Vitamin D On the Menu

As the sunny days fade into gray overcast winter in Lima, I’m reminded of last winter. During the deep of a Lima winter (June-September), you will need to go inland to get some sun. These are some restaurants in Cieneguilla where one can go to get a meal and more importantly, vitamin D. This short list is from long time expat residents of Lima.

Mesa de Piedra – Av. Nueva Toledo Km. 27.5, Lima 40

El Jardin – Av. Nueva Toledo 146-B, Cieneguilla

Parque Molle – Av. Nueva Toledo 215, Cieneguilla

Kankay – Km. 30.5, Calle Carrizal, Cieneguilla

I went to the place that started the Peruvian chicken craze, but that was not far enough inland. Still, the fries (and chicken) were very good, and I liked the gift shop.

 

Oldies But Goodies – Eateries Only Known to Limenos

***May 1, 2020 — See update about San Antionio*** Peruvians have been through many tough times before, and through them all, many of the older restaurants made it through too. Let us dream a little of times gone past, and those to come…
These restaurants may not be Internet famous like La Picanteria (which is almost unknown to Limenos), but, they are places that Limenos have eaten at for decades. Here are some of them. One thing I’ve found that many of these places have in common — the waiters seem to have been around since the beginning, and many wear bowties.
Tip Top is a drive-up diner from 1953 (drive-up only available at the location in Lince).
Punto Italiano is out in La Molina, famously at a gas station, but really that’s the name of the road (as in “gas station” road).
Monstrous sandwiches are about 20 percent larger than the usual size and this place has been around since the 1980s.
La Preferida is a classic place in a residential area of Miraflores. Well-known but still a local place. Second branch out in Surco.
Cordanos is quite famous and is located across from the presidential palace. It was, in its heyday, a hotspot for political intrigue and gossip.
San Antonio is a chain of sandwich shops where many Limenos go for a bite to eat, often for “lonche” which is the “tea” time snack here in Peru. (Update May 1, 2020, San Antonio is returning to their original business — they started out as a bodega selling groceries — and then switched to only selling sandwiches and cafe items. Now they have returned to selling bodega items — the location is the original location on Angamos. Like I said, these places will survive.)
El ítalo is an Italian style place, as are many of these places, located in Magdalena del Mar. It has quite a bit of charm and an old fashioned counter straight from Happy Days.
Elia in Magdalena del Mar is a time warp from the 1960s (even though the place is only from the 80s) and reflects the food of Italy when it encompassed the other side of the Adriatic sea. The stuffed artichoke appetizer may be their best dish.
Calamares is a ceviche place over in a less refined part of town. A favorite dish here is olluquitos (a waxy sort of tuber).
Rose bakery also has that faded photo sort of feel. The current owner is the son of the original owner.
Mozart is a new place located in the basement, out on the extension of Primavera Avenue. They are also Italian themed but with a bakery, salad bar, ice cream counter, deli counter, and lots of sitting areas. Favorite hangout for ladies of a certain age to gather for gin and tonics on a Friday night.
Tumbes Mar is a ceviche place in La Molina. Huge portions. Popular with Peruvians.
Cafe Tostado is located in Lince.
Don Tito is a rotisserie chicken (“Pollo a la brasa”) place in San Borja.
El Bolivariano in Pueblo Libre is a famous creole restaurant that foreigners go to when on food tours. Peruvians go for lunch.
Once we are allowed to go out again, these places will need customers more than ever. Try them out!

Masking the Face of Fashion

Face masks are are mandatory in Peru (please see vendors on my list of delivery places from my last blog posting). Peru’s internationally renowned fashion designer, Meche Correa, is finally making masks (long after many small unknown entrepreneurs). Sadly, her design is in fashionista black and not in her normal Peruvian design.

But, others are using native Peruvian designs. I see all over social media that people are celebrating their own cultural designs, like the ones from Ayachucho in the Twitter photo.

It is delightful to see that art is flourishing during the quarantine.

Fashion is fashioning itself as it does. I would add that I predict that gloves will come back in fashion. And handkerchiefs.

Delivery in the Time of COVID – Lima Edition

As Peru enters it’s third (or is it fourth?) week of quarantine, buying groceries has become a challenge. To make it a little bit easier, I’ve compiled a google doc of places that deliver. I’ve sourced my information from my friends, colleagues, food industry contacts, an el trinche, and a C&W – Directorio Delivery 2020-V01.pdf.pdf.pdf.pdf document sent to me. I hope the readers of my blog who live in Lima (are there three of you?) will find this google doc of use.

I have only received delivery from a few of the places as my kitchen is fairly well-stocked and the local bodega, corner store, has most of the basics. I can’t recall the last time I ate so many mandarins or potatoes…

Speaking of potatoes, the microwave is an excellent way to cook a potato.

Recipes from the Cupboard: Spinach Parmesan Dip

Just like those shows where one has to make a recipe based on unknown ingredients, cooking at home during the time of COVID, is like. I had forgotten how creative cooking really can be. At the start of the ‘stay home’ time, I organized my food by expiration date. I have been eating it in that order, sort of (sometimes instant noodle is just the fastest way to get some food made). But, as my local kiosk, bodega, has a daily supply of onions, tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, and ready made meals, some days, I’ve made brunch (eggs, potatoes, and toast, or French toast with home fries).

Many years ago, people asked me to write a cookbook. I don’t like measurements and have never really measured except when baking. I include here a basic recipe for spinach Parmesan dip. It’s cooking without a recipe but try it! For measurements, I would just go by eye (or gut!). Or google it (I did not invent this recipe).

Cream cheese

Spinach (chop it and make sure to squeeze the liquid out of it)

Parmesan

Mayonnaise

Add garlic, cayenne, chili, paprika, pepper to taste.

Mix it all and bake in oven until golden brown.

For those who live in the U.S., these are all ingredients that they most likely have at home.

When done, place in good north light and photograph in an artsy manner before eating.

Mucilage Never Tasted So Good – Cacao Juice

Cacao juice tastes like nectar. Indeed, the Latin name for cacao is “theobroma” or “food of the gods”.  To learn more, you can read the wikipedia entry of this blog. In Peru, this juice is called “mucilage” which is the technical term for the white pulp that surrounds the beans inside the cacao pods.

I first tried this juice at Kjolle (co-located with Central), Pia Leon’s restaurant. It was a hot summer day and sitting in the tall open sheltered space of Kjolle was a respite from the bleeping traffic outside. While Kjolle makes many other fancy drinks, this unassuming looking drink (it has a watery whitish tinge) was a revelation. It tasted a bit like lychee, mangosteen, or green apples, but had a taste all magically its own.

The other place where I have tried it was at Maido. Their version was in a Gin and Tonic cocktail. I asked if they could make me a mocktail. They did. The presentation was beautiful and their version of this drink was thicker, so more like mucilage, than at Kjolle. People remarked that it would make a good dessert. It was a longer relationship drink as well because of the thickness and richness. They served it with a side visual of theobroma and its cousin the majambo/macambo bean which is whitish in color.

Majambo can also be roasted and eaten. It has a mild nutty flavor. I first tried them at El Cacaotal in Barranco. Since I wrote the blog posting about El Cacaotal two years ago, that store has moved and blossomed. It is a lovely place to just chillax.

On a side note, a friend was planning to make some cacao juice and it made me wonder how ones does that. There is a whole process which can be read about here. As this site mentions, there is already a company that sells packaged cacao juice, so I see it becoming more and more commonplace. Having looked up a recipe on Google, I’m not sure that it entails more than extracting the fruit, maybe blending it for consistency, and then putting through a strainer (this is the method for making juice here in Latin America).

Laughter in the Time of COVID-19

In this time of quarantine, I’ve been trawling the web for funny memes (the first one may be me after a few weeks of teleworking). I include some clean ones (not sure you have enough toilet paper for the filthy ones…) here for your comic relief (I think my favorite comment so far is about the “enthusiast”). Some are thought provoking and some are just what caught my eye.

One thing I have learned from these past few days: humanity can be heartwarming at times.

 

And that Spock was right.

Listening to Grupo 5 on the Way to the Forum

Sitting in traffic, as one does, I was delighted to be distracted from the viral news of the day by my taxi driver’s choice of cumbia (he remembered that I like to listen to cumbia). A certain song with special verve came up on youtube (due to some glitch in his car stereo, this taxi driver plays songs off his phone), and I discovered a secret in plain sight — Grupo 5. This is a Peruvian cumbia band that has been around for decades. The young singer has such style and stage presence that for a few minutes I was fully into the cumbia schwang.

Also, while in traffic, I finally saw a “vanity plate” for this dog moving company. I’m not sure why this isn’t a bigger deal here.

 

Markets of Lima… and Then There is Minka

I know someone whose hobby is photographing markets. In Lima, there are essentially four types of markets: wholesale food markets, local grocery markets, eco- or bio- markets (farmers), and previous “informal” markets (black market).

Wholesale markets

Santa Anita wholesale market in Ate is the source of all produce sold at the other markets in Lima. I was sure I had blogged about it but it was only in my mind. Santa Anita is about 25 minutes out side of Miraflores on a weekend. I describe it as 24 airplane hangars of produce. The prices are great if you need bulk (50 kilos of limes), but it’s not worth it if you are just shopping for personal use. Nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed visiting several times.

The fish market, Pescado Terminal, is the source of all fish and seafood sold in other markets and stores in Lima.

Gamarra is the textile market. Fabric at stores in San Borja can cost around 30-90 soles per meter whereas in Gamarra that same fabric will cost 6-16 soles per meter. Gamarra is also know for it’s “informal” part (they just got raided recently).

Informal Markets (but now with legal items as well like custom made cell phone covers)

Polvos Azules is the formerly known are for knock off goods and other “informal” goods. Halfway to downtown.

Polvos Rosados is the electronics and other goods market also formerly “informal” located out in Surco.

Grocery markets

The central market in downtown is a “local” market for Lima’s nine million inhabitants. It is near the old chinatown so convenient for tourist tours of downtown.

Surquillo 1 is a local market but also a central market. I still shop here as there are specialty stalls like the spice stall that other local markets do not have. The prices are better than at Wong. This is the market where the gastro tour go so there are lots of foreigners and tourists in this market. It’s gotten sort of dirty and it’s a mishmosh instead of neatly organized (meat in one area, etc.). On Sunday mornings, there is a farmers’ market outside. Lots of places to eat local food as well (and Venezuelan). The famous La Picanteria is just a few blocks behind hence why this market is part of the food tours.

Surquillo 2 is a collection of areas and not as safe as Surquillo 1.

Lince, Labotan, market is a local market for Lince. I like this market because it has zero tourists (well, me), it’s clean, organized, and covered. Plus, the area around it has many pastry industry shops.

Santa Cruz is one of the local markets for Miraflores. Exceptionally clean.

Productores in San Isidro (on the Miraflores border) is a local market for the wealthy San Isidro-Miraflores types along the malecon. There is a fish market there. One goes in to the parking lot at the San Isidro sports complex and the market is inside.

Magdalena also has a local market. As does every district/barrio.

Minka

… and then there is Minka.

This is in the words of a friend, “reason to never leave Lima.” (my photos do not do it justice. Go see for yourself).

Minka has an excellent fish market, produce market, etc., in the old style INSIDE a giant open-air California style mall. Everything under one “roof.” There are restaurants, tailors, play areas, a Metro (grocery store), cell phone stores, banks… okay, I take it back… maybe there isn’t a movie theater… nor a high end grocery store selling my imported cheese…

Gamarra

The single word, “Gamarra” elicits a volatile reaction when uttered here in Lima.

Gamarra is an area of Lima located in the district of La Victoria, just a few miles from Miraflores and other posh neighborhoods of Lima. Gamarra is known as the textile or fabric district of Lima. Essentially it’s a giant open air pedestrian-friendly fabric and clothing shopping area. The main areas are several streets that are closed off by metal fencing and gates creating a pedestrian zone (I predict that in ten years, this area will be gentrified and quite chic). Gamarra is named after Jiron Gamarra (named after a Peruvian president) and La Victoria was incorporated as a district in 1920. There is a metro stop in Gamarra, plus, a witch’s market (famous for frog smoothies and other talismans). Read more on Gamarra here if you wish.

When reading about Gamarra, the warnings are to watch your wallet. It is true that like any crowded place in Peru, you need to watch for pickpockets. Never put anything in a backpack that you can’t afford to lose. All this said, the young mayor of La Victoria, George Forsyth, of a renowned family, cleaned up Gamarra in 2019. He has taken some heat (even threats) for what he did. Some might say that he made Gamarra not as good a deal as it once was, but it’s still good for your wallet (if you can keep anything in it). Speaking of deals, fabric can be bought for as low as three soles per meter (maybe less?). Most fabric is 1.60 meters wide. That’s a lot of fabric. You can find any type of fabric but each type has an area so I’m not sure if they sell silk (having never been to the silk area). The names of the fabric are perhaps different from what you might call them (I like “chalise” — a cotton blend — for shirts), but go ahead and touch the fabric. There are many forms of fleece which is fun as it needs no edging. During the summer, the mind turns to linen (mine does), and that can be found in Gamarra as well (in Dhaka, linen and spandex were hard to find by the meter — even though Bangladesh is famous for sewing much of the world’s clothes).

There are shopping centers within Gamarra’s pedestrian streets as well stores that sell ready-to-wear clothes, toys, bags, and there are places that will custom print your bags or clothes. The area also sells plus-size clothing (as Peruvians are generally shorter and smaller than most gringos) and some of the signage will even say “ropa para gorditas” (I don’t know where the “gorditos” shop). Some of these stores sell up to XXXL size clothes, which is about a 20-22 in U.S. sizes plus sizes, but the selection is limited so it’s better to get your own clothes made.

Gamarra is also a place where one can buy thread, tailor’s equipment, sewing machines, and yarn. It’s also possible to buy alpaca and llama yarn in Gamarra but again, I have never made it to that area.

Gamarra also has restaurants and many restrooms, as well as lots of security. Like any shopping area in Peru, there are also street stalls. Gamarra was famous for the street stalls until the mayor pushed them out. The street stalls are now a few blocks outside the gated area. The busiest day in Gamarra is Saturday and most shops open around 10 a.m.

Gamarra is also famous for the “informal” market. The use of the word “informal” is actually code for black market and knockoffs. I only shop for fabric.

 

The best fabric prices are to be had in Gamarra but the prices will vary depending on how foreign you appear. What can cost 12 soles ($3.75) per meter for one gringo, can cost six soles per meter for another, less gringo-looking, foreigner. Learning to haggle helps get the price down but also shopping in the less crowded areas as well.

Juniors, Circas, and ‘Av Nots.

The addresses in Lima are kind of fun (well, one has to have some fun while in traffic!). Just take a moment and enjoy the name of the street in the photo. For a non-native Castilliano (Peruvian Spanish is “castillion”) speaker, this is a challenge… sip-ee-own-yown-a?

Jiron (jr.) is a small street. Sort of like a junior street.

Calle (ca.) is a street.

Callejon is an alley.

Avenida (av.) is an avenue and normally a long street.

Pasaje: is a cul-de-sac.

Paseo: is a street for a walk like a boardwalk. Streets like Arequipa that are divided with a sidewalk and trees in the middle are meant for these “walks”.

Prolongacion (prol.) is a an extension of a street.

Cuadra (or cdra) is a block.

Ovalo is a traffic circle/roundabout.

Sin numero (s/n) means that the house has no number.

Solar: is an alleyway in a fancy neighborhood.

Alta means that it’s at the top of the street or block.

Manzana means an apple but in this context it means a block. The term most likely originates from the feudal system (and not as I hoped that it was the amount of space that an apple tree spreads its roots). The use of “manzana” and “lote” or lot is predominant in some of the “conos” or northern, southern, and eastern districts of Lima. These are mainly lower socio-economic areas.

And related to this, an apartment is a “departamento” or “depa” and the first floor is the ground floor here.

Women Owned Restaurants in Lima

I often get asked about restaurants owned by women. Many restaurants have women pastry chefs and many bakeries are owned by women. For example, Tanta is owned by Astrid of Astrid y Gaston. Astrid is a pastry chef. But now Tanta now serves much more than pastry.
Here are some other places that I’ve found that are owned by women. (see addresses for most on my list of 100 places to eat in Lima)
Kjolle: owned by Pia Leon of Central. Open on Mondays.
Matria: the owner also comes out to the dining room to greet people.
La Grimanesa: an anticucho-maker made famous by Gaston Acurio at Mistura.
Señor de Sulcro: one of the institutions.
Las Tres Suecas: three Swedish women own this cafe.
Las Vecinas: Zonia, a Fulbright photographer and Peruvian American owns this place in Barranco.
Kilo: one of the few Asian women in the steakhouse business. She is rare. Apparently she also treats her staff well.
KG: a friend of Kilo’s owner. But the place is not very good.
La Red: Isolina started this place and since then her son has opened La Isolina and Las Reyes in her honor.
La Vaca Negra: a hole in the wall in Barranco where the first generation Chinese Peruvian owner ages her steaks and hamburger meat. Also serves ribs and chicken.
Quinoa Cafe: healthy cafe owned by women.
La Bodega de Trattoria Membrino: one of the classic places started by a woman who turned her dinner party hostessing skills into a business.
Aji555: owned by a Thai woman.
And a few other mentions:
Dhaasu: Also co-owned by a woman.
Rolly & Co: co-owned by a woman
El Cacaotal, the chocolate library shop: owned by a woman.