Thursday, August 31, 2006

Blog Day 2006!

Happy Blog Day 2006!

This is my first Blog Day, and I am inspired to post by one of my blogosphere heroines, Chef Melissa de León from Panamá. Her award-winning blog, The Cooking Diva, is one of the best food blogs, and comes a with Latin flavor. When I grow up, I want to be like her.

Was it fate or the Pachamama that led me, after a two month blogging hiatus, to start blogging on Blog Day Eve?

We ponder these questions on this memorable Blog Day:

Why did you start blogging? What do you blog about mainly?

I started blogging because I love writing and I felt compelled to communicate with others. I discovered the subject most interesting to me was the nexus between Peru and California, the two constructs and societies that shape and influence me. I started three blogs at the same time, but the one that has received the most attention from others in cyberspace is the one about Peruvian food.

I think, in time, I will expand some of my other blogs, which have been left by the wayside.

At some point, I would like to have a completely personal, idiosyncratic, and semi-anonymous blog, like so many I've seen, in which I rant and rave to my heart's devotion, but I have to work up to that degree of freedom in writing for an internet public.

Do you blog in your first language or in another language and why?

My first language is Spanish, but my dominant language is English. My blog about Peruvian food is in English, since there is a dearth of information on the subject in this language. Another blog of mine is in Spanish, and others are bi- and/or multi-lingual, just like me.

What motivates you to keep blogging even if (like most bloggers) you're not paid for it?

I've noticed an inconsistency in my blogging; at times, I'll blog madly, and at others, I just won't care. This is why I admire such blogging superstars like The Cooking Diva. Then again, I do have a demanding job, if that's any excuse. But in the short time I've been blogging, I have always returned.

Is your audience mainly inside your own country or around the world?

What I loved most at the onset of my blogging story is discovering how people all around the world accessed my blog.

Every time I saw a visitor from Singapore or Tanzania or Estonia, I was thrilled. The majority of my visitors are from the US or Peru, but I receive visitors from all continents (except Antartica, at least not yet).

What do your family and friends think about the fact you're a blogger?

I don't think anyone I know 'gets it'. I tell them I'm blogging, but for me, blogging is a creative experience, and when I'm done, I feel like one of my creations is out there in the world, and I come back to it, and fine tune it, and fuss over it until I'm truly done. People I know don't understand blogging, the Philistines!

When you blog, how would you describe what you write? Is it part of a conversation? Is it ranting? Is it a daily diary? Is it journalism? Is it some or all of these things at different times? Does the definition matter?

The definition certainly does not matter. Blogging is meant to be personal, idiosyncratic, what you make it to be. I just write how I feel at the moment. I write what I wish to share.

I think more than anything, blogging is about seeking contact with others, sharing information or viewpoints. The means are not as important as the end.

And now, in keeping with Blog Day tradition, I am must share with you one new blog I have discovered in the past year.

Mine is Peruvian food-related.

In Spanish, a very good blog by René about Peruvian wine and piscos:

Peru Viní­cola

I will try to be a better blogger in this upcoming year. But most of all, I hope we all continue to enjoy Peru Food.



Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Restaurant: Los Balcones del Peru in Hollywood

The name, Los Balcones del Perú, refers to the impressive colonial-era cedar balconies that have graced the historic center of Lima for the past 500 years. Not only does the business card for this relatively new Peruvian restaurant in Hollywood have a full-color image of one of the most impressive of Lima's colonial balconies, the restaurant interior is warmly decorated with carved miniatures of these balconies, so evocative of a bygone era.

However, people don't come to Los Balcones del Perú simply to reminisce about Peru's colonial legacy or to discuss Lima's architectural history (although both are excellent topics of conversation). They come, and keep coming, for the food, in my experience, among the very best Peruvian food I've found in the greater Southern California area.

Today, when I decided to go to Los Balcones on a whim after work (having been dreaming about their choros a la chalaca for days), I didn't have my camera with me, but one day I will. In the meantime, if you click on any of the links which I'll post below from other Peruvian food lovers and critics, you can see some pictures of their very well-crafted dishes.

Surprisingly, while Los Balcones del Perú has been open for over a year, it was a dear Swiss friend, a Peruphile if ever there was one, who told me about it just a couple of months ago. When we decided to go together to the annual Los Angeles concert of the incomparable Peruvian singer, Eva Ayllón, held at the John Ford Amphitheatre earlier this month, the logical place for us to eat was at Los Balcones.

Location is everything, and Los Balcones is in prime real estate. At the southwest corner of Vine Street and De Longpre Avenue, it is just a short block south of Sunset Boulevard, within walking distance from the Arc Light cinema complex, the Amoeba Music store, and the Sunset + Vine shopping complex. The tower at Sunset and Vine, which years ago housed 360 Degrees, is now being renovated, and sure to bring more retail space and foot traffic to the area. Los Balcones del Perú is almost in the heart of the new, vibrant, and renovated Hollywood.

My research leads me to one conclusion: Los Balcones del Perú has been discovered.

Searching on the internet, I found a November 2005 review in the LA Weekly, by the guru of Los Angeles ethnic and off-the-beaten track restaurants, Jonathan Gold. Writing under his rubric, Counter Intelligence, the review is titled Lima and Vine. Gold waxes about one of the house specialties (shockingly, I have yet to sample it,) camarones a la piedra, a warm ceviche-style shrimp dish. Gold wonders where this unique ceviche has been hiding all his life. There are good pictures that accompany his review.

Pat Saperstein, another Los Angeles food blogger, has a post she titles Running with the Llamas: Los Balcones del Peru in her Eating L.A. blog, in which she writes that 'a veritable stampede of food writers and Chowhound posters' have made the trek to sample the fare. Not only does she praise the food, she also notes that the price is moderate, and the location superb.

A Chowhound search comes up with a number of posts (31 at last count) mentioning Los Balcones del Perú. Almost all posters agree, the place is a step up from other favorite, local Peruvian restaurants; although, there may be the occasional person who grumbles about something or other, but that's to be expected.

And what does this Peruvian food fan think of Los Balcones del Perú?

As I said, it is among the best Peruvian restaurants I've ever discovered in Southern California. The first two times I went there, I couldn't get past their appetizer menu. Their fish ceviche is prepared fresh and has the perfect blend of spice and citrus. Their papa a la huancaína has a sauce a little thin for my taste but flavorful enough to sop up with bread when the potatoes are gone. They also offer mote con queso, boiled large-kernel corn, accompanied by farmer-style cheese. I've rarely seen mote in the US. But, what has utterly smitten me since first sampling it there a month ago, is the appetizer called choros a la chalaca, a plate of steamed mussels served on the half-shell, topped with onion, ají­, and tomato. I like them picante, and eat them the Peruvian way: by inserting one end of the shell in my mouth and slurping in the entire contents all at once. These choros a la chalaca (meaning, mussels Callao-style) are the best I've had outside Peru.

Today, I finally ventured into the entrees.
Los Balcones offers a range of meat, seafood, and chicken dishes (by the way, I do plan on eating my way through their menu). I was recommended bistec a la chorillana, a decent cut of grilled beef topped with stir-fried onion and tomato, and accompanied by Peruvian-style white rice. It was tasty and filling. The restaurant serves Peruvian beers, wines (mostly Chilean), Inka Cola, and the usual beverages.

The owner, Jorge Rodríguez, hails from Ica, and has had previous experience in the Peruvian restaurant world here in Southern California. He is a gracious host, and his warm welcome, the tasteful decor, and most of all, the quality of the dishes, will keep diners coming back to Los Balcones. I hope this becomes one of the classic Hollywood restaurants. It is certainly well-located. I've been telling everyone I know about it.

Parking can be found in the neighborhood streets just east of Vine Street, although sometimes it's tough in this residential area next to the glitz of Sunset Boulevard. Otherwise, Los Balcones will validate one hour complimentary parking at the Arc Light complex.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, and enjoy Peruvian food, Los Balcones del Perú is not to be missed.

Los Balcones del Perú
1360 N. Vine Street
Hollywood, California

Phone: (323) 871-9600
Open daily for lunch and dinner

Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Blogging Blues

As you may have noticed, faithful reader, I've been having a bit of the blogging blues.

I admire those bloggers who maintain their blogs current; it takes a lot of time and dedication. With me, it seems more hit or miss. I either blog obsessively or leave the blogosphere altogether. Partly to blame was a letdown: I haven't been to Peru in over a year, and had to recently cancel a trip. That's always cause for distress.

I know there are many of you reading and visiting, thank you. And, thank you for all the emails and comments you've sent; they are also much appreciated.

Today I was inspired to pick up Peru Food where I last left it.


After working all day, I decided to fight the notorious Los Angeles traffic to head to Hollywood and have some of the best Peruvian food at a great Peruvian restaurant that's slowly gaining acclaim. But more on that in the next post.

In the interim, I did switch my blogger profile name from the pseudonym El Gato Volador, to my given name. I thought it might add some gravitas to the blog.



Click here for the Peru Food main page.

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