Peruvian Cooking 101

March madness, indeed. Throughout the past month, I’ve had a very hard time feeling grounded (not keeping up with the blog surely didn’t help) – between receiving college decisions and thinking about what direction my life is heading in the coming months, I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed. But as I know well, there’s nothing better to keep: food.

This afternoon, I had a wonderful day with my host family and fellow housemates. Sundays are volunteers’ collective day off and the same goes for all the members of our host family. With that said, Sundays are more often than not, a grand day of rest and food and today was no exception.

Left to right: Allie, Hannah, Herald, Naomi

Left to right: Allie (back of her head), Hannah, Herald, Naomi

For those who don’t know, I live with the most amazing host family one could ever have the honor of living with. For the past seven months, Herald, Nancy and their son Andrés have invited me into their home and become really like a second family to me.

When Herald grew up, one of his family’s traditions was that they would eat ceviche together every Sunday for almuerzo (lunch). Ceviche is a specialty for the costal region of Peru and the juice of limón and aroma/flavor from ají amarillo make it especially distinct. This afternoon, all of us CEDED volunteers who are living in the house crowded into the kitchen to learn how to make the incredibly delicious dish.

Ceviche is a dish which is made by “cooking” seafood by marinating it in the juice rom citrus fruits i.e. lemon or lime juice. Depending on the type of seafood, the fish can be ready within five minutes, as was the type we made this afternoon. There are many different variations of ceviche, depending on geographical region and such. The ceviche we learned how to make today is a mix of fish, limón, garlic, cliantro, ground celery, pepper, ginger, ají amarillo and salt. After it marinates, it is placed on a lettuce leaf and accompanied by one or two slices of boiled sweet potato. We also had sides of white beans and a type of popcorn.

Needless to say, it was really amazing.

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Later that afternoon, we had a second round of Peruvian cooking 101, when Nancy showed us how to make a classic dish: arroz con pollo. Sadly, I do not have any pictures of it, although I wouldn’t say that pictures of food will be ending any time soon. Arroz con pollo is essentially what its name says: rice and chicken. However, the arroz con pollo that was made today is made by flavoring the rice and chicken with a flavorful base consisting of cilantro (it makes the rice green), onion, garlic, choclo (Peruvian corn), ají amarillo and peas (or other vegetables like carrots or bell peppers). The chicken is first cooked in the sauce of cilantro and spices and once ready, taken out so that the rice can cook in its flavorful broth. In the end, all of it is combined and then eaten and it’s really really great. The chicken is always incredibly moist and flavorful and with a little bit of ají and fresh cut onion, it’s pretty perfect. Arroz con pollo is probably my second favorite dish – first being lomo saltado, but that could be worthy of it’s own post.

Between our morning of learning how to make ceviche and afternoon lesson in all things arroz con pollo, it was a day filled with fun conversation and really good food. What was almost even better, was that between all the cooking and eating, I was also able to finally check some major things off of a myriad of my to-do lists (I have many different lists) and feel better about the basic organization of my life. (Always a good thing.)

All in all, today was the perfect way of helping me remember that in times of stress, spending time with friends and family can be the best remedy. But more importantly, food. Always.

Helado Time

The neighborhood where I live is a short bus ride away from the municipalidad or in other terms, where an abundance of restaurants  lie. Despite its close proximity, you would be surprised to know how hard it is to actually get yourself out there. Or at least how hard it is for me to get out there. The main issue at hand is that I simply lack the motivation. We all have our struggles.

Essentially, my housemates and I  have been jealous of another volunteer who lives pretty much in the center of the muni area and therefore, has a plethora of dining options and all the things that the hustle and bustle the muni entails. However, there has been a development in the chronicles of “Michelle and Roxana’s Search for Food: the Mariategui Edition” in  the past few weeks and a very important one at that: an ice cream parlor.

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On the same block as our beloved chifa place is a place to buy hand-scooped ice cream. Many of the little corner stores have the bright yellow “D’Onofrio” brand freezers from which they sell ice cream of the same brand name, but not all offer single scoops. But our new ice cream place serves a myriad of different options from a single scoop cone and the classic banana split, to ice cream when decorated and scooped in a particular manner, is made to look like Mickey Mouse. (At least I’m pretty sure that’s what it is.)

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I don’t usually go for the fancy stuff. My usual go-to (I’m not even ashamed to say that within the past few weeks that they’ve opened up, I already have go-to order.) is the “sundae simple” – one scoop of coffee and the other mint chocolate chip. The coffee is pretty solid and the mint is one of my favorite mint ice creams to date. The sundae is two scoops, sprinkles, chocolate sauce, a cherry (I opt out for that one) plus they stick a crispy rolled up waffle cone on the top for good measure. After the waffle cone gets kinda soft from being in the ice cream for a while. Perfection.

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Why the store opened up all of a sudden is somewhat of a mystery. Our best guess is that because we’re on the brink of starting summer, they are gearing up for the ideal season for eating ice cream. It’s finally starting to get warmer and even though the inevitable combination of heat and humidity will commence rather soon, knowing this little ice cream place is “acerca de ti” (that’s literally what one of their signs says), I think this summer will shape up to be pretty cool.

A Sweet Tooth’s Coffee Fix

It’s no surprise to anyone that I am fully enjoying all of the culinary experiences I’ve had in Peru so far. Exhibit A: Peruvian Food Mondays. But there are days when I can’t remember a day that I didn’t go to the bakery that’s across the street and that’s when I think, “take a step back, Michelle and think about your life choices”. So logically, I’ve decided to semi-replace/allocate the time and money I spend at the bakery with my most recent discovery: Big Ben Café Gurmets.

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I discovered these little pieces of coffee greatness at one of the stores up in La Encantada last week. Friday night I “had” to get some change for bus fare so naturally, I decided to buy 10 Café Gurmets (all for roughly $.36). What else was I supposed to do – buy a bottle of water? Nope.  Yesterday I bought more, although I was only able to buy two because that was all they had left. I think that in the course of the past week, I bought all they had.

Today while running errands around the municipality, I had a train of thought that went something like this: “Those stores that sell snacks in bulk are so great. I could really go for some Café Gurmets right now. I wonder if they sell them in bulk. I wonder if there are any bulk stores near the muni. I will find one.” This resulted in the purchase of a bag that contains 100 Café Gurmets. I’m not even ashamed.

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As its name implies, Café Gurmet is a coffee flavored taffy. (I’m not entirely sure if the candy is called Café Gurmet or Big Ben. Even google did not lend a helping hand on figuring that one out.)  They’re softer than tootsie rolls (even Marini’s salt water taffy) but still have a good chew to them. Basically a combination of taffy-ness but also melt-in-your-mouth perfection. I’m not a die hard coffee lover (although I do love a good cold-pressed cup of joe) but the lack of good coffee here in Peru has lead to more sentiment regarding the beverage. While these candies couldn’t replace their namesake, they make for a sweet snack…or dangerous habit. I guess that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

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Hannah says that I have a problem. Although we both agree that eating six of these is better than eating six of the manjar blanco filled donuts from the bakery. I’ll just leave the reasoning at that.

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Barranco and Burritos

For the first time in about a month, I had a “Tuesday”. As many know, Tuesdays are often day-trip days up to central Lima and they are always very fun and include really good food. Since my little accident, my Tuesdays have consisted of recovering or working on college applications or Omprakash work. Today’s trip was to the Barranco district which is about 30-40 minutes (on the Metro) north from Villa el Salvador. I almost didn’t go today, but the universe must have really wanted me to because the internet went out about a half hour before Hannah and Roxana were planning on leaving and honestly what does anyone do without the internet? Exactly.

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“CEDED” and the drawing of the woman with the speech bubble saying hello in different ways was Hannah’s contribution to the public chalkboard.

I had never been to Barranco during the day before, so I was looking forward to discovering more about district. Our first stop was the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. It was a in a beautiful location – right in the middle of a park. Or maybe the park was the museum itself… Anyway, it was really quite beautiful. Unfortunately, we came the day before they were opening new exhibits. Nevertheless, we got to go into two rooms, one exhibit on sound and a gallery with a mix of sculptures and paintings.

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What I was most looking forward to was the inevitable trip to the Burrito Bar. Conveniently located two blocks from a Metropolitano stop, this restaurant knows its burritos. Right as we walked in (for the second time because the first time we did, we came before they opened) one could tell that the food was going to be good just by how amazing it smelled. I ordered a burrito with chicken, rice, black beans, fajita-style veggies, salsa, guacamole, cheese and sour cream. It was. So. Good. I literally took a moment to just process how amazing it was. It was as enlightening as my first trip to El Pan de la Chola was. It was that good. To say the least, all of us were visibly saddened by the time we finished our food.

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After Burrito Bar, we still had some room for dessert. We made our way over the a Metro supermarket because Roxana had mentioned that she needed to buy something. As we meandered through the market, we discovered that they sold ice cream by the scoop. Hannah and I decided to go for it and I am still very proud of that decision. They gave us four scoops and a cone for approximately $2. I got vanilla chip and ópera. I’m still not sure why it’s called ópera when it was basically coffee, but it also had tiramisu-like cake pieces in it so I decided to just stop asking questions. I just love ice cream so much. So. Much.

Even though I had originally intended on working today, I’m glad that I spent the morning and afternoon in Barranco, having a grand ol’ time. Can’t really go wrong with burritos and ice cream.

Note: Today’s pictures are brought to you by the cell phone I use in the US. I must confess, it’s not too shabby.

CEDED Taco Night

Once again, Peruvian Food Monday will not actually be about Peruvian food. Next week, friends. Next week. Although, this post does involve food! Surprise, surprise.

About a month ago, we planned to have a communal dinner with the Voices of Youth kids. Cooking is a great way to bond and the atmosphere is ideal for having a time for everyone to just get to know one another. (No one has to tell me about the powers of food, that’s for sure.) We originally planned to make arroz con pollo and papa a la huancaina. But on the day we planned to make it all, the plans fell through due to the kids arriving a little too late and not enough kids coming. It was disappointing but we made the most of our time by having them brainstorm plans for their postcard project. The communal dinner plan was put on the back burner. But about a week and a half ago, the dinner plans were tossed back into the mix (I can keep going)  and it all came together yesterday afternoon.

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We reintroduced the communal meal idea and the kids voted on more exotic foods to cook. The consensus was Mexican food and after another round of voting, it was decided that we were going to make enchiladas. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make enchiladas because of complications with sauce preparation, so we changed it to tacos. Roxana brought a couple of kids to the market earlier this week to go buy the ingredients and everyone came yesterday to prepare the meal. Earlier on Sunday, Hannah and Roxana even made homemade tortillas to supplement our package of Old El Paso tortillas from the supermercado.

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There were three groups: a group to cut and cook onions and peppers, lettuce and tomato group and guacamole group. (My group was the lettuce and tomato group, but because the kitchen is only so big and it’s kind of awkward to help out with hand, I declared myself the photographer for the afternoon.) The groups worked really well together and anyone could tell they were having a genuinely good time. Although, the tear ducts of the onions and peppers group succumbed to the tear-inducing task of cutting the onions, to the point where they had to rotate between people cutting the onions and people going to the bathroom to washout their eyes.  I was quite impressed with their onion cutting skills – those onions were very neatly minced, let me tell you. Nevertheless, their hard work definitely paid off in the end.

Once all of the ingredients were prepared, we put them all out on the table and got to business. When some of the kids started to eat the tortillas by itself, we were reminded that a lot of them hadn’t had tacos before and that they might have forgotten what they looked like since the voting process of what we would make. It was really quite endearing. After clarifying how to build their own taco, everyone went to town. The most popular ingredient was the guacamole, which lets be honest was no surprise. Whose favorite part isn’t the guacamole?

It was a laid-back afternoon with good food and fun conversation. CEDED taco night: success.

 

Adventures at the Óvalo Gutiérrez

For the past week, I was embarrassingly excited about the glorious potential of today. I think I mentioned my plans at least once a day in any given conversation. It was really bad. And it was all for a doctor’s appointment.

You see, Clinica Anglo Americana is about two blocks from the Óvalo Gutiérrez, which is a hub for a lot of food chains/opportunities to spend stupid amounts of money on food that I normally wouldn’t eat – even back home. Seriously dangerous territory. I rationalize it whith the idea that I am just embracing the multitude of opportunities to experience culture while abroad and if Pinkberry and La Lucha Sanguchería are valid options for dining, there isn’t much I can do about it except eat there. Culture.

I did both of those things – Pinkberry and La Lucha – and it was glorious. If I had the option between Yogurtland and Pinkberry, I would choose Yogurtland but they have yet to establish a location in Peru. Nevertheless, Pinkberry does a pretty fine job. At La Lucha, I got a classic Lechón a la leña and a fresh squeezed orange juice. The sandwich was comprised of perfectly tender, not too smoky roasted pork, red onions, mayonnaise, ketchup, other sauces I don’t know the names of, ají and bookended by a soft on the inside, crusty on the outside roll. It was a beautiful experience, truly. They also get bonus points for putting this beautiful sandwich in front of me like five minutes after I ordered it. I love sandwiches. I am a sandwich person, therefore, La Lucha has made itself a special place in my heart. I’ll be back, La Lucha. I’ll be back. (I have literally already planned what I’m going to do at the ovalo when I have my x-ray appointment in December.)

After my sandwich, I headed across the ovalo to a Wong supermarket. Wong is the ritziest of supermercados here – you would not find one in Villa that’s for sure. I still had a lot of time to kill so I decided that I might as well head over there and peruse. This supermarket would put a lot of US stores to shame. 1. They are all about Christmas time now 2. It is just so nice. I spent probably more than a half hour just wandering around, looking at all the food. Despite my wandering, I did have a certain item in mind: peanut butter. I haven’t had peanut butter for more than two months and before I came to Peru, I was eating copious amounts every day. To say this has been a struggle would have been an understatement. In summary, I have attained the peanut butter and I am ridiculously happy about that. I cannot articulate anymore than that – I am that pleased with myself and this peanut butter.

Walking into Clinica Anglo Americana prompted a brief walk down memory lane. Good o’l Anglo Americana, with its posh cliental and nurses with weird hair/hat thingies. When I got there I was an hour early for my appointment, so I decided to head over to the restaurant that is conveniently located feet away from my doctor’s office, to have a cup of coffee. On the way there I saw Doogie Howser! I don’t know if I’ve mentioned Doogie Howser before, but – now that I think about it, exactly two weeks ago – Emily and I saw him in one of the halls of the hospital and both agreed that we would not want him to be our doctor because he looked like he just started high school. The next day, he was the person who recorded my medical history before I had my surgery. Anyway, Doogie Howser recognized me and we had a little chat. It was great. He was not the only person who remembered me as well as my friends – people in the restaurant as well as my surgeon’s secretary all asked about my friends and where they were. We must have been quite the scene.

The actual appointment was probably no more than fifteen minutes long. We looked at an x-ray of my clavicle post-surgery and Dr. C took off the little bandages covering my stitches. Everything is all healed up! There’s barely even a scar. What’s even better, is that I was told that I only have to wear my sling when I’m out and about, and I quote, “en la calle” basically so that no one messes with me. (For those who do not know, my sling was slowly becoming the bane of my existence the past two weeks because it’s so, so, inconvenient. There really isn’t a more rational reason than that, but it is so annoying.) In any case, I think I can live with just having to wear it for cosmetic purposes. If anyone is ever in Lima and needs any sort of orthopedic surgery – Dr. C can hook you up.

All in all, it was a very nice day. Delicious food, good news and pretty good weather. Not something you can usually say about a Monday, right?

Many Thanks and the Incredibly Necessary Discussion of Hospital Food

With a food-driven blog like mine, how could one expect me not to bring up the hospital food. I would be disappointed if anyone thought otherwise. This blog has priorities.

Most importantly, thank you, thank you, thank you, to all of my family and friends who have left words of encouragement, support and incredible kindness. To y’all back home, expect big hugs when I get back home. To everyone in my second home, Peru, expect as big a hug one can give with one arm.

Now onto some updates:

Surgery went according to plan. I can’t really say more than that because well, I was sort of asleep during all of it. When I woke up in their post-op room of sorts, the first few things I said were “qué rapido” and when I can eat food. (I hadn’t eaten since the night before, due to doctor’s orders.) My Spanish is far from perfect, but I’m still pretty sure that the nurses told me that I couldn’t eat for the rest of the day. This was very devastating to post-op-Michelle. I decided to attempt to guilt them into giving me a better answer by asking them if they knew about El Pan de la Chola and explaining that all of my friends were there at the moment (which they were) and how sad I was going to be if they brought me back something and I couldn’t eat it (they didn’t).  Even though they did not give me an answer I could appreciate (or one at all), I decided that they partially-redeemed themselves when one of the nurses told me she liked me eyes. Because hey, I like them too.

The running joke of this particular hospital was how ritzy it was. It was basically a hotel. Ever since Emily and I wandered into the “cafetaría” earlier this week, I had very high expectations for whatever meals I would be given. This cafeteria was essentially a restaurant. It even had its own separate entrance. The business that runs it is a popular chain in Lima and upon seeing large carts with the same logo in the hospital halls, we were convinced they catered for its patients. My dinner the night of my surgery wasn’t too shabby. It was chicken, a vegetable medley, two cups of jello, wanton soup and a cup of mate tea.  I couldn’t do the wanton soup. I don’t think anyone could. Because my right arm was in a sling and my left was left partially immobile due to the location of my IV, Emily fed me. I will be forever grateful for the comic relief that was Emily feeding me.

As for the past couple of days, things have been pretty low key. Even though I have joined the elite group who are bionic and therefore, one step closer to being robots, life is pretty normal. Bought some toilet paper. Downloaded OS X Mavericks. (I’m not looking to start any arguments, but one of those achievements was a little more worth while than the other.) Today was more eventful that yesterday, because I rode in a moto taxi for the first time since “the night”. As my friend Melissa said to me via Skype this evening, “You just get right back on that horse.” That I did. It was only a quick ride from the municipality to home and I was safely cushioned with Emily on my left and Andrew on my right. Gotta start somewhere.

Liquid Gold a.k.a. Yogurt

One of the hardest things about being vegan was the lack of yogurt – specifically greek yogurt.  Sure, there are the “non-dairy yogurt style” products, but if you have ever had those, you know quite well that those don’t cut it. Not even close. So for about two precious months, I shamelessly ate loads of greek yogurt. It was a quite a glorious time in my life, yes it was. Then I came to Peru and my greek-yogurt-centric life came to a sudden halt. There’s yogurt here, but unlike the sour cream consistency of yogurt in the US, it’s more like a beverage here in Peru.

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It’s like the liquidy part of kefir. It’s also very sweet. (Even the natural flavor is sweeter than the plain yogurt that’s in the US.) But nonetheless, there are a myriad of flavors, lactose-free and even soy. Another interesting factoid about this yogurt is that it’s shelf stable. This has enabled me to create a stock-pile of sorts, as you can see above. (I also have one in the refrigerator.) The only catch is that the woman who I buy my yogurt from doesn’t always have the same flavors all the time. It’s quite the struggle. My favorite is the Light Natural because it’s fat free and has no added sugar. This is probably because it is the closest thing that resembles greek yogurt. I also like the ActiBIO which is fat-free, sweetened with stevia and has flax seeds. Pretty fancy. Last night I went to the (assumedly only) supermarket that’s in Villa El Salvador for the first time and my yogurt dreams were fulfilled.

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This supermarket had an entire refrigerated isle devoted to yogurt. It was beautiful. I had never seen such a large selection and it was almost a little overwhelming. I quickly searched for the Light Natural, but they sadly did not have any. Instead, I found four other flavors of the Light variety and decided that the vanilla would be a pretty safe bet. It has been added to my stock pile and I am excited to try it. Much like the Light Natural, the bottle for Vainilla Francesa features a picture of a woman being…”light”?

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So that’s that for this Monday’s “Peruvian Food Monday”. There’s been a lot going on regarding non-food related activity, so I’ll be catching up on that stuff in the coming days.

Chinita on Chifa

(Let the first official Peruvian Food Monday commence!) 

China. Chinita. I have been addressed by either, from little kids to adults. But I really don’t mind. I know that there’s no malice behind the moniker, so there really isn’t a reason to be miffed or anything. (Although, I think it confuses people when I tell people that I am from the US but that I was born in China.) Before coming to Peru, I definitely thought about how great of a minority I would be, or the social perception of Asian people. During the research I did pre-departure, I learned that Asian people weren’t as much of a minority than I had anticipated. There’s even an Chinese food scene.

Around the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chinese immigrants came to Peru and their culinary influence is still prominent in the country. The term used for this type of cuisine is “Chifa” and there are restaurants all over the place. In Villa El Salvador (assumedly in other places as well) there are these green and orange tents that dot the main thoroughfares and all of them cook Chifa. I’m not sure if they are organized in any sort of way, but there is one conveniently about twenty feet away from where I live. At first, I was sort of sketched out by these places because I didn’t want to get any sort of weird food poisoning. But every night that I would come home late from CEDED, the place was hoppin’. A place that’s consistently busy can’t be bad, right?

The first time Roxana and I went to this place, we both ordered the arroz chaufa aka fried rice. When the woman came with our plates, my mouth dropped and my eyes widened. The portion was gigantic. The plate wasn’t even that big, but somehow they managed to fill it with at least four cups of fried rice. It was a glorious mountain of rice with chicken, egg, peas, carrots, and green onion.  It was overwhelming but also really really fabulous. Because the entire plate cost 6 PEN (Peruvian Nuevo Soles), which is around 2 USD. It made awesome leftovers.

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So, that was my first experience at our neighborhood Chifa joint. Last night we decided to go again and we were ravenous. And rightfully so, because we had originally intended to go on Saturday night, but that night’s festivities lead to the cancellation of our Chifa dinner. The bad food from the night before also increased our need for Chifa tenfold.

This time, I ordered the “salvaje”. Essentially, it was arroz chaufa (portions just as big) but with noodles and vegetables added to the mix. I was very enthusiastic about the veggies: broccoli, bell pepper, snow peas (so fancy), cabbage, sprouts (not so into that). Reason being, I really love me some vegetables and the amount I’ve had while being here is significantly less than what I’m used to. I will take what I can get. And this was real good.

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See the salvaje. Taste the salvaje. (Just get a ticket to Lima.)

I am all about budget friendly meals that make for delicious leftovers and Chifa seems to fit the bill. Although, now I have established yet another dangerous food habit (e.g. the panadería across the street, coconut cookies at the Sunday flea market, the snack lady who sells virtually every nut known to man for my trail mix, the abundance of alfajor cookies that are everywhere). Oh, well. I say it’s community building. Yeah.

Miraflores Food Adventures

It has become somewhat of a tradition to go on little day trips into different districts in Lima on Tuesdays. Considering it’s essentially everyone’s day off, it makes for a great opportunity for volunteer bonding as well as simply an opportunity to explore Lima. Today’s original plan was to visit Miraflores to see ruins as well as a bakery that Hannah’s friend highly recommended, El Pan de la Chola. While enroute to Miraflores, Hannah and I discovered that said ruins were open every day, except Tuesdays. Nonetheless, we made quite the day.

To be honest, this bakery was the highlight of my day. Probably of my week. Getting there was a bit of a trek, but it was more than worth it. Bread is one of my favorite foods and this place was life changing. Tasting the bread from this bakery was synonymous to the stories of people saying they could finally see leaves on trees upon getting glasses. I’m not joking.

Tostada de aceite de oliva y hummus

Tostada de aceite de oliva y hummus

Hannah and I split the tostada. It came with two different types of bread that were perfectly toasted, olive oil and hummus. This bread was perfect. Its crust was perfectly crunchy and flavorful, while the inside was soft and chewy – almost gooey (for lack of a better word) but not like it was under-baked. It was so good. Simply describing this bread does not do it justice. I was literally sad when it was all gone. Literally.

Not only did they have good bread, but they had phenomenal sandwiches, cookies and coffee. They even sold greek yogurt, but I didn’t end up buying any because I wasn’t up for carrying it around. I was so excited about this bread that I barely took any pictures! Next time. (And there will be a next time.)

Chocolate chip cookie with oats and pecans

Chocolate chip cookie with oats and pecans

Café Americano

Café Americano

After our little brunch at El Pan de la Chola, we headed over towards Kennedy Park. This park is surrounded by touristic hustle and bustle, and we were surrounded by many familiar franchises i.e. McDonalds, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and even a Pinkberry. Being the tourist district of Lima, I wasn’t really surprised that these establishments were in Miraflores. But it was a little surreal to see them, especially the Pinkberry. And for reasons passing understanding, there were a lot of cats.

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So many cats.

So many cats

While around Kennedy Park, we made a stop into the Metro, which is a supermarket chain and a Ripleys, which is like the Peruvian equivalent of Bloomingdales. Visiting both stores made me feel like I was back in the US – a feeling I haven’t felt at all since I’ve been here. More than anything, I felt very out of place. I haven’t been to a supermarket here, so it was really interesting to look around. I was in search of peanut butter, but due to the high-ish prices and questionable color, I didn’t buy any this time around. (This is veiled message to you, Mom. I am waiting for my peanut butter.)

For lunch, we met up with Emily at La Maquina. Considering we’d all spent a lot of money on food already and we were all up for the solid quality of food that La Maquina always provides as well as their budget friendly prices. They did not disappoint. I ordered ceviche croquettes as the appetizer and an entre of rice and a ground beef mixture that was layered in a circular form and topped with a fried egg. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of that either, as I was pretty eager to start eating. Also, we were all very engaged in a conversation about the ever entertaining shenanigans of the US legislative branch.

But the food adventures didn’t end in Miraflores. Earlier that morning, Ana María invited Roxana and I to go out to dinner with her and her friend to a restaurant that served food from the La Selva region of Peru. (La Selva is in the Amazonian area of the country.) The restaurant was about a five minute taxi ride from our house and I could barely distinguish where it was at night, so I’m guessing that trying to find it during the day would be pretty difficult. But nonetheless, this little hole-in-the-wall place served really good food. We all started off with tamales filled with chicken and olives, with a spicy salsa on the side. Our main courses were two big spheres of mashed plátano with a generous portion of  lean, smokey, salty ham. It created the perfect combination of flavors, despite its apparent simplicity. I suppose that could be said for a lot of the food I’ve had here.

In summary, today made the foodie in me very happy. We’ll just ignore the hole in my wallet for now. Until next Tuesday…