Wednesday, May 30, 2007

May 30: National Day of the Potato

Photo: Scott Bauer, USDA.

Just a quick post to honor the humble Solanum tuberosum on the eve of Peru's National Day of the Potato, celebrated every May 30. From its origins in the Andes, potatoes are now the world's most widely grown tuber crop, and the fourth largest food crop in terms of fresh produce — after rice, wheat, and corn.

So, eat some potatoes today.

For more information: International Potato Center

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Brief Introduction To The Making Of Peruvian Pisco

My recent post about the gold medals attained by Peruvian pisco at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this past March reminded me I've had a post about the pisco-making process in a draft version for a very long time. What a good time to finish that post and explain the process for making this definitive Peruvian spirit.

Two caveats:

First: the photos of the distillation process are by an excellent Lima-based photographer, Luí­s Montero. He has kindly allowed me to use these photos, and I highly recommend you visit his photo gallery on Pbase which has a superb collection of images from his many trips around his beloved Peru.

Second: I am by no means an authority on pisco; simply, I've researched the subject and culled together information from different resources for both your and my benefit.

Most experts agree the origins of the production of pisco date to the early colonial period in Peru. Since Peru was conquered by Spanish, it is no surprise one of the first crops they planted in the New World were grape vines brought from the Mediterranean region, via the Canary Islands.

Within a few short years there were so many vineyards in the Peruvian colony, in particular in the south of Peru, wine was being exported to other Spanish colonies as well as to the metropolis.
Grapes were selected for their quality in order to produce a wine that today would be called 'export quality', while those that did not measure up were discarded or given to the workers to do with as they pleased.

With those cast-off grapes, people began to distill a clear, brandy-like liquor using techniques similar to those employed in the making of chicha, the Andean fermented corn drink. However, this byproduct of the wine production was considered a lesser beverage by the Spanish.

This new beverage did not have a name, although it is reported the Spanish called it aguardiente, or fire water, and soon it became very popular among the indigenous and less-than-wealthy residents of Viceregal Peru.

According to various sources, the oldest written historical record of this grape brandy production in Peru dates to 1613, in the will of a resident of Ica named Pedro Manuel the Greek. In his will, he itemizes his worldly goods, including 30 containers of grape brandy, one barrel of the same spirit, a large copper pot, and all of the utensils needed to produce pisco.

This beverage became popular among sailors that transported products between the colonies and Spain
, who praised its strong flavor and even stronger effect. They began calling it pisco, naming it after the port where it could be bought, the city of Pisco (a little over 200 kilometers to the south of Lima). As trade from Peru grew, so did the popularity of pisco until it almost equaled wine in quantity as an export.

In 1641, wine imports from Peru into Spain were banned, severely damaging the wine industry in the colony; only a few vineyards that had parallel wine and pisco operations survived this change. Those that did began to concentrate on pisco production, nearly eliminating wine production in Peru.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, pisco was a mainstay on vessels plying the Pacific. The main reasons for its popularity was its low price and easy availability. This popularity was maintained by pisco until the onset of rum, which was sold at lower prices and had a sweeter flavor.

Pisco was popular in San Francisco and nearby areas of California during the Gold Rush in the 19th century, where it was introduced by Peruvian miners. The famous pisco punch was very popular in this era.

I always thought pisco was just produced along the coastal valleys south of Lima, like Chincha and Ica, but the region around Arequipa is also famed for its vineyards. In fact by 1555, the Ví­tor valley near Arequipa had some of the first vineyards in Peru and became an important part of the emerging pisco industry.

From what I have read, the current challenge for Peru in terms of its pisco production and exportation is the fact that so much pisco is still made using labor-intensive traditional, artisanal methods not geared for mass production. I see pisco in Peru undergoing something akin to what happened with tequila in Mexico. For many years, the image of tequila was that of a very harsh, strong-tasting drink made to deliver a punch. Something similar could be said about the image of pisco in Peru until the recent past. Now, just like there are small tequila makers using traditional methods to distill a more refined product, there are also many small pisco distillers producing much finer versions of pisco than ever before.

Perú Viní­cola is a blog in Spanish about pisco and Peruvian wines where I learned about the importance of Arequipa in Peru's pisco-producing history.

What is sold as 'pure pisco' is made from Quebranta grapes, a non-aromatic variety of the black grape brought from Spain which is what gives it a very particular and characteristic flavor. Other non-aromatic grapes now used in pisco production are Mollar and Negra Corriente. There is also an 'aromatic pisco' made with aromatic Muscat grapes varieties such as Italia, Moscatel, Torontel, and Albilla. A third type of pisco is called acholado, obtained from the mixture of aromatic and non-aromatic grapes.

From the vineyards, the grapes are transferred to the lagares, a type of low tub. There they are placed in large piles so wooden presses can squeeze the juice out of them.

Then, this liquid is placed in botijas (also called pisqueras) which are large adobe containers. The containers are placed outdoors where the sun's heat starts the fermentation process, transforming the liquid into an alcoholic beverage. This usually takes two weeks. The favored months for this process are during the Peruvian summer, between February and April.

The liquid is transferred from the botijas into copper containers called falcas or alambiques, known in English as alembics.

The alembics are heated by by fires made with huarango wood, which provides a steady heat and avoid a brusque change of temperature. This has a direct repercussion on the pisco, making it more flavorful.

The distillation process consists in evaporating a liquid and reducing it by contact with cold. Inside the heated alembic, the liquid steams and travels along a serpentine tube which snakes through a vat of cold water. As the steam passes through the part of the tube that is submerged in the cold water, it condenses into small droplets. Those droplets are pisco.

Finally, the pisco comes out of the tube and enters a vat, where it is aged for at least six months.

After the six months are up, the pisco is sampled to ascertain its quality and flavor. I love this picture of an antique sterling silver sommelier pisco cup.

Finally, the pisco is bottled and ready to enjoyed.

Like I said at the onset of this post, I am by no means an expert on pisco production, and I welcome any comments and corrections. I just wanted to share these photos and explain a little of the process of making this traditional Peruvian brandy, used in making Peru's best-known cocktail, the pisco sour.

You may be wondering how the pisco sour came to be, but that is best left for another post.


Photos: Luís Montero

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Peruvian Food In New York City: Lima's Taste Ceviche Bar

Amanda Klud, writing at gridskipper, mentions Chef Nelly Godfrey at Lima's Taste Ceviche Bar (in the heart of the Village) as one of her picks for top female chefs in the city. She says, 'Lima's Taste ... is a good neighborhood spot serving authentic Peruvian food' where 'Chef Nelly makes recipes learned from her grandmother's kitchen.'

Lima's Taste has great pictures of their dishes, by photographer Jorge Sarmiento, on their website :

Shrimp causa; potato terrine with a shrimp filling

Ceviche Mar

Ceviche Mixto; mixed seafood ceviche

Papa Rellena; spicy meat-stuffed potato


Lomo Saltado; beef, onion, and tomato stir-fry

Picante de Mariscos; Seafood in a spicy sauce

Photos: Jorge Sarmiento at the Lima's Taste Ceviche Bar Website

Lima's Taste Ceviche Bar
122 Christopher Street
New York, NY 10014

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gastón Acurio: A Philosophy For Conquering The World With Peruvian Food

Can a chef be a vehicle for social change? Can the explosion of Peruvian food worldwide transform a nation? For young Peruvians, is their future in Peru or abroad?

Last March, renowned Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio was the featured speaker at the opening of Lima's University of the Pacific 2006-2007 academic year.

His speech in Spanish was published on countless websites and numerous blogs, such as Apuntes de Cocina. Not only did he speak about his own personal philosophy in the creation of his brands, but also how Peruvian cuisine can become a key to fundamentally change Peru.

I've had this speech for a long time in my drafts folder, and I've finally had the time to translate it into English. It doesn't matter that this speech was given over a year ago. As I re-read it, it still has resonance. It is lengthy, but any serious student of Peruvian cuisine will be fascinated to read one man's vision for his craft and ultimately, his country.

Speech given by Gastón Acurio at the opening ceremony for the 2006-07 academic year at the University of the Pacific, March 2006 in Lima.

“While we may believe Peru’s natural resources have been a blessing, history has shown us otherwise.

At one time we had a rubber boom, then it was guano, and now it is minerals. But, when resources run out and the boom times come to an end, we face uncertainty, which can lead to a weakened democracy and give rise to leaders of dubious merits.

Clearly, a country’s growth, stability, and wealth are not due solely to its natural resources.

More important is what a country produces with those resources. For example, Switzerland purchases cocoa and gold to make chocolate, jewelry, and watches. Japan and Korea buy minerals and turn them into automobiles and appliances.

Those countries, in fact all industrialized nations, understand that great wealth is not obtained solely by generic products, but by quality brands which are then exported globally.

From cocoa, Switzerland produces Nestlé; from gold, Rolex. Japan transfoms minerals into Toyota and Nissan; Korea into Samsung. On an individual level, Howard Shultz buys coffee worldwide and brews us Starbucks.

Until recently, Peruvian food was simply a resource. It is beloved by all Peruvians, a source of pride for us, and appreciated by foreigners on trips to Peru.

But, Peruvian cuisine also has great potential to be exported worldwide. However, to do so, the different types of Peruvian cuisines and culinary concepts need to be valued, and then framed conceptually.

There are immense opportunities to take concepts from our local environment and transform them into global brands.

In Peru, we have cocina criolla (traditional coastal cuisine), pollerías (Peruvian-style roast chicken), chifas (Peruvian-Chinese restaurants), cocina novoandina (nouvelle Andean cuisine), Arequipa-style picanterías (traditional eateries in the style of Arequipa), anticucherías (Peruvian-style brochettes), Peruvian sandwiches, Nikkei food (Peruvian-Japanese cuisine), and cebicherías (ceviche and seafood).

If Peru exported these products, they wouldn’t simply be competing against other long-established culinary concepts, such as pizzerias, hamburger stands, sushi bars, and Mexican restaurants. They would also be creating a national brand for Peru, and consequently, providing great economic benefits for the country.

I believe we do understand that this resource so full of potential, our Peruvian cuisine, is ready to expand globally.

So, what’s missing? Why aren’t we taking off as we should?

All the international market research conducted outside Peru indicates that Peruvian is the culinary concept with the greatest growth potential. Internationally, the demand for Peruvian restaurants far surpasses the offer. In fact, right now, investing in a Peruvian restaurant in a city in Europe or North America carries almost zero risk.

In Peru, we have experienced a publishing and educational revolution with regards to our food. In the last ten years, more books have been published about Peruvian cuisine than in Peru’s entire publishing history. In the last five years, 22 officially-recognized cooking schools have opened in Lima, making it the city with more cooking schools than any other in the world.

In 2006, 30% of tourists who came to Peru to visit Cuzco decided to stay in Lima a couple of extra days just because of what they’d read or heard about our food. Journalists are constantly sent here to cover the Peruvian food revolution. Their articles and TV programs all predict an imminent global Peruvian food invasion.

So, if we have all these indicators, why aren’t there Peruvian restaurants in every corner of the world?

I think the answer is quite clear.

We may have the resources. We may have the products. But, we lack the brands.

We lack globally known Peruvian food brands. That’s the key.

Some say we also lack capital or infrastructure. But, almost daily I get offers from Saudi Arabia to Australia from people who want to invest in Peruvian restaurants. We reject most of these offers because I believe everything has its opportune time and place.

What Peruvian chefs and businesspeople have to do is to create a Peruvian brand. And we need to provide investors with not just one concept, but with many different investment options.

To create a brand, you first have to develop it. You have to take a small great idea, a small great dream, and transform it into a powerful philosophy so it grows incrementally until it becomes a model to study, emulate, admire, and ultimately, in which to invest.

With regards to my organization, from the start we began developing culinary concepts that were not just focused on becoming international, but also segmenting into different products. From the onset, we understood restaurants are not just generic places, but spaces that vary for different audiences, for different times, and for different pocketbooks.

Twelve years ago, we opened Astrid y Gastón with $45,000 borrowed from family and friends who had great affection for us but little faith in our vision.

Five years later, after identifying and clarifying our philosophy, and defining ourselves conceptually as Peruvian haute cuisine, placing ourselves at the top of the restaurant price pyramid, we made our first foray abroad, to Chile where Peruvian food already had certain renown.

Then, after receiving awards, we expanded to Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, and Mexico.

Today, each branch of Astrid & Gaston is not only profitable but also a culinary leader in its location. Haute Peruvian cuisine is right there beside haute French, Spanish, and Italian cuisines.

This success prepared the landscape for our other brands to enter the market because there was a guarantee by the prestige of the preceding brand. It’s much easier to win converts by first creating haute cuisine and then sandwiches, than the other way around.

When we opened T’anta, we conceived it as a family restaurant. We define it as a Peruvian bistro or deli, so those who may not be able to afford Astrid y Gastón can also experience the same spirit, but in an informal environment with more affordable prices. We wanted it to have Peruvian flavors, but presented with originality, sophistication, and an artisan spirit.

Opening T’anta was cathartic for us. Astrid & Gaston had always made us feel we were chefs for a small elite in a country of many others. T’anta allows us to show the many others what we want to say with our work and with our brand. Now we have three branches in Lima, and are opening another in 2007. In fact, we’ve finished the process of creating the manuals to make this concept ready for export.

After T’anta, we opened La Mar.

You know, I have many favorite cebicherías, but I always felt they all lacked a philosophy, something to make them competitive leaders in any part of the world.

It saddened me to see such an attractive and sophisticated product as our seafood so undervalued, relegated to quaint holes-in-the wall, where you sat on plastic chairs, and didn’t get good service.

Worse was when an owner decided to improve his or her cebichería, by upgrading the locale or the service, and immediately stopped calling it a cebichería and began calling it simply a ‘seafood restaurant’. There is no awareness that the name cebichería is its greatest virtue, and precisely what differentiates it from any other type of seafood restaurant anywhere in the world

The cebichería, uniquely Peruvian seafood, is what we visualized for the global market.

Once we had the vision, the rest was easy. We knew we had to take advantage of the enormous popularity of ceviche worldwide. And, we knew we had to place the Peruvian cebichería as a concept within the ethnic food segment in order to compete internationally with Japanese sushi bars, with the conviction that one wasn’t better or worse than the other. They were simply different proposals.

The difference would be that in comparison with the almost regal solemnity of a sushi bar, the cebichería has a fun and casual atmosphere. We wanted to maintain the identifying factors of Peruvian cebicherías: the use of cane, wind, and light, but with an improved design. Our vision was to improve and standardize the prime materials, and create a service philosophy in keeping with the happy atmosphere that we wanted to reign. We wanted to conserve the flavors but add imaginative details. We wanted to tell a story: the true story that we Peruvians love ceviche and the cebichería is like our culinary temple.

Now, we are in the process of opening our second La Mar in Lima, and we’ve already sold franchises in Mexico, all of Central America, the Caribbean, and Brazil. In 2007, we hope to enter the market in England and Washington D.C.

For many reasons, we firmly believe the Peruvian cebichería is the Peruvian culinary concept that will expand most quickly worldwide.

And now, our fourth brand.

If you ask ten Peruvians if they like Peruvian-style fried pork sandwiches, pan con chicharrón, all ten will say yes. If you ask them if they like hamburgers, the number decreases to five or six. Nonetheless, when asked how many times that week they ate pan con chicharrón and how many times they ate hamburgers, the latter win out.

We clearly understood the message. The problem was not in our Peruvian-style sandwich; the problem was that there was no brand that had managed to pull ahead of the fast-food chains so that our traditional sandwich shops could meet the desires of our people.

Right now, we’re ready to inaugurate our sandwich shop, Pasquale Hermanos, which will be within the fast-food segment; yet, without renouncing its traditional spirit. Rather, it plans to take advantage of that spirit, and the uniquely Peruvian concept, in order to directly compete with the international fast-food chains.

Pasquale Hermanos will be in the tradition of the great Lima family-run sandwich shops, like those founded by the Carbones, the Cordanos, the Queirolos, and the Palermos. It will be a place where Peruvians can finally feel that going to the Peruvian sandwich shop is no longer an occasional culinary adventure, but a part of daily life; and as such, will force this market segment to reaccommodate itself and open up to a completely Peruvian proposal.

We hope to open many Pasquale Hermanos in Lima. The internationalization of this brand will depend on the success of our cebicherías, our Peruvian bistros, and all the other concepts that will make the brand of Peruvian food sufficiently strong, and thus, expedite the path for Pasquale’s success.

We are currently seeking the location to construct our fifth brand: Panchita.

For centuries, the corner anticucherías, Peruvian brochette stands, were part of the décor and identification of our city, and by default, a tourist attraction.

In recent years, misguided authorities hounded the anticucherías, arguing health concerns instead of providing them tools to upgrade. Nowadays, it is almost impossible to find one of those anticucherías that used to give life and aromas to our street corners.

Paradoxically, at every one of those same street corners there is now a hamburger or fried chicken restaurant with much more dubious health issues than our Doña Panchitas of yesteryear. Additionally, these new additions do nothing to capture the imagination of those who visit us.

In the spirit of regaining this lost tradition, Panchita was born. It pays homage to that culinary tradition and all those anticucherías that once adorned Lima. But, this anticuchería will be recast as a proper restaurant, with good service, a nice design, and a unique philosophy. This anticuchería will be marketed to the world as a Peruvian grill, and will be able to compete internationally with Argentine parrillas and Brazilian rodizios.

Our anticucherías will have clearly defined parameters: they will be festive and the decoration will be evocative of Peruvian haciendas. There will be traditional anticucheras, the grills where anticuchos are cooked, which are different from Argentine parrillas. There will be huancaína and other creamy sauces instead of chimichurri. There will be 25 different types of anticuchos, from the classic beef heart anticucho to the sophisticated tuna anticucho, served with fried yuca, golden-brown fried potatoes, Peruvian corn, and tacu tacu, instead of French fries. There will be Latin music playing instead of tangos. It will be a complete festival of Peruvian flavors instead of just a piece of 500 grams of beef. The street corner anticuchería will be converted into a restaurant and its internationalization will depend on the success of the cebicherías.

We’re currently in the process of creating three additional products.

The first is a chifa, a Peruvian-Chinese restaurant, but one that is a true reflection of a Peruvian-Chinese fusion and not simply a Chinese restaurant with Peruvian touches. Currently, there are five thousand chifas in Peru, but there is not one single brand.

We need to develop the décor, the atmosphere, the music, the service philosophy, and of course, the food ---a food that reflects the true mestizaje, the blending, the fusion--- between the Peruvian and the Chinese which will differentiate it from just Chinese and give it the key to its internationalization.

We are also in the process of creating the pollería, Peruvian roast chicken restaurant, of our dreams. It will be a place where Peruvian side dishes will make it different from other roast chicken restaurants elsewhere. And, where the wood over which the chicken is cooked will give it a unique flavor. Sadly, some businesses today undervalue this concept, and call themselves pollo a la brasa, Peruvian wood-roasted chicken, when in fact, they really use gas. The side dishes and the use of wood will brand it as ‘roast chicken, Peruvian-style’.

We would also like to create a chain of boutique hotels in idyllic places throughout Peru, hotels with a Peruvian Latin spirit, where the design, the price, the service, and the cuisine (already, guaranteed by our previous brands) will be the key to their growth and internationalization.

Finally, we have finished developing what is the beginning of our industrial division.

It is clear that in the future, the growth and expansion of Peruvian cuisine (not only in restaurants abroad but also as a result of international consumer habits) will generate a demand for flavors, sauces, and products which will make it easier to make a ceviche, a tiradito, a causa, and other Peruvian dishes. We’ve already developed the formulas, and now we’re only waiting for the market to be ready to receive them as a brand. We have a strategic manufacturing partner in the Viru Valley, and a passionate distribution partner, both Peruvian, and both ready to commence when the time is right.

You and many others are probably asking yourselves why I have so much faith.

It really isn’t faith. It’s simply a concrete analysis of the situation.

The 1980s saw the great take-off of Mexican cuisine around the world. At that time, there was no Internet, nor were economies globalized, nor were cultural barriers torn down, nor were fusion cuisines in vogue. Yet, at the time, Mexicans went out into the world with their tacos and tequilas, convinced that with them they would conquer the world.

If at the time there might have been 500 Mexican restaurants worldwide, today there must be over 200,000. With that, not only did they manage to introduce their culinary concepts to the world, but they also managed to popularize tequila as well as Corona beer and all the Mexican sauces we see in every supermarket, and of course, Mexican chili, which is so popular that right now in our own Viru Valley we grow jalapeño chilies because Mexican agriculture doesn’t produce enough to meet the global demand.

The same thing happened with the Japanese.

At the beginning of the 1980s, there weren't sushi bars everywhere in the world. Now, there are more than 50,000. Thanks to that, not only did other Japanese products enter the market, but so did other Japanese concepts like teppanyaki, Benihana, and the noodle bars which are currently so fashionable in Europe.

So, if today cultural barriers no longer exist, if the Internet pulls together international culinary concepts, if economies have become irreversibly globalized, if the studies, the international press and the foreign consumer give us constant signals of awaiting us, and if we not only have one but many diverse, sophisticated, and fun culinary products to offer, why should we believe we’re going to fail trying?

Our faith is born out of analysis, not an illusion. Our strength is born out of a sense of duty and the conviction that we chefs are real actors in the process of transformation Peru requires.

We firmly believe that success in Peruvian restaurants worldwide will bring with it many direct and indirect benefits for the country.

If we can imagine a future where, in 20 years time, just like there are now 200,000 Mexican restaurants worldwide there will be 200,000 Peruvian restaurants of all types and in all parts of the world, a future where when we walk along any European street we’ll be able to find an anticuchería next to a pizzeria, a Peruvian sandwich shop next to a hamburger stand, a cebichería alongside a sushi bar, or a criollo restaurant besides a Tex-Mex one, then we can also imagine all the benefits this will bring for our country.

The demand for such simple products such as the yellow potato, ají, red onion, rocoto, or Peruvian limes, will multiply exponentially and with that we’ll finally be able to end one of the worst evils our country faces and that generates so much internal conflict which is then taken advantage of, the poverty of our Andean farmers.

Currently, in Europe’s ethnic markets, a kilo of Peruvian yellow potato sells for five euros. Well, currently the Peruvian farmer gets paid just nine US cents at home for that same kilo. With this new situation, this will change, and with it the permanent bases for the stability of our country.

In this future stage, many industries and products will also have to be developed. There will be sauces, books, magazines, food tourism, culinary assessment, snacks, and dips, all of which will come out of culinary concepts we already have.

Italy, for example, exports products to the tune of 5,000 million dollars solely because a concept called pizza exists worldwide. This is more than an eloquent statement for us to imagine what we could generate around the entire range of Peruvian food concepts. Perhaps, even a much higher figure than that.

Lastly, the fact we have all these concepts and brands worldwide will give the brand of Peru a power of seduction that will not only draw the attention of the international public toward other Peruvian proposals, such as fashion, jewelry, music, industry, and others, but will also motivate and activate the creativity and trust of our youth so they create their own concepts and have the courage to go out into the world with them.

Because of this, we believe Peruvian chefs have many things to do besides simply cook. As members of a generation who have been generously given the opportunity to represent their country, we have a great responsibility with regards to our greatest strength: our cuisine.

That is what the market currently values and appreciates most about us. That is what can generate great change. Not only economic change, but also in the way in which we Peruvians face our personal futures and the future of Peru.

We Peruvians need to seek the wealth amongst ourselves. We have so many opportunities all around us just waiting for someone to value them and to have the strength to convert them into something attractive and powerful to sell to the world.

The key resides in truly understanding we are a great country, with a great and vibrant culture, the result of centuries of mestizaje, our blends and fusions, and which is precisely what makes our cuisine a varied and diverse proposal that has finally captivated the international public.

It is from that mestizaje where we Peruvians need to find our inspiration, not only to create wealth, but also to accept ourselves and love ourselves as a nation. Only then will we be able to find within ourselves all those ideas that will later be transformed into products and brands that will conquer the planet.

Today, I am deeply moved to be able to address you, not just because I can share all these ideas with you, but also to remind you, that like me, you are the most fortunate young people in this country.

You are the ones who had the luck to be born in families that were able to educate you with a love for your country, a country where many children do not even know what love is. It is you who are receiving the best education, like the one I received, like the one my daughters receive, while many other little girls in this country have to work instead of being able to go to school.

This should not only infuriate us as citizens of a country which we love and in which we wish to create wealth and personal success, but it should also convert us into actors to, once and for all, change the situation and finally transform ourselves into a prosperous country, full of wealth and pride, a country in which opportunity is based on equal education for all, and to create a nation that, in conjunction with its citizens, keeps watch and strongly intervenes in the face of arbitrary actions, abuse, and the breaking of the rules agreed to by all.

Believe me, it is only possible to succeed in our personal dreams if first we have a national dream. Personal success will only come if our objectives transcend the personal sphere and form part of a great collective aspiration.

Japan reconstructed a country in ruins to become the power it is today because before they were individuals, her citizens considered themselves Japanese. Germany did the same thing, so did Israel, as well as other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand.

It is that national spirit, a positive national spirit, open to the world, willing to question itself, to tolerate itself, to embrace itself, to seek its integration, to cheer success, and not the nationalism that laments, condemns, divides, closes itself in, and protects mediocrity, which will finally allow Peruvians to attain the definitive essence of our nation and with it, finally, our long-desired prosperity.

In conclusion, I would like to say to you, well really to implore you, to not leave Peru. You are its most fortunate children, our most well-prepared. And if you leave to go abroad to attain a Master’s Degree, make sure you come back.

Don’t leave Peru. This is where opportunity is, this is where wealth is, this is where life has meaning.

Don’t leave because our people need you. Peru needs you. History needs you.

Thank you very much."

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Photos: Lima's Central Market

Lima's first market was located in the vicinity of the Plaza de Armas, where it remained until the 1840s. At that time, it was decided Lima needed a new, modern market similar to the ones in Paris and New York.

The government managed to expropriate a convent, and the market (pictured above) was built at the same site where the current Central Market is located. For its time, it was considered the height of modernity and hygiene. Running water was obtained from a tiled fountain imported from London that sat at the market's center. The market had 66 columned arches that circled its exterior; but by the early 1900s, it had outgrown its use.

In 1902, a new market was built. During the time, Chinese immigration had increased to Peru, and many of the Chinese settled in the area surrounding the market where Lima's Chinatown, el Barrio Chino, is still located.

Sadly, in 1964, this market burnt down in a spectacular fire. The current market was then built; however,during the 60s and well into the 90s, the area surrounding the Central Market became thronged with street-vendors. It was not until the mayorship of Alberto Andrade in the late 90s that the vendors were relocated and the streets around the marketplace became passable again.

Lima's Central Market is full of color, noise, and adventure. When in Lima, I enjoy wandering around the marketplace stalls and looking at all the different Peruvian food products.

These photos are from my most recent visit.


Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana

Saturday, May 12, 2007

First International Food Festival: Lima, May 14-20

The Hotel Association of Peru has organized the first International Food Festival to be held next week in Lima.

Seven of Lima's five-star hotels are participating, along with various restaurants. Each hotel will hold a festival of one specialty international cuisine. The Hotel Association hopes to have a national version of this event in October.

The participating hotels, and the cuisine in which they'll specialize, are:

Meliá Lima: Argentine

JW Marriott: Prime rib

Delfines Hotel & Casino: International fusion cuisine

Sources: RPP, El Comercio

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana

Friday, May 11, 2007

Peruvian Cookbooks Among World's Best

I just received an e-mail from Catherine Criolla at Quixo, who tipped me off to the fact several Peruvian cookbooks had won prizes at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards held in Beijing in April.

These awards were established in 1995 by Edouard Cointreau of the Cointreau orange liqueur family.

According to Wiki, the objectives of the awards are "to reward and honor those who cook with words; to help readers find the best out of the 24,000 food and wine books produced every year; to create an opportunity to access the major markets in English, German, Spanish or French for books originated in other languages; and, to increase knowledge of, and respect for, food and wine culture, which promotes peace."

Photo: Finals of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Catherine first heard about the news of Peruvian cookbooks winning at this world cookbook event at Club de Peruanos.

My own further research led me to the award website, where I learned, at a page devoted strictly to Peru:

"Peru was very successful. The outstanding book, Perú Mucho Gusto, published by PromPerú and Editora El Comercio, received a Special Award of the jury. The promotion of food tourism is done with much taste in this world-class book. It should be seen by all publishers and tourism officers. The huge team that cooperated in this enormous project is very professional. Congratulations!"

Luckily, I had a chance to purchase this book at the Miraflores Book Fair the last time I was in Lima.

The award website goes on to say:

"The Best Guide in the World is also from Peru...the Guía Gastronómica del Perú (The Peru Gourmet Guide 2006) [published] in English and Spanish by Comunica2.

Peru is rapidly establishing all the structures to become the culinary center of Latin America."

Those were not all the accolades Peruvian cookbooks received from this international body.

"The best publisher of culinary cookbooks in 2004 was won by Universidad San Martín de Porres. This year [2006] its excellent dictionary of gastronomy by Professor Sergio Zapata was honored in Beijing. The University publishes books that show a deep understanding of older traditional food cultures as well as the modern changes in cuisine."

Zapata's book is another I was able to purchase at the Miraflores Book Fair.

There was still one more honor to be bestowed upon Peruvian food books:

"In Beijing, the book, Pisco Punch, was also honored in the Best Wine Literature category. It is an [historical] novel about the leading drink in San Francisco in Guillermo Toro-Lira, a Peruvian now living in the United States."

Update: I just received word that yet another Peru-related book took gold in Beijing.

Named Best Culinary Travel Guidebook was Eat Smart In Peru by Joan Peterson and Brook Soltvedt and published by Ginko Press.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Photo: Peruvian Strawberries

GiuCe is the wonderful photographer behind the camera at Truxillo Daily Photo, in which she uses photography to document the daily goings-on of this important northern Peruvian city.

Back in January, she posted these images of Peruvian strawberries I knew I had to put up on Peru Food.

She writes: "Menocucho is a small town near Trujillo known for its strawberries. Some farmers sell the fruit on the roadside, people stop, and buy fresh and inexpensive strawberries. A ten kilogram box sells for less than five dollars."

Street vendors are such a part of daily life in Peru, and each town specializes in one kind of food product. Apparently, in Menochuco, it's strawberries.

We've posted Giuce's photos before when we showed you Trujillo sweets.

Update: GiuCe just wrote me to say: ' Yes, Menocucho is known for its strawberries. At times, strawberries sell for as low as US 16¢ per kilo. Or, if you befriend the country people, they may give them to you for free.'

'Trujillo is not only its colonial center with handsome and colorful mansions; but, much more, its residents who go about their day-to-day lives.'

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Globetrotting Gourmands: Audre & Dimitri's Top Picks In Lima

Audre and Dimitri at Hotel Puerto Inka, southern Peru.

Audre Engleman and Dimitri Moursellas lead the life we all wish we had. Since 1993, the couple have been traveling worldwide, first while working abroad, and then after early retirement.

As they put it, 'it's long story... but it all started in 1993 when Audre got a contract for a World Bank project in Indonesia - that was the beginning of our Odyssey or worldwide travelling or vagabond globetrotting... call it what you will.' Soon, they figured out how to live well and travel the world on their investments, and 'the rest is history' jokes Dimitri.

They were recently in Lima and Audre sent me an e-mail. One of the many passions this couple shares is their love of good food, and they want as many people as possible to benefit from their wealth of experience.

While in Peru, they were featured in the daily El Comercio in an article entitled Love Travels The World, which tells the romantic story about how Dimitri and Audre met and began their global traveling and eating adventure.

In terms of food, Lima did not disappoint. They call themselves, 'devotées of T'anta'.

I am posting the list of their top picks in Lima in ranked order; if these globetrotting gourmands gave restaurants the same score, I list them alphabetically.

Audre & Dimitri's Top Picks In Lima
by Audre Engleman and Dimitri Moursellas

Astrid y Gastón
Our rating: 9.5/10

It is difficult for a much-acclaimed restaurant to live up to expectations but A y G did. A y G has traditional ingredients (pejerrey, for instance) that are difficult to find and prepared in innovative and delicious ways. We shared the pejerrey as an entrée, a sublime seafood soup, and a three-month old roasted baby pig. All excellent. We wanted to taste the picarones and were brought a one-third portion (and only charged for one-third). The prices are high for Perú but not for a world-class restaurant. We wish A y G served amuse bouche. (We did appreciate the mignardise served with coffee.

Cantuarias 175 Miraflores
444-1496, 242-5387
Astrid & Gaston

Our rating: 9/10

We had a great meal with wonderful service. The room is crowded, like a French bistro, but not objectionable. There were ashtrays on the tables and, when we asked for a non-smoking area, the waiters simply removed all of the ashtrays. We shared the fois gras asado (S/.48), the mero rostizado en jugo de tinta (S/.48), ravioles de mango (S/.23), and la chocolaterie (S/.24). The food we ordered was delicious; the amuse bouche was innovative, too. The second time we went to this restaurant the service was not as good as it had been. The food was really good, however.

San Martín 300, Miraflores

Our rating: 9/10

This may well be our favorite restaurant in Lima. The room is modern and lovely in black and white. The service was excellent and the food was exceptionally good and creative. The amuse-bouche was a fabulous assortment of six flavors. We shared a lobster carpaccio (S/.36), a mero bouillabaisse (S/.49), a bottle of Navarro Correa Sauvignon Blanc (Argentina) (S/.85) and for dessert, a bizcocho de almendras (S/.22). Rodrigo came to our table to greet us; something we like very much. The second time we went, we had another great meal but not as good as the first time.

Francisco de Paula Camino 231, Miraflores
446-0985, 446-4011, 445-1790

El Ancla
Our rating: 8.5/10

The room is decorated like a ship and is well done. The service is excellent although we were the only customers until we left at 9:30 p.m. when 2 more couples arrived. It is a new seafood restaurant and very unusual because it’s open for dinner. (Cubierto, S/.12) We shared an excellent tiradito de pejerrey (S/.20), pulpito brasas (S/.26), chupe de langostino (S/.30),a Casa Silva Carmenere (Chile) (S/.65) and for dessert, crocantes (S/.14). The food total was S/.138.76 + IGA S/.26.36 + Servicio 10% S/.13.88 = S/.179.

Avenida La Mar 1292, Miraflores

Brujas de Cachiche
Our rating: 8/10

We had a very good meal in the delightful setting. We were kind of put off by the waiter "angling" for a tip in addition to the cover and service charge that the restaurant imposes.

Website: Brujas de Cachiche

Huaca Pucllana
Our rating: 8/10

We read all of the reviews and were careful ordering. We had a great meal with excellent service. The dramatic setting, the music, and dancing, and the design and décor of the building created a perfect stage set for the meal. We shared anticuchos de cordero (S/.24), canilla de cordero (S.49), a 2005 Mont Gras Colchagua Valley Carmenere (Chile) (S/.90), and a rice pudding (S/.22). Our bill was S/.217 and definitely worth it.

General Borgoño, cuadra 8 (block 8), Miraflores

Las Brasas
Our rating: 8/10

This restaurant was opened around the end of 2006. It is owned by the same people who own El Ancla and the restaurants are connected. This meat restaurant is excellent and so is the service.

Avenida La Mar 1292-1296, Miraflores
421-1660, 421-1618

Makoto Sushi Bar
Our rating: 8/10

We had a great lunch of traditional Japanese chawan mushi and fish head soup at Larcomar and it wasn't expensive.

LarcoMar, Miraflores
Las Begonias 522, San Isidro

Our rating: 8/10

We enjoyed the food at this restaurant very much. They serve a lovely amuse bouche. We had 2 mains of perfectly prepared fish. It cost S/.136.83 (US $44.56) for two with a glass of wine and tea. The non-smoking room was too cold and one waiter kept turning the a/c back on. We finally moved to a table away from the draft and were happy.

Avenida Conquistadores 999, San Isidro

Punta Sal
Our rating: 8/10

We’ve been to two locations of this restaurant and have eaten well each time we’ve been there. There is old-fashioned great service too. It would be great if it were open for dinner too.

Website: Punta Sal

Siam Thai Cuisine
Our rating: 8/10.

We were delighted with the authentic enough tastes and the variety. A difficult to find dish, mee grob (crispy fried noodles), was delicious. Our total was S/.131 for a soup, a fish curry, rice, mee grob, a dessert and tea.

Avenida Caminos del Inca 467, Chacarilla
372-0680, 372-5925
Website: Siam Thai Cuisine

Toshiro's Sushi Bar
Our rating: 8/10

This is more than just a sushi/sashimi restaurant. For a restaurant to call itself Japanese, it must have udon soups and chawan mushi. Toshiro's makes one of the best chawan mushis we have ever tasted in the world! Rating: 8/10

Avenida Conquistadores 450, San Isidro

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Peruvian Purple Potatoes

Photo: chez pim

Chez pim, a non-arbiter of taste, asks, 'Have you tried these beautiful purple Peruvian potatoes? They really are strikingly purple both inside and out, and the color remains even after cooking.'

Yes, Peruvian purple potatoes are really purple.

Among the first potatoes to be harvested, they were originally reserved for Andean nobility.

I came across these stunning pictures of purple Peruvian potatoes at chez pim's blog; they're also posted on her Flickr photostream.

Photo: chez pim

Just harvested Peruvian purple potatoes.

Photo: chez pim

Peruvian purple potatoes, roots and all.

Photo: chez pim

Chez pim posts a recipe for a quick
purple Peruvian potato frittata.

Meanwhile, the good folks at What We're Eating also post a Peruvian purple potato recipe: Amanda's rosemary sweet and purple Peruvian hash (which she tops off with a fried egg).

I imagine Tyler enjoys it.

Amanda's recipe is posted here.

There are many online recipes online involving Peruvian purple potatoes, including purple Peruvian potato and bell pepper low-fat salad in a cilantro and olive vinaigrette, royal purple mashed potatoes, purple hash browns, purple potato chips, and a purple potato, mushroom and Fontina gratin, among others.

Lisa Martinovic even has a poem entitled The Peruvian Purple Potato Teachings

It begins:

You don't find Peruvian purple potatoes at Safeway
much less organic ones
which is only one reason I won’t shop there
And I wasn't even looking for anything as exotic
as Peruvian purple potatoes
wandering the aisles of my
neighborhood health food store
but when I saw them
for the first time
I was no match for their alien incongruous beauty
so I brought home a lapful
set them on top of the fridge
and waited for the perfect moment
to make a meal of my exotic tubers...

You can read the entire poem here.

And I just liked the color.

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

TAGS: Peru, Peruvian, food, cooking, cuisine, cocina, comida, gastronomía, peruana