Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lunch at Amaz


On Monday afternoon we took ourselves to lunch at Amaz, chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino's newest restaurant.  At Malabar Schiaffino started exploring the ingredients and flavor of the Peruvian Amazon.  Amaz is wholly dedicated to them.

The restaurant is divided into two spaces --a lighter, open, and colorful entrance-level given over to the bar and informal seating and walk-in diners, and a second, more dimly-lit space with booths and a more sedate, private mood, which is dedicated to those diners with reservations.

We started our meal with drinks and couple of appetizers that Liz and I had tried on our previous visit and had thought that the kids would enjoy.

Clockwise, from top L:  A cocktail, whose name I forget; camu-camu juice;
yuca empanadas with a brazil nut and huacatay hot sauce; giant river snails (churos).

Those were followed by a series of dishes, served family style (all of Amaz dishes are meant for sharing); one dish chosen by each of us.

Duck stew

Patarashca of  -- seasoned dorado catfish grilled in bijao leaves

A pago of doncella fish with onions, sweet peppers, and hearts of chonta palm, cooked in masato

At rear: grilled cecina (smoked peccary meat) over mashed plantain;
Foreground: Fried rice with cecina

Mixed pickled fruits and vegetables

Pickled hot peppers

As expected, it was a great meal, and Nicolas even declared it one of the best he'd ever enjoyed.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Weekend in Chaclacayo

On Friday, almost the entire family headed to the town of Chaclacayo, 27 kilometers east of Lima on the Central Highway.   One of a strinng of small towns and cities along the lower reaches of the Rimac Valley, Chaclacayo was, until recently, a largely semi-rural community and, due to its proximity to Lima and drier, warmer climate, the site of numerous vacation homes for wealthier limenos and of country clubs.

In fact, most of memories of Chaclacayo are tied up with the Huampani country club, due to a number of school day trips there in the 1970s and occasional visits, including one multi-night stay, thanks to my mom's being a teacher and the military government then in power having turned Huampani over to the state teachers' union.

This time around,  Jose and Willy located a large house in a secluded gated neighborhood, which we rented for the weekend.  With nine bedrooms plus a TV room, a barbecue grill, swimming pool, and a kitchen appointed with  the basics, it fit all twenty-nine of us nicely, and we spent a leisurely weekend chatting, joking, eating grilled meats and vegetables, and playing in the pool.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Lunch at La Rosa Nautica


As many of you know, Liz and I just passed our 25th wedding anniversary.  We celebrated it earlier this week by going to lunch at La Rosa Nautica restaurant, which, having been founded in 1983, was one of the forerunners of the current boom in higher-quality restaurants.


We had never been there before, and we quite enjoyed ourselves.  Even though we found the food to not be exceptional in Lima's current gastronomic climate, the service, appointments, and setting of  the restaurant did make for a very nice --and even romantic-- dining experience.  Just the thing for an anniversary date!

From top left:  spiced potatoes with  shrimp, marinated octopus, seafood salad, scallops in cocktail sauce

"Corvina a lo macho" - fish fillet smothered in a piquant seafood sauce

"Hunter-style Rabbit" - cooked in a cognac and port sauce, with smoked ham and tarragon

I had a very Peruvian stocking this Christmas ...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Youth Protest in Lima


On Monday I headed downtown to buy some books.  My trip  there coincided with a march convened by
 numerous youth groups  in one of Lima's central squares, the Plaza San Martin, in order to.march in a show of their rejection of the recently-enacted Youth Labor Law.

Known derisively as the "Pulpin Law" after a brand of fruit juices meant for infants and toddlers, Law No. 30288 provides incentives for businesses to hire youth 18-24 years of age who haven't previously had formal employment or who have not had it in the previous 90 days.  How?  By making their employment exempt from payment of Compensation for Time of Service (money deposited periodically by the employer into a special account, that workers can then use as retirement savings or unemployment insurance), life insurance, hazard pay, family stipends, and twice-yearly bonuses, all of which are mandated by law for other regular employees.

To the apparent surprise of the Humala administration, the youth have roundly rejected the law as discriminatory and have argued that it is actually an attempt to mollify the entrepreneurial sector after two years of slowed economic growth by making it possible to incur those cost savings in up to 25% of their labor force and to receive an additional tax break for doing so.

The march was scheduled to start at 6 pm. The police presence was notable, but it was also evident that they were making an effort to have a lighter touch than the had displayed toward another such march on the 18th, after which the police were accused of inciting trouble after being video recorded charging the marchers with horses and dousing them --and holiday shoppers-- with tear gas.

These young ladies were clearly excited to be there and smilingly asked me
to take their picture

At this march the police were on deployed on foot, and sans side arms and without their usual allotment of tear gas launchers.  They also deployed a larger number of female officers, genteelly outfitted in white cotton gloves.

That "lighter" touch, however, did not prevent the Minister of the Interior, Army General Daniel Urresti, from showing up at a pre-march concentration at a park some distance away from the plaza, and blustering that anyone causing "disturbances" would be dealt with harshly, as well as suggesting that marchers would be banned from wearing backpacks or head coverings, and even that all participants would have to present their national ID and register with the police beforehand.  Those statements earned him a quick rebuke from the head of the president's Ministerial Council.


The march got going promply at 6 o'clock --under the watchful eye of a couple of drones-- with marchers streaming out of the plaza and down Nicolas de Pierola (a.k.a La Colmena) Ave., west down Garcilazo de la Vega (a.k.a Wilson) Ave., and then down Salaverry Ave., and past the Ministry of Labor.

"When the Law is Unjust Protest is a Duty"
An energetic group of young anarchists made up the tail end of the march as it left the plaza:

"If No One Works In Your Stead, No One Should Decide In Your Stead...
No Union or Party Bureacracy; Workers' Free Association!"   

  Later, on my way home from the bookstores, I found that the march had continued past the Ministry of Labor and was now heading down Arequipa Ave. toward the upper middle class and heavily commercial district of Miraflores, passing through the districts of Jesus Maria, Lince, and San Isidro on the way, and disrupting traffic for many blocks.

March proceeding along the two westbound lanes of Ave. Arequipa

I decided to leave my taxi and accompanied the march for a number of blocks at that point, but as I neared home, I decided to continue on my path there.   During my time with the march --which had by now swelled to at least 10,000 and covered a nearly a dozen blocks-- I witnessed many shows of support for the youth, from drivers honking in rythm wiith the chants, passersby clapping for them, and people coming to their windows and balconies to cheer them on.

Large police contingent accompanies the march
The marchers, I saw later on  the news, then gathered and rallied in Miraflores' Kennedy Park. The entire protest lasted some 6 hours, and --despite an attempt to divert the march by a group that managed to split off a contingent along a different avenue-- it went on without incident. 

There was a group that gathered in the Plaza San Marti and who were dispersed and repressed by the police after a brief street battle.  While this was going on the main demonstration was across town, but that hasn't stopped the conservative and pro-business media from trying to smear the protests as violent, or to make ominous pronouncements about "infiltrators".

Sunday, December 21, 2014

In Lima!

Arrived very early this morning (1:43 am), and didn't get to the house until around 4 o'clock.

We spent today having lunch with the cousins and resting after the voyage.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Counting down

It's a matter of days now, until I'll be on my way to Lima.  I'm quite excited!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Airline tickets have been purchased for December.  We'll be spending our first Christmas in Peru as a family, and Liz and I will be having our first Christmas there since 1987 and our first New Year's Eve there since 1991.  Besides, it's been several years since either of the kids have been there.

We're all really looking forward to it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Blue Moon Restaurant

On one of my last days in Lima last August, I went to the Blue Moon restaurant in Lince. 

The Blue Moon has been there for decades.  Up until the late 1980s the building next to it was the location of the Ambassador cinema.  It was there that I saw Star Wars back in 1977.

As for the Blue Moon itself, it has long been a family favorite.   Liz and I ate there on Valentine's Day in 1988, and Mama Pali always enjoyed being treated to a meal there.

The restaurant used to be a somewhat upscale restaurant for its environs and limeno budgets.  Consequently, despite the quality of the food and environment, it had severe drop in clientele in the economic crises of the 1980s and the 1990s' "Fujishock".   The restaurant was probably kept afloat by cash infusions by its owner(s), and it was even rumored --most likely unfairly-- to have been used as a money-laundering front.  Who knows?

In any case, having survived the crises, in the 1990s the Blue Moon bowed to the economic circumstances and to the changing offerings in the Lima restaurant scene, and changing eating preferences among limenos, and shifted from an a la carte restaurant, to one specializing in a lunch buffet in addition to an evening a la carte menu. And what a buffet it is!

The emphasis is a bit different on different days, with some being heavier on the pastas, or on meat dishes, or on seafood preparations.   But there are always a selection of salumi made with such meats as ostrich, wild boar, venison, bison, etc, and dishes prepared with pheasant, rabbit, boar, alpaca, or vizcacha.   These can be preceded, followed, or mixed, as one prefers, with a number of seafood dishes and appetizers,  a multitude of cheeses and pickles, salads, and desserts.

On of the drawbacks of the arrangement is that to keep the number of settings as high as possible after making room for the buffet, they made an already cozy space even more crowded.  But it is not so tight as to be uncomfortable and there are usually enough tables open that parties can spread out and not feel that they're bumping elbows with their neighbors.

Now, quite apart from the great food, the Blue Moon's true calling card may be said to be the awe-inspiring bottle collection displayed along its walls.   The original owner was an avid collector of distinctive and classic bottles, and the practice has been continued.

There are, at last count, an amazing 20,000 soda and liquor bottles displayed in the restaurant.  Bear in mind, however, that that is only the collection on display.

There are many thousands of other bottles of wines and spirits which are on offer to customers and which are displayed on and behind the bar (seen in the photo above, at right), in racks along the ceiling, and crammed into almost every nook and cranny of the place.

It must be a terrifying place to spend an earthquake.

Blue Moon
Jr. Pumacahua 2520
Lince - Lima - Peru

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Of martyrs and popular memory

As we here, in the United States, are now soul searching in the aftermath of the civil unrest and heavy-handed police response in Ferguson, Missouri, I am reminded of an encounter I had recently in Ayacucho and what it revealed to me regarding a set of events that took place in Ayacucho in 1969.

In Huamanga -i.e. the city of Ayacucho-  four students were shot dead by the Sinchis -the police's specialized counterinsurgency battalion- during protests.  In nearby Huanta the toll was higher.

Here is what I wrote about them in my university thesis:

"In January, 1969, the military government had passed Supreme Decree 006 which restricted access to free public education by retroactively instituting a 100 sol  monthly tuition of all students who failed a course the previous year.  Naturally, this measure affected the poor far more than the rich as it was already an economic burden for many families to spare the children long enough for them to attend school, and the very conditions imposed by poverty  made it far more likely that they would fail a course.    Not surprisingly, D.S. 006 proved very unpopular and provoked a four-month-long series of protests in Huamanga and Huanta.   In Huamanga the protests were primarily led by the [Communist Party's local committee] through the Frente de Defensa del Pueblo de Ayacucho (Front for the Defense of the People of Ayacucho, FDPA) and the FER [Revolutionary Student Front].   In Huanta, where the degree of organization was lesser, the protests were more spontaneous and also more violent.   At least 18 people lost their lives and many more were wounded during street battles with police in both cities."

The events are memorialized in a popular song, "Flor de Retama", composed by the late Ricardo Dolorier.   Among the lyrics are the lines

Ay! Come all to see.
By the plaza of Huanta
the Sinchis are coming in.
They're going to kill students,
Huantinos at heart


Although the military tried to suppress it, the people's memory persisted and in 1974 the Front for the Defense of the People of Ayacucho placed plaques at the spots where each of the four students were murdered.

When I was in Ayacucho in July, attending a colloquium on the role of women in armed conflict and pacification in Peru from 1961 onward, I met a gentleman who had been a student at the time of the protests and continued to be involved in the local movement for human rights.   

He told me about the plaques, which to my surprise had been completely unknown to me.

One of them had been placed on the front of a building that was then torn down and the plaque lost.  This gentleman had managed to locate it after several years of searching and the owners of the new building were persuaded to allow it to again be placed at the spot.  I neglected to note the location of it [It is at the corner of Jiron Munive and Jiron Madrid, in the San Juan Bautista district (1/3/15)], and of one other, but I did remember that one was located at the end of Jiron Tres Mascaras, near the "new bridge" over the Alameda River, which runs through town The fourth plaque was, to my surprise, one I had walked past without noticing on many occasions when passing through the archway near the market, on Jiron 28 de Julio.

On my last afternoon in Ayacucho, I made a sort pilgrimage to that spot, and for the first time beheld what had been so often bypassed by me: the plaque, placed by the people of Ayacucho, in memory of one whom they regarded as a martyr in their struggle for social justice - young Eulogio Yaranga Saune, killed on that spot on the 21st of June of 1969, while defending the right of the people to a free public education.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Musical Evenings in Barranco

After starting our evening last Wednesday at the Barranco Beer Company, Jacho, Diego and I, headed around the block to the La Noche cultural center to take in an evening of Urban Singer-Songwriters.

We had such a good time that we returned the next evening to catch a one-man show by Daniel F.

Daniel F (ne Daniel Augusto Valdivia Fernandez) is a singer, composer, and poet (though he rejects that label because, he says, poetry is something higher that what he does), who's been instrumental in the Lima punk/rock scene particularly, and in Peru generally, ever since the he was the frontman for Leuzemia, a seminal Lima band.

While in Leuzemia he wrote songs such as Al colegio no voy mas (I ain't going back to school), Asesino de la ilusion (Killer of hope),  and El hombre que no podia dejar de masturbarse (The man who couldn't stop masturbating) which became well-loved classics.

On Thursday he performed all of those, as well as other older pieces and newer compositions.   The crowd, generally, seemed to know the songs and often sang along during the choruses.

As for me, it was my first time seeing Daniel F on stage and I rather enjoyed it even though I could sing along like 'most everyone else seemed to.

Craft Beer in Barranco

 On Wednesday Jacho and I returned, accompanied this time by Diego, to a spot that we had earlier checked out with Liz while she was still here: the Barranco Beer Company.

Located in downtown Barranco, a half a block from the plaza and the "boulevard" containing the bulk of dance clubs, the Barranco Beer Company was started judging from the press reports I've seen, by a trio of enterprising friends by the members of "a family with a passion for beer". A couple of them, or perhaps all three more several, had spent time abroad and been exposed to the growing craft beer scene in the US and Europe.

They somehow raised the capital and put in a set of (60 barrel?) stainless steel conical fermenters which are visible to visitors at the back of the establishment through  a plate glass divider, while the brew kettles are visible behind the bar itself.

The Barranco Beer Company is, as far as I can tell, the second brew-on-premised beer pub in Lima - after the Cerverceria De Tomas (aka Mi Cebi-Chela) in San Borja.

From L to R: Fifti Lager, Bulls Ay, Weiss Presidente

Their bill does lack a heftier, toastier beer like a porter or stout, and they do do some odd stuff - like combining beer with soda- which is unfortunate because their beer is actually quite good on its own merits, with the "Weiss Presidente" and the "Bulls Ay" being perhaps their best offerings.

Even with the beer being relatively expensive compared to what a similar serving of the mass-produced beers cost, the place is a hit and did not lack for business either night that we were there.

A pitcher of Weiss Presidente
I'd certainly keep coming back just for that weiss!

Barranco Beer Company
Avenida Grau 308
Barranco - Lima - Peru