Sunday, December 31, 2017

Arequipa Peru's CHICHA cooks up a Peruvian feast (12-30-17)

We had only one night in Arequipa and had heard many good things about the top restaurant in town called Chicha which is famous from one of the top chefs in Lima who has opened Chicha branches in several major cities.
 On arrival we were taken past a large open courtyard with an open kitchen,  but led on to a beautiful vaulted stone room with tile floors, nice linens and leather and wooden chairs,  Definitely a Colonial feel with some local woollen art mounted on the walls.
 The drink menu is huge and will chose the Cholopolotan,  a way too sweet drink made with Pisco, Cointreau, Passion fruit, sweet lime and cranberry.  Samuel hit the jackpot with a Pisco Punch made with pineapple syrup and lemon that was not sweet at all and I went with the standard excellent Pisco Sour.  The water here was San Pelligrino but at about 7 dollars for a 1/2 liter bottle!!  Bread arrived and there were 3 options from an Andean bread as well as quinoa grissini and the delicious chica morada(purple corn) bread with raisins and nuts.  There was a nice butter made from rocoto chili(which is in virtually every dish here) and parsley. 
 Samuel started with a dish called Ocopa, Salerillo  Potatoes with egg and fried cheese that he adored.
 Will and I decided to combine 3 of the ceviche dishes which included sea urchin, classic sea bass and then the local river shrimp.  Of course they all had lime, onion, sweet potatoes, rocoto, crunchy corn and Peruvian corn and an amazing leche de tigre sauce and was just spectacular.
 We decided to share a dish called Escribano, made of potatoes,  rocoto, tomato and Chicagre with olive oil,  It was a delicious dish and can be explained as a potato salad gone spicy Peruvian style.
 The portions were huge and we began to worry as we had each ordered a main course and probably could have shared them.  Will and I were enjoying a bottle of Tacama Blanco de Blancos,  the same delicious white blend that we had had the night before.  Will had ordered a glass of red wine but unfortunately our server Edson who was excellent was completely overwhelmed by a group of loud and obnoxious Russians wearing stilettos and God knows what at the next table; it never arrived.
 I ended up pouring the rest of the white wine myself and we had to ask 3 or 4 times for 1 or 2 of the non alcoholic drinks that Sam had ordered which he declared wonderful.
 For his main course Sam ordered Torrejitas,  which were  8 huge deep fried vegetable fritters with Ariquepean sauces of rocoto chile, ocopo and huacatey (the famous local black mint which really doesn't taste minty at all).  We knew we had way over ordered.
 Will chose the pork adobo made with cumin oregano onion garlic and chicha(corn beer). The portion was huge and some of the meat a bit fatty but otherwise it was a hit.
 I chose one of the most famous local dishes called Chupa,  a huge thick rich river shrimp soup made with potatoes, fava beans, cabbage, huacatay, corn and milk with shredded spinach on top... It was one of the best soups I've ever had but was so huge I could barely finish half.
Key words to remember here "ORDER LESS!
While the desserts sounded fantastic there was no way on Earth any of us could eat another bite so we gathered our stuff together and walked the 15 minutes back to our hotel and hit the sack before we head back to Lima for New Year's Eve.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Colca Lodge in Colca (Canyon)Valley(near Chivay,Peru) comes up with creative cuisine (12-29-17)

We headed northwest from Titicaca yesterday morning on a long journey to the Colca Valley and ended the day for our overnight at the not so luxurious Colca Lodge. The lodge is famous for it's hot springs, and I welcomed the hot tub fed directly by the springs on our secluded private terrace overlooking the valley with its pre-Incan agricultural terraces. So the fact that the shower had natural rain coming in through a leak and lots of squeaky doors was made up for by the location, springs and restaurant.
The bread and whole wheat grissini that came with garlic butter were okay, but nothing compared to what we had on our journey so far. We also learned from the English menu translation(very good) that the local herb huacatey is called "black mint" in English, although it is not very minty.
We had Passion Sours to start which were Pisco Sours with passionfruit added and while a hint sweet at first, got more sour from the lime as you drank more!
Samuel started with the Taboule de quinua which was a gorgeous tabbouleh/quinoa salad with peas, carrots, corn, pepper and avocado with a fig and peach compote(which he skipped). As always there are FB fotos available.
Will had the Tartare de Trucha nuestro estilo which was a huge portion of trout tartare with quinoa, apple, avocado and curry sauce with toasted Andean bread(rolls). I tired the Causa de Trucha ahumada and while the causa is a famous national potato dish, here there were three (room temp) mashed potato towers with avocado, quail egg, smoked trout, aji amarillo sauce with capers and sprouts that was a wonderful take on the traditional causa.
Will and I enjoyed a 1/2 bottle of Tabernero Peruvian Blanco de Blanco which was a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc that was super with our trout dishes. We ordered a bottle of Intipalka 2015 Syrah for our main courses since a bottle often costs less than 2 glasses or 3 here...we shall enjoy the rest of this plummy wine with a hint of tannins tonight before bed. I have to say I was impressed by the Spiegelau crystal, although we did have Riedel at the MAP Café in Cusco.
Samuel had Le pizzeta caprese of mozzarella, candied tomatoes, olive oil and basil which was gone before I could even get a taste, and while he said it was good, it was not as good as the other pizzas he has had.
Will loved his Aji de Gallina,con cremoso queso Andino, which was a take on the local chicken dish with aji amarillo sauce here with cheese and pecans. I loved my Risotto de quinoa con lomitos de res en aromas de saltado y pisco which was a beautiful quinoa risotto with sautéed sirloin tips marinated in lomo saltado sauce with pisco.
There was no room for dessert, but we did miss our Badoit from back in Cusco as here the local San Mateo sparkling is VERY gassy.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Titilaka on Lake Titicaca in Peru is a truly terrific and memorbale experience for travel and dining (12-27/28-17)

Our two nights and days at the Relais et Chateaux Titilaka were an experience we shall remember for many many years to come so fondly.  Located approximately an hour south of the major city in the region, Puna,  The 14 room lodge is located on a small isolated peninsula jutting out into Lake Titicaca with surrounding native Aymara villages,  that still retain an amazing amount of native culture that we were able to discover.
 The views from the rooms are amazing with huge glass windows overlooking the lake and the food is absolutely some of the best we have had here in Peru.  For my first lunch I had a truly amazing local quinoa and fava bean soup that was out of this world followed by local grilled trout from the lake.
 Dinner was even more impressive starting with a Alpaca Carpaccio with balsamic reduction, rustic pesto sauce, quinoa and arugula salad with dehydrated gooseberries and Brazil nuts.  At first I tasted the dehydrated gooseberry sauce and thought the dish too sweet,  But then mixing in the arugula and other ingredients in one byte made it one of the most delicious carpaccios ever.  
 Will started with the Green Asparagus with Andean pink salt butter, parmesan shavings and poached egg which he declared lovely.
 Samuel chose the Southern Peruvian salad with whole corn, grains, fava beans, local cheese, red onion and black olives.
 He and I then split the Quinoa and avocado salad,  Which both he and Will had actually had at lunch time and declared amazing.
 Wines are complimentary here as is all the alcohol and all the tea, all the coffee and all the amazing meals that are given constantly all day long, so I enjoyed a Peruvian Blanc de Blanc blend from Tacama of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, while Will had a Mapu Reserva Chard from Argentina.
 He and Samuel were feeling very full and both ordered pizzas for their main course, Samuel of course went for the plain Margherita while Will loved the asparagus bacon and quail egg.
 For my main course I went heavy with Lomo Saltado,  a delicious tender beef tenderloin strip with onion, tomatoes and chiles, fried yellow potatoes and traditional rice.  The rice was plain enough to avoid, the potatoes were delicious and the meat was melt in your mouth fabulous especially with the Tacama Seleccion Especial of Petite Verdot and Cabernet which we had already had several times on the trip.
 For dessert, the boys skipped and I had a simple mango sorbet with a lemongrass sauce around it and a simple coconut crisp cookie in the middle.
 It was light and refreshing and the lemongrass sauce reminded me of a kind of slightly spicy fruity creme anglaise.
 Off to bed for early wake up calls as we had an 8 hour excursion to visit isolated islands on the Lake the next day.
 There are some Facebook pictures and they also include our fabulous lunch on the island of Taquile,  about an hour away by boat from the hotel but as if civilization had not reached it in a couple of 100 years.  The folks here have solar panels to heat their water and give them a bit of electricity but it's a simple way of farming life and we had a lot of great fun learning about their traditions.
 Back at the hotel of course there was a grand dinner....
 Our second dinner was even better than all the other meals where I started with a trout ceviche which they serve on the side what is called a chilcano,  which is basically a trout shooter with spicy vinegar salsa. The ceviche itself was loaded with roasted purple corn  and again that amazing trout from Titicaca.  A side note is that today all of the trout served from the Lake is Canadian trout which was imported decades ago and is eating up all of the local fish, so it's one of the few fish that is allowed to be taken from the Lake.
 Samuel started with the rustic Mozzarella and tomato salad with basil and black olives which he said had the saltiest vinagrette he's ever had although he seemed to like it.  Will had the Quinoa and fava bean Andean chowder which I had the day before which just has to be one of the best dishes they make here.
 For main courses will chose a simple Burger with bacon and egg although the fries were cold and Samuel had than gnocchi with rustic pesto sauce.
 My Duck Magret with Andean gooseberries, yellow chili sauce, potato gratin and green beans was truly a spectacular dish and the best duck I've had in the country.
 Samuel disappeared while we'll had a brilliant Quinoa Creme Caramel and I had a chocolate souffle that while it came out more on the less cooked side I truly loved.
 It's sad to know that we're leaving early tomorrow morning as we have truly enjoyed the 2 days here at Titilaka and Lake Titicaca... it's an amazing experience;off to Colca Canyon next.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Cusco Peru's MAP CAFE has it all mapped out magnificently (12-25-17)

Our last dinner in Cusco was right across the street from our hotel at the elegant and very beautiful MAP Cafe located in the  awesome Museum of Precolumbian Art(hence MAP), which Will and I had visited earlier that day.  The museum is in a beautiful colonial home and the 12 or so tables are inside a glass enclosure in the courtyard with some more tables outside,  although it was way too cold to dine outside last night, with temps in the 50's as is normal in the Andean altitudes over 12000feet.
 Our server Claudio offered us a complimentary drink called it a Raymi, which is Quecha for "party"  and was elegantly served in a mini stemless martini glass sitting in a glass of ice.  It was a combination of pisco, lime, gooseberry liqueur and aperol, which we all adored.  We weren't sure that it was included and we have to admit that the 165 soles price(just a tad over $50 each),  was an unbelievable deal for the 3 huge courses and this drink. The sparkling water was Badoit again,  so it must be very popular in the finer restaurants here, and is always a welcome treat, as it's our favorite.
 The unexciting amuse was sweet potato with parsley and sweet pepper and salt that didn't have a lot of taste,  but luckily everything improved from here on.  The breads arrived and were an amazing hit with Sam as there were quinoa grissini, purple corn rolls, pumpkin brioche and flatbread,  All served with an olive oil and balsamic blend seasoned with the local huacatey herb.
We ordered a bottle of Intipalka por Santiago Queirolo Reserve 2015,  which was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah that we again fell in love with.  I loved the adorable little plate for the sommelier to put the cork in front of me on.
Samuel's Sara Lawa  Was a rich cream corn soup with thyme, cheese, broad beans, mushrooms and a poached egg on the bottom and the huacatey herb on top, which he raved about; the soup was poured into the bowl tableside so we could see all the ingredients beautifully arranged.. Will chose the Andean Tortellini in Brodo, which were filled with guinea pig  and served in a chicken broth with Andean mushrooms, confit chicken breast, pickled oyster mushrooms,  fava beans and crispy cuy (yup, guinea pig) rinds.
I went lighter with the Tiradito of Paiche(Amazon fish) with a mild sauce of jungle citrus fruits, camu camu and cocona with plantains and crispy uncusha(one of these was yuca and the other sweet potato).  We were all impressed with all 3 starters and knew that it had to get even better from here.
 We welcomed the long rest and then the palate cleanser which was a tangerine sorbet.
Samuel chose the Quinoa Cannelloni with Truffle, tomato pesto, arugula, and goat cheese filled with a fontina fonduta "poised over a bed of organic sauteed  vegetables, chard stems and baby fennel bulb."  Sadly the dish was so rich in truffles that it almost tasted sweet, it's what I might called overly French saucing. It also lacked the poise stated in the menu.
 Will and I chose the Andean Arroz con Pato,  which was a delicious crispy confit duck leg served with a rice and quinoa risotto with coriander pesto, corn and Peruvian chili sauce(mild). It was indeed perfect.
 Dessert was included so we indulged and Sam having a deconstructed caramelized lemon pie of soft lemon cream, a cookie, burnt meringue and Maras salted caramel ice cream..yum.
Lucuma kisses was on my plate  which was actually a large chocolate shell covering liquid creamy foamy and powdery lucuma in different textures with coffee flavored chocolate sorbet from Quillabamba on the side.  The sorbet didn't win any prizes but boy was the chocolate shell with all of its different flavors and textures inside a big hit with me.
Will chose Tumbao of Tumbo,  A Passion fruit curd  with meringue spheres, kinicha crumble, moringa ganache, strawberry syrup and yogurt ice cream; another hit for three stars.
 The service here was excellent and everything save for Sam's main course was truly impressive and except for that we really had a wonderful last night here in Cusco.
We spent the last night on the newest luxury train in Peru, the Andean Explorer under the Belmond flag(Orient-Express) and have now arrived at Lake Titicaca where we spend two nights at the amazing Titilika Relais et Chateau!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Cusco's Pachapapa pours on amazing Andean food (12-24-17)

We worried that places might be shut for the holiday on the holiday here in Cusco, but this city is open for business and hopping. We had been told to try Pachapapa which means "earth father" in Quechua and specializes in Andean local cooking. On arrival we asked to sit indoors as the weather was getting chilly (about 55) and while summer here, the Peruvians filled the outdoor patio. We were escorted into an adorable room with rustic wooden tables and chairs (thanks for the cushions) and dozen of silver-framed and enameled mirrors with some horse pottery in the alcoves. Only two other tables were occupied: an American couple at the far end of the room and two Asian gents right next to us who almost never put their cellphones down, even while eating.
We ordered Pisco Sours which were served in adorable clay mugs and perused the large menu.
We started with a shared order of Pachapapitas which were nice potatoes cooked in herbs and spiced butter and the  had our own starters:
For Sam the vegetarian Palta Rellena, a stuffed avocado with vegetable salad and house made mayo. Will's was the same with chicken.
I loved the Causa Rellena, a modernized version of the traditional potato dish akin to a Napoleon with layers of potato, trout, avocado, mayo and mild chili.
We ordered a bottle of water and were in shock when Badoit (yes, the French 5star winner) arrived (it was $7 when the bill came!). The bread was sad crusty rolls with a basic tomato salsa and a yummy herb/huacatey spicy salsa. The downer was the sad miniature paper napkins.
Main courses were all winner and Sam had a White Pizza Fugazza with sautéed onions and black olives.
Will chose the Pacha Papa plate with skewered alpaca brochette, stuffed hot pepper, corn tamal, grilled assorted potaotes with Andean cheese and a salad.
I had the Beef Short Ribs from the wood-fired oven that were cooked to perfected with crunchy edges and soft meat that fell off the bones, An awesome Yellow Chili Quinoto accompanied and was a truly fabulous quinoa/grain dish. I ordered a half bottle of Tacama Gran Tino of Malbec/Petit Verdot/Tannat 2016 which was only $10!!!!!!!!!!!!!! while Will had the local beer and Sam enjoyed a Mix Quillabamba of Mango, Passionfruit, Ginger and Honey Syrup.
No complaints and no dessert because again the portions were HUGE and delicious.
We returned to our hotel room to find not only a miniature pottery nativity scene made by a local artist, but a marshmallow Xmas tree with treats and more candies and much for no dessert.
Happy Holidays to ALL!
And as always many photos on FB!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Aguascalientes' Sumaq at the foot of Macchu Pichu makes for a fine meal(12-22-17)

We were only in Aguascalientes for one night at the foot of much of picchu which allowed us to full days at the sacred site of the Incas.  There are many wonderful luxury resorts here but we chose to stay at Sumaq right on the river just about a 2 minute walk from the center of town which is supposed to have some of the best food in the area and boy were the reviews correct.

 The complimentary pisco sours were smaller but still excellent and Samuel seemed to gobble down all of the plain bread with the Huacatay Herb butter.
 I preferred the cheesy flatbread with seasoning as well as the delicious cheese straws. 
 They gave Samuel a special vegetarian menu which was quite varied and quite impressive and they actually brought him a different amuse even though both of them were vegetarian.  His was a simple tomato salad with eggplant and capers and Sam raved about the saltiness from the capers.  Ours was a local wheat salad which we have all come to love especially since local quinos is found everywhere.
 We chose a bottle of red blend from Tacama, Seleccion Especial 2015,  Which was a smooth delightful combination of Petite Verdot and Tannat with lots of fruit forward flavor.  The Peruvian wines tend to be a little less expensive than other South American options so we have come to love them very much during our stay here.
There was a choice of about 5 or 6 ceviches all made with local trout so I chose the Ceviche con Tumbo,  An exotic jungle fruit which was combined with coriander crunchy corn sweet potatoes Indian corn and had shoe string fries of sweet potato on top with one very hot red Chile pepper slice and coriander micro sprouts;  It seems that each day I find a completely new ceviche to put in my favorite list. Will chose the Ceviche de Trucha con Savored Andinos,  which incorporated ND and flavors into the trout with piquillo pepper cream.
 Samuel started with a Quinoa Tabbouleh which he declared his new favorite food on Earth which came with Andean Paria cheese tomato Olive oil and lime.  His main course with it was a gnocchi in a tree tomato red sauce with basil that was out of this world; the gnocchi were filled with mozzarella and eggplant mousse.
Will chose the Adobo de Res,  Which was a veal stew cooked for hours with a spicy marinated and Peruvian pumpkin risotto with bell peppers,  Well I devoured my tasty Lomo de Alpaca,  A grilled tenderloin of alpaca with a bearnaise sauce and local grilled mushrooms smashed potatoes and sweet peppers with grilled green beans.  The meat came sliced and was crunchy on the edge and only one piece was a bit chewy as you got to the center it was more and more tender and delcious.
 Dessert is included here and there was no way on Earth that Samuel was not having the Fondant de Chocolate with strawberry coulis and Vanilla Ice cream which was gone before I even got a chance to look at it, but luckily you can check it out on Facebook.  Will loved his Arroz con Leche,  a rice pudding but here with Pisco mosto Verde and iced chicha morada which is a purple corn liquor famous in the area.  It was topped with a Quinoa caramel.  I went for the Fantasia de  Lucuma which had foam, warm coffee sauce a mousse of the exotic fruit along with ice cream.
 All delicious and wonderful but we had to get to bed to head backup to the heights to climb MacchuPichu you once again.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Sacred Valley's Sol y Luna is kingly with Killa Wasi (12-20-17)

We moved on quickly from Lima where we will  Return on New Year's Eve for one more night so now we are located in the Sacred Valley in the town of Urubamba,  located at some 9000' above sea level this is the entrance way Macchu Pichu,  Where we will visit tomorrow.
First we are spending 2 nights at the magnificent Relais at Chateaux complex here in The Valley called Sol y Luna.  I actually put a great video of our casita on Facebook yesterday.
We dined in the formal restaurant last night called Killa Wasi, which means house of the moon and actually there were only 2 occupied tables in the entire intimate restaurant.  The décor and art work in the entire complex is truly gorgeous not to mention all the Flora everywhere inside and out.
Of course we started with pisco sours and they were as delicious and large as the night before,  and then we went on to a bottle of red wine from the same winemaker as the previous night: Intipalla Numero 1, 2014  which was a delicious blend of Cabernet, Tannat, Malbec, Syrah and other red grapes that had red granite chocolate and truffle aromas.
The bread here was good,  But less impressive than the previous night with a mashua or potato bread as well as a grain bread  served with olive oil that came from the coast and homemade balsamic.
 The amuses were fabulous with Sam getting a mayonnaise and black Olive aioli with palmetto, avocado and tapioca made of yucca and beetroot juice (that looked like caviar)with beautiful flowers on top.  All the dishes had edible flowers,  And as always you can see them on the Facebook pictures. The amuse for us was the same aioli with local smoked trout lasagna  and a fish oil reduction; spectacular flavors.
 Samuel started with a quinoa falafel with confit of allucos or fingering potatoes,  just one of the many hundreds of potatoes that are grown in this valley. It had a panda chili vinaigrette, hummus and coriander sprouts.
 Will chose the fresh hearts of Palm which were shredded in a pile that was so large I didn't think anyone could finish it and came with chestnuts Farina and crispy jerk cecina in an avocado-cocona sauce.
 Being who I am of course I had to try the Piernitas de Cuy Confitadas or crunchy guinea pig with Maras salt potatoes and a superb Ucho cuta dipping sauce. The meat was tasty and it was crunchy as could be, although there were a couple of small bones which made me a bit uncomfortable.
 The appetizers were huge and we were beginning to get full already but the main courses eventually came after a long rest and will had and adobo de cerdo or puff pastry with pork while  I chose the loin of local lamb with corn chica sauce and potatoes in Chaco which was clay and baby spinach.  The meat came extremely rare and I had to send it back even though I had asked for it medium rare and then I ate a little but I was so full.
 The sauce was superb but the clay covered potatoes had no flavor and were absolutely weird.
 Samuel was thrilled with his local pumpkin lasagna with chili and Ukay farm cheese in a dried morel sauce.
 We couldn't even think of dessert but there were Passion fruit marshmallows and limemousse with edible pansies.

Lima, Peru's MARAS is magnificent for fish and more (12-19-17)

Our first full day in Lima brought us to the Westin hotel and Maras one of the more beautiful dining places you can find in town where we sat in a comfy corner with a black brick wall looking more like enamel in silver leathery swivel chairs. There was a light chicken wire globe above the table that was lit from above creating and eerie black figure on the white table cloth.  The one thing we did notice from the second we sat down was the extremely loud disco music emanating from the nearby bar that did subside as the evening went on,  but was still way too loud throughout the entire meal.
 Will and I ordered the requisite Pisco Sours which came in huge glasses and lasted quite a long time and were extremely tasty;  Our 1st well deserved drinks after arriving in Lima at approximately 1:30 in the morning the night before and having to wait an hour and a 1/2 for all the luggage to not arrive.  Luckily Sam's bag appeared at the hotel mysteriously the next morning.
 A superb amuse arrived and Sam's was a caisa of potato with avocado sauce while ours was a sea bass crudo with ricoto Chili, Maras salt and beetroot leaves.  Maras is nearby where we are now in the Sacred Valley high up in the Andes and we will visit these famous salt pans which yield some of the most tasty salt we have ever had in our lives. 
 We ordered a bottle of Peruvian wine which was called Intipalca and had been recommended by our guide it was a Sauvignon Blanc 2017 from the Valle de Ica with a  huge grapefruit scent in the nose and  intense citrus flavors in the mouth.  It was perfect with our starters first a grilled octopus with corn hummus, roasted chili, olives and toasted cassava that was on a blandish side and did not give much excitement.  On the other hand the Ceviche "carretillero  of Ses bass and ocotpus was a dream come true, perhaps one of the best ones ever on Earth.  Samuel started with a salad of ancient grains from the Andes that he could not give enough raves about,  And when the breads arrived we all went insane with the red pepper butter and avocado spread, especially with the pumpkin bread having salt of Maras,  the little brioche, French and grain breads, all which we had to have more of.
 For his main course Samuel had local pumpkin ravioli called "loche"  with an artichoke sauce,  Well we'll and I split 2 main courses:
Arapaimafish from the Amazon with pork-soy broth, mushrooms,  Hearts of Palm, fennel and fried rice with bellaco plantains.
Osobucco  was very rich with an even richer artichoke ravioli and creamed artichoke sauce, "huacatey" herbs.
 We told our excellent service Fernando that everything was truly excellent but there was no way on Earth we could eat another bite.
 Fernando preferred some delicious chocolate truffles as well as white chocolate, strawberry chocolates and orange chocolates which we could not resist.
 If this was food in Peru we would be very happy for the next weeks.