Turrón, Tuscany, and Thai food in Cusco
You’ll be receiving this while I’m in the air, traveling from Lima back to the US for a month. This week, I present you with a digest of sorts with a few small stories and links.
We returned to Lima at the end of July. We were returning from a trip where we spent two months and a half months in Italy and then two weeks in Spain.
Three Months in Italy and Spain
In Italy and Spain, I channeled the energy that I usually devote to cevicherías to art museums. Of course, we ate well too. When I visited Italy for the first time as a student I didn’t know much about food. This time, we were able to sample the cuisine of Rome, Venice (cicchetti and incredible pizza on the local side), Bologna, and then dig deeper into Tuscan food.
After spending three weeks to a month at a number of locations, our other goal for this trip was to simply spend six weeks somewhere. We ended up choosing a suburb town forty minutes from Florence. The extra two weeks on top of our typical month's stay really made a difference.
Plus, we got to cook in this incredible kitchen:
Yes, I know summer is the wrong time to be in Italy but we survived and our trip inspired another writing project which I hope to launch soon.
A Harsh Landing
Upon arriving back in Lima, we were just about to go to bed after our 16-hour flight when we got the kind of call you dread. Mariela’s mom had just fainted and we needed to meet her at the hospital. Even at 10 p.m., Lima traffic was in full force. It took three hours for us to get to the hospital. We were lucky that we just happened to return that day.
Luckily, Mariela’s mom is now in stable condition and is learning to take it easy. I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know exactly what to do. I was worried but couldn’t do much. I don’t fully understand what all of the doctors were saying. Much worse, is I don’t understand the system at all. Mariela was out of the house much of the time. I realized that we mostly settled into our condo, but I didn’t know that many people. It’s easy not to notice when you are constantly traveling.
Eating Around Lima
Eventually, we got back on a routine. For us, the routine means a balance of going to familiar places and trying new things. I was able to try La Capitana, Awicha, Barracones, and Plural which are relatively new to the scene. In addition, we visited La Picante and Don Fernando. Return visits to La Picantería, Siete, La Mar, and El Mercado were stellar. If you want to know what I thought of these restaurants, check out my new restaurant notes section.
I’m always looking for new great cevicherías, but this time we have also been trying a lot of pollo a la brasa, anticuchos, nikkei, and chifa (we finally found our go-to spot).
Turrón de Doña Pepa
October in Peru brings a special treat in the form of Turrón de Doña Pepa. This seasonal dessert consists of crumbly layers of anís-spiced nougat drizzled with honey and covered with lots and lots of sprinkles.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t familiar with this multicolored confection. Now, I’ve tried several ranging from factory-made to artisanal ones including the one at La Mar. We even learned to make one at Urban Kitchen. If you’re in Peru in October, it’s hard to miss. Bakeries all around Lima prominently display their Turrón, and chefs have embraced the opportunity to put their creative spin on it.
Posts You May Have Missed
Links and Recommendations
I haven’t been doing these digests frequently so some of the links may be old news to you.
I started reading Robert Bradley’s Eating Peru the day it came out and finished it the next day. I believe his book is the missing English-language book that explores the biodiversity of Peruvian ingredients in depth. The intros to many Peruvian cookbooks touch on some of these ideas, but Professor Bradley leverages his academic background and twenty-five years of experience visiting Peru to take you on a journey through the world of fish, jungle fruits, coca, pisco, and more.
In other reading, I’m currently enjoying Jhumpa Lahiri’s Roman Stories and Number Goes Up: Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Staggering Fall. Lahiri has long been one of my favorite fiction writers. I’d been turned off from reading about crypto, but it was recommended by Search Engine, a podcast I’ve been enjoying. Zeke Faux does a great job of telling the human stories underlying the lunacy and made-up terms.
I restarted our Netflix account to watch Virgilio, and it was worth it. The documentary tells the story of Central and Chef Virgilio Martinez’s journey. Hunger, a Thai movie chronicling a cook’s journey from street food to high cuisine, was worth watching for the visuals.
In some of my posts, I’ve grumbled about lists of restaurants that seem to form the bulk of the discourse about restaurants. Ryan Sutton has a good piece that examines the role of lists from the perspective of a professional food writer.
Many of the detailed articles about Peruvian Food are in Spanish, but I love it when I come across in-depth articles in English because I can easily share them.
This article looks at the Mater Project which brings together knowledge and ingredients from all over Peru and helps fuel the innovation at Central, Kjolle, Mil, and Maz.
Ines Bellina provides an example of a list done right with her “13 Lima Restaurants We Can’t Get Enough Of.” The list whets your appetite with mouthwatering descriptions of dishes and provides the kind of context that only someone who grew up in Lima can.
In addition, Nicholas Gill has started a project called Intercambios where stories from Spanish are translated into English for a wider audience.
Check out Gonzalo Lavedra on Instagram. His stories where he traveled down the Amazon River via cargo ship got me hooked but his travels span the whole world. He has an incredible eye for detail about food, nature, and the people around him.
I discovered this fascinating story on Radio Ambulante about how Oliver Perrottet set out to singlehandedly make a map of Lima. Apparently, there was no map of Lima as a whole until 1970. Slight spoiler … there’s a small house that Mariela and I often walk past that simply has a sign, “Lima 2000.” I always wondered what the significance of the name was. It turns out that this was the business that Perrottet started to sell the first maps of Lima.
I recently heard about this restaurant in Cusco that piqued my interest: Kao offers unique Thai-Peruvian creations including tacu tacu with curry and a Thai version of Chupe de Camarones. Let me know if you get a chance to visit before I do!
I’m headed to the US for a month to see co-workers and family. Stories will continue to be published twice a week (restaurant notes on Thursday and stories on Sunday). I’m also working on more bonus content for paid subscribers.