Saturday, September 26, 2015

Looking back...

At the Lima airport, on my way back, on August 3rd.

So, looking back, how was the trip?

Obviously, it was excellent in all the ways that matter: time with family and friends.

Did I do or accomplish all that I wanted?  Yes, mostly.

Liz and I had our amazing meal at Central, and the fun pachamanca gathering at Diego's new home.  I did get to celebrate my birthday with the extended family and I was able to make it to Toti and Marina's anniversary celebration, even though I was not able to dance.

As for books, I had a small list, and I got them all, so I'm good on that front.

Unfortunately, my ability to get around and do stuff was curtailed by the injury to my knee, which kept me practically house-bound for a couple of weeks, so I didn't get to a couple of exhibits and talks that I wanted to attend, for example.

I did have on my list for the trip getting to know the Lima craft beer scene better --or indeed, at all.

I did know the Barranco Beer Company already and Cerveza De Tomas already --neither of which I was able to return to, despite my wishes-- but now I wanted to get to know more of the offerings, and if I could, installations, of other breweries.

Altogether, I tried twenty-seven different Peruvian beers on this trip.  That alone signals a seachange from when what was available were a smattering of offerings from Backus & Johnston and  Cerveceria del Sur, being principally lower or higher quality variations of the same type of golden or dark lagers.

I did not get to visit Cerveza Magdalena's brewhouse, despite having a personal invite to do so, due to my leg injury, but I did manage to tour Nuevo Mundo's brewhouse and attend the soft opening of their tap room, which was a lot of fun.  I also discovered the Hops brewery. It is nice having a brew-on-premises brewpub so easily accessible from San Felipe.

So, all in all, it was a good trip --which, but for my knee issue, could have been a bit better-- and I am already looking forward to next year.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Lima Craft Beer: Cerveza Hops

The first craft brewery I visited on this trip was actually Hops in Lima's Pueblo Libre district, just down the street from the Queirolo tavern and kitty-corner across the plaza from the Archaeology and Anthropology Museum.

Hops does not seem to emphasize its beer production side very much, but rather seems to have put its focus on its role as a multi-story discotheque and event space, with a brew-on-premises pub and restaurant included.   For example, the fermentation tanks are visible to the public, but are located on a second story and in a part of the building that, while open, is not utilized during the day.

That is too bad, because one of the challenges that craft brewers have in Peru is overcoming Peruvians' unfamiliarity with brewing and beer styles other than Pilsner-style lagers and dark lagers, and educating the public on them can only help the craft beer market grow.  And I think people would be interested, and that in itself would draw more customers.

The house beer menu

In any case, Hops has a decent selection of house beers brewed right on the premises, and even claims to have Peru's first and, so far, only beer made with  smoked malt.

Unfortunately, they were out of the Smoked beer and of both the Bock and the Stout, on the day I visited, but I did get to try some of the others.
The beers were nice.  Not as good as what we'd expect from a quality craft brewery here in the US, but definitely drinkable and enjoyable.  We must remember that the craft brewing scene in Peru is very new and ingredients --particularly hop varieties and specialty yeast strains-- are hard to come by.  Given those constraints Hops deserves to be commended for being one of the pioneers of craft brewing in Lima, having been established nine years ago.

After enjoying the Pale in the afternoon, with lunch, I returned in the evening to sample more accompanied by my dad. (One can tell that this visit was earlier than my visit to Nuevo Mundo brewery because my hair hand't yet been trimmed.)

I liked all the beers I tried, but I particularly liked the Dunkel. It could easily have been a lager with some color added, but instead it had more body and a slight roasted character which I liked and, actually, was looking for (I had really wanted to try the stout).

Pale ale
Wheat beer

Av. General Manuel Vivanco N° 785
Pueblo Libre - Lima - Peru

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lima Craft Beer: Nuevo Mundo brewery and draft bar

 Two weeks ago, while trying to locate a craft brewery that I had an invitation to tour, I injured my knee and so, even once I had the correct address, I was forced to take a pass on the invitation.  Then, a few days later, I had to skip another brewery tour and guest list-only soft opening of their tap room.

Last Friday, I was finally well enough that I felt able to take on the tour, and so I got myself and Juancho on the guest list for it.   The young woman signing us in was somewhat incredulous that there were two of us with the same name and surname, until she saw our IDs!

The brewery was Nuevo Mundo, in Surquillo.

Their facilities are small, producing only 75 barrels a month, but they are expanding into a building that is being constructed next door, on the same property, that will allow them to install larger kettles and fermenters.

The brewery was started by a couple of Frenchmen, one of whom, Alain -originally from Alsace- gave us the tour and explained the brewing process, ingredients, and different beer styles.  No small feat, considering that most Peruvians have not had exposure to many styles of beer and brewing terminology.

Unfortunately, it hasn't been easy for small brewers to break into the beer market, although Cereveceria Barbarian, has done a lot to pave the way by getting its products into several major grocery store chains - Metro, Wong, and Plaza Vea.  Most access to craft beers is through a few restaurants and by directly ordering from the brewery.

Nuevo Mundo does have a small bottle shop and bar at the brewery where one can buy bottles --or cases!-- of brew, or put down a few draughts of their selection of British and Belgian-style ales.  However, they are hoping to expand their exposure and sales volume through their new Nuevo Mundo Draft Bar located in an upstairs space right across the street from the mian park in Miraflores, on busy and touristy Avenida Larco.

Miraflores city hall hasn't come back with the final permit approvals, so Nuevo Mundo has been carrying out an extended soft-opening of the Draft Bar for invited guests.   As part of our tour event we had entry to that evening's session, for which Nuevo Mundo had secured a number of guest beers --including a yummy sour ale with sauco from the Cerverceria del Valle Sagrado, in Cusco-- and rolled out a brand new special offering of their own, an imperial India pale ale (about 8% ABV).  We also got the opportunity to compare the bottle and draft versions of their Barihuait barley wine (which I like a lot!).

The space is nice and well-appointed, and the staff is quite nice.  I hope the bar does well for the brewery.

I think it will.

Nuevo Mundo brewery
1227 Prolongacion San Lorenzo
Surquillo - Lima

Nuevo Mundo Draft Bar
Av. Larco 421 (upstairs)
Miraflores - Lima

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Yesterday, I happened to look out the window at just the right time to catch a few glimpses of a newish denizen of San Felipe: a squirrel.

Squirrels are not native to the Lima area and were not present in this part of the city when I was a kid, though there were some living wild on the zoo's grounds.  This squirrel is an example of the Guayaquil squirrel (Sciurius stramineus), which is native to southern Ecuador and northern Peru.  Their home range ends several hundred miles to the north of Lima, but they have been introduced to the city accidentally or intentionally, probably on more than one occasion, at least as far back as 40 or 45 years ago.

Some years ago --maybe five or six-- I spotted a squirrel in San Felipe, but it was being hunted by a hawk.  Subsequently, I neither saw any more nor did I hear a ny further reference to any squirrel here until late last year,  when a neighbor posted a photo of one to FaceBook, indicating that it was the only one.

It may be the only one or one of a small number, but I had seen neither hair nor hide of any until yesterday, when I spotted this fellow (girl?) drinking nectar from the blooms of a balsawood tree.

Anyway, it is interesting to me to observe the changes in the local fauna over time.  Not only is the bird population that lives here different in many ways from when I was a kid, but now I have confirmation of a new mammalian presence.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

La Picantería

My big adventure today was going to the grocery store and to the bank, after a week of not being able to walk to or from either, even though they are quite close to our building.  I made it, but it was hard.

Fortunately, my outing earlier in the day was much easier and much more pleasant: lunch at La Picantería, in Surquillo.

La Picantería is the second restaurant (well, third, if you take into account that his other one has two locations -even though one was started by his parents) by chef Héctor Solís.

With La Picantería, Solís entered the Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants list for the second time (the first being with his other restaurant, Fiesta).  La Picantería was included at no. 31, which is a great accomplishment for a retaurant that just opened its doors in 2012!

La Picantería's food is traditional Peruvian, with a north coast influence --Solis' family is from Chiclayo-- and I must say it is just fantastic and fun.   All dishes are intended for sharing while seated at long communal tables.

There is no set menu, and the offerings change daily and written on chalkboards.  Fish is displayed on ice at the counter and is bought whole, by weight, and cooked as requested by the diner, or even in a combination of dishes.

The restaurant has a deal to get the day's catch directly from the fishermen, bypassing the markets and even the fishing terminals, so that what arrives is the best, freshest catch, and which has gone through as few hands as possible.  And the quality of the fish even impressed Willy, who's fished recreationally for many decades up and down the coast.  He said, for example, that he had never encountered a cachema of the weight of the one we ate or the others on display.

We started our meal with a beef tongue stew, followed by a rocoto  relleno --a rocoto hot pepper stuffed with seasoned chopped beef and toped with cheese and a poached hen's egg-- set in a bowl of chupe soup.

Those were followed by a 1 kg cachema prepared in a sudado.

We had also ordered a rice dish, but given the size of the portions, we didn't have room, and luckily were able to cancel that order.

We did, however, share a serving of crema volteada -- basically a thick flan.

From the cancha given as a nibble while waiting, to the drinks, to every dish we ordered, there was not one that any of our party would have found lacking in any way.  The heat level, salt level were both just right. It didn't even occur to anyone to ask for aji, even though the dishes were not specially spicy on their own. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Craft Beer Stand at the Lima Book Fair

I had a hard time at the book fair, I must say.

The fair is set up under a tent erected over the central part of park, covering a fountain and a number of steps.  The floor is thus of plywood sheets over a frame, and covered with carpeting, all of which makes in a bit uneven in many spots.  With my aching and sensitive knee, it made walking difficult, and even a bit perilous.   It was also very hot under the tent, and my off-gait was causing me to expend extra effort as it was.

Fortunately, there is a craft beer stand in the food court, set up and run by a small distributor representing four small breweries - three from Lima and one from Cusco.

I chose two beers to try.

First, I opted for the Ayrampo Roja from the Sacred Valley Brewery, whose beers I had never tried before.

The Ayrampo Roja (6% ABV, 35 IBU) is a red beer (hence the roja) coloured with caramel malt and the fruit of the ayrampo cactus, which is native to the Peruvian Andes and has long been used to color foods in the highlands.  The beer was good, and there was no ayrampo flavour (it can taste a bit like red beets).

Next, I went for one from the Cumbres brewery.  I have tried one other of Cumbres' beers, their Quinoa Kolsch, so I was anxioux to try another of their offerings.

I opted for the Maracumanto (6.2 % ABV).   Maracumanto is a Belgian Pale Ale, fermented with maracuuyá and aguaymanto  fruit.   I half expected it to be sour, owing to the presence of the maracuyá, but it was not sour at all.  It was actually very refreshing, and relatively low in fruit notes in the mouth, even though they came through in the nose.

Needless to say, I then felt quite refreshed!

Lima Book Fair

I hurt my knee last week so I've not done much.    It was just yesterday that I've started to go out to places other than relatives' homes, and my cousin's medical practice.

My big adventure for the day was to get dropped off at the Lima International Book Fair after lunch at Toti and Marina's.

Normally, I hit the book fair a couple of times and can easily spend a couple of hours there on each visit.  This time, however, owing to my knee issues, I zipped through only stopping at a handful of stands, most of which I had already decided on visiting anyway.  In fact, I only delved in depth into two of them --those of the Istituto de Estudios Peruanos and of the Instituto Frances de Estudios Andinos-- and I only bought books at IEP's.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tarata Street

Strolling through Miraflores last week, Liz and I stumbled across Tarata Street, which I had known about but had never visited.

Before 1992, Tarata was just a quiet Miraflores side street -much as it is today- but on the night of July 16, 1992 - 23 years ago today, in fact- a powerful Shining Path car bomb exploded there.

There were one or two reports at the time (which I cannot find now) that indicated that the carbomb was actually intended for the banks on the main avenue a block away, but the car collided with a pickup truck at the intersection where the monument now stands and was abandoned minutes before it exploded.  

Those reports were buried or swept aside by the horrendous toll: 183 homes, 400 businesses, and 63 automobiles were either damaged or destroyed, and 25 people were killed and another 155 wounded that night.

People connected with the Shining Path have a t various points corroborated those initial reports that the bomb was not targeted at the civilian population, that it was intended for the banks, that it was a mistake, that the charge was too large.  However, it is hard to see how that one short block would have made any difference given the size of the charge used.  The shockwave would have still travelled down the canyon formed by Tarata's buildings and blown in very window, showering residents with flying shards of glass and other debris.  Either way, it is of little comfort to those who were hurt or lost loved ones.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Lunch at Ámaz restaurant

Last week, just before Liz headed back to the US, we took ourselves out for lunch in Miraflores.  Wanting something a bit special and something on the lighter side, Liz picked ámaZ as our spot. 

We found, by the way, that Monday afternoon is not a bad time to go out, as we were able to be seated immediately without having a reservation.

ámaZ offers appetizers, but also offers many of its dishes in half-portions, so we opted for sharing a mix of dishes.  We have both enjoyed ámaZ's fare in the past, so we knew that we would not be disappointed.  Additionally, we knew from the menu and the attention to detail that there would not be a problem accomodating Liz's dietary restrictions (no gluten).  As it turns out, at ámaZ no grain flours are used, and only a few of the dishes contain soy sauce or hoisin, so almost the entire menu was wide open to us!

Cebiche ámaZ - made with fish and bananas

Los maduros de Doña Eli - plantain cups, with onion and smoked pork relish.
These were so good that after ordering a half portion, we ordered this full portion as well.

Avispa juane - rice and pork, cooked in  bijao leaves

Seafood and vegetable sautee

Charapa hot peppers and cocona fruit salsa

Helado de cecina - ice cream flavored with smoked peccary meat, with a dark beer reduction, Maras salt, and a sapote granita

Jungle fruit sorbets - capirrosa (pink), cocona (yellow), and copoazu (white).
The copoazu sorbet was a revelation.  Being related to cacao, its sorbet did have a hint of chocolate flavour at the very end of each mouthful, but to get to it one had to traverse a mix of sweet, not-so-sweet, paint, and other oddly familiar -but none unpleasant- flavours.  It was weird, but good, and so much of both that one wanted just a bit more, and just a bit more...

It was a great last lunch together before our few weeks apart, and the fare being so flavourful but light, neither of us was too full to walk for a bit.

We headed toward Parque Kennedy, where we had some coffee at an outdoor cafe before heading home.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Labor Unions Rally and March

On July 3rd Peru's largest labor confederation, the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP)  called for rallies and marches to push for an increase in wages, salaries, and pensions, and to show support for the communities of the Tambo Valley in southern Peru who have been resisting the attempts by the government and Southern Copper Corporation and Newmont Mining expand the Tia Maria copper mine.

A large part of the rural communities of the Tambo Valley residents fear the mine expansion will be detrimental to their health and to the local economy, polluting water supplies and damaging pastures.  They charge that the environmental impact assessment was haphazard and that the government rushed through its approval process with minimal review.

After protests turned ugly following a number of documented abuses committed by on-duty police as well as off-duty police hired by the company to quell protests, the government sent in troops and imposed a state of emergency on several southern provinces, limiting freedom of assembly and placing some communities under night-time curfews.

On July 9th several thousand people gathered in Lima's Plaza Dos de Mayo, a traditional spot for such events, in front of the CGTP offices.