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Posts tagged ‘peruvian cuisine’

getting off the compound ;)

Even though I’ve been back for a while I am reliving the sadness that it’s almost the end of the trip as I write this.  (Luckily I will soon be on the third continent of this year’s five continent travel extravaganza 🙂

Arriving in a foreign place is always such an adrenaline rush but departing is difficult so I try to do something significant and memorable to mark the final travel day.  I doubt I will ever top blowing kisses in the pitch dark stillness of the Serengeti with a Masai warrior but I try 😉

Since Lima is not risk-free I paid the dollars to have the hotel organize a driver for me when I returned from Cusco.  Yet another charming Peruvian man 🙂  Julio was widowed and we talked about his job, the challenges of raising a teenage son alone and – of course – dancing 😉   A lovely introduction back to Lima – and this time I was confident I WAS headed to the hotel!

I had booked the Miraflores Park, which is also run by Orient Express.  I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about the hotel or the neighborhood – and from my computer screen in Canada, Lima seemed very foreign.

the shiny mall carved into the cliffs

the shiny mall carved into the cliffs

But now that I was arriving for the second time I wished I’d booked something local.  It felt like I was trapped in a glamorous tourist compound.  The hotel is right next to Larcomar – not exactly the Peru of intricately woven blankets and alpaca scarves in every colour of the rainbow.

Luckily I had walked all over Miraflores on my first visit so I grabbed a map and hit the streets to find some locals and get a sense for the real Lima.

My first mission was to go back to my old neighbourhood.  There was a shop full of mouth-watering cakes near my first Lima hotel but on my initial visit I had arrived there at breakfast so was a good girl and had some delicious French toast with fresh tropical bananas instead of cake.  But who says you can’t have cake for breakfast?  It was worth the walk across town!  If you also have a weakness for cake, check out La Mora Pasteleria & Cafe.


Fortified – and needing to walk off the calories – I began an aimless wander in a new direction from the kilometres I logged on my first visit.  That’s how I discovered Avenue de la Paz.  Definitely recommend it to get a snapshot of Lima – and modern Peru.

I didn’t get to spend enough time in the country to really develop an understanding of 21st century Peru.  But wandering away from the other tourists and talking to locals every chance I got did provide fascinating glimpses.  As the young girls in Colombia told me boldly, “we’re emerging!” 🙂

cool architecture on ave de la paz

cool architecture on ave de la paz

I haven’t been to Ecuador yet but it does seem that the Andes are embracing the era of the internet and the smartphone and creating opportunities for a new generation with aspirations of a more inclusive and prosperous South America.

I live in a world of shiny things where people lead easy lives yet find ways to complain about their privileged lives without much perspective on the reality of daily life for most of the world’s population.  There are a lot more people living on a couple dollars a day at best than stressing whether their bonus will be grand enough to maintain their millionaire lifestyle.

Don’t go to Lima for the weather!  It was grey and drizzly for the vast majority of the time I spent there.

view from the hotel

view from the hotel

But great food will lift your spirits!  I wish I’d been able to explore more but did have a couple more outstanding meals before it was time for departure.

The first night I played it safe and ate in the hotel.  The restaurant is called Mesa 18.  It is an intriguing mix of world class Japanese food and luxe Peruvian cuisine.  It feels a little bipolar but I had one dish of each and both were sublime!


For my final night, though, I wanted something truly memorable.  I had spent some time at the previous hotel scrolling through restaurant options on the computer in the lobby.  I found one that didn’t seem too far from the Miraflores Park – and boasted the kind of menu I would gravitate to in Vancouver.  Rafael.


I always like to know where I am going after dark in a foreign city – so I did a daylight recognisance trip to identify just how many blocks the restaurant was from the hotel – and the best route to get there – easy to remember, full of people, emblazoned with working streetlights…

Once it got to Latin dining time, I headed out.  I arrived to a lively scene for a Monday night.  Since I haven’t learned to speak Spanish yet, communication was limited.  But I soaked up the atmosphere – and the delicious inventive nouvelle Peruvian cuisine.

When I was looking for the links for this post, I discovered that I AM really good at finding restaurants in foreign locales… according to the Telegraph, I found 2 of the 5 best restaurants in Lima – without reading the article 😉  but you might want to…


My final Pisco Sour for a while.  A walk home to the hotel through the streets of Lima teeming with people living “la vida dulce”.

I was back on the compound.  But I knew I wasn’t the kind of girl who belonged there.  I was “that girl” – the crazy redhead roaming around Peru without a tour group and, as a result, being seduced by a new country and its people.  I will be back…   and you should go 😉

do you dance? ;)

I do not actually know how to do any dance steps but I must look like a dancer because I am always being dragged onto the dance floor by strangers in foreign countries.  And if there is no dance floor, the aisle on a moving train 😉

In Peru I was asked most days if I liked to dance.  Like Chris in New Orleans, it seems Peruvian men are trained to dance.  A man who can dance is a real treasure.  They lead – so you can pretend as long as you jump around enough to not step on their toes.  That’s my strategy 😉

cusco architecture

cusco architecture

I have already added to my “to do list” – dance at a festival in Peru.  I don’t even need to dance.  I’d just love to participate in a festival.  I think it’s the combination of various cultural religious beliefs.  Cusco seems a bit like New Orleans – any excuse for a party 😉

The calendar seems to be filled with festivals and I regretted my poor planning that I had just missed one.  I never expected to regret being at the Sanctuary Lodge in Machu Picchu instead of partying in Cusco 🙂

In the end I spent only one day in Cusco so it still remains a bit of a mystery – perfect for another visit… But I tried to use my time productively and not succumb to being too much of a tourist.  Cusco is crawling with them.

I had already spent two fleeting evenings in the city but my final visit started on a perfect note.  David, my guide in the Sacred Valley and for my private tour of Machu Picchu, was in Cusco for the night before a “proper” Inca Trail trip so I took him for dinner.  I asked where he wanted to go and he said my new local, Tupananchis.  When you are taking a local to your fave restaurant in their home town, you feel like a traveller rather than a tourist 😉


I tried to continue the theme the next day when I was left to my own devices.  I stayed at the Casa Cartagena – my own luxury apartment in Cusco right next to the Orient Express’s Hotel Monasterio for a lower price tag.  I think the hotel room may have been larger than my apartment!  The bathroom was so magnificent it made you reluctant to leave and I had a lovely balcony overlooking the courtyard filled with modern art.  It is a sublime mixture of colonial and contemporary.


the amazing bathroom

the amazing bathroom

It’s just enough off the beaten tourist path to make you feel like a local – so I tried to follow the hotel receptionist’s directions to the Saturday market without using my map.  You always see and experience more when you wander.

I found the market without any issues and – while there were a few like-minded tourists obsessed with alpaca – it was mostly full of locals.

getting close and personal with dinner

getting close and personal with dinner

Markets in Peru are full of colour – and meat products looking a little more like the animals of origin than the typical North American supermarket.  Naturally I kept trying surreptitiously to get a great photo of a pig’s head 🙂

Lingering attracts attention so I decided to try out the juice bar in the market.  It’s a bit political.  Some will be mad you didn’t choose them but I was as fair as possible and parked myself into a chair at the first lady who smiled in my direction.  This is the tropics so a fresh fruit smoothie is an experience that’s tough to duplicate in northern climes.

I finished my Cusco adventure in a hunt for silver jewelry inlaid with local stones in intricate patterns.  The

colourful cusco market

colourful cusco market

geologist in me loved the concept of polishing stones to shiny perfection and the anthropologist loved the rich cultural history and Inca symbolism.

When I wear my purchases back in Canada they are not just pretty shiny objects.  I know I am wearing the symbolism of the Inca Cross, Pachamama and the Sun God, hopefully having had a little “local” fairy dust sprinkled on me, establishing an authentic view of Peru and further editing my personal world view and cultural understanding.

does guinea pig taste like chicken? ;)

Unfortunately I was too much of a ‘fraidy cat to be able to answer the question.  Enrique was very keen for me to try guinea pig and I wish I’d been faster with my lens as we drove by some stalls with roasted guinea pigs trussed up in display.

It was Sunday and I was informed that a roasted guinea pig is a Sunday dinner staple.  Apparently guinea pig was part of the staple Inca diet.  It’s usually the most expensive item on the menu.  What I learned on the Sunday drive was that the guinea pigs on menus in Peru are not the tiny pet rodents you likely imagine.  I don’t know what they feed the guinea pigs in Peru but they grow up to look more like a miniature suckling pig!


I may have passed on the guinea pig but I ate ZERO pizza and noshed on local produce everywhere that I travelled.  And there is lots of wonderful food in Peru so it’s easy to eat really well.

aquas calientesI’ve already mentioned a couple of places.  Another culinary highlight was my surprise chef’s tasting menu!  I had been lured in by the promise of prawns flambéed in Pisco.  Aquas Calientes is full of pizza joints so I didn’t ask to see the menu until I was already seated.  That’s when I discovered it was a four course tasting menu with no prices…

But I had just been hobbled by my “trapped on the balcony” experience so I wasn’t keen to do a lot of aimless walking… especially since the vast majority of the offerings were pizza J

It ended up the first course was quinoa quiche floating on creamed corn accompanied by prawns flambéed in Pisco.  It was showy and delicious.  There were two choices for each course.  My next treat was crema of lisas with alpaca jerky; accompanied with native potatoes and Huacatay oil.  Lisas wasn’t translated on the menu and it doesn’t google so I am guessing it just means smooth and creamy.  A crema is a creamy soup, one of the big treats of Peruvian cuisine.  Anyone with a love of potatoes (like me) is in for a joy ride in Peru where there are so many varieties.  Apparently huacatay is an Andean herb.

For the main course, I had trout.  The other options involved mushrooms – mushrooms being the food in know in 20 languages so I never make the mistake of eating them, there was no other choice.  But trucha in Peru is a delight – and you should eat so much you don’t need to translate it anymore 🙂  As you can tell, I had them photocopy the menu for me because it was so delicious and I wanted to remember the details so it was trout fillet topped with meuniere sauce, accompanied by polenta gratin and grilled vegetables.

By the time I got to dessert I needed to run up Machu Picchu to wear off all the calories so I went for the tartare of fruits accompanied with bananas flambéed in Pisco on a fruit coulis.  The more indulgent option was Quillabamba’s Chocolate Passion accompanied with ice cream.

The meal was phenomenal… and when the bill finally arrived… about $35.  And I even tried some Peruvian wine!  (I would recommend the Peruvian pisco and the Chilean wine…)

The restaurant is called Manka and it’s in the Casa del Sol boutique hotel in Aquas Calientes.  a great luxury option that I am sure costs less than the Sanctuary Lodge.


The meal was quite amazing.  The restaurant claims to be celebrating Peruvian cuisine and it certainly lives up to its word.  So many of the special foods of Peru all in one meal!  Trucha, prawns, alpaca, quinoa, potatoes, corn, local herbs, chocolate, bananas and flatbread!  Writing about the meal brings back such spectacular memories.  The service was also first rate and I sat beside the bubbling Urubamba River as I stuffed my face with all of this delicious food at a leisurely pace 🙂

Peru is definitely foodie paradise.  Fresh seafood all over the country.  Local specialties.  A mind-blowing variety in corn and potatoes.  It feels like a grand adventure infood sacred valley fine dining even if you forego the guinea pig… next time 😉

spanish lessons

How exciting!  I actually managed to find functioning internet before I leave Peru… the rest will follow… as usual I will keep living my travels long after I have left the foreign locale 😉

as usual we are living in the past so just go with the tenses – they were correct when I wrote the first draft 🙂

I wrote the first draft of this on miércoles.  I learned that the night before at the Pitahaya Bar in Lisbon.  From my new friend Juan.

Yes, I am in Peru!  When I first dreamed of trekking to Machu Picchu, the Shining Path was putting Peru on the government advisory “do not go” lists.  As usual I have been too busy doing things to have enough time to write about what I have been doing.  But I have been trying to remember exactly when I was inspired to travel to Peru.

It was sometime in the mid 80s.  It may have been the Peru pavilion at Expo 86.  I know I acquired a book about the treasures of the Incas from an exhibit of some of them around that time.  I forgot to leaf through it before I left home.  But I have carried it over three continents and unpacked it in countless apartments so I know it’s there somewhere…  I remember the great jewelry and rich colours.  My souvenirs won’t be nearly so impressive but I am dazzled by the colours in the markets.  It is hard to not buy everything you see 🙂

Unfortunately in the 1980s Peru was dangerous – so I stayed away… but Machu Picchu stayed in my imagination.  And Peru is now the kind of place where you have to search a little to avoid a dual language tourist menu.

But my first step in a new city is to get a map from reception (just in case 🙂 and then start aimlessly wandering the streets in daylight so I’ll know my way home in the dark!

I’m still packing the map but I’ve actually looked at it only a couple of times and Miraflores is already starting to feel like home.  Lima is no Latin seductress.  The weather is as dreary as predicted.  I think the sun shines more in Vancouver 😉

And the Pacific Ocean looks like an angry stepsister with haunted beaches.  But moody can be interesting… so I had a delicious pizetta overlooking the Pacific as part of my exploration of the Larcomar – a modern mall that is so shiny it glints without the sun even shining 🙂

It’s part of the shiny side of Lima – where I will be staying on my return.  Locating my next Lima hotel created a great aimless wander through the streets of Miraflores.  As I suspected yesterday, I am living on the wrong side of the tracks.  But I think I prefer my older Miraflores with the slight decay that tropical climates induce rather than the tarted up sanitized Miraflores that seems more like a tourist zone.

Peru is definitely an emerging economy and it’s exciting to see it in action.  I would love to come back in 10 years and see what has changed.

One thing I hope won’t change is the friendly, warm character of the people.  I am writing this in a cool, modern bar with a touch of traditional Peruvian

pitahaya behind the park

pitahaya behind the park

decoration – and charming Latin men behind the bar.  The soundtrack is an incredible mix of some of the best alternative rock from the late 80s – Blind Melon, Cindy Lauper, Tom Cochrane, the dudes who sing Runaway Train… sometimes I just knew the music, couldn’t remember the band… the 80s were a long time ago!

juanSo I was absorbing the music and letting Juan make me drinks.  His goal is to work on a cruise ship so he wanted me to help him with his English.  In return, he taught me some Spanish.

And made me a beautiful Pisco Sour – my first.  You always remember your first time 😉  And Juan did a magnificent job!  Pisco Sours are pretty ubiquitous in Peru so I’ve had a few now but Juan’s is still the best!  And he gave me the whole history of the drink for bonus points.

Everyone in the bar is very friendly – and works very efficiently.  The menu is in Spanish so I knew I was in an authentic place.  I had avoided the tourist ghetto!

Decaying villas seem charming.  And I saw some appealing houses on my random walk that speak to another era.  It would be sad to lose all the history and local architecture around the world for shiny new concrete malls.

But we also need to welcome progress – and the emergence of new shiny places in unexpected countries.

I love discovering places like Pitahaya – and young men like Juan.  It’s great to see a modern place with a sense of history and locale.  And the enthusiasm and professionalism I encounter so often in these new economies.  I think I am experiencing the future… Machu Picchu is just bonus points 😉

pitahaya decor

pitahaya decor

p.s. apparently Pitahaya is a bar but it was possibly the best food I have had in Peru!  The first night I ordered what I thought was a simple shrimp cocktail but it had some unexpected twists to it that were delicious.  And the next night I ordered something called Tiradito Achebichado because I trusted Juan 😉  As he promised, it was a bit like ceviche but I had just written mystery fish in my blog notes so he had to get the correct information for me.  It was tilapia – and outstanding.  The cocktails are also delicious.  And the staff are delightful.


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