At the San Pedro Market in Cusco, Peru the produce was plentiful…rows and rows of brightly colored fruits, vegetables and herbs tempting you with every step. One of the fruits we decided to try out was the sweet passion fruit…I was sure I had eaten one before, but as soon as the local stall vendor began showing us how to eat it I knew I was wrong.
Our first Alpaca adventure came in the form of Alpaca Tartar at Astrid y Gaston in Lima. Having been named as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, it was a pretty safe bet that this dish would be a winner regardless of the focus on this new, strange meat. The tartar was served in three ways along with waffle cut potato chips. The first preparation was traditional in style…quail egg on top with a bit of hot sauce to go along with it. The other two preparations were international journeys in their own right with one taking us to Japan with flavors of wasabi and ginger and the other bringing us back to Thailand with Thai chilies and mango. All three were distinct and amazingly delicious with the alpaca being lighter than your traditional steak tartar. It’s almost what I would expect from a pork tartar if one were to exist. And I love me some pork!
Our second taste of Alpaca was in the form of grilled skewers…slightly crisp on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. In this simple preparation the Alpaca was almost like a hybrid between pork and chicken. The texture was very similar to well-cooked chicken but it was more flavorful.
One of the first things everyone asked me when I returned home from Peru was if I tried Guinea Pig, or Cuy Chactado. As you can see by the picture above, the answer is yes. Now before you get all bent out of shape thinking about the cute little guinea pig you had as a pet as a child you have to understand the perspective of someone like me who's passion is to explore new cultures through food.
Guinea Pig has a different meaning to Peruvians, particularly in the highlands. It's not only an important source of protein, particularly in rural areas, but the guinea pig also holds a longstanding and meaningful place in Peruvian folk medicine and religious practices historically. There's even an Indian version of the Last Supper on display in Cusco that shows Jesus and the 12 disciples feasting on this local delicacy. Not trying guinea pig while in Peru would be like going to Texas and not trying authentic BBQ or going to Thailand and not trying some insects...blasphemous to a food explorer like me!
It's been a little over a year since our last big trip to Thailand and Cambodia and we are itching for some exploring and gastronomic globe trotting. Up next...Ecuador & Peru! We're heading to South America for a little over 2 weeks on our very first organized/guided trip. We typically like to do our own thing and create our own itineraries, but since the focus of this trip is two activities that you are required to have authorized guides for, the Galapagos Islands and hiking Machu Picchu, we figured this was the right trip to try out a guided tour. So we did some research and booked this tour with G Adventures. A few of our friends have vacationed with G Adventures in the past and they have a sustainable and local flavor focus, so it sounds like a good fit for us...fingers crossed!
In case you're interested in following along on our adventure, a high-level itinerary is below. I'll get into the good stuff, all of the local cuisine that we are going to try to hunt down and try during the little bit of free time that we have, when I return. All of the foodie related activities that I have on my list are recommendations from my fellow T-Bird alumni who are either from Ecuador or Peru or have lived there for extended periods of time...so I trust they'll be spot on, but I'd like to try everything for myself and have photos before recommending any food to you...
This, was an amazing day. We were nearing the end of our two week trip to Cambodia and Thailand, at our last Thai beach destination before heading to Bangkok and then home. We had spent the previous 3 hours on a boat getting ferried from Koh Pi Pi island to Railay Beach in Krabi. The ferry ride alone was spectacular...the turquoise blue sea streched out as far as the eye reached, dotted with craggily formations and clusters of islands. This is what you see in the movies...and I sat like a child for 3 straight hours soaking it all in. Legs hanging off the side of the top deck, face resting on the railing, and a huge grin plastered to my face.
This, my friends, is why we live in California. I mean really does it get more serene and beautiful than this? The day of this photo was an interesting one...near the start of a true life experience. It was Day Two of the Brita California Climate Ride, a ~350 mile ride from Eureka to San Francisco. Since Brita was the title sponsor and I worked at our headquarters out here in the Bay Area, a co-worker and I came up with the idea of forming a team and doing it. The twist? Christian and I didn't even own bikes at the time of this brilliant idea.
The time: 9am.
The temperature: a sweaty 90°.
The mood: hungover, hungry and excited for this part of the trip we've been looking forward to but sad it's our last day in Chiang Mai.
Hence Christian getting a bit randy with the cleaver he is handed by our instructor. There were a lot of emotions swirling around that morning. We had been out a bit late with some new friends the night before and the Tuk Tuk for class arrived at our hotel bright and early at 7:30am. Of course we were the first people to be picked up so we had the joy of jostling around the back of the oppressively hot Tuk Tuk for the next 45 minutes while slowly meeting those who would be our fellow classmates for the next 4 hours.