A few months before the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began, I was traveling around the Amazon rainforest observing the contamination that occurred there as a result of petroleum for an article with Penthouse magazine (forthcoming). One of the most highly publicized cases against the oil industry in the Amazon is in eastern Ecuador, where Texaco (now owned by Chevron) operated for decades. The case of Aguinda vs. Chevron/Texaco has been in courts for more than a decade and seems to be nearing an end. A judge in Ecuador estimated the damages caused by Texaco to be about $27 billion, making it the largest environmental lawsuit on earth (though the BP Gulf spill will likely dwarf this one), though Chevron continues to fight against that verdict.
The South America Handbook, begun in 1921 as the Anglo-South American Handbook (before the Royal Mail Steamship Company privatized it in 1924), has been one of the most talked about, written about, and longest continually published guidebooks in the world. The guide doesn’t have the commercial appeal of Lonely Planet South America, but everyone from Graham Greene to Michael Palin have raved about its resourcefulness. The pages are full of info and bible thin, which is only partly why sometimes the guide is compared to “that other bestseller.” It doesn’t tell you where to go like some of the other guides as much as it tells you of what is there. On my first trip to South America, this is the guide I carried with me.
On the Pan-American highway, the Pan-Americana, about an hour south of Lima near Cañete, there’s a roadside criollo restaurant, which borders a gas station, called El Piloto. Originally, El Piloto, was intended for truckers, but became so popular that the truckers have been priced out.
Mayta is one of the most promising restaurants to open in Lima (Miraflores) in 2009. The chef, Jaime Pesaque, is quite young but he has a lot of experience (Cordon Bleu, other top restaurants in Lima). Mayta has received nearly 100% positive reviews from the local critics in Lima. I’m sticking with them.
Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya aren’t the charmless nightmare that is Cancun. True, Señor Frogs and Sandals are there, but there are some hotels that really help you get the most of a real Yucatan experience without camping on the beach in Mayahuel. Here are my three picks:
While this cookbook isn’t directly about Latin American food, it does have relevance – and no, it has nothing to do with the author’s last name being Pizarro (no relation to the conquistador). In Latin America, particularly South America where temperature changes are more prevalent than further north, food is highly seasonal and cooking styles are heavily influenced by Spain. Often they vary little from the motherland. Pizarro’s Seasonal Spanish Food brings 125 recipes are separated by the ingredients that are in season during each of the Spanish Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.
Village Voice Food Writer Robert Sietsema wrote about his visit to the unassuming, newish Coney Island Taste in today’s issue of the Village Voice. The Peruvian Bodega, as he calls it, is all the way out on Coney Island Avenue and has pictures on the windows of burgers and omelets to… Read More →
Maybe the Cancun area is what the Mayans had in mind as the end of world in 2012? Then again, maybe that message was misinterpreted. Yaxché (pronounced jag-shey) is one of the oldest restaurants in Playa del Carmen. Unbelievably, Mayan food is the focal point of the menu. Sure it might be a little bit gimmicky: there’s flaming coffee that I’m fairly certain that the Mayans had no part in. Yet, apart from Cochinita Pibil, Mayan dishes aren’t really utilized in high-end restaurants anywhere in Mexico. Rather than become more gimmicky though, the restaurant is increasingly working with Mayan communities in the Yucatan.
I don’t often write about Peru’s mega celebrity chef Gaston Acurio. It’s not that I don’t like him, I’m a huge fan. Without him, Peru’s new culinary boom would be nothing. Period. Rather I don’t write about him often because he gets enough attention that I try to direct some spotlight on some of the country’s other chefs like Rafael Osterling and Pedro Miguel Schiaffino. I love Gaston though. I love his show in Peru and keep meaning to buy the complete set of DVDs of the series. I love that his restaurants are wonderfully relevant to an international audience and that he always tries to bring attention to the diversity among Peruvian chefs and restaurants by going to and promoting the simplest places
About a month ago I stayed at the Fairmont Mayakoba on the Riviera Maya. While there I was pleasantly surprised with the resorts commitment to sustainability, particularly in their restaurants, two of which are AAA Four Diamond Award Winners. I was impressed with the chef’s garden, use of sustainable seafood and lobster bought from the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, and not shying away from the likes of geoduck, tiradito, and Mexican wines. The Fairmont Mayakoba’s Executive Chef, David Andrews, was kind enough to give us this interview.