and guarani herb that has been used in infusions for a long long time. Eventually, the regular way of drinking it (through a straw and inside a vase made out of... well... some kind of squash) was perfected in Paraguay and populariced in Argentina. However, I know they also drink it in Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Brasil (maybe other places, too)

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...chicken soup. It had a strange name that though it should have been more memorable as a result, somehow eludes me. I noticed this name for chicken soup in a number of places, so it wasn't just the restaurant's term. I would appreciate it if anyone can contribute the correct name.

Chupe, maybe? That's quichua for soup.

Or Cazuela?

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...chicken soup. It had a strange name that though it should have been more memorable as a result, somehow eludes me. I noticed this name for chicken soup in a number of places, so it wasn't just the restaurant's term. I would appreciate it if anyone can contribute the correct name.

Chupe, maybe? That's quichua for soup.

Or Cazuela?

Thanks, but that isn't what I am looking for. It was specifically for a chicken noodle type soup. It's a funny word that is either funny when translated into English or funny as an English word with a different meaning. This will drive me crazy! :laugh::wacko:

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I really enjoyed tea made from Andean mint, a thyme-like plant native to the high Andes.

Yes, I loved the Andean mint tea also. Our hostess made it with fresh mint from her garden, but the mint is also sold dried in tea bags. I wanted to bring some home, especially the seeds so I could plant some mint in my garden, but one thing led to another and I forgot. Oh well. Maybe I would have had trouble bringing the seeds into the U.S. anyway.


Edited by djyee100 (log)

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I checked with my partner (who is Peruvian) and she came up with the following possibilities;

dieta de pollo,

caldo de pollo, or

sopa la minuta (although that one is typically made with beef).

I can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

Did you like the corn? When I first saw it, I thought it would be tough and starchy because it looks like what we called "cow corn" in my rural home town. The sweetness and texture surprised me. My Peruvian inlaws had similiar misgivings about our tiny little kernels when they visited here.

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I checked with my partner (who is Peruvian) and she came up with the following possibilities;

dieta de pollo,

caldo de pollo, or

sopa la minuta (although that one is typically made with beef).

I can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

Did you like the corn?  When I first saw it, I thought it would be tough and starchy because it looks like what we called "cow corn" in my rural home town.  The sweetness and texture surprised me.  My Peruvian inlaws had similiar misgivings about our tiny little kernels when they visited here.

Thank you! Dieta de pollo is what I was looking for! It isn't really that strange a term, but it is one that I was previously unfamiliar with. Funny, but it didn't seem like "diet soup" :raz: - I know, that was baaad.

The corn was variable. In certain spots it was quite good, though not revelatory, however, in the market in Cusco (which I will get to later) it was very disappointing.

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We had dinner the next two nights at the Restaurant Killa Wasi, which is part of the Hotel Sol y Luna in which we were staying. In each case the dinner was good, though unspectacular. The first night was notable for a few things, however. Being that it was still quite early in our trip, we had a few "firsts" there. My wife and I each had our first Pisco Sour. The drink was certainly tasty enough, but I could not discern a significant flavor difference from the whiskey sours of early adulthood. Nevertheless, we had them several more times on the trip, the best of which was a specialized version that I will describe further when I discuss that meal.

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The amuse was a kingfish ceviche, the first of the trip. It was tasty, but compared to some later versions, relatively unremarkable.

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Most of us ordered red meat of one kind or another. While I like my meat rare to medium rare by American standards, we noticed throughout the trip that in Peru, an order of "medium rare" is much more akin to an order of "rare" in the U.S., while "medium" tends to correspond more closely to the U.S. "medium-rare." The standards are closer to what one might find in Europe, which I guess shouldn't really come as a surprise given the huge European (specifically Spanish) influence on the culture. No.1 son and I had our first alpaca steaks - in this case tenderloin. Neither No.2 son nor No.3 son wanted to order the alpaca after having made friends with a few back at Awana Kancha. Alpaca is a very lean meat and this was indeed quite lean. Not being overcooked it was still fairly moist. Unfortunately, though the meat could have used some additional outer charring for a little maillardization and additional umami. There was a noticeable flavor difference to beef, though i cannot say that I found it preferable to beef.

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The desserts were creative and good. No.3 son ordered "a piano", which was a hazelnut and chocolate cake cut and decorated to resemble a piano. He enjoyed it.

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I had lucuma for the first time. It came in the form of a mousse in a chocolate "glass." Lucuma is a native fruit used widely in creamy desserts in Peru - especially ice cream. I enjoyed the dessert, but had better examples of lucuma subsequently elsewhere.

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The Sol y Luna is a marvelous hotel despite its rather unremarkable restaurant. Located a bit outside of Urubamba we did not really have the opportunity to try elsewhere and given the convenience of the restaurant and our general level of tiredness after a full day's schedule it was adequate for the situation.


Edited by docsconz (log)

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I am really enjoying this. Thanks, John.

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I have it on Peruvian authority that it is called dieta de pollo because not because it is good for diets, but because you can eat it when you are sick. Literal translation = diet made of out chicken. Hmmmmm...I think this is one of those cases where a literal translation doesn't really work.

Can't wait to see what's next! This is making me very hungry for real Peruvian food and "homesick" for my own trip last December.


Edited by constanela (log)

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I have it on Peruvian authority that it is called dieta de pollo because not because it is good for diets, but because you can eat it when you are sick.  Literal translation = diet made of out chicken.  Hmmmmm...I think this is one of those cases where a literal translation doesn't really work.

Can't wait to see what's next!  This is making me very hungry for real Peruvian food and "homesick" for my own trip last December.

This makes sense about dieta. That is precisely what got me curious. Thanks.

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Quinoa is something that I havd had before my visit to Peru, but its ubiquity on menus was quite something. It was also something that I very much enjoyed and didn't shy away from.

On the way down from the ruins of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley we came across this field of quinoa ready for harvest. It was located behind the town church.

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The quinoa field close up.

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Quinoa stalk even closer.

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I had Kapche with Mushrooms. Kapche is considered a soup, though it is so thick it seemed more like a porridge to me. It was made from fava beans, eggs, potatoes, queso fresco amongst other ingredients and seasonings. This version had fresh mushrooms in it.

Somehow, that name evokes Korean Chap Chae , a sort of chop suey. Could there be an Asian, particularly Korean influence on Peruvian cuisine?

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