Monday, April 22, 2024

Mastering the Art of Leisurely Senior Travel

The title is a fancy way of saying we took it easy on our last full day in Peru. If it feels good to relax, and we have no commitments, we’re learning to relax (loaf?) without feeling guilty about it.

Yesterday’s enjoyable cooking class with Chef Hector kept us on our feet (and on our toes) for several hours. Tomorrow is going to be an annoyingly arduous travel day. 

Our hotel pickup with Taxi Datum is scheduled for 4:00 AM, as our LIM-MIA flight on AA departs at 6:30 AM.

We’re due to land in MIA at 1:30 PM EDT after a six-hour flight. We’ll presumably have nearly four hours at one of the world’s least favorite airports to clear immigration, clear TSA security, and board our MIA-SFO flight for a 5:24 PM departure, landing at SFO six and a half hours later at 8:53 PM PDT.

Not to whine. We’re in first class on both flights but the reality is that it’ll be a long day that includes an early departure, a late arrival, and about 12 1/2 hours in the air.

So how did we spoil ourselves today? We started with a pleasant outdoor breakfast in the Hilton’s Social Restaurant.

Next came a long  bath for Kathy and a shower for Brian.

Ready to face the day, we strolled the 11 minute route to the Miraflores cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean, and also the Larcomar Shopping Center.

Earlier we’d visited the statue of Paddington Bear, a gift of the British Embassy in 2015. The beloved bear’s bio reveals he came from “darkest Peru.”

There was ample time for people watching before ambling back to the hotel.

Saturday night we’d dined at Guargüero, an attractive restaurant just down the street from the Hilton.

Where to eat on our final day? Much as we like ceviche, we were ready for a break. We’d received several good dining suggestions, including from readers of our blog, but first thought a simple hamburger at Papacho’s around the corner would satisfy us. Sadly, we discovered it’s no longer there.

At this point, we noticed El Parrillon de Pablo Profumo (Pablo Profumo’s Steakhouse) across the street and decided to give it a try.

Beef is a big deal here, with one page of the menu devoted to imported American Certified Angus Beef, and another page featuring special cuts from Uruguay.

We chose a mixed grill for two that included house-made sausage, rump steak, ribeye steak, baked potato, green salad, and two glasses of wine for 240 Sols, or about USD $60 - not bad!

We requested rare and it came out rare. It was a very good ending to what was largely a food trip (but then most of our trips turn out that way).

We’re all packed and relaxing for one last time in the quiet Hilton Executive Lounge.

We’ll miss this spot, but it will be nice to be back home for awhile, and maybe even try a pisco sour on U.S. soil.

And so ends our leisurely travel day in Lima.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

A Great Experience With Chef Hector’s ‘Peruvian Cooking Classes’

We’ve taken cooking classes in Lucca, Italy, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Singapore, and Jaipur, India, as well as on Oceania and Holland America cruise ships. Today’s multi-hour encounter with Chef Hector Aguilar Valle stands right at the top of the class, along with Yui in Chiang Mai, owner of “A Lot of Thai Home Cooking Class.”

Hector is a high energy professional chef who has worked in top-end restaurants in many parts of the world including San Francisco, Australia, Indonesia, and Columbia. 

He returned to his native Peru to be Creative Chef at a restaurant on a list of the “World’s 50 Best,” before realizing he could make more money and be his own boss by offering cooking classes to a variety of tourist, corporate, and chef clients.

We’re glad he did.

Shortly after 10:30 AM Sunday, we met up with Hector and a charming young Czech couple who were the only other members of our class. We entered a house literally across the street from the Huaca Pucllana Pyramid, and up we went to the open-air rooftop kitchen on a perfect day.

What followed was an intensive exploration of traditional Peruvian cuisine that included the preparation of two kinds of ceviche, raw and smoked, two kinds of causa, fish smoked in the pan on banana leaf, and two varieties of pisco sour, one including coca leaves.

Chef Hector made liberal use of a blowtorch to blister peppers before plunging them into cold water, as well as a blender and a simple hinged lime squeezer. He demonstrated the difference in taste between the gentle  “first press” juice of a lime and a traditionally squeezed lime, which was new and amazing to us.

He tasted at every step and demanded we do the same. He kept his two lady assistants busy washing dishes and fetching food and cooking utensils.

Chef Hector kept us all entertained while demonstrating some awesome knife technique and mixing us the first pisco sour of the day (we mixed the second with his guidance).

Eventually we sat down to a huge and delicious meal that we couldn’t possibly finish.

Causa? Yowsa! (Yes, it rhymes.)

A beautiful setting, congenial young “classmates,” an outstanding teacher, and a magnificent meal… it doesn’t get any better.

Thank you, Chef Hector, for a great day.

Friday, April 19, 2024

A Foodie Tour in the Foodie City of Lima

Lima is arguably one of the world’s greatest food cities.

We found some compelling historical reasons in a 2008 Bon Appetit interview with the then-owner of one of the restaurants we visited today.

All that is interesting, but the truth lies in the eating, and one can dine exceptionally well in Lima eateries for affordable prices.

Having enjoyed our 2018 experience one evening with the Lima Gourmet  Food Tour, we signed up with the same company for a daytime tour that proved to be equally enjoyable.

Our guide, Carlos, arrived promptly at 9:30 AM, and we boarded the bus to find with a little disappointment that we were in a group of 12. It proved to be congenial, though, and we covered a lot of culinary and historical ground during the next several hours.

We learn that Peru has become a major exporter of food, and is proud of its reputation for high quality. 

We started off in a little joint with a cup of exceptionally mild black coffee that was closer to brown in color.

From there we walked through a charming old neighborhood. in Barranco, one of the 43 districts Carlos tells us make up Lima, Miraflores being another.

Murals abounded as we approached the gallery of one of Peru’s best known artists, Jade Rivera.

We stepped inside to admire his work.

From there we walked some more and stopped in at the Bodega Verde to sample an amazing fruit drink, a lúcuma smoothie.

Our next stop was a busy local market, where Carlos showed us a great variety of fruits, vegetables, and even some homeopathic medicines that were largely new to us.

This tour is meticulously organized , and Carlos gave us each a cardboard box of fruit to sample on our coach as he described such exotic items as aguaymanto, granadilla, and cherimoya on our way to the next stop.

Our next stop was the Limaná Restaurant and Bar, where a rather thoroughly ttattoed mixologist expertly concocted some tasty Pisco sours for us.

Next, we each got to mix up and eat some coconut ceviche, interesting although not our favorite.

The kitchen assembled plates of tasty morsels, which we devoured with pleasure.

The grande finale of our tour was a visit to Huaca Pucllana, where we dined outside, adjacent to the famous pyramid.

Carlos and his skillful driver, Juan, dropped us off back at the Hilton around 3 PM. We can enthusiastically recommend the company. We learned a lot and had a great time.

Four hours later, after a Pisco sour in the Executive Lounge, we decided to partake of a light dinner in Social, the Hilton’s highly rated restaurant.

We shared a ceviche that was ample for two.

We chose pasta for our main course, a squash ravioli for Kathy and a spinach and sausage concoction for Brian.

That “light dinner” left us well and truly stuffed, and we’re not even going to think about food until morning.