sunday, may 23, 2010
El CalifaThere is a Platonic ideal for the local lunch joint. It's a place you'll find anywhere in the world, jam packed every day of the week by folks who know what the regional cuisine should taste like because they grew up with their grandmother cooking it.
If you ever happen to wind up in Puerto Maldonado, Peru that restaurant is El Califa. For almost three decades the Portocarrero family has cranked out the best lunch in town featuring the jungle cuisine done in the best blue collar tradition. This place is so working class they also sell tractors on the side, just ask 'em.
At first glance, it ain't much; just a plain wooden structure at the end of one of the town's many dirt streets that only stands out because the paintjob is relatively fresh. The decor inside is similar ; a wide open room with about two dozen tables, each with a glass top and the menu underneath. But the clues are there. Among the usual tourism promo posters that adorn the walls is an aging portrait of the restaurant's founders - the hallmark of the great lunch joint. read more
monday, october 08, 2007
Harry's Cafe de WheelsHarry's Cafe de Wheels is a bit of a Sydney insitution. Located in a tiny shed-like storefront just off Woolloomooloo Bay (there are a couple other located across the city), they serve up that estimable Australian staple, the meat pie. The Tiger Pie to be exact. A baked meat pie topped with mashed potatoes, mashed peas and gravy.
Done wrong, this offering is a nightmare for your digestive system. Done well and it's a hearty and filling meal. And Harry's tends to hit the mark. read more
thursday, june 28, 2007
La RedThe far north section of Miraflores roughly along La Mar Avenue has been transformed into an epicenter of Peruvian seafood establishments. More than a half-dozen of Lima’s premier eateries featuring the abundance of the country’s waters are to be found in this little neighborhood.
Many of these places have opened in recent years – major restaurants backed by well known chefs – but there is at least one that is a long-time landmark here, so much so it is pretty easy to miss it when you venture into this little cluster of streets.
From the street, La Red looks like one of the countless neighborhood markets found across Peru. Most likely, this was originally a home and an informal restaurant was opened in the front room. The back-story certainly lends credence to that theory. read more
monday, may 21, 2007
SoniaTwenty-eight years ago, the wife of a fisherman in the beachside town of Chorillos near Lima opened a little restaurant with four tables and an abiding respect for the bounty of the Peruvian sea.
Sonia Bahamonde's restaurant, Sonia, has gone from that humble beginning to taking its place as one of the premier seafood restaurants in Lima.
The restaurant earned a smidgen of international renown last year when it was featured in an episode of Anthony Bourdain's show, No Reservations. He was brought to Sonia by Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio who, on the program, explained his reason for selecting the establishment thusly:
"Because the owner is a fisherman. Because his wife is a cook... And because this is the real flavor that Peruvians love." read more
wednesday, may 02, 2007
Kleph's KitchenAt long last my cooking blog, Kleph's Kitchen has returned.
Last year I began collecting my recipes and observations on a blog... an endeavor that quickly spiraled out of control. By October I had averaged better than a post a day and was nearing 300 recipes. Then the blog service I was utilizing decided to become inoperable. So I put the site on hiatus while I worked on moving it entirely into the warm bosom of Kleph.com.
monday, february 26, 2007
Soft Drinks in South AmericaYou are what you drink. And nowhere is that more true than in South America.
Soft drinks – or gasiosas, as they are called in Spanish – can vary widely across South America. With interesting histories and cultural significance that are as important to the people that drink them as the taste itself. The different herbs and fruits that are indigenous to the region give many of the most popular brands their distinct taste.
These also pose a bit of the challenge for outsiders trying them for the first time. Venturing out of my coca-cola universe into this strange world of drinks took as much courage as getting on the plane to come south in the first place.
The most formidable hurdle has to be the undeniable fact that many soft drinks in South America are a god bit sweeter than what you get in the US. A lot sweeter, in fact. Part of this is due to the fact that US soft-drink makers tend to use corn syrup as a sweetener. In South America, sugar prices are much lower and the drinks feature the real thing. read more
monday, november 06, 2006
An Interview with Gaston Acurio: Part IIEarlier this year, I had the opportunity to sit down with famed Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio and talk about food. Peruvian food, in particular.
Acurio insists that Peruvian food is on the verge of international acceptance and he has specific plans to be on the forefront of that wave.
In this portion of my interview (Part I interview can be found here), Acurio discusses how he has exported his different restaurants from Peru, how he comes up with a concept and how he intends to bring his businesses - and Peruvian cusine - to the United States.
What is the underlying philosophy behind the Astrid y Gaston chain?
You don’t want to set too many rules. You want to have the same philosophy but every place has different rules. Every Astrid y Gaston has to have a different atmosphere. They keep some Peruvian aspects like ahi’s and different traditions but then fuse them with local ingredients and dishes and traditions as well. All the restaurants have a point in common but they each need to be inspired by their own place. read more
monday, october 30, 2006
An Interview with Gaston Acurio, Part IGaston Acurio is the leading light of Peruvian cuisine. And, as this distinctive style of cooking grows in popularity beyond the country’s borders, he is more and more, the face of the culinary revolution.
The 38-year-old is a bona fide celebrity in Peru where his cooking show is a hit and his cookbooks are in high demand. But his reputation is cemented by the continuing popularity of his ever-expanding number of restaurants in Lima – particularly his flagship Astrid y Gaston in Miraflores.
His reputation beyond Perus border’s is growing as well. He was named Latin American Entrepreneur of 2005 by American Economia magazine was a guest speaker at Gastronomia Madrid Fusion conference in Spain this year. read more
monday, october 09, 2006
Rincón ChamiThere is just something about a bar-style diner that sings to the southern heart that beats within my breast.
Rincón Chami is about a block off the Parque Kennedy in the heart of Miraflores. That puts it just close enough to the horde of crap restaurants aimed at pulling in bewildered gringos that I was a bit suspicious of the place. The patio full of gore-tex clad Westerners clutching their backpacks as they tried to thumb through their travel guides that seemed ubiquitous at the place on the weekend didn’t help.
But, after moving into a small apartment a few blocks away, I started passing the place during the week and I noticed something. There were a LOT of Peruvians that ate here regularly. Moreover, even when the tourists were filling the front tables, the back ones were filled with the local residents. read more
tuesday, september 26, 2006
Hocca BarDecadence cannot be overrated but it certainly can be overdone, which is why it is often best left to the professionals.
Even so, I firmly believe that on occasion we all need to experience the truth of the maxim that "too much is not quite enough."
Which is why Hocca Bar is such a glorious delight. This Sao Paulo institution has mastered the glory of luncheon counter decadence allowing us mere mortals to delight in excess we’d dare not venture into elsewhere.
Take the unrepentant gluttony of the mortadela sandwich. This is a heaping slab of meat grilled up hot with a layer of sautéed onions and melted mozzarella cheese covering the whole proceeding. This is a concoction to rival the powerful glory of a properly done Philly Cheese Steak sandwich.
But be prepared; this is your first heart attack served up on a paper plate with not a single iota of apology or a smidgen of regret. They leave that to you. read more
friday, august 04, 2006
Inka GrillAn ubiquitous feature to every town in Peru is the restaurant on the Plaza de Armas. It’s almost as if it were a law somewhere. And the larger the town the more likely there is a person wielding a menu on the sidewalk imploring passers by to come sample their culinary creations.
Too often they are simply set up to take advantage of tourists by featuring the regional highlights but with very little inspiration. The goal is to get you drinking where they will make some real money.
Since Cusco is the gateway to the famed Inca city of Macchu Picchu and a tourist destination in its own right. More than any other Peruvian city, it caters to the tourist industry and, sadly, this means that the pizzeria reigns supreme. Which is why the Inka Grill is such a wonderful change of pace. read more
tuesday, august 01, 2006
Peruvian CuisineThe recent presidential elections brought a small army of foreign journalists to Peru and most were looking to do what we do best - snag a free meal.
As a result, articles on Peruvian cuisine have popped up throughout the year in various publications including the The New York Times, Reuters and The Christian Science Monitor.
And, damn it, I am not about to lose out on the opportunity. So, this month's issue of Latin Trade Magazine, sports an article of mine looking at Peru's leading chef, Gaston Acurio, and his plans to export his success overseas. read more
sunday, july 30, 2006
PachamancaOnce a year, during Peru's Independence Day weekend, there is a huge artist fair in the Campo de Marta park near the center of the city. I'm always in attendance because they also have a food exposition and that means one thing - PACHAMANCA!
While the technique of cooking in the earth is found around the globe, the specifics of how it is done are infinitely variable. One of the most unique approaches is found here in Peru where hot rocks are used in lieu of smoldering coals.
And, like in other cultures, cooking in this manner is a communal affair. The repast becomes a celebration in and of itself. Even though the vendors at the fair were cooking for all comers, you find yourself getting caught up in the spectacle.
My full description of Pachamanca and how it is prepared can be found over at Kleph's Kitchen.
saturday, july 01, 2006
Fiesta Restaurant GourmetI often say Peru is a lot like Louisiana in many ways and never more so than when it comes to food. The Bayou State and this Andean country share the culinary advantages of a plentiful natural larder allied with a vibrant mix of cultures throughout their history.
One more frustrating shared trait is that the ubiquity of places to find great food is counterbalanced by a lack of places that serve fine food. While excellent food is to be found in pretty much anywhere in Louisiana you pretty much have to head to New Orleans to find a four star restaurant.
And it is similar in Peru. Which is why I have so enjoyed the unique approach of Fiesta Restaurant Gourmet.
Fiesta is not the cutting edge. You won’t find bold Novoandino creations attempting to fuse a multifold number of culinary traditions on the menu. It is not the type of place where people wearing a lot of Prada flock to. Fiesta is the kind of restaurant that fills with families after mass late Sunday mornings. read more
sunday, june 11, 2006
How Coffee Changed the Modern WorldIt is difficult to overestimate the impact of coffee on our modern world. In fact, an peek at how this interesting plant has changed the world we live in can be illuminating on where we might be headed.
A few years ago I happened to pick up Peter L. Bernstein’s Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk. It’s a fascinating look at mankind’s long and complex effort to understand risk and probability; or, more precisely, to find a way to predict the future from the confines of the present. It turns out that coffee has an interesting chapter in that tale. read more
wednesday, may 10, 2006
FusionFusion is all about first impressions. The restaurant, which seems to be situated in a former residence in this upscale district of Lima, has a cool and sleek décor.
The design is minimal with frosted windows and glass doors but no paintings or pictures on the walls. The chic 50s’ meets the sushi bar furnishings dominated with mahoganies and burgundies. Their comfortable gravity is contrasted well with the fresh cream of the walls.
There is a reassuring element of style that makes one look forward in anticipation to what wonders lie waiting in the menu. That is the work of Rafael Piqueras, a 29-year-old wunderkund who studied at Cordon Bleu in Lima before heading to Italy for further training. He did stints at the world-famous El Bulli and El Celler de Can Roca, both in Spain. So his return to Lima is a much-anticipated homecoming and an opportunity for him to wield his prodigious talents at his native cuisine. read more
saturday, april 22, 2006
La MarIn the year since it opened its doors for the first time, La Mar has been one of the hottest dining spots in all of Lima. The popularity of the place isn’t a passing fancy. There is a lot more going on here than just being hip - there is some serious cooking being done.
La Mar is the brainchild of Gaston Acurio, Peru’s wunderkund chef. He says he looked around Peru for the “perfect” cebicheria - a seafood restaruant serving dishes in the traditional Peruvian style - and, when he couldn’t find one, decided to start his own.
Peru has always boasted an abundance from the sea and the cuisines that have emerged here have always highlighted this largess. It has only been relatively recently that there has been an emergence of restaurants that are attempting to take this long and rich tradition forward into new territory of fine dining. read more
thursday, april 13, 2006
Astrid y GastonPeruvian Chef Gaston Acurio has long been the brightest star in the Peruvian culinary firmament and his fame is steadily growing internationally.
His restaurants are popping up across North and South America but the heart of his cooking philosophy can still be found in his original storefront, Astrid y Gaston, tucked away in a corner the Miraflores section of Lima. This is the restaurant that was recognized as the 3rd best in Latin America and the 74th in the world by The World's 50 Best Restaurants.
Named for he and his wife, the restaurant opened more than a decade ago and has been a mainstay in the Lima culinary scene ever since. There are already branches in Santiago, Quito and Bogotá and plans are in the works to open new ones in Panama City, and Mexico City. read more
sunday, april 02, 2006
Pescados CapitalesPescados Capitales has been one of the most esteemed cevicherías in the Peruvian capital since the brothers Victor and Zue Chang Say opened it four years ago. The duo have risen fast since opening their first restaurant in 1997 in Madrid and this restaurant is a testament to their prowess as restaurateurs.
The restaurant sits snugly on the end of Aveneda La Mar at the edge of the Miraflores district in Lima. It’s façade gives only the slight hint of the riches to be found inside but once through the large wood door you are met an airy elegance that sets the tone for your meal. The open feel of the restaurant’s décor is inviting and casual. The brick and wood layout evokes an almost zen simplicity in terms of design while staying true to the feel of a provincial cevicherías with touches like the white walls and bamboo thatch ceiling. read more
friday, march 31, 2006
Peruvian CookingAs I have noted before, Peru is one of the world's great culinary treasures.
This region's unique geography has blessed it with a plentiful larder. The potato originates from here and there are more than 4,000 documented varieties grown in the country. The cool waters of the Humboldt Current provides the Pacific coastline with more than 2,000 varieties of fish. Each distinct region, coast, mountains and jungle, provides it's own unique contribution to the table. Peru boasts unique varieties of corn, beans, tomatoes and peppers that electrify the culinary adventure.
But this bounty itself is just one factor that has played into the country's great cooking heritage. Over the past millennia, Peru has been a crossroads for dozens of different cultures and the subsequent mix of cooking styles and histories has taken that raw material and made it something profound and amazing. read more
thursday, january 19, 2006
(All of which is something of an anomaly in today's fast food culture. I personally feel if you can't take an hour to prepare a meal, you don't deserve to eat it.) read more
friday, february 27, 2004
Eating CuyI can barely count the number of excellent dishes I have discovered since I ventured to these shores; the smoky flavor of anticucho, the rich decadence of pancitas and the sublime sharpness of the ubiquitous ceviche. The cuisine of Peru is an adventure for the visitor willing to explore beyond the confines of the tastes his culture has taught him.
And while each dish is a revelation worthy of a prolonged discussion it is somewhat obligatory for visitors to Peru to discuss the unique dish of cuy.
To start it is probably best to get over the shock value of this dish... cuy is guinea pig.
That same cute furry little creature that stumbles around a wood chip lined cage in every first grade class in the United States chirping and excreting all over itself. Guinea pig. But in Peru it ain’t a pet. It’s dinner. read more