Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Visit Paracas in the coast of Peru! Beautiful beaches and ecotourism!

Paracas is located in the department of Ica, which is south to Lima and just 3 hours by car from Lima. Pacaras bay is very attractive for tourists because of the beautiful beaches it has, some great hotels and also because of the eco-tourism. Paracas means “sand rain” and is the name given to some great winds that are observed in this region, mainly in the afternoon.

Paracas has been declared a national reserved for migratory birds, that is why visitors in Paracas enjoy observing the different ecosysetms and bird species that are found in Paracas. One of the species is the Humboldt penguin, which receives this name because of the Humbold Current that passes through Peruvian waters, and this are the only species of penguin that can be found in Peru. Other kind of birds that live on the islands are the so called “aves guaneras”, which received this name in the golden years of bird guano in Peru, when this was the main product being exported.

Besides birds you can also see some other animals on the islands mainly mammals like sea lions and also some dolphins. The islands that are in Paracas and where you can take this kind ef eco-tourism are the Ballestas Islands, which are very near the coast and you can take one of the many tours that depart every day, but you have to do it early in the day, because the boats don’t go there in the afternoon because of the winds.

If you are looking for relax and fun you are going to love Paracas! There are many beaches in Paracas bay but one special beach is one that is calle “La Mina” which in English means mine, and is located inside the Paracas Reserve, with a beautiful view of great part of the bay and calm waters to swim and relax.

When it comes to places to stay in Paracas you can really find great variety when it comes to hotels, if you do not want to pay much and are going to be all day at the beaches and sightseeing, you can find some affordable hotels, but if you want a great luxury hotel with spa and great food you can also go to one of the two main resorts in Paracas, one is the Libertador Hotel and the other one is the Hilton, both are 5 stars luxury hotels which are just beautiful and relaxing!

Finally, Paracas has some history too, because the Paracas culture that lived before the Incas have left some important legacy in Peruvian history, mainly because of its knitting techniques that can be seen in the Paracas mantles but also because of their great knowledge of irrigation and water management. You can learn about this culture in the museum that is located inside the Paracas Reserve.

So……..what are you waiting to visit Peru and come to Paracas???

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Peruvian food: You HAVE to try "Antichuchos" in Lima!!

The anticuchos are one of the favorite snacks or entree in Peru, specially in Lima where you can find them from street-carts in a Park to the best restaurants in town! The typical Anticuchos are from beef heart but know you can also find Anticuchos made from tenderloin.........what defines the Anticuchos really is the sauce, which gives them all the flavor: the meat is marinated in vinegar and spices such as cumin, aji pepper, and garlic, and then they are put on a stick ready to be cooked in a grill, and while they are cooking some more sauce is also applied with the help of the leaf from corn, if you try the Anticuchos from the street-carts you can watch the whole process and just delight with the smell while you are in the line to get your delicious Anticuchos!

One of the reasons why this dish is so popular in the street-carts, besides its flavor is that it is so easy to eat even standing because the small pieces of meat are on the stick and you really don't need silverware!

But I have not tell you the better part yet, Anticuchos are regularly served with white corn or potatoes (wich are also cooked in the grilled), or sometimes with corn AND potatoes, and even from the carts on the street to the best restaurants they have to serve the anticuchos with some aji or chili sauce, which is just delicious and the perfect combination for a great meal!!!

If you go to a restaurant the Anticuchos are typically served as a entree but you can also have it as your main dish, if you have the opportunity to share a barbecue in Peru the anticuhos are regularly one of the first items to be served, along with the "Choripanes" wich are sausages with french bread................or if you are just walking around maybe sightseeing or touring around Lima or other city in Peru you can quench your hunger with a stop by some of the carts you can find in many Parks and go on with your day!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The biggest Food Festival in Peru: Mistura! Come and delight yourself!‏

This days in Lima is all about Mistura! You take a bus, go to the movies, at lunch at work, everybody is asking “did you go already?, got some tickets? What day are you planning to go?”, because is the event nobody wants to miss, is the opportunity to try great dishes from all across Peru, from a great variey of restaurants and street restaurant and at very affordable prices!

The festival started first on 2009 with the Peruvian Association of Gastronomy promoting the idea of reuniting the main players in Peruvian Gastronomy and make a menu of activities that promote not only the Peruvian Gastronomy but the cultural identity of the Peruvians.

The festival also wants to celebrate that in Peru, through the centuries, the food has been associated with festivities and joy, using techniques that had been transmitted from generation to generation. Also, the food has also been very much hand in hand with the music and social fraternization among different kind of peoples………….and this is the spirit that prevails in Mistura.

The festival reunites all the actors in the gastronomic chain in Peru: small farmers, Pisco producers, cookers, chefs, bakers, confectioneries, restaurants, street restaurants, food institutes, food processing companies and more!

In Mistura you can find all kinds of foods, from Ceviche to “Picarones” which are a special Peruvian dessert almost in the form of a donut but with honey all over…..just delicious! You can also find the most exotic juices made with fruits from the highlands and fruits that are only found in Peru, like the Lucuma.

You can also find some food stands with some Tamales, and “Humitas” which is very much like a tamale but in a sweet flavor, or you can also find the popular “Anticuchos”, which are pieces of meat from the heart of the cow and are cooked on a grill, put together on a stick…………

You can also find Food that is typical from the jungle part of Peru, like “Cecina” wich is a dried meat that is regularly served with “Tacacho”, which is kind of mashed bananas cooked with some salt and species and us just delicious!

The best about the food stands, compared to the restaurants that you can also find at Mistura, is that you can  see the whole preparation of your dish!!!

But it is not all about just eating, you can also go to some of the conferences that are offered by the greatest and most recognized internationally, and they talk about the techniques for the preparation of some dishes, about the different ways a special dish has been reinvented and presented in different restaurants and many more interesting topics!

So if you are planning on Visiting Peru next year around this time, I strongly recommend you to purchase your tickets for Mistura in Advance, the cost is only S/.15 (which is about $6) and inside the festival all the dishes have standardized prices so is the best of Peru’s food at a great price! No better deal!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Food in Peru: Arroz con Pato, the best of the northern cuisine‏!

One of the most distinctive dishes in Peruvian food is from the north coast, the “Arroz con Pato” or, literally translated, “Rice with duck”……………what is special about this dish? Its unique flavor that comes mostly from the species used to cook the rice, but also the way the duck is cook and the accompaniment to the plate, which is most of the times the traditional “salsa criolla” or creole sauce, or sometimes also the “Huancaina sauce”.

The dish is specifically from the Lambayeque region in Peru, where there is one of the most developed and popular cities among the coast: Chiclayo. That is why the dish is also known as “Arroz con pato a la chiclayana” which is just the way to say the dish is made “like in Chiclayo”.

The rice is prepared with butter, salt, garlic, and some pepper, but from where it takes its green color and also its great taste and fragrance is from the coriander, a herb that is very much used in Peruvian cuisine. The duck is also cooked with this mix and it is poured with some beer just to get a bit of its fragrance.

When you come to Peru, and you don’t have the chance to visit the north (which I highly recommend because of its great beaches and culture) you can still try this dish in many restaurants in Lima! One of the best restaurants is the “Fiesta”, which is originally from Chiclayo but you can also find it in Lima.

So….what are you waiting to try this sample of the great Peruvian Cuisine?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Where to stay in Lima: The Westin Lima Hotel & Convention Center‏

This is one of the novelties nowadays if you come to Lima, the capital of Peru in this days. It is the newest of all the luxury hotels that are in Lima and is the tallest building in the city. The hotel belongs to the chain “Libertador”, which also has other hotels in Cuzco, Trujillo and Paracas, some of the most visited cities in the country.

The hotel is located in San Isidro, the business center in Lima and is very close to Miraflores, one of the preferred tourists spots in the capital because of the great views of the sea, the many restaurants that are located there and all the crafts markets that you can find there!

In this hotel is all about luxury and relax, you can find some of the fines suites in the country and the best quality of food and service, that is why this hotel has become one of the favorites among tourists, in very short time of existence!

If you are not staying in the hotel you can still go by it for a night out in the town, maybe to some of the restaurants or to the bar where you can find some of the most exotic Pisco Sours (see my post regarding only Pisco Sour), made with fruits that you can only find in the forest.

I will try to make some more posts like this specific to hotels and restaurants so that you can check all the alternatives you have when you come visit Peru and can make the most of your stay!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Visit Huaraz in the highlands of Peru!‏

Huaraz is located in the “Callejon de Huaylas”, the name of Peru’s most popular valley because of its magnitude and its great views full of mountains. The valley has on one side the “Cordillera Blanca” which is a mountain range with almost all of its peaks filled with snow, and in the other side there is the “Cordillera Negra”, also a mountain range very vast and long but its peaks don’t have any snow.

Huaraz is the capital of the Ancash department in Perú, and to get there is about 6 hours by car or 8 hours if you take the bus, in a highway full of stops to take beautiful pictures of the landscape!

There are an endless amount of options for outdoor activity near Huaraz. People spend years exploring the high mountain beauty of the Cordillera Blanca. For mountain climbs and some of the treks it is highly recommended to use the service of a guide offered by many professional adventure agencies in Huaraz. Typically, what you pay is what you get. Make sure you only climb mountains with certified mountain guides. It can safe your life. The mountaineering season is from May to September. Treks can be made all year round although it may rain in the afternoons from November to April.

If you are not very much into mountain climbing don’t think Huaraz is just about this, there’s lots of other things to do here, for example, to do a tour all along the “Callejon de Huaylas”, where you can stop in the beautiful cities of Carhuaz, Yungay, and Caraz. Each of these cities has its own unique appeal or history, for example, Carhuaz is known for its great parties that can lasts weeks!!!! On the other hand, in Yungay you can visit the sacred field in the place where the old city of Yungay was before the avalanche from 1970 covered the whole city in mud. Finally, in Caraz you can taste one of the most delicious blancmange from Perú, and they come in many flavors!

A great attraction in Huaraz is also the Llanganuco Lake, which is located at 3,800 meters above the sea level, and from where you can see not only the Huascaran (the most famous and highest peak in the region), but also great views of all mountains!

A very popular daytrip from Huaraz is to the ancient ritual center of the Chavin culture, East of Huaraz. It is one of the oldest archeological site in South America. Although a new road has made the wonderful trip shorter, I recommend you to stay a night in bordering village Chavin de Huantar.
Chavin de Huantar was developed around 900 B.C. late in the Initial Period. At an elevation of 3,150 m., Chavin de Huantar is situated at the bottom of Cordillera Blanca's eastern slopes, approximately halfway between tropical forests and coastal plains.

When it comes to food, in Huaraz you can definitely find veriey……….one of the most tipical dishes or appetizers in Huaraz is the “choclo con queso” which is just the boiled corn with some fresh cheese which is very salty and has a unique flavor, and is made in the city of Chiquian, in Huaraz. You can also find many places that served the famous “Cuy”, the Peruvian guinea pig, and also “Trucha”, which is a very rich fish from the river.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The perfect dessert in Lima: Mazamorra Morada

Whether you are just walking around in the streets in Lima doing some tourism or shopping for souvenirs, or if you go to eat some of our delicious typical dishes in one of the many restaurants in town you should not leave Lima without trying a delicious Mazamorra Morada!

So what is this dessert about? The mazamorra morada is made of purple corn mixed with some other fruits like pineapple, this is cooked into a pudding-like texture with potato flour and it is spiced with cinnamon and cloves. Its name could be read as “purple pudding” because in Peru “mazamorra” is a special kind of pudding made of potato flour and can be made of many fruits, but the most popular is the mazamorra morada which is made of the purple corn.

This dessert cand be found in some of the most refined gourmet restaurants in Lima but is also very popular as a “street dessert”, and you can find it for example in carts in the principal squares around town.  Because it is easy to make, the Mazamorra Morada is one of the Peruvian desserts that is typically prepared at home.
Mazamorra morada is also popular in October in Lima because in this month there are celebrations all around town for the “Señor de los Milagros” or “Lord if the Miracles”, these are religious celebrations that include long processions, and the mazamorra is always present in this celebrations.

And if you just loved the Mazamorra and you want to take this delicious dessert to your home country now you can because in all the supermarkets you can find the packets to make at home when you only have to mix it with water and you can have your own Mazamorra Morada anywhere in the world!!

So now you now… don’t have any excuse for not trying these great dessert when you come to Peru! Enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Delight from mother earth: Pachamanca!

Pachamanca means "food from the earth" or alternatively “pot from earth”, and it is precisely in the earth or in the ground where the food for the Pachamanca is cooked. The cooking is based in hot rocks that are put in a round hole, which form a kind of a big pot underneath the ground. The food is wrapped in banana leaves so that it doesn’t get dirty.

This dish is prepared mainly in the mountains of Peru, but because of its popularity it can also be found in many cities, prepared in different country restaurants. These restaurants normally have a hand-made oven made in the ground, and the first step in the preparation is to heat the rocks with woods. At the same time, while the oven is getting warm, all the meats are macerated with species and wrapped in banana leaves. Also, some potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn are also wrapped to be cooked in the “oven”.

Once all the food is in the oven, it is all covered with more banana leaves to concentrate the heat, and from there, it takes from 50 to 90 minutes before the food is ready to eat! Once the food is ready, there is mostly a small ceremony (based on the tradition from pre-Inca times) where a leader thanks the mother earth for the food…….and after that all the cookers and helpers start to take out the food and unwrap it.

The food is typically served in the table in wooden pots if it is a familiar meal, but if it is in a restaurant, each person is served with one portion of each of the elements of the Pachamanca: chicken, pork, beef, potato, corn, sweet potato, beans, etc!

Also, in the table there is typically some cream chili, as it is a usual in Peru food, for those who wish to eat some of the Pachamanca with it.

So…..if you are coming to Peru, especially to some city in the mountains like Cuzco, Junin, Huaraz or Ancash you have to try the traditional Pachamanca! If that is not the case and you are going to be in a city in the coast, you only have to ask for a country restaurant there it is served so that you don’t miss it!