Chef Fernanda has been making empanadas and other Argentine treats for over 20 years – and after decades of experience, she has been running her own restaurant, Raíces, in Buenos Aires.
Her partner, Carmen, is a true entrepreneur - she runs her own non-profit organization, Curatorial Program for Research, where they “create a socially-conscious network of emerging curators from around the world.”
In the air above the beach at Ipanema, there was a mist. The sun—low and setting—illuminated it. People glided past one another. Into slow starring reverie I sank, a stream that warmed and carried me along. For the first time, I felt part of Rio. At last I understood. Months after arriving from New York, I had arrived in the inward city inhabited by the native carioca.
One day I met with chef Ezequiel Valencia to find out the secret, but when he told me where he was from in Peru, I got caught up in the path that brought him to Panca and momentarily forgot my mission. He was born at the foot of the Huascaran, Peru's tallest mountain, in the town of Yungay, where terrible tragedy struck in 1970. An earthquake caused a debris avalanche, full of snow, mud and rocks, which buried Yungay and killed all but around 100 of its 20,000 residents. At the time, Ezequiel's family lived outside of the town and were unharmed. The town was rebuilt as Yungay Nuevo and his family moved there. When he was born in 1974, his father ran off with another woman. He grew up working on the family's chacra, a small farm, and helping his mother in the kitchen.
“No, actually I’m a cook. Do you know who lives in this building? The last Inka princess lives in Apart. 1. I’m her cook. Do you know something about the Inka culture?”, y ella me dijo “a little bit”, pero no parecía convencida. Entonces abrí mis bolsas que contenían wakatay, quinua, ají amarillo, papitas moradas diminutas -Peruvian purple potatoes- y hasta un cuy gigante que lo venden congelado, en una tienda ecuatoriana. Luego resumí: “I’m the Inka Princess’s cook, and I have to prepare the dinner for her”. Así, ella quedó no sólo convencida sino conmovida de mi insólita confidencia.
“Cadaques is known for even the most mindful to lose all sense of time,” a withered Catalan man murmured as I waited at the Arc de Triomf bus depot in Barcelona. I listened carefully to the old man as he continued, “Did you know the villagers say that the North winds will drive a sane man crazy?”
Sometimes, if I was sick for no apparent reason, my grandma would say, “Alguien te dio el mal de ojo.” She would sweep an egg over my body and begin to pray, then she would crack the egg in a glass of water and place the glass on the floor under my bed.
November 2009 was a good time to come to Miami. That fall, the country was in love with hope. Obama had won the presidency. The economic free fall had halted just shy of collapse. Hurricane season had come and gone, without the usual havoc. It was time to look up again.
One Sunday afternoon in the north most tip of the Miraflores district in Lima, Peru, I was hungry and looking for a place to eat. It was Sunday so it had to be ceviche, for Sunday is the day of the Christians and fish is the dish of Jesus and it is a personal rule of mine to eat ceviche for lunch on Sundays whenever possible.
“Really?” I said to Isabel. What I wanted to say, to shout, was, “No way! Blasphemy! You can’t make it with that! That’s not ceviche!” She had just told me that she added ketchup to her Ecuadorean shrimp ceviche.
There was never a lull in conversation. After Nana told her tales of pig’s feet, lard, and buttermilk, Pablo spoke of the many flavors of Peru. He paid particular attention to the African contribution to Peruvian cuisine and culture, beginning with anticuchos.
Years of ineptitude when it came to producing the perfect steak and, even worse, years of searching for it elsewhere only to find disappointing imitations, had left me with a deeply engraved perplexity over meat.
Te decía el nombre de la ciudad donde estaba pero tú no sabías repetirlo: Charlottesville, tan largo, con tantas consonantes. Lo intentabas y te daba la risa. Charlottesville, en el estado de Virginia, en América. Yo te contaba que era una ciudad pequeña rodeada de bosques en la que las casas estaban muy separadas entre sí y todo el mundo iba siempre en coche.
No, Lima isn’t perfect. It is often frustrating and sometimes dangerous. I’ve been pickpocketed twice here, robbed at knifepoint once, and harassed by strange men in the street too many times to count. But this is all part of its charm, because in the end Lima is always fascinating and truly glorious
The worm comes from the maguey (agave) plant and some say it adds flavor, while others ridiculously claim that it proves the mezcal is strong enough to preserve the worm, that it isn’t diluted. Many think it’s just a marketing ploy. Most of the mezcal coming into New York doesn’t have the worm, and I tell Yira that I’ll miss it.
As night fell, we wandered to the far end of the beach, climbing up to sit on a large rock formation that offered an exquisite view of the city and many of the local landmarks. To our left the lights of the Vidigal—located at the base of the Dois Irmaos —shimmered like jewels as a thin crescent moon hung delicately in the evening sky.
The star of the day, as it turned out, was Ximena, Latin Lover’s favorite pisco mixologist from Panca restaurant in the West Village. She filled us in on, or rather up with, some good pisco drinks she concocted as well as stories of her life in the Peruvian brandy.
What makes the Priorat one of the most appreciated wines? The answer is best given by the enologists of the region. It seems to be a concurrence of alchemical circumstances: First of all, the warm and dry Mediterranean weather fluctuates almost twenty degrees, contributing to the grape’s optimal ripening.
The bag where I carry my family’s things is heavy: dad’s useless requests, a couple of things for my sister, something my mother needs. I feel my arm becoming weaker every moment.
Ah, the Rocoto. The hottest Peruvian pepper. How many times did I rub my nose or eyes to fiery effect after touching the insides of one as a kid. Peruvians say the rocoto burns twice, when it goes in and when it comes out. When I mention this to Ximena, the chef overhears and says, “Also, it ruins your nails—when you scratch them in pain against the bathroom wall.”