Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Trip to Punto Hermosa

Having wanted to go to the beaches of Peru for sometime now, Mel and I decided to take a bus trip down to Punto Hermosa just south of Lima for the day. So we packed our backpacks and headed to the bus stop on the side of the Pan American Highway.

Punto Hermosa is approximately one hour via bus towards San Bartalo and is a straight shot down the coast of Peru. Along the way you are reminded that Lima was planted in the middle of a desert. Vast sand dunes line the road as we zip through the spaces between barrios. Shanty villages spot the horizon with their vibrant blues, greens and yellows. The homes align themselves in perfect rows up the steep dunes where the only method to reach the different elevations are steps that look like they could have been used to scale the Great Pyramids.

Further down the road the scenery changed as the sand seemed to fade away and the shanty villages crept closer to the main road. From the bus it was apparent that the major industries in Lurin were lumber (what looks to be palm) and auto repair. Small cevecherias were spread sparingly between the little businesses for locals' nourishment.


Finally we arrived at Punta Hermosa, a small beach town with dirt roads and modest houses. After being dropped off at the guarding post, we decide to walk down to the locally renowned beach and try our hand at the local ceviche.

Punto Hermosa has a very unique personality. It draws you toward the beach with the down gradient of its unpaved roads and lures you even closer with the its romantic outside dining over looking this small ocean. People laid out on what is the first sand covered beach we have seen here in Peru (most are covered in smooth stones), as the Peruvian Ice cream vendors pushed their bright colored carts around on the horseshoe shaped sidewalk cupping the sea. As we sat outside eating our ceviche, we were able to see surf lessons are delivered to kids and families enjoying themselves in the Pacific.


After our long lunch at La Rotunda (and two large Pilsens, as no lunch is complete without), we decided to move back down to ground level and take in more of this beautiful, unique town. At the far reach of the beach were resorts, or large house, or extremely condensed towns, or who knows... that could been seen. Surfers still in the ocean tried to catch meager waves as the gently rolled in. People began to make their way up the concrete steps off the beach and into the small eateries surrounding the beach. Here they ate their anticuchos or ceviche and beer. And this is where we found ourselves eventually: a no named, small eatery located twenty yards from the beach, having a final Pilsen for the night.

With plastic beach chairs and umbrellas covering the four outdoor tables, we sat down and ordered a small portion of fried yucca and another beer and quickly made friends with the neighboring table of Peruvians. As with most random conversations we have, this one was full of cheer and laughter. It could have been from the jigsaw speech of their broken English or our broken Spanish, but it made for a wonderful final event for our visit to this petite seaside town.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Typical Peruvian Meal

In Peru, it is apparent that the native diet is comprised of meat and potatoes, much like an American barbecue, but with slight differences. They use different spices, cook different meats, and wash it all down with different beers. What follows is a taste of one of our favorite local meals. It is their version of the simple, easy dinner, and most definitely the perfect meal for sitting around a table laughing, drinking, and eating with your hands. Enjoy!


Anticuchos:
3 aji or jalapeno chiles
3 tbs dried crushed red chiles
1 tbs achiote (red seeds)
1½ tsp cumin seeds
2 tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
¾ cups red wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper
4 lbs cow heart (or beef pieces), cut into 1"

Simmer the Annatto and cumin seeds in the oil for 5 minutes. Strain the oil to use and discard the seeds. Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender and puree until smooth. Marinate the meat overnight in the refrigerator. Thread meat onto skewers. Grill or broil the skewers until medium-rare. Baste the meat frequently until done.

Accompany this delicious Peruvian meal with a local Peruvian beer...

Pilsen Callao: This beer, seemingly the most famous beer here in Lima, is actually brewed in the neighboring municipality of Callao. It's a light flavored beer that may resemble a typical light beer found in the States, but with a very distinct bitter taste. Also, Pilsen offers a stout called "Polar". This, too, is very different in richness to that of Guiness or Murphy's. It is much more bitter and bit more sweet (and only a bit when compared to Peru's other prominent beer, Cusquena, that offers a dark beer that is so sweet it may lead to tooth decay). When eating anticucho's, however, make sure you choose a bottle of the Pilsen Callao (the light version that can be found in some places in the US) to wash down that cow heart.

Every plate of anticuchos (thus far) has been finished off with the best Peruvian dessert to date, Picarones. A dessert which was adapted out of necessity from the more expensive buñuelos, a fried dough ball, in the colonial period (1800s). The sweet potato now used for Picarones was and is a much cheaper ingredient than the anise that was used in the buñuelos. This donut-shaped delight is a cross between a sweet potato pie and funnel cake, smothered in a brown sugar syrup. Mmm...just imagine.

If you really want to try making them, here's a nice, easy to read, but long recipe: southamericanfood.about.com/od/snacksstreetfood/r/picarones.htm.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Barranco at a Glance

In Lima there seems to be a plethora of unexplored, or rather undocumented, areas. Areas that seem to have escaped the mainstream ideas of what constitutes a city; escaped the Frommer's and Wikipedia. One such place is that of Barranco.

Barranco is known to the locals as the bohemian center of Lima, filled with discotheques dedicated to Salsa and Cumbia as well as watering holes with a more rock feel or artistic atmosphere. These pubs, bars, and dance halls seems to vein out from the central park, that are common in this South American city. On any particular Friday or Saturday night, you may find a show of some sort fixed in this park showing off dance or art or crafts; the people of the nearby neighborhood showing off their craftsmanship.

Sitting subtly on a cliff overlooking and leading down to the sea, Barranco is a quite entry to sunbathing on the Pacific Ocean. What was once a Peruvian beach get-away for the elites, has continued on as a romantic gateway to the the Pacific. The Bajada de Banos meanders down the cliff, lined with reastuarants, toward the sea. At the end of its straight path from the park center, the road opens up to a viewing point of Lima's majestic sight of the ocean.

Besides the beach, Barranco offers a widely diverse night life as well as typical Peruvian cuisine for a reasonable price. Establishments all around the area vie for the passersby interest in anticuchos and picarones, as well as their need to dance the traditional salsa.

Screaming Peru at the most silent of tones, Barranco offers much in terms of culture and architecture. The Bridge of Sighs that spans over the Bajada de Bano, as well as the majestic stairs that criss-cross this particular borough truly displays the antiquity of this place. It is obvious how great men like Mario Vargas Llasa has called this their home.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pueblo Libre at a Glance

Most of Lima looks like a modern city- tall buildings, barrios, graffiti, bodega's, people carrying groceries, taxi's dodging in and out of traffic. However, tucked away in this vast city, Pueblo Libre (Free Town) lies as small gem that more resembles that of an antiquated European town than it does of the modern cities of the west.

As you approach the older more serene part of Pueblo Libre on foot from Avenida Sucre, you pass one of its oldest attractions: La Cruz del Viajero (The Cross of the Traveler). It stand tall and solomn in a small green triangle area; its own home, its own plaza. The cross was a symbol of faith and protection the conquistadors brought from Spain. Francisco Pizarro placed the cross in Pueblo Libre; soldiers would pray before going to war or when making a hard distant journey. A cross for those just passing through.



Here in the small district of Pueblo Libre it's very easy to forget that you are still in the Western Hemisphere. A gorgeous, modestly sized, chapel adorns the street wearing a beautiful autumnal orange paint with architecture of the original conquering country of Spain. Basic wooden pews line the church along with romantic gold structures for admiration. Next to this church sits Antigua Taberna Queirolo, a small eatery serving sandwiches and tapas. The libations, are from local vineyards, especially the country's famous pisco.

In the middle of this area sits a simple, yet beautiful park spotted with vases of pink flowers around the perimeter and an old style fountain in the middle. On one sides sits a larger than life bust of Bolivar, the revolutionary of South American history, who once lived in this district of Lima. Families gather all day playing in soccer or relaxing on the two foot brick walls that hold in the grass and trees.

On the one corner of this central square sits a fun karaoke bar that beckoned us via its promise cheap jars of beer. Inside is mostly outside with tons of open air sitting; only twenty percent of the tables are under a roof. Sadly, there wasn't any karaoke Wednesday, but the atmosphere was tranquil because of it. As we sat outback, outside, we drank our cheap beer as we were serenaded by one of the many Peruvian buskers playing his wooden box that doubled as his chair. The Spanish feel of the outside permeated through this place and mixed with the truly South American sensation as the bright sky-blue paint chipped off with the wear of time and exhaustion.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

La Foto del Dia: el primera

Since we are in this lovely country of Peru, we are obviously taking photos all the time and we thought perhaps photos say more sometimes...and they are just way cooler than words (in my opinion). So, from now on, we'll have a foto del dia, cada dia (everyday) for you...


Foto del Dia: Feb. 19

The dogs even give us strange looks when we stroll through the streets. Meanwhile, the children in the back say to me, "Senora, that dog is mine." I respond with a smile and an "ok." The response from one of the 8-year-olds was, "Senora, F*$@ you!" I guess we made quite an impression...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday's discoveries

Well, amongst many discoveries of the day, such as an opportunity as a voice-over and the Spanish word for "swollen ankle", my wayward partner and I stumbled upon some unsuspecting delights!

We were quite hungry after a lengthy walk to two language schools in Miraflores, so we strolled along Paseo del Prado (a main avenue) towards the Pacific in search of cheap eats. Paul some how had a striking notion to turn down Jr. F. Recavarren and with immediate success we were eating a delicious, cheap meal. Although there was a pre-fixed meal outlined on the board with five options for each course, in reality there were two main plate options, pescado (fish) and lomo saltado (beef) with soup to start.


The soup was a simple yet tasty Irish-like dish. It was pork broth with cabbage, potato and rice. Next was the lomo which was sautéed with tomatoes, onions and peppers, served with fried potatoes. Paul had the fried fish which was topped with a light salsa de tomate. Of course both plates were served with a hearty helping of rice, as we are coming to realize is the norm. Finally, we rounded out the meal with a local fruit called "tuna," which seemed to be a version of a prickly pear. Yes, the bear necessity sort...


The most important part...how much was all of this!?
2 delicious three course meals with 2 cokes = s/15 or $4.68

Mauricio's
Jr.F.Recararnen 144 - Miraflores, Lima

Since Mauricio's didn't serve beer, we wandered over to Calle Berlin for a nice cold Pilsen Callao.
After the waiter quickly realized Spanish was not my first language, we found he was in fact a co-owner (and American) of the little European-esq cafe. Its an adorable little corner bistro with outdoor seating, sandwiches, coffee, and beer.

Solandino (open 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.) Ca. Berlin 413 - Miraflores, Lima

Next, being self proclaimed "wayward winos," we just had to stop for a glass of wine (una copa de vino) at La Esquina wine bar at the end of Calle Berlin. It looks like a traditional Spanish tavern with a diverse menu of Spanish and Italian cuisines. Although there were no Peruvian wines to be had, we tried a two delights, both from Chile: Valdivieso sauvignon blanc (2007) and the Vina Morande reserva camernere (2005). The white was very light, almost too light, but the camernere was rich with an oak finish. Finally, The smells from the kitchen were amazing, so we'll have to make a trip back for some eats...La Esquina's review is to be continued.

La Esquina Wine Bar Calle Berlin 920 - Miraflores, Lima

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Brilliant Peruvian Lunch


In terms of food in Peru, the menu is flooded with fish, meats, and 100 types of potatoes. On
most days you are greeted by very rich flavors, tons of hot peppers and plenty of sauces for dipping. However, once and while you get a version of traditional Peruvian cuisine that is simply stands out. An example of this is lunch at Segundo Muelle in downtown Miraflores.

As the self-proclaimed origin of ceviche (from the Quecha word "siwichi"), Peru has much to offer and Segundo Muelle carries its weight in presenting a good face for this raw fish dish.

A plate of three types of ceviche as well as an order of "Choritos a la Chalaca", a delicious variation on mussels served with large white corn, onion, and hot pepper in the shell, started our delicious meal.

Soon after, Melanie and I were served a traditional Peruvian pasta called"Pasta a la Huancaína" topped with a small filet mignon and shrimp. The Huancaína (wan-kay-eena) sauce, originally from the Andean region of Peru, is made primarily of cheese and hot peppers and is typically served over potatoes. However today it was used over a perfectly cooked plate of pasta. The sauce has a simlar texture to a cream sauce, but the with the flavors of Andes Mountains. When combined with the shrimp and steak, its a plate that is hard to forget.

After all was said and done, Segundo Muelle was a meal that stood out in the sea of fresh fish and anticuchos here in Lima, Peru. With all of the amazing choices for food, this is one to definitely make a point to try.

Cost for Meal: appox $40 USD for 2 persons (appetizers, a plate and beer).
Website: www.segundomuelle.com

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Crazy Saturday Update

I know it's Saturday and I'm breaking schedule, but I also know you guys are just ITCHING for the Monday scoop. So I figured I would appease your thirst with a CRAZY SATURDAY UPDATE... AHHHHH!!!

While waiting to be picked up outside of Larco Mar in beautiful Miraflores, Mel and I did a little photo shoot. Here is the comic that came from that: Mel takes on Lima...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Winos go wayward: to Lima

After a week and a half of being in Lima, we've gathered snippets of our days and some of the aspects life here that have stood out. Already we've tasted new foods, heard traditional music of the Andes, tried the complicated bus system, shopped in markets and witnessed a peaceful protest in downtown Miraflores.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Voyage to Miraflores

Escape! Melanie, my Mother and I decided to make a break for it and escape the confines of our homestay and journey to famous Miraflores by ourselves. Although my mother was born and raised in Peru, it has been thirteen years since her last visit and one other time twenty years before that. Needless to say, her knowledge of Lima has withered a bit.

To accomplish this feat we decided to chance it on the "Micro", an elaborate bus system that seems to be Lima's primary mode of public transportation. The Micro is a smaller version of a typical bus, seating about twenty people not including the driver and the ticket attendant. The stops for this vehicle is at any and every corner, or where ever an individual hales it, similar to that of a cab. So, halers must be ready to jump out and stop the suicidal driver at any time. There seems to be many of these micro's criss-crossing Lima and all of it's districts as well as the province of Callao. Also, no map exists to sort out the web of bus routes. Luckily, we had direction to take the S from Surco to Parke de Kennedy, strangely dedicated to the President John F. Kennedy, in Miraflores.

Around Parke de Kennedy lies a very beautiful side of Lima. Restaurants and shops dot the perimeter of this green mall and people move in mass through the park to their work or a late lunch. The three of us decided to try out the famed Chiffa, Peruvian Chinese. We ordered chicken lo mein and sweet and sour chicken. Sadly, we were quite disappointed with our choice. Perhaps it was the close location to the big center, or our general dislike for Chinese food, but lunch left much to be desired. However, Crystaline, another local beer, kept our spirits up.

After lunch, we strolled around the park and were happily greeted by a late afternoon open-air market. Around five in the afternoon, vendors were beginning to setup shop in one of the parks' circle. There were pants of Incan liking, hats, jewelery, kitchenware, and other odditys like names engraved on rice, all of which were handmade by the vendors. As we shopped for our trinkets and clothes, we relished in green area eating Picarones and enjoying a wonderful freeing afternoon in Miraflores Lima.

Although the afternoon stroll was quite relaxing and tranquil, catching the Micro back was a challenge. The three of us sat on a busy corner for about ten minutes before deciding that we really didn't understand the bus system and there was an "S" on almost all of them. Each vehicle had at least three district names mentioned in their route and we really didn't know where we were going. We simply knew the street name of our destination and the main district. So, here we are three Americans, two of which barely speak Spanish yelling "Surco, calle Diana con Cronos" at every Micro that drove by. Their response is "a donde" and my mom (in Spanish) says, " I don't know." We were laughed at a lot! Finally, one ticket collector knew the street Diana and we hopped on the micro in the middle of the highway entrance. Of course, this was the one micro that didn't mention Surco on the side. Perhaps their bus system is just way too advanced for us...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chicha Morda: a secreto Peruana revealed

So Peru is quite famous for their gastronomic exports of civiche and pisco, but the Chicha Morada is still within borders. This delicious deep purple juice can serve several purposes: a. a refreshing chilled beverage on sweltering summer day of b. a savior from drinking the tap water when at a restaurant in Peru. Whatever your reasons may be, give it a whirl...its delicious!



Ingredients


1 kilo of purple corn
2 cups of pineapple skin
2 cups of apple

2 cinnamon sticks
tablespoon of cloves
sugar and lime to taste

Perparation

Cut the corn off the cob, cover with twice as much water. Add the pineapple skin, apple, cinnamon sticks and the cloves. Let the mixture boil for about an hour or until the corn is cooked. Remove the pineapple skin from the mixture. Then, drain the rest of the mixture through a strainer. Chop the remainder of the pineapple, mix with the smooth liquid and chill. Serve very cold.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Callao: the start


First Impression of Callao Peru.

Lima so far has been a city of rough air. The temperature has been eighty degrees and muggy and the population has been generally intimidating.

It could be that I am significantly lost in the native language, the obvious poverty, or the house that I am staying in that resembles a compound, but there is a looming sense of seclusion. The people I have met so far, albeit all long lost family, have been more than generous. Still there is the ever present feeling of threat. We are aliens for the first time in a starving world.

Driving around the city from district to district- from Sucro to Barranco, from Barranco to Miraflores, down along Costa Verde, to my mom’s place of birth in Callao- we were told to look out for “piranhas”, thieves that have a tendency to steel right from you car as you are stopped at any particular stop light. Stop. Roll up windows. No air conditioning. Poverty looming. Sweat building. Light changes. Roll down windows. Repeat ten times until destination is reached.

Visiting the place of my mom’s birth, which sits at the bottom of an unknown hill on a dirt and gravel road, we were greeted my the warm face of my Aunt Mirta. Up and down the street you can see through the haze of dust small groups of two or three people hanging out or cannoodling or whatever.


Inside my Mom’s old earthquake-cracked house we drink Pilsen, the local beer, have warm conversation (most of which I struggle to keep up with) and stand up to any loud noise coming from outside in fear it was the car being broken into. The house reminds of a romantic adobe house of the southwest. A steep, spiral staircase runs through the center connecting the two floors. The cement floors and walls are riddled with potholes and cracks from age and Mother Nature’s touch. The bathroom has only natural light from a small window to the outside. It’s old and broken, but if feels safe. It’s noon on a Wednesday in Callao

Next stop is the graveyard of my grandparents and uncles and aunts. Parked just outside this place of grief stands a circus of beggers and conspirators. They offer you cheap bouquets of carnations, barely letting you open the car door. Or they try getting you to pay for their uninvited cleaning of your windows. All of them sizing you up- seeing the value of your personal articles. You can feel the burn of their stare. Inside the graveyard there are a plethora or people mourning, laughing, selling, and working. The dead are stacked ten to fifteen tall in concrete jagged walls. There are vacant spots were bodies and caskets were removed to be burned because there is no one left to cry over them. I took stairs and ramps up two stories in the Peruvian heat to visit my Uncle many walls, or blocks of cadavers, away from my Grandmother and Grandfather on the first floor.

In the middle of this graveyard sits a crucifix twenty feet tall. There lies the remains of the ultra poor; those whose family has no money for a proper burial or those whom have no family at all. These individuals get the most basic of respect- an oven and a placard cemented to the symbol of their Lord Jesus Christ. Here, the meek shall inherit the earth in the forms of two-inch by three-inch marble tiles with their names etched on them. It’s three in the afternoon on a Wednesday in Callao.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Recap on Living Stateside


While on the brink of becoming an expat and moving to Peru, I began thinking about places I have lived so far in the United States.

Sadly, I cannot say I have left the East Coast (and barely New Jersey), but I have happily been able to at least experience a few, different towns. Below are my top 3 places I've lived in New Jersey:

3. New Brunswick, NJ: This was the home of my Alma Mater- Rutgers. And like every good Rutgers-ite, I had a chance to live of campus in the dirty houses lining the dirty streets. I could go on and on about my experiences there in New Brunswick, but I suppose that's for another time and another place. As for the town, it served its purpose as college town. I never needed a car since I was going from class to home. I was even employed at a local restaurant called Old Man Rafferty's. Everything was at arms reach including the NJ transit to New York or home or wherever else I needed to go just as long as I was willing to deal with the time spent on the train.

2. Jersey City, NJ: Just leaving this place a few days ago, I feel it was a very good experience. The conveince of New Brunswick with better bars and friendlier people. Not to mention the infamous Lucky 7's (BEST WINGS IN TOWN!!!) located on 2nd and Coles (shameless plug for Rocker Tycoon). A 15 minute path ride to New York City or Newark Airport, Jersey City does a superb job as New Yorks sixth bourough.

1. Sea Bright NJ: First, see picture above. This was one of the finest examples of Sea Bright's brilliant Jersey shore atmosphere. The picture was taken at Donovan's Reef- a Sea Bright landmark bar located right on the Beach. The entire town of Sea Bright is nestled between Sandy Hook to north, Monmouth Beach to the south, and prestigious Rumson and Red Bank to the west. It is lost to the evil BENNY's of North Jersey during the summer, and maintains it's fun beach aura during the winter. This definitly was the definitive Jersey experience, especially when it can be said that the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, calls these parts his stomping grounds.