We’d been talking about visiting Machu Picchu and the Galápagos for the last several years, and we found a tour that hit both places through G Adventures. Three weeks in South America: sounds easy, right? Trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was one of the most difficult hikes of our lives, but it also made for one of our very best vacations—and our first foray into the Southern Hemisphere. The flights from Boston to Lima, Perú were lengthy but uncomplicated, and we lost only one hour to eliminate jetlag. The next morning, we found the Manolo café at Av. Larco 608 in Miraflores, and their crunchy churros and sludgy, bittersweet hot chocolate (below) were irresistible.
It was winter in Perú, and with daytime highs in the 80s, the weather couldn’t’ve been more perfect for exploring the city. Packed full of restaurants and shops, Miraflores was relatively quiet during the day. Like many other cities around the world, you can find stray cats & dogs flourishing in pockets of urban areas, and Parque Kennedy is no different with its cats. Apparently the gardeners feed them, as do many passers-by:
A few blocks away stand the monuments of Huaca Pucllana, smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood. This clay and adobe pyramid was a cultural center of life for the pre-Incan Lima culture. How cool would it be to live across the street from this!
The exotic flora of the city couldn’t be ignored, either. The equatorial sun bathes these Brugmansia, or angel’s trumpets, with constant warmth, and their pendulous flowers measure about ten inches in length:
And this giant plant threatened to eat Amy for lunch:
Since ceviche is Perú’s national dish, we couldn’t wait to eat it like the natives. La Mar at Av. La Mar 770 made the cut from our guide book, and it turned out to be one of the most amazing meals of our lives. Clearly catering to a business crowd but still excited to talk to non-Spanish-speaking tourists, the welcoming staff brought out these baskets of toasted corn and chifles (toasted banana, plantain, sweet potato chips) with savory & spicy dipping sauces as soon as we were seated:
Amy ordered Perú’s national drink, the Pisco Sour (made with local grape brandy, bitters, and egg whites):
And I was enchanted by the chicha morada (like grape juice but way fruitier):
As an appetizer, we tried a tiradito, Perú’s version of sashimi. The menu described it as “neither Italian carpaccio nor Japanese sashimi,” and ours was seared tuna with tamarind-based leche de tigre (tiger’s milk: citrus-based marinade), sesame seeds, and shredded daikon. Incredible!
Then the cebiche (a variant spelling of ceviche from the local dialect) arrived, five different preparations in separate dishes—tamarind sauce, Chinese spices, traditional, mixed seafood, and Asian, all swimming in their own leche de tigre. Now we’ve had ceviche in the states, which tasted nothing like the gastronomic arousals that followed. We observed diners around us sprinkling the toasted corn atop the cebiche, which added a crunchy, textural counterpoint to the proceedings:
Grilled octopus with chimichurri sauce and mashed potatoes followed, and we’ve never had anything even close to this level of deliciousness:
Room for more? ¡Sí claro! Isabella, our lovely server, suggested these seared scallops, which were beyond magnificent, of course:
Before we departed the States, we sampled lúcuma (an Andean fruit that tastes slightly like maple syrup) ice cream with the Boston Roadfood gang, so we couldn’t pass up a tiramisù made with lúcuma crème for dessert:
Simply put, La Mar is one of our best eating experiences anywhere. Isabella told us that La Mar has restaurants around the world, including New York City, but we can’t imagine that any other location could trump the fresh seafood and inventive local ingredients of this location.
Next chapter: local sandwiches, local transportation, and the wonders of Cusco!