Friday, December 17, 2010

¡Feliz Navidad!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Video "Modern Meets Inca"

Added to the links at right:  PBS's episode of Moments of Luxury, this time showing the "softer side" of Lima. 

From the program blurb:
"Bill visits Lima's magnificent historic sites and discovers the lasting influence of the Incas on modern day Peru. Peruvian contemporary artisans and designers honor their Incan and pre-Columbian roots in creating some of the world's most fascinating art, textiles, jewelry, modern architecture and food."



Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fuerza Godoy!

This is a bit off-topic but it's an important issue that touches the entire Peru blog community.

On Oct. 29, 2010, Peruvian blogger Jose Alejandro Godoy, of Desde el Tercer Piso blog, was sentenced by a Peruvian judge to 3 years of prison (suspended), 120 days of community service, and restitution of US$107,000, in response to a defamation suit brought by former congressman and gov. minister Jorge Mufarech. The plaintiff argued that Godoy had defamed him when he published links to online news articles referencing criminal and ethical accusations against Mufarech.

Peru's entire blogosphere, and many of its civil rights and journalistic communities condemn this as a farcical and illegal sentence, and a dangerous precedent.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Black clam cebiche in Jesus Maria





Conchas negras - black clams- are one of the most prized ingredients for cebiche in Peru.   Native to the warmer waters nearer the equator, where they grow amidst the mangrove roots, black clams are harvested and shipped daily to Lima, which makes them a bit more expensive than other ingredients - at the market one pays for them by the unit.  However, as their flavor is dominant, other blander fishes can be mixed in without significantly reducing the clam flavor in the dish.

However, the best way to have them is alone in a cebiche.  They have an almost effervescent quality to them which seems to increase alertness -no wonder they are reputed to have aphrodisiac qualities. They also are the only shellfish in Peru that is used entire, with no part other than the shell being discarded.    

Aside from the clams themselves, the cebiche included lime juice, chopped aji limo, salt, aji-no-moto (monosodium glutamate), and chopped onion, with some beans, boiled corn, and toasted corn (cancha) added on top.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The "Crazy Cow" - Now With Sound!

Video from Diego's camera of Danny and the Vaca Loca at the pachamanca:


Looking back ...

Well, mostly what I can say is "wow, what a different kind of trip that was".  Eventful, and non-eventful the same time.

Eventful because there was the wedding, and by the end of the trip there were two engagements announced:  Mariana's and Cristy's.

Uneventful because, unlike in other instances, it was marked to a greater extent by what we didn't do this time.   For example, we didn't leave Lima.

Yes, of course, there were the trip to Caral and the overnight one to Chancay for the wedding, but both are basically in the neighborhood.   Normally, we head off to some other part of the country on a multi-day excursion -at least to Ayacucho, even if not elsewhere- but not this time, even though we did try to plan something around 28 de Julio.

Nor was there a to-do list as in other instances.  The apartment is furnished, the taxes paid up for the year, the paperwork apparently in order, so nothing to do on that front.

We did have guests who stayed with us around the wedding, and we showed them around town.  But we didn't hit any museums or ruins on those outings, and we ended up going to the same places -the Centro, Barranco, Miraflores- as each new set of visitors arrived.

The result was that at lot of time was spent as one does when one is at home: chatting, watching TV, reading, waiting one's turn to use the shower, etc.   And, partly due to people's work schedules, most of the outings involved meeting cousins, aunts, and uncles for meals at favorite restaurants or trying new ones.  I guess that's reflected in the amount of posts from this trip that deal with food and restaurants.    However, there were many more worthy restaurants and meals that were not mentioned, even though I had family members telling me "Did you bring the camera?  You've got to tell people about this place!"  Places like Vivaldino, Chala, Merlín de Cabo Blanco, etc.

Heck, I didn't even hit any museums or bookstores until my last three days in Lima!  Now that is a different sort of trip for me.


Miscellaneous Family Pics







Sunday, August 8, 2010

Area 7 and Masacre

The night following the Magaly Solier concert, and my last full night in Lima, Jacho and I returned to La Noche, this time for something a bit different.   On Thursday night there were listed two acts of a more subte nature: Masacre and Area 7.


Masacre was the headline act.  I didn't remember this at the time, but Masacre is a metal band that has been around since the 1980s, and is a mainstay of Peru's metal scene along with bands such as Kranium.   Instead, I had half-expected a punkish-type concert.

Masacre is an accomplished band and is likeable enough, but truthfully I found some of their music to be pretty standard metal fare.  I was more impressed with the opening act, Area 7. 

Area 7, it turns out, is a band that was started in 1999 by lead singer Diana Foronda, as a metal cover band.  As the lineup changed, the band began to compose their own songs and evolved into an example of Peruvian "Nu Metal"  (i.e. 'new metal').  




 Area 7 stands out for being one of the few all-female Peruvian rock bands, and they're quite good at what they do, to boot.  They were a lot of fun to listen to.  I'm sure, however, -in fact I know- Jacho would disagree.

It was actually kind of an amusing scene.  We two forty-somethings posted at the end of the bar with an expensive bottle of pisco, surrounded by disheveled teens and twenty-somethings drinking beer out of 1-L plastic tumblers and whirling about the mosh pit.  Jacho's such a good sport for having gone with me!

Here's a video of Area 7 in action that I found on YouTube:




The quality on videos of them on Youtube generally is fairly poor, but good recordings can be listened to here. I specially like "Fuerte, Intenso".

From the stage Diana announced that they'll have an album coming out for download by the end of the month.  I look forward to getting it.

Magaly Solier


On Wednesday night Diego, Jacho and I went to Barranco to see Magaly Solier, who was appearing the La Noche nightclub.    We thought that she might just perform a few songs to prommote her album, Warmi, but were pleased to find that she performed basically the entire album, plus a couple of other songs, including a rendition of Ricardo Dolorier's "Flor de Retama" which was among the nicest Ive heard.

"Flor de Retama" was written about the brutal police repression of a popular strike for education in Huanta in 1969, but it regained popularity in the 1980s as an oblique protest against the police and military repression endured by the population of Ayacucho during the civil war.     Solier's own songs also reflect her experiences and those of the region's populace during the war years, expressed -in Warmi- through the voices of several female characters (warmi means "woman" in Quechua),  like those of "Citaray", who lost loved ones to political violence, and of "Maribel", the main character and a "young woman who dares to help other women who are determined to not let themselves be abused by their men".

All three of us were impressed with what a nice, simple person Solier seems.   She's famous, with a several movies out, a musical album, and her face on Nescafé adds all over the place, but she's still able to confess that she gets "very nervous" whenever she steps on stage to sing for an audience.  The audience was small, but the space was also small, which lent the event a bit of intimacy, and there were some people she knew among the audience and she seemed comforted and pleased by their presence.

Nonetheless, she didn't seem to let her nervousness affect her performance:

video
Magaly Solier performing 'Ripu Ripusajmi' at La Noche, August 4, 2010

All in all, we were very impressed and glad that we made the effort to go to the concert, and I made sure to buy the album the first chance I got (in fact I'm listening to it as I type).

Friday, August 6, 2010

Packing up

We're having a beautiful, sunny day.  It feels like spring here.

Jacho and I met at the Bodega de la Trattoria in San Isidro for lunch.   We ate on the patio in front of the restaurant and enjoyed the warm sunshine after so many cloudy, damp days.   Afterward I walked a few blocks over to Wong for some last-minute purchases.

I've just finished packing my suitcases for the trip back to the US and have about three hours to kill before I meet the cousins for dinner and drinks before heading to the airport tonight.

I forgot that I wanted to bring back a small amount of chicha de jora to see if I could use it as a starter to brew a batch of my own but I know the market stalls in Magdalena and Jesus Maria will likely be closed by this time of day.   Right now it doesn't seem worth the effort to go to the fair at the Campo de Marte to buy it...


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Larco Museum



After lunch at Toshiro's I ventured to Pueblo Libre and the Larco Museum.    The museum, between its permanent exhibits and storehouse, houses one of the most extensive collections of pre-Columbian artifacts in Peru and has long been one of the foremost museums in Lima.   

The museum was established in 1926 by Rafael Larco Hoyle to house and exhibit the private collection he and his father had amassed, primarily by purchasing and merging other private collections from hacienda owners in the north of Peru.   Originally housed in 17 rooms in the Larco family's Chiclin hacienda near Trujillo, the collection was transported to Lima in 1949.   There, Mr. Larco purchased a 17th Century mansion to house the museum and established a foundation to ensure its continuity and promote the study of the artifacts.




Although it contains significant  examples metallurgy and weaving from anciet Peru, the bulk of the collection consists of ceramics;  some 45,000 pieces, almost all of which are on display to the public, as the museum is unique in that it opens its storehouse to the public.


The storehouse consists of room upon room of pottery -almost all of it from northern Peru- classified according to culture of origin and distinctive features (form, imagery, etc.).   The objects in the storehouse are only minimally labelled as they are not part of the exhibits per se, but are a research collection.

Nonetheless, wandering its passages, one can find interesting examples of the ancient Peruvian potters' art, for example depictions of disease and other maladies.


Many of the nicest and most representative pieces are, of course, on display in the permanent exhibit:

Moche portrait vase (c. 150 - c. 800 C.E.)


Inca keros or ritual chicha vessels (c. 1200 - 1533 C.E.)


Post-Conquest kero (16th Century)


Inca urpus or aryballos (c. 1200 - 1533 C.E.)

Inca quipu (c. 1200 - 1533 C.E.)

Inca quipu (c. 1200 - 1533 C.E.), detail

Moche war maces (c. 150 - 800 C.E.)

Moche silver "coccyx protectors", part of Moche war gear (c. 150 - 800 C.E.)


Detail of Colonial-era painting depicting the "Kings of Peru"

Moche depiction of a warrior (c. 150 - 800 C. E.)

Unopened mummy bundle, pre-Inca
And, despite all their not incosiderable skill, it is refreshing to know that even for Moche potters all did not always go as planned:



What the Larco Museum is most famous for is, of course, its collection of  "erotic" pottery.   The ancient Peruvians, and the Moche in particular, were not shy about depicting all aspects of life in their ceramics, including sexual themes.

Many of those are clearly for ritual use, and most probably bear some religious significance.  Many of them are quite frank depictions of coitus, fellatio, and mutual masturbation.

I once read a book by a young woman who visited Peru, I believe in the 1940s, and paid a visit to Mr. Larco.  He proudly showed her his collections, but demured from showing her the huacos eroticos, which he kept behind a curtain, as they were not "appropriate for a young lady".   Fortunately, by the time I toured the museum with my third grade class from Colegio Abraham Lincoln, attitudes had changed and, to our delight, we got to see all the exhibits.
Due to the content, I decided not to bother taking pictures of that part of the collection on this visit, but when I saw the expression on the faces of these two, I couldn't resist snapping their picture!


Toshiro's

Well, all the visitors have gone back to the US, save only dad and I, and I've got just until Friday night, so I've had to at the same time try to fill my days, and prioritize things so that what I do end up doing is worthwhile.

So, one of the things I decided to do yesterday was take myself to lunch at a place that I'd been curious about for some time: Toshiro's sushi in San Isidro.

The first thing I noticed was that the signage had been changed from Toshiro's Sushi Bar to Toshiro's Japanese Restaurant - yes, like that, in English.   I presume the change also reflects a change in focus for the restaurant, as sushi was a minor part of the menu.

My cousin Juancho, a foodie like his namesake, had peeked into Toshiro's once and disliked the ambience and thus had been resistant to going there on occasions when we've gone out for sushi.   The thing is that the restaurant occupies a mezzanine inside a casino and is not itself visible from the street.  Even though it has a separate entrance from the casino itself one must still pass through a small bar lobby, in full view of the slot machines, to reach the steps up to the restaurant proper, and it was that bar that he had seen.   Once inside the restaurant, however, it is as if the casino did not exist.

I was surprised to find the place empty of diners even though it was lunch time.  The itamae told me that it was fairly unpredictable but that on Mondays they tended to be full more often than on other days.  Anyway, it good for me as I was well-tended-to and I got to chat with the itamae.

I ordered a beer while I perused the menu at the sushi bar.   While in Lima -as in the California- most sushi restaurants focus on rolls and tend to be quite creative with the ingredients and extensive in their combinations, Toshiro's tends to focus its sushi on more traditional styles -nigiri, very simple makis (think tekka maki), chirashi sushi, and so on- fancy maki rolls occupy a back page in the menu and there are only eight or ten listed.   Now, don't ask me if it's Edo style or what else as I don't know, but the point is that the point of Toshiro's sushi is the fish.


 I started with a sushi selection, which is left to the discretion of the itamae based on what's available.  I was not disappointed.  The fish was very clean tasting and delicious.   At first one think's "that it?" but near the end of the plate one realizes that there is actually quite a bit there.

 I followed that up with a couple of pieces of uni - sea urchin roe.  The roe was from Peruvian waters, and my itamae explained that it was a lucky day in the urchin deparment as Toshiro Konishi, the owner and exective chef, is very picky about urchin roe, more often than not rejecting what other restaurants would gladly purchase.


In the US a lot of people seem to not like sea urchin. In part, I'm sure, it's that it's roe and that it's urchin, but the strong flavor of urchin roe available there must dissuade a big part of it's detractors.  If they'd tasted this uni, they'd likely change their tune.  The absolute freshness of this urchin made all the the difference.   I could still taste the ocean when eating it but it had no "fishyness" at all, rather an underlying sweetness and butteriness...  It was simply delicious.

As a parting courtesy, I was given an on-the-house cebiche of Peru's excellent scallops,  served with a dab of avocado, a mix of tartar sauce and grated maca root, and topped with tobiko.  It was a nice finish  to a fine meal.





Toshiro's Japanese Restaurant
Av. Conquistadores 450
San Isidro - Lima

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sunday Family Lunch


On Sunday, as a sort of despedida to those who were leaving the following morning (i.e. today), and mostly, for simple pleasure of hosting everyone, we fixed a big family lunch at our apartment.




The main dish was a 12-lb piglet that we baked with oranges and rosemary.



We served it with corn, glazed carrots, and a trio of native potatoes, boiled and then baked with olive oil, rosemary, and garlic.

Afterward, everyone hung out, and the boys -not unexpetedly- broke out the cards and chips.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Fair finds

Yesterday, after lunch I made time to head to the 15th Lima International Book Fair which is being held at a park near San Felipe, Parque de los Proceres -which everyone still calls Matamula, even though it's name was officially changed in the early 1970s.

Aside from a book on early photography in Ayacucho and one on the events in Bagua last June, I was rather pleased to find some older books which can be rather hard to find in Spanish, including a translation of Capital that was previously unknown to me.


Particularly pleasing was the opportunity to pick up a copy of the bookbound edition of Rafo León's Caín y Abel.


Caín y Abel  originally appeared as a series of vignettes in the monthly No! supplement to Lima's magazine in 1987.  The storyline was told from the viewpoints of two twin brothers, Caín and Abel. 
 

Caín was a rebel, part of Lima's "underground" (subterraneo or subte) music scene, and something of a black sheep. His contributions were punctuated with swear words and lyrics.   Abel, on the other hand, was a sweet, studious boy, who wanted nothing more than to please his mother, and who's sanctimoniousness drove Caín crazy and made his father worry for his sexual orientation.   The humor lay in the disparate ways that each described the very same events and the way that León was able to so fully convey each of his character's idyosincratic world-views.

Embarcadero 41

Yesterday was a holiday so we took advantage of that to have a lunch gathering of the cousins.  At my cousin Mariana's suggestion we met at Embarcadero 41, a seafood restaurant in Surco.   We had a nice time  chatting and joking, which we hadn't all had a chance to do at the wedding last weekend nor on the 28th when we had met for drinks at Mama Batata's, a club in Miraflores.

It was kind of funny when Erin, a guest of Sara's, commented that "it seems that if we aren't shopping, we're eating".    She concluded that that was fine however as the food in Lima is "great".    We all agreed that if one likes seafood,  Peru is the place to come, and that the variety and  freshness of the seafood here sure beats the "clams and salmon, and maybe a halibut," combo that is the staple of US seafood cuisine.

The food at Embarcadero 41 was no exception, although it did seem that in their ambition to provide variety the cooks hadn't really mastered all their dishes.  The cebiches and tiraditos were right on the ball, as were the rice-based dishes and causas.   The soups and stews seemed like an afterthought, relegated to the back of the menu.   This was confirmed by the shrimp stew, chupe de camarones, which Liz ordered and which all declared good but a bit plain, and no standout.

Another dish that received mixed reviews was the grilled octopus that Liz, Carla, and I ordered to share.   Many of our party liked it, but the three of us thought that it delivered rather less than it promised; that it was well marinated, in terms of tenderness, but it lacked somewhat in flavor. That simply slapping some anticucho sauce on it at grilling time was uninspired.  Maybe our standards have been raised a bit higher.

The whole fried fish, on the other hand, -in this case, cabrilla, prepared "Nikkei" style- was a hit.  The vegetables were crisp and fresh, and the sauce sweet without being cloying. 


 Nor did the dessert cart leave much to be desired ...



Of course, the true show stealers were the kids!





Embarcadero 41
Calle Fleming 141
Santiago de Surco - Lima
http://www.embarcadero41.com