13 September 2008

Peru: The Food

I thought I'd break up my trip to Peru into several sections. Over the next few entries, I'll blog about various parts of the trip. I think it'll be more of a sensible narrative for you, and then you can better pick the part that interests you most.

I tried to be pretty adventurous in Peru, and the food there--which is influenced by Chinese and Italian cuisine--was a good way for me express adventure in a relatively safe way. After learning how to brush my teeth with bottled water (mostly the learning came from breaking the habit of rinsing my brush in the sink...), it was relatively easy to feel daring enough to try guinea pig and alpaca.

Now, I had a guinea pig when I was a kid. She was my first pet, and I loved her very much. Let me be clear, however: I accept my position near the top of the food chain, and I will wear the mantle of that honor when the time is right. This same principle is at work when I swim in the ocean, where I am DEEPLY aware that I am NOT at the top of the food chain, and where I am always concerned that I will get my legs chomped off by Jaws.

Guinea pig in Peru isn't so much a "delicacy" as it is a special treat; a little like a Thanksgiving turkey for us. For those of you disinclined to try guinea pig at your next opportunity, it was a gamey, fatty meat that reminded me of quail when served on the bone (lots of work, little meat) and of duck when off the bone (a little greasy and savory).

Guinea pig (off the bone of course) on a spicy yellow rice base. The green things were green corn tamales.

I travelled with my alma mater's young alumni travel club, so I had lots of company for meals. The first place we went was Inka Grill, right off the main square in Cusco. It was fabulous, and one of the best places we ate during our trip. It was at Inka Grill that I was introduced to Lomo Saltado, a stir-fried beef dish served with rice and fries that is the PERFECT Sable Crow dish. Yum.

Lomo Saltado. Good for the soul.

The Coke in Peru isn't made with high-fructose corn syrup (fuck the American corn lobbyists). And caffeine is the last thing on the ingredient list. The result: no sugar rush and no caffeine buzz, just fizzy, delicious Coke.

This was a delicous meal at a museum restaurant in the same restaruant group as Inka Grill. It was delicous.

Steak with egg on top and a tasty sauce. Fried rice fingerling with fried plantain.

The alpaca skewers are below. They were very good.

Alpaca with fried plantains and an assortment of traditional Peruvian foods. Those strips of hard white cheese were to die for.

Though there are no photos of the food at Fallen Angel (I was too distracted by what WASN'T on the menu), please rest assured that this restaurant--in the same courtyard as Cusco's finest hotel, where we did NOT stay--was superb, and the atmosphere really first rate. The food was entirely steaks, and entirely delicious. Like Fernando and Carlos. Fallen Angel becomes a bar on some nights of the week, and is Cusco's only hint of gay culture.

The stars of the heavens.

Pigs flying in hell.



Florence warning me to behave.

On our journey between Ollantaytambo and Pisac, we stopped for a baronial trail lunch prepared for us by our guides. It was delicious. It was also supposed to have been served to us on a remote hike, but a nationwide transportation strike during our stay prevented us from completing that adventure. So our cooks hiked BACK down the mountain will all the food, and prepared it for us in a soccer field in a village between our two destinations the following day.

Not all the food was great. This little gem of a restaurant on the central courtyard of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town), I suspect, is the source of my unhappy insides for the last week.

But a happy ending I will have, and our final, going-away dinner was at La Mar in Lima, one of the best hotspots in town. Imagine you're sitting in your favorite LA or NYC restaurant, laughing over a glass of wine and some killer cebiche, when a TOURIST BUS pulls up and unloads a bunch of loud, obnoxious, entitled tourists flaunting their powerful currency and generally running rough-shod (in their HIKING clothes) all over your nice dinner. That's basically what we did. "F" for the planning on this. We were too exhausted, had no time after the dinner to change before our flights, and had no time before dinner to change from our hiking clothes into something more appropriate. We could have been contenders. Instead we were boors. Too bad! The seafood was FANTASTIC and everybody ordered different things, then we all shared. It was too much food to photograph well, so here are a few shots as the night wore on, drawing our trip to a close.


WeezerMonkey said...

OMG! The food! The food! Thank you for taking so many pics! I'm so jealous you got to eat guinea pig and alpaca!

And I am dead at the pigs flying in hell.

Welcome home. :)

amber said...

you are bringing back so many memories for me! we loved MAP cafe and all the little places we grabbed a snack off the main square in cusco. i tried the alpaca and our friend tried the guinea pig.

we also had delicious food when we were in the amazon jungle. tons of potatoes, fresh produce, fish, etc etc. we even ate pirranha. so amazing.

welcome back!

Diabolina 3.1 said...

yum. to what was on the menu and off it.

Lucidity said...

Guinea pig! After having one as a pet! Sable, you suprise me.

Jean Bean said...

Deviled egg!