Crave – Food at the Source

I know that it is the general convention that dishes, food, is best tasted at the source. I think that does some disservice to the diaspora and fusion food that has evolved over the millennia. That said, here is a list of food that I often crave. Actually, for many of the dishes, I prefer in their newer form. But, then again… some I prefer at the source.

Ceviche — I like the classic old fashioned version. The Peruvians love fusion. They are a fusion and so is their food. So now one can find “warm ceviche” and ceviche not made with fish.

“Ceviche classico” with “leche de tigre” (tiger’s milk) making the fish turn white.

Danish hotdog — I prefer them in Denmark. The actual hotdog is special, the ketchup is different, the dog is served with crunchy fried onions…
New York pizza — also, one of those things. Some say that the New York pizza is like a Neopolitan pizza from Naples, Italy. We shall see…
Hamburger — Some of the best I’ve had are in the United States. American beef and lack of gristle in the mix.
Banh mi — I’ve had good ones outside of Vietnam.
Pho — Also, good in the certain parts of the United States. Very bland in other places.
Korean BBQ — If one sticks to the pork belly, then it’s fairly easy to get good Korean barbecue in many countries. I think that many people think that bulgogi should be made with a high grade of beef and grilled at the table. Traditionally, bulgogi was created to use bad cuts of meat that required marinating. Usually the slices are so thin that grilling at the table dries them out. Some places use good cuts of steak and then one can dip them in sesame seed oil and salt. This is a delicious way to eat barbecue.
Chicken wings — Oddly, some of the best barbecue wings I’ve had were in a pizzeria in New Mexico.
Dim sum — can be good in many places outside China.

Laksa — so far the best I’ve had, and even some of the mediocre, was in Singapore and Malaysia. What can I say?

Most of all, the food of other lands transports you to them.

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.


Pollo a la brasa – La Granja Azul

I finally went to the place that started the craze for Peruvian rotisserie chicken, “pollo a la brasa” — La Granja Azul, out in Ate (over an hour outside Miraflores). In the Washington, DC, area, I had been to both El Pollo Rico and Edy’s Chicken (this one preferred by my Peruvian friends for the lucuma ice cream and fried yucca, and actually owned by a Thai lady), so it was fun to go to the source.

Granja Azul is a “country” restaurant, a type of restaurant that includes a play area for children and a gift shop. It’s a large rambling restaurant with heavy colonial style furniture and interiors. There is a courtyard that fits many extended family lunches. The menu includes the standard 80 sol all-you-can -eat menu of pullet/poulet (young chicken), fries, salad (iceberg in one bowl, tomatoes in another, and onions in a third), bread, butter, anticuchos (beef heart on a stick), chili sauce, and a small pitcher of mayonnaise (yes, you read that right). The picarones (Peruvian doughnuts) are not included in the menu.

The chickens are on long spits rotating in a large oven and the chicken turner is happy to pose the chickens for a photo op.

The fries are delicious. I think. I may have been influenced by the 1.5 hour drive and hunger. The chickens are crispy and dry. Who can eat more than one?

I went on a day looking for sun. There was none. But I did enjoy the gift shop. And going to the pollo a la brasa source! From Ate (what a fun name!) to the world!

Secret Restaurants and Speakeasies in Buenos Aires

Eat, drink, and be merry on four continents.
Eat, drink, and be merry on four continents.

There’s a well known secret about Buenos Aires. Actually, there are more, but here are two gastronomic ones.

One is that there are “secret” restaurants to go to (sort of like the inadvertent secrets in Dhaka). The concept is a fixed menu in someone’s home and you pay a suggested amount. It’s all sort of furtive and illicit, therefore enticing. The concept is the same as in Washington, DC and other cites.

Nola, come on in.
Nola, come on in.


In BA (that’s what the they call Buenos Aires), I went to a former secret restaurant. Instead of being located behind the closed door at the back of a garage, it’s now open to the street. Called Nola, it was started by a Louisiana expat, and it serves some good ol’ food. It was the best fried chicken in the city. The fried chicken has crispy batter. The sweetbreads with red pickled onions makes a savory bowl of crunchy goodness. The cornbread was more like a bread pudding and the tea, it was sweet. Best go early for BA, around eight, so that you don’t have to stand while eating your chicken. As the place filled up, the patrons spilled out onto the sidewalk through the open front. The restaurant looked like a former garage. They have a few desserts as well, including a cupcake sized blueberry pie. While the prices were not cheap, Nola was as sweet as its pie.

Blueberry pie, single portion.
Blueberry pie, single portion.

The second secret in BA is the “speakeasy,” A speakeasy refers to a bar that is hidden, just like back during Prohibition in the U.S. In current-day BA, these are bars with a fake entrance. The one that I went to had an innocent looking bakery as its facade. We went in and walked to the back “brick” wall. I imagining a secret knock or handshake would be required. But, we simply told the hostess that we wanted to go “to the back” and she let us through. Once through the looking glass, we entered a world of Victorian England, and I half hoped to see Johnny Depp swish or sway past wearing a cape. Alas, other than the disproportionate number of tall blondes, the only swaying I saw was a short gold lamĂ© skirt that glittered and glistened as its owner made forays to the powder room.

A cocktail for 10 bucks.
A cocktail for 10 bucks.

Perhaps next time, I’ll blog about the 48-hour eating tour of BA to match my 48-hour food tour of Lima.