Does authenticity matter? This is a question that was presented at the 5th annual Latin Flavors, American Kitchens conference, held at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus in the burgeoning Pearl Brewery complex October 3-5. It is a concept I have thought about extensively in regards to Latin American restaurants found outside of Latin America.
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The Mercado Central in Cuzco is in giant warehouse a few blocks away from the main plaza. Unofficially, it also stretches towards the railway tracks, becoming more gritty as it does. The warehouse houses a lot of food stalls, with large sections devoted solely to either fruit drinks, snacks and… Read More →
The indigenous Kiwicha farmer’s coop, Kallari, that completely runs and operates their own single origin artisanal chocolate company has had a small shop and lounge at Wilson and Juan Mera in the heart of Quito’s Mariscal for several years. Traditionally you could have a cup of coffee or pick up a few bars of chocolate, fair trade coffee, vanilla beans, or handicrafts designed in the indigenous village that the chocolate comes from. On a recent visit I noticed it was turning into a full blown Amazonian café with Wi-fi.
There are many aspects that make Peruvian food so dynamic. First, the level of diversity that exists within the countries landscape. So many different fruits, vegetables, animals, and fish are found here, that the plate easily becomes canvas for some of the countries greatest artists.
While I travel around Peru fairly regularly and have probably eaten a wider range of Peruvian restaurants more than anyone on earth, Mistura was a revelation. Getting around Peru and sampling different restaurants takes time, but Mistura brings some of the better ones from across the different regions to one location. There were chefs, restaurants, and street stalls from Lima, Arequipa, Tarapoto, Trujillo, Tacna, and elsewhere that I had ever heard of. Some vendors served obscure or classic regional dishes, while others saw talented chefs altering Peruvian classics in funky new ways.
The Latino community in North Brooklyn – Greenpoint and Williamsburg – is mostly Puerto Rican, but in regards to restaurants the fare extends to all corners of Latin America.
Yucca sticks, Yucca fries, yuquitas, or whatever you want to call them, are a great bar snack and found often in Peru and throughout Latin America. It’s often an alternative to French fries.
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.
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.
Few realize that Cochinita Pibil is actually a Mayan dish. It’s quite common now all over Mexico, especially in the Yucatan where it originated, and I see it often at Mexican restaurants and Taquerias in New York and around the States. Traditionally, cochinita refers to a slow roasted baby pig, though pork shoulder (which is actually pork butt) is more common now. The signature spice in the seasoning is achiote, the orangish-red seeds that give off a deep, earthy flavor and are used habitually in Mayan cooking. Cochinita Pibil is the dish that Rick Bayless won Top Chef Masters with (and his recipe from Mexico One Plate At A Time was very influential in this one).