Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Feast: Peruvian Food, Antarctica & Buenos Aires Live

Today's entry covers Peruvian cuisine, a new shortcut to Antarctica, and a reminder about an upcoming Buenos Aires event.

South America's Finest Food

In last month’s Condé Nast Traveler, my friend Patrick Symmes – author of the classic travelogue Chasing Che – turned his talents to writing about Peruvian food. In describing the dining scene in Lima, Patrick may have indulged in hyperbole with his comment that “Buenos Aires is so over” - the Argentine capital’s food scene remains one of the world’s most vibrant. Still, I can’t fault him for pointing out that Peru’s cuisine, from its Pacific shores to the heights of Machu Picchu and above, is the finest on the continent. Even longtime Buenos Aires Herald food writer Dereck Foster agrees that its variety of diverse fresh seafood, native Andean grains like quinoa, and appetizingly creative versions of the humble potato (a Peruvian domesticate) is unmatchable.

In fact, Peruvian food has made major inroads in both Buenos Aires and Santiago, what with restaurants such as Astrid y Gastón (in both cities), Bardot (Palermo), Lucumma (Belgrano), Puerto Perú (Providencia) and Barandiarán (Providencia and Barrio Bellavista). It’s even taken off in the provinces, where I recently had excellent Peruvian dinners in the Chilean cities of Puerto Montt (at Cantolao) and Concepción (at Las Américas), and the Colchagua valley wine country town of Santa Cruz (at La Casita de Barreales).

What’s surprising in Argentina and Chile is that, except in the provinces, it’s hard to find llama on the menu. In the early 1980s, when I lived in the far northern Chilean village of Parinacota while doing research on llama and alpaca herders in the altiplano, this lean meat was a frequent part of my diet. As the above photograph from the Quebrada de Humahuaca might suggest, the llama is a common sight in northwestern Argentina, and I’ve eaten its meat in the city of Salta (at José Balcarce, with a sunflower seed sauce) and the wine country town of Cafayate (at Macacha). Somehow, sadly, this cocina de altura (high-altitude cuisine) doesn’t seem to make it to the lowlands metropoli.

For those of you interested in Peruvian food, but unable to visit South America at present, an accompanying Condé Nast article offers dining suggestions for anyone living in Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco.

A Chilean Shortcut to Antarctica?
According to Montevideo-based Mercopress, the Chilean navy has built a new lighthouse on the Grupo Sandwich islets at the south end of Bahía Cook in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. In principle, this would permit Antarctica-bound vessels, including cruise ships, to bypass the Beagle Channel, saving up to eight hours en route to the frozen continent.

Whether that will be sufficient to make vessels such as Chile’s own Antarctic Dream to prefer the city of Punta Arenas, rather than the Argentine port of Ushuaia back to is open to question. At present, Ushuaia is a full day’s sailing closer to Antarctica than Punta Arenas and, given the ease of flying into Ushuaia, Antarctic Dream switches its departures and returns to Ushuaia.

Moon Handbooks Buenos Aires in San Carlos (San Mateo County)
Just a reminder that tomorrow, August 13, will mark the first of several digital slide presentations on Moon Handbooks Buenos Aires, at various branches of the San Mateo County Library. The event starts at 2 p.m. at the San Carlos Library (610 Elm Street, San Carlos, CA 94070, tel. 650/591-0341). There will be ample time for questions and answers, and books will be on sale.

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