My Love Affair with Lima, Peru: Part I

This is a love story in two parts, starring Lima and me. You know how when you fall in love, you aren’t really expecting it?  How it’s this scary, butterfly-inducing surprise that kind of pulls you in, and then you can’t imagine ever letting it go and all you want to do is gush about it to anyone who will listen, even though you suspect they couldn’t possibly understand the magnitude of it?  I realize that I may come off a little bit dramatic here, but I really did fall head-over-heels in love with Lima.  I’m pretty sure that my husband did too, so it’s okay.  Now I even dream of Lima, of waking up to her hazy morning skies, so full of ocean mist.  And then I want breakfast, the kind of breakfast only Lima has.  And then I dream about the single most astonishing bite of food I ever had.  And then I wake up, faced with the reality that I’m not in Lima, and promise myself that I’ll go back someday.

Lima Coast

Since our first visit was on a layover between Quito and Buenos Aires, we had just a few hours for lunch in Lima and our friend Pablo picked us up from the airport.  On our drive to La Mar, which is one of Gaston Acurio’s flagship restaurants, I was transfixed by the beauty of the Lima coastline.  Steep, green cliffs descend to a sandy  beach, and all along the way the colors of the pacific Peruvian coast are bright and beautiful.  It’s no surprise that the décor and fare of La Mar match beautifully with the setting.  When we walked in we were seated in bright teal chairs, and immediately ordered a round of pisco sours, which are the official drink of Peru.  Pisco is a white brandy made from muscat grapes and it’s freakishly strong, reminiscent of tequila.  I could never drink it straight – which is why I love the pisco sour.  Peruvians mix it with lime juice (limes in Peru are unique – you won’t get the same flavor anywhere else), simple syrup, bitters and egg white.  They blend it all up and it gets all frothy on top from the egg white but in a really, really good way.  It may sound strange, but it works.  I’m pretty sure we had a couple of them each.

Causas

As for solid food, we ordered cebiche (apparently in Lima they use a “b” in place of the “v”) and causas.  I ordered the cebiche with shrimp, and WOW.  There was acidity, heat, sweetness, crunch, but it was all on a different level.  I’d had ceviche before, but not like this!  This was like the big leagues cebiche.  It had all the same ingredients of my ceviches past, yet it tasted worlds above.  And the causas were equally good.  I’d never had anything to compare them to, but they’re essentially little piles of mashed potatoes, topped or stuffed with chicken, fish, vegetables, and sauces.  They’re pictured above and you can see that they look like they contain a dangerous amount of food coloring, but they don’t.  The mustard yellow and pumpkin orange potato pulp is simply the color of the potato.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  And they taste so pure and flavorful, like the way a potato is meant to taste.  That’s saying a lot, coming from a girl from Idaho who has had her fair share of delicious potatoes.  (It’s not just a stereotype!) I could have sat there all day, eating the astonishingly good seafood and drinking the astonishingly good Pisco Sours, but we had a flight to catch.  Leaving was not something I wanted to do.  It’s kind of like when you meet someone who catches your eye, but the timing’s not quite right.  You have to walk away, but already your mind begins to wonder…

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