October 1, 2013

Tastes of Magic in Lima

A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune of taking a trip to Lima to participate in the first edition of Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants Awards.  The capital of Peru dates back to the times of the first Conquistadors. Amazingly, the noble descendants of Pizarro's First Captain, Jeronimo Aliaga, still reside in the same house which he built back in 1535.  It is the oldest house in America that is continuously inhabited by the same family.  Lima is South America's third largest and - for many good reasons - one of the most important megacities and culinary destinations in the region.

stuffed, baked potato dough called Papa Rellena (L) and Charito Oysters a la Chalaca (red onion sauce) at the traditional Queirolo Taberna in Lima, a family business which dates back to the 1880's!

The country's mind-boggling diversity of regional ingredients lends itself to a cuisine that is commanding the respect, curiosity and admiration of chefs and gourmands worldwide.  Fact: Peru grows more than 4000 varieties of potatoes.

with the wonderful team at Lima Tours, enjoying a luxurious lunch at the Larco Herrera Museum restaurant.  The museum houses an incredible variety of historic Peruvian artifacts, as ancient as 2300 B.C.

 lobster goodness at Mercado restaurant
There is an astonishing array of marine life in the Peruvian Pacific waters, where the country's coastline is just shy of 2000 miles long.  Currents, both hot and cold create distinct aquatic environments in which different species of fish and shellfish thrive, depending on the temperature of the current in each environment.

Further to the east, the mighty Amazon River offers up its own bounty of countless exotic fish and other delectable river creatures, delightfully omnipresent on restaurant menus everywhere.  And right along the middle of Peru, the Andes mountains rise up majestically to form the fertile agricultural heartland that produces fruit and vegetable varieties found nowhere else in the world.

ceviche at its best from the country that invented it
Dining around Lima, an outsider may easily observe just how obsessed the Limeños are with their local food culture.  There, it is not with "what do you do?" that conversations are begun, but rather with "where have you been to eat so far?"

Chefs, restauranteurs and foodies in Peru go to great lengths to promote their magnificent cuisine, and the world is just beginning to take notice.

On our way to visit Mistura, Latin America's largest annual food festival, our taxicab driver beamed with excitement as he provided us with valuable advice on what to try first and how to pace ourselves.  "Mistura is heaven on earth for food lovers", he happily postulated.  The festival takes place underneath a very large cluster of tents, pitched side-by-side on the sandy beach of Magdalena del Mar district, also known as Lima's Costa Verde.  Much like the Louvres Museum, this festival is impossible to experience in just one visit.  At least 3 days are de rigueur for sampling the country's hundreds of regional dishes, cooked to order right before your eyes.

some of the country's finest bakers making fresh bread onsite at Mistura

The final count?  84 courses in 9 days, enjoyed with some of the warmest, most hospitable people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  Cuisine is just one of many tricks up the Peruvians' sleeve, and I look forward to discovering more of their magic on another visit, hopefully very soon.  

Best Wishes,


lunch at Mercado in Lima.  L to R: Chef/Owner of Contramar Mexico City, Gabriela Camara, American TV Chef Rick Bayless, GM of Hotel B, Ignacio Masias, me, Malabar' Chef/Owner Pedro Schiaffino and my lovely colleague Laurie
the lovely Boutique Hotel B in the bohemian-chic district of Barranco, Lima

1 comment:

  1. Amazing, great writing that sums up what is Peru all about when it comes to its gastronomy. Food there is really amazing and you need to travel all over the country to see how rich their cuisine is.