I am so exited to visit Peru, I’ve always wanted to experience this mystical country with all it’s different layers: the Andes and Machu Picchio, Cusco, Lima, the jungle, the ocean, the desert, the funny little Peruvian outfits…hats and all. I finally have a great reason to journey to this enchanted country thanks to my dear friend Javier Millership, an English born Peruvian that I met several years ago in Los Angeles, who has courageously offered to show me this amazing land.
Since I’m in Mexico City, a skip and a hop away from Peru (not really…), there is no better time to go! I board my night flight on Aeromexico to Lima (www.aeromexico.com); there are only coach seats on this flight but if you ask ahead for the emergency exit seat # 14A, you will have plenty of leg room since there is no seat in front of you. I arrive at 11:45 PM in the chaotic airport of Lima; after a long line through customs, I finally reach the arrival area where my dear Javier is waiting breathless with anticipation…or so I like to think. After another long line to pay for the parking, we reach Javier’s SUV where, ever so casually, he pulls out a Glock 9mm pistol and an AK47 look alike contraption and sets it between us in the middle armrest. Clearly, I’m a little taken back by the sight of “Peruvian Rambo 2.0”, but he casually reassures me with heart warming words: “This is the way it works in Peru”… So there you have it!
The ride home is dark, traffic is brutal, even at 1am, and the landscape is definitely third world, though I’m more concerned about that gun pointing my way and accidentely shooting through my thigh! By the time we arrive at his ocean side, 3 floors penthouse on the famous Maleçon, it’s 2am so there is just time for a quick “Bienvenido” cheer with Peruvian pink champagne on the rooftop overlooking the Lima coastline and off to bed…a very comfortable bed I might add!
The “Terminator” Javier Millership
The moment I wake up and look out my window, I realize the beauty of the Lima costal landscape, to which I have a front view from my bedroom window and terrace. It’s the beginning of winter now in Peru, so the weather is tamer and there is a beautiful morning mist throughout the coast that burns out in the early afternoon. Javier know well how much I love food and my interest in restaurants; so the first day is jam-packed with visits to three of the top restaurants in Lima. We start with breakfast at the trendy “El Pan de la Chola” (https://www.facebook.com/pages/El-Pan-de-la-Chola/100747306661527); a lovely cafe/bakery at the super-hip neighborhood: Miraflores. The place is simple, yet cleverly done; the baked goods, including croissants, home made granola, yogurt and all the usual suspects, are made in house, in fact, you can see the bakery in full action in the back of the cafe. On weekends you will have to wait for a long time to get a table. Note to all the “Chicas”: the owner is drop dead gorgeous and apparently single.
El Pan de la Chola Cafe and Bakery in Miraflores, Lima
Such a beautiful presentation
Breads being made fresh all day in the back of the cafe
Now it’s time for a drive around town to see the different neighborhoods that have grown so much in the last 10 years according to Javier. Real estate is booming in Lima and you can see it all around with the construction of so many new modern buildings. Traffic is brutal, though not as bad as Mexico City. Everyone drives wherever they want and traffic laws don’t apply, in fact, no one gives a rat’s ass about them! So for the first few days I am literally clawed to the dashboard in fear for my life; eventually you just join the madness and start screaming out the window, to other drivers, to get out of the way!!! If they don’t comply, you can always point the gun at them…just kidding!
We arrive at La Heradura Beach, at the end of the Lima Bay, where the local surfers are out in force, a familiar sight for me living in California. The waves are rough and the beach is only rocks, but no one seems to mind. Then off to the controversial statue of Jesus that sits on top of a hill overlooking the entire Lima. I say controversial because it was a gift from the ex president of Peru to the city of Lima, a city that he allegedly pillaged and plundered for years; but here’s the good part, he had the Jesus made out of Plexiglas!!! Yes my dear possums…Plexiglas!!! With all the dough he stole, you would think he would commission a stone Jesus like Rio de Janeiro…the cheap troll! One the hill next to it is another cross; this one a very tall metal structure that lights up in the night, a shining beckon of the Catholic church that is, without doubt, the leading religion in Peru.
La Heradura Surfer Beach
The breathtaking cliffs at La Heradura Beach…and my ride!
The Fiberglass Jesus overlooking Lima
All right, enough crosses. It’s time for lunch! Javier chooses the best lunch restaurant in Lima: El Mercado (www.rafaelosterling.pe). The owner and chef is Rafael Osterling and he is one of the best known chefs in the country; his two top restaurants in Lima are Mercado (only open for lunch) and Rafael (only open for dinner). This guy is truly amazing; his cuisine is innovative yet true to its Peruvian origins. Mercado is all about fish, which is abundant and as fresh as it gets in Lima. Our little group of misfits: Myself, Javier, Shirley and Soli are certainly not shy about food, so within minutes, a parade of dishes arrive at the table as if I we hadn’t eaten in weeks. We start with Conchas a la Parmesana, followed by the best grilled Octopus west of Mississippi and a million other dishes. We conclude this food bonanza with homemade Churros del Mercado with Chocolate Dip, Dulce de Leche & Vanilla ice cream…COMA!
As you know, I always have to visit the local museums, but I’m even more exited today to visit our friend Mario Testino’s, MATE museum in the chic Barranco neighborhood (www.mate.pe). I’ve always been a frustrated, wanna-be photographer and photography has always been a big part of my life since I was very little, specially from fashion photographers such as Mario, Herb Ritts, Steven Klein, Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel, Avedon, Snowden, Annie Leibowitz, etc. So going to see Mario’s photo exhibit is a real treat for me. The exhibit is very small but it includes some of his best celebrity portraits and his “Claim-to-Fame” photo shoot with Princess Diana, even one of her beautiful gowns she wore is displayed in the “Diana Room”. Chic…no?
I’m pooped!!!! Back to the Maleçon for a siesta before going to another great Rafael restaurant for yet another feast…I feel like a Roman, I’ll never make it out of this country in a size 34 pants!
Chef Rafael’s amazing El Mercado Restaurant in Miraflores
Such an exiting and innovative menu
Conchas a la Parmesana
Something with an egg…
Thai style fried rice bowl
Something with shrimps…I’m sorry, I forgot some of the names of these dishes
Home made Churros with Chocolate dip, Dulce de Leche and Vanilla Icecream
Mario Testino’s MATE museum
Entrance to the restored 1930′ original building
The gorgeous Kate Moss
The unforgettable Princess Diana
Peruvian lady in her traditional ensemble
Surprisingly, I am ready for the 3rd mega meal in one day; Javier and I are off to chef Rafael’s dining flagship named after him: “Rafael”, in the Miraflores neighborhood. The restaurant opens at 8PM (because they can…) and has no sign outside; it’s very reminiscing of the super trendy NYC restaurants, which, I hear, Rafael is a fan off. The interior is simple, yet cozy and welcoming with many odd “objets” around the Cuban style bar, cool art and a very subtle/chic main dining room. Javier introduces me to Rafael, who happened to stop by for a moment; I was very impressed by his charming and understated demeanor, a rarity amongst talented famous chefs…Oh no he didn’t. Of course we start the evening with Peru’s signature drink: the Pisco Sour.
A Pisco Sour is a cocktail typical of South American cuisine. The drink’s name comes from pisco, which is its base liquor, and the cocktail term sour, in reference to sour citrus juice and sweetener components.
Main alcohol: Pisco
Ingredients: 1 oz Lemon Juice, 1 Egg white, 1 1/2 oz Pisco, 3/4 oz Simple syrup
Preparation: Vigorously shake and strain contents in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes, then pour into glass and garnish with bitters.
Served: Straight up; without ice
Standard garnish: Angostura bitters
Drinkware: Old Fashioned glass
These little suckers are deliciously easy to drink, but make no mistake, they are lethal!!! After just one drink, your legs give away and after the second…well, it’s not pretty! Needless to say, I had two Piscos and forgot to take photos of all the dishes, I forgot to take photos of the interiors of the restaurant and, quite frankly, I don’t even remember how I got home…NO more Pisco for Roberto!!!
The deadly Pisco Sour
Rafael Restaurant’s bar…the only photo I managed to take prior to Pisco Sour obliteration