Remember my friend John? Last time you heard from him he ate Iceland. Now he’s gone and eaten South America. Well not the whole continent. He spent his Spring Break (a few weeks ago) in Peru and he’s been kind enough to write all about his eating adventures. (SNEAK PEEK: John eats a household pet!) Anyway, here’s John to tell you all about it!
Boy I know how to pick vacations. First I went to Iceland in the dead of winter with no gloves, hat or scarf and so I figured a trip to Peru would make up for it. I could lounge on the beach sipping cocktails with little umbrellas in them. Life would be perfect. Then a friend said, “Umm, John. If it’s summer here, it’s winter there.” I need to do more research before I book vacations. Lesson learned. For real this time.
Peru ended up being spectacular, though. My friend Peter and I loved every minute of it. The food (more on that in a bit), the culture, the people all exceeded our expectations. Now I heard that in Peru, food was “different.” So you can imagine how relieved I was at the airport in Lima.
Mc Donalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, AND Papa Johns. Woo hoo! Peter and I indulged in some Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and a creme-filled donut with a smiley face on it. I love Peru. We then flew to Cuzco (or Cusco, same place…different spelling) for the first part of trip. Here’s a view from our hotel window.
Now Cuzco/Cusco is located at 11,000 feet, I think. So altitude sickness is a real problem. Our guide gave us some tea made from coca leaves and told us to rest. So we drank the tea and headed out into the city. We managed to wander into the central market for lunch. This was one of the coolest places I have been.
Row after row or fruit and beans and meat and soda and everything you could possibly imagine. We saw a bunch of Peruvians eating at food stalls along one wall and so we settled down at a table labelled “Toribio’s Restaurant.” We ordered two Inca Kolas, the national drink
and drank them. They taste like really sweet bubble gum. Everyone there drank them, but the taste grew old quick for me. I ordered “Milaneza de Pollo.” Now, I speak French, so I had no idea what this was. It sounded like something I would get at an Italian restaurant, but here it is.
This was absolutely delicious…maybe one of the best meals I had in Peru. It was chicken fried in some egg batter on a bed of rice with tomatoes, onions and french fries. With my Inca Kola, the whole meal was about $3USD. Yummmmmy!
That night we went to a supposedly “gay-friendly” restaurant Macondo. I didn’t see any rainbow flags or anything, but the place looked like some trendy restaurant in the East Village. Here we ordered a delicious bottle of Peruvina red wine and yuquitas stuffed with chimbivalcano cheese.
They were good, but very dry…not much taste. For dinner I had alpaca mignon. Yes. Alpaca. Like a llama.
It was wrapped in bacon and had this thick creamy white sauce all over it. It was actually really good, although I can’t be sure what the meat itself tasted like since it was covered in so much cream sauce. I think it tasted like pork. Or chicken. Or beef. Well, it mostly tasted like bacon and cream. Not too bad, if you ask me. Don’t tell my cardiologist.
The next day we went white water rafting on the Urubamba River. Because Adam is my friend and I don’t want his website to lose any visitors, I won’t put a picture up of me in a wetsuit. Trust me. It wasn’t pretty. That was great fun and we worked up quite an appetite. There was a meal afterwards, which was delicious. Now since I was white-water rafting, I obviously left my digital camera at home but it was chicken, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, corn and some kind of red meat. It was all delicious, although the red meat was a bit stringy. I asked what it was. Segundo, our guide, told us “Donkey” with a laugh. I hope he was kidding.
Our string of interesting meals continued that night at Pacha Papa — an inexpensive place with some outdoor seating that we took advantage of. It may have been winter there, but it was only about 50 degrees…hardly what I am used it. That night we ate this:
Looks innocuous, right? Well it’s cuy. Better known here as guinea pig.
Now before my friend Peter ordered it, we asked what it tasted like. “Like rat” was the waitress’ response as she walked away. Well, I don’t know if it did taste like rat, but it was pretty good. As you can tell if you ever held a guinea pig, or by looking at the picture…there isn’t a lot of meat on it (and there were even some little hairs still on the meat), but it was good. I’d say it tasted more like chicken than rat, but what do I know? Less adventurous than peter, I ordered “Aji de Gallina” which is chillied chicken.
Notice there is a hard-boiled egg on top. This seemed to be a national passion in Peru…it seemed like every dish was topped with a hard-boiled egg. Anyways, this was DELICIOUS. It isn’t spicy but has a more milky/cheesy/nutty taste (probably owing to the fact that evaporated milk, ground nuts, and parmesan cheese are in the recipe!). It was really delcious and I ate every bit. I also had this at a fast food place called “Manos Morenos” in Lima and it was just as good there.
The next day we went to Machu Picchu.
I know this doesn’t have to do with food, but this Inca religious site is one of the most beatiful places I’ve seen in my life. You should book a trip to Peru right now to see Machu Picchu. Breathtaking.
That night we ate at an “Expensive” place (which was only around $25-30 each for
EVERYTHING…including lots of alcohol!) called FALLEN ANGEL.
This is another “gay-friendly place” in Cuzco/Cusco. Again the decor was funky.
For example, this is a table that was basically a bathtub with an aquarium inside it. But you could eat on it. Very cool. The specialty here was Andean steak, served with a bunch of different toppings.
Peter opted for a spicy sauce, while I went for several different Andean cheeses. Quite simply this was one of the best tasting things I have had in my life. The cheeses complemented the taste of the meat very well and the steak itself was tender and juicy. It was seved with “roasted potatoes” (which were like Denny’s hashbrowns) and some veggies. Delicious delicious food.
The next day we flew to Lima. there we went to this outdoor mall complex called LARCO MAR which is basically built into the side of a cliff overlooking the Pacific. If it wasn’t constatntly overcast (that’s what you get in the winter, we were told) the views would have been spectacular. This was like South Street Seaport in New York. There were stores, a movie theatre complex, an arcade and lots of fast food including another Dunkin’ Donuts
and interesting something I thought I’d never see outside of a Six Flags, Dippin’ Dots
The next day, we opted to not stay in Lima. Instead we hired a car and driver to take us to Nazca site of the famous Nazca Lines, which are carved into the desert and could be from as far back as 600 BC. They are really only visible from the air and are carved deep into the desert rock. On our way there, we stopped in Paracas to see what is commonly called “Guano Islands.” It’s the site of lots of birds and wildlife. I thought our boat driver looked like Buddy Hackett. What do you think?
Anyway, we went to Nazca, which is 6 hours south of Lima by car in the middle of the desert. Here I am getting ready to board our small plane for a tour of the lines.
These lines were incredible. We are at about 4500 feet to see these lines — many perfectly straight, all carved right into the ground. Here is a Spider:
The lines are a mystery. Some say aliens made them. Some say they are from ancient Incas.
Who knows? They were really cool.
But now back to food. After our flight we had lunch. Peter opted for the Peruvian classic ceviche
which was deliciously light. You could taste the seafood and the light tang of lime. Very good. I opted
for Palta Rellena which was an avocado stuffed with chicken salad and topped with mayo
A delicious and filling “appetizer” that really could be eaten as a meal.
Our last day in Peru, we wandered Lima — carefuly not to exit into the “unsafe zones” our hotel warned us about. The concierge literally gave us a map and drew a circle around the “safe” parts of the city and big Xs all over areas we should avoid. “Should we avoid these places because we’re Americans?” we asked. He laughed a knowing laugh replying, “We avoid them, too.” Great. Well, of course we got lost and wandered into the “Danger Zone” at one point. What did we see?
Needless to say, we didn’t do that again. Peter and I eventually stopped at a cafe ordered a cafe con leche and was surprised to see this.
A little backwards, I thought.
All in all we had a wonderful time. If you can, you should definitely visit Peru. If you do visit, be sure to bring a Visa card or, surprisingly, a Diner’s Club. I had a Master Card which was not really accepted anywhere. I don’t know anyone who even has a Diner’s Club card, but if you have one and you’re looking for a place to use it, Peru is for you!