Thursday, January 29, 2015

Recently I was made aware of a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of a documentary film by another traveller to Peru: Carlo Rojas, a young Peruvian-American, who's returning to his late grandmother's hometown --Huaylas, in Ancash, close to Huaraz-- to get into the culture and explore and document the town's main festival. 

It looks interesting, and I urge you to take a look at it as well:   

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"We Bake Turkeys"

One of the sights that marks the day of Christmas Eve is that of people --often men-- carrying their turkeys to or from the bakery.

Peruvians have adopted the custom of eating turkey for the Christmas meal --which is had late on the night of Dec. 24th-- and many families have their own special recipes for the stuffing, which is usually made of a mixture of meats with dried fruit and seasonings.   The one problem is that most Peruvian households have ovens barely large enough to bake a casserole, let alone a turkey.

So, in December commercial establishments put out their notices --"We bake turkeys"--- and people pay them to bake their turkeys in time for the festivities.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

An example of San Felipe's fauna

On our way out to the car to go to lunch on New Year's Day, Liz spotted this handsome gal crawling along the ground in San Felipe.  Knowing my love for this sort of thing, and because we had found a dead one of these in Chaclacayo, which I showed the kids, she immediately pointed it out to me.

This is a female specimen of what we used to call "toritos" (little bulls), and are scientifically classed in the genus Golofa. This species is probably Golofa aegeon.   I believe that it is a jungle species that was introduced to Lima decades ago and which has adapted to life in the local climate.

The larvae of these beetles live underground and feed on rotting wood.  When I was a child we would occasionally find the large grubs with massive jaws when digging and in rotten wood posts, but it wasn't until later that I made the connection with the adult beetles.  I'm not sure that the adults even eat.  Though they have palps, they do not seem to have any external mouth parts, and I never had occasion to observe a tongue in one of them.

The adults would appear in spring and summer and it was their habit to fly around at dusk, usually high up near the tree tops but would frequently come buzz closer to the ground, and where then not too hard to catch if one moved fast enough to get to them before they again rose out of reach.

At one time, in the 1970s and 1980s, when it was the custom in San Felipe to surround the gardens with wire supported by log sections, toritos were fairly common, but as that practice was stopped I worried that they might have disappeared from the place.  I was gratified that such was not the case and that, even if in reduced numbers, these handsome insects can still be found there.

Monday, January 5, 2015

El Popular

On the 30th of Dec., wanting to go out, and to satisfy Liz's desire to spend some more time by the sea, we sought out somewhere to head to in the evening along the coastline.

One of our usual spots, Cala restaurant and bar, was out due to roadwork along the Costa Verde's seafront road, and Barranco seemed too far to go, so we headed toward the Larcomar mall, where we knew there were several restaurants overlooking the cliffs along the Costa Verde and the beaches below.

Along with Jacho, Jose and Carla --and later joined by Mito--, we sought out a new place that one of Jacho's friends has recommended: Popular.

As it turned out, his friend had attended a private event there, and we happened not only to arrive at the start of their soft opening but we were their very first customers ever!

Because of the soft opening, the restaurant and bar were not yet fully stocked nor all the way in gear, so the menu was limited but in compensation all cocktails were just s/. 5 each!

We ordered appetizers of octopus in olive sauce and crab cakes, followed by their version of lomo saltado.

It was clear that the kitchen and wait staff were not yet fully up to snuff.  Even though the restaurant was pretty empty the food took a while to arrive --but that gave us guys time to have several pisco sours  apiece (which were quite good, actually).

The staff was quite interested in our feedback and, as requested, we were happy to oblige.  

The octopus --not exactly a throwaway of a dish, but one that is done so well by so many in Lima that if it were at all chewy or tough it would not speak well for the kitchen-- was great, and the arugula salad that came with it was a great touch.  Arugula is not much used in Peru, but its sharpness made a great contrast to the richness of the olive sauce.

The crab cakes were underseasoned although basically alright.   They should have been the star of the plate, but instead it was the salad  of baby lettuce, arugula, onion, and cherry tomatoes that stole the show.

The saltado, was interesting but good.  Quite good, actually, and we did praise it highly for its flavor and the tenderness of the meat.  However, it wasn't a saltado (i.e. sautee) per se, but given artistic license, that was neither here nor there. What was an issue that we mentioned was that the meat was overcooked in relation to what we had asked for.  Eventually, the kitchen will surely get it down pat.

Overall, we were impressed with the locale, the decor, and the table settings.  We definitely enjoyed the drinks!  And, despite our critiques, we did in fact like the food quite a bit.

It was a fun night, and it will be nice to go back and see what they can do with a bit more time under their belts.

Larcomar shopping center
Malecon de la Reserva N° 610
Miraflores - Lima

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year's Day Lunch

On New Year's Day we gathered ourselves up and headed to lunch at one of the few types of establishments that would be open on that day: a cebicheria.

Cebiche is one of those dishes that is considered a curative for hangovers and other effects of a "bad night", so naturally, cebicherias expect to do a booming business on any weekend, and specially on days following party-heavy holidays.

Jose called around for reservations, looking for one "not too far away" --from his home, of course!-- got us a table for 10 at El Pez On in Miraflores.

El Pez On is a Lima chain of seafood restaurants. Their calling card is the humor expressed in the signs and cartoons that cover the walls and tables, and in the menu names. Even the restaurant's name is a pun, as Pez On (pez means "fish") is homophonic with pezón ("nipple" or "teat").

The food, for its part, holds its own with any cebicheria in town.  Even if it doesn't exactly "wow" you, you wouldn't likely walk away disappointed -- I certainly didn't hear anyone complaining as they tucked into their dishes of cebiche, seafood risotto, or noodles!

Fish cebiche

Now, my own stomach did do a bit of a somersault after the first few bites of that cebiche, but I expect it was it reacting to the raw fish and acid after being mistreated the night before with beer, wine, rum, and some alcohol in which nectarines had been macerated.  Nonetheless, I did find room for a fish saltado, and even some dessert!

One the Eve of New Year's Eve in Lima

There are pretty much only two days when Lima --yes, pretty much  the entire city-- comes almost to a standstill: Christmas Day and New Year's Day. I mean, not even on Sundays does the place get as quiet and still as it does on those two days.

In between them, however, are a few days of frenzied activity for vendors who have a short window of time in which to get sell their New Year's themed merchandise in preparation for the big night.

 There are a number of traditions associated with New Year's Eve.  For example, some people eat twelve grapes or olives at the stroke of midnight.   Others walk around the block with an empty suitcase in hopes of traveling in the coming year.  Others, taking note that the word for a square block - manzana- is the same as that for apple, take things a bit tongue-in-cheek and stay indoors and just walk their suitcase around an apple.

Yellow, or more accurately, gold, is the color associated with New Year's Eve.  That means that, overnight after Christmas the street stalls and small shops, put away the multicolored swag and lights of Christmas, and everything turns yellow: yellow streamers, yellow table cloths and napkins, flowers, decorations, etc.

One of the things that most stands out is the astonishing amount of yellow underwear that appears as if by magic, as it is fortuitous to greet the New Year wearing new yellow underwear that has been received as a gift.

Where have all those yellow undies been during the rest of the year?  I don't know, but given the sheer amount of it, it seems impossible that it could all be sold in the course of the one week between the two holidays.

Saturday, January 3, 2015