Archive for October, 2010

CSA Week #21

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 by virginia

Oy vey, what a day. Josh and I were supposed to meet up to get our CSA share together at 5:30 but I got stuck at work so he had to go by himself this week. Not a big deal, except that he got there so late they ran out of leeks! Darn, I had already been planning on making a potato leek soup this week. Oh well. This week our vegetable share included:

Potatoes – 1/2 lb
Greens – 1 lb
Radishes – 5 each
Green Tomatoes – 1 lb
Turnips – 3 each
Brussels Sprouts – 1 each

Turnips, radishes, brussels sprouts, kale, green tomatoes, potatoes

The potatoes we got were absolutely covered in mud, but apparently that’s how they stay preserved. Interesting, but super messy. The green tomatoes look like the heirloom variety and I plan on making fried green tomatoes. The brussels sprouts look absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to eat them. For the greens, Josh picked up purple kale, which will of course be made into chips.

For the fruit share, we got apples, apples, and more apples. The share contents included:

Macoun Apples – 5 lbs
Empires Apples – 5 lbs

Apples, apples, and more apples

I really need to do something with the apples in our fridge, and applesauce looks like the best bet. Claire also recommended a bunch of recipes to us, which I might try out this weekend. I think next week is our last week of CSA, and I’m absolutely devastated!

Wayrana (Arequipa, Peru)

Thursday, October 21st, 2010 by virginia

Wayrana was another restaurant that our guide recommended, and it was in our guidebook as well so we decided to give it a shot. We were a bit worried when we walked in and the only people eating in the restaurant was a large group of tourists, but the menu posted outside had looked promising, plus they offered the dishes that we had been hoping to try while we were in Arequipa.

We started out with a large bottle of Arequipena, which was not so different from Cusquena but we just liked that they also had a beer named after their city. Like most of the beer we had in Peru, it was pretty light and inoffensive.

Arequipena beer

There was one dish that our guide told us we had to try for lunch, chupe de camarones, but we couldn’t find it on the menu at Chi Cha. Looking back, I now realize we were idiots and looked under the wrong section of the menu. The dish is a soup, so we were looking under the appetizer/soup section, but it was actually under the huge section titled “Camarones.” Oh well. Even though our guide said that it was a dish that should be eaten for lunch because it’s a very heavy soup, we decided to take the chance and have it for dinner. Since neither of us were really very hungry, we decided to split an order of the chupe to start, and then split an entree to finish.

Chupe de camarones

Chupe de camarones is basically crayfish chowder. The soup is rich and creamy, made with lots of milk and cheese. It has a thick, velvety texture, and at times seemed more like a stew than a soup. There were lots of whole camarones, or crayfish, in the soup, as well as rice, corn, potatoes, and a poached egg. To make it even richer, the whole dish was topped with shredded cheese. Unfortunately I think there was some Andean mint mixed in there as well, which put me off a bit, but I pushed through because I really did enjoy the richness and the texture. The portion you see in the picture above is just half of a serving because when we told our waiter we were splitting, the kitchen thoughtfully plated our portions separately, which made things much easier.

Whole camarone (I enjoyed sucking out the heads!)

The kitchen also split our entree for us, which may not have been the best thing considering our entree was cuy, or guinea pig. My initial impression of the cuy can be found here. But basically, they cut that sucker in half from head to toe, giving us an inside look of the cuy’s innards, including its bony little rib cage and the contents of its little skull. The cuy was prepared Arequipan style, which meant that it was deep fried. That rendered the skin super crispy and tasty, but the meat was minimal and it was tough for me to really dig in and gnaw at the little bones. Seeing the head on the plate really did throw me off, but I think I would have really liked the dish if the cuy had been cut into little unidentifiable pieces.

Cuy in all its glory

Overall I was pretty impressed with the food at Wayrana, and service was definitely top notch. Even though I was initially turned off by the fact that the only people eating in the restaurant were tourists, my opinion definitely changed when I tasted the food. The chupe de camarones was really delicious, and the fact that I could eat it even with the Andean mint mixed in it is a testament to just how tasty the dish was. There were a lot of ingredients in there but everything worked together harmoniously. The cuy was also well prepared. It was basically just deep fried, but it was well seasoned and not greasy at all. I know most people are probably grossed out by the thought of eating guinea pig, but it really is similar to eating rabbit or quail. It’s definitely something worth trying, and hey, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it again. But at least give it a shot!

Calle Santa Catalina, 200, Int. B, Cercado
Arequipa, Peru

CSA Week #20

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 by virginia

It is really starting to feel like fall out there! The weather is definitely cooling down, and the trees in Central Park are just about ready to change colors. Our CSA share will be ending soon, and it makes me sad to think about that. I think there are only a few weeks left, since the share ends in November. There is a winter share available but it seems to be less vegetables and more dairy and/or meat products, plus there’s only delivery once a month. It doesn’t seem like something that Josh and I would be interested in doing, so we’ll just have to savor our veggies and fruits while we’re still getting them.

This week our vegetable share contents included:

Celery – 1 each
Greens – 1 lb
Carrots – 1 lb
Turnips – 1 each
Winter Squash – 1 each
Leeks – 1 each

Winter squash, leek, kale, turnips, carrots, celery

I’m curious about the winter squash because we got one a few weeks back but we haven’t eaten yet. I think it’s buried in our fridge somewhere so I hope it’s still ok! I wonder if we’re just supposed to bake it? It has a super hard shell and reminds me of one of those gourds people put out during Thanksgiving. Anyone have suggestions on how to cook it?

The leek is a new item for us, but unfortunately it’s pretty small so I’m not sure what we’ll do with it. The turnips are pretty tiny as well. The carrots I’m already planning on turning into soup. We made a really great carrot ginger soup a while back, but I never got around to posting about it. I should, because it was really yummy. For the greens we got kale, as usual, since we’ll never tire of eating kale chips. Those chips rock! As for the celery, we’ve been making bloody marys out of the previous batches, since these are pretty thin and spindly celery stalks, not the fat watery kind you get from the supermarket. They have a much more concentrated celery flavor, but they’re also kind of bitter.

As for our fruit share, we are getting buried by even more apples and pears. This week our fruit share contents included:

Apples – 5 lb
Pears – 3 lbs

Apples and pears

I’ve been snacking on apple slices with peanut butter, but that gets tiring very quickly. It doesn’t help that Josh and I aren’t really “dessert” people, so when I make a cake or tart out of the fruit, we still have trouble eating it. I’m considering just making a huge batch of applesauce, since some of the apples are starting to get mealy from sitting in the fridge for so long. I’m trying not to let anything go to waste!

Chi Cha (Arequipa, Peru)

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 by virginia

Before our city tour of Arequipa, we had time to get lunch. Our guide recommended Chi Cha, a restaurant owned by Gaston Acurio, who is supposedly the best chef in Peru. He owns many different restaurants throughout the country, but this was the only one we tried so we can’t really judge his culinary prowess.

The restaurant was very large and was divided into two rooms, a bright outer room that was more casual looking and a more formal dining room inside. There were no tables for two open, so they seated us at a large round table that could fit eight people, which made us feel a bit weird but at least we had plenty of space. Our meal started off with a basket of mixed breads, including two slices of loaf bread that tasted like corn bread, two breadsticks, and three different flavors of mini baguettes.

Assorted breads

While the bread itself was a little dry, I really liked slathering them with the accompanying soft creamy butter that was mixed with Peruvian chilis. The flavor of the chilis really came through in the butter, and it was an interesting twist on something that’s usually just an afterthought.

Butter mixed with Peruvian chilis

For our lunch, we decided to share a few dishes that we were told were specialties of Arequipa. We knew we had to try rocoto relleno, which is a spicy pepper stuffed with chopped beef and onions and served with potatoes and cheese. The pepper wasn’t super spicy, but it did have a kick to it. The filling reminded me of chili con carne, though the spices were different. There was a potato and cheese gratin on the plate next to the stuffed pepper, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the cheese flavor. I just don’t like cheese in general, and this particular kind tasted very milky to me. Josh didn’t mind it though. I did like the stuffed pepper by itself.

Rocoto relleno

Another dish that I was eager to try was antichuchos de corazon, or grilled brochettes of beef heart. The beef hearts were served with potatoes, corn, and various dipping sauces, including a garlicky sauce and a spicy rocoto sauce. Josh was not as eager to try this dish, and even less so when our request that they cook the hearts to medium turned out more like medium rare. I loved the flavor of the beef heart though, which was nice and smokey from the grill and surprisingly very beefy in taste. Josh couldn’t get past the texture, which was a little chewy and bouncy, but I thought it was pretty tender considering that it was beef heart. I ended up polishing off most of the dish.

Antichuchos de corazon (grilled beef heart brochettes)

Our last dish was ocopa, which is sliced boiled potatoes covered in a thick, creamy yellow sauce that tastes strongly of Andean mint. The sauce is traditionally made with milk and cheese, and is super rich. This version had pieces of fried cheese on top that were nice and salty, as well as pieces of hard boiled egg and olives. It was an interesting combination of flavors and textures, but unfortunately, I took an instant dislike to Andean mint. I don’t know why exactly, since I like regular spearmint and peppermint, but I had a strong aversion to the Andean kind. Whenever I tasted it in any dish during the rest of our trip, I would immediately recoil in disgust and stop eating right away. It made no sense to me, but I really just didn’t like it. Josh, on the other hand, did enjoy the mint, as well as the ocopa. I guess we don’t always have similar tastes!


When they brought our check, they also brought us two marshmallows to finish our meal on a sweet note. I forget what flavor these were, but they were sweet, light, and airy.


Overall we thought the food at Chi Cha was pretty good. While I just didn’t like the flavor of the ocopa or the potato and cheese gratin with the rocoto relleno, it was just a personal taste, not an issue with the preparation. Josh liked the dishes that I didn’t enjoy, and I absolutely loved the beef hearts while he couldn’t take the texture. We both thought the service was very efficient. In fact, our dishes arrived so quickly that we wondered if they had everything already lined up to go in the kitchen sitting under heat lamps. I don’t think that was the case though, because everything was sizzling hot and not overcooked or dried out. Our three dishes, plus a few beers, came out to S/82, or about US$30. Not bad. It’s definitely a place that I would recommend for some local Arequipan cuisine in a nice atmosphere.

Chi Cha
Santa Catalina, 210 Int. 105
Arequipa, Peru

Peru Day 3 – Arequipa

Monday, October 18th, 2010 by virginia

On our third day in Peru, we had breakfast at our hotel in Lima before heading to the airport to catch our flight to Arequipa. Breakfast was pretty ordinary, just an omelet, potatoes, a roll, and some more salchichas.

Salchichas, omelet, roll, butter, potatoes

The flight from Lima to Arequipa left at 10:20 and was only about an hour and 20 minutes. As soon as we got off the plane we could see the impressive volcanoes that border the city. After we were dropped off at our hotel, we had some time to kill before our city tour in the afternoon so we went out to get some lunch. The guide that brought us to our hotel made a few restaurant suggestions, as well as some recommendations on what to eat. We ended up at Chi Cha, which unfortunately turned out to be a chain restaurant, but the food was decent.

Our city tour started at the Santa Catalina convent, which is like a city built within the city. It housed cloistered nuns was closed to the public for 400 years, until 1970. The nuns that used to live there were mostly of wealthy Spanish descent, and they had servants and slaves. Their wealth was quite obvious because some of their rooms and furnishings are on display. There are cloistered nuns who live there now, but their current setup is very different. The walls inside the convent are really colorful, with bright oranges and blues everywhere. The streets are cobble stone and are named after Spanish cities. It really was an interesting place to visit.

Bright orange walls

Bright blue walls

Spanish style streets

Restored kitchen

Spanish style courtyard

Bright blue columns

After leaving the convent, we drove to the outskirts of the city to get a better view of the volcanoes and the beautifully lush, green valleys. The volcanoes are called Chachani, Pichu Pichu, and Misti.

View of the valley

Misti volcano in the background

Next we drove to the Yuanahara district of the city, which is famous for its buildings made from white volcanic rock (called sillar). There was a pretty church with intricate carvings in the front.

San Juan Bautista Church

We made our way back to the center of Arequipa and went to visit another church with beautiful carvings in the front, La Compania. The church is also made from white volcanic rock, and our guide pointed out images with hidden meanings woven throughout the carvings.

La Compania Church

Next we walked over to the main square in Arequipa, the Plaza de Armas. There are palm trees all around and a huge fountain in the middle, plus tons of pigeons everywhere. There were lots of people just hanging out in the square, and the mood was very festive.

Plaza de Armas

Arches all around the square that reminded me of Spain

The last stop on our city tour was the main cathedral. It’s an enormous structure with identical towers on each end. There was a gate surrounding the cathedral that had beautiful wrought iron work.

Cathedral facade

Intricate iron gate in the front

Inside the cathedral is a statue of the devil “in jail,” trapped underneath a pulpit. It is kind of a freaky looking statue, and I think it’s very rare to see any images of the devil in a Catholic church.

The devil in jail

After our city tour ended, we walked around the plaza for a while then went back to our hotel for a drink before dinner. Our hotel was quite beautiful, in a completely restored stone building. It looks like an old castle but the bartender showed us pictures of what it looked like before the restoration, and it really was quite a mess. The details they put into the construction are really pretty amazing.

The bar at our hotel that looked like a room in a medieval castle

We ended our night in Arequipa with an adventurous dinner at a restaurant called Wayrana that involved crayfish and cuy. It was our first taste of guinea pig on our trip, but not the last. More on that later!

La Rosa Nautica (Lima, Peru)

Sunday, October 17th, 2010 by virginia

When we first expressed interest in going to Peru several years ago, we were told by a Peruvian travel agent that we absolutely had to go to a restaurant on pier in Lima called La Rosa Nautica. This was reaffirmed by my brother-in-law who attended a wedding at the restaurant and said it was really great. So when we finally arrived in Lima, we knew that we had to have dinner there.

We were pretty tired by the time dinner rolled around after walking around Lima all day, but we were looking forward to this meal after hearing so many great things. Our experience kind of got off to a bad start though when we were ripped off by a taxi going to the restaurant. We ended up being charged US$8, when an earlier taxi ride from a greater distance cost us only 7 soles, or about US$2.60. It kind of put me in a bad mood but I vowed to put the incident behind me, because we had been looking forward to this meal.

We arrived at the restaurant, which is at the end of a long pier that extends out into the Pacific Ocean. I’m a bit terrified of water during daytime, but at nighttime, the waves crashing in the dark all around us really spooked me. When we got inside the restaurant, however, I immediately relaxed and took in the beautiful atmosphere. The space is circular, though the restaurant is divided into multiple rooms. Around the perimeter is large floor-to-ceiling windows, which would probably give a great view during the day, but since it was dark, we didn’t see much. We did get a table right next to one of the windows though, and when we looked down, we could see the waves rolling into the pier, which was freaky for me but still pretty cool.

We asked our hotel concierge to make us a reservation, which scored us yet another free Pisco Sour welcome drink. It was similar to the one we had at Alfresco, refreshing and boozy.

Pisco Sour

There was table side bread service and we each got two rolls, a baguette-like roll, and a heartier wheat roll. Both were served warm and had nice outer crusts and good flavor.

Warm bread

At this point, Josh and I were looking through our menus and trying to decide what to order. As I was going through my menu, I was confused because nothing had prices next to it. I flipped around wondering if this was a prix fixe menu, with one price at the end, but there was nothing. I looked over at Josh and asked him how we were supposed to know what everything cost, and he looked back at me confused. Turns out his menu had prices, and mine did not.

This is a practice that I’ve read about but have never witnessed for myself. Apparently I was given the “woman’s” menu, one that did not list prices, while Josh had been given the “man’s” menu that included prices. Even though Josh found it amusing, I was actually quite insulted and outraged. I understand the “theory” behind this practice, that if a man and a woman were out on a date, the man would most likely be paying and would want the woman to order whatever she wanted without worrying about what everything cost. However, I think this is a very antiquated train of thought as nowadays, many people choose to “go dutch” on dates, and who is a restaurant to assume that a man is always the one to pay?

If a man was in fact trying to impress a woman, then he should be able to call up a restaurant and ask them to give her a menu without prices, with the understanding that he was paying for the meal. But that should be able to work vice versa as well. Likewise, if I were hosting a dinner and didn’t want my guests to feel awkward about how much I was spending, I could call up the restaurant request menus without prices for everyone. But for this restaurant to arbitrarily decide that just because I was a woman dining with a man that I wouldn’t need to know the prices, that is just presumptuous and completely sexist.

I was fuming at this point, and Josh didn’t help by laughing it off and refusing to share his menu with me. He said he wanted me to enjoy myself, but it was hard to order blindly without knowing if the dish I was ordering cost an arm and a leg. This was a very expensive restaurant to begin with, the most expensive restaurant we went to our entire trip, and I didn’t want to end up spending US$100 on one dish, especially considering I wasn’t very hungry that night. Josh claims that if I did manage to choose the most expensive item on the menu he would have told me so. I guess I didn’t order something outrageously expensive because our bill was pricey but still relatively reasonable in the end. I just wish that they would do away with this extremely chauvinistic practice.

We ended up starting off with an appetizer platter to share, since it gave us the ability to try four different dishes. We chose from a list of 12 hot and cold appetizers, and went with a few of the dishes that my brother-in-law’s friend (the one who got married at this restaurant) recommended. We picked the ceviche, the cold octopus, parmesan scallops, and seafood wontons. It was a huge platter of food, all nicely arranged on large shells on top of a mountain of curly parsley.

Mixed appetizer platter

The ceviche was the traditional style with lime, and also had a yellow chili pepper sauce that added a little kick. The ceviche was topped with large kernels of corn and sweet potato, something we found to be standard in Peru. The corn kernels were super big but were chewy and not very flavorful. The sweet potato actually enhanced the flavor of the seafood, which we thought was very fascinating.

Ceviche limenito

The seafood wontons were nicely fried and crispy but there wasn’t very much filling in them. They didn’t taste like seafood at all so Josh was disappointed with the flavor, but I kind of enjoyed the crunchiness after all the other “soft” food we had been eating. They came with a tamarind sauce for dipping that was slightly sweet and tangy.

Fried wontons

The cold octopus with vinaigrette and olive oil was one of the dishes that came highly recommended to us. The vinaigrette was like a creamy olive sauce that enrobed the tender pieces of octopus. There was definitely a strong olive flavor but it didn’t overpower the seafood, which I liked.

Octopus in a creamy olive sauce

Our fourth appetizer was parmesan scallops, which was a scallop still in its shell covered in a parmesan cream sauce and broiled so that the top was brown and crusty. It was an interesting combination, more Italian tasting in flavor, and went against the theory that you shouldn’t mix seafood and cheese. We also squeezed some lime on top for a little zip. It was a very rich dish but tasty nonetheless.

Parmesan scallops

Josh and I were kind of switching back and forth between the different appetizers but we finished the scallops pretty quickly since there were only four pieces. We were working on the ceviche and the octopus when I noticed a movement on the plate out of the corner of my eye. In the empty shell that had previously held the scallops, a green worm-like bug was making its way across the shell. It was a really weird looking thing, super skinny and narrow, but very long. It had multiple legs on its front end and back end, but none in the middle. I watched in horror, but to my credit, I didn’t yelp when I saw what it was. Josh quickly called over a waiter, who promptly removed the shell but my appetite was slightly ruined. It wasn’t that it was a huge bug or anything, but just the fact that it had been on the plate the whole time, probably hidden in the forest of curly parsley, is a little disturbing. Who knows what else was lurking in there?

Little green visitor

We didn’t make a big deal about the bug, since we had already eaten most of the appetizer, and the waiter was apologetic when he took it away. A manager came over to us immediately and apologized again, offering us free dessert to make up for it. It was a very nice gesture, and one that we appreciated.

Moving on to our entrees, I ordered the Rosa Nautica Seafood Rice, which was seafood and shrimp stewed with chili peppers, beans, bell peppers, and cilantro, served on top of a bed of rice. The seafood was cooked properly, not tough or chewy, and the rice was very flavorful. It was a solid, simple dish, not spectacular, but well prepared.

Rosa Nautica seafood rice

Josh, ironically, did order the most expensive thing on the menu, the Rosa Nautica seabass, which was cooked in a pernod sauce and served with scallops and crayfish (camarones) on a bed of yellow Peruvian potatoes. The whole thing was topped with a piece of puff pastry that the waiter cut open for Josh. It was an interesting presentation, but Josh thought the dish was super rich. The seafood was swimming in a thick, creamy sauce that was slightly overwhelming. The crayfish were tasty but nowhere near as good or as large as the crayfish we would have later on in the trip.

Rosa Nautica seabass

We were really full at this point so we decided just to split one dessert, even though they offered to comp dessert for the both of us to make up for the bug incident. We chose the chocolate souffle, which took an extra 20 minutes to make, so Josh enjoyed a cortado (espresso with steamed milk) while I finished up our bottle of malbec wine.


The chocolate souffle was light and airy, though the grand marnier sauce that came with it was super thick. When they presented the souffle to us, they poked a hole in the middle and “poured” in the sauce, but it was so dense that they sort of had to scrape it into the souffle. I thought that was a bit strange, but both the souffle and the sauce tasted wonderful. The souffle had a nice sweet chocolate flavor, and the grand marnier sauce was rich and creamy. We enjoyed the dessert very much.

Chocolate souffle with grand marnier sauce

Overall we kind of had mixed feelings about our dinner at La Rosa Nautica. The restaurant is beautiful, and a great place to go for a romantic meal. I was displeased though by the sexist menu policy, and I thought our waiter was a bit pushy when we were ordering our wine. They were supposedly out of stock on our first choice, a reasonably priced malbec, and the waiter kept trying to get Josh to order a different wine that was twice as expensive. Josh stood firm though and picked out another malbec that was still reasonable, but I found the up selling to be kind of annoying. The restaurant did handle our bug issue properly though by apologizing immediately and offering us something on the house to make up for it.

Food-wise, everything was well prepared and pretty tasty, but nothing really stood out in particular. It was just solid, classic Peruvian cuisine, though we could tell the seafood they used was super fresh and the ingredients were top notch. Cost wise, however, this was by far the most expensive meal we had on the entire trip. Dinner, including wine, cover charge, and tip (minus the free dessert), cost S/330, or about US$122. Definitely cheap by New York standards, but extremely pricey for Peru. It was a nice experience though, as we had a great time chatting throughout dinner and enjoying the atmosphere. If someone is looking for an upscale splurge meal in Lima, this place definitely fits the bill.

Dinner coincidentally ended on the same down note that it started on though, as we were ripped off once again by a taxi going back to our hotel. Since the restaurant is on a pier that is kind of on a desolated stretch of the highway, with nothing else around it, we had to take a cab that was furnished by the restaurant. There was no negotiating on the rate, so we had to pay S/20 to get back to our hotel, or US$7.40. Definitely New York prices, if not more, since our hotel really wasn’t that far away. Oh well, I guess it’s part of the deal when dining at the restaurant. Regardless, it was a lovely evening for us, and we left with mostly positive feelings about the restaurant. Now if only they’d do away with that stupid misogynistic menu policy…

La Rosa Nautica
Espigón 4 Circuito de Playas – Miraflores
Lima, Peru

Alfresco (Lima, Peru)

Sunday, October 17th, 2010 by virginia

After our city tour of Lima it was time for lunch. We knew exactly what we wanted to eat  – ceviche! It’s considered to be a Peruvian specialty, and we were told that most Peruvians only eat ceviche for lunch so we asked our hotel for a restaurant recommendation. The concierge sent us to Alfresco, which was only a short walk from our hotel, and he hooked us up with two free Pisco Sours as welcome drinks at the restaurant.

Pisco Sour

Pisco is a Peruvian brandy that tastes a bit like tequila to me. A Pisco Sour is made with lime juice, egg whites, sugar, and Pisco, so it’s actually very similar to a margarita. They blend it with ice to make it creamy, and the egg whites make it very frothy. I found it to be a refreshing drink, plus it packed a good alcoholic punch.

When they brought our Pisco Sours, they also brought us a small dish of canchas, or Peruvian corn nuts. They’re basically corn kernels that are toasted in vegetable oil and covered in salt, but they don’t pop like popcorn. The kernels stay intact, but they’re light and crunchy and pretty addictive.

Toasted cancha (corn nuts)

The restaurant charged us a cover charge, which included bread. I don’t remember how much the cover charge was exactly, but it wasn’t outrageous. The bread was small, soft rolls covered in sesame seeds and flavored with Italian herbs. They weren’t bad, but the herb flavor didn’t really go with our ceviche.

Italian herb flavored rolls

The menu at Alfresco is pretty extensive, with seafood the obvious focus, but Josh and I were only interested in the ceviche and other preparations of raw or close to raw fish. We decided on two platters from the “Dishes to Share” section of the menu, since that provided us with the most variety of items to try. The first platter was called “Fresh Seafood, Just Perfect” and included flounder and octopus ceviche, tiradito with coriander cream, tuna tartare, grilled shrimp, and inkamaki.

"Fresh Seafood" platter

There was a ton of food on the platter, and all of it was really very tasty and fresh. The tuna tartare was perfectly cut into little cubes and served on a bed of avocado. Even though it was tossed in some sort of sauce, the taste of the tuna still shined through.

Tuna tartare

The flounder and octopus ceviche was tender pieces of raw fish and octopus marinated in lime juice. The acid cooks the seafood ever so slightly, so that it a slightly firmer texture than just raw fish. The lime juice also gives the dish a nice tangy flavor, and thin slivers of red onion mixed throughout add a nice bite. It was a really refreshing dish.

Flounder and octopus ceviche

The tiradito was thin slices of raw flounder topped with coriander cream, which was basically a pesto sauce made from cilantro. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of cilantro, the flavor is growing on me, and I thought the cream worked perfectly with the raw flounder. It was topped with some grated parmesan cheese, which I thought was an interesting Italian twist on the dish. I enjoyed my bite thoroughly.

Flounder tiradito

The inkamaki was two pieces of a maki roll that had tuna on top, but I’m not sure what was in the middle aside from avocado. It was sort of a standard sushi roll, nothing groundbreaking but still tasty nonetheless.


Lastly, the platter came with grilled shrimp on top of fried plantain slices, topped with a creamy sauce. The shrimp was perfectly cooked, not overly tough or chewy.

Grilled shrimp on fried plaintains

Our other “Dishes to Share” order was “El Cevichero”, which was four different types of ceviche served in martini glasses. The different types of ceviche included Alfresco style, mixed, coriander, and the “black scallops’ killer.”

"El Cevichero" ceviche sampler

The Alfresco style ceviche was served in a bright orangey-red sauce, which made it look like it would be spicy but it wasn’t too bad. It had a nice pepper flavor to it but only had a slight kick.

Alfresco style ceviche

The black scallops ceviche was covered in an inky black sauce that we thought was made from squid ink, but we were told it was actually from the black scallops. The flavor was briney and deep, though the scallops themselves we found to be pretty tough and chewy.

Black scallops ceviche

The mixed ceviche was the traditional lime flavored variety, similar to the flounder and octopus ceviche we had with the other seafood platter. This version had extra seafood ingredients in it, but the flavors were the same.

Traditional mixed ceviche

Finally, the last variety of ceviche was topped with coriander cream, similar to the tiradito. The cilantro added a nice herbal note to the ceviche, and the flavors were bright and refreshing. It had the same grated parmesan topping that I found fascinating with the tiradito.

Coriander ceviche

The two platters we ordered were more than enough food to satisfy both of us. We were actually really full, even though all we ate was raw and mostly raw seafood. Everything was super fresh and delicious. Aside from the strange black scallops, all the seafood was tender and not at all chewy. Hands down, this was the best ceviche we ever had, and we enjoyed all the different varieties. The restaurant itself has a casual but refined atmosphere, and it’s bright and airy inside. We would definitely recommend it to anyone who is visiting Lima, as the food was spectacular, and prices were very reasonable. The seafood platter was 35 soles, or about US$13 (at 2.70 soles to $1), and the ceviche platter was 45 soles, or about US$16.70. Not cheap by Peruvian standards, but a bargain compared to the U.S. I’m drooling right now just remembering how good all those ceviches were!

Malecon Balco 790 – Miraflores
Lima, Peru

Peru Day 2 – Lima

Thursday, October 14th, 2010 by virginia

On our first full day in Peru, we had a city tour of Lima in the morning. We grabbed breakfast at the hotel first, which was served buffet style. The selection wasn’t extensive but we managed to find some more interesting things to try, like a steamed tamale and a crepe with strawberry sauce and chocolate sauce. My favorite part was the salchichas, which are little sausages that taste like hot dogs. These make up half of one of my favorite dishes, salchipapas, or hot dogs mixed with french fries.

Omelet, croissant, crepe with strawberry and chocolate sauces, roasted carrot, salchichas, bacon, tamale

We got on a bus with about a half dozen other people and drove around to various sites. We had a guide that accompanied us everywhere, explaining the history behind each place. Our first stop was the Park of Love, which is in the Miraflores district, right on the cliff and overlooks the Pacific Ocean.

Cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and La Rosa Nautica, a famous restaurant on a pier

Unfortunately it was very hazy that day so we couldn’t see very far, but the park itself was very pretty with lots of flowers all around (Miraflores literally means “look at the flowers”). There was a huge statue in the middle of a couple kissing quite passionately.

El Beso - "The Kiss"

The nicest feature of the park, in my opinion, was the bench that ran around the perimeter and looked like it was created by Gaudi. The bench was covered in multicolor mosaic tiles that created beautiful designs. It was almost like being back at Parc Guell in Barcelona, though on a much smaller scale. What I liked was that there were names of couples written on the tiles, which made it seem a bit more personal.

Colorful mosaics

After leaving the park, we drove to the upscale San Isidro district to The Temple of Huallamarca, a small pyramid right in the center of the city.

Templo de Huallamarca

The structure was not built by the Incas, but by an unknown culture. Various artifacts have been uncovered from the structure, including a mummy that is displayed in the small museum that is part of the site. That freaked me out a bit!

An artifact discovered with the mummy (I told Josh he wasn't allowed to take a picture of the mummy itself!)

The pyramid was constructed out of mud bricks, and there’s a path that leads to the top. While the structure itself is not super huge, the view of the city from the top of the pyramid was quite nice.

The view from the top

After leaving Huallamarca, we drove closer to the city’s historical center and visited the convent of Santo Domingo. There was lovely wood and tile work in the convent, as well as a beautiful Spanish-style courtyard.

Spanish style courtyard

Then we walked over to the Plaza Mayor, the main square in Lima. It was a very lively place, with tons of people walking around and hanging out. The square is surrounded by some government buildings and the main cathedral.

Plaza Mayor


There was also a procession going on outside of the cathedral, with a group of men carrying a religious icon of some sort on a litter.

Religious procession

Josh and I laughed hysterically at what was following the procession, a guy riding a giant vacuum cleaner to suck up all the confetti that was being thrown…

Giant ride-on vacuum cleaner

After leaving the plaza, we made our way over to the San Francisco Convent. This is one of the most famous sites in Lima, and while the convent itself was beautiful (with a lovely Moorish style wood dome and a historic library with a fascinating collection of old books), the main feature of the convent is the catacombs.

San Francisco Basilica and Convent

And this is where things went way downhill for me. Basically the catacombs are just full of bones. Tens of thousands of human skeletons, all arranged in piles according to type (ie., skulls, femurs, etc.), or arranged in decorative patterns. Or at least that was what I’m told. You see, I kept my eyes closed or stared at my feet the whole time we were down in the catacombs. I maneuvered by clinging to Josh’s arm, and it was really hard not to look where I was going because the paths pretty narrow and uneven in some places. The worst part was near the end, when we were surrounded by bins and bins of bones, and the path wasn’t wide enough for people to walk side by side. Basically I just walked directly behind Josh and buried my face into his shoulder. I consider it a huge feat that I managed to walk through the whole thing without seeing any bones, except for maybe a sliver of a femur out of the corner of my eye. Even just thinking about it now gives me the chills! Luckily they don’t allow pictures inside, although if you do a search on the internet you can see some of the patterns they made out of the bones. [This is Josh interrupting the post to provide a helpful link so you don’t have to do the search.  It is quite a weird place, I’m not sure how it became a tourist attraction.]   It’s sort of interesting, yet very morbid at the same time.

So on that very creepy note, our city tour ended. They dropped us back at our hotel where we made a short pit stop, then headed out to a ceviche restaurant, Alfresco, for lunch. On our way we walked through Kennedy Park, which is named in honor of John F. Kennedy.

Bust of JFK in Kennedy Park

The ceviche was fabulous, and with our bellies full, we walked to the other end of Miraflores to see Huaca Pucllana, a much larger pyramid than we saw in the morning. It’s also right in the center of the city, and we walked around it most of the way before finding the entrance. We couldn’t see from one end to the other, that’s how big it was.

Just a small portion of Huaca Pucllana

Our entrance fee included a guided group tour and we were joined by another pair of New Yorkers, two of the few Americans we met on our trip. The pyramid structure was a religious and administrative center for the people who lived in the area. They were not Incas, but were part of the Lima culture. The bricks were made out of mud, enforced with smashed seashells. There were also many mummies found at this site, and I’m glad that we didn’t see any.

The mud bricks were stacked like books on a bookshelf

There are life-sized “dioramas” at the site as well that depict what a certain spot may have been used for, like for religious ceremonies.

Life-sized mannequins depicting a religious ceremony

There was also a small garden at the site where they grow indigenous plants, and a small “zoo” with llamas, alpacas, ducks, and guinea pigs. It was a pretty educational tour, well worth the entrance fee (you’re not allowed to walk around the site by yourself).


Before our dinner at La Rosa Nautica, we took another long walk to the Barranco district, where there is a lot of colonial architecture. It was pretty dark by the time we got there though, so we weren’t able to see much. There was a bright yellow church and the Bridge of Sighs.

Bright yellow church

The Bridge of Sighs

We took a cab back to the hotel, since it was a long walk to get out there, and rested for a bit before heading to dinner. We enjoyed a leisurely meal before returning to the hotel for the evening. It was long day but we got to see a lot of neat stuff, and we felt like we had “done” Lima, since it was our only day in this particular city. Overall I think it was a tiring but successful day.

CSA Week #19

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 by virginia

No, we haven’t given up on our CSA share. It’s been a while since I’ve written about it but we’re still getting tons of veggies and fruits. We managed to clean out a lot of our fridge before we left for Peru, and while we were away, Felipe and Silva picked up our shares for us. The first week we asked Silva to take some pictures of the share, cook up something, and blog about it. She took gorgeous pics, as always, and posted a few recipes on her blog, Postcards and Snapshots.

The second week, they also picked up our share for us and left the goodies with our doorman. Lisa put them in the fridge for us so that when we got home on Sunday, we had fresh food on hand. We cooked up a feast in honor of Lisa’s birthday that week, using a lot of our CSA items. I didn’t take any pictures but everything turned out so well that we’ll probably make each dish again sometime in the future. As a pre-dinner snack, we served up heirloom tomato bruschetta on slices of baguette from Amy’s Bread. We noshed on this while drinking some Pisco sours that I whipped up using Pisco that I brought home from Peru.

The first course was a creamy zucchini soup, followed by a roasted beet salad with arugula and radishes tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. The main course was chicken that Josh butterflied and brined before roasting in the oven. The skin was crisp and the meat was tender and juicy. As for sides, we roasted potatoes underneath the chicken so that they basted in the juices and fat that ran off – yum! We also made a rustic ratatouille with zucchini, eggplant, and red pepper. Finally, for dessert, I made a buttery apple tart that paired perfectly with Josh’s homemade vanilla ice cream. We had prepped most things the night before so the dinner was relaxing for all of us, and we were able to enjoy our company.

Going back to the CSA shares, Josh picked up our produce last week before he and Lisa went to the Roger Waters concert at MSG, but I was too lazy to take pictures and post. I had met them for dinner before the show, and then afterward I went home to pack since we left for San Francisco the next day. Now that we’re back, with no travel planned for another month, I hope to get back on track with everything.

This week Josh and I met up to get our share together, which was good because even though the veggie side was a bit light, we got a ton of fruit. This week our vegetable share contents included:

Radishes – 5 each
Broccoli – 1 each
Greens  – 1 lb
Fennel – 1 each
Squash – 2 lbs
Turnips – 5 each

Radishes, kale, turnips, squash, broccoli, fennel

The original list also said onions, but we didn’t see any at the pickup site. For the greens, we got kale, which we absolutely love. I made a huge batch of kale chips last night and we gobbled them right up. The secret is to make sure you salt them liberally before putting them into the oven. For the squash, we picked up a large zucchini because those are heartier and last longer in the fridge. The broccoli is a new item for us, and although it’s quite small, I can’t wait to see how it tastes.

For the fruit, we’ve just been getting tons of apples and our fridge is totally packed. I see a lot of apple pies, apple tarts, and apple chips in our future. This week our fruit share contents included:

Macoun Apples – 4 3/4 lbs
Seckle Pears – 1 quart
Honey Crisps Apples – 2 lbs

Apples and little pears

We now also have tons of these little pears, and a few quarts of plums as well leftover from previous weeks. Anyone know of any good recipes I could try?

Cafe La Maquina (Lima, Peru)

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I headed out of our hotel in Miraflores around 10:30 pm in search of food but all the places we walked into had already stopped serving food. To be fair, we were looking for something quick and light so we only went into small cafes and casual-looking restaurants, not any of the larger or fancier-looking places. We came across Cafe La Maquina, which looked lively and cheerful from the outside, plus we saw people inside eating sandwiches and snacks – perfect!

The Cafe definitely had more of a bar vibe going on, with lots of people hanging out and drinking. What I liked was that it was crowded, but not overly packed or super noisy. There were lots of tables and people were just sitting around either talking or playing card games and board games, which the Cafe furnishes. If this place were in NYC, I’m sure it would be one of my favorite places to go out drinking.

Josh and I started with a round of Cusquena beers, which are brewed in Cusco, Peru. We’ve had them before at Pio Pio, and it’s a pretty light beer with decent flavor. For our second round, we tried some other Peruvian brews, Plisen and Barena. Both were lighter in flavor, so we pretty much stuck with Cusquena the rest of our trip. It was good to be able to try out all of our options though on the first night.

Assortment of Peruvian beers

For food, we decided to split two sandwiches. The first was a classic chicken sandwich on ciabatta bread. The chicken was moist and tender, and it was prepared like a chicken salad. The meat was cut into thin strips and bound with mayo and celery. The bread was chewy but not too tough, and was a good vehicle for the chicken salad.

Chicken, celery, mayo, and lettuce on ciabatta

Our other sandwich was called the Estrellita (meaning “little star”) and featured arugula, serrano ham, queso fresco, peppers, sesame, and mayo on a baguette. The bread looked very pale upon arrival, but it was a decent roll with a crackly outer crust and a soft chew in the middle. The ham wasn’t the serrano we know (which is similar to prosciutto), but more of a thick sliced piece of regular deli ham. The queso fresco was similar to fresh mozzarella, so it worked well with the roasted red reppers and fresh arugula. The only item the sandwich didn’t need was the mayo.

Ham, queso fresco, red peppers, arugua, sesame seeds, and mayo on a baguette

I loved the vibe of Cafe La Maquina, and the food wasn’t too shabby either. The menu features many different kinds of salads and sandwiches, and some were creative while others were more classic. Prices were pretty reasonable, with most sandwiches coming in under US$5. Service was a bit slow but probably because the place was full. We ended up hanging out for a while after we finished our food and no one rushed us or bothered us, which was nice. It was exactly the type of place that we were looking for, and a great way to start off our time in Peru.

Cafe La Maquina
Alcanfores # 323 – Miraflores
Lima, Peru