• Pretty in Pink: Rosé for the Summertime

    Summer is finally here and what better time to talk about one of my go-to summer favorites: rosé! But first, I have a little secret to share: I did not wait until June 21st to crack open my first bottle of pink wine. In fact, I have been drinking it all year long. And although summer might be the perfect time for this vinous delight, I would encourage you, the Andina newsletter reader, to give this versatile beverage a chance during all seasons. Some of you may be saying to yourselves, “Rosé! No way! I want serious wine. None of that sickly sweet pink wine for me.” Hold on cowboy, when was the last time you gave the stuff a try? Long gone are the days of earthenware bottles of Lanceurs and the flasks of Mateus. And although you can still find 1.5 liter bottles of Beringer White Zinfandel, these wines are a dying breed, leaving room for the new generation of (largely) dry rosé made from a myriad of grape varieties from all over the wine-making world. Let’s take a look at these wines and what makes them so special.

    First, how are rosé made? The general process involves harvesting and crushing red skinned grapes, and then pressing off the juice, either immediately after crushing or after a short maceration period. This pressing of the juice is often referred to as saignée, which means ‘bleeding off.’ The lightly pigmented juice is bled off of the red grapes. The juice is then fermented as a white wine, typically in a tank and then bottled shortly thereafter for immediate consumption; however, some styles may undergo barrel fermentation and a longer aging period prior to bottling. The length of maceration depends on the grape variety utilized and the desired style of rosé to be produced. In general, the best grapes for rosé production are thin skinned with low levels of anthocyanins, the chemical compound responsible for giving color to dark skin grapes. Some low-anthocyanin-containing grapes commonly utilized for rosé wines are Grenache, Cinsault and Pinot Noir. Any red or gris grape may be used for rosé production, however the darker and thicker the skin, the shorter the maceration period, typically a few hours, to extract the necessary colors and flavors from the grape skins. In some cases, rosé wines are made as a byproduct of intensifying red wine production. If a percentage of the juice is bled off of a lot of red grapes, it serves to intensify the remaining juice that is left with the grapes’ solids, making for a richer, more extracted style of red wine. The best rosés, however, are produced from grapes that were grown for the expressed intent of making this style of wine. They tend to be the most layered, intense, and balanced wines of this style. Lastly, some variations of rosé, known as blush, vin gris or oeil de perdrix, require no maceration period at all. They are simply pressed immediately off of the crush grapes into tanks for fermentation. Only rarely are rosés produced by blending a dash of red wine into white. The only high quality winemaking region to utilize this process for high quality wines is in the Champagne region of France.

    With this basic primer in rosé, you may still wonder how to pick out a bottle from your favorite wine shop and what to expect when you get it home and pour it in your glass. Typically speaking, the paler the color, the lighter in weight the rose will be, although, strictly speaking, there are some very pale rosé wines from the south of France (Bandol and Tavel, I am thinking of you!) that are deceptively rich. From the larger areas of Côtes de Provence and the affiliated regions, you will find rosés dominated by Grenache and Cinsault. They tend to be very light in color, with notes of bright cherry watermelon rind, spice and hints of floral. The other area of France known for its high level of rosé production is the Loire Valley, where Cabernet Franc rosés reign supreme. Stylistically they tend to be fuller in body, darker in color, with bright cherry, blueberry and strawberry notes. They tend to be slightly off dry, but balanced with a healthy dose of acidity, and sometimes they can be fully off-dry, especially in appellations like Rosé de Anjou. Pinot Noir rosé from Sancerre and rosé of Grolleau are other fun, less commonly encountered treats from the Loire. Rosés can also be found in just about every other winemaking region of France, such as the Marsannay AOP in Burgundy, which makes world class Pinot Noir rosés and Beajolais Rose from the area just north of Lyon.

    Outside of France, some of the best rosés in Europe come from Spain, either the delicate styles from Rioja or the rich, full bodied Rosados based upon the Garnacha grape, sourced primarily from Navarra and Cigales, among others. In Italy, rosé doesn’t have as strong of a presence, but when you do find them, they are typically very unique, and from a wide assortment of grapes. Some of my favorites are the Nebbiolo based roses from Piedmont, Aglianico roses from Southern Italy, as well as the pink wines from the vineyards surrounding Lake Garda. Although they are all quite distinct, they each of a common core of red fruits and a rose petal florality. Other old world delights consist of Zweigelt rosé from Austria and the occasional Pinot Noir rosé from Germany.

    In the New World, the tradition the high quality pink wines is a more recent trend. The Willamette Valley, with its plethora of Pinot Noir Vineyards excels in rosé production, although there is not a consistent style. Some can be fuller, fleshier and sweeter, with ripe notes of watermelon, red cherry and strawberry, while other lean to the leaner, more delicate side. Color often dictates the difference, with the darker wines more often than not falling into the former category. Outside of Oregon there are a small handful of rosés out of California of note, but perhaps the more exciting rosés of the Americas come from Chile. One of my absolute favorite wines of the moment is sparkling rosé of País, a grape not usually known for high quality, but which over delivers for the price in this bottling. South Africa and Australia are also areas of interest, especially for sparkling rosés, especially in the cool coastal areas of Elgin and Walker Bay in South Africa and Victoria and Tasmania in Australia.

    There you have it, folks. If you are not thirsty for something pink after reading this, I recommend a therapeutic intervention. I can write you a prescription to be filled, stat, at the Andina bar, for a glass of one of our four rosés we are currently featuring. Or, if more urgent attention is required, I can refer you to our 8th annual Rosé Dinner, held Monday the 14th and Tuesday the 15th at Andina, where over 35 roses will be available to sample, along with a hearty selection of tapas. It’s a rosé rehabilitation, Doctor’s orders!

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  • Mis Memorias del Mes de Junio en Cajamarca

    Memories of June in Cajamarca

    The Junes of my childhood come to my memory in bundles of visions: sounds, smells, excitements and anticipations that, year after year, all of us, children and grownups alike, experienced in Cajamarca, my home town. It is in June that Cajamarca celebrates “Corpus Christi” – a festival this city has celebrated since its Catholic conversion in the 16th century. As in any Catholic city, we celebrate our belief that the Son of God is alive among of us – specifically, on this occasion, we celebrate the divine presence in the holy Eucharist. In Cajamarca, Corpus Christi was and is both a religious festivity, while also being a city fair lasting the whole month of June. It is a month of enjoyment, entertainment and excitement for all.

    I remember very clearly that on one of the Thursdays during June, after a solemn Mass in the Cathedral, a huge procession of Corpus Christi would take place around the Cajamarca’s main square. The Bishop, attired in his official dress, would begin the Procession by blessing the people who had gathered around him and around the gilded “monstrance” he held in his hands. The monstrance (custodia, in Spanish) contained the hostia (the Eucharist). During the procession clouds of incense would blossom from the incensarios – ornate metallic containers for burning incense, and swung rhythmically by priests as they walked with the Bishop. Sometimes the smoke was so dense that it kept the bishop and the monstrance out of sight of the parishioners; but its smell, coming in waves to our nostrils, created a feeling in me that I was also a Holy person! And the procession was further enhanced by the Municipal Band of Musicians, who played processional songs and gave to the entire gathering of celebrants a warm sense that all of us were saints accompanying the most honorable Guest: the Son of God!

    One thing that I always looked forward to seeing in the procession were the displays of fine traditional bedspreads hanging from the balconies of the city’s casonas, beautiful colonial mansions that looked onto the main square. The textiles were colorful with intricate designs and often the image of Christ or Mary, His mother, at their center. I remember the answer that my mother gave to me when I asked why this was a tradition. She said: that is the way that people of big houses honor Corpus Christi, just as we honor Him by joining in the procession!

    The festive spirit of Corpus Christi seemed to touch all of us Cajamarquinos. And it started in the first days of June, well before the official Procession, and would continue until the last day of the month. During these weeks, the streets close to the central square, and for my good fortune, near to my house, were inundated by all kinds of people: among them, artisans and street vendors from the northern coast of Peru (from cities such as Chiclayo, Piura, Trujillo) would set up their stalls and wares along the sidewalks, and call us to buy their merchandise with the most ingenious phrases we – as children – could imagine. Phrases like this one were common to hear: ¡Niña linda, cómprame estos hermosos aretes hechos para una princesa! (Pretty girl! Buy these beautiful earrings made for a Princesses!).

    What most of them brought was greater in quantity than quality – and they were items usually not made by them: there were plastic toys, copies of fashionable shoes, sweaters made with cotton, so not as warm as the ones made in town with wool. But the merchandise that I and other children loved was the jewelry. Once we found the spot, we lingered to look at and try on beautiful earrings, bracelets, necklaces or rings – no matter their quality. They came in all sizes, colors and shapes, and looked as though they were made with gold and precious stones! No girl in my school showed without great pride in the new piece of jewelry that her mother had bought for her during the days of Corpus Christi!

    Another memory vivid in my mind is the organillero y su mono – a street organ player (or organ grinder) and his monkey. Every year, this man and monkey would set-up their musical show at the corner of the block I lived on. He was an old itinerant man that played a musical box that sounded like an organ, all the while with a little monkey perched on his shoulder. The sounds of beautiful melodies coming from his street organ, which he activated by cranking its mechanical arm, attracted us like a powerful magnet. No child passed by without stopping, just for the joy we felt seeing the little monkey and hearing the music! The organillero y su mono were always busy, surrounded by lots of people, especially children who were coming home after school. How to forget the little monkey jumping, smiling and taking from a little drawer of the magic box a small yellow strip where you could read your good or bad fortune?! We were bewildered seeing how a tiny monkey could have learned to open the drawer of the musical box, skillfully choose only one strip of paper, and gave that paper to the very same person who had paid the organ player his 25 cents! Until now I marvel in amusement and wonder! No, I will never forget them.

    At this point I need to control my remembrances of all that the month of Corpus Christi meant in my childhood! Otherwise I will never end in recounting those memories. Many things are coming now to my mind, galloping as wild horses, fast and strident, and insistent on their claims to be shared: such as the memory of the Circus that each and every year set up their tent in the Campo Deportivo, an open field on the outskirts of Cajamarca normally used for any kind of outdoor sports to be watched by the public: futbol (soccer), carreras (races), Jincanas (gymnastic competitions), etc.

    Now that I remember retrospectively, the circus was OK in quality. Some years they brought an African lion, or a tiger. I remember one of the Circus troupes, the Circo Moreno, as being among the best among of the Circuses of my childhood! They had trained horses, lions, tigers, and elephants, all to be seen performing wonderful acts. Other troupes were less memorable, if for no fault of their own. Perhaps they brought a “puma” (an Andean lion) accompanied by a bear and one or two monkeys. The clowns were usually not so funny; they needed to simulate noisy falls or obvious gags to get much laughs from the children. And yet, the Circus also surprised us, as on one occasion when the shining star of a was a “white goat” that hesitantly climbed up and down a ladder! We felt its nervousness and clapped strongly when she made it!

    For me as a child, all the men that worked in the Circuses were big and strong, serious and a little rude; they would hold women on the trapeze or show their muscles by lifting huge metallic wheels. Women of the circus, to the contrary, looked small, thin, and a little sad. They were not so well dressed when they didn’t act, but they looked beautiful with big smiles and shiny dresses when they were on the trapeze or leading the animals through tricks! There were also kids in the Circus, dressed as tiny clowns or in shiny costumes when they were part of the acrobatics team. People said that life in the Circus was not a happy one, that it was hard. But we children enjoyed their performances inmensely! Just the act of going and enjoying cotton candy sold by somebody at the doors of the Circus tent was wonderful!

    I cannot leave out of my memories the arrival of the gitanas (Romany people) in Cajamarca during the month of June. The women were to me beautiful: old and young, some a little heavy-set, others slender with a graceful figure, all with long and curly black hair, and dressed in long, colorful and ample skirts, and blouses with no sleeves. Neither their clothes nor their appearance were clean or tidy; but there was no gitana without lots of jewelry around her neck, arms and ankles! The presence of gitanas only in June was forever a mystery for me. It seemed that nobody knew where they came from; only that during the first days of June these people would establish themselves in Cajamarca, traveling in an old bus, with their families and all the necessities to stay for a while. We saw, in the company of the gitanas, handsome husbands, and beautiful kids, also with curly hair and beautiful black eyes! All of them looked also a little disheveled, with hair that was not combed for many days. Every year they set up their camp of tents close to the Circus, and stayed there until the end of June, when Corpus Christi finished. During the days of June, we saw the gitanas wandering in the streets of Cajamarca, approaching the adults and asking them to show their palms, so that they could tell their fortune. Some people, among them my mother, passed by without paying any attention; but some others accepted their request. Many times I found myself imagining being a grownup and presenting my palm to the gitana not afraid to know what was coming in my future. But what if the gitana read in my hand that my fortune was going to be bad! Thinking about it I started to tremble and feel the goose bumps of fear. I would change my mind, stop my imagination, and then feel so relieved knowing that I was only a child.

    There were lots of tales about the gitanas that we children heard with excitement and trepidation. We were told that the gitanas stole children and took them to unknown places from where they never came back! Our hair would stand on end and our hearts pump faster, afraid to be one of the captive children! But our curiosity was greater than our fears, and for many years and more than once, without our parents knowing, a group of frightened girls, myself among them, pretended being brave by adventuring to the tents of the gitanos to watch them and see how they lived.

    More than once, we saw some of them leaving their tent to shake their huge pillows, spreading little feathers on the ground. Later we learned that they slept on pillows of goose down. On one occasion, we witnessed a fight between two women, both trying to pull the hair of the other to force her to fall to the ground. On another secret visit we saw two men outside of their tents arguing with increasing rancor; they were ready to fight, standing each in front of the other, and each holding a short knife. We were scared to death and paralyzed! Happily the fight didn’t happen! Several women and children came out from the tent yelling at them to stop; others forced them to give away their knives and all came to be in calm! After that visit, we decided no longer to visit the gitanos; but children’s intentions don’t last long, and the following year we went back again, promising each other to stick together and run away in case we were discovered!

    As years passed and we were growing in age, every time we went home after our secret visit to the Romany camp, we walked in silence, probably asking ourselves the same questions that I still can’t fully answer myself. I still feel haunted by the mystery that surrounded them: Who were the gitanos? Where did they come from? Why did they live the way they live? Why did they seem poor and rouch? Is it because the rest of the people didn’t accept them and they felt lonely and isolated? I really want to learn more about them. I know from the experiences of my childhood that they are passionate, that life keeps them vibrant and vocal; that they love to live in community, and they show in their emotional reactions that they have heart, strong feelings and deep soul! Their songs are captivating. But the way they perceive life continues being a mystery for me.

    I tried to leave for the end of this article a fine and funny memory that I have from the Junes of my childhood. It is a memory I love and one I wanted to share it with you; but I already wrote a lot! So I am planning to write about it in the next newsletter. I won’t tell you what it is, for the child that still lives in me is telling me: Don’t tell! Keep it a secret! Make the readers want to know and guess!

    May the memories of childhood keep us alive!

    Mama Doris

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  • Wine Tasting, Demystified

    Wine, for reasons that seem quite silly to me, mystifies a good portion of the general population. It’s a subject seemingly shrouded in mystery, only known and understood by the sommelier. It is a common occurrence, when tableside, to hear some variation of the following from guests: ‘I could never do what you do! My palate just isn’t that good!’ I would like to state, on record, that this is just flat out untrue! Wine at its very essence is a beverage, something we consume because it tastes good and leaves us with convivial feelings and a sense of contentment. Because we eat, drink, and taste everyday, the deciphering of wine, which again is just one of many flavors and textures that passes our lips on a daily basis, is as basic as analyzing the flavors in the foods we eat and the odors we smell. It is my firm belief that anyone who puts their mind to it is able to learn how to be a proficient wine taster. When I see someone playing the violin, it seems magical, and I may say to myself that for me to perform in that capacity would be impossible. But I should point out that I never learned to read music and have never taken a music lesson! Of course it seems impossible! Because I never learned to do it! To be knowledgeable about wine, like any other study in life, one must put in the time to master the subject. Of course, you can find individuals who are naturally very good wine tasters, but any great wine professional will tell you, no amount of innate ability replaces a dedicated, systematic approach to analyzing and evaluating wines. To help blow the top off of the ‘wine mystique,’ I would like to commit the next few paragraphs to giving you a quick description of how to taste wine and get the most out of your wine drinking experience. With this primer and a little practice, you will be well on your way to having an even more enjoyable experience with your next glass.

    Sight: Sight is often overlooked in wine but in fact it can tell you a great deal. Some varieties, like Pinot Noir, Grenache and Nebbiolo are translucent garnet in color, while varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah are an inky dark purple. In reds wines with bottle age, one will observe a lightening of the color, whereas in whites, a deepening of the color is indicative of age. We can also look at the brightness of the wine. Is it vibrant and shiny, or dull and muted? These will give you an indication of the health of the wine.

    Nose: Here is where most tasters start and also where they immediately give up. Everyone has been to a tasting where they hear some oenophile wax poetic about the bouquet of a wine: mid summer berries, a hint of fennel frond, along with a soucçon of bacon fat. Upon hearing a description of this nature, most of us would run for the hills and far away from wine, thinking that we just don’t ‘get it.’ But in reality, the world’s best tasters did not start with descriptors like these. They started much where you are. My first recommendation when smelling wines is not to immediately jump to what exact fruits you are smelling, but to first talk about the category of the fruit, and then the quality of the fruit. Start in general terms, and then begin to focus in on more specific nuances. Do you smell citrus fruits or orchard fruits (apples, pears), perhaps stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, cherries) or even tropical (pineapple, mango, banana). Just pick a category and stick with it. So, imagine you are smelling a California Chardonnay and you pick up on something tropical and something citrusy. Maybe this will lead you to a fruit that is both, like pineapple. Then we jump to describing the quality of the fruit, or in other words, its ripeness level. Are the tropical citrus notes under ripe and green, like pineapple rind, or sweet, juicy and high-toned, like a pineapple candy? Although we start at the same basic type of fruit, the quality helps us narrow down the exact nuances in the wines. Think about the difference between crisp, fresh Granny Smith apples and bruised Golden apples. Quite different aromas, no? Not only will describing the quality of the fruit help you better define what you are smelling, but it will also give you an indication of the climate in which the grapes were grown or the effect of the weather patterns on that particular vintage. Are the fruit notes lean and bright? Then the grapes were likely grown in a cool climate, versus a wine with rich, round unctuous fruit notes, typically indicative of a warmer climate or growing season.

    Palate: This is where we run into troublesome terms like ‘sweet,’ ‘dry,’ ‘tannic,’ and ‘body.’ Although we may have an idea what these terms mean outside of wine, they are often cumbersome and confusing within the world of wine. Here is my recommendation for tasting wine. First put the wine on your palate. Swish it around so that it touches every part of your mouth: gums, cheeks, tongue, etc. Try to focus on how the wine feels on each part of your palate, and on the lasting effects of the wine. Does it make the bottom part of your mouth water? If so, then we would describe the wine as acidic. When on your gums and cheeks, do you feel an intense drying/pulling sensation/ Those would be tannins, which are found in grape seeds, stems and skins, and give texture to the wine. I also like to think about wines as either a laser or a pillow. Does the wine zoom across your palate, almost as if it were scrubbing your mouth clean, or does it sit softly on your tongue, coating your mouth? The former describes a wine that is bright and juicy whereas the latter describes a wine that is soft and broad. Although it is absolutely fine to like both types, many wine drinkers have a strong preference for one type or the other. Finally, we will look at dryness. What exactly does dry mean in a wine, anyway? How can a liquid be dry? ‘Dry’ describes a wine that has fully completed fermentation. No residual sugar remains in the wine, or in other terms, it has been fermented to ‘dryness.’ While most wines are classified as dry, many popular wines will have a small amount of RS, or residual sugar, indicating a hint of sweetness. This is perceived on the palate as a weighty richness, as sugar often lingers on the tongue. One important thing to remember is that a dry wine isn’t inherently better than a sweet wine. It is all about the overall balance of the wine. We never want one of these elements, be it acid, tannin, or sweetness of alcohol, to overwhelm the wine as a whole. The best wines are a perfect balance between these factors.

    So there it is, a brief primer on how to taste wine. At its heart, it is not a complicated endeavor. It is merely using our senses to describe colors, textures, aromas, and flavors that we experience everyday. My hope is that through reading this article, any illusion of wine tasting as a special privilege possessed by a small handful has been shattered and that with the next bottle you open, you begin to see wine for what it is – a beautiful beverage that, although magical, is also infinitely knowable. And, lest we forget, delicious!

     

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  • Un Maestro Como Pocos

    A TEACHER LIKE NO OTHER

    Last month, on Monday, February 17th, my first cousin Octavio Reina Rodriguez passed away; he was 95 years old. He was a teacher: a teacher for many generations of school children, but also a teacher for those around him, who learned the real happiness that comes when you do what you love, and saw the impact that a single man’s example can have in the lives of others.

    Octavio was the son of tia Julia, my father’s older sister. He was her second child and the only son among 4 sisters. Like all the members of my father’s family, he was born in the small town of Sucre, in the province of Celendin in the Dept. of Cajamarca, our homeland.

    Many members of my father’s family eventually came to live in the capital city of Cajamarca, my father among them. But many travelled even further afield, as everybody expects from shilicos – the name given to people from Celendin. Shilicos – as the story goes – have travelled as far as the moon. Octavio, however, stayed put. He lived in Sucre his entire life, forced neither by circumstance nor idleness, but by his own decision to stay in the land he loved.

    Octavio is in my earliest memories. From when I was three or four years old, I saw him every time he came to visit us in Cajamarca, as well as when we went to visit my grand parents in Sucre, which was every year. In all my memories, I see him as a handsome man, tall and slender with curly brown hair framing his wide forehead and honey colored eyes, almost green. He always dressed in a suit as any authority or professional in Sucre did; and a teacher was certainly counted as one. To this day, in any small town in Peru, teachers, the priest, and the mayor are the main civic authorities, and people expect to see them dressed to suit. They are greeted formally, and given right of way on the sidewalk.

    For the people of Sucre – old and young – Octavio was known as “Mestro Octavio,” “mestro” being a colloquial form of maestro. Whenever I walked with him in Sucre I heard such exchanges as: “Buenos dias, mestro Octavio. – Good morning professor Octavio.” – to which my cousin would attentively answer: “Hola NN… ¿Como va la familia? – Hello NN…. How is your family?” Or: “¿Como esta - How are you, professor Octavio?” Octavio would respond: “¿Bien, hijo, gracias. Como esta tu mama, ya mejor? – I am well, son, thank you. How is your mother? Is she feeling better?” Always respectful, always attentive, and always well informed as to what was happening in town.

    No matter where my siblings and I were, my cousin’s arrival was inevitably announced by the rhythm of his steps: climbing the wooden steps of our home, or walking on the paved street outside; and of course, he was never not whistling some popular melody, and he whistled very well! As soon as we heard the sound of our door opening we knew that soon the radiant face of Octavio would appear smiling and greeting us so warmly that immediately we felt at home with him. I think that this is the way that all who knew Octavio will remember him: the most positive, optimistic, and kindest person we had ever met! He was born with a gift by which those in his company left better and happier. He was a charismatic person and a brilliant teacher, both in his approach to life and because of the care and affection he had toward any human being!

    Here are some facts about Octavio that I learned from my father’s memories and from his presence in my own life.

    My father and Octavio were close in age – my father was only seven years older. So they understood each other very well and developed a close friendship that lasted all their lives. Octavio loved Sucre, his home town, and showed his devotion in many ways. As a child and youth, he was a bright and intelligent student, and graduated as a primary school teacher from one of Peru’s best teachers colleges in those times, La Cantuta. With this background, he received offers to work as a teacher in the top schools of Lima, as well as in schools of Cajamarca and Trujillo. Octavio declined these offers, because his decision was to teach in Sucre. And there he taught primary school until he retired!

    I don’t know how many generations passed under his wings, but they were many! His former students are now doctors, policemen, teachers, lawyers, colonels, representatives, farmers, carpenters, businessmen. I imagine all of them are doing well in life, and I know they are very grateful to their beloved teacher, Mestro Octavio. Many live in Lima, Cajamarca, and Trujillo, and some remain in Sucre.

    But his love for Sucre went beyond his classroom: he became an active member in nearly all of the projects that Sucre initiated, projects related to its development and to better conditions of life for its citizens. He worked hard to motivate native Sucrenses who had moved to the larger cities to help with their own money to build a road from the town of Sucre to the city of Cajamarca, a new and more efficient road that would not need to pass through Celendin. The road was called La Misionera and Octavio’s efforts, united with those of others, ultimately succeeded! Now every Sucrense is proud to travel by way of the Misionera, a road that they all helped to build.

    Octavio was elected by the town of Sucre as Mayor so many times that we thought it was his permanent job! In this role, among his other responsibilities, Octavio greeted every notable person who arrived on an official visit to Sucre. As the representative of Sucre, Octavio presented the visitor with the keys to the city in a ceremony that took place in the Cabildo – Sucre’s City Hall. And in several cases, the dignitaries in question were the former students of Mestro Octavio!

    As a mayor he worked incessantly to improve Sucre’s public services. Thanks to his kind and constant leadership, and to the efforts of those inspired by his example and convincing arguments, Sucre has now potable water, electricity and paved streets. He was part of Committees that traveled many times to Cajamarca and to Lima to ask authorities, representatives and Sucrenses for their assistance and collaboration.

    One of his successes was the creation of two Colegios de Secundaria, local high schools, one in Sucre and the other in Jose Galvez, the neighboring town (and my mother’s home town). None of the local citizenry dreamed in their whole lives to have high schools in either town. But Octavio, working with a group of enthusiastic teachers as well as notable Sucrenses living in Cajamarca and Lima, conceived the idea to ask the Peruvian Government to formally establish high schools for students who couldn’t afford to travel to Celendin to continue their education. Numerous trips to Lima to speak with the regional representatives, long hours in the public offices waiting to meet the right persons, months and years of constant work and hope: finally, they did it! Sucre and Jose Galvez now have their own high schools.

    It is legendary that once, when trouble-makers created disciplinary problems in the high school of Jose Galvez, and when the Principal of the school felt powerless to control their behavior, some teachers suggested bringing mestro Octavio from Sucre to deliver a speech to the students, focusing on the discipline problems. Octavio came and with only his presence and words of encouragement – for all to show pride in all that they did; to study for the joy and the capacities that knowledge gives – he touched the teachers and students, so that listening, they felt that something in the air changed: there was a real sense of optimism and confidence. At the end of his speech, a sense of peace pervaded the school. The trouble-makers stopped their bad behavior and over time the school became one of the best of the province. Mestro Octavio had performed a kind of miracle.

    Most of his trips to Cajamarca he made for the purpose of overseeing a task on behalf of Sucre; they were frequent, and we loved Octavio’s visits! He radiated a genuine enjoyment that affected all of us. Many times we found ourselves adopting his own enthusiasm for all that he did and shared with us! I remember our enthusiasm when he talked with tremendous pride about his former students’ achievements in the universities they were attending; when he talked about the public faucets that Sucre had installed around town for its residents to collect potable water; when he told us the plans that the city had to celebrate the Feast of San Isidro (the patron of Sucre); or when we saw his profound pleasure while savoring a simple plate of rice combined with aji y cancha (hot pepper sauce and toasted corn). On those occasions when Octavio stopped by unexpectedly after lunchtime, to say hello, this was the only food my mother could offer him. And his delight in these simple pleasures was infectious: I remember more than once imitating Octavio and savoring with the same enthusiasm a simple plate of rice.

    An event I never forgot was when Octavio invited my family to attend a play called “Los hijos de la pobreza” (The children of Poverty), which he wrote and directed. He cast the town’s adults and youth side by side. The play took place in the patio of the City Hall, which every Sunday was transformed into an open market where the local farmers came to sell their fresh products. For the play, spectators needed to bring their own chairs, though there were some benches for the elderly. The center and rear of the patio were made into the stage; the curtains were white sheets stitched together. Because we were close kin, we sat directly in front of the stage.

    The play described the sorrows and the worries of a mother and wife whose husband suffered the severe effects of a drought that ruined his farm. The farmer was unable to produce enough food, and seeing his four children hungry and hungrier by the day, and his wife ready to have another baby, the farmer stopped going to his farm and started to drink. He drank almost every day, and came home drunk to fight with his wife and to hit his children. The mother, in despair, sought out help, going first to the priest and asking him to convince her husband to stop his drinking. But the priest did not succeed.

    In the next scene, the children looked even more pale and weak. They had begun to cough in long fits. Then, one of them spit up blood (red ink). The mother panicked and, leaving her children in their home, she went to Celendin looking for a doctor, and she found one.

    When the audience saw the doctor, what a surprise it was! For he was none other than Octavio himself! He appeared in the scene with a white jacket and a real stethoscope around his neck. From the audience, a child shouted: “Isn’t that Mestro Octavio?!” And we answered: “Yes, it is Mestro Octavio!” All the spectators started clapping. But the play continued on, and Octavio performed his role magnificently! He looked like a real doctor, putting the stethoscope on the chest of every child and after a prudent silence, informing the mother that her children had developed tuberculosis.

    This diagnosis marked the climax of the play: the mother and the children fell in tears and the father who, as he was entering home drunk, had also heard the news, kneeled down at Octavio’s feet and asked for forgiveness from his wife, his children and the doctor as well.

    And it was at that moment that the moral of the play unfolded in the voice and soliloquy of Octavio. He began by comforting the family, promising them that he would use the knowledge he learned during his education to help the family become well again. He would ask the hospital to provide the right medicine, which he prescribed for the children, and he would take responsibility for ensuring their recovery. But on all of this he placed a condition: the farmer must stop drinking! And he must begin again to care for his farm and for his family. At this proclamation, the family embraced the farmer and dried their tears.

    Then, directing his voice to the children of the stage and to the children in the audience, Octavio said: “If someday you wish to be a doctor as well, someone who knows how to help others, you need to start studying hard day and night. Without education you never can dream to be somebody better than you are now. Books and the love of learning can take you to the sky! Do you someday wish to be like me?” And all of the children yelled: “Yes! We want to be like you!” To which Octavio replied, emphatically: “Then someday you too will be a doctor!” At this, however, the children interrupted him, saying: “No mestro Octavio, we don’t want to be a doctor. We want to be like you, mestro Octavio! We want to be like you!!” The rest of the audience fell silent. I saw Octavio at first confused; it seemed that he didn’t understand what he had heard. Then, with his voice trembling with emotion, he said “Gracias ninos.” The public exploded in a rain of applause, and a chorus began: “Mestro octavio! Mestro Octavio!” I couldn’t contain my tears, they were tears of pride and joy! I saw many like me crying proudly! There, in front of us it was a truly great teacher, a real human being, who cared deeply about others: kind, genuine, sincere, full of hope, and with faith in the goodness of all! And he, Octavio Reina Rodriguez was my cousin, the beloved teacher of Sucre. A real teacher for all of us, who showed us the art of living a simple and fruitful life. We will remember him forever!

    Mama Doris

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  • My ‘Aha!’ Moment

    Regular readers of this newsletter surely noticed a big change in the February issue. Ken Collura, Andina’s founding wine director, stepped down after 8 years, and I assumed the reins of the wine program. It has been an exciting time for me, both personally and professionally, which has caused me to reflect upon the path that brought me into the world of wine. Growing up, I have memories of Sunday dinners at my Grandmother Benke’s house, where there was always a 5 liter jug of Carlo Rossi ‘Burgundy,’ both for cooking and for washing down her famous pot roast. Wine was nothing special, but also omnipresent. Like a salt shaker, it didn’t ever take center stage, but without it you always knew something was amiss.

    Later, as a student at the University of Oregon, while living with my brother and sister-in-law, I began to appreciate the pleasure of winding down after a long day with a glass or three of red wine, letting the stress melt away and convivial conversation fill the evenings. Despite this early introduction, wine was still an aside, one of life’s many simple pleasures, but not something worth serious consideration. An English professor once tried to persuade me to write my thesis on the historical legacy of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape in Avignon and the wine culture of the region, but I couldn’t be convinced. In my mind, wine was just for drinking and enjoying. Why complicate matters?

    During my studies and directly after graduating, I spent time living abroad, in France, first in the metropolitan Lyon, and later in the quaint country village of Figeac. Although my desire to learn about wine had not yet kicked in, my love affair with food and wine most certainly intensified. The presence of wine as a daily necessity of life was reinforced. Living just outside of Cahors, I had my favorite bottle of wine, purchased on sale for €5.50: it was rich, dark and chewy, and the last glass always possessed a healthy amount of sediment. On the weekends, I was often invited to dinner by French families. Sparkling wine was de rigeur as the aperitif, usually served with some sort of tasty little canapés. Moving on to the main course, wine wasn’t just there, it was part of the experience of dining, as intrinsic to the meal as the accompanying baguette. I recall one dinner party with great distinction. There were two young girls in attendance, probably aged 8 and 13. With the Gigot d’Agneau (roast leg of lamb), there was a lovely bottle of Bordeaux. The mother of the young girls poured tastes of the wine for each, no more than an ounce or two. I recall the protests of the girls, who did not want the wine, and the insistence of the mother, that you couldn’t have a proper meal without wine; and much like an American mother who urges her children to eat just 3 bites of peas, spinach, or some other commonly detested vegetable, this French maman urged her girls to have un petit peu because, according to her logic, it wasn’t possible to enjoy lamb without a little Bordeaux.

    Upon my return stateside, with the realization that my degree in Art History and my part time job working at a local French immersion school were not going to cut it financially, I began working in restaurants to support my post college life. This is where my wine revelation occurred: the proverbial ‘Aha!’ moment. I was just becoming interested in learning more about wine, primarily as a means to move up in the restaurant hierarchy. During one quiet Sunday shift I recall having a conversation with a co-worker about wine and about my time in France as well. He recommended that I try a Malbec from Argentina, as this was the same grape as my favorite little wine from Cahors. My next day off, I headed to Trader Joe’s and confidently asked for a nice bottle of Malbec. Upon getting the bottle home, I uncorked it, poured myself a glass and prepared to have a nostalgic moment. But instead of the brooding, earthy wine to which I was accustomed, this Malbec was bright and fruity, soft around the edges and supremely drinkable. I thought to myself, ‘why does this taste so different? And how the heck did Malbec get from France to Argentina, anyway?’ It seemed like every interaction I had with wine was all coming back to me, and I suddenly had so many questions I was dying to have answered. So I did what any inquisitive, former humanities major would do: I picked up a couple of wine books and signed up for the first wine class I could find. And the rest, as they say, is history.

    Through my work at Andina I am often brought back to this moment of discovery. One of the most regularly asked questions of me is how I became interested in wine and my answer is usually a condensed version of the above story. And I guarantee you, if you ask any wine lover, they will have a similar story, perhaps a bottle that blew their mind, or a conversation with a winemaker that opened their eyes to wine as a beautiful, living, breathing and ever-changing pleasure of life. And I often reflect on this and wonder, how many people have had a wine revelation at Andina? Perhaps a guest that has never heard of or tried any number of grape varieties widely represented on our list, like Godello, País or Tannat. Or a guest that first experiences the pleasure of our cebiche with a glass of crisp and lively Vinho Verde. Currently, I am honored to have the opportunity to see and converse with so many people on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. And I aspire to have as many conversations with the guests of Andina about the wide world of wine as I can. My goal is to make wine approachable, enjoyable, educational, and downright fun. Because who knows: maybe the next generation of sommeliers is seated just a table away, waiting, unbeknownst to them, for their ‘Aha!’ moment?

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  • LOS FEBREROS DE MI INFANCIA

    THE FEBRUARIES OF MY CHILDHOOD

    Having lived in Oregon since the late 1970’s, I know very well how the months of January, February, March, and April are almost always quite cool and very rainy. In this way, Oregon’s weather is similar to what one would see and feel during the same months in Cajamarca, my hometown, in the northern Andes. From November to April, Andean people are in the “Rainy Season.” The difference between Oregon rain and the rain in the Andes is that the daily rain in the Andes comes and goes in showers, allowing the sun to shine in between.

    During my childhood, my siblings and I loved the month of February: it didn’t matter if it rained or if it was cold. To us, the month of February was one of the best gifts that my parents gave to us! It was the month when my family typically traveled to visit our beloved relatives who lived in Jose Galvez and in Sucre, two small villages located in the province of Celendin, north of the city of Cajamarca. These small towns were where my parents were born and raised.

    My father and mother did not choose this month arbitrarily. Rather, by tradition, all the families who were living away from their hometown returned in February to their place of origin to see one another and to celebrate Carnavales, a festivity related to the Catholic liturgy.

    Our visit usually lasted two weeks. We spent one week in Sucre, with my father’s family: with his mother, whom we called Mama Lolita, his father, whom we called Papa Jose, and his sister, Tia Felisa. The second week we spent in Jose Galvez, my mother’s town, where her sister, our Tia Dalila, lived with her husband Tio Anibal and their children, Manuco, Lucho, Roger, and Magnito.

    Between those two places, my siblings and I especially loved Jose Galvez. We were very close to and of the same age as our cousins. Their house was so big it covered a whole block of the main street. It had two floors with balconies from which you could see the little main square of the town, and three patios, plus a corral, where one pig, and many rabbits, hens, and ducks lived in harmony. The house was an ideal place to be mischievous. We learned from our cousins how to catch frogs, and we became experts in this adventure, looking for the little ones in the cracks of the trunks outside of the house. We learned how to sneak a “win” playing cards by stealing a glance at the other’s cards. And we learned all about the game and strategy of marbles, hitting our target marble with one knee anchored on the dusty stones of the street. My cousins and brothers loved to climb the lemon trees adorning the perimeter of the town’s plazuela (small central square). Neither my sister nor I were much good at climbing, and we preferred to wait for the boys sitting on the benches below the lemon trees, indulging in the delicious smell of the azahares (lemon blossoms).

    Our cousins were our teachers and we admired them a lot! We were their students, eager to learn the secrets and ways of country life! They taught us how to distinguish breeds and sexes among the animals in the corral and in the fields. I remember once they showed us how to cure the foot of a sheep that was limping because of an infection in her foot. Two of them securely held the lamb and the other two cleaned the wounded foot, rubbing it abrasively with a piece of cloth soaked in creso, a powerful disinfectant. Over the following days we observed how the sheep walked better and better, until she joined the fold without limping. We children of the city were in a state of wonder; but for our cousins, this was part of their lives, and such skillful acts were nothing out of the ordinary.

    It was during Carnavales that my cousins, siblings, and I learned to dance! Though not always pleasantly, since, while trying to synchronize our movements, we often stepped on each other’s toes and feet. Our parents, relatives, and the other town folk were our teachers. They congregated almost every night of the week of Carnaval to dance in the salones de la Municipalidad (the formal rooms of the City Hall). By imitating our parents, we learned how to dance a vals (waltz), a bolero, a paso doble; and from the young generations, we learned cumbias, merengues, cha cha cha, and the twist! What made these evenings that much more fun was the live music! The town of Jose Galvez had its own musicians, old and young, who learned to play guitar, accordion, saxophone, and drums. Who needed more? At those social nights, the whole town came to life! Our elders also attended the dances, and they stayed the whole night, taking their seats on one of the long benches inside the room. They too were busy: besides simply the enjoyment of it all, they were the chaperones of the young. And believe me – under their vigilant eyes, all of us behaved well!

    During the week that we spent in the town Sucre, where my father was born, our experience was very different. We stayed in the small house in which Papa Jose, Mama Lolita and our Aunt Felisa lived. There were no children our own age, no playing, no running; but we witnessed and experienced many other things that marked our life and remained with us forever.

    We experienced the depth of Papa Jose’s faith, and how seriously he took things, as when he commanded my mother to bring us to him early in the morning, as soon as we woke up, so that he could teach us how to pray! He made us sit close to him and holding our right hand, he made on our forehead, mouth, and chest the “sign of the cross,” asking us to repeat with him a prayer that I still remember: “Por la señal de la Sta. Cruz de Cristo, nuestra Luz …..” – which means, roughly, “By the sign of the blessed cross of Christ, our light…… etc.” As I was repeating this prayer I looked at him very closely, and I saw that his eyes were blue, his beard was white and his hands were trembling. I still see him in my memory pounding the floor with his feet while sitting on the muro, an adobe bench attached to the wall of the alar (a covered walkway). When we asked him why he did that, he responded: “To get my feet warm!”

    We saw happiness in the eyes of Mama Lolita and Tia Felisa when my father presented to each of them a special gift, which he and my mother had carefully chosen in Cajamarca weeks before our trip! I witnessed for many years their preparatory conversations and the many visits they made to the shops and stores, looking for something that they knew would be great gifts for my father’s parents and sister. The gifts varied from year to year. I remember one February when my father gave to each of his parents and to his sister Felisa, three pieces of fine wool to be used by the seamstress of Sucre to make coats and jackets for them. The following February we saw Mama Lolita and Papa Jose wearing beautiful jackets, and Tia Felisa wearing a beautiful coat. I had never seen my father as happy and proud as he was when he saw how his parents and his sister dressed themselves with his gift!

    I also remember a February when my father gave a radio to his mother. Sometime before that February, Papa Jose (my father’s father) and also my own mother had both passed away, and Mama Lolita felt lonely. She also couldn’t stand or walk for long periods of time. She needed company and possibly something to engage or entertain her. My Tia Felisa suggested a radio, and so my father obtained a battery-powered, short-wave Philips radio. It was able to capture programs from as far away as Lima on the coast, Iquitos in the jungle, and even from Quito, Ecuador and from Cali, Colombia. When my grandmother first heard voices talking or singing on this radio, she couldn’t believe it. For her, the radio was a magical device with tiny people inside and operating it. More than once my Aunt Felisa found Mama Lolita telling the small people of the radio to “Shut up!”

    Finally, one of my fondest memories of a February from my childhood was one that I spent alone with my Aunt Felisa in Sucre. I was 13 years old, and it was one year following the death of my mother. My father left us in Sucre for an extra week, while he returned to Cajamarca to work. My sister and my two brothers went to spend the week in Jose Galvez, and I stayed with my Aunt Felisa in Sucre. It was the first night of being alone, and after we had finished supper, my aunt invited me to see something. She opened her trunk, and a smell of naphthalene came to my nose. My aunt moved wool sweaters and wool jackets she kept inside of her chest until she reached what she was looking for. Her treasure was a series of books, perfectly bound and beautiful! Among them were works that I recognized because they were classics, such as “El Quijote,” “Romeo y Julieta,” “Los Tres Mosqueteros,” “Crimen y Castigo,” etc. All of them had the same kind of hard cover with the printed name of the publishing company: Tor, from Argentina. I never thought that my aunt, living in such a small village, and who day and night cared for her elderly parents, had enough time to read! But she did, and she read a lot! She told me that every night after her parents went to sleep, she indulged her love of reading, and she would sit under the light of a kerosene lamp that she had carefully placed on a table close to her bed. By that time in my life, I too had discovered the joy of reading. So that night, Tia Felisa and I enjoyed a chapter of “La Divina Comedia” by Dante Alighieri. She read a page, I read another one, and without realizing how long we read, we finished the whole chapter! I have never enjoyed reading as I did that night with my Aunt Felisa! We repeated our enjoyment of reading the rest of the nights of the week. When I returned to Cajamarca, we had already finished La Divina Comedia, and had a clear sense of hell and heaven, according to the poet! After that February, when Aunt Felisa and I discovered the pleasure of reading together, and until I went to college, we spent our nights in Sucre reading our beloved classics. Who says that people from small towns can’t be as erudite as people from the city? My Aunt Felisa showed me that persons without an academic background can be not only good human beings, but also well read and wise! These experiences – and all the many others that happened during our visits to my parents’ home villages – make me consider the Februaries of my childhood precious times; times during which I learned how real love and affection can be, and how actions tell more than words!

    MAMA DORIS

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  • Reflecting on the past, looking toward the future

    February brings big changes to the Andina wine world. After working at the restaurant as the assistant sommelier since 2011, I am now assuming the position of Beverage Director. I cannot express just how excited I am by this transition. I have been working seriously with wine since 2008, when I began pursuing my wine education through the International Sommelier Guild. After my studies with the ISG, I continued my certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Last April, after many months of hard study, I was happy to announce that I became an Advanced Level Sommelier through this organization. Perhaps in the next few years I will pursue the holy grail of wine, my MS, or Master Sommelier Diploma. Only time will tell! What I do know is that wine, like many passionate pursuits in life, is always changing and evolving. There is always something new to learn, and pursuit of true ‘mastery’ of the subject is illusive yet highly gratifying. I hope to remain perpetually excited by the world of wine, and even more so, it is my goal to transfer this excitement to the guests who visit Andina.

    Before I talk about the direction of the beverage program at Andina, I would like to express my gratitude to all the people who have encouraged me along my vinous path, both in the community at large but also Andina specifically. The person to whom I owe tremendous respect is none other than Ken Collura, who has been the head of the wine program at Andina since 2005. As many of you loyal readers of the monthly newsletter know, Ken has been furnishing informative, witty and practical wine advice via his column for many years now. Now that this task is assigned to me, I take a great sense of purpose and pride continuing in this legacy. Ken is leaving the restaurant this month to pursue other interests in the wine trade. No matter where he goes and what he does he is sure to lend his expertise, experience and humor to all his endeavors. We wish him well and it goes without saying that he will be greatly missed at Andina. The Platt de Rodriguez family, as well as long-time General Manager Jels McCaulay also deserve praise for their encouragement and support. Every member of this team brings an immense amount of wisdom, expertise and insight to the restaurant, each in their own unique way, to which the success of Andina can only be attributed. I look forward to continuing my working relationship with the Andina Family at large, as it is hands down the best staff I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

    While I have a great amount of enthusiasm and excitement surrounding my new role at the restaurant, I would like to reassure the readers of this newsletter, as well as the longtime clientele of Andina, that my goal in this transition is to maintain the quality and feel of the wine list. I will continue to seek out delicious, value-driven wines from all around the world, wines that complement the cuisine at Andina and that provide our guests with a great vinous experience. Although the list will continue to focus on the wines of South America and the Pacific Northwest, there will always be room on the list for treasures from around the world.

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  • MISTURA 2013, AND MY OWN EDUCATION

    First and with much pride, I want to announce that for the second time Peru was declared the “World’s Leading Culinary Destination.” The announcement came during the 2013 World Travel Awards Ceremony held in Doha, Qatar, on November 30th, and it was sponsored by the travel and culinary industries. There was strong competition from notable gastronomical destinations such as France, China, Italy, Spain and Thailand; but Peru prevailed.

    Hailed as a “gastronomic superpower”  by the Financial Times, Peruvian cuisine continues to maintain its position at the top of the culinary world. And at Andina we continue our mission to honor Peru by serving as ambassadors of its food and its culture.

    Last September my son Peter and I travelled to Lima, Peru with an objective unique among our visits to date: To attend “Mistura,” Latin America’s largest festival of cuisine. The festival lasted 10 days, from September 6th to September 15th, and featured food from different regions of Peru as well as products from farmers and producers  diverse as the climates Peru contains.

    Our visit to Mistura brought us face to face with the inspiring reality of Peru’s growing realization of its own gifts, as well as the opportunities and responsibilities that come along with them. With great surprise and also with growing pride, we saw a powerful cultural movement that embraces not only Lima, but all regions of Peru: from the coastal area, to the Andean highlands, to the vast Amazonian basin. We saw and tasted the richness and the variety that each regional cuisine had to offer. Farmers, producers, restaurant owners, chefs, servers, bakers, regional culinary schools – represented by teachers and students of each region of Peru – gathered to show and to learn with real pride and enthusiasm the culinary prizes of their respective home-places.

    The response that Mistura had in terms of the public was overwhelming; each and every day that Peter and I visited Mistura, we waited in long lines to enter the formal grounds and also every time we wanted to taste a regional dish or to have a special type of coffee, bread, chocolate or pisco. Official numbers said half a million people came to the festival. Beginning in the early hours in the morning, people patiently and joyfully waited for Mistura to open its doors to the public, which it did at 10am, with last call at 10pm.

    What impressed me most was the universality of the enthusiasm: Peruvians of all ages and all social statuses visited Mistura; families including grandpas and grandmas, some of them in wheel chairs, came to enjoy the food of their birthplaces as well as from regions they might have never been to.

    On more than one occasion, Peter and I were welcomed to join a table where an entire family was eating. We immediately perceived their hospitality, and we were not any more strangers to them. Proudly and dynamically, they explained to us what precisely it was that we were eating, having become for us and for the world, even for a moment, experts about their newly recognized national treasure: their own cuisine(s). I never thought that events like Mistura could bring a sense of a regional and national pride, but I know better now.

    Just to give you some idea of the size of the festival, here are some facts: APEGA, the  organization that planned the event, cordoned off a very long stretch of the Costa Verde, a beach close to the center of Lima, to hold the festival. The area had all kinds of facilities: phone booths, restrooms located in different sections, gardens between sections, tables and benches within each section, and a big auditorium, where lectures and cooking demonstrations were presented by master chefs. A complex array of  TV cameras projected these presentations onto a large screen for viewing by those outside the auditorium.

    Sections were assigned for different groups of food, each highlighting Peru’s rich biodiversity. These sections were called “Mundos” (worlds). Among them were: el mundo  del Chocolate; de la Quinua; del Cafe; de los Sanguches (traditional Peruvian sandwiches), de los Panes artesanales (breads from different regions of Peru), de los Anticuchos (beef-heart skewers), and of course, de los Cebiches, our iconic food.

    There were also other sections dedicated to Peru’s long-established Regional Cuisines, such as La Cocina Nortena (The Northern Cuisine); La Cocina Limeña (Lima’s own cusine); la Cocina Andina  (Andean Cuisine);  La Cocina Arequipena (the distinct cuisine of the southernmost region in Peru); La Cocina de la Amazonia (cuisine from the Jungle). There was also a section called Comida Oriental that offered dishes of the Cocina Nikkei (Peruvian food with Japanese influence) and Chifa (Peruvian food with Chinese influence), both of which have been well-appreciated by the public since the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

    If any single cuisine emerged as the most popular at this year’s festival it was from the mundo de las Brasas,  which is the simple, delicious cuisine comprising foods cooked on a spit over a bed of piping hot coals. An example of this cuisine was Chancho al palo, marinated pork spit-roasted over an open fire. Even with many stalls, one needed to wait hours to place an order for this excellent fare.

    One of the principal features of Mistura 2013 was “El Gran Mercado” (The Great Marketplace), located at the center of the festival grounds. Here, Mistura showcased Peru’s phenomenal biodiversity, with farmers and producers of all different regions of Peru selling fruits of the Pacha Mama (Mother Earth). More than 250 producers from the coast, mountains, and jungle regions displayed their wares. Peruvians, as well as visitors from other countries, many of them chefs or members of culinary schools, discovered scores of  unknown crops with great nutritional value as well as delicious flavors. The most impressive crops were the Andean tubers, both colorful and diverse: olluco, oca, yacon, mashua, arracacha, maca, etc. We saw also quinoa in its multiple colors and varieties, and of course many varieties, shapes, and colors of potatoes. We were among thousands of admirers. To see and feel the intensity and sincerity of interest, to observe discussions and agreements between farmers, producers, chefs and others, continues to inspire me. I am  proud of our country and its enormous potential as a source of healthy, delicious food for the whole world.

    Food was not the only centerpiece: Mistura also sponsored lectures by notable chefs fromPeru and other nations. Among them: Peru’s own Gaston Acurio and Pedro Miguel Schiaffino; Alain Ducasse, from France; Rene Redezpi, of NOMA in Copehagen, considered the best restaurant in the world; Alex Atala from Brasil; Andoni Luis Anduriz from Spain, who demonstrated his expertise in Molecular Cuisine; and finally, Massimo Bottura from Italy. Each of these inspired cooks spoke of their own philosophy and experiences and presented ideas and themes relevant to students of culinary institutes from Peru and other countries, as well as to visiting chefs. We were fortunate to be among the attendants.

    One of the ideas that Peter and I especially appreciated came from Gaston Acurio. Acurio emphasized the power of the story behind any and all ingredients and techniques. According to him, the most finely executed dish must begin and end with a story. For there to be genuine interest and appreciation from the guests toward the food they have on their plates, the food must somehow tell a story that rings true because it is true. The act of eating then, and only then, becomes a cultural experience. He illustrated his thoughts with a video that showed a complete Tasting Menu that he had prepared for a group of chefs in his restaurant. The Menu consisted of five main courses. Each course told a chapter of a story of the emigration of an Italian to Peru. Gaston personally knew this man.  By way of the ingredients, and by the method of preparation, each course described an aspect of his journey from Italy to Peru: his farewell to his mother; his voyage from Europe to Peru; his initiation into Peruvian life; his adaptation to his new country; and his return visit to Italy as a Peruvian-Italian.

    Our mission at Andina echoes Gaston’s belief in the kind of harmonic depth created only when the food and the cook, the culture and the individual, honor and tell each other’s story. We wish to give our guests not only food that is memorable for its quality and flavors, but also a means to know and enjoy the stories at the root of each dish. And we wish for our guests to be and feel part of a wider world that involves their world and ours, and to that end, we strive for welcoming hospitality and ambience, which speak without words of Peru and its culture.

    I thank Mistura for showing me my own country and its food in a way I had not seen them before.

    Mama Doris

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  • Champagne for the holidays

    The holidays are the time of year when Champagne takes center stage. No other beverage is equated with celebrations like Champagne. You can see people’s eyes light up when it’s mentioned. I thought it might be fun to let folks in on some of the nuts and bolts of this beautiful sparkling wine. Below is some basic information about where it comes from, how it’s made, what styles are available and how they should taste. Happy Holidays!

    WHERE IT IS The province of Champagne, FR encompasses 25,000 hectares (one hectare equals 2.47 acres) of vines spread across five departments (“states”). The vineyards are the most northerly in France, and can be divided into three main regions:

    1) Montagne de Reims: The center of production around the town of Reims;

    2) Vallee de la Marne: The vineyards that run parallel to the Marne river that dissects the region;

    3) Cotes des Blancs: The southernmost region, devoted exclusively to chardonnay.

    There are about 270 villages and communes in all, each of which has been officially rated from 80-to-100 percent based on the quality of the grapes they produce. Seventeen villages have been rated 100 percent and another fifty are rated 90-to-99 percent. Every year, just prior to the harvest, vineyard owners and the large firms (which account for about 70 percent of production but own a much smaller proportion of the vineyards) negotiate a base price per kilo of grapes from that year’s crop. The combination of this price and the area’s percentage rating determines what the growers get for their grapes.

    WHAT IT’S MADE FROM Only three grapes may be planted in Champagne: pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. Pinot noir represents approximately a quarter of the vineyard area and is concentrated around Reims, where it ripens well and gives up wines of depth and finesse. Pinot meunier covers around half of the area under vine and is a sturdier varietal that ripens later than pinot noir. Pinot meunier is not admitted in the Grand and Premier Cru vineyards, but its reliability and high yield make it the most planted grape in Champagne. Chardonnay has its day on the chalky soil of the Cotes des Blancs, where it is the only grape permitted. Its qualities of lightness and elegance are essential for balancing the richness of the pinots.

    WHAT IT TASTES LIKE Champagne is the home of the master blender. The aim of the blender is to create a cuvee each year that corresponds to the “house” style. Once the blend is made (from as little as three or four and as many as 50 or so different wines from a variety of years) it is bottled with the addition of cane sugar dissolved in old wine spiced with selected yeasts, known as liquer de tirage. It is then taken to the cellar to undergo its second major fermentation in the bottle, during which the wine becomes sparkling.

    The four designations often seen in our markets are:

    1) Extra Brut: The driest of all Champagne. Zero sugar is added. Austere and extremely clean in the mouth.

    2) Brut: The most common Champagne is labeled Brut. Up to 1 percent of liquer may be added.

    3) Extra-Dry: Slightly sweet, 1-to-3 percent liquer.

    4) Demi-Sec: Sweet Champagne, destined for desserts, 5-to-8 percent liquer added.

    The styles these designations are labeled under include:

    Non-Vintage: A blend of several vintages, although dominant in wines from the latest year. Three-quarters of all Champagne produced are non-vintage.

    Vintage: Wine from only the best growing seasons. Around three-quarters of the harvest is bottled under a vintage label, leaving the remainder for future non-vintage blends. They are aged three years in bottle and are not normally released until 1-2 years later.

    Blanc de Blancs: Champagne made from chardonnay only, making a bottle of great finesse but with potential for long aging. Often expensive, and well worth the price.

    Rose: Most rose Champagne is made with the addition of red wine being added to the still white at the time of the assemblage. This achieves the color, character and “weight” of the rose desired by the particular house. There are still a few houses that make their roses by the saignee process, where the red grapes ferment in the vat and the wine is drawn off when the desired color has been attained.

    Cuvees des Prestige: These are the luxury wines from the major houses, the most well-known being Dom Perignon (Moet et Chandon), Comtes de Champagne (Taittinger) and Cristal (Roederer).

    Armed with the info above, you should be able to impress your boss, amaze your friends, and swell with self-confidence when entering your favorite wine shop or restaurant.

     

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  • MIS REFLEXIONES SOBRE JUNIO

    Some reflections on the month of June

    June is a month full of special dates for Peruvians and also for our family. These dates commemorate moments in our lives and cultural histories. They also invite us to reflect on how the original events do not live sepulchered in the past, but continue to influence our lives in the present.

    In June, Peru celebrates two major festivities: On the 21st of the month, we celebrate the Inti Raimi – fiesta del Sol – an Incan festivity honoring the god, Inti on the occasion of the Winter Solstice. On a special Thursday in June that varies with the Catholic Liturgical calendar, we also celebrate Corpus Christi.  In both celebrations people express their faith to God, leaving the uncertainty of their lives in God’s hands. For native Peruvians, and for the Incas especially, the Sun was a principal deity; for the majority of Peruvians today, god is the Christian God, whose spirit is believed to live in the soul of the faithful.

    June is also a month when we celebrate Father’s Day, and – by coincidence – my family commemorates the death of my beloved father, “papá Victor”, who passed away on June 4th 2004. For me, his life was an example of justice, wisdom and caring. Thanks to him we learned that the genuineness and love in which we undertake all that we endeavor, does make a difference and does bear fruit.

    On June 28th, my husband and I celebrate the anniversary of our marriage, which was held in the village church of Jose Galvez,Peru,  in the valley where my parents came from and where they too were married. Who would have known the ways in which our marriage, founded on a mutual appreciation, admiration and respect for who we were and from where we came, would unite not only the lives of two young teachers who shared the same ideals and dreams; but also two different worlds and two different cultures?  My husband, John, came from Portland, Oregon as a Peace Corp volunteer to teach in the Andean city of Cajamarca, where I had spent nearly all of my youth, and where – at around the same time – I had begun my own teaching career. During his first two years in Cajamarca, he and I knew of the existence of the other, but only in passing: my father and I enrolled as students of free English classes that John offered in the evening to the whole community of Cajamarca. When John was preparing to leave Peru and return to Oregon, he couldn’t know that he would remain in the country for nine years more (the Peruvian government offered him a job), teaching, listening, observing, and – little by little – falling in love with Peru.

    When John left Cajamarca, three years passed and neither he nor I knew where the other was nor what had since become of our lives. And we had absolutely no inkling that we might meet each other again, but that is indeed what happened. We were both asked to join a group of young science teachers in a UNESCO-funded initiative called PRONAMEC, a national program to improve the teaching of the sciences in schools.

    Teaching together we slowly came to know each for the first time. And slowly we began to fall in love. Several years later – with thousands of hours of working as colleagues – we married, and in the course of the three subsequent years, we witnessed the birth of our three sons, two of them born in Lima, Peru, and the youngest in Corvallis,OR.

    Corvalliswould be our home from that point forward, and it was there that John and I raised our family. It was inCorvallisthat our three boys grew immersed in two languages (Spanish at home, and English in the school), and learning to live as part of the two cultures to which they already belonged: the Peruvian and the American.

    I did not know or foresee that this “biculturalism” would continue to develop, change and mature in the minds and hearts of my sons. But it did, just as it continues to do. When our second son, Peter, returned from the university, he met and became close friends with a fellow Peruvian, Jaime Saavedra, an engineer living inPortland. Together, over a drink, they conceived the idea of a Peruvian restaurant. After many site visits and many months, that restaurant would come to find its home inPortland, and not twenty minutes from where my husband was born.

    At first, the idea of a restaurant felt – at best – crazy and very risky! No one in our family had had any kind of experience in such a complex kind of business. Nevertheless, we stepped forward animated by Peter’s enthusiasm and by the sense that here was another kind of challenge, one that might prove difficult, but equally worthwhile. We stepped into complete uncertainty and the only pillar that sustained our adventure was the conviction that Peru– its gastronomy and its heritage – was a cause worth championing.  And so, Andina opened its doors on the corner of NW Glisan and 13th Ave, on June 15th of 2003, Father’s Day. Through floods and failures, successes and joys, Andina is this year celebrating its 10th Anniversary!

    Perhaps Andina’s inauguration in the month of June is an especially meaningful coincidence, since it honors a father’s key decisions: John joined the Peace Corp; he lived inPerufor 11 years committed to his work as a teacher; he fell in love and married a Peruvian teacher, with whom he founded a bicultural family. Perhaps such decisions were the hidden conditions for Andina to come into existence 36 years later in his own hometown. Who knows?!

    Andina brought Peru to John’s home town, and in so doing, continued what John started long ago in Peru: he shared and gave so much through his teaching, and now Andina is offering to John’s hometown its best in Peruvian food and hospitality.

    In its conception and at its core, Andina is a marriage of two cultures. Founded by one of our sons and sustained by the whole family, what Andina provides are glimpses of the Peruvian character and soul, with food to inspire the palates of our guests. Andina’s menus are a marriage between Oregon’s fresh products and the indispensable Andean ingredients imported directly fromPeru. We prepare these elementary ingredients using traditional Peruvian and modern international techniques. Such a marriage unites Oregon with Peru to produce distinctive and unique Peruvian flavors perhaps never before created – but we hope and trust, flavors and dishes enjoyed by our guests, one and all.

    Andina’s founding mission transcends food. The restaurant has always sought – and will always seek – to build a bridge between cultures, beginning with the introduction of Peruvian traditions, but extending to so many more thresholds of potential exchange and learning, the most important of which rests at the individual and human level. These moments of exchange generate far more than a mutual appreciation and respect on both sides. By erasing prejudices, by changing our knowledge of the world, such moments change the world we know, and we experience things we had not experienced before.

    Before I finish my reflections, I want to express our family’s deep gratitude to our General Manager and to his team of fellow managers. Their experience, diligence and dedication allow all those around them to grow personally as well as professionally, and to realize (and then surpass) the level of excellence in food and service for which they constantly aim. And it is almost impossible to express how thankful we are to each and every member of the Andina family, service staff and kitchen staff alike: their work and care, their collaboration, pride, respect and dignity, are assets beyond measure.

    Last but not least, I wish to convey my gratitude to the community of Portland, and to all of our guests, local and from far afield, who have become our regulars. Since we opened our doors ten years ago, you have opened your hearts. Constantly we feel your support, enthusiasm and appreciation, and that is a gift like no other: for it your appreciation that makes our commitment to excellence that much more formidable and palpable. This is a Peruvian way to say thank you to the community in which we live and work, and to all those who have come to love Andina!

    On our tenth anniversary: Long life to Andina to its mission; but above all, thanks and blessings to those who nourish its life!

    Mama Doris

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  • Summertime Rosés

    It was a pleasant spring, with a warmer summer suddenly upon us. People are taking off the outer garments and hitting the streets with abandon. Summer’s here and the populace ofPortlandis ready for some heat. The time has come to ice down a couple of bottles of pink refreshment.

    Pink wines, or rosés, used to have a dubious reputation in theUnited States. When someone was offered a glass of rosé, they would often say something like, “not that sweet stuff?” White zinfandel was the dreaded sweet rosé that usually came to mind. It’s was a familiar sight in American restaurants, where it was often the only rosé available on the wine list. Well, things have really changed. Dry, crisp rosé is everywhere now, no longer saddled with the reputation of mediocrity.

    Contrary to belief, the grand majority of rosés are quite dry. Nearly every major wine-producing country makes rosé, but there are few regions that make wines of distinction. Those that do are worth searching out, because a light, zingy, icy-cold rosé is the best summertime quaff there is.

    Rosés made in hot-weather areas, such as the Napa floor or the Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France, can be both heavy and alcoholic. To my way of thinking, they are the antithesis of what a good summer wine should be. One of Europe’s most famous rosés hails from the southern Rhone Valley town of Tavel. This wine has gained some notoriety, but I still can’t figure out why. I’ve never tasted one I’ve truly liked, because they rarely deliver the lively acidity I’m looking for.

    I believe some the world’s greatest rosés come from the northern grape-growing regions of France and Spain, and a few of my favorites are listed below. Always look for the youngest vintage available (the 2012s at the moment), as these wines won’t age well.

    1) Sancerre and Chinon. The regions of Sancerre and Chinon in the Loire Valley produce the kind of rosés that stock the wine lists of Paris’ bistros.

    Sancerre is made from pinot noir, and Chinon from cabernet franc. Often salmon in color, lively and very dry, they rock at a picnic. If you can’t find them, search for either Ménétou-Salon or Bourgueil. Same grapes, same style.

    2) Rosé de Provence. Made on the southeastern coast of France along the Mediterranean, they’re produced from grapes such as mourvedre, syrah, cinsault and grenache. These are the perfect partners for a grilled fish at lunch. But the weather is warmer down here than in the north, and the rosés tend to be richer and occasionally a touch coarse. Look for rosés from the Bandol region. They’re a little more pricey, but worth it.

    3) Rioja, Navarra, Basque, Cigales and Calatayud. Spain’s finest rosés  are made in these northerly regions. They are fashioned principally from grenache and/or tempranillo and when well-made, they’re among my absolute favorites.

    4) Oregon. The mainly Pinot Noir rosés made in our state can be exceptional, especially in cooler vintages like 2011. The quality and consistency has improved markedly over the last decade, and the best match favorably with their peers from Europe.

    There are a couple of other off-the-beaten-track rosés to look for as well, including those made from lagre in in the northerly Italian region of Alto Adige and those from zweigelt from Austria.

     

     

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  • RETRATO DE UNA MADRE

    PORTRAIT OF A MOTHER

    All the memories I have of my mother are encapsulated in the first twelve years of my life. My mother died young, victim of an acute pneumonia that struck her while she and my father were on their first vacation in Lima. My father had been following his doctor recommendations, to take a break from his intensive work as a lawyer which had started to affect his health. They went to Lima alone, leaving us under the care of my grandmother, and my aunt Dalila. My mother was only 38 years old when she died, leaving behind her four children whose ages were 12, 9, 5, and 1.

    My grandmother had been living with us ever since my parents married, and she became our second mother. As the eldest child, I became a kind of governess to my siblings. And I assumed that responsibility heeding my mother’s instructions, given to me before her trip to Lima. She called me apart and told me: “You are the eldest of your siblings. I trust you to help your grandmother while we’re away, taking care of her, your siblings, and keeping our home the way I do!” I soon realized that by accepting such responsibility, which I did with enthusiasm, I needed to leave behind my own childhood: I would no longer be a twelve-year old, but a grown up!

    So I started to act and behave like my mom. I combed my hair like her; I put on her apron to do home chores, and especially to assert a degree of authority with my siblings. Naturally they reacted as any siblings would against an older sister. They laughed and joked at my deserved expense, and rebelled against my orders every time I exercised my authority, especially when I tried to dress them according to my own tastes: short pants with suspenders for the boys, no matter if it was cold or not! My poor father! How many times he needed to come home in the middle of his workday, responding to the urgency of my calls and my solicitations for help in the face of constant insurrections! How many times he found a climate of intolerance on both sides, which required him to be patient and tolerant, especially with me, the zealous little girl who wanted to be a mom without the skills! My father and grandmother were saints in their capacity to make all of us feel, in the absence of our mother, protected and loved.

    Now, after many years, and after life gave me three sons of my own, I would like to paint in broad strokes a portrait of my mother, seen through the eyes of my childhood. Why such a portrait? Maybe because May is a month dedicated to honor mothers, and because I see that spring and mothers have something in common. Both are messengers of new life and both of them assure us its continuation.

    Here are some scenes of my childhood where the presence of my mother was essential, and which remain very dear to my heart.

    Coming home from school: How can I forget those times when, arriving home from school, I detected the smell of petroleum (commonly used at that time) with which my mother periodically cleaned and polished our living room! The scent gave me the distinct feeling of coming to a clean house. I also loved seeing my mom at her sewing machine making something pretty for the home or for her family! How enjoyable it was for me to see the impeccably ironed curtains on the windows of our modest living room; the well-placed covers on the two large benches that we had in place of sofas; the smell and feeling of clean sheets on our beds, and the sight of recently washed clothes hanging high around our patio! All of these were clear signs that my mother loved order and cleanliness, and this perception made us to feel so good at home!

    There were also the sight and the aroma of fresh flowers placed at the center of our round living room table, flowers brought weekly by our dear aunt Carolina from her garden; the tiny violets under our beloved lemon tree in the center of our small patio; and the presence of cartuchos (calla lilies) at the base of each column. My mother had a kind of magic, which allowed her to transform whatever she touched into something pretty and deeply pleasing to every sense! From a modest and simple home, my mother created for her family and for all who came to visit us, the most beautiful home we knew or could imagine! At that time, my father was working long hours in his office, saving as much money as he could for our education; and in more ways than one, my mother collaborated in that effort! With a little she made us to feel we had a lot!

    When people came to visit us or when we paid a visit, my mother fully received the opportunity to show her pride in her children. She always told us that the role and quality of a mother is judged by the way that her children behave, especially during visits. If we loved her and wanted for her to be proud of us, we should show our good manners, especially when we sat to eat as guests or hosts. During those visits, we knew that our mother was watching us! With just one look at her face, we knew whether she was pleased or not with our behavior. Being the oldest, and because I loved my mother deeply, I always wanted to please her. But just as often as not, I overdid something or something somehow ended wrong. I still remember the embarrassment my mother (and I!) endured when we were visiting the house of Tia Carolina, and sitting at her table for a chocolatito (an afternoon cup of hot chocolate). All was ready for us to enjoy! Tia Carolina set the table with a beautiful tablecloth, with cups and their saucers and spoons, plus beautiful small napkins at their side. At the center of the table, she had placed a large basket filled with slices of freshly baked biscochos (semi-sweet bread), and next to the basket, a plate of fresh cheese.

    When the hot chocolate was served, I was consciously practicing my best manners: I sat straight in my chair, not putting my arms on the table, and I was drinking my chocolate without any noise. Everything was fine until the moment that Tia Carolina passed the basket of biscochos, encouraging each of us to take one. Remembering what mom always said to us: “When you are invited to take a piece of anything, you should always take one of smaller size, never a big one. If you choose the biggest one for yourself you are behaving as a selfish child. Leave the bigger ones for the adults as a sign of respect! So when it was my turn, I tried to look for a small slice, but I couldn’t find any. Then I saw what seemed to be a small piece of biscocho underneath the pile, so I started to take it out. To my surprise and to the embarrassment of my mother, the piece of biscocho was huge! And to make things worse, in the process of pulling out that slice, I made all the pieces of biscocho to collapse and fall onto aunt Carolina’s beautiful tablecloth! Everybody laughed, while Tia Carolina smiled with a gesture of understanding. I felt my face grow instantly hot, and I heard my heart pounding. I couldn’t look at my mother’s eyes! How could I convince her and the others that my intention was just the opposite of what it surely seemed? Nobody would believe me, least of all my mother; so I swallowed my pride and the only words that came to my mouth were: “I’m sorry. Believe me, I am so, so sorry!”

    Besides our occasional failures, we had a good reputation among uncles, aunts, cousins and friends who visited us or whom we visited. On many occasions I heard such comments as: “Clarita is a good mother! See the care she places in raising her children! They are always dressed with clean and proper clothes, the girls’ hair is always nicely combed!…And look how polite they are! They greet us properly, they say thank you, sit correctly and they don’t talk with a mouth full of food”. When I heard those comments, I felt so happy for my mom, and also looking at her face, I clearly saw her pride and satisfaction!

    Showing our artistic talents: My mother loved music, theater and poetry. Many times we heard her singing songs that she learned from the radio; she sang when she was cooking, washing, ironing or sewing on her beloved Singer sewing machine. She also loved to recite for us poems or fragments of old plays in which she had performed years before in her tiny village of Jose Galvez. (Her uncle, Tomas Diaz, used to direct these plays, most of them related to Europe, or to World War II.) With this ‘dramatic’ background, my mother loved to teach us how to dance, and how to recite a poem for others to see and hear.

    Since it was a custom for us to visit or be visited by relatives, we frequently had the opportunity to attempt our artistic talents, usually after meals, when of all of us, guests and hosts, were sitting formally in the living room.

    After general conversation, my mom called to attention all those present. An artistic program was about to begin, she said, with poems, songs and dances, prepared by the children for the delight of our guests or hosts. A general applause raised the curtain for our program, our mother acting as our official master of ceremonies. Because I was the oldest among the actors, I always was the first to perform. I left my chair to stand at the center of our living room, and with a gracious bow (which my mother had taught me), I announced the title of my poem, and began its recitation. A poem, according to mother, needed to be recited with changes of voice, and with a rhythmic, charismatic movement of arms and hands. A poem needed to project emotions and energy! I tried to do my best, and sometimes the theme required that I kneel down as a sign to ask pardon or to supplicate a favor; some other times, I needed to change my voice to imitate a man’s voice, or, stamping my feet hard, I would exclaim the poem’s fiery commandment! And yes, there were times when in the middle of my dramatic recitation, my mind became blank, and I couldn’t remember the next line. Here, however, my mother was present and ready to alleviate my panic by helping me recall the line that I forgot!

    After I finished, it was my sister’s turn, the next child in line. Her poems were shorter since she was younger, and she had the privilege to choose to recite, to sing or to dance. My brother came on the scene to show us his skills in jumping, doing somersaults or making figures with his yo-yo. The reaction of the public was invariably the same! Always applauding enthusiastically! My youngest brother was still a baby and so he was not able to perform.

    There were times where the three siblings together performed a traditional dance. My mother prepared us for such events inventing the proper choreography and teaching us how to move on the stage. Sometimes we danced in circles, or jumped back and forth, or right to left. She was in charge of the music, playing an old heavy record on our cousins’ “Victrola”. At home we didn’t have a “Victrola,” so my mother sang for our dances. Many times our rhythm didn’t coincide with the music, but who cared! We simply continued dancing, remembering the steps that my mother taught us. Other times, in order to adjust ourselves to the music, we stopped in the middle of our performance to restart again. But we always finished in a rain of warm applause, receiving kisses and hugs from each of our unconditionally loving public!

    Thinking back on those times I can assure you that we loved to perform! It made us to feel important and to feel the love and affection of our relatives. We were so happy for mom! We knew that she enjoyed our performance as much as we did!

    I forgot to mention that after the children’s performance, there came a special time that belonged to the adults: the time to dance! And among all the dances, the “tango” that my mom and my dad would dance was always the highlight of the night! Everyone among our relatives and friends knew that there wasn’t a couple who could dance a “tango” as well as they could!

    Where did my mother get her artistic traits? My mother had to cut her education short after the second year of high school. This was due to the sudden death of her father, which occurred on his farm in Balsas, a tropical region along the Marañon River. Nobody knew the actual cause of his death, though some people thought he had bitten by a snake. His death obliged my mother and her younger sister to leave school and return to help at home, while my grandmother went to work on the farm in the place of her husband. My mother was fifteen and my aunt fourteen years old; my mother learned to sew by taking correspondence courses, and soon she became the dressmaker for the town of Jose Galvez. My aunt Dalila learned to embroider. My mother remained at home until she married my father, at which time they moved together to live in Cajamarca, where all of us were born and raised.

    Under those limited circumstances, I always wondered: How did my mother learn about art, beauty and grace? Who taught her to display such talent and taste in everything she did? How did she learn to be gracious, and show fine manners? My aunt was different. She had a heart of gold, but she neither had nor minded the fine qualities that my mother cared for. My mother many times joked with my aunt, telling her: “Give thanks to God for giving you only boys (my aunt had four boys). For I don’t know how you could have raised girls without knowing how to dress them properly or comb their hair nicely.” And both of them would laugh at this truth! When I heard these comments I thought: How lucky we were having as a mom such a fine person!

    Mom knew how to make us tell the truth. I have left to the end of my portrait something that I have long wondered about and admired in my mother. It was another skill that she had. She was one of the finest (and most clever) psychologists I have known! She developed a strategy that succeeded in getting her children to tell the truth! She would inform us that mothers has a way of knowing when someone was being truthful or telling a lie. I remember asking her every time she caught us lying, how she knew and she responded very seriously: only mothers see a red spot on the forehead of the liar; the spot is invisible for others but not for mothers! And we really believed her, because—without fail, despite (or really, because of) our efforts!—she always uncovered the truth.

    I remember a case where I realized that my mother could see what others could not see. One day I accidentally broke our beloved flower vase in two pieces. Nobody saw me, so I carefully put the two pieces back together, and the flower vase looked fine. Since I knew that my mother was going to come at any moment to fill the vase with the flowers that my aunt Carolina had sent to her, and that in turn, the “interrogation time” would also be soon to come, I raced off to the bathroom and tried in desperation to erase the magic red spot on my forehead that would soon be indicting me. I rubbed my forehead until my arms and head were sore, so as to assure that the red spot disappear, even from my mother’s gaze. As I was in the process of taking away this proof of my guilt, my mother called all of us into the living room, and showing the two pieces of the broken vase said: “Who did this?” All the innocents said: “Not me.” I, bending a little my head and avoiding mother’s sight, also said: “Not me!” Of course, my mother observed my avoidance and asked me to look her in the eye. She said: “You are not telling me the truth. Why are lying to me, when I can so clearly see that there is an enormous red spot on your forehead!” Everybody looked at me, and probably they also saw a red forehead. I started to cry and confess the truth: “Yes, Mom I did it. Forgive me. I didn’t want to. I broke the vase by accident.” I saw my mother’s understanding (as well as her satisfaction); but she took the opportunity to tell all the witnesses: “See, a mother always knows when somebody is not telling the truth!” And we believed her without any doubt!

    As time passed and I left behind those precious years of wonder, I realized how clever she had been! We the guilty produced by our actions the red spot that indicted us.

    From everything I saw in my mom’s short time with us, I think that she was one of the most wonderful women I have ever known. And that belief is still with me! We all know that the mothers of the world develop clever strategies to educate their children, just as my own mother did. Their maternal instincts teach them what to do and how; and through it all they have a powerful aid that makes them wise and understanding: their unconditional love for their children!

    I wish for all mothers a long life in which they can witness and enjoy the fruits of their love!
    Mama Doris

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  • Sparkling Wines: Fresh and Clean Flavors, Good Values

    The wines produced in Champagne, loaded with finesse and complexity, are truly incomparable. But they can fetch a healthy tariff that puts them beyond many budgets, especially in these challenging times. The sparkling wines we focus on in this column are inexpensive by comparison, and often deliver superb quality/price ratios.

    SPARKLING WINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

    France: Cremant is a term used for France’s finest dry to off-dry sparkling wines made in regions other than Champagne. They generally use the Methode Champenoise, a production technique that results in finer bubbles, and a less coarse mouthfeel. The areas best known for their Cremants are:

    1. Alsace: Made from pinot blanc, pinot noir, pinot gris, auxerrois and riesling.
    2. Burgundy: Made from chardonnay, gamay, pinot blanc and pinot noir.
    3. Loire Valley: Made from chenin blanc, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and about six different red varietals. The ones from the towns of Tours and Saumur can be especially fine.

     

    These wines are excellent values. They are fresh, clean and less rich in style than Champagne. For some unknown reason, few seem to make it to the shelves in the United States. When you spot one of them, be sure to give it a try.

    Italy: Asti Spumante, (or just plain Asti as it is now known) is a light, sweet sparkler, produced from the Moscato Bianco grape in the provinces of Asti, Cuneo and Alessandria in Piedmont. It is made in extremely large quantities, about 17 million gallons per year. It can be rough and aggressive in the mouth or, when well made, a pleasant after-dinner quaff. Asti Spumante differs from its cousin, Moscato d’Asti, in its alcoholic strength (between 7 and 9.5 percent against the maximum 6 percent for Moscato d’Asti) and its fizziness, which is much livelier and distinctly less fine.

    One favorite from Italy is the sweet, dark red Brachetto d’Acqui, also from Piemonte. This airy frizzante, packing a mere 5-6 percent of alcohol, matches superbly with raspberries, strawberries and especially chocolate. It must be drunk young.

    Spain: Cava, Spain’s most famous sparking wine, is produced in the province of Cataluña. It is made from three local grape varieties, xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada, along with chardonnay, which has become a major player recently. Two giant companies, Cordoniu and Freixenet, bring the majority of these wines to the United States. They are well priced, easy drinkers and readily available. Another house of repute is Segura Viudas.

    United States: The sparkling wines from the U.S. have improved greatly over the last decade. Too often they had been overly acidic and nondiscript. Richer, more complex wines are being made now, with the help of cooperative oenology from Champagne. The houses of Deutz, Moet & Chandon, Piper Heidsieck, Roederer and Taittinger, to name a few, have developed their Californian labels to the point where world class wines are more the rule than the exception.

    Crisp, citrusy styles are the most common, although those blends where red grapes are predominant tend to be more interesting. I gravitate to the Blanc de Noirs (literally meaning white wine made from red grapes). These are often salmon-colored and quite dry, with strawberry accents. A few other houses I search for are Iron Horse and Schramsberg, both of which make the full range of Brut, Blancs de Blancs, Blancs de Noirs, Rose and luxury blends. And, finally, don’t miss giving Gruet sparklers from New Mexico a chance to grace your dinner table.

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  • EL AJÍ DE ROCOTO Y EL BATÁN DE MI TIERRA

    THE ROCOTO HOT PEPPER AND THE RUSTIC MORTAR OF MY HOMELAND

    I grew up with bowls of ají de rocoto (rocoto pepper sauce) and cancha (toasted corn) placed at the center of our dining table as accompaniments to our daily meals. So elemental were these ingredients, it went without saying that when my mom asked us to set the table, she meant not only placing napkins, silverware and water glasses for the seven members of our family (plus one extra place-setting for any unannounced visitor who might appear too), but also setting out a bowl of toasted corn and, next to it, our ajisero (a small clay bowl) filled with that fragrant and piquant ají de rocoto. The sauce would have been freshly prepared by grinding rocoto peppers with garlic cloves, cumin seed, salt and water. I loved its bright colors, its aroma and its unique intensity (spiciness). Sometimes the ají took on a bright red color, other times orange, yellow or green, depending of the color of the rocoto pepper available in the markets. Whatever the color, it was our wonderful ají de rocoto—served in our ajisero, with a little wooden spoon—that always brought a bright color to our table, and suggested better things to come.

    As a norm we ate a tiny amount of our ají de rocoto: its virtue was to enhance and complement flavors, not to overpower them. We put a little bit in our soups, on our rice, on our stews, with our cooked vegetables or our guisos (stews) of beans, lentils, chickpeas, and on our fried eggs. No meal was quite complete without it. We loved to eat our boiled Andean potatoes with ají de rocoto flavored with peanuts or Andean herbs, and this was so delicious a pairing that I will wait to describe it later, in greater detail.

    Peruvian rocoto peppers

    El ají de rocoto
    (Peruvian rocoto pepper)

    Now that my memories of this simple and delicious ají come fresh to my mind, I can never forget the day that my elder cousin Octavio came to visit us. He had arrived, unfortunately, past our normal lunch time. Octavio was a much-loved primary school teacher in Sucre, the small village, northeast of Cajamarca, where both he and my father were born. He had been educated at La Cantuta in Lima, one of the best teacher’s colleges in Peru. He easily could have taught in Lima or in any of the larger cities. He desired and determined, however, to return to Sucre, his hometown, and to teach there. We knew his story by heart, as told to us by my father, and for all of us impressionable children, Octavio became a kind of idol: we admired and loved him. He was handsome, kind with all people, especially with children. I never once saw him sad. Whenever he was visiting in Cajamarca, we knew he was had arrived at our house when we heard his whistling and his firm steps.

    That day he was coming from Sucre by bus on one of his periodic trips to Cajamarca. Because his visit was unanticipated and late, my mother could only invite him to the left over portion of our lunch, which was our traditional simple rice, cooked with olive oil and garlic. Octavio more than happily accepted and he was given a place at the head of our dinner table. Still quite young, my siblings and I surrounded him, both reverently and curiously, studying his every movement as he prepared his seat at the table. There at the center of our table was our cancha and our ají de rocoto. Our cousin positioned both bowls close to him, knowing from his own childhood what they were and how delicious as well. When the rice had been served, he took the little wooden spoon from the ajisero and spread tiny amounts of the ají across his rice. Then he began eating with a kind of relish that was both magnificient and modest. He would begin with a spoonful of rice, annointed with rocoto sauce, and then take a few kernels of cancha in his hand. Closing his eyes, he savored the flavors slowly, moving his mouth rhythmically, happiness and gratitude growing with every bite. In that silent rapture, he finished his plate of rice. We saw beads of sweat forming on his forehead—the aji was spicy indeed!—and he would take a moment from his meal to dry the sweat with his handkerchief. My siblings and I were fascinated by his concentration and his joy in front of a simple plate of rice, so much so that we longed for a plate of our own. And soon, we had joined him at the table, seeking by imitation the kind of revery our cousin Octavio perfectly achieved with nothing more than rice, ají, and cancha. And to some extent we succeeded: we also started sweating due to the delicious spiciness of the ají. Afterwards we knew a little of our cousin’s happiness: for all of us felt so good, so comfortable, so fresh, much as we feel after a cup of tea on a summer day.

    El Batán

    The batán was our rustic home mortar, on which all of our ajíes were made. It consisted of a large flat stone that lived at the corner of our dark kitchen atop a strong adobe base, as well as another, smaller oval stone, shaped like an egg, called a chungo. Even today, I clearly remember the sound of the batán at work: my mother or grandmother would roll the chungo up and down, back and forth, to crush and grind and mix whatever they were preparing. After years of continuous use, our chungo and batán had taken on complementary shapes: the batán was slightly concave; the chungo, more and more convex. Like the mixing table of a benevolent alchemist, our batán would render simple ingredients into the most colorful and aromatic mixtures.

    We would use our batán to crush and grind not only peppers, but also fresh toasted peanuts, which in turn would be ground and incorporated into a puree of rocoto, garlic, cumin, salt and water. We would fry this puree in olive oil with chopped onions before placing in our ajisero. The final result was our delicious ají de maní.

    el Batán

    El batán y chungo (Pestle and mortar)

    As with the ají de maní, we used the batán to prepare almost all of our other ajíes, which were stunning in their bright colors as well as their flavors: beginning with our base of rocoto, garlic, cumin, salt and water, we would add a small amount of one or more of our aromatic Andean herbs, such as culantro (cilantro), hierba buena (spear mint), perejil (parsley). We also might add some legumes, such as chocho (tarwi or Andean lupin). Once worked into a puree by the batán, each ají was fried in olive oil with chopped onions. The result: an amazing variety of ajíes, all somewhat spicy, but each with a distinctive and delicious flavor! We called all of them ajíes but we would distinguish between them one from the other by the name of the special herb or added ingredient. Thus, we would make ají de culantro, ají de hierbabuena, ají de perejil, ají de chochos, and more.

    You may be wondering how and when we would use all of these ajíes. A perfect example involves one of the simplest and finest meals I have known, a meal that I loved as a child and still do today.

    This beautiful, simple feast usually occurred on Sundays, but also whenever papas nuevas (new potatoes) were available at the market. Of all the potato varieties (and there were so many!), we loved best the texture, color and flavor of the papas amarillas (yellow potatoes). These my mother boiled and placed, unskinned, in a large bowl at the center of our table. Next to the papas sancochadas (boiled potatoes) she placed our ajíes: they included ají de rocoto, ají de mani, ají de culantro, and ají de chochos. Once our table had been blessed with these dishes, we could hardly wait for the symphony of flavors that was about to begin.

    This was truly a meal of complementarities. Each dish was both delicious in itself and an essential backdrop for another flavor. Once we were seated as a family, my mother would begin serving caldo de gallina (homemade chicken broth), to which she always added threads of fresh egg, and fresh leaves of parsley. Instead of cancha, this meal included choclo (boiled corn on the cob, sliced into individual rounds), and a plate of homemade quesillo (fresh cheese).

    Although without such formality or gravity, we still tended to enjoy our meal following a kind of ritual, which began by passing every dish down the table. Each of us took one or two potatoes, a slice of choclo, a piece of quesillo and a small amount of our favorite ajíes. Next, we would peel our potatoes and dip each morsel into one of the ajíes. When we took a sip of our broth, we delighted in combined effect of the heat and flavor of our ajíes and the savory rustic elegance of our caldo. The choclo and quesillo were cool and calming by comparison; in other words, perfect complements. Our ritual continued one potato at a time, and we repeated it as many times as our appetite allowed. With our potatoes, spicy ajíes, followed by sips of caldo de gallina, a generous bite of choclo and a piece of quesillo, we felt we were having the world’s most wonderful meal.

    Recently in December, during our most recent visit to Peru, my son Peter and I had the same meal of my childhood: caldo de gallina con papas sancochadas y ajíes de rocoto y maní! As always, we were staying at the house of my brother Victor in Lima. He had wanted to surprise us, and how well he succeeded! All of us enjoyed it immensely, and for my brother and for me, memories came alive. And for Peter it was a marvelous meal as well: we saw him devouring potato after potato, dipping them sometimes with ají de rocoto and other times with ají de maní. He would take sips of the steaming caldo de gallina and a bite of fresh corn. And by the end of the meal, we saw drops of sweat on his forehead, the same drops that we had seen so long ago when our cousin Octavio had first revealed to us the fine arts of gratitude and enjoyment.

    In conclusion, I would like to offer a synopsis of the immeasurable value and role of the rocoto and its many relatives within the family of our beloved ajíes (hot peppers). Known in Mexico and many other parts as chiles, here are some of their most intriguing facts:

    The original source of ajíes (hot peppers) are the Andes of South America. Before human migration across seas and continents, birds spread the seeds of the ají throughout other parts of South and Central America, including Mexico and the Caribbean islands.
    Before 1492, “spicy food” as we know it today only meant existed in these South and Central American cultures. It was in the last half of the 15th C. that Portuguese and Spanish merchants spread the seeds of hot peppers in all the colonies that Spain and Portugal had around the world.
    After the 15th C., countries like India, China, the Phillipines and regions in Africa developed cuisines specifically rooted in the intensity and flavors of hot peppers.
    For Peru, the ajíes are essential to creating the unique and distinctive flavors of our food. The foundation of Peruvian food is the combination of one of our hot peppers with garlic and onions, sautéed in a mixture called a sofrito.
    Peru uses four hot pepper varietals in the preparation of most of its dishes; a varietal is used according to the type of food being prepared. Because some of the peppers are extremely spicy, we sometimes use the peppers deveined and seedless.
    These are our most important peppers:
    Ají Amarillo (yellow pepper): when combined with garlic and onions, the ají amarillo is the base for our stews and sauces.
    Ají Panca (dried red hot pepper): with garlic and herbs and vinegar is used to marinate dark meats.
    Ají Mirasol (dried yellow pepper): plus vinegar and garlic is used to marinate white meats.
    Ají de Rocoto: used as a fresh sauce to enhance our meals.
    We love our ajíes for their flavor and their spiciness, which warm us on cool days and refresh us on warm days. Exciting our appetite, enhancing a simple dish, each type of ají breaks any potential for monotony in a meal. The burning in our mouth increases the production of saliva, which allows us to better digest starchy foods at the same time that it increases their flavor. Their bright colors and aromas excite our eyes and our noses; in short, they help to make meals true feasts of the senses. Moreover, hot peppers are extremely high in vitamin A and C, with one jalapeño carrying more of these vitamins than three medium size oranges.

    As with so many fruits of the soil, the terroir of the Peruvian Andes is uniquely responsible for the characteristic flavor, aroma and color of our ajíes. Andina is proud to import those ajíes in direct trade with an organic farming community in Peru. Which means our guests are tasting the real thing. No doubt ajíes have adapted to other climates and soils and develop a distinct terroir. They can be delicious; but for a Peruvian, they cannot create the flavor that identifies Peru.

    I invite you to come to Andina to taste our ajíes Peruanos!
    Mama Doris

     

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  • BIG IS BETTER?

    The subject of this month’s column is about a reoccurring theme. It’s something I’m obliged to deal with on a regular basis, and therefore could be construed as doubly redundant. But I feel compelled to continue trying to get my point across, so here goes.

    Big. The buzzword in wine is big. Big and full-bodied. It’s what the people want. It’s as if “big” has become synonymous with “quality.” Winemakers know this, and go out of their way to fashion their releases to meet the demand. The wine media knows it, and they allot plenty of space to the coverage of these types of wine, giving them lavish praise. Restaurateurs and retailers know it, and they strive to keep their lists and shelves well stocked with the fashionable labels.

    The thought has come to mind that maybe restaurants should offer a one-page wine list with the heading Massive Red Wine, then send out Bigfoot (this pun was intended) in a tux to serve them. Of course, you can’t consult with Bigfoot, but who needs consultation when everyone’s ordering the same thing?

    So what’s my problem with all of this? Why should I care if some guy wants to accost his palate with high alcohol, astringent tannins and Port-like fruit? One of the things sommeliers do is suggest wines that can complement your dinner. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that the tastes and textures of the food you eat and the wine you drink should be compatible. The major problem posed by these “big” wines is their lack of compromise at the dinner table. Their sheer thickness and alcoholic kick can club an entrée into submission. Why force one component of your meal to become subservient to the other?

    Possibly at the root of these concerns is the fact that some folks simply don’t care whether their food matches well with what the wine they drink. The heck with all those Frenchy ideas about food and wine pairings, we say, just bring on that 96-point 2009 Chateau Powerhouse, open it up and keep ‘em coming. We assume we are making a statement of rebellion against staid European tradition, but in reality it is we who are the dupes.

    By scrambling over one another to purchase wines that A) the major wine publications have pumped up mercilessly; B) are made from just a few distinct grape varieties; and C) were produced in a certain vintage deemed flawless by the media, it is we who have become the lemmings. We have cut ourselves off from 95 percent of the world’s wines, and revel in our single-mindedness.

    Big is good. Big is fine, sometimes superb. But is it better? Not necessarily. It’s all based on what you’re eating, and how you, by your astute wine choices, can bring out the best in all aspects of your meal.

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  • MITOS Y CREENCIAS DE MI NINEZ SOBRE EL AMOR

    MY CHILDHOOD MYTHS AND BELIEFS ABOUT LOVE

    Once more, Valentine’s Day is knocking at our doors, reminding us that love—that powerful feeling that is able to make miracles in our lives; that makes people of all corners of the world to be like children, able to dream, to laugh and cry, to feel sometimes vulnerable and other times strong—deserves again to be celebrated.

    Do you remember when and how you learned about love? Who taught you to recognize it? How did you learn and become aware of its presence? While I truly believe love is universal, I believe it is also unique for each human being. The way we learn about, understand and see its manifestations depends on the culture in which we live, and also on our own personality and imagination. Each culture has the potential to enrich (or deplete) our own perception of love, whether by means of myths, customs or traditions.

    When, how and what did I learn about love? How I did conceive of it in my youth? To answer these questions, I need to return to the palace of memory and seek out my first impressions: what I heard and saw in the people close to me; and how all these experiences contributed to the way I imagined and conceived of love.

    The majority of my learning I took from home and from the places where I spent my childhood and my youth (Cajamarca and Celendin). Later, when my world widened and I myself started to experience love and its magic, my concept of it changed and evolved. Nevertheless, deep in my heart I feel that what I learned in my early years has since enriched my conception of love, and has endured as the foundation of what I now know and feel.

    I mentioned earlier that in my childhood I associated love with what I saw as its “manifestations”, and there was no manifestation quite as obvious but also bewildering as the birth of a baby. Regarding babies, but also with respect to many other attributes and emblems of love, here is what I believed in my impressionable and early youth:

    I believed a baby was conceived when a man and woman kissed each other. How on earth did I arrive at this belief? Simply because I saw that my mom and dad kissed each other. Often, I observed my father stealing a kiss when he arrived from work. At other times my mother surprised my father when she and I visited him at his office. I think they always preferred privacy with thief affections; and when I, the oldest child chanced upon my parents kissing, my mother flushed and smiled and my father pretended to do be doing something else. All this meant that when—one day—I saw my mother’s belly growing, and listened to with her explain that a baby was inside and was a product of the love between her and my father, I drew my own conclusion: love and kisses make babies. This idea was reinforced by what I saw in the movies that I was privileged to go to see with my parents (I implored my mom to take me with them, late in the night, knowing that grandma was going to take care of my younger siblings). I remember those movies—in black and white, and always a woman and a man meeting in a square, on a street or in a store, sitting at a café or walking together, holding hands, hugging each other like my parents did. Then—in the twilight and along a bridge, or at the edge of a meadow, or on a doorstep—they would embrace again and this time kiss passionately, the effect of their love translated as cinematic movement. The couple fading from the screen, the camera zooming out and up, to trees in the distance, clouds in the sky. In the next scenes I would see a woman with a growing belly—just like my mother’s. And then a tiny baby at her side and the man kissing and embracing both woman and child. What other conclusion could I draw?

    I also believed that babies come to this world through the navel of the mother. Nobody told me to think this, but I was completely sure this was how things worked! It was clear to me that the navel served a basic but crucial purpose: for I believe that when the baby was ready to be born, the only work a doctor or partera (midwife) needed to perform was to untie the knot at the navel and thereby to open the mother’s natural birthing spot. Once the baby was born, the doctor or the partera once again tied the mother’s navel and that was that! I couldn’t explain to myself why mothers suffered so much during the birthing process. Later in life I learned why!

    I firmly believed grown-ups, and especially grandmothers, were experts on all questions concerning the coming baby. I believed without a doubt that they were unerring in their proclamations. For example, they were correct and all-seeing when they told an expecting daughter or niece that she was going to have una niña (a girl) or un niño (a boy). How did they know this? I asked my grandmother this question, and she replied: It’s simple! If the belly of the mother is protruding forward, she will have a boy; if the mother’s hips become wider, and her belly is not so big, she will have a girl. I followed her predictions and she was right. Now that I am an adult, I have tried this imperfect art based on what I learned as a child, with varying success.

    Yet another belief about babies concerned the strange cravings a mother experienced during her pregnancy. I remember when my mom was expecting my little sister. She developed a strange and powerful craving for pan de agua (a kind of traditional Peruvian flat bread), a craving so intense and sustained that I saw her practically devouring it all times of day and night. Pan de agua is a simple bread made with only water, salt and flour—it has no yeast, nor oil or butter. The strange character of her craving was that my mom desired only the pan de agua made by la señora Victoria, our neighborhood baker. She would eat bread only from this baker—no other bread was acceptable. Literally, she could not eat any other bread without immediate sensations of sickness. Under such circumstances, when my mother asked for this bread late at night, and we discovered our pantry completely depleted, either my grandmother or our house-keeper would depart in the middle of the night to knock on the door of the home of la señora Victoria, asking her for her famous pan de agua. Luckily for us, she almost always had some on hand, and graciously provided what we desperately requested. I was still a young girl, and I believed that it was thanks to her understanding and our ability to respond to my mother’s craving, that my sister was born healthy and on time. It is a funny thing that to this day, my sister’s favorite bread is pan de agua.

    When I grew older and became a young lady, I still had beliefs; but they were different from the ones that I had in my childhood. No longer focused on and fascinated by babies and mothers, I began to feel and ask questions most teen-agers around the world ask: Will I fall in love? Who will be the one that my heart will choose? Here is the material I worked with:

    A technique for catching a glimpse of your future husband while you were asleep and dreaming, involved placing a flower of the floripondio (Lily of the Valley) under your pillow. The sweet smell of the floripondio would make you sleep quickly and deeply, and you would dream of the person that life and love had in store for you. I performed this more than once and on every occasion I had vivid dreams: I saw strange cities and unknown places, and also a silhouette of someone, but no more than that. However, I was happy because I knew that in my future I was going to have someone to love.

    Many young people in Peru honor the image and role of a young and handsome saint: San Antonio (St. Anthony). It was and still is a custom to keep a stamp or a figurine of San Antonio somewhere in your home. Why? Because he is considered the patron saint of all lovers the world around (los enamorados), and a saint who is able to help those who feel the pain and joys of love. Of course all supplicants need to behave well and pray for his help during nine consecutive days, what in Peru we call a una novena. If it seemed—as it often did—that San Antonio was taking a long time to answer our prayers. our rituals and beliefs permitted us to place his image upside down, until he had performed the “miracle”. Did this work? Sometimes yes, some other times not; in the latter case, patience and a good mood would do the trick.

    In Celendin where my parents grew up, if a woman was going to get married she needed to gather azahares for her bouquet. The azahar is the flower of the lemon tree, and in Celendin these trees grew in the huertas of our houses and in the central squares of many towns. They are white, tiny and extremely fragrant; and they are supposed to symbolize attributes of the bride: purity, beauty, freshness, and grace.

    We also believed that if you heart was broken and you were suffering the sorrows of love, you should drink a cup of tea made with the flores de azahar. Little by little you would feel calm, relaxed, and your tears would diminish.

    I will end this chronicle of beliefs with something that I learned in my childhood and still believe is true. It is a saying that says: Matrimonio y mortaja del cielo baja. (transl.: both marriage and death come from above). To me this meant that the two main events in our life—marriage and death—come to us in their proper time, when God and life allow them to come. We human beings have little control in such events. The only thing we can do is to care for others and for our selves, and wait that sooner or later each will come; and they will come.

    ¡Feliz dia del Amor!
    Happy Valentine’s Day!
    Mamá Doris

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  • Sweet White Wines

    Last month’s piece discussed the pleasures of Port, so this time around we’ll outline the joys of sweet whites.

    The simple fact is that sweet white wines make the best partners for fruit-based desserts, such as tarts, or better yet, plain freshly cut pears, peaches, nectarines and apples. Drizzle the fruit with a touch of honey, and put out a piece of goat cheese with them, and they are totally in their element.

    Superb white sweet wines are made in the Americas, Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary and Italy, among others. If I tried to list all the fine white dessert offerings from around the world, it would fill the better part of three columns. For now, we’ll just focus on the wines that are regularly seen in restaurants and on the shelves at better wine shops.

    A compilation of the world’s greatest sweet wines has to be led by Sauternes, the semillon/sauvignon blanc blend from Bordeaux. Pale and powerful in youth but taking on an amber color and smoothing out with age, this is great wine. In top vintages, when botrytis cinerea attacks (this is the mold that forms on the skins of ripe grapes and shrivels them, reducing their liquid content, with the remaining juice being especially rich in sugar and acids), they’ll have a 50-year lifespan out of a cold cellar. A few chateaux to look for: Climens, Laufaurie-Peyraguey, Raymond Lafon and Rieussec.

    Riesling is a queen among white grapes, and can provide some of the most elegant and vibrant sweet wines. Germany, with its varied and distinctive regions, is a leader in this category. Desert-style sweetness levels begin with those labeled Auslese, then go to Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein. These babies are quite expensive, so if this is your thing, hold your breath and reach deep. J.J. Prum and Fritz Haag from the Mosel, or Muller-Catoir from Pfalz are exemplary.

    I love chenin blanc from the Loire Valley in France. Off-dry or sweet, these bottlings from the good producers are brimming with class and finesse. Ranging from light and crisp (labeled as “sec” and “demi-sec”) up to fully-loaded (moelleux), they are underrated and barely recognized here. Actively search for the Quarts de Chaume or Coteaux-du-Layon from Domaine Baumard, or Vouvrays from Clos de Naudin (Philippe Foreau) and Domaine Huet. These wines accompany fresh fruit better than any others I can think of.

    Here are a few more names to take with you:
    Californian rieslings from Chateau St. Jean and Joseph Phelps; Beringer’s Sauternes-like blend Nightingale; anything made by the Austrian house of Alois Kracher; Pieropan’s Recioto di Soave from the Veneto in Italy; de Bortoli’s Noble One from Australia; any one of dozens of gewürztraminers, pinot gris and rieslings from Alsacian producers like Albert Mann and Domaine Weinbach and the incredible Muscat Rivesaltes from Mas Amiel in southern France.

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  • LA MAGIA DEL 6 DE ENERO

    The magic of January 6th

    I am frequently reminded of the extent to which children—across time and space—are the same: it doesn’t matter if they belong to the past, to the present, and likely even to the future. They can be from different cultures, races and economic statuses. Yet, they all are able to live in a magical place, where incredible things can happen. The power of their imagination is so great that it makes possible what is impossible for others. For them, people can appear or disappear at any time. They themselves can fly like birds or live in the depths of the sea, and in either case, as pleasantly as they please. Fears and desires can take the shape of incredible creatures. Monsters, kings, heroes, and villains, can fight and argue and still coexist in a child’s word, just as clearly as the real people around them. Above all, children believe, and their belief is so strong that there is often no way to convince them they are wrong. They believe without any doubt. What a wonderful—and sometimes terrifying—world the world of a child is. And what a great responsibility for parents and grown-ups to keep it so without spoiling it.

    The story I am going to tell to you is one of the stories of my childhood that all Peruvian children of the past believed and loved. It was told to us by our parents, in the same way they learned it from their parents. We knew that the story was true, because we saw and tasted the fruits of our belief in the shape of a magical gift that appeared, under our beds, on the morning of January 6th, our beloved day, which we called El Día de los Reyes (Three Kings Day).

    Our parents told us that the whole world knew of the birth of Emmanuel—el niño Jesus—on December 25th. Near and far—across oceans and continents—one brilliant star shone and angelic songs of joy guided those to its place of shining. One very special journey proved how well the world had heard the news: twelve days following Christmas Day, three of the greatest Kings from the East came bearing special gifts to honor the newborn babe. These kings understood that the infant was far greater and more powerful than any king. The first King, named Melchor, of a pale complexion, came from Europe on a horse and brought oro (gold) to honor the Holy baby as “King of Kings”. The second King was named Gaspar, and he travelled from Arabia, bringing incienso (frankincense) to honor the baby as the “Son of God”. Finally, the third King, named Baltasar, was dark skinned and came from Africa on an elephant, bringing mirra (myrr) to honor the baby as mortal.

    They are called the Magi, the three kings—and indeed they seemed to me then, and seem to me now, imbued with the greatness of Solomon and the mystery of miracles. We were told that every year since their arrival in Bethlehem so long ago, the Three Kings still arrived on the eve of January 6th—carrying special gifts to the children of the world who in their own way were the children of God. Of course, our parents told us that we needed to be kind, obedient and respectful, as was the Son of God. If the Three Kings looked smilingly on our behavior, they would pass by our house late on the eve of January 6th, leaving a small gift inside our shoes. And so that the Three Kings could see our shoes in the darkness of the room, we always polished them to a bright and glinting shine.

    It was as we were told it would be: the Three Kings came to our house year after year. Some years they brought me the present that I secretly desired, some other times not. But it didn’t matter: I still felt happy, grateful, a little disappointed, but that is the way with Magi! One of the gifts that I will always remember came from the Three Kings when I was 9 years old. I remember that date very well, because it was when my dear cousin, Magno Rodriguez, came to live with us. He was a young doctor, and until he could find a place to live and work, he kept his room and board at our home. We were very fond of him and he was fond of us. That January’s eve, I wished in my heart to receive from the Kings a real volleyball so that I could play as well as the older girls in my school. However, the following morning, instead of the ball, next to my shoes I found a book. How I can still remember it! It had a green hard cover with a picture of four girls. The book’s title was Mujercitas (Little Women) by Louisa May Alcott. Concealing my frustration and pretending that I was happy (all of my family was watching me), I looked through its pages, only to find that all of them were written in tiny letters. The book had no pictures at all, except for a few drawings in pencil spread sparsely throughout the pages!

    I thought to myself: I can’t read this book! And saying that I would save it for later to read, I left it abandoned on my night table. Later that night my cousin asked me:

    - What did the Three Kings bring to you?

    And I said to him:

    - Well, only a book that is too difficult for me!

    He asked me to bring it and looking at it, said:

    - I don’t think so. Let’s read the first pages together. You will see that you can do it, and I am sure you will find it interesting!

    I was reluctant, but he persisted; and I knew my mom was listening, and that she was unhappy with my reaction. Therefore, as the only thing to do at that moment, I obeyed my cousin. Without a drop of enthusiasm, we started reading, each of us taking turns, paragraph by paragraph.

    Immediately, the tone of my cousin’s voice and the perfect pauses he made in what he read impressed me immediately! And little by little I started to imitate him, until without knowing it, we had finished a whole chapter. To my surprise, I discovered that not only could I read tiny writing, but I could understand the story, and see the drama in my mind. From that night forward, I liked the book more and more. And then came the night when I couldn’t stop reading it! All my family saw my transformation! Every night I would recount all that was happening in the story. Among all the characters of Mujercitas, I loved Jo (Josephine) most of all. I started dreaming to be like her: to be impulsive, a kind of tom boy and dreamer, a girl who loved to write in her attic! I loved the way she wore her hat as a means of announcing whether her mood was good or she was ready to explode! In turn, I found a hat and played her role at home, climbing to the roof, with a pen and a notebook, pretending that I was in her attic! Unfortunately, my sister discovered my secret and my solitary enchantment ended. But how I loved Jo’s personality: she was someone who never bothered to be too polite; she was who she was, and I—ironically—wanted to be like her! I wanted to be Jo! That is, I wanted to be myself!

    Mujercitas (Little Women) became one of my favorite books, one that I have read over and over again. And more than that, I am convinced that thanks to the book and thanks to the encouragement of my cousin (who gave me the book, as I later discovered!) I came to know the joy of reading!

    Who says that the Three Kings are not magical? They exercise their magic beyond the years, and even when the gift they leave seems unwanted. I still feel their magic in each book that I read. Now that I am an adult, less prone to believe, and with less time to let my imagination fly, I wish to keep alive in my memory those wondrous moments of my childhood, hoping that they will help me to discover the magic that I know exists in the simple things and activities of my present life. I only need to have the eyes and the heart of a child!

    I wish for all the children of the world to know such a world of magic and imagination, and for the adults to keep them from growing too fast! Children need to be children and to believe without doubts, so that later, when they become adults, they can still find “magic” in their lives. And I wish for all of us that we can make room and time for the wonderful.

    Feliz Día de los Tres Reyes!
    Mamá Doris

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  • Port

    In the dead of winter, fortification is a good thing. After a beautiful meal, few things can put the cap on the night like a great glass of Port. And if dark chocolate comes into the equation, wines like Port can match up magnificently. Conversely, they tend to clash with lighter desserts, so the recommendation here is to offer them with richer blue cheeses or the aforementioned chocolate. You can even pour them alone, which is perfectly acceptable since they pack a wallop and loads of sugary sweetness.

    Port is produced from grapes grown in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. It’s made from five little-known indigenous varieties: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao and Touriga Francesa. It is also a fortified wine, meaning a grape spirit (clear brandy) is added to the must while it’s in full fermentation. This leaves the wine with a ripe fruity flavor and at the same time increases the alcoholic strength to around 20% by volume.

    Here are some of the styles of Port:

    Ruby:
    Ports labeled Ruby are blends having been kept in large vats where there is little or no oxidation. After a few years, they are bottled and sold. Rubies don’t improve over time, and are ready to drink on release. These wines are full of fruit, but can possess a hot, alcoholic kick on the finish.

    Tawny:
    Tawny ports are made from blends of different years that are aged in wood. Most of those seen in our markets are labeled 10, 20, 30 or 40 years of age. They’re kept in huge oak casks, and lose their bright color over time, gaining a brownish tinge. Ten-year-olds are powerfully sweet and fruit-driven; 20-year-old versions take on a dried-fruit edge, and to my palate seem to be the most complete of fine Tawnies; 30- and 40-year-old versions are less powerful, more complex wines, with just a slight diminishing of the sweetness levels. Tawny Ports have been filtered before bottling, therefore do not throw the heavy sediment that Vintage Ports do. They can be kept standing upright and never need decanting.

    Vintage:
    Most major houses declare a Vintage three or four times a decade. They come from the years of highest repute, and are the most expensive of all Port wines. They’re aged only two years in wood before bottling and generally need 10-to-20 years to show their stuff.

    As the year pass, Vintage Ports develop a thick sediment. The bottles should be aged and opened horizontally. Gentle handling is imperative, lest the caked deposit breaks loose and mingles with the wine. This same attentive care should be taken when decanting.

    Some top vintages of the past fifty years: 2007, 2000, 1997, 1994, 1992, 1991, 1985, 1983, 1977, 1970 and 1963.

    There are other styles of Port wine seen, albeit on a less-regular basis. They include: 1) LBV, or Late-Bottled-Vintage. These are wines from Vintage years that have spent five or so years in oak. They’re more complex than Rubies, but softer than true Vintage Ports. 2) Colheitas. This is basically a Vintage wine that has been aged in oak like a Tawny. They can be excellent values. 3) Single-Quintas. Made from single-vineyard sites, and usually only offered in the finest vintages.

    Some of the top Port houses include: Dow, Fonseca, Graham, Kopke, Niepoort, Quinta do Noval, Sandeman, Smith-Woodhouse, Taylor and Warre.

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  • NOCHE BUENA EN MI NIÑEZ: UNA NOCHE MAGICA

    Christmas Eve in my childhood: a Magical Night

    Now that I am in the autumn of my life, and living in the United States, far away from Cajamarca, my native city in the Andes of Peru, once in a while, especially during certain times of the year, I feel homesick. Christmas-time is one of them.

    During these bitter sweet moments, I discover that the best way to soothe my mood is go back to my past; and try to entertain myself remembering in detail what I lived so long ago. It works! I start traveling into my past, and I see myself as a girl again, able to see, smell, and touch things and people that I loved a long time ago but who are not with me anymore. Yet, because of my memories, I feel them so closely that I know they will live forever in me.

    On this occasion, I wanted to share with you what I remember of the night of December 24th—Christmas Eve, which in Peru we call Noche Buena, or Holy Night. For so many children in Peru, this night was una noche magica (a magical night), a night that without fail, year after year, came resplendent with mystery and wonders!

    Come with me and let’s walk that day, so we can see the preparations for such a glorious night.

    It is early morning on the 24th of December, and I am waking up a bundle of nerves and excitment, since tonight is Noche Buena! A long day awaits us: we need to help our mother to ensure that everything is ready for the beginning of the mysterious glory that will come with the first signs of dusk. I hear her calling us for breakfast. How delicious our café con leche! And our pan calientito con queso! Fed and fueled, we are ready now for action. First we need to put on our apron and our older shoes, and arrive ready to join the work force my mother will command like a ship’s captain! She is already ironing the curtains of our living room, and now she is ordering us to change our bed sheets, and clean our room to make it as tidy and neat as we can. I can hear her telling us:

    “How in the world are we going to receive the birth of the Niño Jesus in a dirty house?

    Every year she preaches the same, but proves to us her zeal by way of her example! (I never saw my mother in such a frenzy of activity as she was every December 24th!) After ironing the curtains, she irons the tablecloth, then the napkins for our cena de Noche Buena; she will then iron our dresses for the night, and hang them in her bedroom until it is time to go to church. She turns now to dusting and sweeping each room, putting petroleo (kerosene) on our living room floor, the scent of which I came to love!

    After Mom approves the work we have done in our rooms, she asks us to polish our dress shoes for the night. We work fast, with our excitement growing, because we know that soon mom will reward us with our favorite task: to make the Nacimiento (Nativity scene), which will embellish our home until January 6th! My mother is already clearing the square table at the corner of our living room, stowing away our beloved radio grandly emblazoned with the manufacturer’s name: “Philips”. We need the whole table to build the special place where the baby Jesus will be received!

    After many years of making the Nacimiento, we children know by heart the elements that must appear in the scenes, and how and where they belong. So let’s name them one by one! First: our beloved mountain, which we make with craft paper and position on a corner of the table, held-up by its own wrinkled mass and taped to the wall. Mom will open her baúl (wooden chest)—which I know will smell of naphthalene (a smell to frighten moths from our woolen clothes)—and from her baúl she will bring the boxes with all the figurines for our Nacimiento.

    In the distance the bells of the Cathedral are striking.—My Goodness it is already 11:00 am! We need to hurry with our mountain since the woman that my mother asked to come before noon will soon be knocking on the door of our house to sell us her achupallas y musgo (air plants and moss), which she will have collected early in the morning in the fields… —Listen! There she is! Mom is paying her and asks us to carry the achupallas and the musgo to our work place! I love their smell of humidity and fresh soil! Soon they will cover our mountain and its foothills! Of course it is now when we need to use all of our skills to scatter the achupallas and the musgo over the fragile terrain of our paper mountain, which will collapse with the slightest bit of awkward weight! It really is a challenge, because we need to place our animal figurines on the mountain as well. So we start slowly, and little by little we create our scene: our lions at the timberline; on and around the achupallas go the monkeys; on the top of the mountain, we place the condor. The cocodrilo (crocodile) will go down hidden in the moss. The snake? Let’s put it far from the Pesebre (the manger). The llamas seem to be descending from the mountain, one after another, on their way to the holy cradle of hay. And so! We are almost finishing dressing our mountain, and what a joy to behold! I feel as though no mountain ever looked so beautiful and alive as ours! How right my mother was when she said: —All creatures should be present for the Noche Buena!

    Now comes our most important task: to position our pesebre (manger). Let’s place it here: in the valley at the center of the foothills! Inside go the figurines of Maria y Jose (Mary and Joseph), then the cunita (little cradle) for el niñito Jesus, which we fill with fresh moss and ever-so-carefully place between Mary and Joseph. The cradle is empty and will remain so until midnight. Following tradition, my mother will keep the figurine of the holy child with her until we return home from midnight mass, when she will place Him in the manger!

    Now that we have finished the pesebre, we begin to make a lake! But not with water. We bring my mother’s circular mirror and place it on one side of the pesebre, surrounding it with moss. On its surface, we place our plastic ducks and swans. I dare you to suggest that our lake is not quite beautiful! Look how it reflects the ducks and the swans!… Come close to it, and see your own reflection! It could just as well be a real lake—more than real, somehow—and it is beautiful!

    What else should we need to add to our Nacimiento? My mother says that anything that we choose to build is welcome! So onward: Let’s make a farm close to our lake with these tiny sheep, cows, and goats; and don’t forget our pastores cajamarquinos (shepherds from Cajamarca). What about a road for our burros con sus porongos de leche (donkeys carrying tin containers of milk)? Here we make a path by removing the moss from the surface of the table, and leaving the table bare. Our donkeys are already walking happily on our road so swiftly made, so true and real.

    Never does our Nacimiento feel correct and complete without our favorite toys! Mom says that we need to give to Jesus everything we have as our way to welcome him into our house! Therefore, my brother Victor places his big airplane (with PANAM written on its side) close to the farm; my sister Diva wants to put her beloved blonde and blue-eyed doll very close to the pesebre; my little brother Pepe is giving us his monkey that jumps when it is wound up, to be placed close to his brother’s airplane. And of course I love to have my beloved sewing machine as tiny and beautiful as it is, close to Maria, because I know that she will need it to make the swaddling cloth for her baby Jesus!

    With all the elements in their place, we have finished our Nacimiento. Nobody can deny that it is pretty and we feel sure that the baby Jesus and his parents will think the same!

    I don’t remember much about the rest of the day. As I have aged I realize that certain moments and images of my past stick in my memory forever, while others blur or simply fade away. What I remember vaguely is that lunch and dinner on December 24th were light. But what I remember clearly is that early in the afternoon, you would find my mother boiling fresh milk and adding a tiny piece of cows rennet (which she bought in the market), to coagulate the milk so we can have quesillo (fresh cheese) as part of our celebration of Noche Buena. You would also find her bringing a freshly ironed tablecloth to set our table for the evening meal. I can see her now: she is opening our alacena (cupboard) where she keeps our special china and silverware. I know that tonight our table will be more beautiful than ever! I can hear her telling us:

    —If the celebration of each of our birthdays is special, the celebration of the birthday of the son of God should be much more special. That is why I am setting the table in this way. Go now and wash your hands and come to help me to shine our silverware!… And joyfully we obey!

    Around 5:00 pm, my father arrives, and opening the door to our home, we see he carries something large under his arm…and we know perfectly what it is! It is one of the things that we love in our Noche Buena: it is the Panetón (Panettone), and this year it is the genuine variety, made by Donofrio, a well-known bakery in Lima founded years ago when the Donofrio family came from Italy to live in Lima, bringing with them their traditions and recipes. Today, serving panetón on Noche Buena is an almost universal tradition in Peru. Just one year prior, my father couldn’t find any Panetón Donofrio in any bakery in Cajamarca; all of the Panetones brought from Lima had been sold! So he brought home the local panetón made by the panaderia del Sr Campos (Mr. Campos’ bakery), and though very good, it was not the same! On this afternoon, however, I can perceive the panetón’s heavenly smell!

    Close to midnight the bells of the 7 churches of Cajamarca were competing ferociously, sounding their bells for the Misa del Gallo (the Midnight Mass when we celebrate the birth of Jesus). I see myself and the entire family dressed in our best clothes, walking towards the Cathedral. Hundreds of people are in the streets, some of them women sitting at the corners of the Plaza de Armas (the main square), close to where the Cathedral is, and selling humitas (fresh corn pastries), butifarras (sandwiches of home-made ham on a fresh roll), or empanadas. With a little envy, I also see groups of children of my age, dressed as pastores (shepherds), with their parents at their side. They are going to church dancing and singing well known villancicos (Christmas carols), and carrying their ofrendas (gifts for the baby Jesus). Some of them are carrying fresh bread, others quesillo, apples, oranges, or flowers.

    Finally we are in the church! What a joy! It seems that the whole of Cajamarca has come tonight! What I love most: the glowing lights, the jubilant noises, the joyful people, the beloved songs, my warm and best coat, my shining shoes and all the feelings that are at once and again alive in me. Without doubt, tonight is a magical night. We are sitting in the middle of the church, and from here I can see to one side of the altar mayor (main altar) the Cathedral’s huge Nativity. And I see how all the children dressed as shepherds are putting their offerings close to it, then returning to sit in the front rows. How lucky they are! Deep in my heart I really wish to be one of them, and I hope next year my mother will give me permission to be a pastora!

    Certain parts of the Mass are blurry to my memory. But what I vividly remember is the beautiful sound of the 12 strokes of the Cathedral bells at midnight announcing the birth of Jesus, the son of God! They seem to proclaim: Tonight the son of God is born here in Cajamarca as in all places—China, India, Europe. He comes to be with us! Let us rejoice! It is a wonder! It is Magic! I can hear what they say so clearly, and I can feel it deep in my heart. Tonight is indeed a most holy night, and I know that the whole world is feeling the same! That is why together with all the children and grownups, I start singing with all my strength:—Gloria a Dios en las Alturas y paz en la tierra a los hombres de buena voluntad. (Glory to God in the Highest and Peace on earth to all people of good will. Tonight is Noche Buena, and tonight is a magical night!

    Returning home, the magic continues. My mother asks us to approach the Nativity, and soon we see her bringing the figurine of the baby Jesus on a handkerchief and placing it gently in the empty crib. Once she finishes, we feel that God has truly entered into our house, a wonder that repeats itself without diminution on every Noche Buena.

    When everybody is finally seated around our beautiful table, I see my father opening a bottle of champagne and pouring a little in each of our glasses. He stands, and lifting his glass, begins in a very ceremonious voice:

    —Tonight is Noche Buena. Tonight God is born again, and he is now with us, and with all humankind! Let us celebrate this good news with joy in our hearts and peace in our spirit! And let us be in harmony with all creatures of the universe; because they also feel God’s presence and they rejoice! Even now, plants are flowering out of their time! Tonight, donkeys can talk like humans! Cats and dogs lie together without fighting; sheep are not afraid of the wolves, for tonight they are friends! Strange and wonderful things happen only on this Holy Night! Do you know why the midnight Mass is called la Misa del Gallo (Mass of the Rooster)? It is because when Jesus was born in Bethlehem a rooster recognized him and started to sing, announcing that the son of God was born! And yet it was midnight! From that time until now, and only on Noche Buena, the roosters of the whole world sing at midnight, and not at sunrise! This is a true wonder. Let us honor the magic of this Noche Buena and celebrate it with this drink and with the food that your mother has prepared! Salud!

    And as we drank our champagne, I could see in my father’s eyes—in all of our eyes—a gleam of true joy! I keep thinking on my father’s words, and I feel that he was telling the truth, in part because I have the proof! I remember that on more than one Noche Buena I heard the roosters of our house and of our neighbors’ homes, singing their qui-qui-ri-qui while it was still the middle of the night!

    Nearing the end our Noche Buena: a golden touch. My mother is uncovering the panetón that our father had brought with him this afternoon, and she does the same with the plate of fresh cheese that sits at the center of our table. I then see my mother entering the kitchen to bring out in her cántaro (clay pitcher) our beloved hot chocolate. Like everything else, the chocolate is specially made for this evening, as my mother has used the cacao that was harvested, roasted and melted into “cakes” by my aunt Dalila (my mother’s sister). The cacao trees grow on my grandfather’s farm, close to the Marañon River on the edge of the jungle.

    We hear the sound of the molinillo (a finned wooden frother) beating the chocolate in the cántaro, and the smell that comes from it makes my mouth water. I become impatient, as with the growing warmth and aromas my mother gives me the impression of taking too much time pouring the chocolate into each cup and distributing to each of us slices of panetón and pieces of fresh cheese. When she finishes, I see my father starting to eat, which is a sign for us to do the same! And there I am: sipping my beloved chocolate, followed by a bite of my panetón and a bite of my quesillo, the very tastes of heaven. Who has ever said that food does not have wonders of its own? I, for one, know it does.

    MY LAST THOUGHT: I have been told often our memories trick us by embellishing and polishing the scenes and sentiments we seem to be recalling. Which makes me wonder how much of what I have described really happened? Maybe what I think happened is what I want to believe happened: something that is a little far from reality!

    Even considering how selective and subjective our memories can be, they don’t take away the thrill and joy of remembering. I am convinced that our memories give us a chance to become younger again, and help us to see the present with the eyes and the heart of a child—someone who sees the world as a wonder and believes in it without any doubt.

    With peace, love and joy to all!!
    Mamá Doris

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  • The Best of 2012

    The year is coming to a close, so it must be the right time for a “Best Of” piece. I always enjoy these articles, both as a reader and a journalist, as they offer a concentrated summation of the writer’s experiences over the last twelve months in one short burst. We’ll only concentrate on wines that retail around $30 and under this year. I believe that’s the price point where the majority of wine drinkers would prefer to be.

    Best Whites around $15:
    Making tasty, complex white wine at this price point is a real task. Searching for winners can be a long and sometimes fruitless endeavor. Here are a couple that rang the bell in ’12: The 2011 Mil Piedras Viognier from Mendoza, Argentina. Grown at a mile high in the Andes, this flowery, yet crisp white works amazingly well with spicy cuisine. Another winner was the 2011 Petra Unger Gruner Veltliner, Kremstal, Austria (an exemplar for what this varietal should look, smell and taste like at $15 retail).

    Best Whites around $15-30:
    In polar opposition to the around $15 category, the market is packed with good bottles in this section. In no special order here are four that rocked the Casbah: 2011 Jacky Blot Vouvray Sec, Les Cabouroches, Loire Valley, France; 2011 Harper Voit Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, OR; 2011 J. Christopher Cuvee Lunatique Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, OR (one of the most zingy American chards I’ve ever tasted); and the 2010 Urki Txakoli from the Basque Country in Spain.

    Best Roses:
    As time goes by, I find myself drinking more rose than ever. Not just in summer, but all year round. I prefer my rose really dry and crisp and the 2010 Satler Rose of Zweigelt from Burgenland, Austria filled that bill. I loved the cinnamon note on the finish. Winemaker Jerry Murray’s 2011 Van Duzer Rose of Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley has that same clean and zippy lift. It’s salmon in color and bone-dry. And on the sparkling front, don’t miss the Jean Louis Denois Cuvee Classique “Rose” from Limoux in southern France.

    Best Reds around $15:
    Spain continues it’s domination in this area with the 2011 Emilio Moro Finca Resalso Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero. It’s really fresh and juicy and extremely flexible across lots of dishes. The 2011 Domaine du Cros Marcillac in Southwest France (made from a grape called Fer Servadou) is amazingly complex for the money, as is the 2010 Secateurs Red Blend of Shiraz/Cinsault/Cab/Grenache and Mourvedre from the Coastal Region of South Africa.

    Best Reds around $15-30:
    A plethora of fine offerings in this group were available in 2012, so I’ll just list these top scorers by country. Argentina: 2007 Trisagio (Malbec/Petit Verdot/Tannat) from Mendoza. Australia: 2007 Tahbilk Shiraz, Central Victoria. Chile: 2010 Grey Carmenere Reserva, Maipo Valley. France: The 2010 Ch. de Segries Lirac (unfiltered Grenache/Syrah blend) is just about as good a wine as you’ll ever find from the Rhone Valley in the $25 price range. Italy: 2008 Foradori Teroldego from Alto-Adige, which features amazingly bright acidity and sour-cherry fruit. Oregon: 2010 White Rose Pinot Noir Estate, Willamette Valley. Spain: The 2005 Beronia Gran Reserva Rioja pushes the upper area of our price barrier, but is absolutely delicious mature Tempranillo. Washington State: 2010 Maison Bleue Jaja Rhone Blend from Yakima Valley.

    Whew! I could have listed so many more. You can find most of the above wines on Andina’s current wine list. Give one of them a try the next time you’re dining with us.

    Happy Holidays.

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  • Wines of Burgundy, Part 2

    Someone once said that New York City had so much to offer that they had to name it twice: N.Y., N.Y. Burgundy is pretty much the same deal, with such a plethora of styles that two columns are needed to fully explain its virtues.

    A few months ago we gave a rundown of the famous appellations of the Cote d’Or, where the more renowned wines are produced. These bottles are often breathtaking, but may carry price tags that will take away your breath with equal vigor.

    This time around we’ll concentrate on some of the lesser-known villages, where it is a touch easier to locate values. Be forewarned, Burgundy is never cheap. For those being described today, expect to pay around $20-25 at retail for simple Bourgogne, $25-50 for village wines, $35-60 or more for Premier Crus.

    CHABLIS: Located 65 miles or so northwest of Dijon, Chablis offers crisp, bone-dry whites that marry perfectly with seafood, especially shellfish. Premier and Grand Crus from reliable producers are able to age 20+ years in cold cellars. Top Premier Crus: Montee de Tonnerre, Montmains, Fourchaume and Vaillons. The Grand Crus, such as Les Clos and Vaudesir, are chardonnays fully equivalent to any wines made in Montrachet country, at half the price.

    Smaller Appellations Within the Cote d’Or

    FIXIN: Reds that are hearty and fuller-bodied. More rustic than most of their neighbors, and more tannic as well. Village wines and Premier Crus are quite similar in quality here.

    SAVIGNY-LES-BEAUNE: This town provides excellent value in Premier Cru reds, which carry more weight and richness than those from neighboring Aloxe-Corton. Top Premier Crus: Lavieres, Guettes.

    The following small communes are noteworthy for their quality/price ratio. Look for Premier Cru bottlings. Those with an asterisk are especially recommended: Marsannay, Ladoix, Pernand-Vergeslesses*, Chorey-les-Beaune*, St. Romain, Monthelie, Auxey-Duresses*, St.-Aubin, Santanay*, Maranges.

    Cote Chalonnaise
    The Cote Chalonnaise is comprised of five appellations. Givry, Mercurey and Rully are available in both white and red, while Bouzeron (what a great name for a wine town!) and Montagny make whites only. With the prices for wine from the Cote d’Or continually rising, more attention is being paid to this region. The wines display lovely up-front fruit, accessible much earlier than those from the Cote d’Or, and are priced admirably. Once again, it is the Premier Cru vineyards that provide the best juice for the buck. Rully has always been a personal favorite.

    BEAUJOLAIS
    Over 150 million bottles are made each year in Beaujolais, which is the most southerly of the Burgundy vineyard areas. Gamay is the sole red grape variety.

    I love good Beaujolais. These wines are as flexible at the table as any I can think of. If wine was served on tap, this is the one I’d opt for. It is best when served slightly chilled, which helps accentuate the fruit. (Just to further clarify, I believe all red wines taste better when served slightly cool).

     

    Two last pieces of advice
    Work your way up the ladder when trying Burgundies for the first time. Start small with straight Bourgogne, move to village wines, and then to Premier and Grand Crus. There is pleasure to be gained at each stop. If you aim too high too soon, you’ll lose the gist of it. Look for the 2010 vintage, which is superb for both whites and reds. Sleeper vintages: 2007, 2008. Overrated vintage: 2009 (the wines are extremely rich and atypical).

    The most important piece of information on a Burgundy label is the name of the producer. Getting familiar with who is good and who isn’t can be expensive and frustrating. Ask those you trust to recommend some names in your price range.

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  • ANDINA Y SU MENU SIN GLUTEN

    Andina and its Gluten-Free Menu

    As time passes, I consider how Andina has become a microcosm blessed with remarkable and dynamic diversity. Our staff and our guests represent different ages, nationalities, personal and professional histories, and it is these individuals with whom I interact on a daily basis, and who interact with each other as well. These exchanges create and sustain a sense of community; they enrich our lives and make them all the more meaningful. They also allow us to better know and understand a diversity of needs and interests.

    I visit many tables every day and night, and over the past several years, I have noticed more and more just how many of our guests choose to dine at Andina in part because of our gluten-free food. Like a growing number in the United States who suffer from Celiac disease or from milder forms of gluten-intolerance, these guests are discovering—or have long known about—the possible health-effects of gluten, a protein that is present in wheat, barley, rye and oats; and so, they are seeking a way to eat healthy food that is free of gluten.

    THE GLUTEN FREE MENU AT ANDINA
    Several years ago, when we became aware of the interest in gluten-free offerings, we proceeded to review the dishes on our regular menus. We sought to find a way to generate new dishes or modify the ones that already existed. To our surprise and delight, most of our dishes were completely free of gluten to begin with! Had we noticed this before? Not entirely. The discovery came as an instructive and inspiring surprise for us, and certainly as great news for our guests with gluten intolerance. Prior to this discovery, we had guided our culinary efforts and aspirations based on the objective to honor the dishes, the techniques, and the history of Peruvian gastronomy. We have always been proud to offer our guests food that is prepared with the same techniques (old and new) that we use in Peru, with essential Andean ingredients imported directly from an organic farmer in southern Peru, as well as the fresh products of the Pacific Northwest.

    Without hesitation and happy in our ability to prepare flavorful gluten-free dishes, we generated Andina’s “Gluten-Free Menu”, which offers a wonderful representation of the variety and nature of Peruvian Cuisine, and which we hope and believe will continue to grow and change, always with the aim of providing for our guests food that is delicious, memorable, as well as gluten-free. Our kitchen is equipped with separate range elements to prevent the risk of cross contamination with any foods or sauces containing gluten. And thanks to the initiative of our General Manager, we train and educate our personnel on how to best use the information provided in a detailed matrix of common allergens.

    THE NATURE OF OUR PERUVIAN DIET
    From ancient times and, even in some areas, to this day, the Peruvian diet has been based largely on local markets. Peruvians describe their food as fresh, simple, bold in flavors and colors. Peru is blessed by the Andes: home to so many essential and highly nutritious plants: the potato, with its hundreds of textures and flavors; quinoa, considered the ‘mother of the grains’ for being a complete food, full of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals; and corn, which grows in a rainbow of colors, to be eaten fresh or dried. Potatoes, quinoa and corn are the bases of the Andean diet. And in the coastal areas, the bountiful Pacific Ocean provides the “costeños” with an abundance of fish and seafood. Cebiche is the classic coastal dish, representing the simplicity and the deliciousness of Peruvian food overall.

    Wheat is not a fundamental part of the Peruvian diet. It was brought to Peru by the Spanish in the 16th Century. Since that time, wheat in Peru has been used mainly to make bread or to thicken sauces in the form of bread crumbs. In the north of Peru there is a hearty soup made with barley or wheat called Shambar. But as far as I know, we simply don’t have dishes built around or incorporating wheat.

    In general, wheat, barley and oats are absent in the majority of the Peruvian diet, which means that the majority of our food is already free of gluten, a real blessing for people who have gluten intolerance!

    OUR “ALFAJORES DE QUINUA Y MAIZ”: A GLUTEN-FREE PERUVIAN DESSERT CREATED AND SERVED AT ANDINA
    Alfajores are Peruvian (and South American) cookies beloved by all: children and grownups in Peru and here at Andina know that these cookies are iconic, and deservedly so. In Peru, mothers make alfajores to welcome-home visitors, and to celebrate holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Three Kings, Mother’s Day, and Independence Day.

    Certain accounts suggest that the alfajor was introduced to Peru in the 16th C. by the Moorish maids of wealthy Spaniards who came to live in Lima, the capital of the Viceroyalty of Spain.

    Andina’s Gluten Free Alfajores
    Photo by Alyson Levy Photography

    Based on phonetics alone, it has always seemed to me that the alfajor—like many Spanish words—has Arabic roots, and effectively, historical studies support this theory that the alfajor was an Arabic confection, brought to the south of Spain by the Moors in the period between the 7th and 15th Centuries, when al-Andalus thrived. With the fall of the Iberian Caliphate, and the resurgence of Spain, the alfajor came to Central and South America. Ever since, the alfajor has adapted very well and become part of its adoptive homelands.

    Interestingly, the dough of the original Arabic alfajor was made with crushed almonds and the filling was made of a sweet fig syrup or honey. In Peru, the dough of the alfajores is made with a mix of corn and wheat flour, flavored with lime zest and pisco (Peruvian brandy); its filling is manjar blanco (caramelized milk).

    At Andina, we have traditionally made our alfajores with wheat flour, which means they have never found a home among our gluten-free offerings, nor had they ever been able to be enjoyed by many of our guests. This is changing now: our Pastry team (captained by Megan Vargas, and including Amanda Watson and Hannah Howard), studied traditional Andean recipes, and created a new type of alfajor using quinoa and corn flour. The result is a gluten-free alfajor as delicious as the regular cookie, but perhaps more nutritious and even more Peruvian.

    I asked the Pastry team if they would share the recipe of the Alfajor de Quinua y Maiz with our readers, and they graciously extended to me the following recipe:

    ALFAJORES DE QUINUA Y MAIZ (gluten-free alfajores)
    (yields 8-10 cookies)

    INGREDIENTS FOR THE DOUGH:
    1.5 cup corn starch
    0.5 cup quinoa flour
    0.5 cup butter
    68 grams egg yolk
    Salt to taste
    0.5 cup powder sugar
    1 tablespoon pisco

    PROCEDURE:
    1. Beat the butter until very light and fluffy
    2. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy once more
    3. Slowly add the yolks and salt scraping often
    4. Sift together the starch and quinoa flour
    5. Add the flours all at once. Mix all until dough forms
    6. Add more quinoa flour as needed in order to thicken
    7. Roll out dough between floured parchment paper
    8. Cut the dough in circles( three inches diameter), and freeze
    9. Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes (the borders of the cookies should be lightly golden)
    10. Cool down and set aside

    HOW TO MAKE MANJAR BLANCO: (the quick and easy way)
    In the bottom of a small sauce pan, place a sealed can of condensed sweet milk; cover the can with water (one inch of extra water above the top of the can). Boil the contents at medium heat for 1½ hours. Carefully remove the can and set aside to cool.

    MAKING THE ALFAJORES:
    Open the can of condensed sweet milk, and using a knife or spatula, spread a small amount (a teaspoon or more) of the caramelized milk on top of one baked cookie disc. Place a second cookie disc on top to make a sandwich with the filling inside. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.
    Serve the alfajores de quinoa y maiz with a cup of tea or coffee. You will love them!

    ¡Salud!
    Mamá Doris

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  • Wines of New Zealand

    I’ve always been drawn to the unique. People, places and things that stand apart from the crowd are alluring, if for nothing else other than the sheer boldness of their distinction.

    I remember my first trip to New Zealand in the late ‘80s, during the time when I often made nomadic wine journeys. There was a striking diversity in both the residents and landscapes, and a singularity in the wine. The indigenous Maoris (known for their aggression) seemed so unlike the calm and proper European usurpers, and the terrain on the northern half of this two-island nation was wildly different from that of the south.

    There are ten grape-growing regions on the two islands, six on the warm and lush North Island, and four on the much cooler, mountainous South Island. Let me try to give you an idea of the disparity between the two. In the Gisbourne and Auckland vineyards to the extreme north, the grapes generally ripen six weeks earlier than in Canterbury and Otago to the south. Midday temperatures can vary over thirty degrees Farenheit across this thousand-mile span.

    Wine has been made in New Zealand since around 1840, with widely varying shifts in quality, but it has only been in the last thirty years or so that the country’s wines have come to prominence. Until the 1970s the vast majority of vine activity took place on the North Island, but this has balanced out, as the northern portion of the South Island has proven to be a welcome home to the reigning king of New Zealand varietals, sauvignon blanc.

    REDS: The four main growing regions on the North Island produce the bulk of New Zealand’s reds. Cabernet sauvignon and merlot are planted generally in the Auckland area, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne/Poverty Bay, and pinot noir has seen recent acclaim from the Martinborough vineyards at the foot of the North Island.

    The more northerly vineyards are capable of producing good to very good reds but perhaps without the richness of their Australian or Californian counterparts. Cabernets can show a “green” character (a sign of underripeness), although they have improved greatly over the years. Merlots offer promise, some having real elegance and style. When all is said and done, though, it will be the pinot noir that will shine through as the country’s premier red. Pinot loves cool-weather sites and has shown a propensity for the local soils. The recent releases from Marlborough and Otago have strengthened to the point of being competitive on all international fronts.

    WHITES: It’s the white wine that pushes New Zealand to the forefront in the wine world. The sauvignon blanc, and to some extent the riesling and chardonnay, produced around Marlborough on the South Island in particular, can stand tall with wines from much more famous regions in Europe and America.

    When tasting blind, I nearly always can pick a N.Z. sauvignon blanc out of a flight of it’s peers. It exhibits the surprising tendency toward both high acidity and a lush ripeness, a rare combination. Rieslings are made in both the bone-dry style, such as is seen in Alsace and Austria, and off-dry to sweet, similar to those of the Rhine region in Germany. The chardonnays are variable, some exhibiting Chablis-like minerality, while others are full-blown and creamy.

    Availability has increased over the last decade, and one can now find good New Zealand wines at most venues. Some of the better producers are as follows (listed alphabetically): Cloudy Bay, Craggy Range, Giesen, Goldwater, Grove Mill, Omaka Springs, Matua Valley, Mt. Difficulty, Nautilus, Allan Scott, Te Mata (best for reds) and Villa Maria.

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  • Los posters de andina y su significado

    The Posters of Andina and their meaning

    Whoever has been to Andina has probably seen, amongst photographs and textiles, vivid and multi-colored posters. All of the posters display short phrases in Spanish or are simply given the title: “Agrarian Reform of Peru”. These six posters—each unique from the others, but all obviously related in some way—represent a sampling of about two dozen distinct, Government-commissioned artistic productions made and circulated during the period in Peru’s modern history between 1968 and 1974, when the country was under the dictatorship of the leftist Army General, Juan Velasco Alvarado. The posters were distributed throughout all the regions of Peru as official propaganda for the Agrarian Reform and its long-controversial expropriation and redistribution of private estates.

    Peruvian Agrarian Reform Poster

    Poster 1: Produced for distribution in the region of Cajamarca

    Under Velasco Alvarado’s socialist regime, privately owned latifundios (big haciendas) throughout the country were seized, divided and then distributed among the local peasants who had formerly lived and worked within a quasi-feudal structure: they tilled the land and built communities, but were nowhere owners or controllers of either. Under Velasco’s reform, these same peasants became owners of the land on which they worked and lived, while the former estate holders—whose lands ranged from hundreds of acres in size to nearly the total area of a small country—suddenly found themselves without any property, and with no authority to appeal the forcible seizure. In hand with the obvious questions around the consequences and legality of the governments actions, troubling questions soon plagued the reform effort at its heart: the demand for organization, administration and support for the changes that were so quickly brought about soon outpaced the supply. The Agrarian Reform is considered a controversial issue among Peruvians to this day. And I too feel that with all its pros and cons, which affected everyone in Peru, it is an important part of our History, impossible and unhelpful to deny.

    TREASURE HUNTING Do you believe in serendipity? Whatever it means to believe in serendipity, I do: for I’m certain that that is how we found the posters that now adorn our walls. It happened in 2003, shortly after Andina had first opened its doors. We were looking for something from Peru to hang on the dining room walls. Something that would complement and add to the ambiance already declared in the colors, shapes, and architectural gestures toward Peruvian style. Somebody mentioned a small Art Gallery called Onda, located on Alberta Street, owned by Allan Oliver. As we soon learned for ourselves, Allan had made multiple trips to Central and South America and returned with samples of the art of the countries he visited. These soon found their home in a gallery he opened. One Saturday morning, we visited Onda, and found a beautifully curated selection of ceramic pots and vases from Costa Rica, Chile, Brasil. We also found pictures from and of Ecuador. But unfortunately, nothing from Peru. Asking him if there might be something from Peru which he had not yet displayed in the gallery, he thought for a moment, then suddenly went to the back of his store and brought a pile of papers, tied in a thick roll, and said: “Take a look at these. There are all kinds of pictures here: various drawings, sketches, posters I collected as I passed through different countries. You might find something that interests you.” And with that he gave us the whole thing to take home, in order to look through the contents at our own pace. Without much hope we unwrapped the roll, and just as he had said, found scores of old pictures, commercial announcements, educational and cultural posters, all from a variety of Central and South American countries, but nothing from Peru. Then, when nearly through the final sheaths, and ready to give up, suddenly without any forewarning, the brilliant posters of the Agrarian Reform appeared before our eyes: one after another, some in better conditions than others, but all immediately familiar. It took us a moment to believe what we saw. Here in front of us were pieces of a momentous time in the history of Peru, and within them were bittersweet memories of the past of my country! The rest is history. We returned to Allan’s gallery to share what we had found, to purchase and frame those extraordinary posters, and finally to hang them in Andina.

    THE AGRARIAN REFORM When the Agrarian Reform began in 1968, I was living in Cajamarca in my parents’ home. The fact of a military government was not new for me. Throughout Peru’s long history and even in the course of my own life, it was not at all uncommon for a democratically elected government to find itself forcibly removed from power by a military coup, which in turn more than often vested all power in a dictator. In 1968, the president of Peru was a young architect named Fernando Belaunde Terry. Many Peruvians saw in him a highly intelligent man of integrity and character, a good human being who dreamed of uniting Peru’s three major geographical and economically distinct regions: the Jungle east of the Andes, the Andes mountains themselves, and the coastal territory. President Belaunde had envisioned the creation of a road called “el Marginal” that could finally integrate the jungle communities, and their productive activities and resources, into the economic life of Peru. Unfortunately his reasonable and inclusive form of governance found no echo in a largely entrenched and corrupt political culture. A military coup was imminent, and one day the radio and newspaper brought to Cajamarca the news that Belaunde was no longer Peru’s President. His government had been overthrown and Peru was now ruled by the Army General, Juan Velasco Alvarado. In contradistinction with the political and economic pedigrees of previous dictators, who were almost always from the right wing, very conservative and friends of the rich, Velasco Alvarado was a leftist and a publically-declared socialist. He had stated his determination to effect profound changes in favor of the poor and the majority of the Peruvians, who had forever been treated unjustly, subject to the abuses and the private interests of the wealthy and their political puppets. So he proposed two official reforms: one in Educational policy, and another in Agriculture. The objective of the Educational Reform was to create in each child “the new man (woman)”: an individual capable of appreciating Peru’s indigenous culture and of building upon that foundation in the same communal spirit our ancestors had taught. Meanwhile, the Agrarian Reform would aspire to the simple objective declared in its official slogan: “The land belongs to the people who work it.”

    In and around Cajamarca, I saw how the campesinos (rural and often poor farming families) were harshly treated by the people who lived in the city, As a child at school, I had among my classmates daughters of the local hacendados(wealthy land owners) and I saw there too how they separated themselves from the rest of us and talked disrespectfully of the campesinos. It was widely known how our Inspector of Education favored the wealthiest families, handing wealthy and aspiring teachers jobs in the city (often taking a bribe in the process), while reserving the remote countryside for teachers who were not rich, or unable to pay his “fee”. So I sympathized with the ideas of Velasco, and I thought that both of the proposed reforms—in Education and in Agriculture—were good for the country.

    I became a Chemistry teacher in the 1970s and together with my husband, who was a teacher of Physics, we joined an initiative of the Educational Reform. We worked in Lima for PRONAMEC (Programa Nacional para el Mejoramiento de Educacion en las Ciencias), an organization whose objective was to develop the critical thinking of students by means of teaching Science. Because we believed in those with whom we worked and in our work itself, we felt that we were helping to create Velasco’s “new” man and woman, who were able to use reason and objectivity to assess— independent of dogma—what was right and what was wrong, and to be proud of their vocation to build a better life for themselves and their community. During those years I believed in the reforms: I really wanted for Peru to be a fairer place, where everyone could have a better life. But as happens in life, neither reform accomplished everything toward which it had aspired. Plenty of obstacles and internal problems began to appear.

    Peruvian Agrarian Reform Poster

    Poster 2: “No pagues por la justicia…”

    The Agrarian Reform affected people in different ways. For example, in Cajamarca we heard that one of the members of the Castro Mendivil family, who owned a big hacienda, had died from a heart attack upon learning that her land was no longer her own. Other wealthyhacendados in different parts of the country suffered the same fate, and some took their own lives, because the new reality of their lives was something they neither desired nor were prepared to confront. Others (among them some of my relatives) who were living in the city of Cajamarca had sought to secure income for the years of their old age by buying a piece of land in the surrounding countryside. By then leasing it for cultivation, a monthly payment would come their way and form a savings account for their uncertain future (in Peru, the majority of citizens don’t have insurance). Soon after the reform, however, that piece of land was no longer legally theirs to own. Most of these owners became resentful with the Government; many tried to persuade the authorities, sometimes aggressively. But all was in vain, for the land was for the ones that worked it.

    On the side of the new land owners, there were problems as well, and these were just as difficult and intractable. Many of the peasants were accustomed to work under a patron (land owner) who in turn enabled that work by giving directions, providing certain equipment, and setting schedules. Without that structure and infrastructure, many of the peasant owners were lost. The government responded by creating an organization called SINAMOS, in which young engineers, technicians and a representative of the peasants developed cooperatives, which in turn benefited from guidance and collaboration. The Government also ordered certain banks to lend money to the farmers at low interest rates. Velasco also created a new class of judges, called “judges of the land”, whose charge was to help in the full and fair distribution of the land. Even with all the assistance from the government, only a few of the cooperatives were successful. They suffered the lack of honesty and integrity of some of the authorities; the inexperience of the young professionals coming from the city intent on helping rural communities; and the greed of peasants and professionals alike, who lined their own pockets with government funds. Seen now in retrospect, I believe the Agrarian Reform in Peru was an idea conceived with good intentions. But the means of its execution were poorly thought through, and poorly carried out, and that lack of prudence and wisdom left the reform with at least as many obligations as achievements. There is still a lot to do in Peru.

    THE POSTERS OF THE AGRARIAN REFORM. When the Agrarian Reform began I was living in Cajamarca, and when it came to an end, I had moved to Lima. During all those years, and moreover, until only recently, I regarded the posters published and posted by the Agrarian Reform as simple propaganda, and I never paid very close attention to any of them.

    Peruvian Agrarian Reform Poster

    Poster 3: Tupac Amaru

    It was only until a few weeks ago, and thanks to a conversation with Susan and Allan Abravenel—our dear friends and loyal guests—that the history of the Agrarian Reform resurfaced in my memory and what is more, I learned for the first time the great significance of the posters we had so long ago found on Alberta Street.

    Susan and Allan lived in Lima, Peru, during the years of the Velasco regime when the Eductional and Agrarian Reforms were launched. Susan worked as an English language teacher, and Allan as a Government advisor. From his years in Peru, Allan specially saved a collection of the Agrarian Reform posters. When he then saw prints of those same posters hanging on the walls of Andina, he was surprised and intrigued. At dinner one evening, he commented on his observation, and so began a conversation in which we related our common experiences and memories of those times. Hearing of my interest in the Agrarian posters, Allan offered to send me a journal article that he discovered on-line, published by a doctoral student at Cambridge University. The article was entitled: “Land for those who work it: A Visual Analysis of Agrarian Reform Posters in Velasco’s Peru.”

    From reading the article, I discovered a myriad of interesting facts that were completely new for me, among them the following:
    • The posters were designed to visually, powerfully and easily convey the key principles of the Agrarian Reform. Their deliberate design was intended to help the general population, and especially the illiterate, understand the Reform’s fundamental promises and processes.
    • To achieve this kind of excellence in design, the Government called upon well-known Peruvian artists, among them Jesus Ruiz Durand for the early posters, and Jose Bracamonte for the later posters. They produced vibrant representations of the ideological and cultural elements at the heart of the Agrarian Reform, using the Optical Art and the Pop Art “schools” (as Cuba and Africa had done) to mobilize and motivate the participation of the Peruvian populace.
    • The first posters that appeared were designed by Durand using the Optical Art technique, which creates compelling visual effects using a series of lines extending from a central shape. This in turn provides the illusion of vibration, which attracts the eye, generating a sense of movement and great dynamism, inviting and calling the people to action. (See Poster 1 and Poster 3).
    • Other Posters designed by Durand, as well as many by Bracamonte, used the Pop Art methodology, employing bright colors and bold shapes to create a feeling of energy, modernism and dynamism. When united with darker shades, the effect is to give a sense of depth and permanency. (See Poster 2: “No pagues por la justicia…”).
    • The majority of posters feature peasants as the protagonists of the Agrarian Reform. In some of the posters, peasants are engaging in productive labour; in others the peasants are speaking to the public. With these representations, the Reform intended to emphasize that the common people were the protagonists of the revolutionary change, not any leader or institution.
    • One of the most important posters featured an iconic visual representation of Tupac Amaru (an Incan leader and one of Peru’s popular heroes). This creation became the binding image of the Agrarian Reform. His story was used also as a popular myth to elevate and energize the ideas of the Agrarian Reform beyond the material, and beyond the present time. In real life Tupac Amaru was a cacique (hereditary chieftain) from Cuzco, a descendent of the Incas, who in colonial times fought for the rights of people oppressed by the Spaniards. He was executed for his ideas and rebellion. The Agrarian Reform made Tupac Amaru a symbol of an authentic popular rebellion against injustice and considered his Incan spirit present in its own actions. (see Poster 3: Tupac Amaru)

    CONCLUSION Thanks to the Abravenels, and the article they passed along, I see the posters of the Agrarian Reform with new eyes. I now appreciate their deeper significance: they speak of a difficult period in Peru’s history, but also live on as beautiful, fascinating and deliberate expressions of fine artists. They communicate visually and easily not only the objectives of the Agrarian Reform, but also the dreams of justice and fairness that still remain in the hopes and hearts of all Peruvians.

    Mamá Doris

    For further reading, as well as to see more examples of the Agrarian Reform Posters, please see the article “Land for Those Who Work It: A Visual Analysis of Agrarian Reform Posters in Velasco’s Peru” by Anna Cant in the February 2012 issue of Latin American Studies.

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  • Ramen Dreams Redux

    Just about every wine writer I’ve met secretly wants to write about food and travel. Throughout my career, I’ve always attempted to intersperse those subjects into my wine columns. They add spice and interest, and can engage a wider audience.

    Have you ever dreamt about a certain kind of food? Not necessarily a dream while sleeping, but more of a daydream that encompasses your thoughts every now and then. I’ve had such a recurring dream about Japanese ramen. The dreams are always about true, unadulterated bowls of Shio, Shoyu, Miso and Tonkotsu.

    I wrote a piece about three or four years ago for a local Portland blog, relating my culinary visit to the most Asiatic city in North America, Vancouver, British Columbia. At that time, I visited three well-known Ramen houses on consecutive days. All three are within a block of each other in the Downtown West End. This August, I reprised that visit, with new notes and recommendations. So here’s the latest and greatest from Vancouver, B.C., circa 2012.

    I first fell in love with ramen while living in New York City, where I was born and raised. There was a nondescript noodle house on West 49th Street named Sapporo. The chefs in front of the steaming pots would yell loudly in Japanese when you entered and then once again when you left, regardless of whether they had ever seen you before or not. The aromas of that place are forever infused in my mind, as are the glowing bowls of Tan-Tan Men, Mabo Ramen and Shio Ramen that would slide past as I sat at the bar.

    In my attempt to quench the desire for that soup, I grabbed a friend, got behind the wheel and drove to Vancouver, British Columbia. The main purpose of the trip was succinct: to eat (and to visit the Granville Island Market, arguably North America’s most beautiful market). The weather gods were smiling, and brought gorgeous sunshine the entire trip.

    The three ramen houses are Motomachi Shokudo, Kintaro and Benkei. They vary quite a bit from one another, both in décor and in the types of broth they use as the basis for their soup. Prices are similar, however, and an order of Gyoza dumplings and a bowl of ramen at each should set you back about $11-14 before tip.

    Thursday’s lunch was at Motomachi Shokudo (740 Denman Street). Usually there is a queue outside around 12 Noon, but we entered and sat down right away (the last two chairs available). The tiny room has an attractive, modernistic feel. The ramen here is made from organic ingredients, and the broth is purely chicken stock. The light and bright Shio Ramen I had was pristine: A clear broth, the thin noodles cooked to absolute perfection, the pork slices and vegetables admirable augmentations to what was obviously a perfect soup. It was the best bowl of ramen I have had since my meals at Sapporo in New York. A plate of Gyoza was ordered at all three restaurants, and Motomachi won that contest hands down as well. They are longer (nearly twice the length of Kintaro or Benkei) and the casings were crisp and crunchy. By the way, this house features something called Charcoal Ramen. I’m not so sure about that one.

    Friday brought more sunshine and a long line outside Kintaro (788 Denman Street). It’s always packed here, so the servers pass out menus and take early orders from those waiting in line, to help move things along. We waited about a half hour for chairs at a communal table. This place is very traditional, with the boiling cauldrons directly behind the bar. No music; stern and straightforward service. The broth is made from pork, and the chefs are continually skimming the fat off the top of the broth with wire mesh strainers on poles. Incidentally, for the first time ever, I spotted a young woman behind the line tending to the steaming broths, reminding me of the movie “Tampopo.” Kintaro is known for richer ramen, and they never disappoint. You have a choice of Rich, Medium or Light broth and Lean or Fatty pork slices (Char Siu), and I opted for Medium Shoyu broth and Fatty pork. The noodles at Kintaro were al dente and snappy. The broth was milkier in color and thicker in texture than Motomachi. A bowl of ramen at Kintaro is a filling meal that can steel you against anything the afternoon might bring. The Gyoza proved just satisfactory, ending up being nothing more than window dressing for that great soup.

    Saturday lunch was at Benkei Noodle Shop (1741 Robson Street). Benkei is distinctly larger than either of the above restaurants. Japanese rock and pop music plays continually, and a lot of younger people are in the crowd. Everything seems upbeat and hipper here and the décor is accented by wood, paper walls and bamboo. The Gyoza was rather average; good flavors but on the soft and mushy side. But the Akaoni Spicy Miso ramen blew me away. This bowl, laced with garlic chili oil, does not hold back on the spice and is loaded with minced pork (instead of Char Siu slices). I lifted the bowl and finished every drop. It was totally different in every way from the soups tasted the previous two days. Like the other houses, we were in and out in 30-40 minutes.

    Vancouver Wine Note: The wine scene in this great dining capital is atrocious. The Province of British Columbia hits each bottle with hefty taxes and the choices are limited. A lousy Portuguese red can easily cost $50 and a good French Sancerre can reach $80-90. Be prepared to fork out big bucks for mediocre wines on a regular basis. FYI: Only recently did it become legal to bring your own bottle to a restaurant in B.C., and the cost to BYO can be $25 or higher. Be sure to call the restaurant prior to arrival and ascertain the price they are charging.

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  • Los panes de Mama Juana

    Baking bread in Cajamarca

    Who doesn’t have cherished memories of the smell of freshly baked bread emerging from the oven, and slices of that bread warm in our hands, crisp and transporting in our mouths? Who can resist the temptation of that whole experience, which often arrives as one of our first childhood kitchen experiences?

    ABOUT MAMÁ JUANA I would like to share what I remember about the bread that my grandmother loved to make, and which we—her grandchildren—loved to eat! My grandmother’s name was Juana, but we called her affectionately “Mamá Juana”, for she was like our mother in more ways than I can count. She was with us before we were born and remained with us long after my mother (her eldest daughter) died. Mamá Juana herself was widowed just before my mother married. Following the traditions of Peru, then and now, my widowed grandmother accepted the invitation to live with her eldest daughter upon her marriage. And she did so with mutually shared happiness. So it was that we grew up seeing and helping my grandmother in all her endeavors. And we especially grew to love those days when we could help my grandmother prepare her amazing variety of panes (breads), a job that we loved for its delicious finale!

    GOING TO TÍA CAROLINA’S HOUSE My earliest remembrances come from the days when I saw Mamá Juana preparing the dough for her bread—bread that she would bake the following day. Throughout our childhood we knew that twice a month, on our “baking day”, my grandmother would rise very early to attend Sunday mass, and then walk to the house of my aunt (tía Carolina), taking with her the dough that she had made on the previous night.

    My Aunt Carolina lived seven blocks away with her parents,tio Isaías and tía Antonia, her husband, my uncle Elías Horna, and their daughter, Elsita, who was a few years older than me. The house of tía Carolina had a large horno, an outdoor oven made of adobe and shaped in the traditional manner, like a dome. It was in that horno that Mamá Juana baked her bread. On those baking days, after attending Sunday mass and school, my siblings and I would join our Mamá Juana for the last steps of making the bread, and we would spend the rest of that day at my Aunt’s house. There, my grandmother’s exquisite bread played a central role in a whole day of great and dramatic wonders: a superb lunch and supper prepared by tía Carolina, between which we immersed ourselves in hilarious family games, played in the patio of my aunt’s house. My father (papa Victor) led and orchestrated this train of activity and circus of bodies, grown-ups and children alike! We knew that after supper, we should expect a long and good sobremesa—an honored tradition in Peru where a family continues to gather round the dining table well-beyond the end of the meal, to listen to stories told by the grown-ups, and perhaps to play card games as well. And as all in life has an end, we sadly accepted that at the end of the day, we would depart from my aunt Carolina’s house and go back home. Most of the times it was late, around 10:00PM, when we left. My younger siblings, tired and sleepy, walked slowly, aided by our loving Mamá Juana. My parents carried the large basket of freshly baked bread, by its handles. Being the eldest child in the family, I walked alone, leading the way home with a wonderful feeling that the moon—most of the times shining in the middle of a dark sky—was following me! She walked with me, and moved at my pace; if I decided to walk faster she moved faster; if I stopped, she also stopped! It was a special, magical experience, just as all those precious moments of my childhood were for me! I loved my aunt Carolina, her profound kindness, and our days of baking in her house.

    SATURDAY NIGHT, AT HOME: COLLECTING AND MEASURING THE INGREDIENTS

    Though my memory is foggy when I try to remember how Mamá Juana made the dough on those Saturday evenings, what I do remember is that after supper and before we were sent to bed, my grandmother was already sitting down on a bench in a corner of our modest dining room. She had fitted herself with an apron, and the sleeves of her blouse were folded at the elbow: she was ready to make her beloved masa(dough). Before supper, we already observed the happy stirrings of preparation: our grandmother was very active, collecting what she needed for her masa: a sack of harina(flour), manteca (lard), huevos (eggs), agua (water), sal (salt),semilla de anis (anise seeds) and a smelly paste that she called levadura (which I now know was yeast). She calculated and measured each ingredient, using our tazas (cups),cucharas de palo (wooden spoons), cucharitas (teaspoons), and placing each of the ingredients in its respective container beside her. When some of us asked how she knew which ingredients to use and in what precise amounts, she smiled and said:  – Guess how many years I have been making bread? Well, just so you know: many years before you were born I was already making bread! – Who taught me? Nobody: I saw my mom making it and I learned by watching. – Who corrected me? I always measure with my eyes, my nose and my hands: they speak to me, seeing, smelling, touching and feeling the dough, telling me where I am right and where I am wrong.

    And she was right, her eyes, her nose and her hands never failed in helping her make wonderful bread!

    MAKING THE DOUGH To start making the dough, Mamá Juana would situate a large wooden batea (a hand-carved container, shaped like a boat) on sturdy boxes. Into this she would be sifting the flour, which she scooped from a sack on her right hand side, a sack reading “Harina Santa Rosa”. Close to her, she placed a big bowl full of fresh and unbroken eggs. In another bowl she had the manteca and a container with warm water to which she had already added salt. In a special little porcelain bowl she had the levadura (yeast), dissolved in warm water and sugar. According to my grandmother, the levadura was a most important, almost magical ingredient that helped the dough incorporate air, a condition necessary for the bread to achieve a soft consistency. I remember that our levadura came in a rectangular package wrapped in golden foil that had big letters in blue that said: Levadura Fleishmann (Fleishmann’s yeast). Resting on a little plate was another key ingredient: the semillas de anis, soaked in hot water, which were responsible for the subtle, sweet and delicious flavor of my grandmother’s panes.

    Using a wooden round cedazo (sifter), Mamá Juana would sift the flour into the batea, and I remember how the sifted flour would begin to pile up and up, into the shape of a mountain. Swiftly but carefully, my grandmother would make a crater in the summit of that mountain. In the bottom of the crater, she placed the egg whites and yolks, nimbly cracking the shells of each egg with only one hand. This was a skill that I never mastered. After that, she added the yeast dissolved with a little sugar in water, the anise seeds, and finally the lard. With all of the ingredients in the crater, she would then begin to mix, re-incorporating the flour little by little using both hands, back and forth and in circles. When all the flour was fully mixed-in, she started to work the dough, kneading it with force and skill. Sometimes she spread a little flour beneath the mix, and also on her hands to counter the stickiness. Once in a while she tasted the mix and sprinkled in salted water according to taste and texture. Her work was so energetic and rhythmic! Her eyes were all the time fixed on the dough, and her cheeks slowly became red and on her forehead beads of sweat began to form; but she kept working until little by little the mix became a mass of dough, compact and smooth. When the dough didn’t stick any more in the batea, a gleam would appear in my grandmother’s eyes, and a smile on her face indicated to us that she was satisfied with her work! Gently she made formed the dough into a ball, and covered the whole batea with two sheets. She said that the dough needed to keep warm and have enough time to rise, and she let it sleep until the following day.

    ON SUNDAY, AT AUNT CAROLINA’S HOUSE: WORKING THE DOUGH On Sunday, as soon as we arrived to aunt Carolina’s house, my sister and I flew to the dining room, where we knew Mamá Juana was making the bread, and waiting for our help. With powerful efficiency, she was working the dough on a low table covered with flour, her pink cheeks and her sweating forehead indicating nothing less than total concentration. As soon as she saw us, she smiled and ordered us to wash our hands. Then tía Carolina put an apron around each of us and made us sit down around the work-table. We were ready to be Grandmother’s assistants! She passed us small balls from a portion of dough that she had shaped into a roll. Our job was to flatten each ball on the floured table, turning it around and upside down, so as to create small circles half of an inch thick. We tried hard, but often instead of circles, strange shapes came from our hands, shapes that Mamá Juana nevertheless gladly accepted and placed alongside her beautiful panes, laying ready on greased tin trays. Slowly we saw how all our tin trays were being filled with our panes. I remember that she always reserved some dough for the end, and used this to create beautiful shapes that we loved: she made puguitos (little doves), bollos (baby dolls) and roscas (rings of bread). These were her special gifts to us, and we cherished them!

    BAKING OUR PANES Once we had all the tin trays full of bread, Mamá Juana asked us to help her carry them to the oven. She led the way with two tin trays, one in each hand, and we followed, bearing a single tray in both hands. When we reached the threshold of the kitchen, we saw in the corner of the zaguán (an outdoor corridor) and just in front of the kitchen doorway, our beloved horno (oven) already hot, and ready to receive our bread. Mamá Juana and my aunt Carolina had stoked the oven early in the morning putting ramas secas de eucalipto(dry eucalyptus branches) inside, and lighting them with a dried tusa (corn husk) soaked in kerosene and tied to one end of a long stick. When we arrived, the burning branches were already coals that had been swept toward the back and the sides of the oven with a big broom made by tía Carolina using branches of retama (Scotch broom), a plant that grows abundantly in the surroundings of Cajamarca. We knew what that all this had occurred because both tools were leaning against the oven: the corn husk partially burned and the broom of retama, displaying its branches covered with ashes. The heat that came from the oven was so intense that Mamá Juana preferred to bake our bread from a distance. Using a “paleta de hornear” (a wooden bakers trowel), she introduced trays one by one into the adobe oven. When the oven had received all the trays it could hold, Mamá Juana closed the small window of the oven by covering it with a large piece of tin.

    WAITING, AND ENJOYING OUR PANES After Mamá Juana sealed the oven, there came the time of waiting. She continued checking the bread from time to time by peering over the oven door. As time progressed a subtle but delicious smell came to our nose that made our mouths water, and we waited in anticipation of the moment when the bread would be in our hands. And finally the moment arrived! Our hearts soared when we saw Mamá Juana taking a big basket down and placing it close to the oven. She had lined the basket with a sheet so that it would be clean and ready to receive the warm bread. After that she proceeded to open the oven window and once again manuevered the paleta de hornear. With the wooden trowel she carefully lifted out each tin tray. And on those trays were the most beautiful paneswe had ever seen. They were golden in color and their smell—fresh, strong, wheaty, sweet, delicious—remained with us for the rest of our lives!

    With every freshly baked tray of breads, my grandmother would hold the hot tin with a piece of thick cloth in each hand. Shacking the tray, she slid the bread down and into the basket. The sound that their falling made was magical: it reminded me of el sonido de truenos (thunder), which I had often heard in the distance. Ready though we were to eat this pan, we first needed Mamá Juana’s approval, which only came after the bread had had time to cool down a little, and she herself had tested the bread. (We were told that eating hot bread was bad, because it could give us colico, a deep stomach pain impossible to endure). So we waited for Mamá Juana’s permission. Immediately upon receiving her blessing, we ran to the basket. How can I describe the joy that we felt having the first piece of bread in our mouths? Its warmth, its sound in our mouths when we broke its corteza (crust), its anise taste, and its texture! It is impossible to describe it with words! We felt it and loved it so much! So much so, that even now without any doubt, I can declare that los panes de Mamá Juana were the most delicious bread I have ever eaten! They are still in my memory and in my heart!

    Mamá Doris

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  • Cult Wines

    Let me relate a story about a phone call I received at work a number of years ago. The call came around 8:30pm, right in the heart of the evening when the restaurant was at its busiest. To top things off, it was on a Saturday night.

    This place where I used to work served between 700-1000 dinner covers a night. Diners were encouraged to take guided tours of the kitchen and wine cellar after their meals, therefore the space in the rear of the restaurant, where the cellar and kitchen were located, was often teeming. The counterpoint between heavily-laden, zigzagging servers intermingling with hundreds of sated, wide-eyed customers was fascinating to behold. I once thought of filming this flow of food and humanity, then playing it back at varying speeds and putting it to music. Perhaps the opening scene from Verdi’s “Rigoletto” would have been appropriate. Opera is often apropos in chaotic situations. So, in the midst of the restaurant’s cacophony, I’m told I have a phone call. It’s difficult to hear someone standing in front of me, let alone a distant voice on the phone, and I have to cup my hand over my free ear in order to ascertain what’s being said. It went something like this:
    “Are you the sommelier?”
    “Yes,” I bellow.
    “We’re coming to dine in a few weeks. How much is your Screaming Eagle Cabernet?” (Right from the start, I have a pretty good idea where the conversation is heading).
    “I’m sorry, but we don’t carry Screaming Eagle, although we have many other similar American Cabernets.”
    “Geez, I thought you had the world’s largest wine list!(Obvious angst combines with an anguished sigh). We’re coming all the way from Barrow (Alaska?! Maybe he’s saying Fargo or Vero) and we really wanted to try that wine. I guess you’re not all you’re cracked up to be.”
    (This is just what I need. Telephone abuse from a Cult Wine Trophy Hunter in the middle of Saturday night service. I remain unflappable).
    “Well, I think you’ll find we have a few bottles that might suffice as replacements. I don’t have too much time to chat at the moment, but just ask for me when you come in.”
    “We’ll do that. In the meantime, think of something we’d like, and try to keep us around $150, OK?”
    (The comedic side of our repartee has now struck a crescendo. Doesn’t this sharpster know that Screaming Eagle costs over $1,000 a bottle?)
    “Will do, sir. Bah-bye.”

    The crazed pursuit of cult wines isn’t really a new concept. Collectors have always sought after rare Bordeaux and Burgundies. But it’s only been in the last 20 years or so that the prices of certain American cabernet-based wines have left gravitational pull and reached the outer limits.

    The crazed pursuit of cult wines isn’t really a new concept. Collectors have always sought after rare Bordeaux and Burgundies. But it’s only been in the last 20 years or so that the prices of certain American cabernet-based wines have left gravitational pull and reached the outer limits. There are numerous wines that fit this profile, but some of the most sought-after bottlings include (alphabetically) Araujo, Bond, Bryant, Colgin, Dalla Valle, Grace, Harlan Estate, Leonetti, Lokoya, Screaming Eagle and Shafer Hillside Select. I’ve tasted the majority of these offerings and have found them to be generally excellent, made and then marketed with loving care. My displeasure has never been with the wines themselves, but with the hype that accompanies them. They’re highly allocated and are offered at such elevated prices that they’ve become apparitions, ghosts to chase after or tell stories about. Lauded and revered, but rarely consumed. To me, that’s not what wine is about. I’ve reached a point in my career where famous labels seldom faze me. I find myself leaning in the opposite direction, stalking small wines with little or no notoriety. I love being thrilled by a $10-20 bottle from Utter Nowheresville. I’ll devote a column soon to these jewels. We’ll call it Cult Wines for the Common Man.

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  • The unsung heroes of my town: My Aunt Estelita

    I am sure that all of us keep clear and vivid images in our memory of the people, places, and experiences that deeply impacted us when we were children, and that continue being part of our lives, influencing the way we act in and see the world. I am convinced that the people and experiences of our childhood contribute to shaping our personality and making us who we are.

    Among the individuals who left a profound impression upon me, and who taught me invaluable lessons of endurance, acceptance and perseverance, was my dear aunt Estela (tía Estelita), whose life continues being a source of inspiration for me, and for all the people who knew her.

    Piecing together everything that I remember about my dear aunt, I arrived at the following portrait, which I hope does justice to her life and honors the path that she left for all of us to follow.

    HER BACKGROUND: My aunt Estelita was my mother’s younger cousin. She was the eldest daughter of eight children of my uncle Ulysses (tío Ulises), my grandfather’s first cousin. Both my uncle Ulysses and my grandfather made their livings in one of the traditional shilico trades, selling hats throughout the region of the Amazon, where they traveled on mules and boats as far as Iquitos in the northern Peruvian jungle, and Manaos in Brazil. My grandfather died young and suddenly, poisoned by a snake or a plant while in the jungle (in truth nobody knows what really happened), leaving my grandmother to raise their two daughters. When one of those daughters (my mother) married my father, they all moved to Cajamarca, where they would live for the rest of their lives. The other daughter (my mother’s sister, tía Dalila) remained in the small village of Jose Galvez (in Celendin) with her husband and four boys.

    After working many years as a travelling merchant, my uncle Ulysses chose to leave Jose Galvez, and moved his family to Cajamarca, where he established a prosperous and successful business and purchased a piece of land on what were then the outskirts of Cajamarca, around a place called Bellavista. There he built a beautiful house and had a dairy farm that provided milk to the international Nestle Co., and made delicious butter for sale to the city residents.

    So it was that my aunt Estelita grew up in Cajamarca, where she studied to become an Elementary School teacher. When she was still a young lady, she and her father became my godparents, responding to the request made by my parents. I became my aunt Estelita’s godchild, and she, my godmother—an honor that I still carry with me!

    When I was ready to enter elementary school, she was already teaching first grade at St. Teresa’s (el Colegio Nacional de Santa Teresita), a school run by Catholic nuns, mostly from Spain. This was the same school that, to my good fortune, I was scheduled to attend, and more important than that, I knew that she, my aunt and godmother, was going to be my teacher! For a 6 year old girl, new to school, and new to all that this brings, having her beloved aunt and godmother as her teacher was not only wonderful, but also a source of great pride and joy. Few girls had such a tremendous privilege, and yet I was one of them!

    HER MANNER: My first impressions of my aunt’s manner and physical character are strongly connected with my first day of school. That morning, we walked together from my home to the school, my hand in hers. My aunt had graciously accepted my mother’s request that she come to our home to pick me up and take me with her to school on my first day. Since her house and ours were only a block apart, this made it all the easier. During our walk, I had time to observe my aunt, from my position near to the level of her waist. She walked with a rhythmic grace and elegance, moving her skirt from side to side, and showing me how easy it was to walk on her fashionable medium high-heeled black shoes. Her hands were so smooth, with beautifully shaped and polished nails, and as we walked I felt that my hand moved in time with hers, in a gracious back and forth rhythm. From that day forward, and during all my childhood, I tried to imitate her way of walking, though I never mastered it!

    My aunt was elegant and beautiful; she also dressed beautifully, and not only on that first occasion. All her life, in good times as well as bad, she presented herself to the world and to others in a manner you could not forget. When we made our way to school on that first day, she looked like a ballerina, slender with a tiny waist highlighted by a beautiful shining belt that surrounded it. Her neck was long and graceful, covered by wavy, shining black hair that fell over her shoulders. She wore a peach silk blouse with long, ample sleeves whose cuffs, tied around her wrists, allowed the sleeves to wave graciously with the breeze. With her I felt I was also a kind of princess, ready to defy the whole world! Her brown eyes, her nose and mouth were beautifully proportioned and reflected not only youth, but also a profound sweetness and kindness, and something that, being a young girl, I couldn’t quite understand. But I felt it! It was like a gleam that surrounded her. I felt so good, so secure and so at peace in her company! Later in life I realized that this mysterious characteristic was her soul, a soul manifest in her whole appearance, and in that mysterious gleam! It was her inner beauty that was part of her nature, and it never abandoned her, even through her final years.

    HER LIFE: When she became my teacher, she was 21 years old, and judging by my own observations and by what my family said, life was smiling at her! She had everything that any young woman could have: youth, intelligence, kindness, beauty. Being a daughter of a well-to-do father she even owned an automobile, which her father had given to her. And she was in love with a handsome high school teacher who belonged to a respectable family. Besides that, she was considered by parents and children alike as a great school teacher. Her students adored her: she was kind, sweet, and patient. She was gifted in art and especially enjoyed painting nature and using watercolors. I still remember several pictures painted by her that hung on the walls of her parents’ living room. They were beautiful!

    But her life was soon to change. Without warning, and just as she was entering the height of her youth and happiness, something came and stole all that life had given to her in abundance. When my aunt was in her middle twenties, a dull pain began to overtake every joint in her body. It came slowly and periodically. As time progressed, the pain grew in intensity and soon other symptoms appeared. All her joints became swollen, to the point that she couldn’t move any of them without acute pain. All of us—her parents, her partner, her colleagues, her students, all the community of Cajamarca—saw what was happening, and we were shocked and bewildered! Many questions came to our mind, many causes were considered. But none of them explained what we were witnessing. What was happening to her?! Why? What could possibly be happening in her body, such that little by little she was losing the ability to feed herself, to dress herself, to comb her hair? Why, especially when the cycles of the moon changed, did her pain become more intense? What kind of disease was trapping her and denying her hope for either relief or a cure?

    My uncle Ulysses took my aunt Estelita to Peru’s largest cities: Trujillo, Arequipa, and Lima, so that doctors could begin to understand what was happening, and try to provide a diagnosis of her disease. None of the doctors were clear or secure in their answers. Many of them believed that it was a rare kind of rheumatism or arthritis that was affecting her joints, not only producing pain and swelling, but also deforming those joints, making it impossible for my aunt to perform simple tasks. Saddened and overwhelmed by the enormity of the tragedy, we witnessed how her feet, ankles, hands, wrists stiffened into rigidity, with prominent and painful nodes. Looking for a miracle or a magic potion, my uncle took my aunt to be seen by the native healers (chamanes), integral members of indigenous communities in Peru’s northern coast and jungle. Nothing worked, however, and my aunt returned to Cajamarca to endure her life’s trial.

    Then another kind of pain struck her: this time a tearing pain in her heart and soul! Her boyfriend, who had visited her often throughout her entire ordeal and diagnostic travels, and who had brought with him whatever rays of light and hope he could, had received a teaching scholarship to Venezuela for a period of three months. They both saw this award as a wonderful and rare opportunity for him to learn more, and so he travelled to Lima to apply for a passport and prepare for his journey. But while in Lima, as he was crossing a busy downtown street, he was hit by a car and killed instantly. IT is hard to imagine the effect on my aunt. All who surrounded her feared for her reaction, seeing how deeply the loss of her love might hurt her! But nobody truly knew the strength of her soul.

    HER SOUL: There is no doubt that the character of human beings is measured by their attitude and response in the face of adversity. During those cruel years of persistent pain and the impossibility of caring for her bodily self, no one ever heard from the mouth of my aunt Estelita any kind of complaint, any blasphemy or any harsh word, any indignation toward the seeming injustice and pain that life dealt her. Her endurance, her poise and her dignity stirred us all into awe and profound admiration.

    As we continued to visit her, we saw how well, how nobly and with what strength she managed and accepted her pain, and how—magically, magnificently—she continued to be deeply concerned for the welfare of others, for all of us whose pains were dwarfed in relation to hers. We realized that the human spirit is great indeed, capable of moving beyond tremendous adversity, and able to help others by doing so. She was great in her pain, and beautiful in projecting the nobility and dignity of her nature at all times. For us she was a saint and an inspiration!

    HER CURE: After many years during which my uncle Ulysses searched for a cure, travelling the world, pursuing any possibility that might alleviate the chronic pain of his daughter, news arrived by way of a medical journal that in Germany, at a certain clinic, a diet based on medicinal herbs was offering some hope to patients suffering the same illness as my aunt Estelita’s. Without any hesitation, my uncle took my aunt to the clinic in Germany, and there, for a period of two years, under a strict diet, she started to see and to feel changes. The swelling in her joints diminished, and more important than that, her chronic pain was slowly going away. Her deformed joints remained the same, but she felt that life had welcomed her again!

    HER LIFE AFTER GERMANY: Once she was back in Peru, my aunt decided to move to Lima, where the climate was warmer than in Cajamarca. Her joints were still sensitive to the changes of temperature and to the changes of lunar cycles, both of which were more strongly felt in Cajamarca than in Lima. In Lima, her recovery was not easy, as it required from her strong doses of patience and perseverance. It was very difficult for her to begin to walk again, to move her joints after being immobile for so long a time. We saw how she sweat, the patience she displayed, taking small steps every day. We saw how difficult it was for her to hold a spoon and eat by herself, but she never gave up! She refused—gently, but firmly—any help we offered, as she was determined to start to manage her own life, which eventually she did. Again, during all the months and years of her recovery, we never saw her angry or upset. She had a strong will and that paid her back. And then, one day, she proudly announced that she was finally able to do things by herself, and that she was ready to teach again. And she did just that! She returned to teaching not in a school close to home, where it would have been easiest for her to go. Instead, she chose a specific school in one of Lima’s poorest neighborhoods, far from her house. She wanted to help those children who needed help most, offering them hope for a better life. She knew that poor children needed to strengthen their spirit to fight all kinds of adversity, and some of this adversity she had known in person. From that point on, my aunt Estelita spent many years of her life waking up very early in the morning so as to have enough time to dress herself, to walk slowly to the bus station, and still arrive on time, before her students. She did all this, and not without significant difficulty. Nevertheless, every time we visited her, we saw a human being at peace, serene, happy and satisfied!

    She spent the last years of her life in the coastal city of Trujillo, where she and her sisters had a house. And, believe it or not, she decided to return to her painting! She made beautiful paintings, bright and colorful, that spoke of the way she saw life, full of hope and opportunities. Her later paintings have more meaning than her earlier ones, and they are her most beautiful!

    The last time that I saw her was eight years ago, when my husband, our three sons and I paid her a visit at her home in Trujillo. She was in a wheel chair, but her whole presence projected such dignity and happiness that she left deep impressions on my children and my husband. To my bewilderment, I saw in her the same gleam that I perceived when I was a tiny girl. My children and my husband perceived it as well. In her old age, with her joints shaped by illness and age, she was still beautiful! Her beauty came from her innermost self. My aunt Estelita brought to all of us something special: a deep respect and admiration for her, and a sense of peace and serenity in ourselves. I think it was the power and projection of her soul that made us feel this way. In her presence, we realized that the beauty of one’s soul never goes away. It leaves its mark and remains forever.

    My aunt died three years ago in her sleep: serene, at peace and happy with her life.

    I write this in her honor and for every person like my aunt Estelita! They are examples of the greatness of the human spirit, which, by defying adversity, transforms individuals into our unsung, but most valuable heroes!

    Mama Doris

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  • Burgundy, Part One

    I’ve written about Burgundy numerous times in previous columns. It’s the region I’ve visited the most in France, and its wines are amongst the most complex on the planet.

    Trying to make heads or tails of Burgundy is truly exasperating. It’s the simplest, yet most confusing, of all the world’s wine regions. Simple insofar as only two grapes are used for making fine wines; confusing because the area’s vineyards, some of which are located only yards apart, can produce wines that taste completely different from one another. This place is a complete enigma.

     

        Five wine regions have the right to call their product Burgundy: Chablis, the Côte d’Or (comprising the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune), the Côte Chalonnaise, the Maconnais and Beaujolais. Across this breadth of appellations and crus, or growths, the wines are produced almost entirely from two red grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Gamay, and one white, the Chardonnay.

     

    Today’s piece will concentrate on the most famous names from the Côte d’Or, or Golden Slope. An upcoming column will feature the many lesser-known vineyards and towns producing bottles of both high quality and good value.

    Burgundy’s vineyards begin about 90 miles southeast of Paris and extend southward as far as Lyons. The quality levels (which apply to both white and red wines) and short explanations of the styles of each appellation are as follows:
    Quality Levels: BOURGOGNE: The most basic of all Burgundy appellations, this designation can be used anywhere throughout the region. It is therefore necessary to note on the label where the grapes were grown and bottled, and by whom, to determine the style. VILLAGE: Wines that come from a particular town. Often made from young vines or flatland plots near the main road, village wines are often fine values from attentive producers. PREMIER CRU: Named vineyards with good exposure, giving up wines that have proven their quality over time. In this taster’s estimation, the top Premier Cru vineyards produce the truest expressions of flavors and aromas that each Burgundian village offers. GRAND CRU: The very best hillside vineyards, known for producing wines of great stature and longevity. Very expensive, and occasionally, well worth their price.

    Côte de Nuits: GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN: Home to eight Grand Crus. Sturdy, well-constructed reds are made here, highly flavored and distinctive. Top Premier Crus: Cazetiers, Clos St. Jacques. MOREY-ST.-DENIS: Medium-bodied, aromatic reds. Not that well known, therefore reasonably priced. Best recognized for its five Grand Cru vineyards. Difference in quality between Village and Premier Cru wines here is atypically minimal. CHAMBOLLE-MUSIGNY: More chalky soils with less clay produce stylish reds marked by finesse rather than strength. Home to the incomparable Grand Crus, Bonnes Mares and Musigny. Top Premier Crus: Amoureuses, Charmes. VOUGEOT: Smallest commune in the Côte d’Or. The majority of land under vine falls within the Grand Cru, Clos de Vougeot, which is the most fragmented vineyard in Burgundy with more than 80 separate owners. VOSNE-ROMANEE: Truly the star commune of the Côte de Nuits, boasting eight Grand Crus, including the highly-prized wines of the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. Suave, complex reds combining charm and power. Top Premier Crus: Beaux Monts, Aux Brulees, Malconsorts. NUITS-ST.-GEORGES: If the wines of Chambolle are perceived as feminine, then those from Nuits-St.-Georges must be thought of as masculine. Hard, tannic and even stern in youth, these reds need many years in bottle to show their best. Many excellent Premier Crus.

    Côte du Beaune: ALOXE-CORTON: Home for the Grand Cru vineyards Le Corton (red) and Corton-Charlemagne (white). The Grand Crus from Corton are among the best values (relatively speaking) in Burgundy. Extremely long-lived and important wines. Village and Premier Cru reds are light and lively, sometimes tasting of strawberries. BEAUNE: The commercial and historical capital of Burgundy and base for many famous houses. The city is surrounded by numerous exceptional Premier Cru plots, which produce wines that are well-priced, within context. Top Premier Crus: Bressandes, Greves, Marconnets, Teurons. POMMARD: Reds with depth and class, some bigger and more tannic than others. There are good village wines, but try to seek out the Premier Crus here, especially bottlings from Epenots and Rugiens. VOLNAY: Quintessential Côte de Beaune. Smooth, lush and refined but with the backbone to age decades. Great pinot noir. Top Premier Crus: Caillerets, Clos des Chenes, Santenots. MEURSAULT: Chardonnay begins in earnest here. Complex, medium-bodied whites that can be nutty, spicy and citrusy all at once. Top Premier Crus: Charmes, Genevrieres, Perrieres. PULIGNY-MONTRACHET: The Grand Cru whites made in this region are monumental chardonnays, needing 10+ years in good vintages to show their true stuff. The Village and Premier Cru bottlings are more accessible (and far less expensive), marked by elegance and sweet fruit. No reds made. Top Premier Crus: Combettes, Folatieres. CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET: Similar to above, but fuller, more rustic and powerful whites. The reds made here are not well known, but are consistently good values, especially from Premier Cru vineyards such as Clos St.Jean and Morgeots.

    Upcoming column: Lesser-known Burgundies, at (somewhat) affordable prices.

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  • Reflexiones sobre Andina en su noveno Aniversario

    As the years pass, I feel that time runs faster and faster—I can’t believe that Andina is already nine years old! On Fathers Day of 2003, Andina opened its doors, and the rest, as they say, is history. Except that the story goes on, and with the same joys and challenges of which we were so utterly ignorant at that time. We knew nothing of what confronts a new business, let alone a restaurant in the hands of a family—my own—who had never managed more than itself. We were, however, fully motivated by the dreams and visions of our son, Peter; dreams that found the right circumstances, the right soil in which to envision and realize Andina as an ambassador of Peruvian food and culture. Looking back on how we started and where we are now, my only explanation for our survival and growth is that Andina was somehow meant to be. And for unknown and mysterious reasons our family is part of that “meant to be.” Why and what for? Who knows?

    One thing that my family and I have come to know over the nine years of living the daily reality of running a restaurant is that aims and hopes can come true only when there are other people who genuinely believe in and share those dreams, and are willing to place their skills and knowledge in the service of a mutual cause. Andina depends upon each member of our staff, but also on the loyal customers who consistently come with others to experience and enjoy glimpses of Peru by way of what Andina has to offer.

    For all that the restaurant has achieved in these nine years, all the members of my family offer their thanks to our staff and clients, each of whom are—everyday—helping us create something of which they themselves are the vital heart. They are the ones who inspire us to bring out the best in ourselves and the best of Peru’s food and culture. Perhaps you don’t know how much your support means to us. You are helping us to put forward the name of our country Peru, and of Latin America generally, to a vast number of people inside and outside the Portland community. With your understanding and appreciation of other cultures and our care for those cultures and their cuisines, we are together uniting two different places that respect and appreciate each other, making this part of the world a better place in which to live. Some day we will see the fruits of what we sow.

    Remembering the early days of Andina, I think of all the proverbial water that has flowed under our bridge and I can’t believe how far we have walked! I remember when we literally didn’t know how to gracefully open and pour a bottle of wine, and our profound embarrassment when on several occasions we needed to pay for the wine-stained skirts and jackets of our guests. Or when we hired the majority of our servers based simply on their capacity to speak Spanish, overlooking their relative experience in serving, and suffering of course the consequences of our “style of hiring”. Or, assuming that the job of the expediter would take care of itself, and that each table’s orders would be called and cooked so as to be ready at the same time, we presented dishes that were wrong both in time and in temperature: warm plates came out cold, and cold dishes came out at room temperature, to the bewilderment of our guests. Or when we asked all of our servers to wear a uniform consisting of a colorful semi-traditional Peruvian vest, of poor quality and taste, brought at the last minute by our chefs from Peru.

    I could write at length about those days riddled with errors and confusion, and underwritten in part by our naiveté and ignorance. Thank goodness we learned! I get goose bumps and feel ashamed every time I recall the most egregious of our follies.

    With such a start, we carry a very large measure of humility and understanding, which have served us well. So too have laughter and a sense of humor and wonder, not only at how Andina survived but also how it transformed itself into a destination for so many people who wish to experience what Andina has worked so hard to provide. How many aspects of our actions needed to be corrected and changed to make Andina the place that it is now?

    Translated into the language we use in the restaurant world, here is a recipe with the ingredients that I think has made Andina an appetizing place:
    INGREDIENTS: – 1 quart of good quality dreams and visions – ½ cup of naivety – ½ cup of blindness – 1 quart of risk – 1 gallon of experience – 1 cup of endurance – 1 cup of close study – 1 cup of patience – 1 tablespoon each of confidence and enthusiasm – Generous sprinkling of humor and pride
    To garnish—many bunches of smart staff In case of burning, an extinguisher full of cool headedness.
    METHOD Mix well the dreams, naiveté, blindness and risk, and when peaks have formed, add experience. Heat them slowly with perseverance. Incorporate study, patience and endurance, taking care to avoid the extreme heat of anguish and frustration. If too hot, extinguish it quickly with levelheaded calm. To bring out the right consistency, add confidence, and steam it in the spirit and soul of human generosity and a central mission. Taste the flavor—add enthusiasm and humor to taste. When the mix of dreams and reality coalesce as desired, it is ready to be plated.
    PLATING: Place in the center of each guest’s curiosity, garnish with generosity, drops of genuine pride, and present alongside a smart server.

    In this ninth Anniversary of Andina we salute and honor Peru, a country whose people inspired our mission; we honor all of our wonderful staff and loyal clients that continue to make Andina and its mission possible.

    With gratitude,

    Mama Doris

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  • Vintage Chart

    One of the most popular pieces of information you can get from the wine media, at least from the standpoint of repeat usage, is the vintage chart. We generally put out a revised vintage chart each year, featuring the latest and greatest. In actuality, we haven’t featured one since the summer of 2010. So, here goes, and please excuse the tardiness:

    Our 15-year chart is solely for red wines, and this time around will comprise the years 1996-2010. The notes are for bottled and distributed wines only, not barrel samples. It will include only major regions, in the following categories: Best, Really Good, Pretty Good, Just OK. We’ll also occasionally indicate Overrated or Underrated. As always, please remember this is general information and open to interpretation.

     

    California CabernetBest:

         2007, superb wines that should age for many years to come.

    Really Good:

         2006, 2004, 2002, 2001, 1999.

    Pretty Good:

         2008, 2005, 1997, 1996.

    Just OK:

         2003, 2000, 1998.

    Overrated:

         1997. They are juicy and friendly, but in some cases already on the other side of their apex, so I don’t foresee a great aging curve. They will rarely outlive the 1994s, for example.

    Not tasted yet:

         2009, 2010.

     

    Bordeaux (Right Bank: St. Emilion and Pomerol. Left Bank: Medoc.) Best: 1998 (Right Bank). Memorable merlot from St.-Emilion, getting better each year. 1996 (Left Bank), gorgeous cabernet from the Medoc. They’ve not yet reached their peak. Really Good: 2009 (I’ve tasted a few inexpensive bottlings, and they exceeded my expectations), 2005 (these wines are really excellent, across the board), 2001 (just as good as 2000 in my humble opinion), 2000, 1995. Pretty Good: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2002, 1998 (Left), 1996 (Right). Just OK: 2003 (I still haven’t tasted one I truly liked. They’re just too tannic and rough), 1999, 1997. Overrated: 2000. I believe many of the 2001′s are nearly as good and priced much more realistically. Not tasted yet: 2009 top growths, 2010.

    Burgundy Best: 2002. I can’t remember tasting a bottle from this vintage I didn’t like. Many are just superb. Balanced and drinkable early, they will improve dramatically with age. Right behind is 1999, when beautiful wines were made across the entire region, and they, too, are only going to get better. Right behind 2002′s quality come the wines from 2005. Many of the Premier Crus are really young, tight and tannic, although the Village wines are drinking well already. The press was right (for a change): this vintage is great. Really Good: 2005, 1999, 1996 (still have some tannins to shed). Pretty Good: 2009 (way over-hyped, with overripe fruit, soft tannins and high alcohol), 2008 (lean and linear, but with vivid fruit), 2007 (light and extremely pleasant pinot), 2001, 2000, 1997. Just OK: 2006, 2004, 2003, 1998. Not tasted yet: 2010 (although I’ve had a few Bourgogne Rouges and village wines that showed extremely well early).

    Rhone Best: 2001 (South) and 1999 (North). Really Good: 2010 (amazing Cháteauneuf-du-Pape, with crazy-good acids and balance), 2006 (top-flight vintage, with plenty of verve, along with great fruit), 2005, 2004, 2001 (S), 2000 (S), 1999 (S), 1998 (S), 1997 (N). Pretty Good: 2009 (big, rich and powerful), 2008, 2007 (S), 2003, 2001 (N), 2000 (N), 1998 (N) 1996. Just OK: 2002 (horrible rains), 1997 (S). Overrated: The 2003 vintage was totally over-lauded in the press. I’ve found them alcoholic, tannic and distinctly dry. I’ve also added Southern 2007′s to this section. The wine press has touted them as being the best thing since the horseless carriage, but they’re heavy, rich, creamy and alcoholic to my taste. Underrated: The 2004 vintage is both balanced and clean in its profile, yet true to terroir. They are excellent food wines.

    Piedmont Best: 2001 and 1998. The 2001′s are nearly flawless across the board, and will have a strong upside potential. As for 1998′s, there is an incredible symmetry between fruit, tannins and acid. Drinking well now. Really Good: 2008, 2006, 2005, 2004 (just excellent wines here), 2000, 1999 (still quite tannic), 1997, 1996. Pretty Good: 2007. Just OK: 2003 (too hot), 2002 (bad rains). Overrated: 2007, with chunky and somewhat clunky fruit. Underrated: 1996, which may be just as good as 1998, but with a rougher tannic kick. Not yet tasted: Barolos and Barbarescos from 2009 and 2010. The Dolcettos and Barberas from both vintages have been delicious.

    Tuscany Best: 1997. For once, the hype is real. Brilliant, and aging beautifully. Really Good: 2007 (juicy and well balanced), 2006 (just coming into their own now), 2005, 2004 (maybe great), 2001, 1999. Pretty Good: 2003, 1998. Just OK: 2002, 2000, 1996. Overrated: 2003. Still searching for the fruit in some of these. Underrated: 1998. Not tasted yet: 2009, 2010.

    I’ll cut the years in half, from 2002 through 2010, and address my favorite vintages from some other regions, alphabetically:

    Argentina: 2006. Australia: 2006. Chile: 2006. Oregon Pinot Noir: 2008 (these will be seamless as the years go by). Loire:2002. Priorato: 2004 (2007 not far behind).Languedoc/Roussillon: 2004. Portugal: 2007. Ribera del Duero: 2004. Rioja: 2004. South Africa: 2003. Washington State: 2003 (keep an eye out for the new 2010s).

    A couple of white wine notes: 2010 was a great vintage in northern France. Loire, Burgundy and Alsace made clean, classic wines. This can be said for Oregon whites as well. In addition, everything I’ve tasted from 2009 in South America has been amazingly bright and beautifully colored.

    Here’s a reminder I attach to each one of these charts: Buy from producers you like, regardless of vintage. The best winemakers make good wines in average vintages and great wines in good vintages. Poor winemakers make mediocre wine, all the time.

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  • El rol de las madres en nuestra comida

    Recently, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Condè Nast Traveler magazine published articles related to Peru and its gastronomy, echoing what world-famous chefs have said about it in recent years. According to these multiple voices, Peruvian cuisine is not only becoming part of the scene of international fine dining, it also promises to be a leader in world gastronomy.

    The articles appeared in the wake of visits to Peru by famous chefs like Ferrán Adria of Spain, and Daniel Patterson of the USA. These chefs had traveled to Peru to attend one of the hemisphere’s largest Gastronomic Festivals, which for four years running, has animated and mobilized one of the hemisphere’s largest cities, Lima. The September festival is called Mistura, and for seven days, Peruvians and foreigners, poor and rich, young and adult, simple and sophisticated eaters, have the opportunity to taste and enjoy an impressive variety of Peruvian dishes, cooked and displayed on-site, in an area of downtown Lima that increases in size with each new festival. At Mistura you can find and indulge in all kinds of food: street fare and food from Peru’s ubiquitous picanterias (humble eateries where often the mother of a family is the official cook, for guests and family alike); but also dishes and presentations from the finest Peruvian restaurants. You can enjoy traditional dishes, as well as regional dishes or novo-Andean dishes; all of them in a rainbow of colors and flavors, some of fresh seafood and fish, others from the Andean region or from the jungle. Most remarkable of all, perhaps, is that each and every dish seems to be accessible to all guests. Last September, Mistura was located in the Parque de la Exposición, where hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the culinary affair.

    Mistura is the creation of one of the most famous Peruvian chefs, Gastón Acurio, who organizes and executes the event in collaboration with many other luminaires and talents of Peru’s gastronomical scene. Acurio, a fine chef, educated in the Cordon Blue of Paris, has long stated that his mission is to make Peruvian food—and in turn, Peru itself—known and esteemed throughout the world. In 2010, on the eve of Mistura, he noted ‘Que la gastronomía esté presente como un producto peruano en el corazón de la gente en el mundo significa el inicio de un camino diferente’ (“That our cuisine—as a uniquely Peruvian product—now resides in the hearts of people around the world, represents the beginning of a new path.”)

    Lately many Peruvian restaurants are spreading in different parts of the world. Gastón Acurio has established Peruvian restaurants in such different countries as: Chile, Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain, México and, most recently, in the U.S. Just as interesting and encouraging is the fact that our gastronomy—and the cultural treasure it represents—is blossoming in Peru, among Peruvians. Peruvian youth, long accustomed to the tradition of choosing a career as an engineer, doctor or lawyer, now look to cooking school and the life of a chef in their dreams to build a successful career. And their desires and dreams have moved other Peruvians to realize that our cuisine, in its regional variety and myriad flavors, is unique, and worthy of the celebration the world has given it. This cultural awakening is a source of pride and excitement.

    Andina was founded in 2003, just at the beginning of the food boom in Peru, and enjoys the same pride and the same excitement when we see how warmly the people of Portland and the Pacific Northwest have received the introduction of Peruvian food and culture.

    Reflecting on our food and its recent fame, I wonder and ask myself many questions, such as: Did the quality and the flavor of Peruvian food change lately? What kind of food did we have before the world decided upon its greatness? Why and how has it come about that Peruvian chefs are now considered among the most skilled and creative in the world? Who taught them? Where did they find inspiration? What distinguishes their dishes, their menus, the flavors of the food they prepare? Why does their food look so fresh, simple and bold?

    After many theoretical conjectures, I alighted upon a set of simple but plausible hypotheses that answer these questions, and confirm sentiments born of experience and observation.

    Peru’s exquisite food is the result of the blessings of an equatorial climate, which provides the country with days and nights of the same length nearly all year round, enabling the growth of its regional crops: crops that grow in the warm, temperate and cold valleys of the Andes, and include such plants as potatoes, corn, hot peppers, quinoa, tubers and herbs—which are the bases of the traditional Peruvian diet. Thanks again to nature, a stream of cold water (the Humboldt current) passes northward along the Peruvian coast, thus creating in our ocean the ideal conditions for plankton that attract fish and all sea life. This is why such wonderful dishes of fresh fish and seafood are so prevalent in our Peruvian diet, past and present.

    Another factor that contributes to the excellence of our Peruvian food is the cultural wealth that Peru has amassed throughout its history. The diet of the indigenous people of ancient Peru, based upon Andean crops and fish, changed with the introduction of new techniques and ingredients brought by the Spaniards in the XVI Century. The Spanish diet was itself thoroughly influenced by Moorish culture and cuisine. As Spanish trade increased and the coastal cities of colonial Peru grew, the arrival of slaves from west Africa would soon enrich the cuisine with some of contemporary Peru’s most celebrated dishes. In the decades after Peru won its independence in the early XIX Century, Chinese and Japanese emigrants arrived, bringing their own ingredients and their own style of cooking, contributing indelibly to the vocabulary of current Peruvian cuisine. And during the XX Century, Peruvian cuisine grew even richer with the incorporation of Italian, Jewish, and French traditions.

    I have left to the very end of these speculations a factor that I believe also helps to explain what is at the heart of Peru’s vaunted cuisine. From what I have observed and experienced, both in Peru and now from the perspective of an Oregonian, Peruvian cuisine is celebrated because it absorbs, refines, modifies, challenges, and honors the touch of the mother’s hand and heart. In Peru, as in so many places, the mother is the original chef. And the culinary pioneers who were able to transform the humble food of the home into haute cuisineare the children of those original chefs. These young cooks saw and savored in their mothers’ food what was good, and discerned what could become great. Common dishes, familiar aromas, and enduring flavors were the sources of their inspiration, and the bases for their creations.

    Each generation of mothers proudly cooks certain dishes just as their ancestors did. In that respect, the role of the mother has been to keep traditions alive. For evidence of this, you might look to Mr. Acurio himself, and see how he names his dishes in his cookbooks: there is, for example, his Cabrito al estilo de mi abuela (“Tender goat prepared in my Grandmother’s style”). Andina’s consulting chef, Coque Ossio, who is another of Peru’s celebrated cooks, speaks proudly of the way that his mother—a very famous cook and caterer—prepares her chupe de Camarones. Every year on Holy Friday she prepares this labor of love for all her family and friends. In my family we make humitas (a savory fresh corn pastry) just as my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother taught us to make them. For Otto Gigax, a Peruvian friend who lives in Portland, nobody can make better ocopa than his mother, who learned from her mother, and so on.

    Beyond their significant cultural and culinary role, mothers are also the caretakers of the flavor and the quality of the daily meals they prepare for their families. I am convinced that the patience and care of a mother can make even the most recalcitrant of meats tender and juicy. In my childhood in Peru, we children seemed to judge the love of our mother by the time she spent in the kitchen: if she spent lots of time preparing and cooking, she loved us deeply. If she spent hardly any time in the kitchen, maybe she didn’t love us so much. And our mother and grandmother were very proud whenever they brought to the table a dish that required especially long cooking time and dedication. A well-cooked dish reflects the love of mothers.

    Moreover, we learned from our mothers that food tastes better when it is shared with others. For Peruvians, eating is the center of family life. Nobody eats alone: food is made to be shared and enjoyed by all. And our dining table is a place where we share not only food, but all the events of the day, so that a meal is not only a meal, but much more than that: it is the chance to bring us together, to live what others have lived, to share in the food and stories that have passed from generation to generation.

    Mothers are the soul and the foundation of the quality of our food: a gastronomy that requires patience, care and love from the first planting to the final cosecha (harvest), and from the stove-top to the table-top. Through our food and the rituals of mealtime, we come to feel connected with our land, with our food, and with each other. It’s for this reason that I believe that without the influence of mothers, it would be impossible to have inspired chefs and celebrated cuisines.

    With the approach of the second Sunday of May—Mother’s Day—let us remember this foundational role that mothers continue to play around the world.

    ¡Felíz Día de la Madre!

    Mama Doris

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  • France’s Rhône Valley

    I really enjoy both the winemakers and the countryside in the Rhône Valley. From the moment you arrive, you’re greeted with a smile, often by folks in jeans and checkered shirts. They make wines that are packed with flavor, yet down-to-earth, just like they are.

    Delicious, high-quality reds, and a few whites, are made along the Rhône River in southeastern France, beginning near the city of Vienne, just south of Lyons, and running for the next 120 or so miles to Avignon. These picturesque vineyards produce rich, yet flexible reds that are food-friendly across the board.

    The region is divided into the Northern and Southern sectors, each with an equivalent amount of land under vine: 62,000 hectares or so (1 hectare=2.47 acres). Although some white wines are made (whites and roses account for less than 10% of the appellations in the Rhône Valley), the reds are the stars here, with Syrah the predominant grape variety to the north and Grenache to the south. The area is very prolific, producing more appellation contrôlée wine than any region in France other than Bordeaux. The styles of the wines are as follows:

    Whites: Made from Marsanne and Rousanne to the north, with the addition of Clairette, Grenache blanc and Bourboulenc to the south, the whites of the Rhône Valley are chunky and full, marked by low acidity. Generic Côtes du Rhônes are meant to be drunk quite young, as is the complex and aromatic Condrieu, made from the Viognier grape. Those from Hermitage can age 20-plus years in cold cellars.

    Reds: Darkly purple and spicy, with a distinct tannic kick on the finish, the reds of the north are made from 100% Syrah. To the south, the wines are very different, the erratic Grenache often needing the blending of Mourvedre and Syrah for structure and Cinsault for acidity.

    NORTHERN RHÔNE APPELLATIONS
    Côte Rotie: The most northerly appellation in the Rhône Valley, the vines are planted on particularly steep hills, inaccessible to the tractor. Only red wine is produced, made from Syrah. The wines are rich and coarse in their youth, black in color, and tannic. As they age, their tannins smooth out and they become a steak’s best friend.

    Cháteau-Grillet and Condrieu: These two tiny appellations are planted entirely to Viognier, producing wines that rank among the most expensive in the Rhône. They are distinctive and most assuredly not for every palate. Highly floral, they have an oily mouthfeel due to their low acidity.

    Hermitage: Powerful, with great depth of fruit, the wines of Hermitage rank among the world’s most revered reds. Syrah is rough when young, so the best vintages demand a minimum of 5–8 years of aging. The whites are round and lush, also needing time in bottle to show their best.

    Crozes-Hermitage: Somewhat similar to Hermitage, without being nearly so distinguished, these are tasty, blunt wines, generally meant for drinking before their tenth birthday.

    Saint-Joseph: Softer, more accessible than the Syrahs made in Côte-Rotie and Hermitage, St.-Joseph can drink well at 3 or 4 years of age. From attentive winemakers, they are an excellent, under-appreciated value.

    Cornas: An imposing, masculine red wine, nearly impossible to drink young. In the right hands, Cornas can be the equivalent of Côte-Rotie or Hermitage. When handled less diligently, it can be an overly dry monolith.

    SOUTHERN RHÔNE APPELLATIONS
    Chateâuneuf-du-Pape: The largest appellation in the Côtes du Rhône, covering 3,100 hectares around the city of Avignon. Fully 13 different varietals are allowed, though the basis for most reds is Grenache, blended with Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault and Counoise. These reds can be majestic and broad-shouldered but always with a touch of finesse on the finish. Well-made bottles age seamlessly for 25 or more years. The whites, on the other hand, are made to be drunk quite young, and are actually best a year or two after the vintage.

    Gigondas and Vacqueyras: Grown on the slopes of the Dentelles du Montmirail mountains, these are big, sturdy wines, and almost opaque in ripe years. They can be drunk at 3–4 years old, but generally reach their apex at ten, although each can easily age to 20 or more.

    Côtes du Rhône-Villages: Red, white and rose wines from 16 different communes in the departments (“states”) of Vaucluse, Gard and Drome. Reds produced from the towns of Cairanne, Chusclan, Rasteau, Sablet, Saint-Gervais, and Valreas (among others) represent some of the best value for money in France today.

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  • Abril y el primer dia de la escuela

    April was the month during my childhood when an important event always took place: the start of the school year, a time that remains fresh in my memories and close to my heart.

    Throughout the whole of Peru, children started or returned to school on the first day of April. After three months of vacation, the return to school always came with a mixture of anxiety and excitement. On the night before, my mom made sure that I took a bath before I went to bed. I then personally and carefully placed on a chair close to my bed all my school equipment, ready for the following day. I laid out the school uniform that I was to wear, and my leather bag with its contents: a well-sharpened pencil, a beautiful new eraser in the shape of a small animal, a notebook, and, in one pocket of the bag, a clean handkerchief. Beneath the chair I placed my well-polished black leather shoes and over the shoes, a pair of short black socks.

    The following morning, even before my mom had come to wake us, I was already making my bed. For our breakfast we enjoyed a cup of hot milk to which we added a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of esencia de café; (extra strong coffee), which my mom had prepared the night before. We drank our Leche con café with the most delicious freshly baked bread. We called this bread Tortitas de la Señora Trine, because it was baked by our neighbor, whose name was Trinidad. She baked the bread early in the morning using her large adobe oven, shaped like a dome and placed in the second patio of her house. It was for that bread that my mom waited in a long line. And when the oven finally delivered its fragrant product, my mom would bring home bread that was still warm, and which we soon gratefully paired with a generous slice of fresh cheese. Our breakfast was delicious and complete.

    After breakfast we quickly washed our faces, brushed our teeth, and combed our hair, then returned to our bedroom for the special moment when we would dress into our uniforms. We needed to dress quickly in order to walk the seven blocks that separated the school from our home and arrive on time, a few minutes before 8:00 A.M. Punctually at 8:00 A.M., the school closed its doors, and all who came late were obliged to stand in a special row and wait for Madre Consolata, who, even while being small, still managed to look terribly imposing. She was intimidating, indeed, and everybody was frightened of her, in part because she was in charge of school discipline, and in part because of her countenance, always firm and severe.

    Like many girls in Cajamarca, I attended a national girls school run by Catholic nuns. The nuns belonged to the Dominican Order, and most of them came from Spain. The name of my school was Colegio Nacional de Santa Teresita. I loved my school very much and I was always proud of belonging to it. The uniform itself was a source of youthful pleasure and inspiration, especially on the first day of school. The uniform consisted of a white cotton blouse with a blue tie, and a pleated navy blue woolen skirt that needed to cover our knees. We completed our outfit with black leather lace-up shoes and short black socks. For the cold weather, we had a navy blue cape, which I loved: for in my imagination, every time I wore my cape, I became one of the nurses from the hospital de Belen, whom I deeply admired. The nurses from the Belen Hospital always wore an impeccable white uniform, a white hat with a red cross on the front, and their famous navy blue cape.

    Every April, the leather smell of my book bag, the smell of new books and of pencils newly sharpened, reminded me that a long year lay before me, with lots of homework and facts to memorize. But I was happy: I could see my old friends again, compare how much we had grown during vacation, and share all that happened during those months—although this was an almost impossible feat, since everybody wanted to talk at the same time!

    At 8:00 A.M., the school bell sounded, and all students walked in silence to the area assigned to our grade within the school’s large patio. My school was located in a huge old adobe house that contained five patios. There, lined-up in perfect rows with heads and shoulders pointing straight ahead, we sang the National Anthem, led by Madre Camino, who was in charge of the school choir. After the anthem, the Madre directora (the school’s Principal) welcomed us and led us in the morning prayers. Finally, we finished with a call of attendance, directed by Madre Victoria (the school secretary). It was very important to pay close attention at this time: when we heard our name being called—and it was called loudly in front of the whole school—we needed to respond, with equal force, “Alabado sea Dios” (Praise be to God). Our response indicated that we were present at school. If we didn’t answer, a note of absence obligated our parents to visit the school to account for our whereabouts—with not-so-happy consequences for us at home.

    Still in perfect rows, we then walked to our new classroom, the room that would be our home for the duration of that year. Our Señorita (our teacher, who was not a nun) welcomed us, and gave us a list of books and school supplies that we needed to buy either in the Imprenta Católica or in the Tienda del Sñr. Ramos (two local bookstores). For the remainder of the first day, our teacher reviewed with us the basic knowledge that we were assumed to already possess in all the subject matters: Aritmética, Lenguaje, Niño y la Salúd, Vida Natural, Geografía, Historia del Perú, Historia Universal, Educación Cívica, and Religión. I always greatly admired my elementary school teachers! They were neat and tidy, and knew a great deal about almost everything, it seemed. They worked hard correcting the homework of sixty pupils, which was the average number of students in the elementary classes. They also were charged with teaching good manners and proper hygiene, and to that end would check our hands, ears and mouth to see if they were clean. They acted as our mothers in other ways as well, especially in treating the accidents that we often endured as children.

    We had one recreo (break) of 15 minutes at 10:00 A.M., and finished our set of morning classes at noon, in time to go home for lunch, and return to school after a brief siesta. My lunches involved the whole family seated formally at our dining table. It was traditional then to make lunch the principal meal of the day: a soup came as the first course, followed by the Segundo, which was often a chicken or beef stew, rice cooked with olive oil and garlic, and a guiso of any legume, like lentils, beans or peas. There was never a lunch without cancha (toasted corn) and salsa de aji verde, which were placed in two bowls at the center of our table. Lunch concluded with a whole fresh fruit for each of us. The fruit varied according to my mother’s inclination as well as the availability at the local market. There were capulí, mangos, granadillas, lucumas, chirimoyas, tunas (prickly pears), all of them typical fruits from Cajamarca and its warm valleys.

    Following lunch, we needed to be back at school at 2:00 P.M. In the afternoons, our general meetings in the patio were shorter than our morning reunions: enough time to sing patriotic or religious songs according to the festivities of our calendar. After that we again went to our respective classrooms and began our set of afternoon lessons, which would continue until 5:00 P.M. A recreo of 15 minutes at 3:45 P.M. was a time to purchase and share candies from a small store that our school maintained. Madre Asunción (the school treasurer) was the store-keeper, and we were told that the money she collected went to help the Dominican missions throughout the Amazonian jungle, missions intended to introduce the Catholic faith to the Chunchos (one of the native peoples that lived in the jungle region), as well to teach them how to write and read.

    I could continue writing about my school for many more pages. The mark that my teachers and my classmates left on my life is very deep; they shaped my personality in ways that now more than ever I appreciate. They helped me to overcome the death of my mother, who did not survive the sudden onset of pneumonia when I was twelve years old. I found in my school and in my classmates a safe and a happy refuge, an invaluable gift for overcoming the loss of her presence. It was in my school and with my classmates that we together discovered little by little the wonders of our lives, dreamed to conquer the world, and even to go beyond the earth to explore the infinite and mysterious reaches of Space—for this was the time when the Russians had taken a dog named “Laika” and put their Sputnik 2 into orbit. We dreamed of a better world, and had noble ideals. We explored the literary world and wanted to be famous poets and writers. In our naiveté we started writing poetry with perfect rhyme but very light content. We also started a novel. I still remember its title: “Simi la Hebrea”. Above all, it was in elementary school that my classmates and I built genuine friendships that to this day we keep strong and alive.

    In these friendships, distance and time have mattered very little. Every time I visit Cajamarca, my friends and I still gather together to enjoy each others company and to remember old times. It is amazing to think of it now! It does not matter how long we have not seen one another, or how different our lives have been. With the same sincerity and honesty we had as children, we share with each other the stories of what life has given us: painful and happy experiences, joyful and sad moments. In so doing, we feel that our friendship grows stronger, and that these bonds will never leave us.

    Such genuine friendship feels like a morning dew. It freshens our spirit and makes us young again!

    Mama Doris.

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  • Champagne Primer

    Everybody loves Champagne. You can see people’s eyes light up when it’s mentioned. Below is some basic information about where it comes from, how it’s made, what styles are available and how they should taste.

    WHERE IT IS The province of Champagne encompasses 25,000 hectares (one hectare equals 2.47 acres) of vines spread across five departments (“states”). The vineyards are the most northerly in France, and can be divided into three main regions:

     

      1. Montagne de Reims: The center of production around the town of Reims;
      2. Vallee de la Marne: The vineyards that run parallel to the Marne river that dissects the region;
      3. Cotes des Blancs: The southernmost region, devoted exclusively to Chardonnay.

     

    There are about 270 villages and communes in all, each of which has been officially rated from 80-to-100 percent based on the quality of the grapes they produce. Seventeen villages have been rated 100 percent and another fifty are rated 90-to-99 percent. Every year, just prior to the harvest, vineyard owners and the large firms (which account for about 70 percent of production but own a much smaller proportion of the vineyards) negotiate a base price per kilo of grapes from that year’s crop. The combination of this price and the area’s percentage rating determines what the growers get for their grapes.

    WHAT IT’S MADE FROM Only three grapes may be planted in Champagne: pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. Pinot noir represents approximately a quarter of the vineyard area and is concentrated around Reims, where it ripens well and gives up wines of depth and finesse. Pinot meunier covers around half of the area under vine and is a sturdier varietal that ripens later than pinot noir. Pinot meunier is not admitted in the Grand and Premier Cru vineyards, but its reliability and high yield make it the most planted grape in Champagne. Chardonnay has its day on the chalky soil of the Cotes des Blancs, where it is the only grape permitted. Its qualities of lightness and elegance are essential for balancing the richness of the pinots.

    WHAT IT TASTES LIKE Champagne is the home of the master blender. The aim of the blender is to create a cuvée each year that corresponds to the “house” style. Once the blend is made (from as little as three or four to as many as 50 or so different wines from a variety of years) it is bottled with the addition of cane sugar dissolved in old wine spiced with selected yeasts, known as liquer de tirage. It is then taken to the cellar to undergo its second major fermentation in the bottle, during which the wine becomes sparkling.

     

          The four designations often seen in our markets are:

        1. Extra Brut: The driest of all Champagne. Zero sugar is added. Austere and extremely clean in the mouth.
        2. Brut: The most common Champagne is labeled Brut. Up to 1 percent of liqueur may be added.
        3. Extra-Dry: Slightly sweet, 1-to-3 percent liqueur.
        4. Demi-Sec: Sweet Champagne, destined for desserts, 5-to-8 percent liqueur added.

     

    The styles these designations are labeled under include:

    Non-Vintage: A blend of several vintages, although dominant in wines from the latest year. Three-quarters of all Champagne produced are non-vintage.

    Vintage: Wine from only the best growing seasons. Around three-quarters of the harvest is bottled under a vintage label, leaving remainder for future non-vintage blends. They are aged three years in bottle and are normally not released until 1-2 years later.

    Blanc de Blancs: Champagne made from chardonnay only, making a bottle of great finesse but with potential for long aging. Often expensive, and well worth the price.

    Rosé: Most rosé Champagne is made with the addition of red wine being added to the still white at the time of the assemblage. This achieves the color, character and “weight” of the rosé desired by the particular house. There are still a few houses that make their rosés by the saignee process, where the red grapes ferment in the vat and the wine is drawn off when the desired color has been attained.

    Cuvées des Prestige: These are the luxury wines from the major houses, the most well-known being Dom Perignon (Moet et Chandon), Comtes de Champagne (Taittinger) and Cristal (Roederer).

    Armed with the info above, you should be able to impress your boss, amaze your friends and swell with self-confidence when entering your favorite vino emporium.

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  • Mi tía Dalila y su chocolate

    These are months that I always remember as the time in my childhood filled with the energy of Carnavales (Carnival), when my parents, my three siblings, my grandma and I traveled to the small villages of Sucre and Jose Galvez. In Sucre, we visited my father’s parents; and in Jose Galvez, my aunt Dalila, (my mother’s sister), her husband, and her four sons (very close to us in age). Both villages remain today very much as they were then, at 5 hours from Cajamarca by bus, and 30 minutes from each other by foot. Both belong to the province of Celendín, which is well known in Peru as the land of the shilicos, a quasi-ethnic group famous for being thrifty, hard working and inclined to the mercantile trade, with fortunes made traveling the greater Andean valleys and Amazonian basin selling straw hats, fabrics and other artisanal crafts. The shilicos are, however, also famous for their chocolate, which they principally consume in the form of a hot drink. It is their unique custom to drink this chocolate just as other countries (and even other provinces) drink their tea or coffee. Even today, the shilico knows and honors 4 p.m. as “la hora del chocolate” (chocolate time).

    Among all my memories of those happy times, I treasure the ones of my aunt Dalila, and all that I saw her do in keeping with this custom, beginning with the harvest of the cacao beans, and finishing with the chocolate in our cup. None but those who saw this great undertaking unfold year after year could have been as excited when, as part of the final steps in the process, my aunt called us to help in her production of the tabletas de chocolate (chocolate tablets). We knew that she considered us her work force, and we joyfully and freely joined her in one of the most fascinating activities any child could have.

    To explain how my aunt Dalila made her chocolate, I will try to relate what I remember during our annual trip to Jose Galvez: because it was in that time that I saw, touched, smelled, heard and tasted a beverage that to this day I continue to make and love.

    As soon as the bus from Cajamarca entered the main plaza of José Galvez, we saw through the windows four boys—my cousins—climb down from the lemon trees that surrounded the square, and run toward the bus to climb and stand on its rear bumper. From there, and through the back window, they waved to us and made all kinds of funny faces indicating how happy they were to see us. I noticed that they always wore clean clothes, their faces were always washed, and their hair always nicely combed—my aunt Dalila’s work. The bus stopped at one of the corners of the square, which happened to be the same corner where my grandma’s house had been built. By then, my cousins had already jumped from the bus and were waiting at the bus door, each and all of them trying to show my siblings and I what they had in their pockets. Coming from the city, we were fascinated—and a little bit scared—by what we saw coming out of their pockets: atrompo y su cordel no tan limpio (a spinning top and its string, both dusted with earth); four or five boliches(marbles) from which they asked to choose one as their gift to their cousins; a tirajebe (a leather slingshot) that we knew they used to shoot small stones at birds and sometimes at us; even pieces of bread, dry whitish bones from the drumsticks of a hen, tapas de botellas (soda lids) well-polished and flattened, and united by a string to be used as Zir Zires, for playful combat with others; and finally, small grey spheres that we discovered were living potato bugs! Before we had recovered from the delights and shocks of this greeting and exposition, we would see my uncle—still wearing his reading glasses—emerge from the small grocery store he owned and managed, and begin his approach. We were sure that in the days and moments before our arrival, he had been lost in the pleasures of reading some of his beloved classic books! Finally, we saw my aunt Dalila, coming out from the house, almost running with her arms open, smiling and sweating, wearing a cooking apron, and donning a straw hat that suited her beautifully. Her appearance, and the smell of baking bread around the house, were signs that she was busy baking el pan y los bizcochuelos para el Carnaval (bread and sweets for Carnival). My uncle and aunt welcomed us and the excitement and love were mutual. After hugs, kisses, and beckoned on by the promise of hot chocolate, we children ran into our grandma’s house, a house that all of us dearly loved!

    These are some of my memories of the house: It was a big adobe house, with walls painted white, stretching ½ of the length of the block, and extending all the way through to the street at its rear entrance. We children loved to wander the whole house, running through the entrance on one street to finish in the corral (or animal pen), which opened onto the other street. We entered the house through the small door built into the portón (the much larger arched door that would open on its massive hinges only when horses and riders entered into the house). We passed through the zaguán(entrance hall) that echoed with our steps as we walked on its cobblestoned and irregular floor. Then came three consecutive patios: The first one was large and set with the same irregular cobblestones, surrounded by hortencias(hydrangeas), geranios (geraniums), cartuchos (cala lilies); and an old plant called rosa de castilla that my mother planted as a young woman. In one of the corners, stairs led up to los altos (the second floor). The stairs were steep, but we loved to climb them as fast as we could, making our way into the alar—an open space under the roof, between the walls of the second floor rooms and the baranda (veranda) that looked out and onto the enclosed patio. There, extended on the floor, and protected from the rain, were mantas(blankets) on which my aunt dried the semillas de cacao(cacao beans). The smell was delicious! Above us and hanging from the vigas (the beams that sustained the roof) were ears of corn tied to each other by their leaves, also drying under the sun before being stored. We would carefully step around the mantas to enter the three bedrooms, connected to each other by canvas walls. Each of the bedrooms had a balcony that looked onto street, and the glass windows were of a beautiful blue color that transformed everything outside (the street, the trees, the people, the church) into a wondrously blue world! I could have stayed for hours looking out onto that magical scene.

    After the first large patio, came a second smaller and rectangular patio. At its center stood un arbol de blanquillos(a peach tree), where we stopped to shake the branches until we had gathered the blanquillos we loved so much, whether ripe or not. On one side of this patio there were two rooms which my aunt used as larders or dry-storage for all the fruit that came periodically from Balsas, a semi-tropical valley on the eastern flanks of the Andes, where my grandfather’s farm was located. The farm was five hours away from José Galvez by horse, east of Celendn and close to the Marañon River (an important tributary of the Amazon river). From Balsas came mangos, ciruelas rojas (red plums), platanos (bananas),paltas (avocados) and naranjas (oranges). The scents made our mouths water. We also saw the frutos de cacao (cacao fruits), which looked like papayas, yellowish with a sweet smell, and hard to the touch. Curious to know what was inside on our first encounter with this fruit, we decided to open one, and we discovered that to open the fruit was harder than opening a papaya. The peel was thicker and the hollow inside was full of light brown beans. Later, my aunt Dalila told us that those beans were called semillas de cacao, and that it was from those seeds that she made her chocolate. She also told us that what we saw in los altoswere cacao beans already fermented by the workers in Balsas. We didn’t know what fermentation meant or entailed; but her simple explanation satisfied us: she said that once the seeds had been removed from the fruit of the cacao, they were buried in a bed of branches, and remained there until a pungent smell emerged. She didn’t mention how long this process took, simply that the harvesters judged by the smell, which according to my aunt, was delicious. Once the beans had arrived by horse or mule to Jose Galvez, she did the rest to convert the fermented cacao into chocolate. And she started by exposing the fermented beans to the sun and air until they became completely dry.

    In the third patio was a palm tree (the only one in town), which was taller than the roof. We were told that our grandfather had brought from Iquitos while it was still very small. It seems that the palm tree liked our patio so much that it kept growing and growing, to the point that its roots were emerging above the floor and creating cracks in the wooden floor of the dining room, a problem for the adults, but a matter of fascination for us! Close to the palm tree there was el pozo, the water well, which was made of cement, and bore the initials M. CH, corresponding to the name of my grandfather: Manuel Chavez. The pozo was the source of fresh water that we used for drinking, cooking, and washing our clothes and ourselves. We were told that in the bottom of the well there existed un ojo de agua (a natural spring), which continuously was producing fresh water. Every house in Jose Galvez had a well, and all the children of the town, including us, loved to take water from the well using buckets suspended by a rope.

    On the left side of the patio were the dining room and the kitchen, our favorite places. They were special because of the delicious smells that came from inside, surprising and delighting us every time we ran or passed by. Often the main reason for our running was to be the first to arrive in the dining room, eager for the chocolate that aunt Dalila had promised, the aroma of which circulated throughout the entire house. And what a feast was on the table! Who could resist the sight and the smell of fresh bizcochos (semisweet bread) made that same afternoon by my aunt Dalila? Or the sweet flavor of the galletitas de maiz (cornmeal cookies) another of my aunt’s specialties? Or the fresh quesillo, the cheese she had made from the milk of her cow? We were always obliged to wait for the adults, and such waiting was always the most difficult part! Finally our parents arrived, and we saw aunt Dalila enter the kitchen and return carrying a cántaro de chocolate (a ceramic jug for hot chocolate), and a molinillo (a winged wooden beater for frothing the milk). All of us—grownups included—observed with great admiration the skill and ease with which my aunt Dalila spun the molinillo in her hands and aerated the chocolate. The sound was husky and the smell was nearly painful in its deliciousness. Every time my aunt Dalila filled a cup of chocolate, a delicious foam sealed the precious contents. Whoever said that eating was a pleasure fit for the gods was not lying! We felt in heaven when we sipped our foamy chocolate, and complemented each sip with a bite of ourbizcocho or with a whole galletita de maiz. We loved putting a piece of quesillo in our hot chocolate and waiting until it melted before putting it in our mouths. We loved its texture and its sound between our teeth, a thousand times better than anything of its kind. After a cup of chocolate came another, because one was not enough to truly savor this beverage. Everyone had at least two cups, which was to the delight of my aunt, as reflected in the gleam of her eyes and in her animated tone of voice that urged us to eat and drink!

    With a full stomach and a happy heart, we continued our exploration of the house. We passed a small door that linked the third patio to the corral, which announced the end of the house. The corral was full of gallinas (hens), with a little place for them to lay eggs. There were one or two gallos (roosters) that sometimes annoyed us because they never stopped singing, especially early in the morning. My aunt liked to raise conejos (rabbits), but hated how fast they had babies; she kept giving the babies to her neighbors. She also always had a puerco (pig), which was killed on the occasion of every Carnival. From its meat she made chicharrones (fried pork belly), sausages and ham. Perhaps the animals we loved more than any others were aunt Dalila’s vaca (cow) and its calf; every day, early in the morning, my aunt milked the cow, and with this milk she made her chocolate as well as her quesillo. Four pasturing sheep completed the cast of characters that we always found in the corral.

    My aunt’s horno de adobe (a domed adobe oven) was located on the left side of the corral. We loved to watch aunt Dalila while she baked. She prepared different doughs the night before, allowing them to rise for the length of the night. After breakfast, she put a hat on her head to diminish the heat from the oven, and started baking, following a concrete plan: first she baked the pan (bread), then the bizcochos(semisweet bread), followed by the galletitas de maiz (corn cookies), and finally she toasted the semillas de cacao(cacao beans). Once the beans were completely dry they were ready for toasting in the oven, though the oven could not be too warm or else the beans would burn, and the chocolate would become bitter. The delicious smell of the cacao seeds being toasted, brought all the children around the oven. Here we observed my aunt taking several samples of the toasted cacao seeds to see if they were ready to be removed. She made us touch them, and explained to us that they were ready when they could be broken as easily as a peanut shell. When that moment came, my aunt would wield a long wooden paleta de hornear (trowel), and remove all the cacao beans, placing them on a blanket in the dining room to cool off. She promised that she would take us with her to the local mill, where the toasted cacao seeds were going to be ground.

    And the following day, after lunch, she did just that. Accompanying her, we traveled to the mill that was located on the other side of the town, close to the river. Among ourselves we fought to be the one who helped aunt Dalila carry the two bags of toasted cacao beans. Everyone wanted to have this honor, but aunt Dalila had a Salomonic solution. Each of us carried the bag by turns, and she controlled the time and the turns; from there until the end of our trip, our journey was made in peace. When we arrived at the mill, the miller, an old friend of the family, assured my aunt the ground cacao would be ready in a couple of days.

    The two days passed, but not before my siblings and I learned from our cousins all the tricks and skills that we—being children of the city—didn’t know. My sister and I learned “boys games,” since we were the only girls in the group. We learned to throw stones with a sling shot, to whistle, to pretend playing songs with the rondin(harmonica), to do card tricks, and to shoot marbles. But the most exciting thing that we did, not only once, but on as many occasions as we could manage, was to sneak into thetrastienda (the room behind the grocery store). Once inside, and being sure nobody was watching us, we would search for the baskets where my aunt stored all of her wonderful baked goods. With lightning speed, we filled our mouths and pockets with whatever came first to our hands. I think aunt Dalila knew what was going on, however. Because, later, as she looked at us out of the corners of her eyes, she would make the suggestive comment: “I think we have mice in the trastienda. All of these days I keep finding crumbs around the baskets, and there are not as many cookies as I thought there were.” The eight of us blushed, and pretended that we didn’t hear. It was no coincidence that when the baskets were empty, there were no more mice in the trastienda.

    Finally the day of making chocolate arrived. Aunt Dalila sent my cousins to bring from the mill the bags of the ground cacao beans. Meanwhile she asked us to wash our hands and help her to clear the dining table, on which she laid out a table cloth. She assigned us our work seats and put in front of each seat a tin square no bigger than a salad plate. She explained that this tin mold was going to be our tool of production. At the same time, she was putting fresh leña (wood) on the stove and readied una cuchara grande de palo (a big wooden spoon), together with the perol (a large copper pot). These would be her own tools. As soon as my cousins arrived with the ground cacao, my aunt put the perol on top of the stove, and filled it with the milled grounds. We tried to see what was happening, peering through the small window that connected the dining room with the kitchen. We saw my aunt slowly stirring the cacao with the big wooden spoon, and little by little we began to detect the delicious smell of chocolate, which with every moment was becoming more intense. My aunt continued steadily stirring the cacao. She invited us to come closer and see carefully what was happening. Before of our eyes the ground cocoa was transforming itself into a beautiful, deep dark brown liquid. Clearing her voice, my aunt then said, with great pride: “Dear children, you are witnessing the birth of the chocolate! This is our own chocolate, made from cacao that came from our own farm, and now made by your own aunt!” We clapped with great excitement, and she said: “Now to work! You will help me make the tabletas de chocolate. Into to the dining room!”

    She brought the perol with the melted chocolate and, putting it to one side of the table, asked us to bring to her our tin squares. In the center of each tin square my aunt placed a large dollop of the melted chocolate. Then, taking one tin square as a case study, she showed us what to do. She lightly rapped the tin square on the edge of the table while turning it constantly, until the chocolate spread into a circular shape about a fourth of an inch thick. The chocolate was now ready to cool and harden. With that demonstration, we proceeded to do the same with our own tin squares. Aunt Dalila would supply the liquid chocolate, and we, her work force, would make the chocolate tablets. After one tin square came another and another. Our circles were not perfect: strange shapes appeared in our squares, but we loved our work! Especially the sound of the weighted tin on the edge of the table. There were moments when our attention lapsed, and we would try to re-create the sounds a percussion band by way of our chocolate tins. But observing the supervising eyes of our aunt, we returned to our work like professionals. Once the chocolate on the tin squares was completely cold, aunt Dalila proceeded to remove the tablets. We were fascinated by her dexterity! She took every tin square with the cooled chocolate, and carefully flexing down one of its corners made the chocolate pop out, without breaking a single tablet! Soon we had a pile of beautiful tabletas, shiny and with the most intense smell of chocolate that we had ever experienced. They were our pride! We had witnessed and participated in the transformation of the cacao into these noble blocks of raw chocolate, a wonder before our eyes. And all of this was thanks to my Aunt Dalila.

    My aunt Dalila is still alive. She is now 91 years old, and lives in Cajamarca with her children and grandchildren. Her husband, my uncle Anibal, died a few years ago. She is no longer making chocolate, but I still have and treasure tablets that she gave me not so long ago. Every Christmas, every Easter, and every staff celebration, I make hot chocolate using her tablets. For me, preparing chocolate in the very same way as I learned during those precious days, is a tribute to my dynamic and inspiring aunt, to her love for all of us, which I know was in part responsible for making her chocolate so unique.

    An interesting fact. Some of you may not know that the chocolate we use at Andina—an ingredient in one of our entreés—comes from the Marañón River, the same river that flows through Balsas, where my grandfather’s farm is still located. Can you believe it? Ask Moonstruck Chocolate Company for their chocolate called “Fortunato No 4″. This is the chocolate we use. The beans come from the Marañón Canyon, and are known not only as a rare variety of cacao, called Pure Nacional, but also regarded as one of the world’s finest chocolate varieties. Here is what the New York Times said with respect to the chocolate Fortunato No 4: “The chocolate is intense, with a floral aroma, and a persistent mellow richness. Its lack of bitterness is remarkable.”

    Come to Andina to taste this Peruvian chocolate, a food that is so is close to my heart and to the home of my ancestors.

    Mama Doris.

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  • Cupido en Andina

    Cupid is everywhere, ready to lose his arrows and wound with his magic power all unwitting innocents; to make us soar and crash, rise and fall, on the wings of love. At my age, I know a little bit about Cupid: he never sleeps, he is playful, and he enjoys to hide and seek. But everyone knows that when we try to find him, we never do. He loves to appear by surprise, and once his mission is accomplished, he hides again, and waits. Few can avoid him and few have not been wounded by his power. Oh, yes! Most of us know what happens when Cupid’s aim is true! We are suddenly changed: his magic has transformed our nature into one that we never knew existed and are slow to recognize, though we live its difference. If we were a serious and well-balanced person, under his power we become funny, prone to lose our cool. If we were funny and talkative, we become serious, silent, and shy. The gleam in our eyes, the pink in our cheeks and the agitated state of our moods: all of these signs attest that we have been hit, though not slain, by Cupid, and everybody around us knows. We can’t deny it.

    After almost nine years since Andina opened its doors, I can categorically affirm that Cupid has found a home within our walls; what’s more, he seems to love it inside! Andina’s staff is a unique group of young, energetic people who are intelligent, independent, good-looking, and vibrant. They are also vulnerable to powers beyond themselves! With such a group, what else could Cupid require to begin shooting his darts of love? He has all that he needs, and judging by the count, he has been a busy and canny archer.

    Over the years, I’ve had many chances to observe how Cupid sets about his works at Andina. For many romances were born inside the walls of Andina, and many of them bloomed before our very eyes, ending in happy marriages, which are a new beginning altogether. There are others that are brightly unfolding, and some just starting to bloom. Cupid never rests, and the timing is his own to choose!

    Granted the gracious permission of some of Andina’s wounded, I have chosen to describe a little of what I learned about the romances and the circumstances under which Cupid so effectively fulfilled his charge.

    EAST COAST MEETS WEST COAST
    The romance of Eric and Brigitte: In 2005 Eric moved to the Northwest from Bow, New Hampshire, with a masters degree in International Relations. Brigitte, a Portland native, was finishing her studies at Portland State University. Both of them found themselves working at Andina, learning not only the rigors and roles of their jobs, but also much about themselves. They would soon discover something more: that they cared for each other very much. It happened very late on the night of December 18, 2005, after Andina’s staff Christmas celebration had finally come to an end. Brigitte was leaving Andina on foot and Eric offered to walk her home. Cupid jumped to work. In that walk they felt the happy affliction of their mutual affection, an affection that grew quickly into their love, and which continued growing for five years. Eric proposed in the summer of 2009, and in 2010 they united their lives forever. On August 14, 2010 many of the larger Andina family attended their wedding and shared their great joy and happiness. Now Eric and Brigitte are a happily married couple. I often see Eric in the preciously calm moments before the beginning of service, immersed in current events of the day: for he is one of a few at Andina who reads religiously The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He has become a veteran server, and he brings to his work the wisdom and leadership that are part of his nature and part of his experience. Brigitte began working as a hostess at Andina. She is now Andina’s Assisant Special Events Director, and a joy to work with.

    THE LOVE OF MUSIC, AND THE MUSIC OF LOVE
    The romance of Anna and Robert. The extent to which this is true may remain known to them alone, but I’m convinced that music was the form that Cupid gave to his arrows in the relationship of Anna and Robert, who first met in 2005 as fellow servers at Andina. For many years, the extended Andina family celebrated Labor Day by gathering on the grounds of a beautiful farm far into the hills west of Portland, a farm owned by our loyal guests and now dear friends, Mary Fullberg and Richard Ovenburg. That day, both Robert and Anna looked radiant! They were still simply friends at the time, but had been rehearsing diligently for this day and this performance. And now their time had come: Robert played the mandolin with art and skill and Anna sang like an angel. By the gleam of their eyes and the color of their cheeks, I knew that the winged archer was close by! And we were delighted when their friendship turned to romance, and their romance into love. Throughout the past years, both of them grew in that affection, and in their mutual understanding. Then last month, Anna, radiant with happiness, revealed that Robert had proposed to her! They are engaged to get married this coming Autumn. And between now and then, they both continue to work at the restaurant, pursuing their interests and hobbies, enjoying their new home, and looking forward to planning and creating a beautiful garden this year.

    LOVE HEEDS NO OBSTACLES
    The romance of Megan and Edgar: This story also culminated in a marriage, though one that took many of us by surprise! Both Megan and Edgar came to work at Andina in 2007. By July 2009 they had exchanged vows. They wed without fuss or fanfare, and it was only when they came back from their vacation that we saw rings on their fingers, and only then did we realize how cunning Cupid can be! For few of us had had Cupid’s vision; no one does, in all likelihood. I failed to imagine that these two young people – Edgar from Mexico, and working on the kitchen line; Megan from Oregon, and working in pastry – could, without a shared language in common, understand each other so well. But now it was obvious that they did. After two years and a half, we see in Edgar and in Megan how they have matured and bloomed under the inluence of their love. Edgar is now an expert in his station, cooks with passion and has a true gift for what he does. He is also one of our sauciers, responsible for the delicate work of producing wonderful sauces. Megan is now our head Pastry chef, and does a superb job!

    During the many years since Andina’s first alfajor, never has the Pastry department had better desserts than those that Megan makes. She surprises me constantly with her creativity. Her desserts not only look works of art, their taste has the same mesmerizing effect. Without any doubt, love makes wonders!

    SOCIAL JUSTICE AND PERSONAL LOVE
    The romance of Ben and Alyssa. At the time these two bright and loving souls met at Andina in August of 2009, Alyssa had been working at the restaurant since 2004. She had spent many of those years also working with a law firm and a legal center advocating for the rights of immigrants. Ben had recently moved to Portland from San Francisco and came to work at Andina with considerable experience both in fine dining service and in the world of non-profit social work. When he arrived at Andina he was working for a locally-based nonprofit called Health Bridges International, an organization that builds bridges of collaboration to create sustainable changes in the health of developing communities. I am convinced that Cupid was thrilled to see in both Ben and Alyssa a shared affinity for social justice work and a profound dedication to the lives of others. In that respect, it may have been easy for him to wound them all the more deeply. Not long after their first date, they were a loving pair. Alyssa joined Ben on several trips to Peru to work together as volunteers in the surroundings of Arequipa, Lima, and more recently in Huaraz. In turn, they have inspired others at Andina to do the same and last year three of our staff went with them to Huaraz. They all returned to Oregon inspired to go back.

    In October 2011, during their most recent trip to Peru, Cupid pulled a special arrow from his quiver: Ben proposed to Alyssa on the top of Mount Cotallalli, a mountain that in the native language of Quechua means: a place to give offerings. This mountain rises over the beautiful Colca Canyon near Arequipa, a city that Ben loves for having been his home when he lived for a year in Peru. Now we see them happily engaged, working at Andina, and recruiting more volunteers to go to Peru. They plan to marry after Alyssa finishes graduate school this summer. Though no date has been set, we already are prepared to join them on one of the happiest days of their lives.

    THE BARTENDER AND THE SERVER
    The romance of Ethan and David. Ethan came to Andina in 2004, and began work under the direction of Greg, our head bartender. From the outset, Ethan demonstrated all the attributes that have since contributed to his charismatic presence behind the bar. He is a hard worker, and very fast, which you must be, since the work will force it out of you all the same. Many guests have asked to be seated at the bar, and I have no doubt that it is with the sole purpose to have the pleasure of chatting and laughing with Ethan, and to enjoy seeing his unstoppable preparation of cocktails. In 2006, David began to work at Andina. He had already finished college and was contemplating the possibility of pursuing studies in medicine. In order to fulfill the school requirements, he was looking for a job that could allow him to take some courses at PSU, and he found that job at Andina. Beginning as a busser, then a runner, David soon became a server, possessed of a natural grace and a wonderfully tart and tactful sense of humor. Working in the same place, it was easy for David and Ethan to meet and become friends. But through their friendship they soon discovered a deeper affinity. This affection matured with their own growing and changing sense of their work and of the world; and soon, the famous quiver was once again absent two arrows for having been loosed upon these two young and witty men. Together they are eager to embrace the world and its challenges, and have already begun their journeys, having traveled to Peru together.

    THE MANAGER AND THE TEACHER
    The romance of David and Morgan. Cupid keeps a very close watch on the innocent targets of his interest, and wherever they might wander, he doesn’t often lose their trail. David and Morgan met and worked together at Andina, David as a manager, and Morgan as a server. David had come to Andina in 2005 with a capacious knowledge of fine dining, grounded in his studies in his home country of Ireland, and in his professional work in London, Boston and Chicago. Morgan a native Oregonian who had attended college in Denver, and lived for a year in Spain, had returned to Portland to complete her masters degree in Education. While doing so, she worked at Andina. During a relatively short period In which they worked together at Andina, the two got to know each other. Quite soon, however, Morgan announced that she had found a job as a teacher in California and that she was moving to work and live there.

    Nobody knew that Cupid had already been busy! But we started to observe a different David: sometimes cheerful, other times serious, sometimes talkative and funny, other times silent! I knew then that something had changed, and I began to sense that David was in love! And when I asked, he didn’t deny it. He knew that he was missing Morgan, so much so that he was seriously contemplating moving to California to be with her. We couldn’t believe it! David, the man who so loved Oregon, was ready and willing to go! Without doubt love can move mountains! Happily for all, however, Morgan found a position as a teacher in Portland, and returned to be with David. They are engaged and ready to marry this Summer, with all our blessings and joy.

    CUPID AT WORK
    The romance of Magdalena and Paul. Magdalena is from Peru, and Paul is a native Oregonian. Young, full of energy, they are also flush with the signs that love has been arriving as so many volleys of arrows. I see in both of them Cupid’s mark: the gleam in their eyes when they are together. I am sure that Cupid is delighted by this new conquest which was, as always, of his own devising. He knows well enough that they have so much to share, so much to learn about themselves and the other, and maybe a day will come when Cupid decides to draw his most prized arrow of all. We don’t yet know his plans, but we see Paul and Magdalena happy and excited; and we are very happy for them.

    I thought this was going to be a brief illustration of the presence of Cupid at Andina. And in many ways it was all too brief; it’s only that the loves are many. To bring this long chronicle to a close, I offer the universal phrase that I am sure finds an echo in all who have felt the rush of love:

    ¡VIVA EL AMOR!

    Mama Doris.

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  • Mis Navidades de ayer y de hoy

    It seems that every year Christmas comes earlier and earlier: stores, markets, homes, and public offices start to be decorated, and Christmas displays appear everywhere, all before Thanksgiving Day. Smells of pine and winter berries permeate the air. Beautiful wreaths are hanging on the walls. Colored lights shine their magic light around town, and well known Carols are heard wherever I go. I don’t know if you experience these similarly to me, but Christmastime creates in me a certain uneasiness, and as Christmas Day approaches, my uneasiness changes into anxiety, which keeps growing day after day until I start feeling paralyzed by the weight of the worries, hopes and tasks that I have collected and carry with me. And I blame myself for not being in the same spirit as the rest of the people, all of whom seem so well organized and so cheerful. It seems that all around I hear the world telling me: Hurry up! Be in the Christmas spirit! Don’t let things wait to the last minute! Look! People are already buying gifts; look how many packages that lady carries, and how happy she seems? And you? What have you done so far? Nothing! Do something! Wake up! Move! Start writing Christmas cards to your friends and relatives right now! Get things that you want to send to Peru, right now, and send them on time! Next week will be too late! And your home? Have you decorated it? Not yet? When are you going to do that? Do you have a Christmas tree? What are you waiting for? A cheaper price? Forget it; you will end up without any tree! And what about your baking? When are you planning to do it? Soon people will start bringing cookies to your home – and you? Don’t forget that this is Christmas time, a time to share joy with others! Hurry!

    Deep in my heart I wonder: Is this the way that Christmas is meant to be? Where is the spirit of Christmas that brings peace, joy and kindness? Do I have it? Maybe I am transforming myself into another grumpy Scrooge that blames all people and shuns all acts of sharing and celebration? I question myself over and over: Why do I need to follow what the other people do? Why do I feel the pressure to do that? Is it what I really want to do? Maybe what I need to do is visit my past, and find in my memories the sources of comfort, joy, peace, and the real spirit of sharing and celebration that I know I once had, and that now more than ever, I need.

    How simple were the Christmases of my past! Everything was centered on the celebration of the birth of a special baby, whose story we knew by heart. The baby was a holy baby called Emmanuel, born from poor parents who were strangers in a foreign land, and needed food and a place to sleep. They found it in a small pesebre (barn) where the mother, Mary, gave birth. Shepherds in the surrounding hills were told by angels that a holy baby was born, and they went to the barn to see and pay tribute to him, bringing food and warming his temporary home. Therefore, for us children of the past, Christmas meant a time to share with others our home and our food, just as we would have done for the poor family and their baby if they had, some winter’s night, knocked on our doors asking for a place to rest.

    To prepare for this simple and momentous occasion, mothers cleaned the house as though they were about to receive the Holy family; and we, the children, helped to make El Nacimiento (the Nativity), which portrayed the setting of the holy baby’s birth. Our imagination played a giant role in the planning and execution of the Nativity. Of course, we needed to make a barn, and have figurines of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Emmanuel. We also needed a mule, a cow, shepherds, sheep and angels. After those essential elements, our mother gave us permission to express ourselves and to contribute to the narrative. Thus strange things were added to our Nativity, such as my sister’s favorite big doll; my little plastic sowing machine, which I loved; a tiny helicopter and a worn out truck, favorites of my brothers. (As we grew our creative expression evolved.) Planning where to place the Nativity and the details of its scenery took weeks. We would plant seeds of wheat in small tin cans with enough time for them to germinate and grow and serve as grass in our Nativity. This required at least two weeks of advance planning. Planning, imagining, negotiating and arguing kept our lives busy, energized, excited and focused until the night of Christmas Eve.

    From Christmas Day until January 6th, but not before, children and adults together enjoyed food and gatherings like never before. During those twelve days, we visited homes, and we in turn were visited. Friends, relatives, and anybody who knocked on the door of our house would encounter alfajores ready to be taken home. The smell of piping hot chocolate was in the street air; and we knew who were the one’s responsible: the Mother’s at work with their molinillos (wooden frothers) and their cantaros (clay pitchers) where the chocolate was being transformed into one of the most delicious drinks we had ever had. A cup of hot, foaming chocolate to be enjoyed with a piece of fresh home-made cheese, and a generous slice of Italian panetón, a semi-sweet bread from our local bakery: who in the world could have had a better Christmas than us? Nobody! The joy of being together and sharing our time and food was Christmas for all!

    In those times we didn’t know of the existence of Christmas trees. We saw them only on post cards, or in fairy tale books. Today in Peru we have Christmas trees! The majority are artificial trees (pine trees are not common in Peru). Every year I witness with certain sadness and nostalgia how more and more houses have Christmas trees and fewer houses have a Nativity. Modern mass culture is taking place of unique traditions. Now, children of Peru are not experiencing what past generations like mine genuinely enjoyed. I wonder whether there is similar joy in the rituals they are inheriting.

    Another interesting fact of my childhood is that on Christmas Day, neither children nor parents received presents. To begin with, presents for parents was an inconceivable notion! Children would have laughed seeing a parent opening a present! In keeping with the adoration of the holy child, only children received gifts. But not on Christmas Day! Only on the day known as Epiphany, on January 6th did children receive their presents – for this was the day when three wise men, three kings, from distant lands arrived with gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold for the young baby.

    Those Christmases were truly joyful, without the excessive pressure of giving and receiving so many gifts (which we always know are never enough to satisfy our desire to express our love). We enjoyed the simple, boisterous pleasure of offering our home and our food to all who would come.

    Times change, and with it human beings change too! I have changed: I see life now more complex, more demanding, and more pressured by a material society. I hope that these memories of my past will help me to bring the essence of Christmas to my spirit, which is the ability to enjoy sharing hearth and home with friends and family; knowing that together we can laugh and cry, “multiplying our joys, and dividing our sorrows,” as the wise saying goes.

    I wish the same for all of you.

    ¡Feliz Navidad!

    Mama Doris.

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  • Holiday season

    I try to look at the bright side during Holiday Season. Sure, we have to be prepared for the oncoming blitz of advertising, e-mails and commercials. And that music is playing everywhere you go. But for me, it’s really about family, friends, food and wine. Those four words sum up the plus side of the scale. They epitomize what the “Holiday Season” truly means. Let’s endeavor to offer some ideas for the grand days coming up the next few weeks:

    CHRISTMAS
    What ever became of Tiny Tim’s Christmas goose? It appears, at least here in the United States, as if we’ve gotten away from the huge traditional Christmas dinner, preferring to opt for something less elaborate. Maybe our appetites have been hindered by the mounds of shredded wrapping paper and green flecks of pine tree strewn throughout the house. Our family would always serve roast ham on Christmas afternoon, but a game bird is just as inviting. The wines you pour on this day should be warming, rich and elegant. Some suggestions: Chateauneuf-du-Pape from the southern Rhone Valley in France or perhaps a shiraz from Australia or South Africa.

    NEW YEAR’S EVE
    I was born and raised in Manhattan. We used to prepare for New Year’s Eve pretty much the same way people prepare for an oncoming hurricane: load up on the appropriate supplies, bolt the doors and hope everything outside will still look the same when we emerge. Going out on the streets of N.Y.C. on NYE was a distinct mistake, as lunacy often seemed to permeate the brisk night air. So we would stay at home, well stocked, watching Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians play that schmaltzy music at the Waldorf-Astoria.

    Sparkling wine has always been associated with this particular holiday, and the best of the genre come from Champagne. Always clean and vivid, great Champagne washes away the prior season’s troubles. The Roederer Brut Premier is at the top of list of Non-Vintage Champagnes. It always seems to be well-balanced between clean and yeasty flavors. Also, if you haven’t tasted Clouet’s Silver Label Brut, it’s truly one of the most exciting sparkling wines on the market.

    As for New Year’s Day, Alka-Seltzer is often the beverage of choice early in the day, but as the afternoon progresses and the football games come on the tube, a six-pack and some chips and salsa usually pair well.

    Happy Holidays!

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  • If this shoe could talk

    Several weeks ago I was approached by a good friend, who directs the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition. She asked me if I could temporarily loan to the organization one of my old shoes—any shoe that I had used either here in Oregon or in my native Peru. She planned to present it together with other old shoes in an exhibition! At first I thought: This is so odd – in fact, its one of the craziest ideas I have heard of! An old shoe in an exhibition?! I asked her for more details, and she said that she and her group believed the exhibition would demonstrate the extent to which shoes, as diverse as they are, play surprisingly important roles in the lives of their owners; and not only that, but illustrate the function they serve in the life and health of the communities to which each person belongs. Our feet – and more recently, our shoes as well – have been the means by which humans have explored new places, discovered new paths, encountered the unknown and reunited with old friends and old places. Shoes, in particular, send a message that walking is one of the best ways to know nature, our selves, and our community. They allow us to both feel and be young and alive! With those powerful arguments, my friend had thoroughly convinced me, and I happily lent her one of my hiking shoes, together with its true story, as if told by the shoe itself.

    This is the story. I hope you enjoy it!

    ON A DAY IN EARLY FEBRUARY, 2005, MY BOOT TOLD ME:
    - Where are you taking my partner and me? We felt so comfortable on the stands of REI, close to Andina, until yesterday, when your son Victor picked us out just for you. Now we find ourselves in a corner of your suitcase, hearing the loud engine of what must be an enormous airplane. Where could we possibly be going? How many hours are you going to keep us in this condition? I feel positively suffocated! 9-1/2 hours of traveling without actually moving an inch! …Ah, at last I seem to hear that we have arrived… but why are we in Lima, Peru?! And what was that? We need to fly another leg,; another two hours to get to Cuzco? No, you’re kidding me! I can’t support this darkness any more. I love fresh air, light. I love nature. I am a hiking shoe! I was born to walk!

    THE FOLLOWING DAY AFTER ARRIVING IN CUZCO, IN PREPARATION FOR OUR JOURNEY, I HEARD:
    - I am glad that finally my partner and I are on your feet! Wow! I never imagined seeing you in the attire of a professional hiker! The journey must be very long indeed! Did you say five days exploring the Andes? I overheard your conversation with Chef Emmanuel and I am as excited as you and he are! Being invited by the people of “Food and Wine” magazine, joining a food writer and a professional photographer to taste and document the fabulous Peruvian crops that are featured in your restaurant; all of this sounds fascinating! And what’s more: I will be in my element! Count with me! I will be the sole that will accompany your soul in your journey through your beloved Andes! Let’s start our walk!

    MIDWAY THROUGH OUR TREK:
    - Won’t you show just a little compassion? Every day from 6:00AM until 6:00 PM you are killing me! I am a good hiking shoe, but climbing one mountain after another, almost without any stopping, is unbearable! And each day its a higher mountain than the previous one. No shoe or body can take this much longer! My sole hurts! I see you and Emanuel are also exhausted. Look at your hands, and your lips – they are blue from the lack of oxygen! Hear your heart; it is almost jumping out of your chest!
    - This is not what you and I ever counted on! … Where are the fields of potatoes and quinoa? Where are those beautiful peppers you wanted to show with pride to the writer and photographer? When is Emanuel going to cook with the Andean crops that he planned to harvest? Right now we are almost at 12,000 feet of altitude, and I pity the lot of us!
    - But, let’s sit for a moment, please! Look how deep is the blue of the Andean sky! Let ours souls be nourished by what we see right now. Hear the silence that surrounds us! See how peaceful it is all around us! The wind is not whistling, as it was before! See how beautiful and huge are the mountains in front of us!
    - This is indeed magnificent! I am sure you feel more like me now: humble and small! Why are human beings so arrogant so much of the time, when nature is a wonder bigger and more powerful than they! My sole and your body can be worn thin, even worn out; but after what we’ve witnessed, we are more alive than ever. I feel stronger and blessed. Let’s continue our walk!

    AT THE END OF OUR JOURNEY:
    - Bravo! Hurray! We did it! We survived! But please don’t ever pull my leg like this again! I know that you and Emanuel are sorry for your unfulfilled dream of cooking authentic Peruvian feasts from the farms and fields of the mountains and valleys, but surely you wouldn’t want more climbing than what we have already endured?
    - Of course talking about my partner and myself, we are hiking shoes, born to climb! But not to such extremes! You are right; the plan was absurd, almost surreal! Whereas we should have been trekking and cooking in harmony and balance, in a way appropriate to the cause and occasion, we ended up on a route fit for professional climbers, not for chefs, journalists or photographers.
    - I sympathize now more than ever with all of you! But especially with the sneakers of the food writer! A pair of shoes from Manhattan who didn’t have any idea where they were, or what they were doing!
    EPILOGUE
    In the end, I conclude that life is wise and planned for all of us a special journey, a journey for sole and soul alike! I – and my other half as well – am very proud for having been your companion in that wonderful journey through the Andes!

    Sincerely, Your humble hiking shoe!

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  • The virtues of syrah

    I am constantly searching for wines that perform above their perceived station. The ones that taste like they cost $50, but only set you back $20. It takes passion and determination to ferret out these nuggets. Sometimes I feel like one of those Italian pigs, nosing his way around the forest, clawing for truffles.

    When you find such jewels, you are immediately of two minds: 1) Should I tell my friends about this wine? If I do, maybe when I come back to secure some more bottles they will be GONE! And my friends will be serving this excellent wine with their burgers, snickering at my naïveté; or 2) Keep my mouth shut and savor each sip, wringing my hands and cackling like Midas over his gold.

    In the end, it is with great pleasure that I shine the spotlight on syrah. Looking for something hearty and rich to serve with your next winter meal? Tired of merlot and cabernet? Check this out.

    Syrah is a truly noble grape. Small-berried and thick-skinned, this varietal has the ability to age superbly for decades. The northern Rhône Valley in France produces the syrah with the most notoriety, from the regions of Hermitage and Côte-Rotie. These beauties are dark in color and sometimes tannic in their youth, but winemakers now endeavor to temper the roughness to make them more appealing when young. Other areas in the northern Rhone making wine from 100% syrah (and sometimes even providing value) include St. Joseph, Cornas and Crozes-Hermitage.

    Many syrah-based wines are being released from the southern Rhone Valley as well, where they play a major part in the blends of the Côtes-du-Rhone Villages, such as Vacqueyras, Rasteau and Cairanne. From the Languedoc-Roussillon region, near the border with Spain, syrah is the grape variety á la mode. All of a sudden, after years of languishing on wine shop shelves, syrah grown in U.S. is getting some notice in the press. The warmer climate seems to suit the grape, and the quality of offerings from Napa, Sonoma and the Central Coast seems to have risen. Syrahs from California show a full-bodied richness, yet often have softer finishes than those from France. Washington State’s versions can have a more French feel than Napa’s.

    Syrah also flourishes in Australia, where the original cuttings came from France in the 1830s. Aussie shiraz is lush and sometimes alcoholic when young, but from conscientious growers that prune their vines vigorously, great wines are being made. The single- varietal bottlings and blends being made in Argentina and Chile have made leaps and bounds in recent years and are now among some of the best syrah values available on the market.

    When folks think about the truly great wines of the world, it is usually Bordeaux, Burgundy or California cabernets that come to mind. Three of the greatest wines I’ve ever tasted are made from syrah. Guigal’s single- vineyard Côte-Roties, Penfold’s Grange and Henschke’s Hill of Grace Shiraz are extremely expensive wines, but can hold their own against any wine made on earth.

    If you are still unfamiliar with this variety, have your retailer recommend a few for you in the lower price range, and then you can work your way up to the better bottles. Solid wines at reasonable prices. Maybe you should tell your friends? Then again . . .

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  • Nuestros Tés de Hierbas

    Peru’s herbal teas

    Every day in my youth, for as long as I can remember, my family always drank cool boiled water with a fresh flavor of lemon, as our drinking water. I can still remember my mom, early in the morning, before we went to school, putting on our adobe stove heated with firewood, a pot full of potable water to which she added 2 or 3 lemon leaves. After the water boiled for 15 minutes she took the pot from the stove and allowed the water to cool down before she transferred it to a garrafa (a beautiful, green glassy water jar) which lived at the center of our dining room table. That was the way my mom kept us free of any stomach infections. Later I learned that our water boiled with lemon leaves was called Tisana de limón, a kind of herbal tea that, together with a grand array of herbal teas, was part of our daily diet.

    It didn’t matter if it was morning, noon or night, or whether the occasion was simply an afternoon repast, an after-dinner beverage, or moments when any of us came down with a sore throat, a cough or a cold: a glass of lemon water, or a very warm pot of a specific herbal tea, was always at the ready.

    My grandmother, my mother, my aunts and most of my relatives were experts in the art of prescribing the miraculous teas that so often eased my own illness and restored my health, renewing my energy, my appetite, my good mood, and of course, the pink cheeks that I, like any healthy Andean girl, always had. (The pink color was a result of the relatively high number of red cells in our blood, an adaptive trait for efficiently using the relatively low levels of oxygen at 8000 feet of altitude.)

    Without any conscious effort on my own part, I gradually grew familiar with the nature and the use of those magical herbal teas, the names and popular uses of which I would like to share with you.

    Before I present a list of the most popular herbal teas of my homeland and their particular uses, I would like to clarify three words that we use in Peru, closely associated with our herbs. These are: Té, Infusión and Tisana. This is what I heard and learned about them during my childhood and my youth.

    Infusión is the process by which we make our teas. We place in a teapot a small amount of fresh or dry flowers, leaves, seeds or grains, and add enough boiling water to fill the pot. We cover the pot and allow the water to extract the nutrients of our herbs. After 10 to 15 minutes of infusion, our tea is ready to be strained and drunk. Often we add a little honey or brown sugar to sweeten the flavor.

    Té is the result of the Infusión. In Peru we have a variety of teas, many (though not all) of them familiar to other countries and communities: Té de Manzanilla (Chamomile Tea), Té de Coca (Coca Tea), Té de Hierba Buena (Spearmint Tea), Té de Hierba Luisa (Lemongrass Tea). The majority of these herbal teas are used either as digestives or for their relaxing effect, or both.

    Tisana is a drink that is made by boiling in a large pot of water any part of an herb, usually roots or stalks, for a length of time between 15 to 30 minutes. We then strain the liquid and the tisane is ready to drink, perhaps with the addition of honey or brown sugar. A popular sedative tisana is the tisana de valeriana, made with Valerian root previously soaked in cold water.

    We were told that in order to prepare a good herbal tea or tisane, we need to use plain water and boil it gently on the stove in such a way as to allow the slow formation of bubbles or gasses that (so we believe) help extract the nutritional and medicinal ingredients of the herbs. It is not recommended to heat water in the microwave, or to use heavily mineraled water. A good herbal tea or tisane shouldn’t be judged by the color, but by the flavor. A dark color does not always indicate that the herbal tea or tisane is ready: we need to taste it! Many good herbal teas or tisanas have a light color. Another rule we follow is to never use large amounts of leaves, flowers stalks or roots. Small amounts are surprisingly efficacious.

    What follow are some of the most popular herbal teas that we have in my homeland, accompanied by their traditional or folkloric uses and benefits:

    DIGESTIVE HERBAL TEAS. Recommended to be drunk after a heavy meal.
    Té de Hierba Buena (spearmint tea)
    Té de Cedrón (Lemon Verbena Tea)
    Té de Manzanilla (Chamomile Tea)
    Té de Hierba Luisa (Lemongrass Tea)

    SEDATIVE HERBAL TEAS/TISANAS. These have a calming effect on the nervous system, and Are sometimes helpful for for people under stress. They assist relaxation and sleep:
    Tisana/Té de valeriana (Valerian Tea)
    Tisana/Té de Tilo (Linden Tea)
    Tisana/Té de Romero (Rosemary Tea) — Té de Romero is also believed to strengthen memory.

    HERBAL TEAS FOR THE HEART SORROWS. Recommended to alleviate the sufferings of people in love, either because their love is not reciprocated, a relationship is broken or they are grieving the loss of a beloved one.

    Té de flores de Azar (Lemon Blossoms Tea)
    Té de Toronjil (Lemon Balm Tea)

    HERBAL TEA THAT ALLEVIATES MOUNTAIN SICKNESS (“SOROCHE”).
    Té de Coca (Coca Tea) is a tisana made with coca leaves boiled in water for 5 to 10 minutes. Drunk 2 – 3 times a day, this tisana alleviates the headache and dizziness that are symptoms of the altitude sickness. Some experts think that the coca leaves regulate blood circulation and the level of oxygen in the lungs, thanks to the presence of globuline, a chemical present in the leaves.

    Contrary to the opinion of many, the Té de Coca is neither addictive nor toxic; this is because it contains no active cocaine. Cocaine is an alkaloid that remains inactive and stable in the coca plant. In order to become active, the coca leaves must be submitted to a complicated process involving the presence of a strong alkali. Besides that, the amount of active cocaine that the coca leaves are able to produce is very, very tiny. For all of these reasons, Andean countries such as Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador openly drink and openly offer to tourists a tea that facilitates their adaptation to high altitudes.

    HERBAL TEAS WITH FUNNY NAMES AND IMPORTANT USES:
    Té de Uña de Gato (Cat’s claw tea). Excellent tea to strengthen the immune system. Lately, doctors and botanists around the world are exploring its anti-cancer properties.
    Té de Cola de Caballo (Horse Tail Tea or Shave Grass Tea). Used as a diuretic, or to eliminate renal stones, the tea is also used as a solution to heal external wounds.
    Té de Pie de Perro (Dogfoot Tea). Used externally to clean and disinfect wounds
    Té de Diente de León (Dandelion tea). The infusion of dandelion leaves is used to stimulate liver function and also as a diuretic, facilitating the elimination of kidney stones. It is used also as a gentle laxative.

    Convinced by personal experience of the benefits of our Tés de Hierbas (herbal teas), every time I visit tables at Andina I always suggest that our guests end their meal with a cup of one of the three digestive herbal teas that we have on our menu:

    Peruvian Evening Tea, a blend of aromatic leaves and flowers made especially for Andina by the Tea Zone, a local Portland company; the flavor and aroma of this tea are delicious.
    Lemon Verbena Tea (Té de Cedrón), especially delicious as an afternoon tea, enjoyed with a traditional humita (fresh corn pastry).
    Chamomile Tea (Té de Manzanilla), made with naturally dried flowers, this beloved tea is well known as a digestive and sedative.
    Honoring the abundance of herbs and edible plants in Peru, we hope and wish that a cup of Peruvian herbal tea, accompanied with an alfajor, our classic Peruvian cookie, adds a golden touch to a unique experience at Andina.

    Mama Doris.

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  • Making every day extraordinary

    I used to date a guy that saved everything. Like once when his sister came home from a year in Guam with the Air Force and brought him home a six-pack of her favorite beer.

    “Are you ever gonna try this beer?” I asked him months after his sister had come to visit. “It’s special,” he said. “I’ll drink it when the time’s right.”

    Three months later, he still hadn’t cracked a single one. “Seriously, beer doesn’t last forever,” I said. “You should at least try it. She brought it for you to drink, not look at.”

    “I know,” he said. “When the time is right.”

    I didn’t understand all the ceremony over a six-pack, but I’d said my piece and kept my mouth shut after that. He finally pulled one of the beers out six months later. It was flat. That beer that his sister had packed and carried 3,000 miles—across the globe—for her brother, went to waste.

    “I guess sometimes you have to make the right time instead of waiting for it,” I said. He just nodded and drank his flat beer.

    Three years ago Jels, Andina’s general manager, approached me about writing for the Andina newsletter. I’d be the official in-house reporter, he said, digging up Andina’s inside stories. An interesting prospect I thought; but, like most freelance writers, I was working at a restaurant part-time to supplement my writing, so payment was naturally the big question. Jels offered to pay me in wine. Wine? I thought. Well I do drink it, and it would be fun to have something better in stock than 2-buck Chuck. Some of my writer friends balked when I told them the deal, demanding I not work for less than XYZ amount. But the way I saw it, I’d drink two bottles and stash two away each month, eventually amassing a mammoth wine collection that would grow ripe with age and impress the hell out of those same friends, whose general criteria for picking out wine was “a pretty label.”

    ***

    Three years, 36 columns and some 144 bottles later, I’m writing my last newsletter column and have about 13 bottles of wine stashed in a dark corner of my basement storage unit. Not exactly the stockpile I’d envisioned. So I start thinking about where all that wine went, and remember giving some as a present for a friend’s engagement, nursing another friend back to sanity after a rough breakup, toasting a pregnancy, a new home. I provided champagne to celebrate new jobs, spicy reds to pair with roast lamb for my supper club, sparkling rosé for Sauvie Island picnics. Everyone special in my life drank that wine at sometime in the past three years.

    I didn’t hoard it, collect it, like I thought I would. But I shared it, which in the end was my true payment for being a part of this newsletter for the past three years. Not only did it gain me a rep as the friend with good taste in wine, but also it reminded me that the good things, even the very best things (don’t worry Ken, I didn’t have access to that side of the list) are empty unless they’re shared. If you fight to save things for a special occasion, you risk them going flat. In this way and more, that’s what writing this column has been about for me: making the everyday extraordinary.

    Jels saw all the unique stories just lying in wait at Andina and tapped me to explore them. Each one I uncovered removed the work face that we all put on for each other and showed that there was much more than small talk between co-workers. Jels hired each and every one of his staff because beyond doing their job, they all have extraordinary experiences to bring to the everyday of Andina. But we’d never have known about them if the stories – like all that wine that flowed so freely out of my supply – hadn’t been shared, relished.

    I give my thanks to the Platts for starting such an incredible restaurant; to Jels for running it and always urging me to think big; to Victor for meticulous editing and thoughtful dialogue; and to Tatiana, for the endless patience and technological savvy it takes to put this newsletter out each month. Most importantly, I thank you readers, eaters, Andina lovers.

    Let the wine flow,
    Nina

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  • Andina, un mundo pequeño

    Andina: a small world

    I had always believed that the probability of encountering relatives or past acquaintances diminished with the increase of distance and time. Living in Oregon for many years, far away from my country of origin, I expected to experience this phenomenon in full. But, life has lately been showing me how wrong I was. I discover this whenever I visit tables at Andina and engage in conversations with our guests. It is there that I have learned how at any time, past relations can emerge into our present life unexpectedly, leaving us bewildered and in awe. Is it serendipity? Or is it something that was meant to be? Or is the truer law of probability? I don’t know. But it is happening to me with frequency.

    ****

    It was maybe three years ago that, passing by our hostess stand one evening, I saw a middle-aged couple waiting to be seated. I decided to approach them in order to thank them for being patient, and to reassure them that they would be soon be seated. The couple politely responded that they were doing very well, and mentioned that they were waiting for their son to join them.

    They were from Texas, I also learned, where they had lived for many years. The gentleman was an engineer, and his son was coming from Astoria, where he was posted in the Coast Guard. Just as I was preparing to leave, the man asked me if I was Peruvian. When I said yes, he said that he too was Peruvian, and that, having decided to meet their son in Portland, they were happy to have found a Peruvian restaurant.

    The next question came spontaneously from both sides: “Where in Peru do you come from?” From Cajamarca, I said. Surprised, the man said he was born in Lima, but that his grandfather and father were from Cajamarca—not precisely from the city of Cajamarca, but from the province of Celendín, Now I was the one surprised. I said to them that both of my parents also came from Celendín, and the man in great good humor said; “So, you and I are Shilicos (the nickname for the people of Celendín) by our roots!” Continuing with the story of his origins, he said that his grandfather and father were not born in the city of Celendín itself, but in a small village. I absolutely could not resist my temptation to guess the name of the village: “Is it Sucre, perhaps?” The man was in turn unable to restrain himself from complete surprise and excitement, and said: “How did you know?” To which I responded that I had guessed the village because my own father was born in Sucre, and my mother in a nearby village called Jose Galvez.

    At this point the laughing man said: If your father was from Sucre, and your mother from the town close by, probably you and your family have heard of a man named Nazario Chavez. “Of course!” I said. “He was my uncle, and a very close cousin of my father” And, I started to recite all the memories and anecdotes I knew about Nazario Chavez. I told him that my family had been immensely proud of him; that besides being a writer and poet, he was always interested in politics, to the point that he went to jail for his principles in favor of the rights of the indigenous people. Moreover, he never denied his humble origins. I also knew that eventually he became a congressional representative for Cajamarca, and ascended in his political career until he became the Official Secretary of Manuel Prado, the President of Peru! As I finished my story, the man spoke in a broken voice and with great emotion as he informed me that Nazario Chavez was his grandfather! Coming close and embracing me, he said: “We are close relatives! We are cousins!”, and continued: “Who in the world could imagine that coming to Oregon from Texas, I would find not only another Peruvian, but one with whom I share the same roots, the same homeland, our beloved Sucre. Dear cousin, we are extensions of the same family that carries the some blood and the same pride in our ancestors.” In that instant I realized how life can surprise us with discoveries as unexpected as they are welcome. This was an experience that both of us will be sharing for the rest of our lives.

    When his son arrived, I was introduced to him as his new aunt. They dined at table 43, and loved their dinner, I visited them periodically and through our conversation I became acquainted with their lives. I learned that I have another cousin (the father’s brother) in Chicago, that both brothers came to the United States sent by their father Pompeyo Chavez, the son of Nazario Chavez, to be educated. One brother became a physician and moved to Chicago, and if some day I go to Chicago, I will feel that my extended family is there for me. I won’t be a stranger in a strange land.

    Yet another occasion confirmed for me how life can unfold with complete unexpectedness. This occasion also occurred when I was visiting tables at Andina.

    It was late in the evening, and before my husband and I went home, I decided to pay a last visit to the few tables that still had guests. I went to table 30, where a couple was finishing their dessert, and after a brief greeting I asked them what they thought about our food; they looked at each other and smiled. The man said: “We are Peruvians, and we know our food very well! The food of your restaurant transported us to our homeland. It is very good!” And he continued telling me how they came to Andina to celebrate their anniversary and that they were having a wonderful time. Animated and feeling a little flattered I asked them my classic question: Which part of Peru are you from? The man replied that he was from Huacho (a province close to Lima ) and that his wife was from Cajamarca. Because I am also from Cajamarca, I was happily surprised. But the gentleman continued. They met and married in Lima. He was an engineer and graduated from the UNI (National University of Engineering), and together they came to the USA thanks to a scholarship that he had received from the University of Illinois. He had since obtained his PhD in Physics, and upon graduation looked for a job and found it at PSU (Portland State University). That is how he ended up living in Portland.

    When I heard his story, my initial surprise gave way to a wider curiosity, in this case related to my husband. I remembered that, when both of us were living and working in Lima, he visited the National University (UNI) many times and knew some of the teachers very well, notably those with whom he had collaborated in developing effective ways to teach Physics. That was his job as part of the Educational Reform initiative for which the Peruvian Government had hired him.

    Feeling that my husband needed to hear what I was hearing, I brought him to meet the gentleman, and together they discovered even more. Both knew the professor who had had a strong influence on this particular guest’s decision to become a Physicist, for he was the same professor who was one of my husband’s closest collaborators and a good friend as well. Both remembered clearly his name: Engineer Valqui. In addition to that professor, others were likewise recalled: Professor La Torre, Professor Hernandez, Professor Meerovici. With each shared name and memory, their excitement grew. It seemed unbelievable that at a restaurant in Portland an ex-Peace Corps volunteer and a Peruvian physicist had found so many things in common. They felt that from now and for the rest of their lives they were bound by their calling for Physics, by common friends, by a country they loved.

    And yet there is more to this story. This time, the shared history belonged to the gentleman’s wife and me. After we learned that we were both from Cajamarca, our surprise was even greater when we realized that our parents were from Celendín, and not only from Celendín, but from the tiny village of Sucre (yet again!). Her grandfather’s name was Francisco Chavez Aliaga, and my grandmother’s name was Isidora Chavez Aliaga. Both of them had the same last names! (I started feeling goose bumps). Could we be relatives who had never met before? She mentioned that during her childhood she lived in Sucre, and so I asked if she remembered some of the names of her family. She mentioned tío Octavio (uncle Octavio), who happened to be my first cousin! She also knew, through her parents, about my grandparents, knew personally my uncles and aunts who were also her uncles and aunts. She knew exactly the street and the house where all of them lived. Both of us remembered out loud the place names and streets of that small village; and of course we talked about our Carnavales (Carnival), one the year’s most wonderful occasions, where all shilicos, old and young, returned home and gathered in Sucre, to celebrate life with food and dances, and incommensurate affection.

    We shilicos are famous in Peru for being wanderers. You can find shilicos in any part of the world, including the “moon” (a popular joke about us). I feel that the presence of my relative and I that night at Andina, in Portland, Oregon, far away from our homeland, made us living testimonies of this fact.

    In celebration of what life had had in store for us, which was our unbelievable discovery that we were cousins, we hugged each other, feeling and just about knowing that we came from the same roots, and belonged to the same family. She called me tia (aunt); and I called her sobrina (niece).

    These are only some of the experiences that I have had visiting tables at Andina. They and others like make me realize and believe that by sharing something that is precious to us, in this case our food, we are opening an opportunity to meet a rainbow of people: some, like those in my stories, to whom we discover we are related or with whom we share a common and cherished past; but also to others, formerly strangers, who, once we have been bold enough to share something of ourselves, are no longer strangers. On such occasions, we are inviting each other to do create a bond that transforms our older worlds into one, significantly smaller world.

    Here’s to sharing what we have, and making our world a better place in which to live.

    Mama Doris.

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  • The future of wine descriptions

    Throughout my career, I’ve often been at odds with how wines are described, both verbally and in the wine press. These descriptions can be overly floral and densely convoluted, to the benefit of no one. Therefore, after much rumination, I’ve decided to step forth and create my own lexicon of descriptions. Hopefully they will assist in helping the way one describes a wine, with concision supplanting convolution. I am petitioning countries around the world in an attempt to make my glossary universally accepted as the day-to-day norm. I’m pleased to say my wine descriptions are poised to become the accepted verbiage by the governing wine authorities in Greenland, Namibia and Fiji. And this is just the beginning. Here is the list of my descriptors, and please feel free to start applying them right away: Happy, Joyous, Confused, Sullen, Chameleon, Angry and Confrontational.

    1. Happy. A Happy wine is bright, both in color and on the nose. It’s juicy and zingy as it bounces out of the glass and onto your palate in a conga-line of flavors. The acid, tannins, alcohol and fruit are in harmony. All is well with the world and smiles abound as you pour another round.
    2. Joyous. Taking Happy to a higher plane, a Joyous wine adds both complexity and power to the mix. It is basically flawless, pushing every vinous button. Thoughts of one gorgeous food pairing after another cross your mind as each of the multidimensional taste sensations dances in your mouth. One rarely encounters such amazing bottles and never forgets them when they do.
    3. Confused. Wines that are Confused hesitate to choose a path. They have yet to decide their future: Will the tannins soften or will they remain rough? Will that funk on the nose blow off, or will it worsen? It staggers about, bumping into walls, looking for the door that will unleash its true self. Years can pass before a Confused wine emerges into something like a condition of clarity.
    4. Sullen. A Sullen wine does not answer when you ask it to come out and play. It crouches, brooding and unresponsive. No manner of coaxing will bring the Sullen wine out of its shell. You’ll find no nose to speak of, and the flavors will be muted and vague.
    5. Chameleon. These wines don’t care if you think they are Pinot Noir, Grenache or Barbera. They are so “internationalized” that they appear to be all things at once. Rarely does a Chameleon taste like what it says on the label. It can say it’s from Spain, but it could be Australian or Sicilian. They are baffling and eminently forgettable.
    6. Angry. An Angry wine is clearly not pleased to be entering your glass. Harsh in every way, the tannins and alcohol state the degree of this wine’s inner turmoil. There is very little one can do when encountering an Angry wine. Decantation or aging won’t do the trick, as it can’t be placated.
    7. Confrontational. In the same manner as Joyous relates to Happy, Confrontational raises the bar for an Angry wine. This wine will pop you one in the solar plexus, and then step back, arms akimbo, and ask if you’d like another. Black and muddy in color, ludicrously high in alcohol and devoid of any saving grace, the Confrontational wine will leave you shocked and bruised.

    So there we have it. Boldly going where no one has gone before, we have reached the Future of Wine Descriptions. As my emissaries, I hope you will feel compelled to contact the appropriate wine authorities and demand to see these descriptions instituted worldwide. It will only be a matter of time before the Floral and Convoluted of yesterday become the Joyous and Sullen of tomorrow!

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  • Fast-track grapes

    Things go through cycles. Something that was out of favor a few years ago can change direction radically, almost overnight, and become highly desirable in the eyes of consumers. Then a little time passes, and the latest fad fades.

    Three American trends that come to mind are men’s haircuts, the fins on the backs of Cadillacs in the late ‘50s, and bell-bottom pants.

    I was a member of an army of longhaired hippies in the early ’70s. The crew-cut no-necks would call out to us from their pickups, “Hey sweetie, get a haircut,” but we just grew it longer. Now I’m the one with the buzz cut, and it’s the guys driving the pickups that have the ponytails. Go figure.

    Do you remember those fins on the late ’50s Caddys, the ones that flaired off the cars like manta rays? Well, by 1963 they had shrunk to the size you might have seen on the back of a 10-year-old’s Schwinn.

    And, yes, bell-bottom jeans are coming back. I can recall wearing pants so wide at the bottom that if I had four legs, all of them would have fit nicely with room to spare. Why people today would want to wear such garments is beyond me. But I bet my mom probably said the same thing then.

    Now, let’s put these thoughts into vinous terms. Until five years or so, wines made from grapes like grenache and pinot gris toiled away virtually unnoticed. Little was written about them, and only the more eclectic, more localized wine lists would feature them. Things have changed.

    Grenache, the workhorse of the Southern Rhone Valley, has emerged from the abyss to become one of the hottest grapes on the market. Bottles of grenache used to gather dust. For some reason, folks here in the U.S. thought them inferior. Part of this problem could be color.

    He-Men drinkers disdain pale wines. Grenache can be garnet in color, even in youth, and it will never bring to the glass the deep ruby found in cabernet or syrah. But when blended with grapes like mourvedre, carignane and the aforementioned syrah, grenache becomes poignant, encompassing both power and grace.

    The southern Rhone is home to Avignon and to the world’s greatest grenache. Gigondas, Vacqueyas, Rasteau, Cairanne are just some of the villages producing magnificent grenache blends.

    Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in which grenache has long shined, is the oldest Appellation (demarcated region) in France. The Pope, under siege in Italy, sought refuge in the southern city of Avignon in the early 1300s, and a new castle was built to house him and his entourage, hence Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Look closely at the next one you buy, and you’ll see the Pope’s insignia embossed on the bottle.

    The Australians have rediscovered grenache as well, with numerous GSM bottlings (grenache, syrah/shiraz, mourvedre) on the market. Search for these, as they pack rich fruit and are deftly balanced, which sets them apart from some of the more massively decked-out pure shiraz bottlings.

    Releases from the States, especially those from regions along the Central Coast of California, are reminiscent of their French ancestors. Here’s an aside: you can find 75 to 100-year-old vines of grenache, carignane and mourvedre in California. These were considered trash grapes in years gone by. Keep your eyes peeled for them. Superb wines at exceptional prices are available.

    Everybody’s heard of pinot grigio. White wine from Italy, made from pinot gris, cold-fermented for easy-drinking. Good pretty much every year, but rarely exciting. It’s not just pinot grigio that people want to drink today, it’s pinot gris.

    America’s finest come from Oregon, where it assumes a medium-bodied profile. Oregon pinot gris is hot with consumers right now. They can be made in styles that are crisp and aromatic, or rounder and fuller in texture. They also work with a broad range of dishes.

    And please don’t overlook the pinot gris from Alsace in France. They’re lush, almost oily, yet acidic and versatile. Great food wines.

    Wines that were formerly overlooked have now garnished the spotlight. I think I like this concept. So check in again in two years, and there will be new pretenders to the fast track. That’s what makes this business so interesting.

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  • From Oysters Come Pearls: A Brief History of the Pearl District

    Today, mention of the Pearl District conjures visions of sleek martini bars, high-end art galleries and glamorous dining locales. It’s hard to imagine that just over twenty years ago, it served as a gritty drug-addled backdrop for “Drugstore Cowboy,” one of Portland director Gus Van Sant’s most popular films of all time. With its central location and proximity to the Willamette, the area of Northwest Portland now known as the Pearl was the manufacurting and transport center of the city. It housed little more than the central railyard and a sprawling industrial tract of warehouses and factories.

    The development of the district began as most do, with the exit of industry and the influx of artists looking for cheap live/work space. By the mid ’80s, the area had been deemed the Northwest Industrial Triangle and arists attracted to cheap real estate and gritty environs, began to set up shop in old warehouse spaces and showing their work at open houses. Blackfish artist’s co-operative was one of the first group of artists to move into the area in 1979. Early gallery director Thomas Paul Augustine coined the term Pearl District as he observed that the grimy, crusty warehouses covering the area were like oysters and the artists and the work they were doing hidden deep inside were like pearls. As the area began to build its reputation as an up and coming arts district, travel writers glommed onto the term and developers were equally happy to leave behind the utilitarian moniker, “Northwest Industrial Triangle” and adopt “Pearl District” in their campaigns.

    Commerical development began in earnest in the mid ’90s, reaching a literal and symbolic shift in 1999 with the destruction of the Lovejoy Viaduct. As part of a $10 million deal between the City and Hoyt St. Properties, a primary early Pearl district developer, the viaduct was destroyed to make way for development along Lovejoy Street in exchange for designated public park space to be included in their master district plan. The destruction of the viaduct and the construction of the current Lovejoy off-ramp and Portland streetcar, all laid ground for the Pearl district as we know it today – a mix of upscale condo developments, art galleries, fine dining & drinking establishments, and boutique shops.

    The viaduct was an elevated ramp suppported by dozens of columns that stretched from the Broadway Bridge over the central railyard and up to NW 12th Avenue. During the late 1940s a watchman for SP&S railroad named Tom Stefopoulos spent slow stretches first chalking and later painting images from Greek mythology and Americana on several of the columns supporting the viaduct. When the viaduct was torn down, several of the columns were preserved and two can be seen today in their entirerity in the plaza at NW 10th and Everett Street. Though many historic structures remain, the district is hardly recognizable from Van Sant’s iconic backdrops. Long gone are the grime and grit of the district’s industrial past. The pearls, as Augustine coined them, have not only been unearthed but reflect in their luster one of the Portland’s most vibrant districts.

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  • Summer whites

    So I’ve given up. I’m no longer hiding my affliction. I can’t help it. I’m going to drink some white wine. Crisp, clean, bright and refreshing. Yep. It’s my summer go-to. Red wines? I’ll see the majority of them once again come October. An occasional cooled down Pinot, Gamay or Cab Franc may find its way onto the table during the summer months, but white (and rose) drives the ship until further notice.

    Here are a few of my favorites from around the world. These are the whites I drink with friends on my nights off and at home:

    Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc
    This is a major staple. They bring crisp slate and minerals, yet carry all that zippy acidity. I love their versatility at the table. Quite simply, they are the world’s greatest sauvignon blancs. The 2008s are my favorites, but most are gone now. Look for the 2010s when they arrive, and make sure you taste any of the softer 2009s before making large purchases. Priced between $18-35, look for Andre Neveu, Lucien Thomas, Jean Max Roger, Chateau de Sancerre, Patient Cottat and Domaine Vacheron.

    Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Riesling
    These beauties have mineral overtones (both on the nose and palate), vivid acids and pack loads of flavor. They are drier wines made in a Germanic style. Rieslings from Germany often carry 8 or 9 percent alcohol and have a sweetness in the background, while those from Austria are 11 to 13 percent or more. They’re medium in weight but light on their feet, like a good Free Safety (one does not often encounter football terminology in a wine column). Good producers include Rudi Pichler, Prager, Brundlmayer, Hirsch, Knoll, Loimer, Nigl and Solomon. Prices vary from $15 for entry level styles all the way up to $50 or so for “reserve” bottlings.

    Chablis
    Chardonnay with zing. No other chard tastes like a Chablis. Once again, minerals stand out. Look for that distinctive pale green color in the glass. Premier Cru wines are the best values, costing about $25-40 as compared to $50 or so for Grand Cru and $20 to $25 for straight Chablis. This wine is the quintessential partner for shellfish. As with the Loire wines mentioned above, 2008 is the vintage to search out. Their acids are electric and cleansing. The 2009’s are much plumper and are easy drinkers. Boudin, Brocard, Rene & Vincent Dauvissat, Droin, Fevres, Malandes, Pinson and Savary are just a few of the many fine domains.

    Others of note
    Albarino from Galicia in Spain (Martin Codax, Lusco, Paso de Senorans); the flowery and lively Torrontes from Argentina (Manos Negros); Pinot blanc and riesling from Alsace (Albert Mann, Trimbach, Weinbach); Chenin blanc (Savennieres from Florent Baumard or the Chinon Blanc from J.M. Raffault in the Loire Valley); the 2010 Patricia Green Sauvignon Blanc from Oregon, which is most assuredly the best Sauvignon made in our state, and the Soaves from Leonildo Pieropan, one of northern Italy’s finest white wine producers.

    In summation, there is always a bottle of white waiting patiently in my fridge. Rarely does it have to wait long.

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  • El 190 Aniversario de la Independencia del Perú

    It was on July 28, 1821 that Peru became independent from Spain after 300 years of being one of its most important Colonies in the New World; and it was on July 4th of 1776 that United States became independent from England after 150 years of being part of its Empire. It seems that July is a month that unites both countries in their Celebration of Independence.

    After living for 30 years in this country, and being witness of many July 4ths, I as a Peruvian can see similitude and differences in the way that both countries celebrate such historical dates.

    During my three sons’ childhood and adolescence, we lived in Corvallis, our home after Peru. It was there where every year we celebrated July 4th. As I recall most of the July 4ths were overcast summer days. Imitating our neighbors, we started celebrating July 4th by placing the United States flag in our porch. (I recall we purchased our American flag in McGregor’s, an old five and dime store located in the downtown of Corvallis).

    Around 4:00 PM all families of our neighborhood gathered in one of the streets that the city allowed us to use to place picnic tables and chairs. It was so pleasant seeing moms bringing a dessert placed on the tables to share with the others! Fathers and children carried their treasure: paper bags full of firecrackers to be lit later in the evening. I couldn’t tell if the children or the fathers were the most excited; but it was on July 4ths that I discovered that fathers became children again. I perceived that they together with their children wanted to see the afternoon gone quickly, and welcomed any sign that indicated that the evening was approaching.

    The evening came and with it fathers started their transformation, they argued with their kids trying to be the first ones to light the fire crackers, they enjoyed as much as their children, the sounds, the colors and the smoke that came every time that a fire cracker was in action. Fathers and children yelled, laughed and ran until there weren’t any more fire crackers. I am convinced that those moments lived in such intensity contributed to make the bonds between fathers and children deeper and stronger.

    We moms were the spectators, sitting together, gossiping, and sharing the same concerns we had about our children, the school and domestic life. We really enjoyed the moment and appreciated those simple pleasures that life was giving to all of us! Those precious July 4ths made me to realize that I was part of my neighborhood; it didn’t matter that I had a different background, or I couldn’t speak good English; all of us, old and young, men and women, professionals and no professionals, felt we were a true community! From those times until now, every July 4th reminds me that I am part of the community where I am living and in which I have a role.

    In the northern Andes of Peru, in Cajamarca, the town of my childhood and my youth, we knew that the month of July, sunny and with out any trace of rain, was the month assigned by the City Hall, for embellishing our houses by painting walls and doors and have them ready for July 28th, the date that we honored our country’s Independence by having our city clean and pretty.

    By the city rule, each house also needed to have the Peruvian flag on the front door or in our balconies. All of us loved to see our flag fluttering with the wind against the beautiful blue of the Andean sky! For those who forgot to paint their house, there was a monetary penalty that nobody liked to pay. I remember clearly the frantic state of Cajamarca in the days prior to July 28th! Everybody at the last minute tried to paint their house with the cheapest and popular paint: lime, and we children loved its smell present in all the walls recently painted! It was like “humid soil” the same smell that our adobe houses had after the rain hit their walls.

    Also during the whole month of July, all the schools assigned two afternoons of each week (no classes on those days which we loved!) to practice marching in perfect rows with firm steps to compete with the rest of the schools for the gallardete, a pennant that was given by the city to the school that did its best in the Big Parade of July 27th. Every year on July 27th in all the corners of Peru, there is a Big Parade of Schools; this Parade has become the high light of the celebration of our Independence.

    In relation to the competition for the pennant, probably I am biased, but as long as I can remember, the pennant was more times in the hands of my Catholic School “Santa Teresita” ruled by Spanish Dominican nuns, than in any other school’s hands. Now that I am an adult I see this fact as a subtle irony: our school ruled by Spanish nuns kept winning, showing our patriotism for being liberated from Spain!

    On the morning of July 27th, the Cathedral’s main bell named Maria Angola, tolled since the early hours announcing the Misa de Campaña, a magnificent Mass officiated by the Bishop, and a group of priests. It took place in the atrio (front) of the Cathedral with the attendance of all the main civil and military authorities and the rest of the city. The students of the different schools were placed in the main square in front of the Cathedral. Each school was identified by the uniform of its students. On that Day all the students wore a clean and crisp uniform with certain pride; but also feeling butterflies in our stomach; because we knew that the honor of our school was in the competition that was going to take place after Mass and the long official speeches.

    In between the Mass and the long official speeches, time was stretching for at least three hours; the morning sun was moving up and soon it was going to be noon where the Andean sun shows its burning power! Each school had its Red Cross Team, (I was one of them). We realized that as time progressed, duty would call us to action! Many students under the midday sun, started to be pale, almost green, and then fainted. Our role then was to take the affected student to a shady place to be seated or to lie down; and give to each a cotton towel soaked in cold water to refresh their face and forehead. I was proud of my noble mission! I felt a kind of hero doing something good for my fellow citizens, and I knew that doing that I was paying tribute to my country on its Day!

    Finally the Parade took place. Each school by turn marched in front of a jury composed of the Mayor of the city, the Bishop, the commander of the Military Forces based in the City, and the Principals of all the Schools. I can’t describe the feeling and the emotion that I felt every July 27th when I was marching in front of the jury! The music of martial marches played by drums, trumpets and cymbals of the Municipal Band, made my heart pound so hard that I was afraid I was going to die with a sudden heart attack! My feet, in the crucial moment were unable to feel the pavement, I felt as if I was marching suspended in the space, tears of joy and pride inundated my eyes! In those moments I could confront and defy any enemy of my country! I was ready to die for my motherland! Could any other moment be more glorious than that moment? I have my doubts. For me the climax of my patriotism took place every year during the Parade on July 27th.

    Every July 28th all over Peru a Military Parade takes place. In Cajamarca, as I recall, the Guardia Civil, (the Civil Guards of the city), and a troop of soldiers, called “Batallón Zepita” marched carrying all kind of weapons; the people saw them and clapped with a sense of pride and intimidation; because we knew that the government had posted in Cajamarca as well in other cities, groups of soldiers to give us security and protection from any invasion of the enemy that fortunately never came.

    When I was a teenager I realized that mothers and young women saw in the young military men good suitors for marriage .Three of my high school classmates married them, and they left Cajamarca to go wherever their husbands were assigned to go. In my last visit to Lima I had the opportunity to see one of my high school classmates who, as I recalled married a lieutenant who was posted in Cajamarca during our youth. After many years we met in our class reunion and she graciously took me home in a beautiful car driven by a private chauffer that the government provided to her husband since he became a high ranking officer. Now he is a retired Colonel enjoying his rank and benefits, and living in a beautiful suburb of Lima.

    Coming back to the present, I am trying to intertwine my memories of past Independence Days of my country with this year’s Independence Day, and I realize that this July 28th Peru’s new President: Ollanta Humala will take the Oath of Office. We hope that Peru under his guidance may continue its economic growth, and social stability, finding ways to diminish the big gap that exists between rich and poor. Also we wish that Peru could enlarge its capacity to share with the rest of the world its great culture, its abundance of resources, and its gastronomical richness.

    In the spirit of July that invites us to honor and pay tribute to the Independence of two countries with which we are connected, this coming Thursday, July. 28th , at Andina we are celebrating the 190 years of Peru’s Independence with a three course Dinner and a show of Afro-Peruvian music that will take place in Tupai, our event room, from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Our special guest will be Monica Rojas a distinguished Peruvian musicologist and artist, and her group “De Cajon”. Join us in our Independence Day and in our thanksgiving to the two countries that give us a sense of belonging and help us to expand our understanding of people.

    Mama Doris.

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  • La presencia de África en el Perú

    The African heritage in Peru

    On Monday, June 6, Andina was proud to host a unique event called “Echoes Afroperuanos”, a beautiful presentation of music, dance and poetry dedicated to highlighting the rich cultural contributions of Peruvians of African descent. The Seattle-based “De Cajón Project” conceived the event both in recognition of Afroperuvian Culture Day, celebrated every June 4 in Peru , and in response to the declaration from the United Nations (UNESCO) that designated 2011 as “The International Year for People of African Descent”.

    All of us who attended the event were tremendously inspired, enlightened by the energy, eloquence and beauty of the Afro-Peruvian musical traditions, which included not only dance and song, but poetry too. The original work, which De Cajón recently performed in Seattle on June 4, was directed by Mónica Rojas, a distinguished Afro-Peruvian artist and ethnomusicologist; her choreography honored the participation of two well known artists who travelled from Peru specially for the occasion. They were: Peta Robles, one of the very few female percussion masters in our country, and Pierr Padilla a professional dancer and choreographer and member of one of the most prolific Afro-Peruvian artistic families in Peru.

    Following their June 4 performance, the group responded graciously to our invitation and came to Portland to share their grace, rhythm and cultural knowledge. The memorable evening included Padilla’s resonant recitations of the poetry of Nicomédes Santa Cruz, Peta Robles’ outstanding vocals and electrifying percussion, and the ensembles’ charismatic and evocative dances. From beginning to end, I was deeply moved, proud of the talent of our people and the richness of our culture.

    For many of our guests, the Echoes Afroperuanos event was a revelation. Few who have not traveled to Peru, and even those who have, know of the presence of a significant Afro-Peruvian community. Many people were unaware that the African story in Peru began in the 16th Century, when the Spanish forced slaves to work in the sugar and cotton plantations of colonial Spain. Though the Peruvians gained independence from Spain in 1821, and the formation of an autonomous Republic followed not long after, it wasn’t until 1855 that President Ramón Castilla abolished slavery. Once free, the community of African-Peruvians gradually entered into the country’s civic and cultural life, and have since become part of the kaleidoscope of people that makes Peru the way it is: richly diverse and colorful.

    Almost all of the early and most of today’s communities of African descent reside in the coastal cities of Peru, cities such as Lima and Ica, each of which had once bordered the estates and plantations of the original slave-owners.

    The presence of people of African descent in Peru has enriched our country’s culture in many and remarkable ways. I will mention the most meaningful influences.

    IN OUR FOOD. During the Colonial era, the Afro Peruvians working as slaves in the cotton and sugar plantations were limited in economic resources, and by necessity they created simple and delicious dishes using whatever was accessible to them. It could have been innards of cows (given by their masters, instead of beef muscle), beans, rice, sweet potatoes, sugar cane sticks, molasses etc. With these particular foods, together with what the communities learned from the Spanish influence (the use of garlic, onions, vinegar), and what they saw the native Peruvians cooking (potatoes, peppers and herbs), they created simple, flavorful dishes that also satisfied their basic needs and helped them survive. Today, some of the most beloved dishes that Peru has, dishes that have become icons for our country, were those created by the Afro-Peruvians. Among them:

    Anticuchos de Corazón, pieces of marinated beef heart that the slaves put on sticks of sugar cane to be roasted over an open fire. Even now, these kebab-like delicacies are present both as street food and on the tables of wealthy Peruvians.

    Tacu-Tacu, an exquisite side-dish that combines cooked rice and seasoned beans, mixed together and pan-fried. Rice and beans were an easy and nutritive dish for sustaining workers during the long hours of labor in the sugar and cotton plantations.

    Carapulcra, a pre-Hispanic dish from the Inca culture made with charqui (dry lama meat), dried potatoes, herbs, peppers and peanuts. The preparation was adapted by the Spaniards during Peru’s Colonial era, and again transformed by the slaves with the addition of pork meat instead of charqui. These days the Carapulcra de Chincha (south of Lima, in Ica) is made by the hands of the Afro-Peruvians living there, and is considered the best Carapulcra of Peru.

    Picarones: Arab in their origin, picarones were introduced by the Spaniards and adapted by Afro- Peruvians. They are delicious fried pastries made with sweet potato flour instead of wheat flour complemented with miel de caña (molasses) from the sugar cane crops. The Picarones became part of our tradition, especially in Lima during the month of October, when Peruvians celebrate the Festivity of The Lord of the Miracles.

    Turrón de Doña Pepa. Created by an Afro-Peruvian woman whose name is believed to be Josefa Marmanil, this unique dessert was said to have been created as a way to give thanks to The Lord of the Miracles for curing a serious ailment. It is a delicious and crumbly pastry made with sweet potato flour flavored with anis and covered by dense fruit syrup. Together with the Picarones, the Turrón de Doña Pepa is very popular among Peruvians and forms part of our iconic food.

    IN OUR MUSIC. The people of African descent brought their musical traditions to Peru. The rhythm, grace and energy that fused with the Andean and Spanish music gave birth to a wonderful music called Música Afroperuana, a sample of which we heard and saw in the “Echoes Afroperuanos” event.

    The Música Afroperuana requires the exquisite sound of the Cajón, a wooden box invented by the Afro Peruvians as a percussion instrument of percussion in the place of their traditional African drums, which were prohibited by the Spaniards. This Cajón was originally a vegetable crate or wooden box on which the drummer sat, hitting the bottom surface at different points for different bass and percussive effects. Gradually, it evolved into a hand-crafted and skillfully “tuned” instrument. Together with the Spanish guitar, the European violin and the other instruments such as the Cajita (literally, “small box”), and donkey jaw, the music could be played alone, to song, or to accompany the beautiful dances that began to take form. Among the most popular dances are the Festejo, the Tondero, and the Samacueca. They became so popular that they are now part of the identity of Peru and its inhabitants.

    IN OUR ART AND LITERATURE . In the beginning of the Republic, an Afro-Peruvian artist named Pancho Fierro became well known for his water color paintings that portrayed Peruvian people and their customs during the last period of the Colonial era and the first of the young Republic. His paintings continue to enlighten our knowledge of Peru in those periods of its history.

    Later in the nineteen fifties, two Afro-Peruvian personalities permanently enhanced our world of music and poetry. They were a brother and sister born in Cañete, a province of Lima: there names were Nicomedes and Victoria Santa Cruz. Both dedicated their lives to sharing their pride of being children of African descent, and inspired the rest of Peruvians with their charisma and abundant talents as composers, singers and poets. Nobody could have done a better job than them! They elevated our awareness of the richness and the soul of the African culture and its positive influence in the Peruvian culture. Nicomedes Santa Cruz became famous with his Décimas, a type of poem composed in stanzas of 10 verses or lines, with eight syllables in each line. Through his Décimas, Nicomedes portrayed the life and the feelings of the Afro-Peruvians, denounced the injustice they suffered as slaves, and showed the dignity and the nobility of his race.

    IN THE RELIGION OF PERU. The magical nature of African folklore resonates with the rituals of Peruvian Catholicism which also is influenced by the myths and rituals of the Incas. These facts dictate the way we celebrate our Catholic festivities, where food, music and dances are present alongside our masses and processions. One Festivity that originated in the Afro Peruvian community during the Colonial era and still continues, is the Procession of the Lord of the Miracles. Each year in Lima during the month of October one of the largest processions of the world takes place. Hundreds of thousands of people dressed in purple, a color to signify mourning, accompany the image of a black Christ on the cross, painted in the 17th Century by a black slave on the wall of the small chapel of Pachacamilla, a plantation close to Lima. The legend says that in 1746 a terrible earthquake almost destroyed Lima and its surroundings. In Pachacamilla, all the humble houses of the slaves were destroyed, and all but one of the walls of the small church collapsed. This was the wall where Christ—black skinned—was painted. People were convinced that it was a miracle owed to the depicted Christ, and they started to venerate his image. Soon the devotion spread to other places and this Christ of African descent started to be called the Lord of the Miracles. A new church, the Iglesia de las Nazarenas was built around the painted wall of the old chapel; and every year from that church the Christ of Pachacamilla is taken in a Procession. Devoted people from all the social classes sign up with many years of anticipation to have the honor to carry the bier with the Lord of the Miracles that weighs tons. In the 17th Century and continuing today, many miracles are attributed to the image of the Christ of Pachacamillathat justify the name of the Lord of the Miracles. As I often said before, there is not a religious celebration in Peru without food. During the Procession of the Lord of the Miracles, many Afro-Peruvian women are posted on the corners of the streets selling to the hungry and tired devoted people, Anticuchos de Corazón, Picarones and Turrón de Doña Pepa.

    And putting a golden touch on the presence of Afro-Peruvians in our Catholic Church, I proudly note that Peru has one of the few black saints in the world, a man who was canonized by Pope John XXIII in 1962. His name is San Martin de Porres. Born in Lima in the 16th Century, he was the son of a Spaniard and a poor Afro-Peruvian woman. As a young man he became a lay brother of the Dominican Order. His humble, charitable and obedient spirit is legendary and was extended to both humans and animals. Everyone in Peru knows the legends and acts of charity for he was revered: that he inspired a mouse, a cat and a dog to eat together from the same plate, peacefully and in complete harmony; and that he was able to stop a falling worker in the middle of the air. The man was plummeting from the tower of the Church of Santo Domingo, and San Martin held him securely in the air until he got permission from his Superior to bring the worker safely to the ground.

    As you see Peruvians have many reasons to be proud, among them our diversity of cultures that enrich and make stronger our own identity. The cultural influence of Peruvians of African descent is a wonderful and continuing example.

    God bless Peru and its myriad of people!

    Mama Doris.

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  • Rosé Wine Dinner

    Andina will be hosting our 5th annual All-Rosé dinner on Monday, July 11 at 6:30 p.m. in our upstairs event space, Tupai. Huge plates of tapas, served family style. Massive ice buckets filled with nothing but rosé, from all over the world. It’s a summertime party. The price will be $60 per person, not including gratuity. See you there.

    It’s finally starting to warm up, and people are taking off the outer garments and hitting the streets with abandon. Summer’s coming and the waterlogged populace of Portland is ready for some heat. The time has come to ice down a couple of bottles of pink refreshment.

    Pink wines, or rosés, used to have a terrible reputation in the United States. When someone was offered a glass of rosé, they immediately say something like, “not that sweet stuff?” White zinfandel was the dreaded sweet rosé that usually came to mind. It’s was a familiar sight in American restaurants, where it was often the only rosé available on the wine list. Well, things have changed. Dry, crisp rosé is everywhere now, no longer saddled with the reputation of mediocrity.

    Contrary to belief, the grand majority of rosés are quite dry. Nearly every major wine-producing country makes rosé, but there are few regions that make wines of distinction. Those that do are worth searching out, because a light, zingy, icy-cold rosé is the best summertime quaff there is.

    Rosés made in hot-weather conditions, such as the Napa floor or the Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France, can be both heavy and alcoholic. To my way of thinking, they are the antithesis of what a good summer wine should be. One of the Europe’s most famous rosés hails from the southern Rhone Valley town of Tavel. This wine has gained some notoriety, but I still can’t figure out why. I’ve never tasted one I’ve liked, because they rarely deliver the lively acidity I’m looking for.

    I believe some the world’s greatest rosés come from the northern grape-growing regions of France and Spain, and a few of my favorites are listed below. Always look for the youngest vintage available (the excellent 2010s at the moment), as these wines won’t age well.

    1) Sancerre and Chinon. The regions of Sancerre and Chinon in the Loire Valley produce the kind of rosés that stock the wine lists of Paris’ bistros.
    Sancerre is made from pinot noir, and Chinon from cabernet franc. Often salmon in color, lively and very dry, they rock at a picnic. If you can’t find them, search for either Menetou-Salon or Bourgueil. Same grapes, same style.
    2) Rosé de Provence. Made on the southeastern coast of France along the Mediterranean, they’re produced from grapes such as mourvedre, syrah, cinsault and grenache. These are the perfect partners for a grilled fish at lunch. But the weather is warmer down here than in the north, and the rosés tend to be richer and occasionally a touch coarse.
    3) Rioja, Navarra and Calatayud. Spain’s finest roses are made in these northern regions. They are made principally from grenache and/or tempranillo and when well-made, they’re among my absolute favorites.
    4) Oregon. The Pinot Noir rosés made in our state can be exceptional, especially in cooler vintages like 2007 and 2010. The quality and consistency has improved markedly over the last decade, and the best match favorably with their peers from Europe.

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  • Working to define health

    Is there any coincidence that the USDA food pyramid mimics a diagram of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Clearly, food, water and shelter are primary needs for any healthy community, but where does health itself lie in the hierarchy? Is health simply food, water, shelter, and thereby relegated to the most basic physiological level? Or does it extend to the next level of safety and security? Even to love and belongingness? How can health be measured in purely physical terms when our true health is composed of body, mind, and spirit?

    Two local organizations are working to answer those same questions in two very different communities. Upstream Public Health and Health Bridges International are both champions of community and individual health, but how the concept translates to rural Oregon versus the high plains surrounding Arequipa, Peru, illustrates the fluid meaning of health.

    We here in Oregon are surrounded by some of the richest agricultural land in the country, yet most of our schoolchildren still dine on pizza every other day. This is partly due to the fact that Oregon is one of the only states in the country that doesn’t give any money to their school lunch program, instead relying primarily on Federal funding.

    Upstream Public Health is working to get local food into Oregon cafeterias on a permanent basis. House Bill 2800, the Oregon Farm to School Act, which is currently pending review in the Oregon House of Representatives, would provide $2 million in funding to reimburse part of the cost of school meals when they use local food products. Subsidizing schools to buy Oregon-grown food and educating students about agriculture will benefit the state’s economy and improve the health of our children, and thereby our communities, not only in the most basic physiological way but in a way that promotes community, sense of place and pride, all steps up on Maslow’s chart.

    About 8,000 miles to the South, the communities of Alto Cayma, a critically distressed region outside of Arequipa, Peru, are fighting not for better food, but for any food at all. Currently, the St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Alto Cayma, serves 800 people every day, but the area’s need is closer to 5,000 per day, many of them homebound. Health Bridges International is working with the parish and local NGOs to build a second kitchen, which, along with additional funding, would increase the service capacity to over 2,500 people.

    The kitchen project is just one of many that HBI is working on. The organization works with communities and local leaders throughout Peru to improve health, from meeting the most basic needs of food, water and shelter, to implementing medical and dental programs, and opening youth and senior centers.

    Looking at the work of both of these organizations illustrates that health is so much more than basic nutrition. As the SlowFood movement advocates, we should all have access to food that is good, clean and fair. By following those principles, communities inherently address not only the quality of the food, but the quality of life for those producing, preparing and eating it.

    Andina is proud to host two upcoming fundraising dinners for these organizations, who are working both here in Oregon and in Andina’s homeland, Peru. By eating, all who attend the dinners will help fulfill what should be considered — no matter how you look at it — the most basic of needs of others.

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  • día de las madres en andina y en el perú

    Mother’s Day at Andina and in Peru

    Every year on the second Sunday of May, Andina honors Mother’s Day by giving to each mother who dines with us, a little gift: an alfajor, as a sincere gesture of welcome and congratulations. By doing this, however, we are also emulating what mothers in Peru do for the people who come to visit them at their home, which is to givesomething — something made with their own hands, to honor their guests and make them feel at home. Many mothers daily bake a batch of alfajores or some other sweet delicacy, in order to have them in store for unpredictable visits, which are so common in my homeland.

    What is an alfajor? It is a traditional colonial cookie that has Arabic origins. It was introduced to the New World in the XVI century by the Spanish. Chronicles written in those times describe the presence of Moorish maids in the kitchens of Lima. These were servants who came to the Viceroyalty of Peru with wealthy Spanish families to live and cook for them, and they were the ones that taught an entire country — many countries, in fact – how to make alfajores. Since then, countries like Peru, Argentina, and Chile, have enjoyed a rich and proud baking tradition, with alfajores among the most popular of the desserts. Each country makes them differently, adding their own distinctive ingredients, and each considers the alfajoran original of their own country.

    Our “alfajores Peruanos” have a dough made with a mix of wheat and corn flour, to which we add lime zest and pisco (our Peruvian brandy). Once the dough is cut into circles, baked, and allowed to cool, we fill each layered cookie with “manjar blanco”, or caramelized milk. We finish the presentation by coating each cookie with powdered sugar. The alfajores are a delicious complement to a cup of coffee or herbal tea. In Peru, alfajores are served with té de cedrón (lemon verbena tea), or té de hierba luisa (lemon grass tea), alone or after a good meal.

    During the first years of Andina, I (as a mother) made myself responsible for preparing each of the alfajoreswith which we greeted our honored guests. These days, it is not possible for me to do hundreds of them without the help of our pastry cooks. They bake the dough; I fill them with caramelized milk and put them in the boxes, ready to be given to the mothers that come to Andina: a little bit of tradition with a touch of modernity and functionality.

    Besides being a sign of honoring and welcoming a guest or visitor in Peru, the act of giving is a quality that seems instilled in women since ancient times, especially in mothers. Mothers are the givers par excellence; they give whatever they can – their food, their sleep, their time, their energy – for the well being of the ones they love. Many times they give so much that that they sacrifice their own comfort and their personal interest, for the sake of the happiness of those they hold most dear.

    I remember as if it were yesterday an instance that occurred when I was 10 years old. It remains with me to this day because it was one of the first examples of what I have said. During that time of my youth, my father — a lawyer in Cajamarca – worked long hours each day to bring the necessary funds for our home, and to save a little money for our future education. But my father was also a doting and caring husband. One day he noted that my mother’s only coat was getting old, and bought a fine wool fabric with which to make a new one. My mother, who knew how hard he worked, protested and asked my father to return such a fine fabric and put the money in our savings. My father insisted and tried to convince her by declaring that a lawyer’s wife must wear a nice coat, especially so during the next festivity of Carnavales, which they would celebrate, as always, in their tiny home villages of Sucre and Jose Galvez.

    Two weeks passed from the day my mother took the fabric to the tailor, but finally the garment was ready. Under the insistence of my father, who wanted to see her wearing it, my mother went to the tailor and brought home the package. After calling my sister and I to her side, she proceeded to unwrap the box with a certain nervousness. Then came a complete surprise. There, in front of our eyes, instead of her coat, we saw two small coats, each beautifully done in a style fit for a princess! One coat she had had made for me, and the other was for my little sister!

    My father was speechless — something rare for a man who loved to speak. My mother with a sly smile told to my father, – Victor, our daughters needed a coat more than me. They never have had one and they are now of the age when a coat is fitting, especially now that we are going to Carnavales and they will be seen as daughters of a good lawyer. I don’t need a new coat. I already have one, which I won’t change for anything! I love it since you gave it to me as a gift on our marriage! – Then, helping us to put on our coats, my mother continued, – See! Aren’t they pretty in their coats? Look how elegant they are!

    My father came to my mother and without speaking a word, but with tears in his eyes, embraced her. My sister and I ran to hug them both as well, and all of us were for an instant one in our joy and one in our hearts. I felt as if there could not have been any children in the world as happy as we were in our new coats, nor a mother as happy as my mother was, seeing us wearing her gift of love.

    Recently, on one of my last trips to Peru, I was invited by my first cousins and their wives to celebrate Mother’s Day in the presence of my Aunt Dalila, who is their mother and my mother’s sister. More and more in Peru, the celebration of Mother’s Day is changing: instead of celebrating at home, children invite their mother to a restaurant and all dine and celebrate there. But on this occasion I was pleased to know that instead of dining out, we would be celebrating Mother’s Day at my Aunt’s own home. When we arrived that evening, my aunt came to open the door and welcomed each of us, embracing us and kissing our cheeks. I noticed she had been working hard, because her cheeks were pink and her forehead was perspiring and her apron had a light smell of garlic.

    She invited us to pass to the living room, and asked us to wait a little until she finished cooking, which she said was going to take only a few minutes. Telling us to feel at home, she went back to the kitchen. When I followed her and asked her if I could help, she made me to go back to the living room, thanking me and telling me that I was her guest and that she didn’t need any help anyway, because the food was going to be ready in a minute.

    When I went back to the living room I found my cousins, their wives and their children enjoying themselves, showing few signs of concern for my aunt, who was cooking for all of us. I felt uneasy and I started to scold them asking why they allowed their mother to work on the day that was dedicated to honor mothers?! They told to me that each and every year their mother rejected any invitation to go out to celebrate Mother’s Day; therefore they accepted to celebrate it the way she liked.

    But I had not lived in Cajamarca since I was in my twenties, nor did I have living a mother of my own to honor and contend with (she died when I was 12 years old), so I thought that my cousins were taking for granted what their mother was doing for them, and I felt pity for her. Once we sat at the long table of her dining room, I saw how much care my aunt put in setting it for us — a beautiful, white and recently ironed table cloth was covering the table where she displayed her finest china and silverware, in the very same way that I remembered my mother did when family or friends came to dine.

    Our dinner took place with her blessing; dishes came, and dishes went, all through the small window that connected the dining room with the kitchen. My aunt remained most of the time in the kitchen. I only saw her hands through the window taking away empty dishes, and putting out new ones.

    In the middle of our dinner, glasses of wine appeared, and the traditional toasts of Salud (Cheers) began:¡Salud mamacita, por tu dia!,(Cheers, dear mom, for your day!), or Mama, te queremos mucho, Salud! (Mom, we love you very much, Salud!). These were answered by my aunt from the Kitchen: ¡Gracias hijitos, Salud!(Thank you, dear children, Cheers!)

    Once in a while, my aunt stuck her sweating head trough the window to say with real joy and enthusiasm – Eat, please! I prepared what I know you like. The soup is made with one of the hens I had in the corral, the potatoes are newly harvested and the aji is made with the rocotos from the huerta. If you like more, please ask me. I prepared lots of food for all of you!

    When I saw her sweating, and felt as though she was not able to come to sit with us, I became upset for the lack of consideration that all of us had been showing toward my aunt. In an act of courage, I stood up and went to the kitchen. I approached my aunt, and trying to take her apron off, I told her – Aunt Dalila, you will come with me right now and sit and eat with us! We can’t allow you to continue in the kitchen! Your place is at the head of the table. We will serve you. It is your day. You won’t work any more!

    My aunt looked at me and fixing her apron on her shoulders again, said to me, very slowly and very clearly – Dorita, you came from far away to be with us. Let me tell you that you and all my family here reunited are my joy and my happiness! Let me show my love for all of you, cooking for you and serving you! If you do not allow me to do what I really want to do, where is there love in that?! Let me be happy, knowing that you enjoy my food! Go and sit! Right now I am going to serve my alfajores with a cup of my freshhierba luisa! Go!

    I went to sit down, feeling small because I did not understand the power of this kind of love; my aunt, yes, she did understand it. She showed it to us.

    Let us celebrate the spirit of giving and the love of mothers, who give so much.

    Happy Mother’s Day!

    Mama Doris.

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  • Confluencia Tapas Dinner: Six cuisines, six wines

    When I first tried Peruvian cuisine at Andina, I remember stepping to the table with trepidation. Friends had warned me to expect difficulties when trying to formulate a wine list that would match well with this food. Having only rudimentary knowledge to work with, I tasted each dish with an open mind. In the restaurant business, assumptions and pre-determinations are bad business, so I endeavored to bring a clear mind (and palate) when making my decisions.

    It quickly became clear that I was dealing with a style of food that I had not encountered previously. Although the cuisine was driven by unfamiliar spices and textures, there was never an overbearing note. The “weight” of the food seemed to have a simpatico balance: highly flavorful but without excessive richness. Good and snappy, with lovely colors and presentation.

    Among the key determinants of Peruvian flavor is the influence of foreign cuisines. Culture and cooking techniques from Asian, European and neighboring countries have all made their mark, albeit subtly. These influences have shaped the cuisine into something unique, and contrary to what I was led to believe, the food of Peru is extremely “wine-friendly.”

    So, with these thoughts in mind, we came up with an idea for a dinner that highlights the dishes exploring the aforementioned influences, with the proper wines to augment these courses. We call it “Confluencias.” A confluence is a tributary or stream that flows into a larger body of water. The analogy of these confluences is the culinary influence from Japan, Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina and France that have been absorbed by Peruvian cuisine as a whole.

    Chef Hank Costello has created a complex six-course menu that brings this concept to the table and I’ve chosen wines from each of the above listed countries. Together, we hope to present something special, and something quite different from a normal wine-pairings dinner. Hope to see you there.

    Confluencias Tapas Dinner
    Monday, May 16, 6:30 p.m.
    Hosted in Tupai, Andina’s Event Space
    $75 per person (plus gratuity)

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  • Eating and Cooking in Pisac Peru

    This month I’m featuring a dispatch from Matt Hastie. In February, Matt along with is wife Cathy and their two daughters Katie (age 13) and Georgia (age 10), put their Portland lives on hold to travel to Pisac in the Sacred Valley, where they will be living, working and studying for seven months. Katie and Georgia are attending a Peruvian school, Cathy is teaching ceramics at the school and Matt is working with a local non-profit to help build water filters for small, rural communities.

    As they are discovering, one of the most integral parts of assimilating to a foreign culture is understanding not just what people eat, but how they eat. Where are the markets? What’s fresh? How are things prepared and shared? What exactly are they eating over there? And most importantly, is it rude if I don’t take a bite? Matt and his family mull over these questions and more as Americans going to market and feasts in Peru.


    We have had a wide variety of culinary experiences here, including visiting one or two upscale restaurants in Cusco, eating the menu del dia at more modest local restaurants, sampling the dishes at food booths in local markets, and eating more communal meals at fiestas in smaller communities. In addition, being the cook of the family, I have been trying my hand at cooking comidas peruanas (Peruvian dishes).

    One of my daughters’ favorite things to do on Sundays is to eat at the local market in Pisac. The market here is known around the Valley and region for its wide variety of artisan products – beautiful weavings, sweaters, hats, dolls, jewelry and more. The market is in full swing on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, with Sunday being the most extensive. The Sunday market also includes opportunities to buy local produce, meat and other cooking and food essentials. In addition, local women sell a variety of dishes to people visiting the market, as well as to the other vendors. Typically, there are five to seven tables set up serving soups, chicken, meat, rice and noodle dishes, salads and more. Usually one table or booth also sells chicha, a local “beer” fermented from corn (but not carbonated). It is a relatively thick brew with a somewhat sour taste and unlike any beer I’ve tasted in other parts of the world. Two basic kinds are served here – the standard version and another made with strawberries which tends to be my favorite. Two non-alcholic versions are also available – chicha morada and chicha blanca.

    Our custom at the Sunday market is to check out all the offerings before deciding where to eat. What we choose generally depends on what we’re in the mood for, the price (which generally varies from 5 to 12 soles per person or about $2 to $4) and how many other people are patronizing a given table. Our theory tends to be that the most popular tables serve the best food. Each table usually only has room for five or six people so sometimes we need to wait to sit down although the other patrons are generally very accommodating and will make room for at least a couple of us to sit down and start eating without waiting. A couple of my recent favorite dishes have been Escabeche de Pollo and another tasty chicken dish for which I don’t know the name. Escabeche de Pollo features vegetables marinated or cooked in lemon juice, vinegar and spices (very tangy) along with sautéed chicken and rice. The other recent favorite included chicken that had been rubbed with a mixture of spices (probably cumin, garlic, salt, pepper and aji panca (similar to paprika), accompanied by lentils with a similar mix of sauces and rice similar to fried rice. This and other dishes are typically accompanied (on the side) by a somewhat spicy sauce made from pureed cilantro, peppers, onions, tomatoes and a few spices. It adds a nice flavor and a bit of a “kick” to the meal. Typically, most of the people we eat with at these food tables are local residents or vendors and this is a nice opportunity to talk to them as well as the cooks and sometimes find out how we can make the same dish later at home.

    Another recent eating experience has been to share communal meals at local fiestas celebrating Pukillay – an indigenous spring celebration of the Earth which also can include a sort of “coming of age” celebration for the community’s young people. We attended several such celebrations in late March, including one in the town of Amaru, a small community relatively high in the mountains above Pisac. The celebrations lasted for anywhere from 4 to 10 hours and featured much singing, dancing, eating and drinking of chicha. Two communal meals were served over the course of the day to the 50 – 60 attendees in Amaru. In each case, our hosts served everyone a large bowl of vegetables and meat, including several kinds of potatoes, yucca, chard, carrots and beef or lamb. The meals were served sans utensils. Not eating the entire meal is considered bad form but bringing some of the food home in a plastic bag is fine so we left very full and with some leftovers to contribute to a future meal. In addition to the two meals, chicha was served in communal bowls throughout the day. This sharing of food and drink contributes a vital element to the communal aspect of these events, which we were very lucky to take part in.

    To follow along on more of the Hastie’s adventures, visit their blog.

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  • Las campanas de mi tierra

    The bells of Cajamarca

    Once more, Spring is in the air. Nature is waking up from the long nights of winter, where cold and grey days, naked trees, and no birds gave the impression that life was mostly gone; and us, its creatures, sensed it! Spring, with its longer, sunny and warmer days, days with a sweet aroma of early flowers in bloom and the sound of singing birds, make us feel that life is coming again, and nature’s rebirth is our own as well.

    An Oregon Spring is a theater of life and rebirth that provides experiences I didn’t have where I grew up in Cajamarca, my native town. Located in the northern Andes of Peru, Cajamarca is close to the equator; therefore it doesn’t have marked seasons. Practically, we live in an eternal spring, where all the days have 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light.

    If the seasons in Cajamarca didn’t teach its inhabitants about the forces of life, death and rebirth, the Catholic faith under which we grew up certainly did; and especially so during the Holy Week, when we celebrated the life, death and resurrection of the son of God. This celebration varies every year according to our Liturgical calendar. This year Holy Week takes place between Sunday, April 17, and Sunday, April 24. In Oregon, regardless of the Liturgical calendar, this means that Holy Week generally coincides with the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring – or at least, that is how I’ve come to experience it.

    I will never forget the Holy Week of my childhood. Just as the seasons are so often and so deeply memorable in the northern latitudes, perhaps so are the rituals of faith where seasons are less obvious. And in either case, childhood is key. During that week, we children, as if by nature’s own hand, responded easily and deeply to what in later life becomes challenging: to feel close to Christ in his sufferings, his agony, his death and his resurrection.

    Some of what I most vividly remember about Holy Week are parents and children going to church in deepest solemnity, or joining processions of the image of Christ carrying the cross, followed by the image of his mother, the Virgin Mary. I also remember how we as children, receiving our parents’ orders to honor Christ, were ever mindful to behave well during that week, neither fighting nor playing, but bearing ourselves as if in a serious and mournful contemplation. Among all of these rituals, there is something that I remember as vividly and as intensely as when I knew it then! It is the silence in which the whole town was swallowed, beginning on Holy Thursday and continuing through Friday and Saturday. On those days, the accustomed sounds of our church bells were gone! The bells became mute as an indication that Christ was dead. For me, not hearing their sound gave the terrible feeling that the whole town had died! This feeling grew stronger when I saw grownups dressed in dark colors walking in silence; when I no longer heard the noises of other children; nor saw them playing outside. The silence of those days made us feel that God really died and we were following him in his death!

    Reflecting on the role of these church bells in Cajamarca, I am convinced that they were indispensable in the life of our town and in the lives of each of its inhabitants. They contributed to our sense of belonging, interpreted our feelings, and helped us to honor both the joyful and sorrowful events of our lives.

    Present-day Cajamarca has seven beautiful churches built in stone and dating from Peru’s colonial era (16th-19th C.). Each of the churches has its campanario, towers where bells from different sizes are placed. The central tower of the church is always occupied by the largest bell.

    The sound of the bells, different for each church, identifies both the church and the neighborhood where the church is located. Each neighborhood is proud of its church and its bells. I lived close to the Cathedral and I always felt proud knowing that our big bell, called Maria Angola, sounded so deep and so strong that it was able to be heard many kilometers away from Cajamarca. No other church of the city had that kind of sound! Over the years, the popular genius of our people invented a witty dialogue for the cacophonous bells of Cajamarca, which everybody enjoys remembering and reciting. I wish I myself could remember it to write it here!

    The significance of the bells, however, was also found in far more practical roles. In those times, and in that area of Peru, most of our houses didn’t have clocks. Therefore all of us expected to hear the sound of the bells to know what time it was. Each hour was marked by the number of campanadas (strokes) that the bells played. Usually the sacristán was in charge for ringing the bells, and we called him the campanero.

    I remember the alarmed voice of my mom, when hearing the bells stroke at mid-day. “My God! It is already noon and I don’t have our lunch prepared! Your father is coming soon! Hurry up, hurry up, set the table and come to the kitchen to help me.” When going to school in the morning, and hearing only one stroke from the Cathedral bell, indicating that was it already 7:30 AM, I would begin to run, praying not to arrive late. For my school closed its doors at 7:45 AM. Whoever arrived late received the punishment of staying longer at the end of classes.

    The sound of the bells that made everyone stop what we were doing, was when they marked 6:00 PM. It was at this time of the day that a Catholic was obliged to say the Angelus, a prayer repeating the words that the Angel Gabriel declared to the Virgin Mary, announcing that she conceived a child who was Christ, the son of God.

    The bells on Sundays sounded differently. Each church announced Mass by playing its bells with alternating strokes in a particular and harmonious sound. The bells informed the community with a few first strokes, as if gently reminding the faithful to be on time. When the hour of the official Mass had nearly arrived, the bells would ring longer and more loudly. Many times we found our selves telling each other: “Let’s go quickly, I heard the last call of the bells, and Mass will already be starting!”

    For me, perhaps the happiest sound of our bells took place on Christmas Eve, when they announced the Misa del Gallo (Midnight Mass). All of the churches’ bells sounded at the same time creating an extraordinary sense of joy and excitement! I don’t know if it was because we loved to go to church and find it alive and alight, full of people well-dressed; or because we wanted to see the huge Nativity that our church always displayed for our enjoyment; or because we really wanted to be present at the moment the son of God was born amidst sounds of bells and songs. I think we were excited on Christmas Eve for all of these reasons. The only thing that I knew well – and I was sure, even then, that others shared this sense of anticipation—was the happiness in thinking how after Mass, we would return home to as delicious a cup of rich hot chocolate as we would ever drink, and that we would enjoy this cup together with slices of fresh cheese and our beloved panetón.

    Another of the most joyous occasions occurred on the last day of Holy Week, on Domingo Pascuas. The sounds of bells woke us up very early in the morning, declaring the miracle of Christ’s resurrection. The bells and their chorus of ringing song made us feel that we too had come back to life! Cajamarca would once again have its church bells sounding again, stroking upon every hour of each day. No more silence, no more sadness; rather, joy and life!

    It is interesting to note that on a few occasions the bells of our churches changed their otherwise joyful sound (called the repique) to a solemn, sad and monotonous toll; such a sound we called tañido and it was produced only by the largest bell of the church. Its tañido (the stroke of the large bell) was slow and grave. It announced a sad event, usually the death of an important person, someone loved and respected by the community and even beyond. When the coffin of the deceased left the church or passed in front of it, the big bell would begin to sound its tañido and continued until the last person of the entourage passed the church. There is no one I know who is not touched by the tañido of the bell, which casts our gazes inward, humble before the mystery of life and death.

    I know the bells of Cajamarca are still sounding today and continue to play an important role in the lives of my people. They continue to ring, announcing the hours, and declaring news by sound alone. After all, the bells reveal what life truly is: a mixture of joy and sorrow, a song of laughter and tears.

    I wish for all of us more repiques than tañidos.

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  • Food and wine pairings

    Finding the correct wine to serve with that special meal you are planning is serious business. Articles just like the one you are now reading are often published on this subject. Complete books have even been written, such as that famed volume from the Italian oenologist, Dr. Grigio Pino, entitled “You Will Eat and Drink Whatever I Tell You To.” In it, Dr. Pino outlines hundreds of pairings, ranging from Pterodactyl Wing (he recommends an Elderberry Port) down to Single Salted Carrot on a Plate (Peach Wine Cooler is suggested, as the colors work well together).

    Being someone who firmly believes that wine is best when accompanied by food, I am constantly experimenting, looking for flavors and textures that blend well. Texture is really important, when you think about. The texture of a wine (i.e., crisp and acidic or rich and oily) says a lot about which dishes it will pair well with.

    There are many so-called “classic matches” that work superbly. There are others that actually don’t work all that well. Here are a few of both, with a couple of new ideas thrown in:

    Classic Wine/Food Pairings that Work Great

    • Crisp white wine with raw shellfish. Icy cold Pacific Northwest oysters, freshly opened and seasoned with a touch of hot sauce and lemon, are elevated to knockout status when put together with one of the following (listed in order of preference):
      1) Muscadet from the Western Loire Valley in France;
      2) Chablis Premier Cru from Burgundy; or
      3) Dry Austrian Riesling or Grüner Veltliner.
    • Red Bordeaux with Lamb. A dream match. Both Bordeaux and lamb work well with other partners, but never as well as when they are side-by-side. I particularly like Right Bank wines (St.-Emilion or Pomerol) with my medium-rare rack of lamb, sprinkled with rosemary (hold the mint sauce, please!) Reasonable substitutes for Bordeaux might be a Ribera del Duero from Spain, or Malbec from Argentina.
    • Barbera d’Alba with Tomato and/or Meat-Based Pasta Dishes. When tasted by itself, Barbera from Piedmonte in Northern Italy, will never win any awards. Sharp fruit, high acids, biting finish. Take this same wine and hook it up with Penne Bolognese (other choices might be Linguine or Fettuccine in an Arrabiata or Marinara sauce), and it turns into the Wine of the Gods. In fact, Zeus and Aphrodite were recently spotted chowing down on this very combination.

    Classic Wine/Food Pairings That Don’t Work So Great

    • Big, Rich Red Wine with Cheese. As the years go by, I have discovered that red wine and cheese are not necessarily the best of friends. Sometimes full-bodied reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, can overpower a cheese. Next time, you might try a white with your cheese course. Loire Valley whites are known to mesh well. Try Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume with goat cheese, which is actually a classic pairing in France, but rarely seen here at home. Another, albeit less known, pairing is semi-sweet Chenin Blanc like a Vouvray or Coteaux du Layon with a salty blue cheese, such as Roquefort or Fourmes d’Ambert. Sublime counterpoint.
    • White Wine with Richer Fish. Most white wines do fine with fish. What I’ve enjoyed lately has been lighter-styled Pinot Noir, or a Beaujolais like Moulin-a-Vent or Chiroubles. These reds have a bit more weight than do whites, but retain the sharp acids needed to break down the oils found in a fish like salmon.

    New Ideas
    Let me offer two new ideas for pairings using America’s indigenous variety, Zinfandel: Zinfandel with Traditional German Dishes. Pork absolutely sings with Zinfandel. Marry a juicy Zin with bratwurst, schnitzel, sauerkraut and spatzle and you’ll hear an aria. Zinfandel with Asian Stir-Fry. I make a somewhat unorthodox stir-fry. I thrown in commonly-accepted ingredients such as bean sprouts, snow peas, sesame oil, soy sauce, tofu and Asian spices, but deviate by using Italian vermicelli as my noodle of choice. The key wacky addition is a spicy Indian curry sauce called Madras, which includes cumin, coriander, tamarind and ginger. No other wine I’ve ever tried blends like a Zin with this fiery dish.

    If you would like to do an inexpensive tasting, pick up a bottle from each of the lighter, medium and richer groups. See if you can discern the styles. Just make sure to chill them before serving; about 15 minutes in the fridge should do.

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  • La comida y arte milenarias del Perú

    The ancient food of Peru and its art

    One of the dreams that inspired my family to open Andina was to reveal the natural and cultural histories of Peru through both its food and art. Among Andina’s many unique architectural features are a set of four niches adjacent to Bar Mestizo, in which we display changing collections of Peruvian folk art. The niches are painted in the four colors characteristic of the old grand houses in the colonial city of Trujillo: blue, yellow, maroon and orange. The themes of art in these niches vary throughout the year to highlight diverse aspects of Peru’s people, food and festivities. Almost always, the art objects themselves are the work of individuals and families without formal artistic training, who practice a form of artisanship passed from parents to children, generation upon generation. Our four niches currently demonstrate the millenary conversation between food and art. In doing so, they reveal the specific foods and forms of art that are equally as old. What may in passing seem merely decorative, each work of art tells a story; I have chosen to use this occasion to interpret them and to invite your own closer study.

    OUR MILLENARY FOOD.
    With pride we can say that our food at Andina, as in Peru, is not a recent creation, or the result of current fashion. Our food is as old as our country. At our restaurant we are using crops and ingredients whose original sources are the Andean soil and sun. Similarly, the Pacific waters off the Peruvian coast have, for more than a thousand years, been the home of a vast diversity of fish and seafood, a bounty that provides the basic food of many Peruvians. Andean crops combined with ocean fish and shellfish are at the core of the Peruvian diet west of the rainforested jungle, and are the foundation for Andina’s cuisine. Naturally, as our country evolves, our food is also evolving: home cooks and professional chefs embrace new techniques and products, frequently giving them “the Peruvian touch”, and contributing to a national cuisine with international renown. But just as Peru’s culture is old, our food roots are to be found deep in the past.

    OUR PEPPERS.
    Andina’s blue niche holds a fine replica of an Incan pot portraying a cluster of ajíes (hot peppers). The accompanying dish displays decorative samples of our ají amarillo (yellow pepper), the most prominent pepper varietal in our food. What stronger evidence could we ask for to demonstrate the importance of peppers in Peru and in the Incan culture? The Andes mountains and their western valleys are the native soil of nearly all the varieties of peppers that exist in the world. It was in the 16th century that Spanish and Portuguese merchants took hot peppers from the Andes and spread them throughout Europe and all of their colonialized regions. Now we can’t imagine Chinese, African or Indian food without peppers, and there is no Peruvian plate that doesn’t have some variety of pepper in its preparation. In particular, the ají amarillo together with three other type of peppers—ají mirasol (yellow pepper dried under the sun), ají panca (dried red pepper) and the ají rocoto (fresh red pepper)—were and are essential for the flavor of our Peruvian food, and can only be optimally cultivated in climates where day and night have the same length. These peppers, combined with Andean herbs, composed the basic flavors of Pre-Incan and Incan cuisine. Later, in the colonial era, garlic, onions and herbs from the Old World supplanted many of the native Andean herbs, but the peppers remained. To this day, hot peppers ranging in intensity, complexity and flavor are the base of Peru’s most familiar and widely praised cuisine, la comida criolla.

    OUR FISH.
    The restaurant’s yellow niche shows a pescado (fish) in a fine replica of a ceramic pot from the Pre-Inca culture of Nazca (100-400 AD). This fish representation along with shellfish representations are also found in ceramies from Pre-Inca cultures that also flourished in the coastal region of Peru, such as the Paracas (south) and Chimu (north) cultures. Together with skeletons of fish and shellfish found in ancient tombs, these representations clearly indicate that Peruvians from long ago had them as part of their daily diet. The cold waters of the Humboldt Current coming from Patagonia run along the western coast of South America modifying the normal temperature of the Pacific waters. In turn, the ocean temperature along the Peruvian coastline is ideal for the existence of plankton, the microscopic nutrient necessary for much of sea life to survive. Experts on sea life calculate that the Peruvian ocean has 700 hundred varieties of fish and 400 varieties of shellfish. Now you can understand perfectly why Peru and Andina have delicious dishes such as cebiche de pescado, arroz con mariscos, chupe de camarones, or parihuela de pescado y mariscos, among others.

    OUR DUCKS.
    The maroon niche exhibits another fine replica of art from the same Nazca culture (100-400 AD): a beautifully sculpted pot representing the Ñuñuma, our native Peruvian duck, and the ancestor of the European Moulard. The presence of ducks in the ceramics of different Pre-Inca cultures (Moche/Chimu in the north, Paracas in the south) proves that ancient Peruvians had domesticated ducks and used them in their diet. Garcilazco de La Vega, a famous chronicler of Colonial times, confirmed their existence in his book, Comentarios Reales. It was common to see big ducks strolling the streets of any Inca town or in private homes. Even now, the North Coast of Peru is famous for its arroz con pato (rice with duck), one of the icons of Peruvian food, a delicious dish that highlights our duck and our ajíes combined with rice, cilantro and garlic from the Old World. We are proud to serve this iconic dish at Andina.

    OUR POTATOES.
    The last niche is orange, a color that is prominent in our food; from our ajíes to squashes to shrimp and to many kinds of our tubers, among them our most beloved crop, la milenaria papa (the millenary potato). To speak about our potatoes is to speak about the Andes, their natural source, and where you can find more than 3,000 varieties growing in the untamed highlands. In the same way that our ajíes were introduced to the world, our potatoes were introduced in the 16th century by Spanish and Portuguese merchants. Stories suggest that Caribbean pirates also played a role in the spread of this new world crop: along with gold, potatoes traveled on plundered Spanish ships, and whatever the pirate’s route, the potato followed. Our potatoes have since become universally used and adopted into daily diets worldwide. Countries like France and Spain put our humble potatoes in their sophisticated dishes. We proudly share the potato as a gift from the Andes to the rest of the world.

    The art and food in Peru both celebrate and reveal the rich history of our beloved country. When you visit Andina, whether for the first time or on your next occasion, enjoy our delicious and historical food, and also take a moment to study the folk art that tells our story.

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  • Beaujolais

    In a moment of vinous epiphany, some great wine sage must have lifted a digit to the sky and blurted out, “Beaujolais is a wimpy wine.” I suppose that’s because it’s too light, and it doesn’t pack enough tannic kick to satisfy the “he-men” who prefer engaging in full-contact karate with their wines.

    I know I must be some sort of a wuss, because I drink this stuff all the time. There is no red wine I can think of that’s more versatile. You can match it with grilled fish, fowl of any type, pork, veal, or beef. It partners superbly with spicy Szechuan Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes or the old French standbys like coq au vin and bœuf bourguignon. You name it, and Beaujolais will step up to the plate.

    When I had lunch with the venerable New York Times wine writer Frank Prial at one of my favorite wine bars in Paris (Le Coude Fou in the Marais), what did we drink? Beaujolais. Looks like both of us are wimps.

    This truly beautiful region begins just south of Macon, where whites like Pouilly-Fuisse are made, and extends nearly to the gates of Lyon. The vineyards are compact, and it’s a short drive from one village to the next. Although Beaujolais has traditionally been considered a part of Burgundy, its wines are quite different from those made in the Cote d’Or. Gamay is the grape used to make red Beaujolais, and less than five percent of the wine made in the region is white (made from chardonnay) or rose. With very few exceptions, a bottle of red Beaujolais is meant to be drunk up within the first few years of its life. This is undoubtedly a wine for the masses.

    The local style of vinification in Beaujolais is the Carbonic Maceration method, whereby bunches of grapes arrive in the fermentation vats uncrushed and whole, and the usually short fermentation takes place within the grape itself. The ensuing wine is violet in color, fruity and ready to drink on release.

    Beaujolais has three levels of quality:

    Nouveau: Beaujolais Nouveau is released each year on the third Thursday of November, literally weeks after the crush. It’s usually accompanied by loads of fanfare, but in reality, the wine is pretty mediocre. Drink it as you would a white, and make sure it’s gone by springtime the following year.

    Beaujolais-Villages: Most of the major negociants in the region, such as Jadot, Drouhin, Bouchard and the King of Beaujolais, Georges Duboeuf, produce a blend from recognized villages. These wines are friendly, easy drinkers with more stuffing than the Nouveau.

    Crus: By far the finest Beaujolais comes from the ten Cru villages. The name of the Cru will always be noted on the label. Although the differences from one to another are subtle, they should be noted: The lightest are Chiroubles and Regnie. Medium-bodied Crus include Brouilly, Cote-de-Brouilly, Fleurie, Julienas and Saint-Amour. The richest come from Chenas, Morgon and Moulin-a-Vent.

    Retail prices range from $9-$15 for Nouveau and Beaujolais-Villages and up to $30 for the more chic bottlings of the best Crus. Generally, though, a good Cru should cost $15-$22 at retail. Among my many favorites are the straight Old Vines Beaujolais from J.P. Brun, Chenas from Pascal Aufranc and Hubert Lapierre, Chiroubles from Chateau de Raousset and Domaine Cheysson, Regnie from Joel Rochette, the Morgon from Jean Descombes (bottled by Duboeuf) and the Moulin-a-Vent from Jacky Janodet.

    If you would like to do an inexpensive tasting, pick up a bottle from each of the lighter, medium and richer groups. See if you can discern the styles. Just make sure to chill them before serving; about 15 minutes in the fridge should do.

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  • Peruvian art, American work: The colorful visions of William Hernandez Molina

    For all its vivid Latin coloring and Peruvian symbolism, William Hernandez Molina’s art is both modern and whimisical. “Dreamlike,” he calls it. Molina is a Peruvian native and long-time working artist and educator, schooled at Lima’s La Escuela de Bellas Artes. Though he holds abstract art in great esteem, naming Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso as inspirations, his work is most closely aligned with the great figurative artist, Marc Chagall. “I didn’t cut my ear like [Vincent] Van Gogh,” he says. “But I try to listen to their advice to me.”

    He met his wife, a Peace Corps worker from Portland, in Peru, and they came to Oregon together in 2009, shortly before she became pregnant with their first son. Since coming to Portland two years ago, Molina has shown 14 art shows and shows no signs of slowing.

    During an evening out at Andina prompted by his father-in-law, Molina envisioned the restaurant as a potential canvas for his work. “I was enjoying my food and my Pisco sour,” he says. “I wasn’t thinking I’d be working there you know. I’ve never worked in a restaurant in my life.” It wasn’t until after he met with Mama Doris that an urge for “American work,” found him balancing days as a “striker” in the restaurant with nights in his studio.

    His voice is clear, his passion beyond contagion; it hardly needs others to thrive. However, Molina says it is important for him to watch how others respond to his work and at times to clarify the story behind a piece. “Sometimes people make up their own stories about your work,” he says. “Art is an important connection, relationship. Everyone who sees it, owns it.”

    NL: You seem so focused. How do you balance family, work at Andina and your art?
    WHM:  When I was in Peru, I was teaching and working on many projects at a time.When I came here I said, “I need American work. I need to integrate into the culture.”  It’s important to bring your culture, but it’s important to change too—be where you are. So I had my first interview in America, first interview in English, and met [General Manager Jels McCaulay] at the same time.

    Sometimes I’m working [at Andina], but I’m looking at people. Maybe one guy is eating dinner, but he’s worried about his business and his face shows it. I’m watching him and trying to figure out what he’s thinking. So when I sit in front of the white canvas later, I have hundreds of faces in my mind. It’s hard because I have so many ideas in my head, but not enough time to get them out. Spending time with my art is spending time with my son. My son is in that painting.

    NL: Your work seems to incorporate folkloric Peruvian colors and symbolism with modern, even absurdist subject matter.
    WHM: My art is figurative. I love abstract art, but mine is figurative. People will say, “You’re crazy. What’s that llama with a tie?” I’m telling stories of my own life. Sometimes ironic, sometimes ludico—illustrated with a mix of animals and plants. Though if you remove the animals and people from my work, you will still get the vision of my painting.  I use the colors of my country in my painting. There’s a happiness to the Latin culture. That is one character you see in my paintings. No grey.

    NL: So it’s not necessarily what some people would think of when they envision “Peruvian art”?
    WHM: Yeah, that’s Andino, the Andean folkloric art that you’re talking of. I am telling my stories. But Latins have a shared background with important historical cultures. I met a Mexican man from the Yucatan and I could see the Mayan at his back. There is a sort of connection between Latins there. I represent the people there [in Peru] with my art, words, dreams. The difference is Americans are individuals. But that works because it’s a system.

    NL: So you’ve done a lot of shows in Portland already. That’s great.
    WHM: I’ve sold paintings in Portland, so it’s okay for me. I don’t know too much about the Portland art scene, but when I had my first art show here last September, people seemed grateful because they said it’s so different.  I have an art collector here in Portland, my first one. He’s bought six paintings and follows me to each show. I was a part of the first Latin Artists Exchange (LAX) at the Teatro Milagro. I asked Andina to participate in the event and they did. I got to meet other Latin artists, not just painters, but dancers, writers. We put together the first directory of Latin artists in Portland and the Mayor was pleased as it was a project that he had been working to promote.

    It’s important for artists to keep balance in the life. To create, but also to show their work. Here, it’s hard for me to communicate all my ideas clearly, but in the canvas I am free.

    NL: What are your goals as an artist?
    WHM: I’m 34 and I’m not famous. It’s okay. I try to paint every day. It’s important that when people see my work, they say “Oh, that’s William Hernandez.” Of course it grows over the years, but it’s easy to see that it’s my work. My goal? To keep it honest. Honesty is priceless. I try to start every day with a white page. With art, you never know what will happen in the future.

    Check out Molina’s work on his website at williamhernandezart.com.

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  • Wine paraphernalia

    Collecting wine is a labor of love, similar to other types of collectibles. As such, it also has its paraphernalia. Let’s address a few of the main participants, which I’ll list as Imperative, Pretty Important and Basically Useless:

    Corkscrews
    It used to be you couldn’t open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. But the screw cap has changed all that, and for the better in my opinion. It’s my belief that fully two-thirds of the world’s wine should be bottled under screw cap. Why? At least two-thirds of the wine produced in the world is meant for immediate consumption. Does it matter if these wines have a cork or not? Very few things in this business perturb me more than opening a fresh young bottle and finding it completely corked and undrinkable.

    Don’t get the wrong impression, because I seriously don’t want to see Penfold’s Grange or Chateau Margaux bottled with a screw cap. But for Macon-Villages, Beaujolais or $10 shiraz from Australia, I say let’s do it.

    Still, possession of a corkscrew is Imperative. I once had a $150 beauty. It had a bone handle and looked really sleek. But it was somewhat unwieldy in my hand and I kept cutting myself with it. Looking cool doesn’t matter so much when you’re bleeding on the customers, so I changed equipment and now firmly believe in using simple, rubber-handled waiter’s corkscrews.

    Decanters
    Once opened, each wine has a very short window in which to sing its song. The older reds have waited quite a while to get their few minutes on stage. Why not give them a chance to sing out loud? I believe in decanting reds that have ten or so years behind them, and find they often blossom like flowers after fifteen minutes out of the 55-degree cellar. Pretty Important.

    Conversely, decanting a very young and/or inexpensive wine is generally moot. If you plan to decant a bottle of 2009 chardonnay at home for your guests, it should be regarded as a visually pleasant, yet Basically Useless endeavor.

    Glassware
    Ultra-quality crystal stemware for the home falls under the Pretty Important, but not Imperative section. Using the right shape of glass does play a part in how your wine will taste. Obviously, you don’t want to go around the table asking your friends to cup their hands as you pour, but whether you need to pay $25 per stem is another matter. My grandfather drank his wine out of water tumblers, which is not recommended by the way. This section does not include the use of fine wine glasses for restaurants, which is Imperative.

    Some of today’s advertisements for stemware are ridiculous. Each and every grape variety does not need to have its own shape. Look for a good size bell, a thin lip and a more or less tulip-like shape, which works just fine for the grand majority of wines. If you simply must have boxes of those fragile, elite jobs, that’s fine. Just expect to break a few each week.

    Storage spaces
    If you plan to purchase bottles with noteworthy aging curves, you better think about cold storage. Simply put, wines won’t live long unless kept in cool, dark spaces. Whether you own the storage unit yourself (gauge your needs carefully) or rent one, this section can be regarded as Imperative for the health of your wine. If you buy a few $10 bottles a week that you drink right away, who cares?

    Other Areas

    Wine charms
    These are the little do-dads that go around the bottom of your stemware at parties. They indicate which wine is Suzie’s and which is Sam’s. They remind me of vinous Monopoly trinkets (I always wanted the Shoe or the Thimble). Kind of neat, but Basically Useless.

    Media tasting notes
    There are many choices here, and each reviewer has his or her own distinctive tastes. My call is try a few recommendations from one publication to see if you agree with the assessments. If not, try another. Take everything you read (or hear from friends) with a grain of salt. Once you’re comfortable with your own palate, buy every publication you can, just to see how varied and stupefying their comments can be. Pretty Important.

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  • CSA state of mind: Andina son harvests lessons of the land

    Victor Platt, youngest son of the Andina family, took much of last year off from his duties at the restaurant to till soil in central Minnesota. Platt worked for five and a half months  as an intern at Ploughshare Farm. Named 2009 Farm Hero of the Year by Edible Twin Cities, Ploughshare operates within the field of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a subscription-farming model that has become wildly popular in Portland, and throughout North America. Members buy a seasonal stake or “share” in the farm, inheriting some of its risks but reaping the fruits of its labor in the form of weekly harvests—sometimes delivered in boxes, sometimes picked up in person.
    Platt is back in Portland now, lending a hand at Andina until he leaves for yet another farming job—this time in New England. He’s been kind enough to share his farming experiences and how they translate back to his community in Portland and at Andina.

    N: Describe your typical day on the farm.
    V: The farmer would punctually hold a morning meeting at 7:30 a.m. for a review of the balance of the day’s work. Our tasks would vary from day to day, and season to season —but the primary work on this farm, as on many small-scale, diversified vegetable farms, included the following: greenhouse care, direct seeding, transplanting, field cultivation (weeding beds by hand, hoe, wheel-hoe, or tractor), thinning of young crops, trellis-construction, irrigation management, harvesting, (washing, bundling, bagging), and packing.

    As the farming season progressed out of early Spring greenhouse seeding to the harvest cycles of late Spring, Summer, and early Fall, our weekly schedule gradually gained a weekly structure. As part of a crew of five full-time farm hands, one part-time worker, and our crew leader, we spent Mondays, Tuesday and Wednesdays fully engaged in the harvest of crops that would, after cooling-washing-sorting-trimming-bundling-bagging, make their way into the share boxes due for pre-dawn delivery to a number of drop-sites on Thursday. The remainder of the week we turned our attention to the urgencies and projects that any given month or season presented. As many summer hours as we spent weeding and thinning our beds, we might later spend digging, curing and trimming our storage crops.

    N: You told me that each worker was responsible for cooking a communal meal once a week. Did you learn to cook with new ingredients? Which meals stand out?
    V: We learned, and learned together, a few immensely useful techniques and ingredients. First and foremost, the craft of fermenting, culturing and pickling foods, including yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, sour breads, and whey-soaked grains. For a few months we baked with wild-fermented sourdough, incorporating the starter into whatever the desired recipe happened to be: sunflowerseed loaves or weekend pancakes being two lovely examples. Later in the season, with a new cookbook in hand (The Winter Vegetarian), whole buckwheat groats, and a friend’s hand-cranked flour mill, I attempted a buckwheat and poppy seed bread recipe from scratch. The entire process hinted at the wonders, and challenges, of baking with this famous world crop. Among the uniquely memorable meals were those a few of us cooked on spits over our fire pit: three whole hens that we culled, cleaned and prepared ourselves, and small steaks of venison and veal that were the kind gifts of the neighbors from whom we purchased our weekly par of raw milk and eggs.

    N: Did your time working around food at Andina inform your choice to farm in any way?
    V: The kinship between a restaurant and a farm seems to many, and may in fact be for many, a very close relationship… There is undeniable significance, for example, in the nutritional value of well-tended crops, in their aesthetic qualities, and perhaps above all, in their vitality of flavor, and the fact that this flavor can and will communicate the story of that crop’s origins.

    But I am not a chef, and though I know and love the experience of eating locally sourced and sustainably grown plants (and all the foods and oils that depend upon them), my time at Andina informed my decision to farm for quite different reasons. Beyond and besides being a restaurant, Andina is and always has been something else for me: it is a family business, a busy business, and a business rather fiercely exploring the questions and possibilities that hospitality entails…I decided to farm because I sensed, viscerally, that small-scale farming entailed a similar quality and scope of intensity, and would, in turn, require and reward so many forms of similar engagement. This was indeed the case. Two separate worlds, for sure, but each—family restaurant and family farm—navigating on similar terms a challenging and yet enlightening course.

    N: It seems that a lot of young people who are feeling overrun by modern life and technologies are turning to farming to reconnect with the land; and perhaps, a simpler life. Is this just a romantic notion?
    V: No, I do not think this is just a romantic notion. If there is some romance in the turn of many young people toward a simpler life, it is not, in my opinion, wrongly informed or naive. But this simplicity need not involve the land alone. I know that a single season’s work on a farm changed me—and know how welcome that change has been. I do not know, however, if a simpler life will always involve the land. Ask those who have farmed all their lives – do they yearn for simplicity as well, and if so, in what imagined life?

    N: What was one of the most satisfying experiences you had at Ploughshare?
    V: Certainly the most satisfying experience was the camaraderie that emerged within the cohort of fellow apprentices; the friendships, too, with the farming family, and with our crew leader, Olga. The most satisfying activity was the harvest of our heavier crops—the summer melons, the winter cabbages, and the winter squash. Forming a line, from crop bed to tractor and trailer, we would heave and launch individual fruits or vegetables from one person to another. Because the harvest of almost every crop involved stooping or kneeling, the chance to throw and stand was unusually, and completely, gratifying.

    N: What did you observe as the general attitude from the farmers/interns about the state of agriculture in the U.S.? Their part in it?
    V: Not more than a year or so ago, I read an article in which a favorite writer had flipped a famous contemporary adage on its head. In light of the books he was reviewing and the line of thought he was pursuing, he suggested that instead of thinking “It takes a village to raise a child” there was reason to consider seriously that “It takes a child to raise a village.” I think this is somehow true of farms as well. It may well take a farm to raise a community: a community of a kind that may or may not have existed before; but whatever the  case, a community that it is worth our effort, understanding and engagement.

    N: You have decided to do another farming internship. Where, for how long and how does it differ the term at Ploughshare? Why did you decide to farm again?
    V: I will be working for eight months on Caretaker Farm, in western Massachusetts, about five minutes outside of Williamstown. Founded in 1969 as a homestead, and currently with about ten acres in active cultivation during any growing season, it is quite a bit smaller in size, though significantly older, than the farm in Minnesota.
    You not only work different muscles when farming, you also live differently, at almost every level—more simply, but no less intensely. I chose to farm again because of the form, extent, and variety of instruction that stemmed from last year’s apprenticeship.

    N: What do you hope to bring back to the Andina “family” with your farming experience?
    V: Above all, a closer appreciation of a form of work that is quite old, and yet always, always new. By nature, new

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  • El Amor y su magia

    An unlikely story, like all love stories

    Valentine’s Day is here again and we celebrate a universal and powerful feeling that makes wonders in our lives. Love.

    Whoever was, or is, touched by love has a story to tell which is personal and unique, a story where the predictable and unpredictable happen in such a way that defies any objective planning or any vision that one may have of the future. Love directs our lives in unknown ways to meet what life prepared for us.

    The story I am going to tell is one of the many that illustrate how love not only changed the lives of two people; but expanded them in ways they never expected.
    It is the story of a young man from Portland, Ore., who honored a sense of obligation to better understand the world, and joined what, in the mid 1960s, was a new initiative: the Peace Corps. He was sent to Cajamarca, an Andean city in Northern Peru, to teach Physics in La Escuela Normal, a college for teachers. And it is the story of a young woman from Cajamarca, who never thought she was going to meet a foreigner, someone who would change her life and her plans forever.

    She had just returned home as a recent graduate of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Trujillo, the same University her father had attended. With her title of Pharmacist, the young woman dreamed to work in a lab, do research and help to save humankind with the magic medicines she was going to create. But soon she realized that Cajamarca was not the place for such kinds of dreams: only big cities, like Lima, or Madrid in Spain, could give her a chance; but leaving her home town, abandoning her widower father, her three younger siblings and grandma was impossible. She knew well their expectations and her responsibility to be with them.

    Life had something entirely different in store. She received an invitation one day from the nuns of her former high school: an invitation to teach chemistry that she happily accepted. So, without any formal educational training she started to teach in her former high school. At the same time the young man from Oregon started to teach Physics in the Escuela Normal. The two schools were neighbors, and she often saw him riding his bike, always dressed in a suit, with a narrow tie. She also heard rumors that his students and other teachers were impressed by his way of teaching without formal textbooks. He generated his own written lessons and put his students to the task of learning by doing, under his guidance, or by creating their own experiments: forms of pedagogy that she had never seen before.

    She, in her own way, also was discovering that she liked to teach and became fond of her classes and her students. But neither of them could imagine that teaching was going to play a crucial role in their future relationship.

    They first met in La Casa de la Cultura de Cajamarca (a center for cultural activities in the city), thanks to her father, a very inquisitive man, always ready to learn as much about as many important topics as he could, who enrolled his entire family (children, not grandma) in the free English-language classes that the young man offered, twice a week, as an extension of his official work. Unhappily her attendance was not consistent; she needed the time to prepare her Chemistry lessons. But her father was an exemplary student and many times scolded her for not taking advantage of what the foreigner was providing.

    After two years in Cajamarca and having received praises and recognition from the school for his innovative ways of teaching (one group of students carried his name as the official name of the graduating class), the young man left Cajamarca. Everybody thought he was going back to Oregon.

    Two years passed, and the young woman started to attend the local university to receive her formal degree as a science teacher: the nuns had promoted her to teach Chemistry to future teachers in their Escuela Normal de Mujeres, but she would need official credentials to assume that post. It was at the same time that the Peruvian government mobilized an Educational Reform initiative, which received the blessing and support of UNESCO and UNICEF, two international organizations that cooperated with technical assistance and finances. The Educational Reform began by inviting science teachers from all over Peru, to attend Summer courses at the best Universities in Lima. By way of these courses, the teacher’s could expand their theoretical base and learn new methods of teaching. The young woman saw a very good opportunity to learn more about Chemistry and decided to attend courses at La Católica, one of Lima’s venerable universities. She went to Lima without knowing what was waiting for her.

    She still has a clear memory of the moment. She was walking through the campus of the University, en route to the Chemistry Lab, when she saw in the distance a man walking in her direction carrying an oscilloscope. As he came closer she noticed that the man had a strong resemblance to the American who two years ago had taught and lived in Cajamarca. He couldn’t be the same American, he was already in Oregon, she thought. However, as the man approached, her doubts disappeared, the man was the same American! He, too, was surprised. He saw her and his eyes widened in startled recognition. Each of them stopped and began to ask, simultaneously—Are you …?—What are you doing here?—And both of them learned what they needed to know: the young man hadn’t gone back to Oregon, he had remained in Peru working a third year in the Peace Corps on the north coast of Peru. Later, he had been invited to teach Physics in the Summer courses offered at the Universidad La Católica, where he became acquainted with professors who were participating in the Educational Reform. She, in turn, explained her reasons for being in Lima, and wishing each other good luck, they politely said goodbye. Was this re-encounter a mere coincidence? Or something that was meant to happen? Who knows?!

    After finishing her Summer course, the young woman went back to teach in Cajamarca, this time excited to convey and illustrate updated concepts utilizing the new chemistry equipment provided by UNICEF. One day while she was teaching, she was called to the Office of the School. An official letter sent by UNESCO had arrived for her. She opened it, and her surprise was truly great. It was an offer to go to Lima to join the Educational Reform. The Peruvian Government, in cooperation with UNESCO and UNICEF, had founded PRONAMEC (a national program for improving the teaching of science), which would operate in Lima under the direction of a fine physics teacher from Cuzco, a man who had studied in Belgium. The program needed a teacher for each branch of science. The young lady was invited to teach Chemistry, and the other teachers were invited to teach Math, Biology, and Physics. They would be developing the means and methods for training teachers at a national level. After her initial excitement, she realized that a great dilemma and a huge decision were now on her shoulders. Going to Lima, abandoning her family, leaving her work, both of them dear to her heart, would be impossible. On the other hand, the offer tempted her, to go to the big city, to train other teachers, to be close to resources she couldn’t have in Cajamarca. What to do?

    One night, when she had decided not to go, she approached her father and asked him his opinion; she will never forget his words, spoken slowly and ceremoniously. What he said was this: Are you asking me for my advice? This is what my heart and my reason are telling you: Go, life is calling you to fly! All of us love you, and want the best for you. Don’t you know that by love parents raise their children, educate them and give them wings to fly? If a child is called to fly away from home, how in the world are parents going to hold them back? We are truly happy when we see our children flying. If they fly farther, more is our happiness. You said that you are afraid to make a mistake; but how can you know if you don’t try? Go and try, doing your best, and if you see that the job doesn’t suit you, come back home. Your house and your work will wait for you; you will have learned from your experience, and you will feel at peace—And the young woman went to meet her destiny.

    Perhaps you can guess what happened on the first day of her arrival. The Director of PRONAMEC introduced her to the teachers who were going to work as her colleagues in the other science fields. Only one teacher was not present; he was teaching at the University and would be arriving the following day. When that man did arrive, he was none other than the American with the oscilloscope from a year earlier. Once again, life was bringing these two reaching souls close to each other, this time to work together in a program embracing a noble cause, a hope and vision beyond themselves. PRONAMEC was created with a strong conviction that the methods that are used to do science could be used as effective tools to teach science, developing in students creative and critical minds able and ready to test their own interpretations and trust in the results. The young woman from Cajamarca and the young man from Portland, Ore., worked in their respective fields, inspired by their colleagues and students, and convinced that they were helping to build a new generation of Peruvians: a generation capable of saving Peru from those who, for power and money, took constant advantage of every moment of ignorance. Working with common ideals, their friendship and mutual understanding began to grow. She respected him and admired his dedication and intelligence. He really felt that his job was meaningful and useful for a country that he had started to love, a country that had made him welcome. Neither of them realized that something was happening in their hearts, nourished by every occasion of working together. The few times they went out to dine or to listen to concerts were always in the spirit of sharing their teaching experiences. Or when, on Friday nights, they went to the house of the director of the program, they engaged in long conversations that kept all of them up beyond midnight as they drank delicious cups of hot chocolate cuzqueño prepared by the director’s wife. The high spirited discussions ranged across a diversity of themes: how a child learns; how education based on empirical observation could help Peru overcome poverty and economic disparity. They also bore witness to the enthusiasm of the director when he explained his “spiral” theory, which affirmed that all natural things and human events evolved following the principles on which a true spiral was formed. On other occasions, their souls vibrated in unison with the rest of the teaching team when they all sang and danced Peruvian music. It was by virtue of so many shared experiences that they found themselves connecting, touching at the level of their souls, and little by little, of their hearts, until they discovered they were falling in love, a love that kept growing until they realized they were meant to unite their lives forever.

    He proposed to her during a field trip to the beach, to collect samples of rocks. She accepted completely, thrilled by his petition. His parents made a long trip from Oregon to Cajamarca for their formal engagement, and after a few months they married in two ceremonies. The civil ceremony took place in Lima surrounded by their PRONAMEC family. The Catholic ceremony took place in Jose Galvez, the same tiny shilico town where the parents of the young woman had married.

    On the day of their marriage the whole town followed the couple, who walked from the house of the young woman’s grandmother to the church across the main square. Leading the entire group was the town band, composed of three young men, one playing the accordion, the second playing the violin and the third playing the saxophone. Once the priest had declared them wife and husband, everyone met on the small farm beside her grandma’s house to celebrate their marriage with abundance of food and music. Among the happiest of the persons present was the father of the young woman; he was delighted that she, his daughter, had married a good man, who also was none other than his former English teacher.

    The couple continued working for PRONAMEC, and soon they were blessed with two sons that came one after the other, a situation that obliged her to resign from her job in order to raise the two boys. Meanwhile, the politics of the country had begun to turn, and the Peruvian government changed hands. PRONAMEC, which before had enjoyed significant control of its own activities, became part of a large bureaucracy, and quickly lost its autonomy. At that point, both husband and wife decided it was time to build their own family life, and they chose to raise their children in Oregon. They left Peru and journeyed to the husband’s home country.

    He was returning home after 11 years of being in Peru, and he honestly declared that he felt more Peruvian than American. They made their home in Corvallis, where they were blessed with a third son. The husband, now father of three, decided to go back to school, and after selecting a Master of Science program at OSU, he began his studies to become an engineer. The young woman became a full time mother and home-maker, though she preferred to be called a “domestic engineer,” because she was trying to build three human beings.

    Life was good for them. Their three sons grew up in Corvallis attending public schools and playing soccer and music. The three of them, like their father, journeyed to the East coast to attend college. The young mother could never have imagined she would live in the United States, or raise a family away from her own home. She was proud to keep the Spanish language at home, and tried to cultivate in her sons respect for both of the cultures to which they belonged, and to be proud of that. The young father found a job in the medical division at Hewlett Packard and kept working as an engineer. When her sons went to College, the young woman  combined her domestic duties with teaching, and became a Spanish teacher for home school students, and for the Community College of Benton County.

    For both of them, life in Corvallis was unfolding smoothly in a way that felt right: she loved to be at home, dreaming some day to write her memories, making photo albums for her family and keeping herself worried over the future of her children—job that, like any mother, she stills has. He planned some day to retire from Hewlett Packard and spend time in the work shop he had built downstairs, designing practical inventions and keeping their home functional. Both of them wanted to travel more often to Peru to engage in some social work, and visit other countries when time allowed.

    But life had other plans for them that they never imagined. This time the serendipity that brought the unpredictable came by way of their second son, who, after college, traveled to Peru under the auspices of Mercy Corp, Portland’s international non-profit organization. He desired to do something for Peru, and asked Mercy Corp to facilitate an investigative trip to Cajamarca, his mother’s town, to assess the needs of rural and urban communities. He went to Peru, sponsored in part by a retired Peruvian engineer, who later became a very good friend. While in Peru, he found to his surprise that the food was not only good, it was very good! When he returned to Oregon, the political world had changed dramatically, and Mercy Corps, like other relief organizations and civil society leaders, had turned most of their time and energy to the unfolding events in the Middle East. So he and his former sponsor conceived the idea to start a Peruvian restaurant, a cultural and culinary destination inspired by his encounter with the food and the people he had known, and guided by his sponsor’s experience in business. Drawing upon their mutual enthusiasm, and their dreams, and even without enough planning, nor thinking twice, they started looking for places in Portland and beyond, and soon found a fine corner space in the Pearl District. A restaurant that was only an idea soon was going to be a reality.

    The whole idea of opening a restaurant came as a big surprise for his parents. They had never imagined, and never planned, to enter the business world. Now their son showed them a road and invited them to abandon what they had and had not imagined, and follow him down that road. The father was the first to respond to his call; she, the mother, was skeptical and considered his idea unrealistic and too risky. She did not want to be involved in a business she did not understand. But observing how her husband and her three sons engaged in the project more and more, she realized that, like it or not, they were going to have a restaurant, and a beautiful one, and possibly, a good one. She discovered that miracles can happen, and that what her son was doing was a variation of what she always, deep in her guts, had desired someday to do: to bring Peru to her husband’s home country. Suddenly she saw their restaurant with new eyes. She saw clearly that life was giving to all of her family a mission to accomplish: to tell the story of Peru, its past and present, by way of its unique and delicious food, and to tell this story not only to Portlanders, but to any and all who journeyed to the restaurant’s tables and chairs.

    For her, the presence of the restaurant in Portland has become a way of saying thanks to her husband, returning with kindness all that his work as a teacher and his dedication had done for her people and for her country.

    For the whole family, but especially for the young man and the young woman of the past, their restaurant in Portland is an homage and witness to love, and to its unpredictable consequences.

    A toast to love and to everything that it makes possible.

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  • The Pisco Wars

    While archiving the Andina newsletters back to 2005, I realized we’ve never told the story of Peru’s most famous battle. It’s a battle that began over 150 years ago and still sparks heated cocktail-hour debate throughout the country. It is the battle for the origins and cultural patrimony of pisco, the distilled grape brandy that forms the base of Peru’s national drink, the Pisco Sour.

    The story began as a battle of territory, of land Peru defended and lost during the War of the Pacific. In the late 1800s, Chile, Bolivia and Peru fought over what were then Peru’s southernmost territories, as well as territory further south that comprised Bolivia’s only access to the Pacific. This was desert land, the driest in the world, but land that housed profitable salitre (or saltpeter) mines, a key mineral ingredient for the manufacture of explosives worldwide. With British economic interests at play, Chile eventually triumphed, reaching and temporarily controlling the capital city of Lima itself, and ultimately gaining permanent sovereignty over the former Peruvian Southern regions of Arica and Tarapacá. Through the Treaty of Ancón in 1883, Chile also won temporary administration over the Department of Tacna. 40 years later, in 1923, the territory of Tacna returned to Peru, and today, forms Peru’s southernmost district.

    Pisco, the brandy, originated over 400 years ago in Peru’s Pisco Valley, located within the Department of Ica, a region south of Lima (3.5 hours by bus) and well north of the contested lands. Pisco took its name after the port city where the spirit became wildly popular with sailors traveling between Europe and South America. For hundreds of years, production thrived in Peru’s southern regions, chiefly Tarapacá. But when those southern lands were split between Peru and Chile in post-war years, a battle of a new sort began. Both countries were producing pisco and both laid claim to it as a “native” product. In the 1960s, Chile went so far as to ban import of all Peruvian “pisco.”

    For decades, Chile was focused on commercial production and exportation, whereas Peru’s industry was artisan-based. The international availability of Chilean pisco led much of the rest of the world to think of it as a Chilean product. In 2005, however, Peru won a long-fought contest for a “Denomination of Origin” designation from the World Intellectual Property Organization, marking pisco as an official Peruvian product and disallowing any other country to trademark the name. Though both Peru and Chile have their own varietals, methods and styles of pisco production, a “denomination of origin” designation lends an aura of authenticity and the economic boons that follow. Think: Champagne and Cognac.

    Chile still produces close to ten times the amount of the spirit as Peru, but according to Peruvian Times, Peru finally surpassed its southern neighbor’s sales of pisco abroad. Slowly and steadily, Peru continues to stake their claim in one way and another. This is about more than bragging rights or the almighty tourist dollar. It’s a matter of national pride.

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  • Ciudadanos del Mundo

    Citizens of the World

    Once more, for the sixth year, on February 7 and 8, Andina will open its doors for a fund raising event in support of Green Empowerment, the Portland based non-profit organization that has long worked to improve the lives of the underserved in countries around the world, including those in my country.

    As in the past, we will host fundraising dinners on two consecutive nights. Led by chef Hank Costello, pastry chef Megan Jeans, and wine-director Ken Collura, Andina’s kitchen team has created a superb Peruvian five-course, wine-paired menu, which we are deeply proud to present as a way of giving thanks to the work of Green Empowerment, and to each and every one of its supporters. Accompanying the food and wine, there will be stories of projects completed and projects to come; and so we hope and believe these evenings will inspire and nourish both the body and soul in each of our guests.

    Besides the concrete benefits that one can see on a visit to any of the villages of Peru touched by Green Empowerment’s actions, there is something that is not seen. But it is inherent in the meaning and mission of the Green Empowerment organization: to honor and follow “green” principles is to provide energy that is clean and sustainable. To honor and follow principles of “empowerment”, is to capacitate the recipients of your aid with the same tools and knowledge that you bring.

    We see through Green Empowerment’s efforts a genuine conviction that in the water, the sun, the wind and the biodegradable materials that are local to a given place and community, there are so many sources of potential energy; and for each place in which they choose to operate, they take the time and care to select the type of energy, and the courses of training, that are best able to make transformative and lasting effects.

    Two years ago, in the summit of the community of “El Alambre”, we saw with our own eyes four wind mills that were the handiwork of not only of Green Empowerment, but of the Peruvian technicians and members of the community with whom they closely worked. These turbines were built to harvest the power of the strong winds that blow day and night, and ultimately to generate enough electricity to illuminate the school, the church and the “Centro de Salud” – the health center.

    Today, as I write, people from “El Alambre” are able to gather for community meetings after work during the evening hours in rooms no longer heavy with the offputs from kerosene lamps; mothers are able now to give birth in the middle of the night, and they no longer need to travel to Cajamarca to save the life of their sick child who burns with fever and is weak. A tangible miracle for the people in that village!

    One aspect of Green Empowerment’s mission that resonates with special force is the commitment to “empower people”. In each Project, Green Empowerment counts on the participation of technicians from “Soluciones Practicas”, a Peruvian non-profit organization. They also involve the members of the communities in which they work, not only in the processes of construction or installation, but more significantly, in the maintenance, care, and life of the project once the project is finished. Members of the community are themselves empowered to use, fix, and administrate these practical solutions to practical problems.

    This philosophy of empowering people resonates so deeply for my husband (John) and me because we ourselves felt its transformative force during a common experience lived many years ago in Peru. These were the days when we worked as teachers in an organization similar in its philosophy to Green Empowerment, even if it was different in its objective. Instead of using local natural resources for finding, using, and conserving energy, we were using the theories, examples, and experiments of Physics and Chemistry to educate science teachers from throughout Peru.

    The organization in which John and I worked as colleagues was called PRONAMEC (Programa Nacional para Mejorar la Enseñanza de las Ciencias), a national program to improve the teaching of sciences. PRONAMEC was founded with the participation of the Peruvian government, who provided teachers for instruction in the natural sciences. John and I served in that role. UNESCO provided technical assistance, and UNICEF gave financial help.

    Our goal was to give to secondary school science teachers the basic tools that are used in any scientific method, where hands and minds work together in the basic processes of observation, interpretation, and in the making and proving of hypotheses. Our goal was to empower them with the critical insights and techniques for their own effective classroom instruction, passing along to their own student similar skills, with which they might learn  and study throughout their lives.

    During our 5 years in PRONAMEC, which was based in Lima, we discovered that real teaching and real learning didn’t require expensive equipment, nor an abundance of books. In Physics (John’s field) and in Chemistry (my field), we crafted our own experiments, and built what we needed with inexpensive objects and whatever nature offered: rocks, water, minerals, plants, little metallic things, like spoons, knives, flash lights, batteries, sugar, salt, soda, etc, etc. What was required was to abandon complex preconceptions, learned by rote from books; and instead, to give our logic and our imagination room to innovate and create. We needed to listen, to see, and to touch; to use our logic to interpret and our entire mind to explain our perceptions.

    For the first time we all (staff and students alike) felt that by teaching others to be objective, to use their logic and imagination to solve problems, thinking critically and openly based on observed and tested realities, we were building a new generation of individuals, a generation that Peru – like many countries – needed to overcome a culture of subjection, where too many people were vulnerable to the economic power and often corrupt incentives of the dominating class. And we saw small miracles happening during those years: the teachers that were brought from different parts of Peru for training at PRONAMEC went back to their homes energized to work in the “Nucleos de Ciencia” (Science Centers, created by PRONAMEC) and empowered with a new kind of teaching. They were designing their own experiments, and constructing them out of the common things of their surroundings; in turn, they were allowing their students to learn “hands on” and to see close up, and to discover by themselves that they could learn and grow.

    We saw shining eyes full of joy in the teachers, and they saw the same gleam and joy in their students, when they discovered by themselves something that was not memorized from a book; we saw that time didn’t matter when teachers were absorbed in an experiment that required and received their total concentration. We started to see more confident teachers and more pride in their teaching.

    Having this shared experience in PRONAMEC has now allowed John and me to welcome an organization like Green Empowerment in a way that goes beyond “fundraising”. We see in Green Empowerment an organization that truly helps Peru in the deepest of ways – giving to its people the knowledge and confidence for solving practical problems, and enabling them to participate, to a far greater extent than before, in determing their own destiny.

    Our special recognition and gratitude goes to Anna Garwood, the Executive Director of Green Empowerment. We saw Anna in Cajamarca working day after day, defying the cold, the wind and the altitude of the Andean communities to which she was so committed. Anna traveled to the jungle to teach people technical skills for the utilization of energy; she visited the highlands of Cuzco to address the need for electricity and potable water. Anna and her colleagues at Green Empowerment are an inspiration to all with whom they have worked, and to me. They are true citizens of the world.

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  • Holiday wine ideas

    No need to guess what time of year it is. That certain style of music is everywhere you go now: In the banks, in the department stores, in the Starbucks, in your dreams. I like Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby just as much as the next man, but . . .
    As Christmas and New Year’s approach, here are a couple of vinous ideas for the holiday table:

    CHRISTMAS
    What ever became of Tiny Tim’s Christmas goose? At least here in the United States, it appears as if we’ve gotten away from the traditional huge Christmas dinner. We opt for something less elaborate, indicating that maybe our appetites have been hindered by the mounds of shredded wrapping paper, tiny green flecks of pine tree strewn throughout the house and the looming specter of bills yet unpaid. I suppose I’m starting to sound like Ebenezer himself. Enough humbug.

    Our family would always serve roast ham on Christmas afternoon, but a game bird like duck or goose (hold the turkey, please) is just as inviting. The wines you pour on this day should be warming, rich and elegant. Some suggestions: Chateauneuf-du-Pape from the southern Rhone Valley in France or perhaps a Shiraz from Australia or South Africa, a Carmenere from Chile or a Malbec from Argentina.

    NEW YEAR’S
    I was born and raised in Manhattan. We used to prepare for New Year’s Eve pretty much the same way people prepare for an oncoming hurricane: load up on the appropriate supplies, bolt the doors and hope everything outside will still look the same tomorrow. Going out onto the streets of N.Y.C. this night was a distinct mistake, as lunacy often seemed to permeate the brisk night air. So we would stay at home with friends and drink wine, watching Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians play that schmaltzy music direct from the ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria.

    Sparkling wine has always been associated with this particular holiday, and the best of the genre come from Champagne, FR. Always clean and vivid, a great Champagne washes away the prior season’s troubles. The Roederer Brut Premier is at or near the top of the list for Non-Vintage bottlings. It’s always well balanced and vacillates easily between the brisk, clean notes and yeasty flavors. Also, if you haven’t tasted Clouet’s Blanc de Noirs Silver Label Brut, it’s truly one of the most exciting sparkling wines on the market. If you feel like splurging, few Champagnes approach the majesty of Ruinart’s Blanc de Blancs, which has a finish that lasts 5 minutes.

    As for New Year’s Day, Alka-Selzter is often the beverage of choice early in the day, but as the afternoon progresses and the Bowl games come on the tube, a cold IPA six-pack and some chips and dip pair well pretty well.

    Happy Holidays!

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  • What does sustainability look like?

    One night, while chatting about popular local restaurants with my friend Sarah and her food-loving boyfriend, it ocurred me that Andina is something of an anomaly in the Portland canon of hot restaurants, whose overarching cry rings “local, local, local.” I started thinking about how it can be that in a town where hyper-local, place-based dining is the norm, one of the busiest restaurants owes its origins to mountainous cuisines thousands of miles away.

    Assuming I’d stumbled upon an original thought, I was suprised to discover that discussions about Andina’s sourcing practices, locality vs. importing, authenticity vs. sustainability, had been taking place for a long time – right under my nose.

    While the Platts have worked primarily with local producers to build the menu, including Carlton Farms and Cascade Natural meats and locally foraged mushrooms, a few ingredients that are integral to Peruvian cuisine just do not grow locally. Most importantly, the Peruvian peppers known as ajíes-four chili peppers that constitute the base of many Peruvian dishes- must be imported. At a loss for local sources, Andina has done the next-best thing by sourcing directly from a third-generation German-Peruvian farmer who grows specific batches of (certified organic) peppers for Andina and processes them into purées. Although the carbon footprint of these essential peppers includes a boat trip or plane ride from Lima to Seattle and a truck ride from Seattle to Portland, Andina has cultivated a direct and ongoing relationship with their source.

    “Sustainability is really about long-term value,” said Peter Platt in an interview with Food CEO.com. “And the preservation of existing traditions that have a long history – that mean a lot to people and that are rooted worldwide. I think we’re better for, this country in particular, being a country of immigrants, for having those stories and those narratives as part of our own cultural background.”

    For restaurants such as Andina that aim to introduce a global cuisine to conscious diners, it’s important to define what sustainability means. At Andina it’s first and foremost about sustaining the food traditions that reach back thousands of years, acting as a “culinary ambassador” for Peru. Then it’s about translating that culture to Oregon – a compromise that began the day a young Doris Rodriguez and John Platt first met over 30 years ago in Cajamarca.

    Andina introduced Oregon to traditional Peruvian dishes and trendy Novo-Andean concepts. Not as a romanticized relic, a Peruvian mama stirring goat stew in a copper pot; but as a modern snapshot of the fusion that Peru represents. Most of Andina’s dishes could be called “historical food.”  They reveal in their preparation and flavor all the cultures that influenced Peru, from ancient times until the present.

    Customers come to Andina for a cultural experience – to be transported to Peru through its flavors, sounds and colors. To inhale the aroma of Seco de Cordero, the traditional Northern Andean dish of lamb shank braised in black beer, cilantro and aji. Or to be surprised by the Novo-Andean preparation of Adobo de Cerdo, a traditional smoky pork dish gone modern with gorgonzola ravioli and tart green apple.

    Preserving these flavors outside their immediate environment is representative of many dilemmas that today’s globalized food cultures must confront, and in many cases it’s these sort of issues that end up watering down the cuisine. The sense of place is then lost in translation. The Platts and kitchen manager Hank Costello work to retain the truest sense of Peruvian flavor. Only by maintaining direct relationships with their sources, whether in Portland or Peru, can the historic food of Peru be reflected in a place and time so far away. Andina makes for an unexpecteed story in sustainability. But like many hot button words, sustainability’s image and what she actually looks like are often two very different things.

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  • Bar Mestizo y los nombres de nuestros cócteles

    A dictionary of our drinks

    El Sacsayhuamán

    Recently, the December issue of Portland Monthly magazine made public its selection of the “Best Bars 2010”, and we were happily surprised that Andina’s Bar Mestizo was among them. It was placed in the category
    of bars where besides good drinks, you can eat well too. I know that
    whoever visits our bar, will truly enjoy our good drinks complemented by
    the deliciousness of our small plates, or tapas peruanas. And that they will feel, see and taste what is truly special about Bar Mestizo: that it is a unique place because of the guests and musicians who choose to be
    there, and because every night, drinks and food are delivered in a festive atmosphere by a wonderful team of bartenders, cooks and servers.

    As the magazine accurately notes, our Sacsayhuamán cocktail is one of the most loved and popular drinks on Bar Mestizo’s list; and as with every other of our novo-Andean cocktails, the Sacsayhuamán is an expression of the creativity of Greg Hoitsma, our head bartender. Greg helped us open our bar seven years ago, and to this day he inspires and leads a team of talented bartenders who are directly responsible for the popularity of our drinks. Their care and their love for what they do – as well as their sheer effort!—make our bar what it is.

    With Greg’s welcoming permission, I plan to devote a few of my newsletter pieces to an explanation of the significance behind the Spanish names that Greg very carefully chose for his drink creations. Each cocktail, in name and substance, reflects his quest to connect the special ingredients he uses with both Latin America’s nature and culture. By way of his extensive travels in South America, Greg knows the land and its people in a special way, and the knowledge and skill with which he created each drink he also applied to their naming.

    For this article. I chose a cocktail that Greg created in collaboration with a colleague of his in the early days of Andina. That cocktail – the Sacsayhuamán – is a brilliant golden drink that presents sweet and spicy in a delicious and remarkable balance. The name itself properly belongs to the magnificent and massive ruins that still remain from what was once the principal fortress overlooking the city of Cuzco, the capital of the Incan empire. To this day, the stone ramparts and terraced expanses retain their majesty, and present a view of Cuzco like none other. The name, Sacsayhuamán, comes from the combination of two words from the Quechua (the official language of the Incan era); but there are different theories about the particular root words from which the longer name derives. I know two theories, each of which is compelling. The first suggests that the name comes from the words “Sacsay” meaning replete, or satisfied, and “Waman”, which means falcon. In this sense, the name
    accurately conveys and exalts the fortress, which was made to guard the imperial city, just as a falcon would symbolically do. A second theory identifies the Quechua words “Saqsa”, meaning speckled, and “Uma” meaning head. The cogency of this theory lies in other historical evidence suggesting that the fortress was built to resemble the head of a jaguar
    (speckled black and gold), with the city of Cuzco as the animal’s body. These stories complement the stories that unfolded on the site itself—not the least of which is that of the final major battle between an Incan army and the Spanish.

    In his visits to Cuzco, Greg became impressed by the
    fortress, admired the solidity and the beauty of the huge stones that the Incas formed and hauled, and was captivated by the colors, the strength and the energy that he felt the stones irradiated. This experience stayed with him, and when a name was needed for a drink of great potency and beauty, Sacsayhuamán was it. Mixing a puree of passion fruit with house- made habanero-infused vodka, Greg felt that the characteristics of the drink and those of the place matched in some special way.

    What Greg never imagined was that his cocktail would eventually be known and loved by another name entirely, and by another special play of words. Not long after its inauguration, a Sacsayhuamán became a “Sexy Woman”. As with other words and names in the history of many languages, speech itself led the way to new significance. And today, guests continue to see Sacsayhuamán written on our drinks list, and continue to happily pronounce it as just as it looks “sexy woman”. Little by little the new name informally replaced the original name of Sacsayhuamán. While at first we tried to correct our guests, we realized that this was neither consistently possible nor necessary. Now we accept that the Sacsayhuamán is as often called the “Sexy woman” as anything else.

    And briefly reflecting on this cocktail and its unique characteristics, I realized that the new nickname was appropriate in its own way. Whether as a cocktail or a way of coming across, a “sexy woman” is radiant, sweet, spicy, and most of all, unpredictable: nobody knows what is really
    there, even until the end, when both of them surprise us with something delightful, unexpected, and alluring.

    And that is it for now. If some of our readers have not yet sipped a Sacsayhuamán served up, come to our bar and enjoy that most unique experience.

    Salud with a glass of our Sacsayhuamán!

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  • Dando gracias

    “Dar Gracias” (to give thanks) is a manifestation of gratitude in all cultures around the world. In the Spanish world, there is an expression that says: “Gratitud es una cualidad 
que solo las almas nobles poseen”; or, gratitude is a quality that only noble souls possess. In other words, “Dar Gracias” (to give thanks) is valued in Peruvian society as a sign
 of goodness of the heart, nobility of feelings and a sense of honor for others.

    Seven years since Andina opened, we have seen how our Peruvian food has – to a degree beyond our expectations – gradually gained the acceptance and appreciation of our 
guests. Perhaps some of these guests came attracted first by the peculiar and exciting flavors of our dishes, or simply to try something new. But many soon also discovered that
 each dish revealed the cultural diversity of Peru’s history and the bounty supported by its unique geography.

    Gastronomically and culturally, Peru is the result of the unification of Pre-Incan cultures under the powerful and centralizing forces of the Incan civilization, followed not long 
thereafter by the arrival of the Spanish and the foundation of their Imperial reign. During the 400 years of Spanish rule, our country opened doors to European and African influences (West Africans were brought by the Spaniards as an enslaved
 work force). When Peru won its independence, waves of Italian, Jewish, Chinese and Japanese immigrants came, enriching our gastronomy and shaping what Peru is today: an 
emporium of food and a very culturally diverse country.

    As owners of Andina, our deep gratitude goes first to our staff and all with whom we continue to have the privilege and joy of working each day. Everyone at Andina works 
with their heads, hearts and hands, day by day, both in the front of the house and in the kitchen, and have made Andina’s mission a reality: introducing to Portland something of Peru and its culture, hopefully to be valued and appreciated through the excellence of our food, drinks and service. With all our heart, “Les damos gracias” (we give thanks) to all of you – for your talents, your skills, and the goodness of your hearts.

    On behalf of Andina, “Doy Gracias” (I give thanks) to our guests from the Portland community, and to those who, regularly, occasionally or just once, have visited the city
and the restaurant from farther afield. I have seen our food, our wine, our cocktails, and, not least, our service, both enjoyed and praised. All who have dined with us, and those
who have become our ambassadors by word of mouth: it is thanks to you that we have seen Andina become, little by little, a well-known and valued destination.

    When I visit tables at Andina and hear the enthusiasm of our guests toward our food; when I share stories or traditions involved in our dishes and perceive a guest’s genuine
interest to know more about Peru, or even their desire to visit Peru (which some have done!), my heart and my soul are full of gratitude. “Doy Gracias” to Peru, my country, for its wonderful food; but moreover, to our dear guests, for enlarging my own appreciation of other cultures, and for demonstrating, upon each and every new encounter, such goodness of heart and soul. Now more than ever I perceive through our interactions and our guests’ reactions that we are erasing cultural barriers and stereotypes on both sides. All of us recognize food that is made with care and love; all of us long to have a happy and fruitful life; all of us dream for a better and more peaceful world!

    I hope that on the day of Thanksgiving, those who dine with us can make a “brindis” – a toast – of thanks with a Pisco Sour, our national drink, and wish for others all that we 
wish for them: health, happiness and love, above all else.

    Blessings to all of you!

    Happy Thanksgiving Day!

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  • Thanksgiving ideas

    I try to look to the bright side during Holiday Season. Sure, we have to be prepared for the oncoming blitz of advertising, mails and commercials. But for me it’s all about family, friends, food and wine. Those four words sum up the plus side of the scale. They epitomize what the “Holiday Season” truly means. Let’s endeavor to offer some wine ideas for the grand days that will soon to be upon us. This month: Thanksgiving. Next Month: Christmas and New Year’s.

    THANKSGIVING
    What a masterful concept Thanksgiving is. A special day set aside to acknowledge all the good things that have happened to us in our lives, in the presence of our loved ones, seated together before a spectacular feast! And we can be as gluttonous as we like. Now that’s my idea of a holiday.

    Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday, and as such should be celebrated with American food and wine. I strongly recommend washing down the white and dark meat, stuffing and cranberry sauce with our indigenous wine, Zinfandel. Fruity, lush and powerful, it blends seamlessly with the hearty dishes served on the last Thursday of November. California Petite Sirah ain’t half bad either, packed with fruit and heft. Either way, you can’t go wrong. Another choice might be an Oregon Pinot Noir with a little punch, such as the Estate or Reserve from Coleman Vineyards or ADEA’s Dean-O’s Pinot. They will pair well with everything on your holiday table. In addition, you’re sure to feel a sense of patriotism as you stumble onto the Lazy-Boy. If you feel like going a touch lighter, a Cru Beaujolais from France will partner well with everything being served. I particularly like Chenas, Moulin-a-Vent or Julienas, but any of the other named villages will work equally well. Just remember to serve these wines slightly chilled. Fifteen minutes in the fridge prior to opening will do the trick.

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  • Where the Rio Santa Rages: Oregon firefighter teaches rescue tactics in highland Peru

    For most of the year, Jake Gartland calls Albany Fire Dept. Station #12 home. But for two weeks this Fall, he was stationed in Caraz, Peru, where he and seven other Pacific Northwest volunteers trained Peruvian national police, fire departments and volunteer rescue groups on advanced rope and water rescue skills. The course 
was organized through Global Mission Readiness, an Oregon non-profit whose goal is to teach emergency response skills to fire, police and rescue personnel in
developing countries so they can respond better to their own emergencies rather than depending heavily on foreign aid.

    Highly skilled rescue teams are a necessity in places like Caraz, where buses careen along the deep ravines of the Cordillera Blanca and the Rio Santa rages. Gartland and his teammates ended their successful trip with a visit to Lima’s Elite Police Rescue Squad, but along the way were introduced to the warmth and curiosity of the Peruvian people, the election process, Anticucho de Corazon and “magically” formed doughnuts. Picarones, anyone? After Gartland settled back into life at Station #12, he took a few minutes to share his impressions with me.

    Q: What drove you to this mission?
    A: I wanted to go because here in America we have so many skills and resources that we all take for granted, even us in the field. We take for granted that if we need help we can call 911 and within 5 minutes someone will be at our door.
In many parts of the world, that wait is measured in hours or days, if help ever arrives.

    Q: What was your daily routine like?
    A: While in Caraz we woke up to a nice breakfast of coffee, bread, jam and fruit. We walked to class, either at the city hall or down by the river or at the soccer stadium. We usually held class from 9-5 or so, but we learned pretty quickly that 
if you want people to be somewhere at 9, tell them to be there at 8. Lunch was usually empanadas from the corner market and an Inca Kola. For dinner we tried a few different places, but had a lot of rotisserie chicken [pollo a la brasa] and fries. Very, very
 good and dirt-cheap. And most meals were accompanied by a few rounds of the Peruvian favorite, Cusqueña.

    Q: What were your impressions of Peruvian culture?
    A: The part of Peruvian culture that I found most interesting centered around the election process. It was election weekend while we were there, and all the candidates would truck in people from the hills to come rally for them. They 
gave away T-shirts and people marched through the city, singing and dancing and chanting. We found ourselves in the middle of one of the parades, we even got handed a few pamphlets, despite the fact that we stuck out like a sore thumb.

    All in all the people were very helpful, and we were all able to laugh at the language barrier between us. There was a lady at the market selling a fritter made up of mashed potatoes, olives and spices who asked me my name. I told her it was 
Jake, but every day after that she called me Pedro instead.

    Q: Did you discover new foods you loved? Loathed?
    A: I didn’t try anything that I didn’t like while in Peru. We did our best to eat some of the traditional food, like cuy, rotisserie chicken and ceviche. There are two items that stand out above the others though.

    The first is a lady who set up a table on the side of the road with a little cast iron hibachi grill. She was marinating and grilling beef heart, sliced very thin and put on a kabob with a single chunk of potato on the end and topped with hot sauce.
She sold them for un nuevo sole (about 30 cents) apiece. We would usually order 3-4 a night after the dinner and beer had worn off.

    The second favorite was a lady near the market who had a five-gallon bucket of batter and a vat of frying oil. She would dip her hand in the batter, and somehow fling a donut shaped ring of batter into the oil. A few seconds later she pulled 
them out, stacked them four high and drenched them with a watered down honey sauce. They tasted like an elephant ear made into a donut, and they were 4 for one sole also. We ordered a plate, ate them in amazement, and then wolfed down another plate. The pisco sours were second to none as well.

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  • Don Pepito

    I believe that all of us, early in our lives, had around some special people whom we admired and loved and who were an important part of that precious time we call childhood, and who are even now still influencing our lives in ways that we never imagined. Who knows? Maybe they are the ones who shaped who we are.

    One of those special people in my childhood was “Don Pepito”, an old friend of my father and family. Like my father he was a “shilico” who came from the little village of Sucre, in the province of Celendín (people from Celendín are called “shilicos”), north of Cajamarca, my native town.

    (Note: For our loyal readers, Don Pepito of this story is “the foodie” of our last newsletter.)

    Over the next few weeks, I will share a few of my favorite memories of him and the various roles he played in his community as a “jack of all trades.” To begin:

    — IN HIS VISITS TO OUR HOME. I see him, with his old Kodak camera hanging around his neck, taking pictures of each of us, year after year, “so we can see with our own eyes, how much we grew, and changed” (Don Pepito’s words). The pictures made us see wonders in ourselves. I saw myself changing out of my “fatty” child’s face to a teenage face, more oval shaped, but also realizing that my forehead was not enough wide, and my eye lashes were too straight, things that I needed to accept but made me a little unhappy. I saw pictures of my brothers’ child-like faces changing little by little, and showing an incipient hair growth above their lips in a kind of mustache, which made us all laugh.

    — EMULATING ANIMAL SOUNDS. Don Pepito had a special talent to imitate animal voices. He scared us when he imitated the song of an owl. We believed in a superstition that said, “if you hear the song of a owl, especially during the day, (which was unusual), “somebody amongst your family will die.” But Don Pepito assured us that this belief was not true, that animals sing when they are happy or when they want to call to their dear ones. We tried to believe him but the superstition was strong enough to give us doubts. I am still afraid of the owl song!

    — We always loved to listen to the way that Don Pepito made the sound “Pu…Puguu”, over and over, imitating the sounds of the African pigeons that my father loved to have in a large case in our patio. He also imitated perfectly the song of the “huanchaco”—a small little bird that we always heard singing among sauces (willows) and eucaliptos (eucalyptus) between my parents’ villages. He mastered the sounds of the animal mothers calling their offspring. When he did them, he sounded like a mother cow, a sheep, a goat, a horse, a pig or a hen. His animal sounds were so real, that all of us wanted to imitate him. We never succeeded, but we kept trying.

    — IN OUR SOBREMESAS, the precious time after dinner, where everybody remained sitting around the table to enjoy sharing stories and experiences. The presence of Don Pepito made them even more picturesque, and everybody was fascinated by the adventures he described from all the odd jobs he did in Sucre. I would like to describe one of them, that is still fresh in my mind.

    — It was the time when he was called in the middle of the night to assist a mother – who lived some kilometers away from the village – in giving birth. He was informed that the baby was taking too much time to leave the womb of the mother, and the mother was in constant pain and losing blood. Faced w/ these circumstances, Don Pepito said, “There is no time to waste! Let’s go,”, and taking his “emergency case” went, as quick as he could, taking short cuts on the road, defying the Andean wind and the cold of the early hours of the morning. When he arrived he evaluated the situation, touching the womb of the mother (I imagine he did it with his eyes closed, as he always did when he concentrated), and observed that the baby was in a difficult position; he was not head down. Time was precious; the lives of the mother and the baby were in danger. What to do?

    —Don Pepito didn’t think twice, the mother needed to have a Cesarean, so he decided to do what had to be done! And he did it! He ordered boiled water close to him to clean his tools every time he used them. Then, with his hands washed, he took a piece of clean cloth  from his emergency case and  a small bottle of ether, soaked the cloth in it and asked the mother to inhale it. As soon as the mother slept, he took from the same case a bisturi (a surgical knife) he bought at the Hospital of Cajamarca on one of his trips. With bisturi in hand and with keen determination in his heart, Don Pepito asked the husband to keep the oil lamp close to him. putting alcohol in every cut he made, he asked others to apply pressure to the cuts, and clean the part of the abdomen that was bleeding. I can imagine the sweat and the nervousness of it all! When Don Pepito was narrating this story to us, the inflection of his voice, his silence before he decided to tell us the results, kept our breath suspended. He made us live every moment of his story!

    —We suffered recreating in our minds each moment he described, especially the moment when he told us that when he took the baby from the mother’s womb, the baby didn’t cry, but was blue because thick mucus was blocking his nose and mouth. Not knowing a faster way to unblock the nose and mouth, and because the baby’s life was almost gone, Don Pepito used his mouth to suck out the blockage, spat it out, spanked the baby several times, until… (he paused here for dramatic effect). All of us urged him to tell us what happened, and of course changing his voice in a ceremonious tone, he proudly said ….”and the baby started to cry!” What a moment for all of us! I remembered that all the grown ups and children clapped. Don Pepito had helped a mother and her child to live! He was their savior! And, he made us feel that we were with him in his amazing experience!

    I look forward to sharing more stories of Don Pepito in the next newsletter. I hope you enjoyed this one!

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  • Chardonnay

    There was a time when Chardonnay was the equivalent of “white wine” in this country. If it said Chardonnay on the label, it was an easy sell. If it didn’t, it wasn’t. Chardonnay was the reigning queen, and it basically steamrolled any other white wine in its path.

    Well, a change has come, and rightfully so. It’s a broad market out there today, and just about anything goes. I remember noticing an Austrian Grúner Veltliner, an Oregon Pinot Blanc and a Spanish Albariño on three adjacent tables recently. To me this represented proof positive that new doors have been opened, and confirmed that the public’s preferences are in transition.

    Don’t count Chard out, however. It may have lost a bit of luster, but still remains a major player in the scheme of things. Think about this: what do the wines that have stolen market share away from chard, such as Italian Pinot Grigio and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc have in common? They’re tank-fermented and crisp, with lively acids. I’m of the opinion that some of today’s forward-thinking winemakers are attempting to redefine Chardonnay in an effort to capitalize on this.

    In the past few years I’ve seen a subtle move away from those buttercup-yellow, creamy smooth oak-bombs that dominated the American marketplace for so many years. Oh, there will always be folks that ask for “buttery” Chardonnays, and there’s certainly no lack of availability of this style. I feel, however, that winemakers recognize the fact that a portion of their clientele is making a shift towards lighter, more food-friendly whites.

    Stylistically, this grape expresses itself differently in every place it’s grown. Trying to describe the taste of Chardonnay is like to trying to describe what a flower looks like. They differ, and it’s quite tricky being specific in the face of so much diversity, but I’ll try to relate my perception of what to expect from some of the world’s Chardonnays.

    BURGUNDY
    Burgundy is the yardstick by which all Chardonnay must be measured. When it’s right (why do we always use this caveat when referring to Burgundy?), there is no better white wine on Earth. The same comment, with the identical caveat, can be used for the Pinot Noir they grow. And if you want the really good stuff, you’ve got to dig deep.

    The top bottlings come from in and around four towns: Chablis, Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet. Although they bear a resemblance to one another, they’re really distinctive. No other region is more producer-oriented, so once you find someone you like, stick with them year in and year out.

    Chablis: Pale gold-green in color, with a marked acidity and minerality (both nose and palate) not encountered anywhere else. Meursault: I often discern hazelnuts and floral overtones from these wines. Chassagne: The boldest of this grouping. Fatter, fuller, often richer in texture than its neighbors. Puligny: Finer, elegant and finesse-driven.

    CALIFORNIA
    I did a blind taste test a while back, pouring out four glasses of California Chard from Napa, Russian River Valley, Santa Maria Valley and Monterey. One was thick and oaky, another thin and crisp. The third was immense and tasted like a pineapple Creamsicle, and the last was lemony and perfectly balanced.

    Afterwards, I was shaking my head because I was basically clueless as to where they came from. I made some guesses, but went 0-for-4. They send you down to the minor leagues if you do that too often. It’s hard for me to distinguish California whites from one appellation to another, especially Chardonnay. I’ve come to believe that the vision of the winemaker or winery is the focal point of many wines coming out of California, thus blurring “terroir.” As time goes on, I’m confident this will change, as more properties become devoted to making wines that clearly represent each region’s individual characteristics.

    OTHERS
    New Zealand has that high-acid, ripe-fruit mix I find so intriguing. Italy’s Chardonnays are generally rather thin, lively drinks for summer. Those from Chile and Argentina are all over the place in style, and are truly difficult to categorize. Richer styles with full-on malolactic fermentation are more the norm than the exception.

    The Chards from the Pacific NW can be crisper than their neighbors to the south. Cooler climes make for a brisker feeling to the wines. They rarely disappoint, but on the other hand, they rarely excite.

    The Aussies serve up pretty full-bodied versions, sometimes bordering on off-dry. If you want ‘em fat and sassy, bring out something from Oz. Those from New South Wales are the richest, but South Australia bottlings can be big as well. Victoria and Western Australia have the coolest climates and best balance.

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  • Cultivating space: Andean Knowledge, modern life

    “One must relish the taste of the rains, listen to the corn growing, observe the colour of the winds – feeling onself at all times accompanied by our deceased ancestors. The nurturing of the chacra is the heart of the Andean culture which, if not the only activity carried out by the peasants, is the one around which all aspects of life revolve.”

    - Julio Valladolid Rivera, “The Spirit of Regeneration”

    At 29 years old, I’m living alone for the first time in my life. With no design savvy to draw from—my childhood spent exploring the West by pickup instead of learning to bake apple pie or coordinate a living room ensemble – I find myself coming up short when it comes to putting together a space.

    When I moved into my apartment last winter with nothing more than bed, chair and bookcase to my name, I was excited to decorate my own space for the first time. So I began buying cheap pieces that caught my eye and throwing them into various slapdash arrangements. I bought and sold three couches on Craigslist; picked out a dozen different curtains, which I hung, then promptly returned to a bewildered store clerk who’d already seen me three times in a week.

    I spent endless hours on my space, constructing combinations of color, texture, pattern. But nothing felt quite right. It was cardboard; contrived. And I started to feel like a consumer cog, loading things into shopping carts, shuttling them back and forth, moving them around my house. The whole process felt empty.

    One day while trying to sort through bookshelf clutter, I ran across a book that my friend Sierra had loaned me. “The Spirit of Regeneration,” a book about Andean indigenous culture, had been collecting dust under piles of decorating magazines – Elle Décor, Dwell, Better Homes & Gardens. I felt guilty for the enthusiastic assurance I’d given Sierra that I would read it. So I did.

    It was incredibly complex – detailing a culture and value system built over thousands of years. For the Quechua and Aymara of the Peruvian Andes, it explained, agriculture is life. Earth and heaven and every living being and natural element are considered a part of home. Home is not a dwelling with four walls.

    Coming from an American perspective, it was hard to grasp the non-linear sense of time or viewing potatoes or corn as ancestors. The ideas of ayllu and chacra seemed distinct at first. Your ayllu are your kin, your family and ancestry; your chacra is the land that your people cultivate. But the more I read, the less clear these lines were. Suddenly ayllu includes everything from the pine tree in your yard to your daughter to the bucket that you use to collect water every day. Chacra is a field marked off for cultivation, but it’s also all that is nurtured or cultivated, including llamas, corn, potatoes, community. It’s where life is created, recycled, formed.
    It’s clear that whatever term is used, land/space is a living, breathing ancestor and only through mutual nurturing are the lives of the indigenous and the life of the land supported. In one passage, an Andean stone sculptor doesn’t create a form, he helps the stone find it’s natural form through their relationship. To call it give and take even seems elementary, because that would be expecting a result, keeping score.

    The Andean concept of place is not a result. It’s an endless cycle of nurturing, a life-long relationship that ebbs and flows and is fed not out of obligation but nature. “The ayllu is made ready, it is nurtured, it is not a given.”

    I had been trying to construct a space, but I had to cultivate it. So I turned my attention to what was around me: scrubbed the floors to a squeaky shine, vacuumed all the hard-to-reach spots, cleaned out the closet, cooked long dinners, and typed letters on my old Olympic. I spent two weeks cleaning out the cobwebs and waiting for vision to befall me. In reality, it was more a slow warming up than a bolt of lightning. Like not quite knowing how you feel until you suddenly feel different. Until you feel at home.

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  • Fresh thinking: Impromptu tasters dig Andina’s new cocktail list

    In the beginning, there was one. Another soon appeared. Then quickly, a third and fourth. From an herbaceous whisky cure-all to a boozy 100% cacao licuado, I sipped them one after another. Presented from tart to sweet, with specific instructions from Andina cocktail auteur Greg Hoitsma—”drink from the straw and pull up as you sip, like a mind eraser. Now this one gets a straw for each flavor, mango and prickly pear…”

    “Any special instructions for this one?” I asked when he slid me the Curatodo de Saúco, a low-ball brimming with amber liquid and a bright magenta purée.

    “Nope.”

    “Whoo! That’s strong,” I said, my whisky face snapping into position.

    “Well, you can stir it, Nina!” he said.

    “Oh, right ok,” I replied laughing. There to test the new cocktail list, I wasn’t worried about getting it wrong—as if the drinks were intimidating—but I sensed complexity and nuance and felt the beauty was in the details. I mulled the flavors over in my mouth and mind, shifting from the bright, fruity tang of the Margarita Pintada (the two-colored, two-strawed concoction for those taking notes) to the foamy, citrus-laced earthiness of the Tereré al Pomelo.

    Midway through, I took a sip of a cloudy mint green drink. All talking and thinking and writing suddenly stopped, because I was on a street corner in Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, where against the urgings of fellow tourists and guidebook authors, I bought fruit salad every time I saw a woman with a shiny silver cart. For mere pennies, I’d take away a cup or cone of mango, papaya, pineapple and cucumber sprinkled with fresh lime juice, salt and chili powder. That flavor has never been matched by any potluck fruit salad, or even the summer berry bounty of the Pacific Northwest. The Melones con Ají induced that strong, sweet flavor memory in me.

    I was starting to feel warm and fuzzy and decided I’d need to enlist some help if I was going to make it through this list. I’d be damned if those cocktails were going to waste.

    Two women next to me had been eyeing my growing collection with obvious curiosity. One of them leaned toward Hoitsma. “You know I took a cocktailing class with you a few years ago,” she said. “You really made me think about the way I was doing things.”

    “Really?” he said.

    “Yes!” she said. “It was great.”

    She must have seen me nodding in agreement. “He would say ‘you probably do it like because it’s easier, or because this is how all your friends do it, but try this,’” she said. “And the way he did it made so much sense.”
    They seemed like just the ladies I was looking for. Jo Wollschlaeger (owner of Lovejoy Food) and Jennifer Brownstein (sales manager at Sake One), quickly became the two to my one.

    “Would you ladies like to try this?” I said, enticing them with a Licor de Parihuela. Best described as a Peruvian bloody mary, it was a wild card wow. The spicy tomato base with a tang of leche de tigre and a crushed seaweed rim intoxicated Brownstein. “Oh yeah,” she said shaking her head in enjoyable disbelief. “This is up there with Pok Pok’s bloody mary.”

    “This would be really good with sake too,” added Wollschager.

    In no time, we were sipping and sharing and throwing out commentary left and right, me scrambling madly in my little notebook. While the Melones con Ají conjured images of balmy evenings in Mexico for me, Wollschager was amazed by her attraction to the Horchata de Café.

    “I really don’t like sweet cocktails. I never order dessert,” she said. “But this?”

    Brownstein was in quiet concentration after sipping on the Tereré al Pomelo. “This would be a perfect aperitif. It makes me think about food.”

    But when Hoitsma set down the final drink, Golpe de Estado, a reverent silence fell. The pure cacao milkshake spiked with house-infused cinnamon rum and topped with a decadent swirl of tres leches whipped cream and three straws, had us practically giggling. “Get some of that whip cream in there,” urged Hoitsma. “Come on, how would a kid eat that?”

    “Uh, Greg?” I said.
    ……………………………………………………

    By the end of the night, my testing panel and I had agreed on one thing: these here are some thinking cocktails.

    Food for thought: http://andinarestaurant.com/docs/menu/bar_menu.htm

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  • Estampas de mi tierra

    A foodie in my house

    Since my family and I became involved by serendipity in the complex world of restaurants, my English vocabulary is enriched every day with new and strange words related to the business. Words like “revenue”. “bottom line” “breaking even”,” bussing”, “running”, “prep cooks”, “line cooks”, “pars”, “front of the house, “back of the house”, etc.  I never heard them before, and if I heard them, they had another connotation, like “front of the house”, for me was a porch, and “back of the house” was the alley. In the  restaurant world “front of the house” is related to the dining area, and the “back of the house” means the kitchen area; “running” is related to take dishes from the kitchen to the tables, it is not related to the physical act of running, as in a race, etc.

    One of the new words that I learned and which I like is related to the people who really enjoy food and are able to judge it and be delighted with the flavors, smells and textures of a dish. They behave in the same way that an artist who recognizes and appreciates colors, shades and styles of a painting. The word that describes this kind of person is “foodie”. For a foodie, eating is an art, and they celebrate it! I love to see them when they come to Andina, and enjoy our “Peruvian food”. I perceive their enthusiasm when they discover in each bite new and unpredictable flavors. I see a peculiar gleam in their eyes and the color of their cheeks denounces their pleasure; they use expressions such us: “Your food is exquisite, in each bite, the flavors come one after another; it is like a rainbow of flavors”. Expressions like that and their sincere reaction reveal to me that I am in front of a “foodie” that knows about food and appreciates it. I thank them deeply, because they make me feel proud not only of our food but also of Peru, the country that our food represents.

    Coming from another cultural background, I wonder, and ask myself: Do we have “foodies” in Peru, people who really appreciate and enjoy food? My immediate response is: we always enjoyed eating; but probably now more than before we are not only enjoying it, but also appreciating it. The fact that our gastronomy is being elevated and considered as one of the finest food in the world, makes me to answer the question, affirming that yes, in Peru we have “foodies”, people who really enjoy and appreciate food.
    I don’t have too much experience with foodies that are guests of expensive restaurants in Lima or in big cities; so to illustrate their presence in Peru, I would like to tell about the others, the kind of amateur foodies that enjoy and appreciate our traditional home cooked food and who are able to show it sometimes in peculiar ways. One of those amateur foodies was a very dear personality of my childhood, notable not only for showing us how much he enjoyed eating but also for being a kind of Renaissance man of Sucre (the small Andean town where he and my father came from). His name was Jose Sanchez, but everybody called him “Don Pepito”, and sometimes “Sancho”.

    My father told us that he and Don Pepito lived in Sucre in houses separated only by a wall. They were neighbors who grew, played, and went to the school together. Practically Don Pepito became a foster brother for my father and a foster son for my grandparents, since grandma fed him and made room in their house for him to stay most of the times. He was an orphan, whose mother died when she was giving birth to him, and whose father died in an accident shortly after his mother; he had distant relatives whom he hardly saw; but having good neighbors he became very close to my father’s family. From then on, the affection that the family and Don Pepito felt for each other was deep and sincere, and it was extended to all of us; we loved Don Pepito’s visits, and we were very fond of him.

    I see Don Pepito of my childhood as a small and chunky man, with a kind face, and toasted skin darkened by the dry air, and the Andean sun. I never knew how old he was. Probably he was in his forties or maybe in his fifties.
    As long as I remember, Don Pepito always came from Sucre to Cajamarca, the city where we lived, for a purpose, it could have been for his health or because he was commissioned for his town to do small tasks and negotiations that were going to benefit the school, the “Centro de Salud” (the Health Center), the church, or the land of his beloved Sucre.

    He always came dressed for the city, wearing the same old clean pair of kaki pants held up by suspenders, and plaid flannel shirt, with his classical old brown leather jacket, which he never took off, while he was in the city; his shoes were the same well polished old black ones with a thick sole that revealed that they were used and kept for a long time. His hair was short and cut in a “German style” (as he described it to us). His eternal company was his Kodak old fashioned box camera, draped from his neck, ready to take pictures of people or things that interested him. Among other skills and multiple jobs he had to serve his community, Don Pepito was also the official photographer of his town, who developed his own pictures in the rustic “dark room” of his home.

    Every time that Don Pepito came to Cajamarca, it was mandatory for him to pay a visit to my father’s office. My father would always invited him to eat in our house; and it was at our table that we saw Don Pepito behave as a “foodie”.
    It didn’t matter what kind of food we put in our table, he always acted as if he was in front of a succulent dish. All of us children were captivated by the ritual he had, and we followed each step with excitement and admiration!
    I remember him after extending his napkin on his lap, he proceeded to rub his hands, and to move his fingers as if he were ready to use them in a delicate surgical operation; then he contemplated the dish as if it were a fine piece of art, smelled it with delight, and proceeded to use his spoon or fork to operate carefully upon it. He stirred and mixed the contents in rhythmic and solemn movements until he decided to take a bite. All of us knew what was going to happen next, and we waited to see what we already anticipated. He put the bite in his mouth, and immediately he closed his eyes, and kept them firmly closed until the bite was swallowed completely!
    Meanwhile the rest of us witnessed the whole process of his enjoyment: his jaws started to move rhythmically up and down, his mouth moved slowly making circles, passing the food from one cheek to the other; his eyebrows moved also up and down, as he was gladly surprised by what he encountered in his mouth. When we saw that his Adam’s apple moved up and down in only one stroke, we knew that he swallowed the bite, and he would then open his eyes, which would remain open until the next bite.
    Sometimes we saw pearls of sweat coming from his forehead, indicating that he enjoyed and experienced a bite of “comida picante.” What a spectacle! Our mouths started to salivate, and we started eating, imitating him by closing our eyes. We really wanted to feel the same enjoyment that he had, eating our food bite by bite! Now I am convinced that our food tasted much better when Don Pepito was present at our table.

    In terms of food, and based on what I experienced in my childhood and what I am experiencing in the present, I can affirm that in Peru, as well it is in Portland, and probably in many other parts of the world, there are people who really enjoy the art of eating. They are the ones who inspire us, and make us to follow their enthusiasm for food in the same way that Don Pepito did to my family during my childhood, and our foodies do now in Andina.

    Long life to good food and to the people that know how to enjoy it!

     

    Note. – In our next newsletter I will conclude the description of Don Pepito in other aspects of his inspiring life.

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  • Proper storage and recognizing ‘off’ bottles

    You’ve just purchased a case of Oregon Pinot Noir. Where has it been prior to ending up the trunk of your car? Especially if the wine is more than five years old, how can you assess if was stored properly? Having trust in the purveyor, whether it was a winery or retail shop, is highly important. But before you buy any bottle of wine, you can spot potential problems just by looking at the bottle itself. Here are some tips you can apply before reaching for that hard-earned cash:

    Fill: Always seek out bottles with the best fill (i.e., when the liquid inside is touching or very close to touching the bottom of the cork. If a young wine (3-years-old or less) shows a low fill, it’s an indication that the cork may be faulty and has allowed air to seep through causing evaporation and possible oxidation.

    Weeping: A wine that has been exposed to excessive heat will expand and drive itself through the cork and down the sides of the bottle. This is known as “weeping” or “bleeding.” If a bottle has droplet trails that run down its surfaces from the capsule and/or numerous stains on the label, this wine may have suffered heat trauma. Steer clear of such bottles.

    Swollen Corks: Another sign of heat damage is a cork that has expanded and risen above the lip of the bottle so that it is pushing tightly against the top of the capsule. This problem often occurs in conjunction with bottles that have “wept.”

    About five to ten percent of the wine in the world is made with extended aging in mind. The vast majority are meant to be enjoyed in the vibrancy of their youth. If you plan to start collecting fine wine in earnest, make sure to have access to a humid space where the temperature is maintained between 55 and 60 degrees year round. But if you’re just a casual wine drinker that keeps a few dozen bottles around the house, here are some tips on storage:

    Put your wine in the darkest area you can find. Wide fluctuations in temperature can wreak havoc, so try to make sure the environment where they’re kept is constant. Young, fresh wines can withstand a steady 75 degrees or so (above 80 degrees is dangerous) for a couple of months with no problem, but they cannot survive quick, radical shifts of 10-to-20 degrees without suffering.

    Store the bottles flat on their sides. If left standing upright too long, the corks may dry out and allow air in to attack the wine and age it prematurely.

    Learn which grapes are hearty and which are fragile. Whites and sparklers lean toward the delicate side of the spectrum, as do lighter reds such as gamay, and they’ll rarely outlive fuller, more robust reds like cabernets, syrahs and zinfandels.

    Lastly, if your storage space is limited and above 70 degrees, try not to buy more than you plan to drink in the next month or two. This will insure that every bottle will retain its freshness when the cork is ultimately pulled.

    Wine is sensitive stuff. It appreciates the appropriate setting in which to live out its relatively short life in comfort. You treat it right, and it will reciprocate.

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  • Mistura and the fate of Peruvian cuisine

    “This is Mistura, a feast where we gather together around our pots and fires to celebrate our differences, surprise ourselves with our creativity, render homage to tradition, and place our actions for culture and biodiversity,” says Gastón Acurio, Peru’s prodigal chef and president of the Mistura, Peru’s annual gastronomic fair.

    Last year over 300,000 people attended from across the globe. And this September 7-12, chefs, rural cooks and farmers come together with scholars, street vendors, eaters, lovers and restauranteurs at Lima’s Parque de la Exposición for a week-long explosion of eating, education and conversation.

    In its third year, Mistura is riding the current wave of global obssession with Peruvian cuisine. Right now Peru is hot: sexy, not spicy. International media buzz has been building ever since a 2004 article in The Economist declared it “one of the world’s dozen or so great cuisines.” Publications from Food and Wine to Time, have written about the country’s food and culture in the past two years. Yet most of the coverage rakes over the same few topics: the virtues of Lima’s cebicherías, Gastón Acurio and Sacred Valley food, stopping occasionally for quaint photo ops at colorful Andean markets.

    It would seem the Peruvian Amazon has disappeared into the great mountains to its west and Northern Andean regions like Cajamarca hardly make a peep. The majority of the media’s love affair with Peru focuses on easy-to-digest exportable images of Peruvian dishes and concepts, much like the Tourist Authority of Thailand’s international attempt to market Pad Thai as the “national” dish. The success of which is evidenced by walking into any Thai joint in the United States.

    In articles such as one on the popular website: enperublog.com, it’s clear that most of the coverage runs shallow. “Since 2006,” writes author Stuart Starr, ” Peruvians have learned to take great pride in their cuisine.” Peruvian cuisine has evolved over thousands of years to encompass influence from Spain, China, Japan and Italy. In 2006, the rest of the world may have stood to attention, but Peruvians have always taken pride in their bounty and technique.

    Mistura is an astronomical event. The edible portion alone includes: anticucho, tamale, juane and cebiche vendors, restaurants from across the globe sampling their best dishes, a bread boutique with over 40 varieties of Peruvian bread crafted by master bakers, and the most popular—cocinas rusticas (rustic kitchens), where rural cooks recreate rustic cooking techniques generally used only in the countryside or traditional communities. Pachamanca, clay oven cooking, and caja china are some of Peru’s most ancient cooking methods and just witnessing them moves viewers toward heightened cultural awareness.

    This gustatory bonanza aims to bring a deeper comprehension of the cuisines, cultural practices and ethical discussions from across Peru through lectures, awards, cooking contests and a series of round table discussions such as Nikkei Passion, Peruvian cuisine translated in the United States and an inside look at El Bulli. Mistura lets attendees feel, see, hear and taste the richness and depth of Peruvian cuisine firsthand instead of reading another 1,500 words on cebiche.

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  • La celebración de la independencia del Perú en Andina

    Celebration of the Independence Day of Peru at Andina

    On Wednesday, July 28, Peruvians and friends of Peru came to Andina to celebrate the Independence of Peru. From history, we know that after 400 years of Spain’s presence in our lands, and several attempts from the Peruvians to become free, on July 28, 1821, the leader of the liberating army, Don José de San Martín, standing on a balcony in the main square of Lima, holding our red and white flag, proclaimed the Independence of Peru from Spain, with the following words:

    “From this moment, Peru is free and independent,
    By the general will of its people,
    And by the justice of its cause that God defends.
    Long live the Motherland!
    Long live Peru!
    Long live Independence!”

    Remembering those words and the meaning that they have in our memories, at Andina we sang our national anthem and made a toast for Peru, with a shot of Pisco Sour, our national drink, wishing peace and prosperity to our country and a productive and happy life for all Peruvians.

    OUR INDEPENDENCE DAY IN PERU
    In each city of Peru, it was a tradition to celebrate our Independence Day, placing early in the morning our Bandera Nacional (national flag), on a balcony or at the door of our houses, whose walls were recently painted by municipal order. As children, we knew that we should honor our Independence Day, by beautifying our houses, and by presenting ourselves in a dignified manner which meant tidying our room, taking a shower and wearing a nice dress and polished shoes.

    In Cajamarca, the town of my birth—as in every city of Peru—our official celebration started with a Misa de Campaña, a Mass open to the public held outside of the Cathedral, with the formal attendance of all the civil, military and religious authorities. Lengthy speeches followed, given by the mayor of the city, the commander of the local army post, our representative, etc. The final event was a military parade, which we loved to watch. Long rows of soldiers marched with pride and energy, the deep and dry sound of their boots hitting the pavement of the streets, the patriotic music that the military band played while the soldiers were marching. All this made us have goose bumps; in that moment, we really felt the most profound love of our country, and we were ready to defend it with our own lives! The parade finished with a display of military jeeps, and ambulances carrying doctors and nurses. The doctors dressed as soldiers wearing a red cross on their arms, while nurses were in a white uniform, blue cape, and hats adorning the red cross.

    Of course after the official celebration, each extended family continued enjoying our Independence Day in the same way that past generations did: with good food and dancing without restrictions of age; grandparents danced with grandchildren, moms and dads with their children, cousins with cousins, aunts with nephews, uncles with nieces. It was the perfect occasion to learn to dance and practice, alternating with ¡Viva el Perú! (Long live Peru) chanted by old and young.

    I think we still partake in these activities to reassure ourselves that our country counts with the protection of God and the defense of our army, in case of any danger of invasion by foreign countries, which might put at risk our freedom.

    Personally now, as an adult, I see that my country is already invaded by foreign influences in fashion, music and ways to behave; not counting the proliferation of foreign business chains related with pharmacies, markets, telephones, and the constant presence of multinational companies that come attracted by our gold and copper. Seeing such a state of things, I wonder and question myself:  Is Peru really a free and an independent country?  So far I can’t find a clear answer. I hope and pray that all of those invasions won’t make Peru lose not only its freedom, but more importantly, its identity!

    OUR INDEPENDENCE DAY AT ANDINA
    On July 28, 2010, 189 years later after the historical date in 1821, we celebrated our Independence Day in Andina’s event space, Tupai, in the Peruvian style: with good food and good music.

    The menu for the occasion included traditional dishes, such as our classic cebiche, anticuchos de corazón, palta rellena, seco a la norteña, adobo de cerdo. Our delicious lucuma was present in an ice cream and in a mousse.

    But the highlight of the night was a musical performance from a Seattle-based Afro-Peruvian group called De Cajón Project. Monica Rojas, the group’s director, is a wonderful Peruvian artist, whose passion to make known everywhere the cultural heritage of the blacks in Peru, inspired her to form the group.

    I think that that night’s performance fulfilled Monica’s vision. All of the guests immensly enjoyed her presentation! We became electrified with the rhythm of peculiar instruments that skillfully played; among which included the cajón (a wooden box), the huiro (small gourd), and a quijada de burro (donkey jaw). The vibrant  guitars and beautiful voices captivated us. Thanks to Monica and all of the members of De Cajón Project. You made us proud of our Afro-Peruvian Music! You made that night magical!

    In the 16th century, Spain brought black slaves from Africa to its colony of Peru, in order to work in the sugar and the cotton plantations of the coastal area. The slaves brought their clever ways of cooking (making delicious food with simple ingredients) and their music, enriching our country in ways that the Spaniards never imagined.

    Peru assimilated the Spaniards’ contributions, melding them with both our native influences, as well as those of Chinese, Japanese and European immigrant groups, making our food and music the way they are: diverse and unique!

    To complement the celebration of our Independence we showed beautiful Andean paintings by our honorary guest, Señor Alberto Soriano, native of Cuzco, Peru. Well-regarded in Peru and in other South American countries, Señor Soriano also showed by invitation at the Onda Gallery, a local gallery.

    With the presence of such a fine artist and fine performers, Andina was proud to celebrate the Independence of our country with the Peru’s best music, art, food and good people.

    Proud of my country, I finish this article with: VIVA EL PERÚ! (Long live Peru!).

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  • The power of Small Wines

    Maintain perspective with wines under $25

    I have this memory from when I was a teenager. I had developed an insatiable appetite for Mandarin oranges. You know the kind; the ones that come in a can covered in sweet syrup. I would pop them open and devour one after the other. Then one day, after about four of these cans, I became quite ill, somewhat hallucinogenic, in fact. At the end of this orange-induced trip, I vowed to change my ways, and up until today I’ve never ingested another Mandarin orange.

    The moral of the story is simple. Things of perceived brilliance can become tiresome if abused, or too much of a good thing probably isn’t so good. To put this logic into vinous terms: As tasty as Gaja Barbaresco is, I wouldn’t advise pouring it on your pancakes.

    I’m pretty visible to the public, so I hear stories all the time. Acquaintances and customers rave, “I’ve got two cases of 2001 Domaine This in storage, and three boxes of the 99-point 2005 Château That. I just bought futures on the one that Parker gave 98 points to, you know, that 2009 blend from the Over-Priced and Highly-Publicized Wine Cellars.”

    This blather is all grizzle to me. A three-toed sloth can find a claw to peck out an order on the Internet for Mouton-Rothschild. All that’s needed are those magnificent ratings and some cash in the bank. When I hear people chortling about how many great bottles they’ve had recently, it occurs to me that perspective has been lost.

    If one drinks great wine on a daily basis, these wines cease to be special. Even greatness can become commonplace in the face of redundancy. As an example, think about what it’s like being the night watchman at the Louvre.

    Do I drink the great ones myself? Every now and then. But what I really crave, what I search for with the same enthusiasm as a Piedmontese pig rooting around for truffles in the forest, are Small Wines.

    Small Wines usually retail for $25 and under and are rarely reviewed or discussed in the press. In fact, it’s mainly only those similarly afflicted that seem to pay attention to them. They can be Cabernet Franc or Chenin blanc from the France’s Loire Valley; Petite Sirah from California; garnacha from Spain; malbec from Argentina; carménère from Chile; blends from the Rhône Valley and the south of France; Auxerrois and riesling from Oregon; barbera from Italy. What self-respecting wine snob would ever be caught dead with this stuff in his glass? E-mail me at ken@andinarestaurant.com if you’d like some recommendations, and good luck in finding a few gems. If you do, don’t go wild and buy everything. Try to save a few bottles for me.

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  • Los anticuchos en Andina

    Anticuchos at Andina

    In celebration of Peru’s Independence Day on July 28, I am going to share a story about anticuchos, a traditional dish loved by many of our guests.

    Andina’s menu celebrates the traditions and history of Peru with a selection of typical dishes, among which are causas, cebiches and of course, anticuchos. The most traditional of the anticuchos on our menu are the Anticuchos de Corazon, which are pieces of beef heart, that are first marinated in a mixture of ají panca (a Peruvian dry red pepper), vinegar, garlic, cumin, and salt then grilled. At Andina we serve them with a side of fried yuca, and rocoto (an Andean hot pepper) sauce for dipping.

    Many of our historians believe the word anticucho comes from the Quechua word antikuchu (anti=Andes, kuchu=corte or cut). Other scholars believe it is a melding of the words Quechua words anti meaning Andes and uchu meaning aji (a hot pepper). Linguists argue that it comes from the Quechua word antic-uchu, a name given by  ancient Peruvians to a very hot soup, prepared with a special pepper from the jungle.

    THE HISTORY OF THE ANTICUCHO
    According to documents in the National Library of Lima’s archives, anticuchos came to life in the 16th-century, after Peru became a Spanish colony. The Spaniards brought their own style of cooking into the country, along with foreign ingredients such as beef (which replaced llama meat), garlic, cumin and vinegar. It was African slaves, not Peruvians or Spaniards, that mixed Spanish staples with native hot peppers to create the iconic dish now known as anticucho. This is the folk tale that I love to tell our guests when they ask me who invented anticuchos and how they became such a delicious food, loved by poor and rich.

    It was common for wealthy Spaniards who came to live in Peru to build big haciendas. In the coastal region, especially on the central coast of Peru, those haciendas were cotton and sugar plantations sustained by the labor of black slaves brought by the Spaniards from Africa. The hacendados (owners of the haciendas) periodically slaughtered a cow for food, and would then give the innards—which they considered garbage—to their slaves.

    Because the slaves needed to eat, they were forced to make the innards edible. But how? They saw how Andean people seasoned their food with native hot peppers, and they had access to Spanish ingredients such as garlic, vinegar, cumin and salt, through those that worked in the hacienda kitchens. Why not mix it all together and make a sauce to season the innards? They did and were surprised by the delicious flavor. Soon the innards were diced into bite-sized pieces and soaking in the marinade for hours. Now to the cooking.   The absence of adequate stoves forced them to cook over a fire, but how would they hold the tiny pieces of meat to grill them? The answer was surrounding them. Sugar cane stalks were ideal skewers. The anticucho was born and it was delicious! Anticuchos were invented by the slaves as a response to their hunger and their ability to use what they had, applying both imagination and common sense.

    The tale continues. One day a group of slaves were cooking anticuchos and the hacendado rode by on his caballo de paso (a fine Peruvian horse). Suddenly he was hit with a delicious aroma wafting from the slave quarters. In a booming voice, he ordered his slaves to bring what they were cooking to him immediately. He tasted the dish and just as quickly fell in love with their flavor and texture. Without knowing exactly what he was eating, he ordered that from that day on every time his slaves made anticuchos his table would also be provided a generous serving of anticucho so he, his family and friends could enjoy them as well. This tradition carried forth generation after generation into today, where no table of wealthy or important Peruvians is complete without anticuchos, especially during  events and festivities.

    ANTICUCHOS AS A STREET FOOD
    After the slaves were freed in 1874, they moved from the fields to the cities to start a new life. They were desperately poor, so father, mother and children all have to work to survive. In addition to duties at home, mothers started selling anticuchos on neighborhood corners. Attracted by the smell, passersby would stop, enjoy an anticucho, then continue on. It quickly became a daily habit for Limenos (citizens of Lima) and the number of anticucheras grew until cities like Lima and Ica had anticucheras on almost every corner.

    Ricardo Palma, author of “Tradiciones Peruanas” (1874) mentions in his book that every day at 3:00PM, Limenos enjoyed a fresh, juicy anticucho with an ear of grilled corn at their neighborhood anticuchera. Today it is common to see carts selling anticucho on city corners, outside of coliseums and churches, around the plaza de Toros (bull fighting arena) and during religious processions.

    I adopted this tradition during my college years in the coastal city of Trujillo. Every afternoon at 4:00 pm at the corner of the university, where the main library was located, a humble carretilla (cart) owned by a black woman, started to churn out anticuchos. The delicious smell penetrated through the open windows of the library, making it impossible for us to study. The powerful temptation drove us to abandon that place of knowledge, and everyone, including all the library staff, left to get in line for an anticucho. No anticucho has ever tasted like the ones I ate at 4:00 pm every day on that corner in Trujillo.

    As you see behind a great dish, it is a great story, that is very close to my heart. Come to Andina and enjoy our anticuchos. Have a good summer!

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  • Vintage Chart

    The biannual 15-year chart for red wines

    One of the most popular pieces of information you can get from the wine media, at least from the standpoint of repeat usage, is the vintage chart. We generally put out a revised vintage chart twice each year, featuring the latest and greatest.

    Our 15-year chart is solely for red wines, and this time around will comprise the years 1994-2008. The notes are for bottled and distributed wines only, not barrel samples. It will include only major regions, in the following categories: Best, Really Good, Pretty Good, Just OK.  We’ll also occasionally indicate Overrated or Underrated. As always, please remember this is general information and open to interpretation.

    California Cabernet
    BEST:
    1994, great wines that will age seamlessly for many years to come.
    REALLY GOOD: 2007 (everything I’ve tasted has been solid), 2004, 2002, 2001, 1999.
    PRETTY GOOD: 2006, 2005, 1997, 1996, 1995.
    JUST OK: 2003, 2000, 1998.
    OVERRATED: 1997. They were juicy and friendly, but in some cases are already on the other side of their apex, so I don’t foresee a great aging curve. They will rarely outlive the 1994s.
    NOT TASTED YET: 2008.

    Bordeaux
    (Right Bank: St. Emilion and Pomerol. Left Bank: Medoc.)
    BEST: 1998 (Right Bank). Memorable merlot from St.-Emilion, getting better each year. 1996 (Left Bank), gorgeous cabernet from the Medoc. They’ve not yet reached their peak.
    REALLY GOOD: 2005 (these wines are really excellent, across the board), 2001, 2000, 1995.
    PRETTY GOOD: 2006, 2004, 2002, 1998 (Left), 1996 (Right).
    JUST OK: 2003 (I still haven’t tasted one I truly liked. They’re just too tannic and rough), 1999, 1997, 1994.
    OVERRATED: 2000. I believe many of the 2001’s are nearly as good and priced much more realistically.
    NOT TASTED YET: 2007, 2008.

    Burgundy
    BEST: 2002. I can’t remember tasting a bottle from this vintage that  I didn’t like. Many are just superb. Balanced and drinkable early, they will improve dramatically with age. Right behind is 1999, when beautiful wines were made across the entire region, and they, too, are only going to get better. Right behind 2002’s quality comes the wines from 2005. Many of the Premier Crus are really young, tight and tannic, although the Village wines are drinking well already. The press was right (for a change), this vintage is great.
    REALLY GOOD: 2005, 1999, 1996 (still has some tannins to shed).
    PRETTY GOOD: 2007 (light and extremely pleasant pinot), 2001, 2000, 1997, 1995.
    JUST OKAY: 2006, 2004, 2003, 1998, 1994.
    NOT TASTED YET:
    2008 (although I’ve had a few Bourgogne Rouges that were quite nice, the jury’s still out).

    Rhône
    BEST: 2001 (South) and 1999 (North).
    REALLY GOOD : 2006 (top-flight vintage, with plenty of verve, along with great fruit), 2005, 2004, 2000 (S), 1999 (S), 1998 (S), 1997 (N), 1995.
    PRETTY GOOD : 2008, 2007 (S), 2003, 2001 (N), 2000 (N), 1998 (N) 1996, 1994.
    JUST OK: 2002 (horrible rains), 1997 (S).
    OVERRATED: The 2003 vintage was totally over-lauded in the press. I’ve found them alcoholic, tannic and distinctly dry. I’ve also added Southern 2007’s to this section. The wine press has touted them as being the best thing since the horseless carriage, but they’re heavy, rich, creamy and alcoholic to my taste.
    UNDERRATED: The 2004 vintage is both balanced and clean in its profile, yet true to terroir. They are excellent food wines.
    NOT TASTED YET : 2008. Only a few have passed over my desk, but I’ve liked the Cotes du Rhone and smaller appellations that I’ve had.

    Piedmont
    BEST: 2001 and 1998. The 2001’s are nearly flawless across the board, and will have a strong upside potential. As for 1998’s, there is an incredible symmetry between fruit, tannins and acid. Drinking well now.
    REALLY GOOD : 2006, 2005, 2004 (Looks to be excellent), 2000, 1999 (still quite tannic), 1997, 1996.
    PRETTY GOOD : 2003, 1995.
    JUST OK : 2002 (bad rains), 1994.
    OVERRATED: 1995.
    UNDERRATED: 1996, which may be just as good as 1998, but with a rougher tannic kick.
    NOT YET TASTED: Barolos and Barbarescos from 2007 and 2008. The Dolcettos and Barberas from both vintages have been delicious.

    Tuscany
    BEST: 1997. For once, the hype is real. Brilliant, and aging beautifully.
    REALLY GOOD: 2006, 2005, 2004 (Maybe great), 2001, 1999.
    PRETTY GOOD: 2007, 2003, 1998, 1995.
    JUST OK: 2002, 2000, 1996, 1994.
    OVERRATED: 1995. Still searching for the fruit in some of these.
    UNDERRATED: 1998.
    NOT TASTED YET: 2008.

    I’ll cut the years in half, from 2000 through 2008, and address my favorite vintages from some other regions, alphabetically:
    Argentina: 2006. Australia: 2001. Chile: 2005. Oregon Pinot Noir: 2008 (these will be seamless as the years go by). Loire: 2002. Priorato: 2001 (2007 not far behind). Languedoc/Roussillon: 2001. Portugal: 2007. Ribera del Duero: 2004. Rioja: 2001. South Africa: 2003. Washington State: 2003.

    A couple of white wine notes: 2008 was a great vintage in northern France. Loire, Burgundy and Alsace made clean, classic wines. In addition, everything I’ve tasted from 2009 in South America have been amazingly bright, with lovely fruit and acid in balance.

    Here’s a reminder I attach to each one of these charts: Buy from producers you like, regardless of vintage. The best winemakers make good wines in average vintages and great wines in good vintages. Poor winemakers make mediocre wine, all the time.

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  • Five fruits you’ve never heard of

    Summer is here, and it’s blooming shades of strawberry, raspberry and peach. From the “u-pick” berry patches lining Sauvie Island to farmer’s market stalls bursting with fresh fruit—the city is awash in color. But even the brightest aisles of our markets pale in comparison to the labyrinth of tropical fruit you’d discover wandering through Cusco’s Mercado Central, or Central Market.

    One of Peru’s most unique and luscious fruits, lucuma is a greenish brown teardrop whose caramelly sweet-potato flavor makes for a popular Peruvian ice cream. The lucuma tree is considered sacred, and its fruit, along with corn and potatoes, made up the primary diet of pre-Columbian Peru.

    Upon tasting cherimoya, Mark Twain christened it “deliciousness itself.” Also known as custard apple or sour sop, cherimoya is a baseball-sized fruit with creamy vanilla insides and green lizard-like skin. Its flavor is somewhere between a banana, strawberry and pineapple and the image was often depicted in the ceramics of the Moche.

    Camu camu is an Amazonian fruit, growing wild on riverbank shrubs and harvested. The small red-green berries are harvested by canoe and are best as a juice or flavoring. Their acidity may shock those looking for a piece of sweet, ripe fruit. It has been touted alongside the Goji berry as the next Amazonian antioxidant due to its incredibly high vitamin C content.

    The seedy insides and surrounding jelly-like pulp make eating granadilla a textural experience. Closely related to the passion fruit, granadilla is round and yellow with a long stem and intricate blossoms. In some parts of Peru, its sweet juice is used to wean babies from breast milk.

    Tomate de arbol is technically a fruit and can be eaten as such, though its skin is thick and not delicate like an everyday tomato. In fact it’s usually not eaten at all. The most common use is juice! The juice is strangely delicious, tart and tangy—somewhere between tomato and a tropical fruit like kiwi or passion fruit.

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  • Mayo: Un mes para celebrar la vida y su renovación

    May: A month to celebrate Spring and life’s renewal
    It is May and Spring is in the air! You can see it, smell it, and hear it everywhere. People and nature celebrate a renewal of life once more. At Andina as well, we observe the magic and music of Spring. There are new aromas floating in the air; new tastes in the mouth; new melodies that indulge the ear and heart; new events in support of basic human needs; and of course, our celebration for those who give and keep life, our mothers.
    I. Early in the spring, something deeply exciting happened in the life of Andina. Our son Peter and our kitchen manager Hank Costello traveled together to Peru. Hank’s visit to Peru fulfilled one of his dreams, and one of Andina’s own. And he couldn’t have had better guidance and company, first from Peter, then from Coque Ossio, our friend and consultant in Peru, and one of Peru’s finest chefs. Peter and Coque each facilitated Hank’s immersion in the wonders of Peruvian cuisine. Hank visited all kinds of restaurants, from the humble eating spots called “huariques”, to the classic “criollo” restaurants and the countless Chinese “chifas”, to the fine dining establishments in which he not only ate but also cooked. Hank saw food prepared in old and new ways, tasted traditional and novo-Peruvian dishes, and cooked on the stoves and grills of restaurants in Peru’s political and cultural capitals, Lima and Cuzco. He returned to Andina with his personal vocation as a chef nourished and clearly energized by what he had observed and tasted in Peru. I am sure that Andina’s dishes will honor and reveal Hank’s creative spirit as well as his knowledge of the various traditions at the root of the unique flavors in Peruvian cuisine.

    Our son Peter devoted his time and energy to Andina’s long-standing partnerships with a community of farmers in Peru, finding ways to optimize the delicate export of their organic products, which they grow with great care, and which Andina values so much.

    Following this visit to Peru, Coque Ossio joined Peter and Hank on their return flight from Lima to Portland, and stayed with us for two weeks. His mission: to assess our flavors and preparations, to educate and to inspire, and to nourish in our cooks their growing appreciation for the various and traditional flavors of Peru. In all of these areas Coque succeeded as he has always done—with great humor, grace, and expertise. In turn, with the collaboration and input from the entire kitchen and staff, our menu now features wonderful new sauces and tapas, with more to come!

    II. Spring also brings new and renewed alliances with humanitarian and health organizations. Andina recently hosted the Health Bridges International Benefit Dinners earlier this month, and looks forward to hosting the MEJORC dinner on May 17 (see sidebar for details). Both Portland-based NGOs, Health Bridges International and MEJORC have each dedicated themselves to fulfilling the promise of the old proverb that if people are hungry, do not only give them fish, but help them learn how to fish. Volunteers of these organizations work with poor or marginalized communities in Peru. There, they heal, educate and teach, in an effort to identifty, support and establish sustainable ways for families and villages to improve their own health, nutrition and education.

    III. Last, but not least, on Sunday, May 9, Andina will celebrate Mothers Day in honor of those who are universally recognized as the foundation of societies and keepers of life. We will honor all of our visiting mothers with something sweet for the mouth and for the heart: our Peruvian alfajores. Moreover, the outstanding Portland-based group The Stolen Sweets will perform that same evening as part of our Spring Performance Series in a concert sure to please!

    IV. To end this article, I, as a mother, would like to share a story with all mothers and their children. It is an idea I have treasured since the day I heard it. I know now that it will stay with me forever. It came by way of a certain priest who is considered a holy man by all the people of Cajamarca, my native town. He is also a dear friend of my family, and for me, a spiritual guide. Our conversation occurred on one of my visits to Peru, at a time when all three of my sons were far away from home, in colleges on the East Coast. Both of these facts—college and great distance—were unfamiliar and difficult for me to understand. I had seen college dorms, and the self-guided way that students lived by choice and necessity, but this only gave me the feeling that my children were in risky and dangerous situations. Stories from other mothers, with tales about life on campus and about the excesses of life far away from home, made me afraid, worried, and very anxious.

    During one of my visits to Cajamarca, as the days approached for my return to Oregon, I paid a visit to Padre Mundaca (the name of this priest). As I was saying goodbye, I found myself asking him: “Father, pray for my sons. They need your prayers to keep them safe and in the right path! You are closer to God, and I am sure that he will listen to you more than to any of us!”

    He looked at me and in a very profound and genuine voice said, “You are wrong, Doris! Priests are not closest to God: mothers are the ones who are closest to Him.”

    “How can this possibly be, Father? We are not priests, we are not his Vicars,” I said.

    “Doris, Mothers, not Priests or Vicars, are closer to God because God shares with them something that others are not allowed,” he answered. “God shares with them the capacity to give life! Mothers are givers of life, and your love for the ones to whom you give life is closer to the love of God for his creatures. Doris, Pray to God for your sons, with complete security that He will listen to you. Don’t have any doubt! Your children are safe, because truly life and Love are with them.”

    And he was right, my children (and I) survived college and of course I am still praying to God for them. Life is not free of challenges and danger, but I have faith that the prayer of a mother is heard. To all: Happy Spring!

    Mama Doris.
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  • X-Wines Show sophistication with out-of-the ordinary wines

    The letter “X” has emerged to prominence. X-Men, X-Games, Xfinity from Comcast. Using “X” as a prefix apparently indicates that radical behavior may follow. I’ve decided to incorporate the vernacular and will now proceed to announce my version of wines with their hats on sideways: X-Wines.
    X-Wines step off the beaten path. In fact, they rarely use a path at all, preferring to quietly stay in obscurity until some wine guy like me chooses to shine a light on them. The one thing they have in common is that they have never been served at your Aunt Lucille’s Friday bridge game. Nor at Cousin Giancarlo’s Monday Night Football cookout (calamari salad and football?) In fact, you may not know a single person who has ever tasted any of these wines. Truly “X” to the max.
    X-SPARKLING
    Moscato d’Asti. Light as a feather, packing a mere 5.5% alcohol. From Piemonte in northern Italy. Slightly sweet and frizzante (semi-sparkling), it works great with freshly sliced fruit like pears, peaches, and Granny Smith apples. Serve it ice cold.

    X-WHITES
    Txakoli. This lively, citrus-accented white from the Basque country in Spain even has the letter “x” in its spelling (try reading the Basque language sometime). Extremely light and crisp, Txakoli’s low alcohol (10-11%) makes it a good luncheon wine. A perfect match for white meat salads or grilled fish, simply prepared.

    Pacherenc du Vic Bilh (Petite Corbu). A full-flavored, somewhat nutty varietal from Gascony in Southwestern France, this wine is the opposite of Txakoli. It works best when matched with heavier dishes, as its power tends to dominate the food. Try it with Germanic dishes like bratwurst or veal sauerbraten. Pork chops and collard greens work too.
    Chenin Blanc. Chenin is, in my humble opinion, one of the most delicious white wines on the planet. Why more people don’t agree with me on that, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because the wine is a little oily on the palate, or it finishes somewhat off-dry. It doesn’t matter, and I suppose this anonymity adds to its luster as an X-Wine. A couple of neat Chenin Blanc pairings: spicy, but not sweet, Asian dishes like cold sesame noodles or Pad Thai. Or better yet, a warm baguette, a slice of blue cheese like Roquefort or Fourmes d’Ambert and a glass of Vouvray Demi-Sec. That combo is quite possibly one of the best pairings ever.
    X-REDS
    Mourvedre. Inky-dark and powerful wine. This is a solid buddy to a medium-rare New York Strip. When hailing from California, they are full-bodied and rugged, with fruit that bursts at the seams. Those from France (Southern Rhone, Languedoc and Provence, where it is blended into Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Coteaux du Languedoc and Bandol) don’t lack in the power and fruit department but often show more acidity and tannins.

    Tannat. Again, a really dark color but dustier tannins than most Mourvedre. The best versions come from southwest France (Madiran) although those from Uruguay and Argentina can give the French wines a run for their money. A fine Tannat pairing is with cassoulet, a rich winter stew made from lamb, duck and white beans.

    Aglianco del Vulture. Grown on volcanic soil in southern Italy near Mount Vulture (Basilicata). Cherries are the top-note feature of this vivid red. Its crisp acidity, coupled with bright fruit and a touch of bitter minerality on the finish, make it a perfect match for pasta dishes accented with fresh tomatoes and olives.

    X-DESSERT
    Banyuls. A thick and ultra-sweet red wine made entirely from Grenache, grown in the far south of France near the Spanish border. Powerful and alcoholic, it can live for many years. I can think of no wine I like better with chocolate than Banyuls.

    Pouring a few X-Wines at your next meal will show your friends you are xtremely well informed, and always xhibit xceptional taste.

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  • Of water, of words: Food, literature of the Amazon

    I
    Everywhere the river
    Serpent at large crawling
    Across a countryside of open plains
    Tamed snake broken by
    Banks and manacles of bridges
    Or captive fragments in a jug
    In the concave palm of a dipping cup In a translucent little mug
    Milk swelling a gourd’s breast.
    -Excerpt from “Everywhere the River”, by Astrid Cabral


    During rainy season, when water fills every crevice of jungle earth, and Cabral’s dipping cup, little mug, jug and gourd’s breast pool with river water, sweet freshwater shrimp are captured on the Peruvian side of the Amazon and become the centerpiece of Chupe de Camarones del Rio. First the shellfish are simmered in a pot of water to produce broth. Then the shrimp are drained and set aside, while garlic, turmeric, pepper and cumin sauté in a pot of hot oil. After a few minutes, the broth and shrimp are returned to the pot, along with diced potatoes and spaghetti noodles. When the noodles are cooked, a ribbon of egg, milk, salt and oregano is whipped in to finish the creamy jungle stew.


    II
    The table often dreams of having been an animal.
    But if it had been an animal, it wouldn’t be a table.
    If it had been an animal, it would have run away like the others
    When the chainsaws came to take down the trees that would become / Tables.
    In the house a woman comes every night
    And rubs a warm rag over its haunches as if it were an animal.
    With its four legs, the table could leave the house.
    But it thinks about the chairs surrounding it, and an animal would not / Abandon its family.
    What the table likes best is for the woman to tickle it
    As she gathers the breadcrumbs left behind by the children.
    -Table, by Juan Carlos Galeano
    Pato Asado Estilo La Selva, or Roast Duck Jungle Style, may seem out of place in the waterlogged city of Iquitos, but Muscovy Duck is actually native to Peru (nuñuma is its pre-Colombian name). Like Galeano’s table, the duck was domesticated, but met its own bittersweet fate as a savory, popular jungle dish. After the duck is cleaned and cut, it is stir-fried in oil and turmeric. Then a paste of garlic, bay leaves, salt, nutmeg, cumin and plantains are added to the pot, where everything steams until the duck is tender. In Iquitos, the dish is enjoyed family-style, possibly gathered around a table wiped clean of the previous night’s crumbs.
    III
    In the background
    Ancient silhouettes of churches.
    Close by
    Hale mango trees
    Nodding with green fruit
    To the song of sabia and canary
    Velvet voices
    Perched eternal on silent branches.
    But the factory horn blares,
    Despair dressed in smoke.
    Disposable parts, workers, shut down machines.
    Sit at the curb.
    Open tin-foil lunches.
    Eat cold beans, cold rice, cold egg.
    Empty, the body’s sanctuary of food and love.
    Forks, knives, spoons are now just tools.
    -Excerpt from “Workers,” by Joao de Jesus Paes Loureiro
    A traveler’s dish, Juane de Arroz is most often wrapped into portable packages for long voyages. The dish begins by stir-frying garlic and turmeric. When fragrant, the spices are folded into a mixture of cooked rice and beaten eggs with a dash of salt. Then the rice mixture is spooned into foil squares (or banana leaves), each portion topped with a piece of hen, an olive and a wedge of hard-boiled egg. The workers in Loureiro’s poem may have eaten their lunches of cold rice and egg from meals (or fiambres) cooked the night before and carried with them to the factory.
    [Dishes drawn from The Exotic Kitchens of Peru, by Copeland Marks. See book for complete recipes. Poetry excerpted from Literary Amazonia, by various authors; edited by Nicomedes Suarez-Arauz.]
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  • Las maravillas de nuestra chicha morada

    I wonder how many of our guests have tried our Peruvian purple corn drink, chicha morada. A non-alcoholic drink, chicha morada must be prepared fresh daily, often twice, before lunch and evening service. We serve our chicha in a clear glass to display its beautiful purple color. To enhance its presentation, we garnish the edge of the glass with a lime slice that can be squeezed into the drink.

    Chicha morada is a delicious, semi-sweet, spiced and fruity beverage. We prepare it from scratch, according to the traditional method used in Peru. Ears of dried purple corn, or maà z morado, imported from Peru, are boiled in water with a whole sliced pineapple, sliced green apples, quince, cinnamon and cloves. Once the boiling mix turns an intense purple color, indicating that we have extracted the corn’s purple pigment, we strain it and retain the juice. Just prior to service, we add a little sugar and lime juice for freshness.

    HISTORY
    Since pre-Incan times, Peruvians have made and enjoyed chicha morada. Some archaeologists have found evidence of chicha morada during the Caral Civilization (3000-2500 BC), believed to be the oldest of all known American civilizations. The Caral Civilization flourished in the Supe River Valley, which lies on the central coast of Peru. Chicha morada was then a much simpler drink, made only with purple corn and pineapple, crops that already existed in Peru. Cinnamon, quince, cloves and limes came later, from Spain.

    Throughout the history of Peru, chicha morada has always been considered a functional food. An integral component of the Peruvian diet, chicha morada provides energy and essential nutrients with the bonus of a delicious flavor that pairs extremely well with the vast range of Peruvian flavors.

    In chicha morada’s purple color lies its secret qualities. The responsible ingredient for the color is a pigment called anthocyanin, present in purple vegetables and fruits—in varying quantities—such as eggplant, cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, açaà , red grapes, etc. According to research completed by the University of Texas, maà z morado (purple corn) contains 16 mg/g of anthocyanin compared to 8.5 mg/g in red grapes, and 5.5 mg/g in blueberries.

    University researchers worldwide confirm what ancient Peruvians seem to have known intuitively: the purple pigment, anthocyanin, present in chicha morada, is a powerful antioxidant. It benefits our health by:
    —Slowing down cell aging and facilitating tissue regeneration, keeping people young and helping to heal wounds.
    —Inhibiting abnormal cell reproduction, caused by ultraviolet rays or other factors, thus helping to prevent certain skin and colon cancer.
    —Regulating blood circulation, protecting our cardiovascular system and reducing cholesterol levels.

    • Intensifying the activity of the genes that regulate fat cell reproduction, which in turn prevents obesity.
    • Diminishing the presence of free radicals rich in oxygen that cause damage in cells of vital organs, like the pancreas; regulating the sugar levels in the blood, thus preventing diabetes
    • Providing anti-inflammatory properties, helping to counter diseases that inflame organs.

     

    Chicha morada is a wonderful drink, beautiful in color, unique in flavor, that also contains potent medicinal properties. Come to Andina and order a glass. You will enjoy it immensely. To your health and youth, salud con chicha morada!

    Mama Doris.

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  • The demise of subtlety

    KEN COLLURA, WINE DIRECTOR

    I know it’s been prevalent for a while, and I may be overreacting, but I perceive the oncoming demise of subtlety. Motion pictures are usually a good barometer of our times. Remember the great Hitchcock thrillers, such as “Shadow of a Doubt,” “Notorious” or, towards the end of his career, “Frenzy” Violence was rarely portrayed on the screen (other than those few wild seconds in the shower in “Psycho.”) Evil was always hinted at, alluded to, veiled just thinly enough as to allow the viewer some time to think, and then squirm.

    Many of today’s films feature one violent scene after another, numbing the audience with a brutal redundancy. This anvil-like approach appears to have permeated our very lives. Private telephone calls that used to be held in private are brazenly aired in public for all to hear, and the well-to-do move about in expensive small trucks, instead of the classy, low-slung sports cars of years gone by. I realize it’s a matter of taste, but I can’t help feeling that elegance has been replaced by sheer bulk.

    The world of wine, where I ply my trade, has been hard hit by this phenomenon. Sleek, medium-bodied, food-friendly reds are being passed over for those that are (not listed in order of importance): Big, Heavy, Huge, Oaky, Massive, Full-Bodied, Thick, Tannic, Rich, and Downright Mean. I call these “wines with bolts in their necks,� and these monsters are stomping unchecked over the dinner tables of America. Now, before we go any further, let me state that I have nothing against Big Wines, per se. Given the right partner, these beasts will calm down and behave. My quarrel is not so much with the heft of these reds as it is with their youth.

    Here is a typical scenario:
    Wine A gets rave reviews in several prominent publications. Let’s say it’s a famous Napa Cabernet, Classed-Growth Bordeaux or Washington State Cab or Syrah. Folks that have read the reviews zoom forthwith into wine shops and restaurants clamoring for this Wine A. The fact that the wine is highly allocated, and there is very little of it to go around, only serves to incite people, and traces of froth start to appear in the corners of their mouths. When Wine A is finally procured, usually at great expense, it is opened with pomp and ceremony in the company of the envious and admiring. This is what comes out of the bottle: full, but surprisingly one-dimensional fruit, often accompanied by harsh tannins and an alcoholic, astringent finish, provided by the wine’s ample new oak. The wine is simply too young.

    You don’t have to take my word on this. Contact the winemakers. Most American wineries have either a phone number listed on the label or a web site. Ask the winemaker if his or her pricey Cabernet from that great vintage will drink best at 2-to-3 years old or somewhere between 7-to-12 years of age.

    So while you’re waiting for your Big Wines to smooth out a touch, why not search out a few, more subtle wines that will drink well young. Try a Rioja or Mencia from Bierzo in Spain, Dolcetto or Rosso di Montalcino from Italy, or a Pinot Noir from Oregon or Burgundy. The only thing that might have been sacrificed in the switch from power to subtlety is ego.

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  • Tupai Performance Series returns with fresh, bright line-up

    Music has always been at the heart of Andina. Traditional Andean, Afro-Peruvian, and Criollo music provide a soundtrack for Andina’s dining room, a setting that is itself pre-colonial and colonial in design and decor. In Bar Mestizo, the live world music performed nightly highlights the sounds of places that have become fused into Peruvian cultures: Spain, Italy, Japan, Africa, France, and America. Last year, we brought the performers-the lifeblood of Bar Mestizo-into focus. We gave them room to expand, to fan their feathers. We had a vision reminiscent of the traditional supper clubs, with dinner, drinks, dancing, and, most importantly, music.

    Our first performance series took place last fall and featured Andina favorites as well as acts we had always admired but couldn’t contain within our bar-side space. Jen Bernard, lead singer of one such group, The Stolen Sweets, says, “Tupai is the perfect, intimate space for reinvigorating this old-school supper club concept and vibe. (It) supports this suspension of disbelief with its own elegance and grace. Young and old, lovers of food and music, guests snapped up tickets for a seat at the dinner theater only two stories above Glisan Street, but worlds away.

    This year, we are thrilled to present a spring series featuring world music and classical acts from the following artists new to Tupai: Boy and Bean, Key of Dreams, Matices, Duo Con Brio, and Tony Furtado. More varied than the deep Latin lineup of the fall, this set-list brings the freshness of Spring to center stage. Returning to Tupai are Portland favorites Toshi & Laura Onizuka, with their virtuoso guitar playing and bold flamenco dance, as will The Stolen Sweets, who recreate the feel of 30s-era supper clubs and speakeasies with their glamorous dress and smooth-as-silk sound.

    One of the most universal and enduring human creations has been and continues to be music. In a climate that is especially difficult for full-time musicians, we are thrilled to provide a forum for unfettered performance. “Our inspiration comes from the mix of cultures found even in this small city of Portland,” says Onizuka.

    We agree. And every event we host in Tupai, from First Thursday art showings to charity dinners, is crafted with a fervor for bringing style and substance to our small, but dynamic community. Thank you for supporting our Spring performers, whose subtle Latin influences are building heat for an explosive fall series.

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  • Something’s cooking

    During my time as a host, I put dozens of guests on hold and trekked through the kitchen or into the bar to get answers to questions like: “How exactly do you make that habanero vodka?” “Can you email me your tabule recipe?” Where I can buy aji amarillo?” Usually the requests were simple enough to be obliged on demand. But over time, the requests for the “how-to” of Andina became more formal. The stack of comment cards asking, begging, and pleading with Mama Doris to publish recipes was growing by the month. The guests were sending a clear message: they were ready for a cookbook. But was Doris?

    Discussions with past and current chefs, publishers, guests and her staff all yielded the same answer: yes! As the heart and soul of Andina’s cultural narrative, Doris was excited about the idea, but unsure where to begin. It was in large part the strength of storytelling in the monthly newsletter and the positive response those stories received that provided the confidence for a bigger project. We are proud to say that preliminary work on an Andina book is now underway!

    If published, the book will not only provide recipes and background narrative for Andina’s signature dishes, it will capture the sensory experience of the restaurant by exploring its art, music, design and drinks. We want to bring the book to life by including guest and staff commentary and would like to invite you, the loyal readers of our newsletter, to submit your comments.

    We are not soliciting testimonials, but looking for vivid, engaging commentary that illustrates the Andina experience. If you’d like to participate, please feel free to use the following prompts as starting points, or write your thoughts and comments independently. Please send all commentary to Doris via email at: doris@andinarestaurant.com.

    — What were your first impressions of Andina?
    — What is unique about Andina?
    — Where do you like to sit? Why?
    — How has the restaurant changed/evolved since you first started coming?
    — When you refer people to Andina, what do you tell them “not to miss?”
    — What is your connection, if any, to Peru or South America?
    — What are your favorite visual elements of the restaurant? Why?
    — Favorite dishes and drinks? Why?
    — What would you like to see in an Andina cookbook?

    Thank you for your time and, most of all, for your continued support of Andina!

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  • La semana santa de mi niñez

    One of the experiences of my childhood that still lives in my memory with all its power and intensity is “La Semana Santa” (Holy Week), the days that commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. Growing up in Cajamarca, Peru, where almost everybody was Catholic; attending a Catholic school ruled by nuns; and being surrounded all my life by old colonial churches,  my behavior, my emotions, and my senses responded to the sound of the bells, the smell of incense, the sight of processions. Celebrations and rituals of my faith affected the way I perceived life, making me both happy and sad, and leaving a lasting impression that perhaps others might share.

    Here are some of my memories related to “Semana Santa”:

    In March I knew that we were approaching a period of sadness and piety because all of the altars of all our churches were covered by huge purple curtains. These curtains would remain in place for the 40 days before Easter Sunday, a period that we call “Cuaresma” (Lent). During Cuaresma, parents and children sacrifice their pleasures to prepare themselves for Holy Week, which begins on “Domingo Ramos” (Palm Sunday) and ends on “Domingo Gloria” (Easter Sunday). During that sacred week, we knew we would be accompanying Christ through his sufferings, from his trial, to his death, and also his resurrection.

    On “Domingo Ramos” (Palm Sunday), everybody attended Mass and each returned home with a palm leaf, in remembrance of the way in which the people of Jerusalem had welcomed Christ. After every Palm Sunday Mass, the entire city seemed to suffer a dramatic change; on the streets of Cajamarca, always colorful and noisy, silent grown ups walked, dressed in black, and children went quietly, dressed in white or pale colors to commemorate Christ’s sufferings. At home, children were forbidden to fight with their siblings, or to be engaged in games that were noisy or aggressive. They were encouraged to do peaceful, solemn tasks – drawing, helping mom, or reading, especially religious books. They needed to behave well, showing obedience as Christ did.

    Parents during Cuaresma also changed; they tried to be patient and calm, not to lose their temper, or punish their children. They were asked to imitate Christ, and we loved that aspect. Children were children after all! So on more than one occasion, my siblings and I contrived in secret to perform some mischief and play some pranks with our parents, knowing very well that they couldn’t – or wouldn’t – punish us.

    When “Jueves Santo” (Holy Thursday) arrived, we were reaching the climax of Holy Week. We had a Mass in the afternoon with special rituals designed by the church to commemorate the Last Supper, the Trial of Christ, and his death on the Cross. The Mass was so solemn and dramatic that until now I have goose bumps every time I remember it. Hours before the Mass, the “Maria Angola” (the name given to the main bell of the Cathedral) began tolling, sending its deep and melancholic sounds all over Cajamarca. It was the official invitation for all of us to attend Mass. At 5:00 PM the Cathedral opened its massive main doors, ready to welcome all the people that would be attending. The first to arrive were the most important authorities of Cajamarca, all dressed up, making their solemn entrance and creating in all of us a sense of respect and veneration. Among them were the members of the “Corte de Justicia” (Justice Court), all donning “fracs” (tuxedos), which they wore for that occasion alone, no others. They had the important role of reminding us of the judges who sentenced Christ. After the personalities, we the “pueblo” (commonfolk) entered the church, and soon the Cathedral was full of people ready to embrace with dignity and a contrite spirit all the rituals of the Mass.

    The Mass proceeded, and here are the instances I most remember :
    -  El “Lavado de los pies” (the Washing of the Feet), was when the Priest performed one of Christ’s final acts, which was to wash the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper. Our priest would himself kneel down and wash the feet of 12 people chosen and honored among the poorest of Cajamarca.
    - During the reading of the Gospel, the priest and we the “pueblo” reenacted the Trial of Christ. We became the people who did not believe that Christ was the son of God; therefore, when the Priest, acting as Pilate, asked us to choose whom to free between Barrabás and Christ, we cried loudly “Barrabás;” and when the priest asked us how we would punish Christ, we responded, “Crucify him, Crucify him! I was terrified and very sad; we condemned to death the innocent Christ!!  But also, I knew that, because of his immense love to human kind, He pardoned us, and I felt much better and very, very grateful!
    -  When the “Sanctus” took place (the moment to praise God), the sound of trumpets, played by soldiers of our military forces, made our hearts and the whole building vibrate.  It seemed that truly, we were under the presence of God, honoring God as God could only be honored.
    -  During the “Consagracion”, the priest spoke and enacted the words of Christ in the Last Supper. He blessed the bread and wine to become body and blood of Christ, and this moment marked the climax of the Mass, as all of us knew, that at that moment Christ was offering himself to die for us. In all the other Masses throughout the year, this moment – the consecration of the sacraments – was always announced by the metallic sounds of the little bells; but not this time. On Holy Thursday, this moment was marked by the woody sound of the “matraca” (a gadget that acted like bells made with wood). That sound I shall carry with me forever; it always makes me feel as though the Christ of my childhood really died every year during the Mass of the Holy Thursday.

    Other memories from the Holy Week that last in me forever are:
    -  The smell and the flavor of salty fish. Fish was the only meat that we were allowed to eat during the Holy Week. We needed to sacrifice the pleasure of eating as we did every day. Neither were children allowed to eat sweets. On the other hand, our age benefited us a little bit, as we were spared the obligation of “ayunar” (fasting). Parents and older members of the family fasted on Holy Friday, and together with their children abstained from eating any red meat. One thing that I see now as ridiculous and absurd was an idea that we children had, that by eating red meat we would be eating the body of Christ! This idea scared us to death, and kept us away from all such temptations.

    - I remember the sad silence of our churches – that is, the absence of the sound of their bells. Beginning on Holy Thursday, after Mass, and continuing until Easter Sunday, all the bells of the 7 churches were in complete silence, and we missed them dearly. Cajamarca’s daily life was marked by the hourly sound of the bells of our churches. Each neighborhood was proud of the sound and the exactitude of the bells of their church. They were part of ourselves, and having them in silence during those Holy days was to feel as if Cajamarca itself were dead! The weather, gray and cold, also contrived to deepen our sadness – the sense of being lonely, unprotected, without God.

    - The Holy Friday was one of the saddest days of the year. Christ was dead. In the afternoon, we marched in a Procession with an “image” (a large sculptural reproduction, really) of Christ dead and lying on a bed of white satin sheets. The image was called “El Cristo del Santo Sepulcro (Christ of the Holy Sepulchre). The Procession began at the Church of “San Pedro”, traveled along the main street of the city, continued around the Plaza de Armas (the main square) and returned to its point of origin, along the same street.  One year I was honored to be an angel in the Procession. The role of the angels was to spread petals as we walked in between the “Anda” of Christ (the platform used to carry the images) and the “Anda” of “La Virgen Dolorosa” (carrying images of the Virgin Mary, crying for her son). While I was accomplishing my noble mission, I discovered and became fascinated by the “vaiven” (swinging) of the hair of Christ, which moved to the rhythm of the movement of the Anda, as it swayed back and forth on the shoulders of the men bearing it aloft. It was so real – the movement of the hair – that for many years I was convinced that the Christ of the Holy Sepulcre was really and truly the body of Christ, the son of God.

    And because all things have an end, and sadness and happiness come one after the other, and, because I, as a Catholic, believe that Christ was resurrected after his death, I hoped for and longed for “El Domingo Gloria” (Easter Sunday) to come. And indeed, the day came. Oh, what a wonderful day! My heart, my soul, my whole self, felt that life again was with us all! Everything spoke of it! I don’t remember any Domingo Gloria on which the sun did not shine brilliantly; the bells of our churches sounded better than ever. Cajamarca was alive! Grown ups and children were colorful again, laughs and noises were heard everywhere. The purple curtains disappeared from our altars, and all the saints and the virgins were smiling at us. Children could fight among themselves; parents could punish their children, and could lose their temper too. With Christ, we too were resurrected. Christ was alive and so were we.

    Let us celebrate life, and for all of you: Have a wonderful Easter!

    Mama Doris.

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  • Growing up Greenwich: Italian wines for the Italian meal

    Growing up as a goombah smart aleck in New York City’s Greenwich Village, I was surrounded by all things Italian. I can still smell that amazing bread from the bakery on Bleecker Street. The aromas would waft down the street for hours on end. And I can see the sausage and provolone in the window of the deli across from the bakery. Then there were the cannoli and the biscotti and the fresh espresso brewing, and let’s not forget the old men arguing and drinking red wine out of tumblers as they played bocce.

    There was a wine shop nearby, with Chianti in their wicker-covered fiaschi, and dusty bottles of Barolo and Gattinara. No one would ever dream of drinking any other type of wine but Italian with the food we ate. American wine was nearly nonexistent, and the French was too esoteric and expensive. I can’t recall ever sitting down to a meal in any of the Italian households I frequented without seeing some kind of wine on the table, be it store-bought or homemade.

    Things are completely different in today’s world. If you were to bring out a bottle of Austrian riesling with the pasta, no one would blink an eye. It’s a global market for both food and wine, and anything goes. But for my money, the best wine with Italian food still comes from Italy, and the best Italy has to offer comes from Piedmont and Tuscany. Not to belittle the offerings from Apulia, Campania or Veneto. Just giving credit where credit is due.

    Here’s an overview of the best reds produced in these two regions, with a particular emphasis on those readily available here in the States:

    P I E D M O N T
    Barbera: Medium-ruby to inky in color, spicy on the nose with vibrant acidity, barbera is pasta’s best friend. Nearly half the red made in Piedmont comes from this grape, and it’s vinified in numerous styles, from light and clean to be drunk in it’s early years, to rich and heavily oaked, to be aged 10+ years.

    Dolcetto: Deeply purple, smooth and grapy, this wine usually drinks best during its first 5 years of life. It has been called Italy’s Beaujolais, and the similarity can be apparent. Dry, mouth-filling and always food-friendly.

    Nebbiolo: This is the king of all Italian grape varieties, capable of producing wines of world-class magnitude.

    1) Barbaresco and Barolo: Robust and austere, these bold but elegant wines age seamlessly for 20+ years in the best cellars. Although Barbaresco rarely equals the sheer power of Barolo, it sometimes delivers more finesse and requires less bottle aging to reach its zenith. Barolo often demands 5-8 years to lose its initial tannic hardness.
    2) Ghemme, Gattinara, Spanna: These reds made from nebbiolo rarely show deep red color, more garnet to red-brick being the norm. They can have a lighter mouthfeel, medium-to-high acidity and a toughness when young. Aging becomes this varietal, and 15+ year-old examples take on earthy, flowery aromas and lush flavors. These are great reds with bold cheeses.
    3) Nebbiolo d’Alba: Often made by fine Barolo producers, but at one-third the price of Barolo or Barbaresco, this version of nebbiolo comes to maturity earlier than it’s more renowned relatives, being ready to drink 3-5 years from the vintage.

    T U S C A N Y

    Brunello di Montalcino: This long-lived red made from sangioveto grosso grown in the community of Montalcino south of Siena is one of Italy’s most prized and expensive wines. Powerfully structured, tannic and deep ruby in color, it matures beautifully with an austere, full flavor and a rich bouquet. The finest reserve bottlings have been known to last 40 years, although 10-15 years is more common. A second wine is also produced, the Rosso di Montalcino. It is often made from younger or flatland vines, and is known as the “Baby Brunello.” Drinkable upon release, but with a 7-8 year aging curve, it can be a superb value.

    Chianti: From a good vintage, regular Chianti should be ready to drink from the moment it hits the shelves and last for up to 10 years or so in a cold cellar. A reserve Chianti needs more time in bottle, coming to maturity at around 5-7 years or so with the ability to last 15+ years for the better houses. Made almost entirely from sangiovese, the best sub-regions are Classico and Rufina.

    Super-Tuscans (or IGTs): This category of wine first came into being in 1968 with the introduction of Sassicaia from the village of Bolgheri on the coast. The quality is among the highest in Italy. With cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot being either all or part of intricate blends, these wines have set a new standard for the rest of the country to follow. Expensive, sometimes worth it, but occasionally flat-out overpriced. There are numerous other wines I could laud. We’ll save these for another piece on another day.

    Try some experiments with the above list. One in particular that I like is grilling up some chicken breasts and then matching them with a light, medium and full red. You’ll be surprised how quickly it becomes apparent which pairs up the best. This is not rocket science, nor is it a poetry contest. All it’s really about is what tastes good.

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  • Un romance de otros tiempos

    On Valentine’s Day we celebrate a most powerful feeling, one that makes the strong vulnerable, and the weak strong. Our human love. When I visit tables in Andina, and see signs of romance and celebration, I am always attracted to ask couples old and young, how they met, and the answers are so diverse and so peculiar, they confirm a simple truth for me: we can find love at any time, any where, and many times, without knowing it until it’s already “too late”. Lately I am hearing more and more that people find love through social networks on the Internet. As the story goes, you submit a description of who you are and who, in general terms, you are looking for, and that information then travels around the city, state, country, and even the world. Sometimes it finds a response, someone who is also looking for a partner or soul mate, and many times the miracle continues: these two human strangers then meet each other and marry. I have met couples—Americans (usually men) married to Peruvians—who never met personally, but found each other trough the Internet. It’s amazing to me! As you see, love comes by the way that it determines for itself, and is as unpredictable as it is mysterious.

    Following the same line of thought, and eager to show how love touches lives in ways that we never can guess, I am going to describe an Old Fashioned Romance that happened in my own family. A romance between my father (Victor) and my mother (Clarita).

    To help you to travel in time and distance, I need to tell you that both of them were “shilicos” (from Celendín a province north of Cajamarca), and were born in two different but very close villages, my father in Sucre, and my mother in Jose Galvez. They were also distant relatives of one another, as virtually all the people in those villages were; however neither of them knew of the existence of the other.

    My father was the eighth and youngest child of his family. By his own will, he left Sucre when he was 12 years old, seeking an education with the help and guardianship of his oldest brother, Elias. Elias had become a wealthy merchant selling straw hats, and lived at this time in the city of Huamachuco, far away from his home town.

    My mother remained in Jose Galvez, living with her mother and sister. Her father had died when she was 14, poisoned by a serpent on his semi-tropical farm close to the Maranon River. She and her sister were considered by their village to be good looking, fine and virtuous young ladies. My mother was the town “modista” (seamstress). She sewed beautifully, and my aunt embroidered, cultivating this traditional skill and artistry. They were reaching the proper age for considerations of marriage, and there was more than one suitor in the village ready to ask the hand of either of them.

    After finishing high school in Huamachuco, my father traveled to Trujillo (a colonial coastal city, not so far from Huamachuco) to study Law. He would be the first professional in his family, all of whom were either farmers or merchants, men of the cloth or idlers. Becoming a lawyer was a matter of pride for all. One magic day, my father was at the Main Entrance of the University, located on one of the four corners of Trujillo’s main square. He was waiting for the next lecture with a group of his classmates when he saw, not far away, three ladies strolling and looking around, as if they were foreigners to the city, which in effect they were. The three ladies were my grandma and her two daughters—my mother and my aunt. The three ladies were simply passing time before continuing their trip to Lima, Peru’s capital. Their bus had had a technical problem, and the driver was obliged to enter Trujillo for repairs. He had left the passengers in the Main Square, and recommended that they stretch their legs for a bit, and this was the reason why my grandmother and her daughters had been strolling around the plaza.

    As the three women came closer to the group of the students, one of my father’s classmates (who happened to be another “shilico”) recognized them as his aunt and two cousins, and completely surprised went to greet them.

    My father directed his sight to the women, and he saw my mom! …. Something leaped inside of him. He knew that he was smitten as he had never been before, and that the young lady he beheld was the cause and source. His soul and his heart awoke under the magic of first love!

    My mother was completely unaware of even my father’s presence. She and her sister and mother were very happy to see their relative, and after a brief conversation, they returned to the bus to continue their trip. My father remained entirely enamored, and asked his friend any and everything related to my mother—who she was, where she was from, what she was doing—and the responses pleased him. He learned that she was from the same region as he, that she was traveling with her mother and sister to visit Lima, due to a gracious invitation from one of her uncles, who encouraged them to know a little about life in the big city. He also learned that it was for them the first time they traveled far away from home, the first time they would be visiting Lima, and that my mother came from a strong and good family, and that she had the affection of everyone in her home town.

    After my mother returned to her home town, she began receiving letters written by my father, still a complete stranger to her. Those letters were poetic, romantic, and sincere. In each letter, my father urged my mother to write him back, but she didn’t respond to his request. For her, all that was happening was so strange! Letters from a man who said that he loved her since the first moment he saw her?! And that he was from the same region; however he didn’t live there, and she never saw him?! What kind of man was he? Was he lying to her? Who was he? Perhaps a “vivo” or a “Don Juan”? She was afraid and suspicious! and decided not to answer him. Perhaps too, she needed to show him that she was a strong and decent woman, ready to love and to be loved, but not by a courting stranger.

    For many months she did not answer him; but as an old proverb says: “The constant water sculpts the stone”. And one day my mother, encouraged by her sister, changed her mind and wrote a reply. Her first letters were very formal, short, and a little cold, but little by little they became warmer and warmer. She was, as time would show, falling in love. Both got to know to each other more and more through exchanged pictures and by sharing their dreams and plans in successive letters. Nobody in town knew my mother’s romance, only her sister. Her mother was a little concerned by the apathy that my mother showed to potential suitors. Many times my grandma encouraged my mother to be more friendly, but my mother ignored her advice; instead, she spent long hours sowing, and guess what she was sowing? Among the dresses and blouses of her clients, she was also preparing her “ajuar” (her wedding and marriage ensemble): bed spreads, sheets, pillowcases, towels, tablecloths, napkins, night gowns, dresses, blouses, and all of them embellished with my aunt’s embroidery.

    Of course letters came and letters went, and time was passing too. Do you know for how long my mother and father continued writing to each other? You are not going to believe it! They kept writing to each other for 5 years, which was the time my father needed to finish his law studies. During those 5 years, my mother never lost her faith and confidence in my father’s promises. She waited until my father became a lawyer, and when that day arrived, my father was ready to fulfill his promise. He resolved to return to towns where both he and Clarita came from, and finally to meet and marry his beloved! He and his oldest brother traveled from Huamachuco to Sucre, their home town. It was a long distance, but I can only imagine that great anticipation made it short. And I imagine how my mother’s heart must have pounded, when she heard the sound of horses that passed by her town on their way to Sucre. For she knew that on one of those horses was my father!

    The following day, my father went in the company of his cousin to visit my mother. For my mother it was going to be the first time she would see and know him in person! My aunt recalled how my mother saw two men entering the town at a distance, and was nervous that she would not be able to tell which was my father. My aunt, more serene, gave her logical advice, saying, “The one that smiles at you and comes straight toward you. He will be Victor!” And she was right! My father came straight to her smiling, bowed and shook hands. My mother, quite red and confused, offered them a refreshment, “naranjas balseras” (fresh oranges from her family’s finca near the Maranon River).

    My father invited her to go for a walk, the two of them alone. As they strolled the main square of Jose Galvez, side by side, people in the town noticed that my mother was walking with a stranger. Who is he? Some said:” I think he is one of her cousins.” The others said, “No, he is not! I know all of them, and even so, he doesn’t look like one of us!” In a few hours, gossip inundated the town: Clarita had walked the plaza with someone! And her mother was absent (for my grandmother was harvesting fruits on the Maranon).

    My father expressed to my mother that he wanted to meet her mother as soon as possible, in order to formally ask for her hand in marriage. My grandmother, obliged by the circumstances, and shocked by the news brought by a messenger, didn’t have any other alternative but to come home immediately to meet the man who was proposing to marry her daughter!

    The day of the proposal arrived. My grandmother and my mother were well protected in the presence of the governor of the town (a cousin, of course). My grandmother needed to show my father that even being a widow, without a husband, she still had powerful people in town to protect her and her daughters. My father arrived with his father and his oldest brother; he too wanted to show to my mother and grandma that he had the support and the approbation of his family.

    What happened next was always related to my siblings and me in a funny and festive mood. As soon my grandma saw my fathers’ father entering her living room, she stood up and with a big surprise reflected in her eyes and voice, exclaimed: “Tio Jose!” (“Uncle Joseph”), “what are you doing here?” And my grandpa said: “Are you really asking me what I’m doing here? I am here because my son, Victor, plans to marry your daughter, and he asked me to witness his proposal. That is why I am here!” Then, looking toward my mother he said in a very sonorous and ceremonious way: “Daughter, you will be leaving your house and entering into my house; from now on you will belong to two houses”, and after that he allowed my father to propose to my mother. With tears of love and anxiety in her eyes and red cheeks, my mother said yes. Their engagement was celebrated with hugs and laughter, and with an official “brindis” (toast) made by the governor of Jose Galvez!

    My grandma’s doubts and concerns dissipated: my mother was going to marry a member of our extended family, whose father was her distant uncle, a man well-known for his rectitude. My father was a man who had demonstrated in his long courtship that he really loved my mother. So my grandmother was satisfied!

    My father’s dreams were fulfilled. He would have as his wife and companion the young woman who had been his first love. And after her initial strong reluctance, my mother also came to believe that some day she would marry my father. Her long waiting was paying her back! Soon she was going to be the wife of a man who had persevered in his courtship, whom she had learned to love through letters! Their romance led to a happy marriage. They deeply loved and respected each other, and their love gave fruit: they had four children. But as always happens in life, nothing lasts for ever, and their happiness, though real and wonderful, was relatively short, My mother died when I was 12 years old, while my father survived her until his death 5 years ago when he was 94, But for him and for all of us, love makes the ones we love immortal—they live in our hearts for ever!

    Happy Valentine’s Day to all! Viva el Amor!

    Mama Doris.

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  • Wine texture and weight

    I’m a pretty flexible guy when it comes to wine. I like ‘em in all sizes, from XXL down to S. Each category has its place on the table, the spot where wine fits in the best.

    How do we determine where to “put” a wine? What should our criteria be when we think about matching wine with food? Often, reviewers stress size, using descriptors such as huge, gargantuan, massive and fat. Or sometimes it’s the aromas that excite them, and they float off into the ozone on rose petals, cherry blossoms and spice.

    I don’t know why, but I rarely think of musk, sap, oak char, underbrush or road tar when I taste wine. The main thing that I try to assess when the juice hits my palate is texture. How does it feel on my tongue? The texture of wines, i.e., how rich they feel in the mouth, says a lot about how they will match with foods. To put it simply, some wines are light, some medium-bodied, some full. Once you gauge a wine’s “weight,” it becomes infinitely easier to pair it with your meal.

    The other day I noticed a group of people at dinner drinking a rich California Cabernet with their grilled shrimp appetizers. I thought it an odd combination, but I was totally floored when the main course (steak and lamb chops) arrived, and the party switched to Beaujolais and sweet Riesling. I’ve always said to each his own, but it appeared to me that every element in that meal had been forced to dance with an inappropriate partner, and therefore was diminished.

    Below is a listing of which wines fall into what “weight” categories. With a little bit of pre-planning, it’s simple to choose the right style to pair with the meal you envision. Keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule, and the world of wine is particularly vexing. Describing how each tastes and what to expect from them is difficult at best, so use this listing as a general, rudimentary guide.

    LIGHT WHITES Austrian Gruner Veltliner or Riesling; German Riesling; French Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc; almost any Italian or Spanish white, such as Pinot Grigio, Soave and Albarino.

    MEDIUM-BODIED WHITES Alsacian or American Riesling; Alsacian or American Pinot Blanc; American or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; French Chardonnay (Burgundy); Oregon Pinot Gris.

    FULL WHITES American Chardonnay; Australian Chardonnay and Semillon; American or French Viognier or Gewurztraminer.

    LIGHT REDS French Beaujolais (Gamay); French Pinot Noir (Burgundy); French Loire Valley reds, such as Chinon or Bourgueil; Italian Dolcetto and Spanish Mencia.

    MEDIUM-BODIED REDSCalifornia or Oregon Pinot Noir; American Merlot; Chilean Cabernet and Merlot; French Bordeaux; most traditional Italian or Spanish reds, such Chianti Classico, Barbaresco, Ribera del Duero and Rioja.

    FULL REDS Australian Cabernet and Shiraz; Argentine Malbecs, California Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Zinfandel; French Rhone Valley reds, such as Hermitage, Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas; wines from regions in the south of France, such as Languedoc and Midi, and most Washington State varietals such as Syrah and Cabernet.

    Try some experiments with the above list. One in particular that I like is grilling up some chicken breasts and then matching them with a light, medium and full red. You’ll be surprised how quickly it becomes apparent which pairs up the best. This is not rocket science, nor is it a poetry contest. All it’s really about is what tastes good.

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  • Fishing at Chan Chan: Andina’s homage to an Ancient Empire

    500 miles north of Lima, Peru, in the stark coastal desert outside of Trujillo, lay the remains of the largest city in Pre-Columbian America. Chan Chan, a sprawling complex of 10,000 buildings that once covered close to 10 square miles, was the capital of the Chimu empire, a pre-Incan civilization that reigned over a vast section of Northern and Central Peru from A.D. 850 to the late 1400s.

    According to legend, a man named Taycanamo floated into the tiny fishing village of Huanchacho (see “Andina’s Coastal Influence”) on a fleet of balsa wood rafts and decided the desert to the east would make a nice dry seat for his up and coming empire. With its proximity to fish-rich oceans fed by the Humboldt current and an average rainfall that would hardly fill a bathtub, it was indeed an ideal location for what was about to become the world’s largest adobe city.

    Chan Chan’s construction began in the 9th century and continued to expand until the Incan army conquered in 1470. Chan Chan’s common folk, including a large population of artisans, lived in barrios or neighborhoods outside of the ciudadelas, walled palace-like compounds that housed the aristocracy. Archaeologists speculate that Chan Chan was ruled by a succession of ten kings—each within their own ciudadela. When the reigning king died he was buried in an elaborate ceremony that often included sacrifice of those closest to him, including young women and even royal pets. This solidified his position in the afterlife. When the new king took over, he had his own ciudadela built, from whence he ruled and would eventually be buried.

    At Chan Chan and many of the area’s surrounding ruins, you will still encounter the descendants of the pets who stood by their kings in life and into death. The Peruvian Hairless dog, one of which was recently offered as a gift to U.S. President Barack Obama, is a shockingly naked dog. Their images have been discovered on early Chimu pottery as they enjoyed royal stature long before and well into Inca rule. Today they are treated as common scavengers, but continue to roam the perimeter of Chan Chan assessing each visitor with a watchful eye.

    Protecting a city made from mud is a thankless job. Chan Chan’s importance can hardly be discussed today without mention of its deterioration. It stands as a priceless archaeological site, but one that was put on both the UNESCO World Heritage list and the UNESCO World Heritage in Danger list in the same year. El Niño storms, which once occurred only every 25 to 30 years, are increasing in frequency and are a lethal threat to the fragile mud complex. Peru’s Instituto Nacional de Cultura is working with a shoestring budget to maintain the ruins, but with erratic weather threats and increasing acts of vandalism that the INC doesn’t have the staff to mitigate, Peruvians are rightly concerned about the future of Chan Chan.

    Though Andina, meaning “of the Andes,” clearly represents the perspective of owner Doris Rodriguez de Platt’s youth deep in the Andes, it also pulls inspiration from diverse cultural and culinary traditions across Peru. When it came to designing the restaurant, the Platt family wanted to embed subtle nods to the nation’s most significant architectural and historic elements throughout. They paid tribute to the ancient city of Chan Chan by building the honeycombed wine storage wall on the dining’s room west end. In Cidudadela Tschudi, one of Chan Chan’s most well restored palaces, the same lattice-like design leads visitors away from the sanctuary where human sacrifice took place. Its interlocking diamond shapes represent the fishing nets that were integral to sustaining Chimu life.

    This stark juxtaposition of life and death wouldn’t have struck the Chimu as morbid, but as elemental and unavoidable. With the future of Chan Chan gravely uncertain, the Platt’s homage may turn out to be more significant than they could have ever imagined.

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  • Fishing at Chan Chan: Andina’s homage to an Ancient Empire

    500 miles north of Lima, Peru, in the stark coastal desert outside of Trujillo, lay the remains of the largest city in Pre-Columbian America. Chan Chan, a sprawling complex of 10,000 buildings that once covered close to 10 square miles, was the capital of the Chimu empire, a pre-Incan civilization that reigned over a vast section of Northern and Central Peru from A.D. 850 to the late 1400s.

    According to legend, a man named Taycanamo floated into the tiny fishing village of Huanchacho (see “Andina’s Coastal Influence”) on a fleet of balsa wood rafts and decided the desert to the east would make a nice dry seat for his up and coming empire. With its proximity to fish-rich oceans fed by the Humboldt current and an average rainfall that would hardly fill a bathtub, it was indeed an ideal location for what was about to become the world’s largest adobe city.

    Chan Chan’s construction began in the 9th century and continued to expand until the Incan army conquered in 1470. Chan Chan’s common folk, including a large population of artisans, lived in barrios or neighborhoods outside of the ciudadelas, walled palace-like compounds that housed the aristocracy. Archaeologists speculate that Chan Chan was ruled by a succession of ten kings—each within their own ciudadela. When the reigning king died he was buried in an elaborate ceremony that often included sacrifice of those closest to him, including young women and even royal pets. This solidified his position in the afterlife. When the new king took over, he had his own ciudadela built, from whence he ruled and would eventually be buried.

    At Chan Chan and many of the area’s surrounding ruins, you will still encounter the descendants of the pets who stood by their kings in life and into death. The Peruvian Hairless dog, one of which was recently offered as a gift to U.S. President Barack Obama, is a shockingly naked dog. Their images have been discovered on early Chimu pottery as they enjoyed royal stature long before and well into Inca rule. Today they are treated as common scavengers, but continue to roam the perimeter of Chan Chan assessing each visitor with a watchful eye.

    Protecting a city made from mud is a thankless job. Chan Chan’s importance can hardly be discussed today without mention of its deterioration. It stands as a priceless archaeological site, but one that was put on both the UNESCO World Heritage list and the UNESCO World Heritage in Danger list in the same year. El Niño storms, which once occurred only every 25 to 30 years, are increasing in frequency and are a lethal threat to the fragile mud complex. Peru’s Instituto Nacional de Cultura is working with a shoestring budget to maintain the ruins, but with erratic weather threats and increasing acts of vandalism that the INC doesn’t have the staff to mitigate, Peruvians are rightly concerned about the future of Chan Chan.

    Though Andina, meaning “of the Andes,” clearly represents the perspective of owner Doris Rodriguez de Platt’s youth deep in the Andes, it also pulls inspiration from diverse cultural and culinary traditions across Peru. When it came to designing the restaurant, the Platt family wanted to embed subtle nods to the nation’s most significant architectural and historic elements throughout. They paid tribute to the ancient city of Chan Chan by building the honeycombed wine storage wall on the dining’s room west end. In Cidudadela Tschudi, one of Chan Chan’s most well restored palaces, the same lattice-like design leads visitors away from the sanctuary where human sacrifice took place. Its interlocking diamond shapes represent the fishing nets that were integral to sustaining Chimu life.

    This stark juxtaposition of life and death wouldn’t have struck the Chimu as morbid, but as elemental and unavoidable. With the future of Chan Chan gravely uncertain, the Platt’s homage may turn out to be more significant than they could have ever imagined.

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  • upcoming events

    día de los enamorados
    Celebrate love on Feb. 14 at Andina with a toast of Roederer champagne and a slice of torta de chocolate. Chef José Luis de Cossio will offer a three-course, prix-fixe Roederer Champagne dinner featuring exquisite Champagnes, sparkling wines from California or a selection of red wines chosen by Wine Director Ken Collura. Guests will be able to customize their dinner from a selection of tapas, entrées and desserts. Dinner seatings begin at 5 p.m. Music from Toshi Onizuka and his trio begins at 7 p.m.
    Call 503.228.9535 for reservations or more information.
    Cooking for Kids
    On March 15 at 1 p.m., Andina is delighted to partner with Elk Cove Winery for Cooking for Kids 2009. All proceeds from this event support Morrison Child and Family Services, an organization that strengthens our community’s children and families. Our Executive Chef José Luis de Cossio will demonstrate how to create three delectable dishes that are a fine match for the superb wines of Elk Cove.
    Visit www.morrisonkids.org or call 503.258.4290 for tickets and more information.
    Classic wines auction
    On March 3, Andina will continue our alliance with the Classic Wines Auction as part of the Winemaker Dinner series. Executive Chef José Luis de Cossio will prepare a gourmet meal to complement a wonderful selection of wines from Reininger and Elk Cove. All proceeds
    support charities from Oregon and Southwest Washington.
    Visit www.classicwinesauction.com or call 503.972.0194 for tickets and more information.
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  • Across the Rio Marañon: Stumptown Coffee Helps Andina Bring Shilico to the Table

    Hank Costello was seeking inspiration. He needed to shake up Andina’s steak dish but wasn’t sure which direction to go in until he overheard one of the Platt sons telling pastry chef Helena Root about a rich, aromatic shilico-style coffee that his great aunt Delia once made for his family during a visit to Peru. Hank had a chef’s hunch that if he brewed the shilico coffee and cooked it down into a sauce for the steak, he would have a deep, complex dish.

    Shilico-style coffee, named for the Shilico people that for generations have lived in the North Andean province of Celendín (see Mama Doris’ article above), is a product of unique geography. No clear historical lines can be drawn, but the shilicos are reportedly descendants of Portuguese and Spanish Jews, and the province in which they originally settled (perhaps by way of a long journey through Brazil) lies on the eastern flank of the Andes, where the mountains begin their descent into the Amazon. “It isn’t uncommon for the families of Celendín to have two plots of land,” says Victor, whose maternal grandparents are shilicos. “One plot sits at a higher elevation where they grow potatoes, quinoa, corn, and wheat, as well as raise chickens, guinea pigs, and the like. The other plot, or holding, would be at a lower elevation. And there they harvest mangoes, chocolate and coffee.”

    Great aunt Delia had one of those low plots and grew, harvested, cleaned, dried and roasted all the coffee herself. After extracting the beans from the cherries and cleaning them well, she set them to dry in the sun until they were a chalky, pale green. To prepare the coffee that her nephew recalled that day in Andina’s kitchen, she toasted the beans in a dry, heavy clay pot, adding anise seed, orange zest and brown sugar.

    “The aromatics signal doneness,” says Victor. When a nutty, complex sweetness filled the air and the beans were roasted light to medium, she poured the mixture into a manual grinder and cranked the beans to a medium fineness. Delia would then brew her coffee either by combining coffee grounds with water and brining the mix to a boil (for a simple preparation called “café de olla”), or, for special occasions, by pouring hot water in small amounts directly onto the grounds, in a process of slow extraction. The collected extract is aptly called essencia de café, or essence of coffee.

    On its own essencia is potent, so it is added to hot water or milk according to one’s preferred strength. Shilico families prepare fresh essencia each day and keep it in a covered beaker for a morning or mid-afternoon cup.

    “Do you know where to get green [coffee] beans?” Hank asked Victor a few days later. Victor knew where he wanted to look, but he was uncertain how Stumptown’s roastery would respond to his request. Green beans, especially those cultivated with the level of husbandry that Stumptown’s standards entail, are extremely valuable. Stumptown is committed to working directly with the growers, and this brings great benefit as well as entailing great cost. “Over the course of the morning, I learned that Stumptown related to the green beans they had sourced with enormous care, concern and pride” says Victor.

    His first, clumsily stated request was met with some reservation – and understandably so. Would he be reselling them? No, he explained, he only wanted a small quantity; just enough to test out Hank’s theory that shilico coffee would be good on steak! Reassured, and with generous guidance from the Stumptown management, the roastery’s quality-control director led Victor into a back room, an enchanting, minimally adorned, archival warehouse lined with shelves and drawers, brewing and roasting equipment, exactly fit for wizards of the bean. The room was also stocked with coffee samples from around the world. The manager pulled together two or three small bags (Peruvian coffee samples) and gave them to Victor. And that was that.

    When the steak with shilico sauce debuted at Andina as a nightly special, it was a hit. Complemented by local fingerling potatoes, Easter radishes and fennel – a companionable nod to the anise in the sauce – it was inventive and unique. Its preparation has since evolved and today appears on the set menu as Bistec con Salsa Shilica: but changes continue, and Hank is actively considering a new menu item featuring the same coffee-based sauce. Whether the new dish is savory or sweet, a small plate, entrée, or dessert, the toasted coffee recipe-as endowed with history and anecdote as with depth of flavor-has found a home. Stumptown is excited to see their green beans used in a way they never have before. Victor’s Division Street visit couldn’t have been more perfectly timed, as it coincided with the introduction of Peruvian coffee to Stumptown’s menu. They source coffee from the world over, including Central and South America, but until now no Peruvian growers have been featured. Their first Peruvian micro-lot will be arriving this month and Andina will happily receive its ration in tribute to great aunt Delia’s essencia.

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  • La gente shilica del Peru

    In Peru, as happens everywhere, people are often referred to by the region or place they come from, and just as often, a cluster of stereotypes accompanies our notion about that specific place. In Peru, for example, if you are from the Coast you are a “costeño”: sociable, vivacious, and worldly. If you are from the Andes, you are a “serrano”: naive, shy and credulous. If, finally, you are from the jungle you are perhaps a little lazy, but sensual and candid.

    I come from the Andes, so I am a “serrana”, and to some extent I respond well to the stereotypes assigned to that region. However, as nature abundantly demonstrates, each human being is a product of circumstances created not only by the geography, but by sub-regions and sub-cultures, by our genetic inheritance, and by the way we are raised within a family.

    My own history is no different. I can proudly tell you that I am a serrana, because I was born in the valley of Cajamarca, in the Northern Andes of Peru; but I also consider myself a “shilica”, because both of my parents were born in two small towns within the same peculiar province, situated east of Cajamarca, called Celendín. Any person who is born in the province of Celendín is known as a shilico (for the men) or shilica (for the women); and of course a shilico also carries its own bundle of stereotypes, a fact revealed by the different nicknames with which other Peruvians have long referred to them: “shilico, pata fria” (cold- or bare-footed shilicos), or “Judios Peruanos” (Peruvian Jews). There is a good deal of truth in the notion that there is a culture unique to the province of Celendín, for there are certain traits, ways in which we live and behave, that are not so unusually pronounced among the rest of our fellow Peruvians. Here are some of them:

    OUR ORIGINS All throughout my life, I was told that almost no indigenous people ever lived in the area of Celendín, and that Celendín was founded and populated by emigrants from Portugal and Spain who arrived by way of the Amazon River. Some believe that the people who came to live in Celendín were Jews expulsed from Portugal and Spain, who found a way to escape persecution by emigrating to South America, and in particular to Brazil. Some of them stayed in Brazil and others went further, navigating the Amazon until they reached the area of Celendín, an Andean valley that lies close to both the Marañon river and to the “ceja de montana” (the cloud forest).

    OUR NAMES The people who arrived in Celendín bore typical Portuguese and Spanish surnames: Rodriguez, Zegarra, Chavez, Zamora, Escalante, Horna, Silva, Pereira, Marín, Diaz, Aliaga. These surnames, perpetuated and interconnected by marriage, were and still are complemented with Biblical given names that shilico parents chose to give their children. The shilicos seemed to behave in a manner consistent with their religious heritage, whatever that once may have been: perhaps as children of Iberian Jewish families, who, coming from Portugal and Spain, defied distance and obstacles to eventually settle in Celendín. If you visit Celendín today, you will still find names such as Moises (Moses), Isaias (Isaiah), Jeremias (Jeremiah), Zacarias (Zachary), Emanuel (Emmanuel), José (Joseph), Samuel, Elias, David, Malaquias; and Esther, Raquel (Rachel), Dalila, Marta, María, Ruth, Magdalena (Magdalene), etc., all of them taken basically from the Old Testament. My father used to say in a funny way that we were direct descendents from the House of David, because it happened that my great-grandfather’s name was David, and my grandfather’s name was José.

    OUR FAITH AND VALUES I remember grandpa sitting early in the morning on the ”muro” (an adobe bench affixed to a wall of the patio) of his little house reading the Bible. He lived his faith, behaving according to the Good Book. Most of the shilicos were Catholic Christians (perhaps by this time converted) with a strong faith and a strong sense of justice. They loved, praised and memorialized those who were truthful, honest and hard workers. My grandpa hated people who were liars or stealers. He never spoke again to his first cousin, who was found stealing alfalfa from his neighbors. My father became a lawyer, and a good one in terms of honesty, compassion, and love for the truth and justice. OUR WAY OF LIFE: The people who came to Celendín were not wealthy people; they found a land ready and able for cultivating, enough to sustain themselves, and most of them became farmers. Each of the families had a small piece of land where they cultivated corn, potatoes, legumes, peppers, vegetables, and wheat. All of them had a small “corral” adjacent their house, in which they raised chickens, rabbits, “cuyes” (guinea pigs), and perhaps also a pig, a few sheep and a cow. My father used to say that in his family of eight children, never were they short of milk and eggs. Though in his opinion they were poor, yet he felt they ate like rich people. There was not a house in Celendín without an adobe oven built in the shape of a dome. Each week, a mother’s obligation was to make fresh bread. Lives were simple, and the spirit of sharing and saving was always, always present. They lived in a community where everybody had the same rights, and also the same obligations; nobody was more than the other, and really couldn’t be, because practically everybody was a relative, by blood or by marriage.

    OUR ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT AS MERCHANTS It is in the nature of a shilico to think deeply and to travel widely, and to do so without fear of the unknown, ready for and called by the challenges of a life so lived.

    Once the shilicos established themselves in Celendín, they discovered a profitable craft in the art of making straw hats. The straw they used (and still use) is called “paja toquilla” and it is a special straw of long and resistant fibers, found in the region of Chachapoyas, east of Celendín, on the cusp of the cloud forest. Working with paja toquilla they developed a technique for making what has since become their special craft, a tightly woven marvel of handiwork. Even today Celendin is well known for the quality of its “sombreros de paja” (straw hats). Upon discovering that people payed well for each hat, many shilicos became merchants. They traveled periodically selling hats nearby, but many times journeyed long distances. The probability of selling more hats, and claiming a better price for each, increased with the distance. The shilico merchants traveled not only through Peru, but through many parts of South America, especially in Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia. Some shilicos traveled to Europe, China, Australia, and other parts of the world, certainly to see these distant lands, but also to sell straw hats. They traveled over long periods, leaving as many loyal and hard working women at home, charged with caring for the domestic chores, including the education of their children.

    There are lots of jokes that illustrate this culture of journeying and trade. One of them mentions that the first astronauts that landed on the moon were received by shilicos who already were waiting for them, ready to sell their straw hats. On one of the walls of his, my great uncle had an old picture in sepia tones showing him with the Prince of Wales during a horse race in England. And there in the picture, the Prince of Wales is wearing a straw hat sold to him by my uncle.

    My maternal grandfather, together with his brothers and cousins, went to Iquitos in the far northeast of Peru and then to Manaos in Brazil. They traveled by mule, by boat and on foot, and usually they came home after one or more years, with enough money to build a better way of life. That money served to educate their children, and shilico people love and believe in education! My father used to say that the best investment that parents can make for their children is to give them a good education. With a good education, he said, they will never be poor, neither in body nor spirit. They will have enough food to nourish their bodies and books to nourish their souls.

    In Peru we associate the Jewish faith with movement and travek, with a way of life, or a matter of fortune, that takes the community constantly from place to place. A shilico merchant also traveled as a way of life, from place to place, and so, in the eyes of the rest of Peruvians, we were and are called “Peruvian Jews”.

    OUR SPIRIT OF THRIFT There are many jokes related to the way a shilico thinks and behaves. It is well known that if a shilico earns one “sol” (the name of our currency), half of the sol is for saving and the other is for spending. The shilicos live frugally, save a lot, work industriously to accomplish their goals, and many times are successful. There are many shilicos that emerged from a very modest economic situation to become excellent professionals, with important roles in our society. During their childhood, these same professionals walked in bare feet, and that is why people called them “shilico, pata fria” (cold footed shilico). And there is a familiar joke about a young shilico who one day decided to go from his small village to the capital city of the province. He dressed well, with a pair of new shoes. But since he needed to walk around 10 miles, he decided to save his new shoes and started walking in bare feet. It happened that halfway there he tripped on a stone and injured his toe – his nail was almost gone. But when he stopped in pain and saw the blood, he merely sighed and said to himself, with great relief, “Thank goodness I was not wearing my shoes.”

    I could continue writing pages; but for now, I hope these stories give glimpses of just who, what and how a shilico is.

    And here is yet another reason to go to Peru: to try on a new hat, crafted by hand in Celendín.

    Mama Doris.

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  • Green Empowerment "A Taste of Peru" Benefit Dinners

    Green Empowerment “A Taste of Peru” Benefit Dinners

    On. Monday, Feb. 8 and Tuesday, Feb. 9, Andina will once again partner with local non-profit Green Empowerment for “A Taste of Peru”, two annual benefit dinners hosted in Andina’s upstairs space, Tupai. The dinners will feature a five-course menu with specialty wine pairings for $150 per person. Proceeds benefit Green Empowerment’s efforts to empower communities with renewable energy and water techniques to alleviate poverty and improve the environment. Specifically, the funds will go toward Green Empowerment’s “Peru Community Energy Project”, which provides 10 communites in Cajamarca, Peru, owner Doris Rodriguez de Platt’s home town, with electricity using solar and micro hydro-powered systems. For tickets and more information, please contact Green Empowerment at 503.284.5774 or visit www.greenempowerment.org.

     

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  • Customer/Service Relations

    The relationship between customers and servers is an intriguing, ever-changing rapport. Those of you who have never worked in the service industry may snicker at such a remark, but after many years on the floors of restaurants, I’m still amazed at the repartee.

    Do you remember the character on the old Jackie Gleason show? I guess I’m dating myself here, but Joe the Bartender was his name, and he always had this wacky customer in the bar with his hat on sideways, Crazy Guggenheim. Joe would listen to all the ridiculous situations that Crazy had gotten himself into, and then would provide:
    1) a shoulder to cry on;
    2) an answer to the specific problem at hand or
    3) a general pat on the back, which, along with the liquor, would stiffen up Mr. Guggenheim’s spine.

    Let me assure you that these types of conversations are taking place today, basically everywhere in the world where restaurants and bars are open to the public. The only exception to this rule would coincide with an article I recently read about water.

    Not to lose track of the subject at hand, but it seems there are Water Sommeliers in our midst. Somewhere in the Big City, they are dispensing a diverse array of H2O to those who consider the endeavor meaningful. At the risk of offending the International Water Sommeliers Society, I find this ludicrous. Wrestlers bathe in it, shellfish replicate in it and W.C. Fields would dip his white-gloved fingers in it after belting back a shot. If it’s wet and cold it pretty much works for me, and I doubt if Crazy Guggenheim would have taken advice from guy that offered him bottled water.

    Anyway, let’s return to the theme. Good servers, meaning those blessed with the ability to judge character, are generally able to please, satiate and ever entertain the clientele that are seated before them. This is no small feat, especially in establishments that cater to high volume.

    I tend to use the “paint-me” approach, coming to the table free of pre-conceived notions. I consider myself a blank canvas and let the customer “paint me.” Reactions and recommendations are determined by the body language and stated desires of the client. I’ll never employ vino mumbo-jumbo like: “What a spectacular bouquet you’ll garnish from this bottle! This wine is imbued with aromas of violets, a hint of mint and zest of orange.” That’s wine trashtalk. I tell them what it tastes like, how it will pair with their what they’re eating and how much it costs. That’ll do the trick 90 percent of the time. We’ll discuss the other 10 percent later in a moment.

    But before that, I’d like to say a few words about The Regular. A top-class Regular is a veritable jewel. Just seeing them being seated will bring a smile to any server’s face. These are friendly folks, genuinely happy to be in the building and looking forward to a few hours respite. They’ll eat, drink, and even tip with a smile on their faces. When the practice of cloning becomes acceptable, I plan to ask for DNA samples.

    Then there is the aforementioned 10 percent. They arrive in the restaurants already unhappy, and are fully prepared for battle. It’s nearly impossible to turn their moods around, and dexterity is needed just to steer clear of conflict. My theory about this melancholy lot is that they’re somehow under stress. Maybe it’s their jobs, their spouses or family. Wherever the problem lies, the restaurant server can be an easy target for reactionary abuse. When I sense such a joust is imminent, I reinforce my focus and try to keep smiling throughout our meal together.

    The funny thing is that the professionals in this business rarely seem to tire of such interplay. Wear and tear and can occasionally bald the tires a bit, but we’ll be back again tomorrow, buffed up and striving to make sure that the time spent with us is quality time.

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  • Alto Peru—Green Empowerment in Action

    Alto Peru is one of the communities benefitting from Green Empowerment. Andina Restaurant Founder Peter Platt writes of his recent visit.

    Alto Peru is a small, indigenous community of no more than 100 inhabitants, located off a gravel mining road high in the Andean terrain north of Cajamarca, my mother’s home town. At this altitude of 11,000 ft (the town’s name literally translates as “high up, Peru”) the landscape has an austere and even harsh beauty – treeless, windswept, and pressed against the clouds and sky, like a gently heaving ocean of mountain. I had an opportunity to visit this remote site during my last trip to Peru in November, 2009. Thanks to the coordinating efforts of Anna Garwood, Green Empowerment’s rep in Cajamarca, I found myself one fine spring morning in a taxi seated next to two engineers, Peruvian and Spanish, along with their “kit” for the day – a robust new wind turbine and generator complete with mounting props and 3 ft blades. We rode for two hours into the northern expanse of mountain cradling the valley of Cajamarca, past the infamous Yanacocha Gold Mine (the world’s 2nd largest) and onto the road that runs up to Alto Peru and beyond, heading towards the next series of newly explored gold, silver and copper mines. We arrived mid-morning with the rest of the day to remove the broken generator and install the new turbine atop its mounting platform on a 15 meter steel tower. The weather was crisp and breezy, and the intermittent sun intense, but the work kept us warm enough as the engineers rigged rope and harness to muscle themselves aloft. The men of Alto Peru, fresh from the fields and fueled by an afternoon wad of coca (which we politely declined) used their weight to haul up the heavy generator, while I clambered between the two groups, passing along parts and tools and sharing in the playful and macho banter. By the time the afternoon wind kicked up, sending in the fog and cold, the blades were set and spinning, generating a flow of electricity to power the lights of Alto Peru.

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  • The Bug: Memories of 1985 Red Burgundies in New York

    I remember when I was originally stricken by The Bug. I had circled the periphery for years, nearly succumbing on a few occasions, but finances had prevented total immersion. When the 1985 Red Burgundies began arriving at Manhattan wine shops in force, it was the summer of 1987. As a member of an elite computer graphics team at Time Magazine, I was making more money than ever before. I worked a three-day, 36-hour week and had a full six weeks of vacation yearly. I had the time, the means, and after tasting those 1985s, I had The Bug.

    After The Bug bit, an energy never encountered before overcame me. Wine became a driving passion, a bit of a mania actually. I voraciously sponged up knowledge from books, magazines and newsletters. I was also lucky enough to be a regular member in a group of city professionals that got together at a Flatiron District loft about 10 times a year, under Steve Tanzer’s auspices. We tasted wines with a specific theme, tossed our comments around and Steve would glean what he wished and write about the wines in the upcoming issue of the International Wine Cellar.

    We were blown away by the purity of the 1985 Burgundies, which were soon followed by the Rhones, Bordeaux, and California Cabernets from the same year. After the many spotty (or worse) years that had proceeded, 1985 was the first year of uniform greatness I had encountered. My mission was clear. I needed lots of these superb bottles, pretty much right away.

    Monday was the weekly day of quest. With $300-400 in my pocket, I would search the city, from 96th St. down to the Village and back to my Chelsea apartment. The canvass would encompass eight or more shops, chosen with care. It would take about 6 hours or so, and nothing (snow, rain, gloom of night, etc.) could prevent me from completing my appointed rounds. Approximately two cases would be filled with individual bottles, all priced between $10 and $50, which got you a lot more back then.

    I would stagger through the crowded subways with my treasure and arrive home, filthy and panting. Spreading my booty out before me, I would rub my hands together, cackling like Midas seated before his gold. My girlfriend thought me completely insane.

    Only one or two of the better bottles would be drunk during the week, as I had to save these magnificent finds for the right time. That occurred once every month or so when a group of the similarly infected would gather and devour one after the other in a fashion not dissimilar to the Coneheads drinking their six-packs on Saturday Night Live. It wasn’t pretty, but it was fun. Ours was a mission of passion pure and noble. We weren’t searching for stocks or bonds to stash away. These weren’t bottles bound for future auction catalogs, but destined for the bottoms our bellies, accompanied by penne Bolognese. We’d eat, drink and fall asleep in heaps, like 17th century English squires, with our animals about us. I miss it.

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  • El tiempo de la Navidad en mi niñez

    Christmas and Epiphany are festivities very close to each other in the calendar of the Christian world. In between, there is a gap of only 12 days, a time we call “Tiempo de Navidad”—or what is commonly known here as the twelve days of Christmas. In Peru, we celebrate the birth of the Son of God at the midnight mass of “Noche Buena,” when Christmas Eve turns to Christmas Day; and we celebrate Epiphany (the arrival of the Three Kings from the East, bearing gifts for the swaddled babe), on the eve of Jan. 6, that is, at midnight of Jan. 5.

     

    Growing up in the Andes of Peru as a young Catholic, and now in my adulthood, living in the United States, both festivities continue to carry with them a cascade of emotions and a rainbow of vivid memories where colors, smells and flavors intertwine; my present experiences mingling with those of the past, very different in many ways. Sometimes it is difficult for me to reconcile these celebrations across very different worlds, times and cultures, but I have found something like a way that works: preserve at home, in the ways that I can, what I remember about those celebrations, and enrich them with what I am learning here.

     

    Following the spirit of the season—a spirit of giving, and of sharing—I want to share with our readers what I remember about the Christmases and Epiphanies of my past, because both are intimately related with each other, and together they represent a different world.

     

    CHRISTMAS IN MY PAST. The twelve days we had to celebrate Christmas was a time entirely dedicated to the joys of the life of the family. Parents and children, all schools and public offices, had vacations. Of course, mothers and fathers needed to do some work to sustain their kids, but everywhere there seemed to be a sense of festivity and anticipation for good days to come. Christmastime was a time to visit and to receive visits. Which meant homes were kept neat, tidy and beautiful. There were two reasons for this: first, because the Son of God was among us, in each house, and in each person that came to visit us; and second, because showing our best to all the friends and relatives that came to visit was the proper way to make them feel welcome. Mom needed to have her pantry full of alfajores, dulcecitos de maiz (corn-flour pastries), fresh cheese and always the cantaro of steaming hot chocolate ready to be served. Its aroma filled the whole house everyday during Christmastime. And everyday, children and grown-ups needed to dress nicely, and show good manners. Christmastime had its real joys, but also its obligations.

     

    We started to celebrate Christmas early on the morning of Dec. 24, with the construction of the Nativity and its surroundings. It was essential for each family to have a Nativity in their home. And all members of the family helped to build it, and the collective, collaborative dedication made for a thrilling time, especially for us children.

     

    At my home, we built our Nativity year after year on a table, in one corner of our small living room. We tried to recreate what we were told, by building a simple manger with eucalyptus sticks, at the foot of mountains made with craft paper, and stuck to the walls with “tachuelas” (thumb tacks). The rest of the surface of the table was covered with “musgo” (moss) that we bought for a few cents on the same morning of Dec. 24. In the center of the manger, we placed the figurine of baby Jesus lying down in a bed of straw; behind him we put the figurines of Joseph and Mary. Joseph was standing up in a vigilant attitude and Mary kneeling down and inclined toward Jesus, adoring and protecting him. On each side and very close to Jesus we put the figurines of a mule, and an ox, animals that kept Jesus warm with radiant warmth of their bodies close-by.

     

    Complementing our Nativity, and outside of the Manger, we placed the figurines of shepherds and their sheep. On top of the main mountain we stuck a star made with “papel de brillo plateado” (silvery shining paper), the star that had guided the shepherds and were leading the Three Wise Men, who were coming from distant lands to pay their respect to the Son of God. To recreate their journey, we placed the Wise Men far-away from the Nativity, on another table, at the other corner of the living room. We knew that day by day, one of us, by turn, under the supervision of Mom, would bring the Three Wise Men closer to the Nativity. We would do this through until midnight of January 5th, when we celebrated their arrival to Bethlehem. To finish our recreation of the story of Jesus’ birth, we placed in the middle of one of the mountains the figurine of an angel, trying as we could, with much distress, to make him appear as though he were looking down upon the shepherds. He was, after all, announcing to them that the Son of God was born. We needed to finish our Nativity before midnight, and when we had achieved what we set to accomplish, with strained necks and arms, a great sense of pride and joy invaded us: for now we were ready to celebrate “ La Noche Buena.”

     

    Noche Buena is the name we give to the night of Dec. 24, Christmas Eve. We were told that the Son of God was born at midnight of that day, and upon the occasion of his birth, that a rooster had sung, with its most beautiful “Quiquiriqui!”, announcing to all creatures the joy that come to pass. This story in turn illuminates another tradition: why all families, dressing in their best clothes, leave their houses as the midnight hour approaches to attend we call “Misa del Gallo” (The Rooster’s Mass), to rejoice together and to witness once more the birth of the Son of God in each of us. At midnight, the heavy bells of all seven churches of Cajamarca, each with their different sounds, would strike together in a concert of sounds that was music to our ears. The choir of children disguised as shepherds sung with all its strength—tambourines, cascabeles (hand bells) and our own thrumming hearts kept the rhythm and held the excitement of the moment. We really felt deep in our souls that love, happiness and peace were in ourselves and everywhere, and if God is Love, God was with us. The “Misa del Gallo” was magnificent! Full of mystery and magic! We returned home almost floating in the cold Andean air; and at home, another exciting event was fast approaching: the sharing of our Chocolate Navideño.

    Traveling back in my memory, I see with the eyes of my soul the immaculate white tablecloth that my mom used for special occasions only, the beautiful china that she kept locked away, to be shown only on rare occasions, as when, on that night, she arranged them exquisitely, in the way that only a mother could have known. A round plate found its place at the center of the table: it held the traditional Paneton. There was no such as Christmas or Epiphany without the Paneton. On either side of the Paneton were two small plates with slices of fresh cheese, made especially for the occasion; how eagerly and vividly we imagined the scene and sequence of dipping our cheese and delicious Paneton into our cup of piping hot chocolate. Around the table, at each seat, a beautiful cup awaited its honored guest, with its saucer and a shiny little spoon: all to receive the steaming chocolate that mom would soon be pouring, after stirring it vigorously to achieve the signature froth. She knew very well that her children loved it.

     

    I go to the past then, and I see my father, my grandmother, my two brothers, my sister and my mother: each of us with a full mouth, and a still more full heart, enjoying each bite, each sip, as all of our red faces, all of our shining eyes, and the animation of our conversation revealed the magic of Christmas Eve: the pleasure of being together, sharing together, eating together. Our souls and our hearts were full indeed of holy food.

     

    The following day was Christmas Day, a time when we visited others and received visits ourselves. We loved going to the homes of our neighbors and relatives, to see their nativity, to compare one tableaux with another, and all with our own. One of these Nativity arrangements became famous for many years. It was the Nativity of the Señoritas Becerra, aunts of my friend Maruja Castañeda. The Nativity was a huge affair: it filled all of their living room, and recreated the whole history of human kind. It had figurines placed in unbelievable settings. There was Paradise, with Adam and Eve, the serpent and the apple. We saw Moses and the two tablets with the Ten Commandments. There was the Roman Circus with gladiators, lions and Christians lined up to be killed. We saw Nerón with his harp, singing to a Rome in flames. We saw the Killing of the Innocents. And finally we saw the centerpiece of the Nativity, an extraordinary figurine of Jesus, the size of a real baby. (Joseph and Mary were smaller. Scenes of the city of Cajamarca itself were also displayed in this universal Nativity. We saw, quite well-represented, a bull fight, with a cheering public, bullfighters and ferocious figurines of bulls. We saw villagers coming down from the mountains, donkeys carrying alfalfa and potatoes; people of the city arranged in their different roles: shoe makers fixing tiny shoes, masons making tiny adobes, figurines of women working real dough, making diminutive bread rolls, and others taking freshly baked bread from rounded adobe ovens. Everything just like we saw in real life. And I saw much, much more, because there was much to see; but I will stop here, for otherwise I would write without end.

    To end the description of Christmastime in the Peru of my youth, I will tell you that during those twelve days we also visited each of the seven churches, comparing their Nativities and admiring the heights of technology that some of them displayed: like creating sunrises, sunsets and a sky full of stars over their nativities, utilizing only normal light bulbs, cardboards with tiny holes and switches.

    On the last day of Christmas, we celebrated Epiphany, a very especial day for us, the children. It was special because of the holy story in which we were involved: for if we behaved well, we knew that on the eve of Jan. 6, while we were sleeping, the Three Wise Men (the Three Magi, or Three Kings, as they are also known) would silently and mysteriously visit each of our houses, entering with their powers of magic and kindness, and place next to our polished shoes a small present. They couldn’t bring big presents, because they needed to give presents to all the children of the whole world. Some of them probably were not going to have receive a gift. So we were lucky if we did! I remembered that I wished from the bottom of my heart to have one that I would like. And the miracle happened! Early in the morning I saw a little round package: it was a ball, but not in the size I wanted. I had always loved and longed to have a real volleyball. I sighed. At least I had a ball, and maybe next year if I was a better child I could have the one that I wanted.

    And that was our Christmas time. Some from this country might wonder: Did we have a Christmas Tree? No, we didn’t have a Christmas tree. We didn’t know of their existence. Did children have many and huge presents to open on Christmas Day? No, children did not have lots of presents, and we never opened presents on Christmas Day. Did Santa Claus deliver presents through a chimney? No our house did not have a chimney and we did not know of Santa’s existence. Did parents and grown-ups open presents? Any child of Peru back then would laugh, knowing that parents were not children, and that only children were the ones to receive a gift, and that this gift came from the Three Wise Men, and that this was logical and, in a way, very beautiful, because they were wealthy, and saw in each small child, a unique baby Jesus.

     

    Unfortunately, in my mind, Christmastime in Peru has lost much of what made it so powerful in the past. Now many houses have Christmas trees, presents on Christmas days and we make false chimneys and fake snow for Santa to slide down and on which he can ride his sleigh. That is why I hold fast to the memories of Christmas, with the hopes that sharing it with all of you and with my children and the children of their children I am offering another perspective, another alternative to enjoying this precious time of giving.

    Have a wonderful Christmas with your family!

    Mama Doris.

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  • Ring in the new year Peruvian style, but don’t forget your suitcase

    After working an 8-hour shift last New Year’s Eve, I went upstairs to the bar in Tupai and had a glass of champagne. Then I had another. And another. Before I knew it, I was in a conga line snaking through Andina’s dining room and bar, amongst a mixture of guests, staff, musicians and a couple of people who I think had ventured in after seeing the joyous festivities through the window.

    Just minutes before, every diner and merrymaker at Andina had partaken in a Peruvian feast, as well as in a set of uniquely Peruvian New Year’s Eve traditions. They had: eaten 12 grapes (January, February, March…), enjoying one at a time on every chime of the clock striking midnight; walked around the block with empty suitcases in hand to promise joyful journeys in the year to come; and they had raised their glasses in an exuberant Champagne toast in honor, we suppose, of the year to come if not also of the year that had passed.

    Yellow is the color of choice at any Peruvian New Year’s party—it promises an auspicious year ahead. Don’t fret if you don’t own anything yellow. A yellow ribbon is included in the celebrations of the evening. Andina once again hosts its New Year’s Eve Champagne Dinner, which presents a 3-course prix fixe plus a half bottle of champagne or red wine per person. (Prices range and vary according to the drink of your choice.) Empty suitcases will be provided, though as there will be a limited supply, guests are welcome to BYOS (Bring Your Own Suitcase).

    Call Andina at 503.228.9535 to book your New Year’s reservation now! It’s a party you  don’t want to miss.

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  • Noviembre, mes para dar gracias

    As the Good Book and an American folk song say: “There is a season for all things that Life provides”, a season to laugh, a season to cry, a season to grow, a season to harvest.

    November, with its yellow and orange fields, where the wheat is no longer, but where squashes, pumpkins, and trees are showing off their autumn colors, is a season to harvest,  a season when the earth responds to all that human hands have placed in its care; and it is the season for us to give thanks for what we have received.

    At Andina, my family and I especially wish to echo what nature, human wisdom and Seeger’s lyrics speak of and celebrate in this season of harvest. We would like to give thanks for all that we have received and found in this beautiful part of the United States.

    A portion of our deep gratitude must, of course, lay with the fruits of the land, rivers and ocean of the Pacific Northwest. These have sustained for millennia a variety of crops and seafood of which we are merely one among every other of the most recent beneficiaries. Combined with the wonderful products that Andina sources directly from a remarkable community of farmers in Peru, Oregon’s local harvest contributes everything to the freshness and to the excellence of the food we prepare and present. In turn, we are thankful to each of our providers – to the local and Peruvian farmers and purveyors who daily (sometimes twice or three times daily!) respond to our requests, delivering the best of their products according to the high standards they have set for themselves.

    From the depth of our hearts, we give special thanks to all of our staff who day after day take such care, and make such efforts, to provide a unique experience for our guests. They are the heart of the restaurant. Their hard work, their energy, enthusiasm and genuine desire to provide for all guests, make Andina what it is: a place where our clients find special food  (wine and cocktails not to be forgotten) matched with extraordinary service.

    And finally, our thanks go to the people of Portland and beyond, who, since we opened our restaurant, have made us feel welcome. The loyalty and the appreciation that our clients show for our food and our service motivate all of us more than I can say. Andina hopes to reciprocate by each day finding ways to improve what we do.

    To all within the large and extended family of Andina (clients, staff, farmers, vendors), THANK YOU!  You are an essential reason and cause not only for our gratitude, but also for our continued enthusiasm and energy, as we on our part strive to nurture the animated conversation between two languages, two cultures, two lands.

    Happy Thanksgiving Day!
    Mama Doris.

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  • A Note from Andina’s founder, Peter Platt Rodriguez

    As we head into the Holiday season and a celebration of our regional bounty, the Andina family would like to seize the moment to focus on those less fortunate than ourselves for whom the season’s theme is not so much one of celebration as of getting by. These conflicting themes continue to play themselves out on a national scale, but our own local response says much about the character of our community and the commitment to our shared values.

    Together with friends and partners in the food industry, the inspired and inspiring President of New Seasons Markets, Lisa Sedlar (a good friend and lovely lady), is producing the annual Oregon Harvest Dinner to benefit the Oregon Food Bank on Nov. 7. The evening’s theme, “Under the Big Top,” promises to bridge the gap between feed and need in one hell of a party! Please indulge your sense of curiosity at their website. We look forward to seeing you there!

    Sincerely,
    Peter Platt Rodriguez

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  • Tupai Fall Performance Series showcases a more modern, edgy Peru

    Music has always been an integral part of Peruvian culture. From the development of the antara, the most advanced pre-Colombian instrument in the Americas, to ancient bone-flutes called pincollos and quenaquenas that were popularized during the Chavin period, and the dramatic qquepas or Conch-trumpets used primarily in battle or war ceremonies, Peruvians have a deep history of musical development and experimentation.

    When the Spanish conquered Peru in the 1500′s, they brought along strong European musical traditions, which according to Robert Stevenson’s The Music of Peru, “the Indians took immediately to.” No doubt that is hardly a complete assessment of the Peruvian Indian reaction to being colonized; however, the music of the Spanish conquistadors, whether by force or inertia, quickly became integrated into Peruvian culture. Banking on the popularity of the European music, Evangelist preachers further disseminated the conqueror’s culture by establishing music courses in native schools from Quito to Copacabana.

    Much like its food, the music of Peru has absorbed influences from the Spanish, African, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and other South American populations which are now as much a part of the country as its indigenous communities. “Mestizo” names someone of mixed Indian (i.e., American) and European descent, a term quickly developed and used throughout the Americas after the arrival of the Spanish. According to the Encyclopedia Britannicamestizos currently represent about one-third of the Peruvian population.

    Andina’s Bar Mestizo represents a modern mix of the native and the new seven nights a week, where performances range from the Latin-based fusion of Scott Head’s Musica Melodica, the allure of the bossanova ensemble SambaFeat, to Toshi Onizuka’s exhilarating guitar, percussion and bass ensemble. Though Andina is at its core a restaurant born of the Andean culture, it would not be accurate to showcase only Peruvian pan flutes – perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Peruvian folkloric culture. This would perpetuate a one-dimensional vision of Peru.

    The vivid photographs of Andean life that hang on Andina’s walls represent a thriving subsection of contemporary Peruvian culture.For those that have toured or lived in Peru, these brightly colored portraits flash familiar scenery. For those who have not, they call upon a collective nostalgia for tradition and simple living, for what we like to think of as authenticity. As comforting as these images may be—reminding us that life can be slower, that somewhere “the way it used to be” is still the way it is – they are, nonetheless, incomplete. Even in remote Andean regions, Peru is not a country untouched by civilization. As important as it is to Andina’s owner to represent her Cajamarcan roots, she knows it is just as important for Andina as a cultural conduit to showcase the multiplicity of cultural currents that exists in Peru today.

    Over the past six weeks that variety was put on display in the Tupai Fall Performance Series, which ended with a bleached blonde bang at Sunday night’s Pepe Raphael y Los Duendes show. The show began with three musicians gently riffing out a jazzy, wandering symphonic set and ended in a full-blown 9-piece Latin ensemble performing crowd favorites such as “Besame Mucho,” punctuated by the comedic ornaments of the irrepressible Raphael. Illuminated by a back-lit design wall that doubled as stage backdrop, the Fall Performance Series offered a fresh alternative to the nightly music in Bar Mestizo.

    And Tupai, an attractive combination of great acoustics, high ceilings, exposed brick walls with windows overlooking the Glisan St. treetops, and warm, design-conscious lighting, was an elegant and edgy setting for the series. From the European influence of the Stolen Sweets’ pre-war vocal jazz to the mixed Latin styles of Alfredo Muro’s guitar mastery and the subconscious creativity of Luciana Proaño’s performance art, the series asked audiences to depart from the feigned engagement often attached to dinner theater. Those looking for refined food and ambiance were pushed to expand their vision of Latin music and performance; those craving something experimental and avant-garde were comfortable bringing along less-than-adventurous friends or family. If Tupai is Andina’s chic younger sister, then the Performance Series was her interpretation of modern Latin art and music. She does not forgo the roots and influence of the Andean culture, but rather expands the very concept of it, to include the younger, edgier, even avant-garde, musical expressions that exist today in Peru.

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  • Noche de Vinos Latinos: Argentian/Chilean/Spanish Wine Dinner

    Monday, Nov. 9, 6:30 p.m.

    Andina Restaurant . Upstairs in Tupai

    $55 + gratuity—shared tapas and wines

    Reservations: 503.228.9535

    KEN COLLURA, WINE DIRECTOR

    There was a time, and not too long ago, when putting together a wine dinner featuring offerings solely from Argentina, Chile and Spain would have been a folly. People knew little about the wines from South America, other than that they tended to be inexpensive, full-bodied and rather rustic. As for Spain, Rioja was the most widely-recognized region of repute for table wines, as others such as Ribera del Duero and Priorato were just beginning to gain notoriety. All that has changed.

    With each passing day, the wines of Argentina and Chile are improving. This improvement has been dramatic, as rustic and alcoholic reds have been replaced with elegant, mid-weight and balanced wines of distinct quality. The comparable ratio of quality-to-price for New World wines is unequaled for the offerings from Argentina and Chile. The future bodes well, as it’s not just Malbec, Cabernet and Carmenere being bottled here. Bonarda and Syrah from Mendoza and Pinot Noir from Colchagua appear to have great upside potential, as anyone who attends this dinner will find out for themselves.

    Spain has moved so far ahead since the era of General Franco that the rearview mirror has blurred. Regions such as Jumilla, Calatayud and Bierzo are now commonly displayed on shelves throughout U.S. wine shops. Sure, Rioja and Ribera del Duero pretty much still lead the pack on the world’s wine stage, but there is so much more coming into the market: Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, La Mancha, Navarra. This country’s wines are an explorer’s paradise.

    So, if you’ve got nothing on your docket for Monday, Nov. 9, come to Andina’s beautiful upstairs event space and familiarize yourself with these cutting-edge wines. Kitchen Manager Hank Costello will be plating up both new and recognizable tapas (you won’t leave hungry), and DJ Malo (that’s me) will spin Caribbean and Latin sounds. Hope to see you there.

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  • What is comida criolla?

    Pick up a menu at most any Peruvian restaurant and youʼll see an entire section devoted to comida criolla. Andinaʼs interpretation of criollo cuisine includes anticucho de corazón, papas a la huancaína, and a variety of causas on the tapas menu, and a selection of rustic entrées such as seco a la norteña, arroz con pato, lomo saltado, locro serrano and ají de gallina. Understanding comida criolla as a culinary distinction requires a deeper look at the meaning of its root word criollo, which is Spanish for ʻcreole.ʼ

    A quick on-line search of ʻcreoleʼ reveals endless and varying definitions, because the term is used around the world. From Peru to the Philippines, from Louisiana to Sierra Leone: its connotation changes regionally. Simply put, ʻcreoleʼ signifies a racial or ethnic distinction arising from a synthesis of heritage, language, lifestyle and food. Due to the diverse politics surrounding its origin, natives of some countries wear the label proudly, while others consider it a nasty racial slur.

    In colonial Peru the label criollo originally was used to distinguish Peruvians born of a Spanish parent. In The Letter From Jamaica, Simón Bolívar says, “We creoles are neither Indian nor European, but a species in-between the legitimate owners of the country and the Spanish usurpers: in short, because we are Americans by birth and have inherited the rights of Europe, we have to dispute these with the countryʼs original inhabitants, while standing against the invasion of the usurpers; thus we find ourselves in a most extraordinary and complicated situation.”

    As a culinary byproduct of Spanish colonization, Peruʼs native populations were forced—or sometimes took the opportunity—to integrate different food crops and techniques into their cooking. A natural adaptation followed, blurring the lines between native and foreign cultures by way of cuisine. Influences included not only Spanish conquerors (who brought with them the culinary traditions of the Moorish culture), but their African slaves; waves of Chinese and Japanese immigrants that came to work on the railroad and coastal plantations; and a post-independence influx of Western Europeans. Today this mix of indigenous and foreign foods is known as comida criolla and is concentrated on the coastal and in the central regions of Peru, where the majority of the early immigrants had settled.

    Tracing the origin of Peruʼs criollo dishes is like following a trail of historical breadcrumbs. Before the Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro entered Peru in the 1520s, indigenous (and mainly highland) Peruvians existed mostly on squash, ají peppers, beans, avocados, maize and a wide variety of tubers, which included potatoes, yucca, yacón, and olluco, and the grain-like seed called quinoa. The Spaniards introduced modern European staples such wheat and barley, dairy products, citrus fruits, olives, oils and new meat like chicken, pork and lamb.

    The Spanish conquerors brought their African slaves. Often put to task in the kitchens of Limaʼs Spanish elite, the slaves introduced new flavors and styles into the Peruvian cuisine, drawing on their own deep traditions. With peanuts and yams, they created cau cau and tacu tacu—two now-popular throw-all-the-scraps-in dishes. Cau cau includes chopped tripe, potato, rice, ají, onion and spices, while tacu tacu can be as simple as a plate of seasoned beans and rice, sometimes topped with grilled steak or fried eggs and bananas. The African-Peruvians are also said to be the originators of anticucho de corazón, grilled beef heart kebobs, prepared with an inexpensive, delicious cut of meat, unwanted by the ruling class, but used to great effect by resourceful minds and hands. It is among the most popular of Peruvian street foods today.

    Peruvians continued to integrate as waves of Chinese and Japanese immigrants arrived. The Chinese-Peruvian fusion resulted in ʻchifa,ʼ a unique canon of Cantonese- based dishes that can be found in practically every bus station and at every street corner in Peru. Soy sauce and ginger were deeply infused into the national cuisine, which eventually bore one of Peruʼs most delicious and iconic dishes—lomo saltado. The strong Japanese contribution, as touched on in my May 2009 column, “Peruʼs Japanese,” was more conceptual and technical, influencing everything from fish preparation techniques to the popularization of cevicherias.

    By embracing the fusion of flavors and ingredients that poured into their country from around the world, Peruvians have made comida criolla their own. Hearty, flavorful, and light on frills, comida criolla has been refined over centuries of interpretation by Peruvians throughout the country and abroad, and is now considered Peruʼs traditional cuisine, its everyday food.

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  • Nuestra comida: Reflexiones acerca del seco de cordero

    One of Andinaʼs most popular dishes is the Seco de Cordero a la Norteña, a criollo dish (see Nina Lary’s article below) of braised lamb, white beans and rice, with origins in the north of Peru. The Northern cities of Cajamarca (my native town in the Andes) and Trujillo (the coastal city where I attended university) both claim to have the best seco. Both cities are close to my heart, and in fairness to each, I can say that Cajamarca has the best lamb seco and Trujillo has the best goat seco. Of course, of all seco recipes, I feel my grandmotherʼs is for sure the best.

    Before describing the qualities that comprise a good seco, there is an important anecdote that explains how this dish—like the story of the ugly duckling—became one of the most well-liked dishes on our menu:

    Six years ago, Andina first opened with our talented and gifted Peruvian chef, Emanuel Piqueras. He impressed all at Andina as well as the Portland community with a sophisticated menu that embellished traditional Peruvian dishes and created new dishes altogether, using native and often ancient Peruvian ingredients. Among these dishes some of the most eye-catching and savory were the arroz con calamares en su propia tinta (rice with calamari in its own ink), the beautiful causa morada (a causa of purple potato) and cebiche de mango verde. The distinct flavors and artistic presentations were and still are a delight to the eye and to the mouth of our guests, and pay homage to Emanuelʼs great artistic talent. Some months after opening, I approached Emanuel with the idea to complement our Novo-Peruvian menu with very traditional regional dishes, the most important to me being seco de cordero.

    “Dishes like the seco truly represent what our people eat, and what the home-cooks (i.e., mothers) love to prepare,” I said.

    After pausing for thought, he earnestly replied, “I am afraid that dishes like our seco will fare poorly on the menu weʼve created. Our most traditional dishes unfortunately lack beauty and sophistication.”

    “I know that,” I said, “but they have plenty of flavor, which not only draws attention away from a lack of beauty, but surprises and fulfills as well.”

    “We will try it,” he said, still with some reservation. “We will put it in our menu and see if people respond.”

    To tell you the truth, during the first months, there were few orders of the seco de cordero. I began to think it must be true, that “our guests prefer sophistication.” Gradually, though, we observed that while few guests ordered the seco, those who did would order it every time they came to Andina. Little by little, others were caught by the same enthusiasm of the first brave guests, and started to order seco just as religiously. Today, it is “vox populi” that our Seco a la Norteña is a rustic, extremely flavorful dish that countless numbers of our guests, Peruvian or not, love to eat. It is now one of the highest-selling dishes at Andina.

    Its popularity is not from its beauty, but instead is a direct result of the care and patience the preparation of the dish requires. At home, the cook (always the matron of the home) dedicates great time and attention in preparing seco for special family gatherings, birthdays, anniversaries, and days of festivity. At Andina, our seco requires literally a team of cooks who patiently take the lamb through its many stages throughout the day, faithfully following the recipe I inherited from my mother and grandmother.

    The recipe requires a very tender and flavorful lamb, a good guiso de frijoles (white bean stew), and well-cooked Peruvian rice. To tenderize the lamb, we marinate it overnight in a special sauce of peppers, garlic, onions and vinegar. I remember how my mother would massage each piece of lamb in the sauce before soaking all of them in the marinade. Early the following morning, she would slow-cook the marinated lamb in a second sauce of onions, garlic, peppers and a blend of cilantro and dark beer. The lamb would cook for hours, filling the kitchen with a delicious smell that also signaled when it was ready.

    Meanwhile, during the hours of its slow cooking, my mother would take advantage of the time: once she had put the lid on the pot of lamb, she completed her other duties without worries: taking her children to school, going to the market, returning home, sweeping and dusting the rooms until… the smell emerging from the pot indicated that the seco was ready. Our guiso de frijoles, also a criollo dish, is very simple, by contrast. We first soak the beans in cold water, then cook them slowly to avoid overcooking. We prepare a sauce with fresh flavorful olive oil, garlic, onions and herbs. Mixed with the cooked beans, the stew is brought to a boil again in order to maintain the flavor.

    Our Peruvian rice also requires fresh olive oil, garlic, and salt, and the exact ratio of rice to water to obtain the best flavor. The rice must be cooked slowly over a low heat.

    It is care, patience and love that makes our seco de cordero tasty and well-appreciated. These are conditions that are a necessity for the best Peruvian food. Just as my mother did at home, at Andina we serve our seco with salsa criolla, a combination of chilled onions, peppers, lemon juice and salt. Come to Andina and order our Seco a la Norteña. It will speak deliciously to your mouth and to your heart.

    See you there.

    Mama Doris.

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  • Zinfandel and Petite Sirah: Investigating the details and process of winemaking

    One of the first things I look for in any wine is typicity. Does the wine look, smell and taste like the place it comes from? In other words, a pinot noir from Burgundy shouldn’t be black in color and carry over 15 percent alcohol, nor should syrah from Paso Robles be pale and light, and ready to pair up with cucumber sandwiches. When I think of California reds, I want some boldness in the bottle. Nothing fills the bill for me more than Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, our country’s unique varietals.

    Some of our most compelling wines are made from these grapes, especially when labeled “old vines.” As a grapevine ages, it starts to produce fruit that tastes more serious, if less precocious. These vines yield fewer bunches, but what’s left tends toward the serious. Wines made from old vines (usually 40 years of age or more, sometimes over 100) are concentrated, yet elegant. It’s kind of difficult to describe. There seems to be an added element of intensity.

    ZINFANDEL
    Napa Zins look and taste quite different from their Sonoma counterparts, more often than not taking on a “cab”-like nose and texture. Those from Sonoma and other prominent regions such as Paso Robles, Mendocino and Amador seem more full-blown and richer, and can be packed with a distinct alcoholic punch. I like to pair rich Zins with grilled pork dishes, and I also find they work surprisingly well with breaded German veal schnitzel and spatzle or potato salad. Some favorites (always listed alphabetically): Bucklin (Old Hill bottling), Cline, Elyse (Morisoli Vineyard), Murphy-Goode (Liar’s Dice bottling), Newlan, Peachy Canyon, Renwood (especially the Grandpere bottling), Ravenswood Old Vines, Ridge, St. Francis and Seghesio.

    PETITE SIRAH
    Like its compatriot above, Petite Sirah was first planted in California in the 1880s. It was long thought to be a lesser Rhone varietal, Durif. Genetic tests have proved that it is not, without proving what it actually is. Inky in color and scented with black pepper, Petite Sirah has been the backbone for California generic reds since the 1960s. It has performed most consistently in the Russian River and Alexander Valleys in Sonoma, and in Mendocino’s interior valleys. Napa versions can be harder and less supple, taking 10+ years to lose their rough tannins. Favorites include Concannon, David Bruce, Fife, Guenoc, Lava Cap Reserve, Parducci, Rosenbloom, Stag’s Leap Winery and Trinitas.

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  • From the vineyard to your glass: Investigating the details and process of winemaking

    What is wine? How is it made? Since space is limited we’re going to go about this in a concise, step-by-step manner. A few details may be omitted, but they are primarily of the type that only the ultra-serious oenophile would know (or care) about anyway. The main processes will be reviewed, and we’ll strive not to get too technical. Good wine is really difficult to make. To get it right you need a proven grape variety, planted in accommodating soil, with the right exposure and favorable weather conditions. Then it takes a deft hand all through the harvest, a touchy fermentation process, and on to aging and bottling. And it demands the love and devotion that is necessary to create all great things. Wine is fermented grape juice. How it gets onto your table is as follows:

    1. Grapes
    Vineyard workers check the ripeness and health of the grapes throughout the summer, into the fall. They also choose the proper times to prune away extra bunches, in order to lower the yield. Higher quantity means less quality. An acceptable yield for a quality wine would be between 2-to-2½ tons per acre, or around 35-to-45 hectoliters per hectare. Vineyard areas in Europe are commonly expressed in hectares (1 hectare=2.47 acres), and yield in hectoliters per hectare (1 hectoliter=100 liters, or 26.4 gallons).

    2. Harvest
    The crucial decision of when to pick depends on the regular measurements of sugar and acid levels in the grapes. When the grapes are deemed to be ripe, they are picked. Picking is often done in the cool of night. It is accomplished either by hand, which means employing a team of pickers hired for the harvest, or by a machine that straddles the vine and shakes it, knocking the grapes onto a conveyor belt which shoots them into a hopper that will take them to the winery.

    3. Pressing and Fermentation
    Presses are used to extract juice from grapes (the pressed juice is known as “must”) either before fermentation, to make white wines, or after, in the production of reds. Fermentation is the process where sugar is transformed into alcohol, and by which grape juice becomes wine. It was once thought of as a natural phenomenon until Louis Pasteur discovered that the secretions of living yeasts ignited it. Most table wines have about 10 to 15 percent of alcohol after fermentation, and less than half a percent of sugar. Incidentally, all grape juice is white. The must from white grapes is separated from the residue of skins and stems (known as “lees”) after pressing and is therefore fermented with no skin contact. All red wines gain their color through maceration, where the juice and skins are allowed to ferment together, enabling the fermenting must to extract color, tannins and aromas from the skins. The time a red spends macerating depends on the style of wine being made. Are you still with us? Good. This may not be the most entertaining of articles, but I feel it’s important to get the nuts and bolts of the subject out there every now and then.

    4. Oak Aging
    White wines are clarified and cold stabilized directly after they have fermented. Those meant for early drinking (the grand majority) are then filtered, bottled and sent to the distributor. Others, such as some white Burgundies and California chardonnays, spend time in oak barrels before bottling. Almost all of the world’s great red wines see oak aging, whether it’s in new or used barrels. This is, once again, a time when the winemaker’s priorities come into play. Some demand new oak aromas in their wines, and lots of it. But most seek to balance wood nuances with their fruit. Over the last few decades, there has been a movement away from extended barrel aging, which can dry out a wine, toward a fresher style where fuller fruit is being emphasized.

    Although we haven’t even broached the subject of sparkling or fortified wines, sulfur dioxide, terroir (how soils and locations differ distinctly) or a half dozen others, at least the major components were discussed in some length. Hope we didn’t tire you with all these details.

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  • Conversations in song and dance: Five unique acts to take center stage in Tupai

    Beginning Sunday, October 4, Tupai will host a five-week Fall performance series. From Peruvian folk-dance to speakeasy supper club jazz, each show in the series seeks to transport guests to a distinct era or cultural destination. Rather than providing background music — or, as The Stolen Sweets’ Jen Bernard calls it, “sonically beautiful wallpaper” — these shows will be center stage.

    Avant Garde Improv
    Luciana Proaño, a dancer trained in Peruvian folk, modern, ballet and gymnastics, uses her body as art in motion. “I enter the space with no expectations and I dance,” she says. Proaño makes all of her intricate, often flamboyant costumes by hand and they help to take both artist and audience to another time and place. “My responsibility and my pleasure is to create an experience of intimate subconscious dialogue in the here and now,” says Proaño. “Very much like my cultural ancestors did in Ancient Peru.” Proaño’s dance unfolds in dramatic conversation with the music of JB Butler. “My husband composes the music in a jazz format as a point of departure,” Proaño says. “The artistry and proficiency of the musicians and their improvisations inspire me and a dialogue is created.”

    Speakeasy Glamour
    The Stolen SweetsPete Krebs Trio use the music of 1930s-era pre-war Jazz greats the Boswell Sisters, who Sweets’ singer Jen Bernard describes as “musical feminists of their time,” as an inspirational jumping-off point. But they always leave plenty of room for improvisation. With three female vocalists and a male 3-piece gypsy-jazz influenced rhythm section, The Stolen Sweets’ sound is gritty, harmonious and hard swinging. Bernard calls them the “Fleetwood Mac of early jazz.” The Sweets take their audiences to a bygone era of supper club speakeasies by dressing in full period clothing – and they encourage their audiences to do the same. “It’s more fun if people get era-specific,” says Bernard.

    Flamenco Fusion
    “In flamenco dance, improvisation is very important,” saysLaura Onizuka, dancer and owner of Portland Flamenco Events. Laura and her husband, self-taught guitar virtuosoToshi Onizuka, perform together several times a year: she dances flamenco, he plays his own unique brand of flamenco guitar, a fusion that is all his own. “Toshi thrives on improv,” she says. “He tunes into public energy.” The duo is excited to perform something less traditional than usual in their Tupai show. “It’s almost like a conversation,” says Laura. Fusing traditional flamenco with turns of improvisation based on the energetic connection between audience, dancer, and musicians, the set will incorporate Palmas – songs of rhythmic hand clapping – and an interactive rumba number to finish things off is not out of the question. “It all depends on the crowd,” she says.

    A Peruvian Classic
    After picking up his first guitar at age ten, Alfredo Muro went on to study with Peru’s guitar impresarios where he gained not only a technical education but a deep understanding of Peruvian folklore. In 2005, he was selected to represent Peru in the 16th Annual International Guitar Festival in his hometown of Lima. About the upcoming Tupai performance, Muro reflects that “it is a very special vision for me. It will allow me to bring and share not only the Peruvian culture but also a great variety of different musical expressions from South America.” Though his repertoire ranges from Bach to the Beatles, it is his South American roots and noted mastery of styles such as choro, samba, and bossanova that truly distinguish Muro’s music. He has been featured at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and played a “special audience” at the Vatican for Pope John Paul the Second. Performing in Tupai will allow Muro to return his beginnings. “As a musician you want to share with them [the audience] something that is unique: your roots.”

    The Triple Threat
    Pepe Raphael is a dynamo, and quite appropriately matched with Luciana Proaño as the series’ bookend artists. His background includes dancing with the National Ballet of Spain, Ballet Hispanico in New York City and Oregon Ballet Theater, acting in several made-for-TV movies, doing stand-up at Harvey’s Comedy Club, and performing with Pink Martini at Cannes. Though known for his 1950s Copacabana nightclub-style shows, Raphael will be debuting a new sound in Tupai – the world premiere of his new group, Duende. In Latin American mythology, the duende is an otherworldly goblin. But in an artistic vein the term is often used to express an intense yet intangible quality of passion. The Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca said: “I have heard an old master guitarist say: ‘Duende is not in the throat; duende surges up from the soles of the feet.’” What can we expect from the first appearance of Duende at Tupai? “If I had a crystal ball, I’d tell you,” says Raphael. “Bring a sense of humor and a big heart.”

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  • En ‘El Alumbre’ vimos los frutos de la generosidad de Oregon

    One of the highlights of our July trip to Peru was visiting El Alumbre, an indigenous community situated at approximately 10,000 feet above sea level. It is about two hours away from the city of Cajamarca, Peru, my native Andean home. My husband and I traveled with Anna Garwood, an energetic and very committed representative of Green Empowerment in Cajamarca. A Portland-based non-profit organization, Green Empowerment has, for several years running, hosted an annual benefit dinner at Andina to raise funds for Peru’s poorest indigenous citizens.

    Green Empowerment provides invaluable support to Peru. Volunteers, like Anna, work shoulder-to-shoulder with Soluciones Practicas, a Peruvian non-profit organization. Using their technical knowledge, skills and the funds they have raised, Soluciones Practicas and Green Empowerment bring sustainable energy programs to communities that are normally deprived of potable water and electricity. In some communities, they install small hydroelectric generators; in others, solar cells or windmills, depending on available natural resources, such as the presence of rivers, constant sun or wind.

    Once the service is provided, the whole community is then empowered to use, maintain and fix it. Green Empowerment and Soluciones Practicas teach the community how to install equipment, supervise its maintenance, and troubleshoot problems. They do what the ancient proverb says: If people are hungry, don’t merely give them fish; rather, teach them to fish as well, and they won’t be hungry any more.

    El Alumbre is one of the communities in Peru now blessed with electricity, thanks to the financial contributions made by the guests of Green Empowerment who dined at Andina this past February. Anna and members of Soluciones Practicas were able to use those funds to build windmills strategically placed at the summit of El Alumbre, taking advantage of the strong wind that constantly blows upon the village. These windmills now generate enough electricity to illuminate the elementary school, homes and a humble room that serves as a health center.

    We saw with our own eyes the windmills in action shining under the sun in the beautiful deep blue of the Andean sky. In one corner of the Health Center, the transformer and the batteries convert the power of the wind into real electricity. We couldn’t believe it; before us, the transformation was taking place! Now the electricity illuminated the room through a light bulb, and cooled a small refrigerator to safely store vaccines and antibiotics. Never before was this possible. As we talked with the medical assistant visiting the community that day, we realized that electricity was starting to change the life of the entire community for the better.

    Now the sick and injured of Alumbre don’t need to travel to the city for help, but instead are provided with medicine and in-home medical assistance. Premature deaths, of both children and adults, also can be prevented. School meetings and evening classes for parents after work also will be possible. Light illuminates their present and their future.

    In the name of El Alumbre’s community, I want to express the deepest gratitude to all the people here in Oregon who made this marvel happen: the people of Alumbre are enjoying the benefits of their own source of energy, the wind.

    In particular, this thanks goes first to Green Empowerment and their guests: their generosity brought Anna Garwood to Alumbre to help organize the community. In conjunction with her hard work and commitment, the Peruvian technicians from Soluciones Practicas could help empower the community with the proper skills to utilize its existing resources. We saw in the faces and hearts of the people of the Alumbre, who now believe in the power of teamwork, their own knowledge and the experience gained in working with their instructors. Most importantly, they believe in the power to manage and sustain their own energy sources, and that much more within their own lives. Thank you again to Portland and its wonderful spirit. In Alumbre, we saw the fruits of great generosity.

    Mama Doris

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  • Behind the line: One hot Saturday night at Andina

    As I worked through the 9 p.m. reservations on a record-breakingly hot Saturday night in August, a petite redhead without a reservation and her teenage son waited patiently for a table. They sat for 20 minutes and watched as servers, food runners, bussers and managers flew gracefully down the line, lifting plates for delivery, weaving around one another with a seemingly choreographed ease.

    When she started slowly shaking her head back and forth, I was sure her patience had worn thin.

    It was a hot, sticky, uncomfortable night and people were especially agitated – unable to escape the heat and practically screeching for something cold to drink. The A/C was pumping full blast, but with hundreds of bodies in the house and triple-digit weather outside, it hardly made a dent.

    “Is something wrong?” I asked.

    “It’s incredible,” she said.

    “What’s that?”

    “Watching all the staff move through the kitchen,” she said. “There are so many of you. It’s unbelievable that no one runs into each other.”

    Anyone who’s worked in a restaurant knows that a certain level of grace, in both the kitchen (back of the house) and dining room (front of the house), is requisite. After days, months, or years of turning the same blind corner anticipating the tray of filled-to-the-brim cocktails that may be waiting on the other side, you begin to sense when someone is around the bend and step aside instinctively. There are “rules” for yielding (guests always have right-of-way, then in descending order: hot food, food, overflowing cocktails trays, cute girls, and so on). Some staff even adheres to standard rules of auto traffic: stay to the right on a two-way street.

    The flow of a restaurant is choreographed chaos, but like the best of dances it appears effortless. When it works perfectly, the movement of customer to table, server to customer, order to kitchen, food to server, food to customer, food to belly and all those little trips in between flows seamlessly because it’s all a part of one complete action. And the nucleus of that action, often times hidden from diners, is in the kitchen.

    At Andina, this nightly recital is open to the public. Anyone can lean over the railing and observe the combination of grace and brute endurance necessary to serve over a thousand people each weekend. Several cooks navigate the long narrow space, each on a station (sauté, grill, cold appetizers, pastry, etc.) working, talking, syncing up their contributions to each ticket. It’s hot, loud, busy, tight quarters, with flames ripping across the range and the spicy smoke of aji peppers seeping into the air.

    From her perch on the bench, waiting patiently for a table, my petite guest and her son didn’t have quite the right angle. It was hard for them to see that the kitchen was not only as graceful as the service staff, but their fingers moved faster. And their house? Well, it was hot as hell. If the front-of-the-house thrives on grace in motion, the kitchen demands grace under fire.

    “Your job is hard,” line cook Oscar Martinez said, as he had peered over my shoulder to check out the reservations that night before dinner service.

    “My job?” I said. “No. You’re crazy. Your job is hard.”

    “Nah,” he shrugged, unfazed by the 250 people we had on the books that night. For him and for cooks all over Portland, last month’s 104-degree Saturday was just another night on the line. “But you,” he said. “You have to talk to all those people.”

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  • Assessing and grading wine

    As a professional wine buyer, I see lots of printed material about wines that are available for sale in our market. It sometimes comes in the form of a solicitation, wherein we are informed how an important publication, who’s business it is to dictate such things, has given these wines high ratings.

    As I peruse the pricelists, I’ve found myself paying less attention than ever before to those ratings. Oh, I’m fully aware of the abilities of the tasters that gauge these wines. I’m also cognizant of how their comments influence the marketplace. Without a doubt, the prices that some wineries feel compelled to charge are directly affected by the points their wines garnish.

    But I admit I’m a bit graded-out. The fact is that today too many folks, both at the consumer and professional level, are relying on the perceived ability of others to help them make their wine buying decisions.

    A typical wine listed for sale will probably look something like this:

    2007 John Smith Cellars Broken Vessel Shiraz, South Australia. $24.95. (92) WB, (90) VZO, (89) WH.

    These symbols simply state that, on a scale of 50-to-100, the shiraz was rated 92 points in the newsletter published by the Wine Buddah, 90 points in VinoZen Online, and 89 points in Wine Honcho Magazine.

    In the last few years, certain publications have even taken to grading things beyond their immediate spheres.  I get a big kick from this. They grade things like, say, hotels in Rome. I can just envision the breakdown now:

    Hotel Pastafazool: The bathroom graded an overall (90). The doorknob (87) was difficult to grip, but the mirror (92) was large and three-sided, allowing you to see the back of your head.  The shower curtain (82) was an unappealing mustard-color, but the showerhead itself was powerful and had three speeds (96+), although the water tended to run down the side of tub and pool on the floor (84).

    How can we give numerical scores to arbitrary things, such as locations or views from a balcony? People perceive things in different ways, and I’ve always believed in letting life experiences determine my assessments of quality.

    Gaining the ability to judge wine without outside influence is less taxing than it might seem. About three-quarters of the wines placed in front of you can be accurately assessed without ever having tasted them. The color and the nose usually give up the truth. Here’s what to look for:

    How does it look?
    Is it bright and vivid as it moves around in the glass, or does it look flat? Does it have “legs” (glycerin streams that move down the sides of the glass after swirling)? Is the color right? Pinot noir should never look like petite sirah, or vice versa.

    How does it smell?
    Does the fruit leap out at you, or is it reserved? Aggressive fruit in a new release usually indicates that it will drink well young, while a reserved nose may signify that the wine needs more time in the cellar to show its stuff.

    What does it taste like?
    Is the wine balanced? In other words, are the fruits, acids and tannins and alcohol in unison? Does the wine taste like the grape (or region) listed on the label? Try to avoid those that are aberrational or “international” in their flavors. When I buy a sangiovese, I want it to taste like sangiovese, not a cabernet or a zinfandel.

    All of this is pretty basic and has been addressed before, but I feel it needs reiteration once in awhile. Once you’ve developed confidence in your assessments, you’ll be drinking what you like and those magazine ratings will take on a less significant role in your purchases.

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  • Más acerca de Arequipa: Su deliciosa comida

    Another pleasure we had on our visit to Arequipa, Peru was its food. Arequipa is famous for its picanterias, or popular places to go on Sundays after Mass or after any social events. Arequipeños are very proud people, and now I know why. Not only is Arequipa a beautiful place with rich cultural heritage, but it also possesses one of the best traditional foods of the South. During the few days we spent there, we enjoyed some of its famous dishes, such as rocoto relleno. Our mouths still water when we remember the cheese melting in our mouths and the special flavor of the rocoto with the stuffing.

    We also had an Arequipa staple, ocopa, a dish where the flavor of the huacatay, an aromatic herb, is combined perfectly with peanuts and ají mirasol in a delicious sauce. The sauce is then served atop sliced potatoes and marinated shrimp, and garnished with our typical aceitunas de botija (olives) and a sliced hard-boiled egg. Arequipa is also famed for its adobo, or tender pork stew, which is marinated in a special sauce. According to Arequipeños, the best adobo is in the beautiful town of Caima, which lies on the outskirts of Arequipa.

    Caima is well-known for both having the oldest colonial church of the region, and for hosting Simon Bolivar, El Libertador (The Liberator), during his long journey for the independence of South America. We visited his austere and simple room in the small convent, which is adjacent to the little famous church.

    While Caima’s history is rich, the real reason why we visited was the adobo. What an experience! Following tradition, at 9 a.m. on Sunday, we attended Mass at the little famous church with a crowd of believers who we suspected came to Caima, like us, for its adobo. After Mass, everyone strolled past several picanterias surrounding the church. The crowd was tempted by each of the owners who invited us to eat “the best adobo in town.” It was hard to pass each by without responding until we found one that attracted our attention. An elderly lady sat in front of the door with a clay pot over an open fire. She was stirring steaming adobo with a wooden spoon, and its delightful smell convinced us to enter. The picanteria was one big room, surrounded by adobe walls painted white. There were four long rustic tables covered with plastic tablecloths with benches on either side. The centerpiece was ají de rocoto, a traditional hot pepper sauce that enhances much of Peruvian cuisine.

    The adobo was superb – simple and delicious. The pork was tender, and the marinade was just the right combination of peppers, garlic, onions, vinegar and herbs. The dish was generously served with the famous pan de tres puntas (a traditional Arequipa homemade, triangle-shaped bread), and an aromatic cup of té de anis (an infusion of anis seed), known for its digestive traits. We needed it. Adobo was the only meal we had for the whole day, completely satisfying our craving for food. Both our bodies and souls felt fully-nourished.

    For all of our experiences related to Arequipa’s traditional food, we agree, and give faith about what the Arequipeños say. Their food is exquisite!

    Back in Portland at Andina, we are proud to present some of Arequipa’s famous dishes on the menu. In our adobo de cerdo, the pork is marinated in the traditional fashion of the adobo arequipeño with a more sophisticated presentation. Our ocopa sauce is made with the traditional Arequipan recipe, but instead served with our anticuchos. As a part of our mission, we plan to bring more Arequipan dishes to Portland so people may experience Peru through our food. Visit Andina for a glimpse of Arequipa before you decide to go.

    Mama Doris

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  • Weaving to live, weaving for life: Bridging the generation gap through ancient Andean art

    High above Cusco, Peru, in an area called the Sacred Valley, sits a cluster of Quechua villages steeped in a rich tradition of textile weaving. For over two thousand years, textiles have been used by the Quechua, Peru’s indigenous people, not only to make a living, but also to illustrate the geography and history of their land and to record and pass on cultural and personal narratives.

    Nilda Callanaupa is a master weaver and native of Chincero, one of the valley’s strongest remaining weaving villages. Growing up in the 70s, she learned to spin yarn from her grandmothers at five years old; at six years, she was weaving patterns; and by adolescence she was creating expert belts and mantas, like the one hanging on the wall to your right as you enter Mestizo, Andina’s bar.

    Like her ancestors, much of Callanaupa’s identity was woven into her textiles. But she noticed her peers didn’t exactly feel the same way. Most of her generation had lost interest in weaving while those who were practicing were working with acrylic yarn and artificial dyes to quickly and cheaply make and sell pieces to tourists, instead of using the hand spun and naturally-dyed llama, alpaca and sheep wools that their ancestors had used.

    Each weaving village uses unique patterns and techniques. Because the Quechua culture is primarily an oral one, very little of this ancient knowledge has been recorded. As village elders passed away without Callanaupa’s generation around to absorb the knowledge, it was at risk of being lost forever.

    Callanaupa began traveling throughout the region to collect textile samples and interview village elders. In her own village, Chincero, she started an informal weekly group, which met to weave and exchange techniques. Her individual act of preservation, begun almost 30 years ago, has since blossomed into a globally supported vision: the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco (CTTC), which houses a weaving workshop, product showroom and a small, detailed museum on Quechua weaving and culture.

    CTTC supports Andean highland weaving traditions by bringing women and men from surrounding villages together to weave, share techniques and sell their work at the prices it deserves. Weaving traditions are passed onto the next generation through the Jakima Club, a program that pairs elder weavers with young women. Named after the thin woven bands that Quechua children learn to make when they first start weaving, The Club encourages children to get involved by hosting themed weaving competitions. Through another program in Chincero, children interview elder weavers, hearing first-hand how and why weaving is important to their futures.

    By transforming a dying art into a source of income for many rural families, Callanaupa has helped to preserve an ancient cultural heritage and offered a sense of independence to the local weavers who no longer have to work with middlemen to sell their goods. But perhaps most importantly, she has helped to re-engage a generation of young weavers who no longer feel compelled to leave behind their villages and traditional ways of life.

    For more information, visit http://www.incas.org.

     

    Encuentro de Tejedores de las Américas

    This October, CTTC will host the first Encuentro de Tejedores de las Américas, or Gathering of Weavers of the Americas, at Cusco’s Municipal Convention Center. The gathering will bring weavers from all over the Americas together to weave, exchange knowledge and build fellowship. For more information, visit http://www.textilescusco.org/.

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  • Nuestro viaje a Arequipa

    Not so long ago, after visiting our family in Cajamarca, Peru, my oldest son and I traveled by bus south to Arequipa; first from Cajamarca to Lima (~750 km), and then from Lima to Arequipa (~800 km), covering approximately 1,550 km on the road while spending many, many hours among mountains and deserts. Between Lima and Arequipa, we stopped in Nazca (440 km south of Lima) to see one of the wonders of our Peru, the mysterious Nazca Lines. Surprisingly few people know about these beautiful, gigantic rocky sand drawings made 2,000 years ago by the pre-Incan Nazca culture. You must fly over them to capture their beauty and magnificence. We flew, we saw them, and we were fascinated by the view and mystery that surrounds them — how and why these drawings were made. The questions will remain within us forever.

    Our lengthy trip from Nazca to Arequipa (~360 km) was interrupted by a few coastal towns. The monotony of the arid dessert continued until midnight, when we reached Arequipa. This was my son’s first time, but for me, I wanted to go back together to rediscover the richness and the beauty of that region. One of the most beautiful colonial cities in southern Peru, Arequipa is also one of the most progressive and intellectual. Strolling the streets, you feel the energy of its people; see beautiful colonial and modern buildings: periodical stands, libraries, churches, mansions, parks and the main square with its famous arcades.

    One popular legend has that Arequipa was founded on one of the Inca Mayta Capac’s journeys. He entered the valley and was so impressed by its beauty and fertility that he announced, in Quechua, “Ariquipay,” meaning “Yes, here we stop.” The city was named Arequipa, and he and his entourage inhabited its valley. Later in 1541, the King of Spain granted the city with the title of “Most noble, most loyal and faithful City of the beautiful valley of Arequipa.” Consequently, some of the most beautiful colonial architecture in the country lives in Arequipa.

    Often called La Cuidad Blanca (“The White City”), Arequipa was built with sillar, a whitish volcanic rock from El Misti, the still-active volcano that overlooks the city much like Mt. Hood does Portland. El Misti smokes most of the year, periodically generating small tremors that the Arequipeños consider normal. The changing size of the cap of snow atop the volcano is said to affect the mood of the Arequipeños. When an Arequipeño becomes moody, uneasy or irritable, we say that he is with the nevada (snows). Immediately we know the cause: The snow cap size has increased. True or false, it is a popular belief.

    El Monasterio de Santa Catalina, a convent of cloister nuns founded during the 16th Century, is one of the most impressive monuments. Nobody knew what this convent kept inside its walls until 1970 when it opened its doors. Now people can see and appreciate all the treasure and beauty that this convent once kept secret. As soon as my son and I entered, we felt that we were on a trip to 400 hundred years past, when Peru was still under strong Spanish influence. The interior was surrounded by arcades with their central fountain and running water. The little houses (nuns’ cells) were aligned in beautiful streets with names like calle Sevilla, Granada and Cordoba. Red geraniums decorated their exteriors. Our delight and amusement continued when we visited the little houses — nuns of those times lived well! Each house was fully-furnished, with spaces for prayer, rest, sleeping, cooking and a small room for the maid that usually accompanied each nun. I really enjoyed their tiny patios, rustic small kitchens, and utensils: ceramic pots and delicious, ready-to-bake pastries in a gracious oven shaped like a dome.

    Seeing in person the absence of street noise, thick adobe walls with high ceilings, soothing sound of fountains, plus the smell of old wood and leather made us appreciate the art that represented these things even more. Belonging to the Convent church and the Library, the colonial paintings and sculptures are now a part of the National Art Treasure of Peru.

    If you would like to learn more about the Convent, visithttp://www.santacatalina.org.pe/
    Mama Doris

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  • Setting the record straight

    I remember the day I first fell in love with Pinot Noir. I had just moved to France and was living in Nice on the Mediterranean. Although I had grown up around wine (my Sicilian grandfather made his own), I was only about 22 years old and a favorite pairing at the time was Hostess Cupcakes — the one with the white squiggle down the middle — and milk. My girlfriend, however, was older and wiser, and she pointed out the enlightened paths during this period of my evolvement.

    The wine epiphany took place at a bistro on the Moyen Corniche in the hills above Nice. I can recall everything on the table that day: grilled — not fried — calamari, butterflied on a skewer and a glass of crisp Rosé. This was followed by a filet of local fish in a beurre blanc sauce, pomme frites with aioli and a fresh green salad to finish. The wine she chose to accompany this beautiful meal was Volnay. It was a jolting introduction to Pinot Noir, and it blew me away. All the tastebuds on my palate stood up and said, “Boys, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Light, elegant and fruity, the Burgundy elevated the food like no other wine I had yet tasted. I was hooked.

    What that meal — and many others that followed — served to establish was a correlation in my mind between lighter, fresher styles of food and Pinot Noir. Over the years, this relationship has never wavered. Which brings us to the subject at hand.

    I’ve recently read reviews regarding the 2007 Oregon Pinot Noirs, most of which are in the marketplace now. These reviews were gleaned from a number of publications, both local and national, and are well known to the readers of the Oregon Wine Press. And here are some of the things they said: pale; thin; somewhat insipid; lacking stuffing and, most to the point, a vintage to skip. Stand back folks, as I plan to rant a bit here.

    What the 2007 Oregon Pinot Noirs ARE NOT: huge, opaque, fat, lush, sappy, powerful or overripe.

    What the 2007 Oregon Pinot Noirs ARE: bright, finesse-driven with good acidity, fresh, light-to-mid-weight and food-friendly.

    The ham-fisted table-thumpers who seek Syrah in their Pinots will be disappointed. The ’07s will not pair well with steaks and chops. However, they will marry happily with the dishes that Pinot from vintages such as this one have always paired well: fish, chicken, veggies and salads. What’s wrong with Pinot that looks, smells and tastes like Pinot?

    Having personally tasted about 75 different 2007s, I believe I have this vintage pegged now. The wines are high-toned and snappy, with colors that remind me of Oregon Pinots from the 90s — i.e., correct color and weight in the glass, but not black and over-extracted. Aromas are generally understated and clean, with some sour — or “pie” — cherry top-notes. The grand majority exhibits a beautiful dexterity at table, a trait that makes us sommeliers smile.

    Wine is meant as an accompaniment for food, something to elevate the dish being served to a higher level. When a wine becomes the focal point of a meal, things have gone awry. These “wines with bolts in their neck” tend to trample the flavors of a meal with displays of their bravado.

    We need years like 2007 to offset powerhouse vintages like ’03 and ’06. Sure, this was a difficult vintage to navigate, but after discussions with dozens of winemakers and other professionals in the business, the assessment seems to be unanimous. Everybody who works on a daily basis with this product feels the 07s are clean, happy wines meant for fairly early consumption.

    So this summer, let’s cool them down and crack them open with the bounties that Oregon summers provide. And possibly move those negative reviews to the bottom of the birdcage where they may have a more applicable use.

    This commentary piece was originally run in the Oregon Wine Press, and was reprinted with permission.

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  • Nuestros postres y los conventos: Una vieja tradición del Perú

    In June my husband and I will travel to Cajamarca, my native town in the northern Andes of Peru. It is the fifth anniversary of my father’s death, and my family, closest relatives and friends, will visit his grave, carrying flowers symbolizing our gratitude for his life. In one of the city churches, a special Mass will be held in his memory: it will be our time to pray for his soul and to ask for his blessings.

    At the close of the day’s rites of homage and remembrance, family, relatives and friends traditionally gather in the home of the closest relative; in this case, my father’s widow. We will share and celebrate good memories of his life. Stories and anecdotes about my father will come and go — many humorous, all meaningful — and by virtue of what we share that day, his memory will be kept alive in our heart and in our lives.

    Of course, nothing can be done in that reunion without a table or two around which to gather, and food and drink with which to animate our spirits and senses. After a delicious meal traditionally prepared at home, the hosts will serve dessert. For this occasion, we are planning to ask the cloister nuns of the Convent of Sta. Clara (which has existed in Cajamarca since the 16th C.) to prepare typical Peruvian delicacies: desserts and cookies including guargueros, suspiros, alfajores and galletitas de maíz. Following the main meal we will offer such sweets to our guests, together with a cup of fresh and aromatic coffee made at home. It is common knowledge in Peru that there can be no better desserts than those that the Convents prepare. Serving them at home, we are above all honoring the occasion and giving thanks to our guests; we are also participating in a tradition at least as old as the cloistered life of imperial Spain.

    What I have learned about the origins and development of this unique tradition has come in part from anecdotes recounted throughout my youth, and in part, from literatures regarding our history — from texts as various as cookbooks and picaresque narratives.

    In Peru the tradition laid its first foundations during the Colonial era. In the 300 years from the 16th C. to the beginning of the 19th C., the Spanish Viceroyalty, with Lima as its capital, attracted many wealthy Spaniards and Old World families; a country of balmy weather, and rich in land, food, gold and silver, Peru had its appeals. Aristocratic families established themselves throughout the country, to the north, south, and east of Lima. Among the great colonial centers outside of Lima, there were the Andean cities of Cuzco, Arequipa, Cajamarca, and Ayacucho, and the coastal city of Trujillo.

    Women of those wealthy families enjoyed the services of personal attendants, who were responsible for all but a choice few of the domestic chores. In what seems to have been a carry-over from the disciplines and leisurely pursuits of their Old World milieu, many of the women of this new aristocracy competed among themselves in the arts of embroidery and of making desserts.

    In his famous book “Tradiciones Peruanas,” the wonderful storyteller Ricardo Palma describes those fierce competitions, where each lady in her turn sought to impress the others by presenting increasingly sophisticated desserts. They anxiously appealed for recipes, guidance and help from those friends and family still living in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. Over time, successful novelties became celebrated traditions, and a veritable recipe book of Peruvian desserts compiled itself out of this competitive form of cultural and culinary exchange. That is why most of our desserts, until now, are so manifestly European; from the Old World, we took techniques and sophistication, and at times added new ingredients and inspired creativity.

    Yet the story continues. Arranged marriages for the daughters of wealthy families were not uncommon. For some young ladies who either did not want to marry, or did not care for their parents’ arrangement, the only alternative was to enter the cloistered life. With them they took their personal servant, their belongings, their utensils, their traditions, and they established a home within the walls of the Convent. Time outside of spiritual duties was often given over to the skills and practices they had learned in their youth: perhaps first among these were those arts of embroidering and making desserts. Little by little, many convents in Peru were recognized and celebrated for their fine embroideries, but above all, for their fine and sophisticated desserts. And today, what once was new to Convent life has become a part of it: in certain Convents, nuns of all ages and spiritual stages dedicate part of their time to making delicious desserts, for sale to an eager and appreciative community.

    If you travel to Peru and to one of the colonial cities, visit the Convent that makes desserts, and try some. They are delicious! For those nearer to home, come to Andina, where you can enjoy a number of the same desserts: alfajorestorta de chocolate con canela,mousse de lucuma, and flan de queso. For special events we also make guargueros, ponderaciones andmazamorra morada.

    Have a sweet June!
    Mama Doris

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  • Spring Vintage Chart: The best red vintages from 1994-2007

    One of the most popular pieces of information you can get from the wine media, at least from the standpoint of repeat usage, is the vintage chart. We plan to put out a revised vintage chart twice each year (spring and fall), featuring the latest and greatest.

    Our chart is solely for red wines, and this time around covers the years 1994-2007. The notes are for bottled and distributed wines only, not barrel samples. The chart assesses major wine-producing regions, and judges vintages according to the following categories: Best, Really Good, Pretty Good, Just OK. We also occasionally indicate Overrated or Underrated. As always, please remember this is general information and open to interpretation.

    P.S.: The last few times we ran the vintage chart, I mentioned that I was thinking about putting out a chart for white wines as well. Shoot us an email if this idea intrigues you, and we’ll set about putting it in motion.

    CALIFORNIA CABERNET

    Best: 1994. Great wines that will age seamlessly for many years to come.
    Really Good: 2004, 2002, 2001, 1999, 1997.
    Pretty Good: 2006, 2005, 1996, 1995.
    Just OK: 2003, 2000, 1998.
    Overrated: 1997. They are juicy and friendly, but are already drinking really well right now, so I don’t foresee a great aging curve. They will rarely outlive the 1994s.
    Not tasted yet: 2007.

    BORDEAUX

    (Right Bank: St. Emilion and Pomerol. Left Bank: Medoc.)
    Best: 1998 (Right Bank). Memorable merlot from St.-Emilion, getting better each year. 1996 (Left Bank), gorgeous cabernet from the Medoc. Nowhere near reaching its apex.
    Really Good: 2005, 2001, 2000, 1995.
    Pretty Good: 2006, 2004, 2002, 1998 (Left), 1996 (Right).
    Just OK: 2003 (I still haven’t tasted one I truly liked. They’re just too tannic and rough), 1999, 1997, 1994.
    Overrated: 2000. These wines are generally pricey. I believe many of the 2001s are nearly as good and priced much more realistically.
    Not tasted yet: 2007.

    BURGUNDY

    Best: 2002. I have yet to taste a bottle from this vintage I didn’t like. Many are just superb. Balanced and drinkable early, they will improve dramatically with age. Right behind is 1999, when beautiful wines were made across the entire region, and they, too, are only going to get better. Almost on a level with 2002′s quality are the wines from 2005. Many of the Premier Crus are really young, tight and tannic, although the Village wines are drinking well already. The press was right (for a change), this vintage is great.
    Really Good: 2005, 1999, 1996 (still has some tannins to shed).
    Pretty Good: 2001, 2000, 1997, 1995.
    Just OK: 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 1998, 1994.

    RHONE

    Best: 2001 (South) and 1999 (North).
    Really Good: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2000 (S), 1999 (S), 1998 (S), 1997 (N), 1995.
    Pretty Good: 2003, 2001 (N), 2000 (N), 1998 (N) 1996, 1994.
    Just OK: 2002 (horrible rains), 1997 (S).
    Overrated: The 2003 vintage was totally over-lauded in the press. I’ve found them alcoholic, tannic and distinctly dry.
    Underrated: The 2004 vintage is both balanced and clean in its profile, yet still true to terroir. They are excellent food wines.
    FYI: The 2007 Cotes du Rhone are darkly colored, full bodied and press-hyped. Let’s see a few more of the big boys before making a call.

    PIEDMONT

    Best: 2001 and 1998. The 2001′s are nearly flawless across the board, and will have a strong upside potential. As for 1998s, there is an incredible symmetry between fruit, tannins and acid. Drinking well now.
    Really Good: 2006, 2005, 2004 (looks to be excellent), 2000, 1999 (still quite tannic), 1997, 1996.
    Pretty Good: 2003, 1995.
    Just OK: 2002 (bad rains), 1994.
    Overrated: 1995.
    Underrated: 1996, which may be just as good as 1998, but with a rougher tannic kick.
    Not yet tasted: Barolos and Barbarescos from 2007. The Dolcettos and Barberas have been delicious.

    TUSCANY

    Best: 1997. For once, the hype is real. Brilliant.
    Really Good: 2006, 2005, 2004 (maybe great), 2001, 1999.
    Pretty Good: 2003, 1998, 1995.
    Just OK: 2002, 2000, 1996, 1994.
    Overrated: 1995. Still searching for the fruit in some of these.
    Underrated: 1998.
    Not tasted yet: 2007.

    I’ll cut the years in half, from 1999 through 2007, and address my favorite vintages from some other regions, alphabetically:

    Argentina: 2006. Australia: 2001. Chile: 2005. Oregon (Pinot Noir): 2002. Loire: 2002. Priorato: 2001. Languedoc/Roussillon: 2001. Ribera del Duero: 2004. Rioja: 2001. South Africa: 2003. Washington State: 2003.

    Here’s a reminder I attach to each one of these charts: Buy from producers you like, regardless of vintage. The best winemakers make good wines in average vintages and great wines in good vintages. Poor winemakers make mediocre wine, all the time.

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  • Peru and the Pacific: Coastal cuisine adds a savory, historical element to Andina’s menu

    Andina’s cuisine is novoandina, or New Andean, meaning that its menu focuses primarily on dishes from the Andes Mountains that form the central spine of Peru. However, a few dishes, like cebiche de pescado(fish cebiche) and palta rellena(avocado stuffed with crab and shrimp) reveal a coastal influence.

    Palta rellena is popular in Huanchaco, a coastal village about 340 miles north of Lima. From any beach in Huanchaco, you can spot dozens of fishermen paddling into the sea on canoe-shaped reed boats called caballitos de totora. Each morning the elegant reed boats bob up and down in the swell, straddled by fishermen working with line and hook or gilled nets as they have for over 2,000 years. Images of this traditional fishing technique have been found on pottery of the Moche civilization, which thrived around A.D. 500.

    Reeds for the caballitos are cultivated in fields called wachaques at the north end of Huanchaco. The boats only last about 15 to 20 days. Though the fishermen make the construction look simple — cutting the reeds, bundling them into groups and tying them together to create elegant reed rafts in a matter of hours — it is an ancient art honed over generations of practice.

    Stroll down Huanchaco’s main boulevard and you will see dozens of the reed boats leaned up against the sea wall to dry. To taste what the pescadores are bringing in, saunter to any nearby restaurant and order chupe de mariscos, a spicy, creamy mixed seafood stew sided with corn and boiled yucca or sweet potato; cangrejo reventado, a mess of crab, onion, potato and seaweed, scrambled with egg and stuffed into crab shells; orcebiche a la crema, a cebiche of fish or mixed seafood “cooked” in a top-secret creamy citrus sauce.

    The waters off of Peru’s northern coast house some of the richest fisheries in the world. While modern Huanchaco fisherman struggle to maintain their traditional trade in the face of rising tourism and potential threats to the reed fields, their boats go in and out every day with the tide, and the food they bring home reflects an ancient, unbroken connection to the sea.

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  • Wine Descriptions: Be straight-forward

    I really get a kick out of the words wine writers use to describe what they’ve tasted. I wonder how much effort is spent trying to come up with yet another evocative description. Some of them astound me. I’ve yet to come across a wine that tastes like fresh blood (one of the many wild ones recently noticed in print), not that I would know what fresh blood actually tastes like.


    When relating my feelings about how wines taste, I attempt to keep the words I use straightforward, i.e., dry, off-dry, sweet, light, tannic. I believe consumers need less confusion in their lives, and would prefer recommendations that are written in a concise, more or less simplistic style.


    Here are a few of the fun descriptions gleaned from some recent publications. Honestly folks, this is what they said: Ashtray, Asphalt, Cigar Ash, Cough Syrup, Creosote, Damp Earth, Iron Filings, Melted Licorice, Resin, Road Tar, Scorched Earth, Sea Salt and Soy Sauce.


    These gems were followed by words such as Brooding, Chunky, Candied, Dense, Loamy, Muscular, Musky, Sappy, Seductive, Sexy, Virgin and some others that were Fat, Plump, Stout, Voluptuous and Boisterous.

    Quite a grouping, huh? One in particular I like is Dense. To my way of thinking, Dense was this kid Rocco in the sixth grade who shot spitballs at the French teacher, or those folks you see driving on the interstate at 80 miles an hour with one hand on the CD-player and the other on the cellphone.

    I can empathize with others that write about wine, especially those whose vocation it is to taste thousands of wines a year and then lucidly relate their assessments. It’s difficult to avoid redundancy in one’s comments when faced with such sheer volume.

    That being said, let’s try to reiterate here what grape varieties should taste like, and how to judge “weight” in a wine:

    Lighter Whites: I constantly drink the crisper styles of white, such as albarino, chenin blanc, riesling and sauvignon blanc. If you like the lighter styles, search out those from Europe or New Zealand. It’s cooler there, and the whites have this steely zing. Colder climates produce whites with livelier acidity, and they marry so well with loads of dishes, from birds to fruit, salads to seafood.
    Richer Whites: Most of the chardonnays from Australia and California have a distinct punch. So do Rhone varieties such as marsanne, rousanne and viognier. They often pack oak and heft, and actually revel in the fact they display little acidity. They’re lush, soft  and powerful. Lots of people like this style, but you have to choose the matching foods carefully. Why not try a pinot gris next time, maybe something from Oregon or Alsace. Better acids but still plenty of richness.

    Lighter Reds: I’ve had customers that ask for a “really heavy pinot noir.” In reality, there is no such thing. Pinots should be lithe and athletic (good description, eh?) They are equally dexterous in the company of fish, chicken, beef and lamb. Come to think of it, there is no other grape like it. American pinot carries a bit more force, as one would expect, while French Burgundy is more vivid. Gamay from Beaujolais is a pretty good second choice, at a distinctly friendlier price-level.

    Richer Reds: When the meal calls for a rich style of red, grenache, mourvedre, petite sirah, syrah and zinfandel are the grapes I search out. They bring on the power, lighting up the spicy dishes often seen on today’s multi-ethnic menus and feature higher alcohol levels, and a fuller, more fruit-driven profile.

    I’m aware that numerous grape varieties weren’t mentioned today, but I tried to hone in on those most prevalent on the shelves in wine shops. And I suppose I could have been even more descriptive, and my explanations more cumbersome, thicker, and, yes, dense.

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  • Japanese culture infuses Andina’s cuisine: Hostess Midori Altamirano recounts her bi-cultural upbringing

    “Grandma was obacha, and tea ocha,” says Midori Altamirano, an Andina hostess and Peruvian native. Though little Japanese was spoken in her Lima, Peru home, the words she did know illustrated her heritage. “Family and food,” she says. “All the words we learned were about family and food.”

    After World War II left Japan in a dismal economic state, Midori’s great-grandmother Tomoe Hirayama’s left Okinawa, Japan for Lima. When she arrived, her aunt had already promised her hand in marriage to a Japanese government official living in Lima. As waves of Japanese immigrants flooded Peru, the threat of interment grew and Midori’s great-grandfather, a high-ranking official with access to Japanese census records feared for his family’s safety. He and Carmen, as Tomoe Hirayama renamed herself upon arrival in Lima, fled to Animon, a small mining town in the Cerro de Pasco region of Peru, and opened a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant. They hoped their daughter would marry a man from their country, but as the only Japanese family in the isolated town what could they expect? “So she married a real cholo,” says Midori. “And that’s how cultures integrate.”

    For Midori’s family and countless others fusion cuisine was never a trendy catch phrase – it was everyday life. Her grandmother threw ginger into lomo saltado, refused to cook without soy sauce and never used lemon or lime on raw fish. She stuffed wonton wrappers with Peruvian fillings; fresh cheese rolled into wonton cigars, fried and dipped in salsa huanchania, or square wonton folded, deep-fried, and slathered with manjar blanco and a dust of powered sugar.

    In Peru, as at Andina, the Japanese culinary influence is deeply infused. The two cuisines are often united in a shared heritage of eating raw fish. Andina dishes like ceviche tuna nikkei come together over ahi tuna, an ingredient common to both countries, then combine Peruvian aji amarillo with Japanese ingredients such as soy, ginger and cucumber. The tiradito a la chalaca and the tiradito atun fusion, squares of sashimi-style raw fish dressed lightly with fruit and pepper vinaigrettes and accompanied by peanut or corn salsas, are a visual blueprint of Peruvian-Japanese flavor combinations. It is apparent that Japanese techniques, flavorings and preparations have been absorbed into Peruvian cuisine, but it’s not as common that they stand alone. “For example,” Midori says, “in Peru, Japanese food is not popular. If you eat at a Japanese restaurant, you have money.”

    For Midori, whose classmates always assumed she was smart because of her Japanese first name, being Peruvian-Japanese gave her access to a micro-culture, a close-knit community that supported each other through weekly get-togethers at the Asociacion Peruana Japonesa. “I only went when I had a Japanese boyfriend,” says Midori. “Oh, my grandma was so happy! Then I went and married an American!”

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  • Brisk white wines for spring: The perfect complement to summer foods, salad and sushi

    It was about 15 years ago or so, and I was going through this distinct wine phase. I had fallen in love with zinfandel. I was hanging around with a group of wine geeks, and all we were drinking was zin. In retrospect, it was probably about rebellion. The grape was somewhat out of favor, so we were daring to be on the cutting edge and thinking we were pretty cool to be there.

     

    As for white wine, it was more or less nonexistent in my day-to-day. I enjoyed a glass now and then, but at the time it was understood that the correct wine pairing with flounder was red zinfandel. This also applied to chicken, salad or pasta. Anything short of ice cream was paired with zin. It was a bit of a mania, actually.

     

    I had lost contact with white wine. It was as if I felt wimpy when drinking whites, which of course is ridiculous. Men sometimes do these seemingly inexplicable things. Anyway, I’m happy to say all that has long passed, and whites play a major role in the equation nowadays. In fact, more white is being drunk at my place than ever before.

     

    Spring is upon us. When the sun starts to peak out, crisp and lively is what I search for in a white wine; with sharp acids to match up against the flavors delivered by warmer-weather dishes such as salads and sushi. Here are a few of my favorite whites from around the world that I drink at home:

     

    New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc This is a major go-to. I’m delighted how they can be so ripe and fruit driven, yet carry all that zippy acidity. I love their versatility at the table. Along with the Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé produced in France’s Loire Valley, they are the world’s greatest sauvignon blancs. Priced between $14-35, look for Allan Scott, Cloudy Bay, Matua Valley Paretai and Omaka Springs (all of these hail from Marlborough, on the South Island).

     

    Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Riesling These beauties have slate and mineral overtones (both on the nose and palate), vivid acids and pack loads of flavor. They are drier wines made in a Germanic style. Rieslings from Germany often carry 8 or 9 percent alcohol and have a sweetness in the background, while those from Austria are 12 to 13 percent or more. They’re medium in weight but light on their feet, like a good free safety (one does not often encounter American football terminology in a wine column). Good producers include Bründlmayer, Hirsch, Knoll, Loimer, Nigl and Solomon. Prices vary from $14 for entry level styles all the way up to $50 or so for “reserve” bottlings.

     

    Chablis Chardonnay with zing. No other chard tastes like a Chablis. Once again, minerals stand out. Look for that distinctive pale green color in the glass. Premier Cru wines are the best values, costing about $25-40 as compared to $50 or so for Grand Cru and $20 to $25 for straight Chablis. This wine is the quintessential partner for shellfish. Boudin, Brocard, René & Vincent Dauvissat, Droin, Pinson and Savary are just a few of the many fine domains.

     

    Others of note: Albariño from Galicia in Spain (Martín Códax, Lusco, Paso de Señorans); the flowery and lively Torrontés from Argentina (La Yunta, Zolo); Pinot blanc and riesling from Alsace (Albert Mann, Trimbach, Weinbach); Chenin blanc (the Vinum Cellars CNW from California is delicious as is the Savennieres from Florent Baumard or the Chinon Blanc from J.M. Raffault in the Loire Valley) and the Soave from Leonildo Pieropan, one of northern Italy’s finest white wine producers.

     

    In summation, there is always a bottle of white waiting patiently in my fridge. Rarely does it have to wait long.
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  • La comida de nuestros Carnavales

    I always wondered about the meaning of early experiences in our lives, and the relation that they can have with our later experiences. Are the early experiences anticipations of similar experiences that are going to come? Do they prepare us to deal with challenges that we are going to face later? I don’t know for sure, but exploring my own experiences I can see similar patterns in the meaning of some of my early experiences and those that I am having in the present. One pattern is related to the nature of the preparation of food during the Carnivals of my childhood and to what I witness now in the preparation of the food in Andina.

     

    Before I describe the foods and traditions associated with our Carnival, let me attempt to link these memories with my present experiences at Andina.
    In both, there is a sense of anticipation regarding the results of the preparation. That anticipation arises from the thought of the joy and the surprise in our guests when they sit before a delicious and unexpected meal.
    There is also in both a sense of pride and commitment to produce and execute a dish step by step as we were taught; for by doing so we honor our roots as well as our guests.
    Also present are great doses of patience to achieve the real flavor and the consistency that each dish demands. Our most basic sofrito, for example, requires low heat and a careful eye in order to caramelize our garlic, onions and peppers. Tender meats require many hours of slow cooking; our marinations require at least 12 hours to thoroughly infuse the flavor of the sauce into the meats.
    In both, the reward of those who prepare the food is a deep satisfaction, that derives from the results of a hard work and time we dedicated to produce it, and from the  appreciation that we receive from our guests.

     

    I know that in the preparation of our food for our Carnival, and when we prepare our food in Andina, there is a sincere desire to honor those who have traveled to be with us, and whom we may not have seen for various lengths of time; some are new faces altogether. The means at our disposal for so honoring our guests is the warmth with which we receive them and the care with every dish comes out. For all that I have experienced, I can affirm that, in general, my present experiences feel like singular reproductions of the early ones. Past and present overlap to a great extent in their deepest significations.

     

    Going to the past, I remember that in my parents’ villages the preparations for our upcoming Carnivals’ food started with the dry-curing of legs of ham, the production of sausages and other meats. Every house-hold kitchen kept their meats strung above the stove, beginning almost a year in advance of the Carnival, following the sacrifice of a pig raised at home. We knew that almost every part of the pig would be used in one form or another during the Carnival feasts dedicated to celebrate the homecoming of our relatives.

     

    The preparation also required that, three months prior to Carnival, the hosts needed to select from among their sheep one to be the sacrificial lamb for the week of Carnival. We called it el gasto (meat to spend).

     

    The hosts also needed to put dozens of hens and cuyes (Andean guinea pigs) on a special diet. The diet for hens was an abundance of dry corn and left-overs; and for the cuyes, an abundance of alfalfa. Such diets assured a great quality of flavor in our Carnival food. Speaking of hens, they were also a good source of many dozens of eggs needed to bake (the week before the Carnival) all the bread and goodies to be indulged in during our celebrations.

     

    To complete the reserves, the kitchens needed to have a good supply of potatoes, sweet potatoes, yucas, peppers, fresh corn, tomatoes, cabbages, cilantro, parsley, mint, onions and garlic.

     

    What about fruits? Ah…! I will never forget the sweet smell of ripened mangos, oranges and ciruelas andinas (Andean plums), all stored in the cuadra of my aunt’s house in Jose Galvez. February and March are well known as months to harvest fruits. They arrived home, just in time, from Balsas, a low-lying warm valley on the eastern flank of the Andes, near the Marañon River. My mother’s family had always kept a farm in Balsas. Imagine the paradise we had as children with all of that fresh and juicy fruit, and the anticipation of great food to come.

     

    To give you a brief reference of the most typical dishes that all my family and visitors enjoyed during our Carnival, I will mention the following:
    Caldo de las Siete Carnes:  A broth of seven types of meat: cordero, puerco, gallina, res, cuy, cecinas y jamón (lamb, pork, hen, beef, guinea pig, dry meat and ham). Following the preparation of our traditional sofrito (caramelized onions garlic and – in this case – ají Amarillo) in a big pot, we added pieces of all the types of meat described. These would cook slowly with just enough water and salt, and with pieces of potatoes, slices of fresh corn, and a few green peas. Before being served, a little bit of milk would be added, followed by fresh toasted leaves of oregano, crushed with our hands. To complement the dish, a bowl of boiled potatoes and ají de maní (a peanut-hot pepper sauce, the same as we serve at Andina) would be placed in the center of the table for all to share. It was a delicious and powerful broth that energized children and grownups for the upcoming events. It was a main dish served during lunch.
    Sancochado: A broth of lamb cooked slowly, and to which was added, in stages, yuca, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, fava beans and slices of fresh corn. Cabbage was added just minutes before the broth was served. This dish called for ají de rocoto (rocoto pepper, garlic, salt, and cumin seed). It was served for dinner.
    Sopa de Pan prepared in a saucepan with layers of home-made bread and quesillo (home made fresh cheese) slices. The bread and quesillo layers would be soaked and cooked at a low boil in a chicken broth flavored with toasted oregano leaves, crushed by hand. It seemed to me that no Italian pizza could ever compete with this homey pastry! It was served as an appetizer, during lunch or dinner time.
    Picante de Cuy (guinea pig stew): Seared pieces of guinea pigs were cooked slowly in a sauce made with our sofrito, cumin seed, ají mirasol paste, a little corn vinegar and oregano. Once the pieces of cuy were tender, we used the same sauce to cook pieces of potatoes until they became blended with the sauce. This very traditional kind of potato purée, bronze in color from the combination of yellow potato and red ají mirasol, is our famous picante de papas. We serve the dish with a portion of cooked garlic rice, and for garnish, our salsa criolla (fine slices of fresh onion and rocoto pepper, with lime juice and salt). I can guarantee nobody in the whole world would fail to love this dish. It is heaven!
    Miel con Quesillo: This is the simplest and the most delicious dessert we have in the region of Celendín, and it was obligatory to have it in our Carnival. It consists of simple slices of quesillo soaked in a bed of miel de cana (a syrup made by dissolving pieces of raw dark cane sugar, adding a fig leaf or a cinnamon stick and boiling until achieving a consistency of honey). At this stage of my life, I will give whatever I have for a plate of quesillo con miel.
    I could never finish describing what we ate during the whole week of our Carnival. I will leave for next year the description of our breads and goodies, such as: el pan de yemas (egg yolk bread), las galletitas de maíz (corn flour cookies) and our bizcochuelo (cake made with only egg yolks). I hope to leave all of you dear readers with your mouths watering.

     

    ¡Felices Pascuas! Happy Easter.

     

    Mama Doris.
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  • La comida de nuestros Carnavales

    I always wondered about the meaning of early experiences in our lives, and the relation that they can have with our later experiences. Are the early experiences anticipations of similar experiences that are going to come? Do they prepare us to deal with challenges that we are going to face later? I don’t know for sure, but exploring my own experiences I can see similar patterns in the meaning of some of my early experiences and those that I am having in the present. One pattern is related to the nature of the preparation of food during the Carnivals of my childhood and to what I witness now in the preparation of the food in Andina.

     

    Before I describe the foods and traditions associated with our Carnival, let me attempt to link these memories with my present experiences at Andina.
    In both, there is a sense of anticipation regarding the results of the preparation. That anticipation arises from the thought of the joy and the surprise in our guests when they sit before a delicious and unexpected meal.
    There is also in both a sense of pride and commitment to produce and execute a dish step by step as we were taught; for by doing so we honor our roots as well as our guests.
    Also present are great doses of patience to achieve the real flavor and the consistency that each dish demands. Our most basic sofrito, for example, requires low heat and a careful eye in order to caramelize our garlic, onions and peppers. Tender meats require many hours of slow cooking; our marinations require at least 12 hours to thoroughly infuse the flavor of the sauce into the meats.
    In both, the reward of those who prepare the food is a deep satisfaction, that derives from the results of a hard work and time we dedicated to produce it, and from the  appreciation that we receive from our guests.

     

    I know that in the preparation of our food for our Carnival, and when we prepare our food in Andina, there is a sincere desire to honor those who have traveled to be with us, and whom we may not have seen for various lengths of time; some are new faces altogether. The means at our disposal for so honoring our guests is the warmth with which we receive them and the care with every dish comes out. For all that I have experienced, I can affirm that, in general, my present experiences feel like singular reproductions of the early ones. Past and present overlap to a great extent in their deepest significations.

     

    Going to the past, I remember that in my parents’ villages the preparations for our upcoming Carnivals’ food started with the dry-curing of legs of ham, the production of sausages and other meats. Every house-hold kitchen kept their meats strung above the stove, beginning almost a year in advance of the Carnival, following the sacrifice of a pig raised at home. We knew that almost every part of the pig would be used in one form or another during the Carnival feasts dedicated to celebrate the homecoming of our relatives.

     

    The preparation also required that, three months prior to Carnival, the hosts needed to select from among their sheep one to be the sacrificial lamb for the week of Carnival. We called it el gasto (meat to spend).

     

    The hosts also needed to put dozens of hens and cuyes (Andean guinea pigs) on a special diet. The diet for hens was an abundance of dry corn and left-overs; and for the cuyes, an abundance of alfalfa. Such diets assured a great quality of flavor in our Carnival food. Speaking of hens, they were also a good source of many dozens of eggs needed to bake (the week before the Carnival) all the bread and goodies to be indulged in during our celebrations.

     

    To complete the reserves, the kitchens needed to have a good supply of potatoes, sweet potatoes, yucas, peppers, fresh corn, tomatoes, cabbages, cilantro, parsley, mint, onions and garlic.

     

    What about fruits? Ah…! I will never forget the sweet smell of ripened mangos, oranges and ciruelas andinas (Andean plums), all stored in the cuadra of my aunt’s house in Jose Galvez. February and March are well known as months to harvest fruits. They arrived home, just in time, from Balsas, a low-lying warm valley on the eastern flank of the Andes, near the Marañon River. My mother’s family had always kept a farm in Balsas. Imagine the paradise we had as children with all of that fresh and juicy fruit, and the anticipation of great food to come.

     

    To give you a brief reference of the most typical dishes that all my family and visitors enjoyed during our Carnival, I will mention the following:
    Caldo de las Siete Carnes:  A broth of seven types of meat: cordero, puerco, gallina, res, cuy, cecinas y jamón (lamb, pork, hen, beef, guinea pig, dry meat and ham). Following the preparation of our traditional sofrito (caramelized onions garlic and – in this case – ají Amarillo) in a big pot, we added pieces of all the types of meat described. These would cook slowly with just enough water and salt, and with pieces of potatoes, slices of fresh corn, and a few green peas. Before being served, a little bit of milk would be added, followed by fresh toasted leaves of oregano, crushed with our hands. To complement the dish, a bowl of boiled potatoes and ají de maní (a peanut-hot pepper sauce, the same as we serve at Andina) would be placed in the center of the table for all to share. It was a delicious and powerful broth that energized children and grownups for the upcoming events. It was a main dish served during lunch.
    Sancochado: A broth of lamb cooked slowly, and to which was added, in stages, yuca, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, fava beans and slices of fresh corn. Cabbage was added just minutes before the broth was served. This dish called for ají de rocoto (rocoto pepper, garlic, salt, and cumin seed). It was served for dinner.
    Sopa de Pan prepared in a saucepan with layers of home-made bread and quesillo (home made fresh cheese) slices. The bread and quesillo layers would be soaked and cooked at a low boil in a chicken broth flavored with toasted oregano leaves, crushed by hand. It seemed to me that no Italian pizza could ever compete with this homey pastry! It was served as an appetizer, during lunch or dinner time.
    Picante de Cuy (guinea pig stew): Seared pieces of guinea pigs were cooked slowly in a sauce made with our sofrito, cumin seed, ají mirasol paste, a little corn vinegar and oregano. Once the pieces of cuy were tender, we used the same sauce to cook pieces of potatoes until they became blended with the sauce. This very traditional kind of potato purée, bronze in color from the combination of yellow potato and red ají mirasol, is our famous picante de papas. We serve the dish with a portion of cooked garlic rice, and for garnish, our salsa criolla (fine slices of fresh onion and rocoto pepper, with lime juice and salt). I can guarantee nobody in the whole world would fail to love this dish. It is heaven!
    Miel con Quesillo: This is the simplest and the most delicious dessert we have in the region of Celendín, and it was obligatory to have it in our Carnival. It consists of simple slices of quesillo soaked in a bed of miel de cana (a syrup made by dissolving pieces of raw dark cane sugar, adding a fig leaf or a cinnamon stick and boiling until achieving a consistency of honey). At this stage of my life, I will give whatever I have for a plate of quesillo con miel.
    I could never finish describing what we ate during the whole week of our Carnival. I will leave for next year the description of our breads and goodies, such as: el pan de yemas (egg yolk bread), las galletitas de maíz (corn flour cookies) and our bizcochuelo (cake made with only egg yolks). I hope to leave all of you dear readers with your mouths watering.

     

    ¡Felices Pascuas! Happy Easter.

     

    Mama Doris.
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  • Happy Birthday, Tupai

    With the first few weeks of Spring comes a new and revived sense of energy at Andina. In addition, this year we celebrate the first anniversary of our event space Tupai. We have been exceedingly honored by the encouraging response the space has received thus far and wish to thank those who have made the room’s first year a true success.

     

    Aptly named from the Quechua word connoting “gathering space”, Tupai offers the ability for guests to experience a truly unique event highlighting our award-winning cuisine and renowned hospitality. From seated dinners to standing reception events including weddings, rehearsal dinners and corporate functions, Tupai has proved to be one of the most versatile spaces in NW Portland.

     

    On a more personal note, family and friends are still raving about my own rehearsal dinner which was held in Tupai last July. It was incredible to see for myself how much the care and efforts of our staff help to create a magical and memorable event experience.

     

    Thanks again to our past clients for entrusting us with the honor of hosting your special events. We continue to appreciate the overwhelming support and look forward to another successful year.

     

    jennifer anderson
    Special Events Director

     

    (To inquire about Tupai or special events at Andina, please contact Jennifer at 503.228.9535 or jennifer@andinarestaurant.com)
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  • Cellar Raid Dinner! It’s a Cellar-Bration!

    We were digging around in the wine cellar the other day. Sort of sweeping up and dusting off the bottles. And when the dust cleared, guess what we found? A diverse selection of Northwest, European and Southern Hemisphere wines, dated 2000 through 2005 (see partial listing below). Many of the bins we uncovered had only a few bottles in them, so we decided to put them together and serve them in a special tapas dinner.
    On Monday, March 9 at 6:30 p.m. in Tupai, Andina’s gorgeous new room above the restaurant, we’ll be presenting a communal dining event featuring large plates of tapas (fish, veggies, meats and gluten-free included)
    and the spoils from our cellar. No menus to consult, no ordering necessary. The food starts arriving on the table the minute you sit down. You’re given a glass (Riedel, of course) and then turned loose to enjoy the vino of your choice. We’ll have over 30 different styles of (mostly red) wines lined up, corks popped and ready to go. Below is just a partial listing of what will be poured:
    04 Viento Viognier, Columbia Valley, WA
    04 Lionel Bussy Chablis, VV, Burgundy, FR
    02 Puffeney Arbois Blanc, Jura, FR
    04 von Othegraven Riesling, Mosel, GER
    04 Plantagenet Riesling, Clare Valley, AUS
    04 Ugu Lequio Arneis, Piedmont, IT
    05 Girlan Gewurztraminer, Alto Adige, IT
    01 Helvetia Vineyards Pinot Noir, Willamette, OR
    03 Lemelson Stermer Pinot Noir, Willamette, OR
    03 Black Cap Pinot Noir, Willamette, OR
    02 Sinskey Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa, CA
    00 Abacela Tempranillo SE Block Reserve, OR
    04 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir, Marlborough, NZ
    02 Sous Creek Cabernet Ciel du Cheval, WA
    02 Waterbrook Cabernet, Columbia Valley, WA
    03 Zerba Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, WA
    02 Ch. St. Georges St. Emilion, Bordeaux, FR
    02 Juillot Bourgogne Rouge, Burgundy, FR
    04 Bernard Baudry Chinon Rouge, Loire, FR
    03 Ciacci Piccolomini Rosso di Montalcino, IT
    04 Elio Grasso Dolcetto del Grassi, Piedmont, IT
    02 Balgownie Estate Shiraz, Bendigo, AUS
    01 DeMartino Gran Familia Cabernet, Maipo, CHI
    04 Ricardo Santos Malbec La Madras, Mendoza, AR
    03 Ochoa Graciano/Garnacha, Navarra, ESP
    01 Brigantia Prieto Picudo, Casilla y Leon, ESP
    Whew. And there will be more.
    Monday, March 9, 6:30 p.m.
    Andina’s Tupai Room (1314 NW Glisan, Portland 97209)
    Price: $50, plus gratuity.
    That’s it, all day.
    Reservations: 503.228.9535.
    Wine Director Ken Collura (aka DJ Malolactic) will be spinning World Music
    throughout (African, Rai, Reggae, Salsa) and there may be some dancing
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  • 48 hours in Lima: Lost luggage, stout architecture and police officer/taxi drivers; all in the name of adventure

    I always pick the wrong line. At the Jorge Chávez airport, it’s 12:30 a.m. and the customs line is dwindling. The women ahead of us – Americans and surely set for Huaraz with their Asolo hiking boots and ultra-light packs – assure me that we “all pick the wrong line…” I’m the last person in line when the customs officer finally calls me up. Her machine is broken. My bag is slugging along the conveyor belt and when I pick it up, it’s heavier than I remembered. I’m suddenly worried about how much it weighs, but Gloria’s bag is not there at all. Not that night and not the next day.

     

    A late night taxi ride past colorful compartments, short-stacked buildings, like the façade of a movie set. A 3 a.m. taxi ride amidst grime and wide-open plazas and sprawling boxy buildings splattered with exclamations of food, drink and political candidates. A man leans, all in black, against a building, his arms crossed and head nodded down.

     

    After 24 hours in Lima, I’ve learned how to order a Coke, exchange money, and find the best stew in Spanish; I’ve eaten pan de choclo and paid $0.15 to use the bathroom. I’ve ridden to the top of Cerro San Cristobal in a motocart and looked down on layer upon layer of thick smog, impoverished slums and brilliant colonial buildings. I’ve peered through shattered fragments of window to watch a woman caress an old Singer and rip seams in a great cement room. I’ve been hounded to buy chicle with a smile; watched orange peels spiral into long wavy locks at a fresh juice cart; mistaken Rio to mean river and not brown flow over street rocks and garbage; eaten my first goat dish and drank my first Cristal.

     

    As we enter the parking lot at Jorge Chávez for the second time in two days, back to get Gloria’s bag, the taxi driver flashes a badge to the police monitoring the gate. “Bien, bien,” they say and usher us along. “I’m a police officer here in Lima, see?” he says, and shows us his official badge. My mind instantly flashes to the “Know Peru” section of my guidebook. Did it say anything about taxi drivers posing as police officers? He seems like the real thing, but what kind of officer drives a cab? “Which do you like more?” Gloria asks. “Oh, police officer!” he says, “but it’s necessary for me to drive a cab for the money.” During 48 hours in Lima, we’ve seen police in crisp navy-style attire and yellow DayGlo vests. Once an officer got into the car she had just pulled over and they all drove away. The police in Lima seem like the buses, diverse in purpose and appearance – indistinguishable chaos to an outsider.
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  • Cellar Raid Dinner! It’s a Cellar-Bration!

    We were digging around in the wine cellar the other day. Sort of sweeping up and dusting off the bottles. And when the dust cleared, guess what we found? A diverse selection of Northwest, European and Southern Hemisphere wines, dated 2000 through 2005 (see partial listing below). Many of the bins we uncovered had only a few bottles in them, so we decided to put them together and serve them in a special tapas dinner.
    On Monday, March 9 at 6:30 p.m. in Tupai, Andina’s gorgeous new room above the restaurant, we’ll be presenting a communal dining event featuring large plates of tapas (fish, veggies, meats and gluten-free included)
    and the spoils from our cellar. No menus to consult, no ordering necessary. The food starts arriving on the table the minute you sit down. You’re given a glass (Riedel, of course) and then turned loose to enjoy the vino of your choice. We’ll have over 30 different styles of (mostly red) wines lined up, corks popped and ready to go. Below is just a partial listing of what will be poured:
    04 Viento Viognier, Columbia Valley, WA
    04 Lionel Bussy Chablis, VV, Burgundy, FR
    02 Puffeney Arbois Blanc, Jura, FR
    04 von Othegraven Riesling, Mosel, GER
    04 Plantagenet Riesling, Clare Valley, AUS
    04 Ugu Lequio Arneis, Piedmont, IT
    05 Girlan Gewurztraminer, Alto Adige, IT
    01 Helvetia Vineyards Pinot Noir, Willamette, OR
    03 Lemelson Stermer Pinot Noir, Willamette, OR
    03 Black Cap Pinot Noir, Willamette, OR
    02 Sinskey Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa, CA
    00 Abacela Tempranillo SE Block Reserve, OR
    04 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir, Marlborough, NZ
    02 Sous Creek Cabernet Ciel du Cheval, WA
    02 Waterbrook Cabernet, Columbia Valley, WA
    03 Zerba Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, WA
    02 Ch. St. Georges St. Emilion, Bordeaux, FR
    02 Juillot Bourgogne Rouge, Burgundy, FR
    04 Bernard Baudry Chinon Rouge, Loire, FR
    03 Ciacci Piccolomini Rosso di Montalcino, IT
    04 Elio Grasso Dolcetto del Grassi, Piedmont, IT
    02 Balgownie Estate Shiraz, Bendigo, AUS
    01 DeMartino Gran Familia Cabernet, Maipo, CHI
    04 Ricardo Santos Malbec La Madras, Mendoza, AR
    03 Ochoa Graciano/Garnacha, Navarra, ESP
    01 Brigantia Prieto Picudo, Casilla y Leon, ESP
    Whew. And there will be more.
    Monday, March 9, 6:30 p.m.
    Andina’s Tupai Room (1314 NW Glisan, Portland 97209)
    Price: $50, plus gratuity.
    That’s it, all day.
    Reservations: 503.228.9535.
    Wine Director Ken Collura (aka DJ Malolactic) will be spinning World Music
    throughout (African, Rai, Reggae, Salsa) and there may be some dancing
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  • La magia de la mesa 25

    Table 25 is a table for two, belongs to the dining area of Andina, and stands in front of the window that faces 13th Avenue in the Pearl District.
    Since the time when the restaurant first opened, more than five years ago, this particular table has witnessed so many happy events that I think it has some kind of magic. Although perhaps it is exactly the other way around. That at this lucky table, which is small and a bit to the side, our guests bring an unusual intensity of all that is most valued and cherished. Or maybe, the magic lies somewhere in between.
    I would like to give certain vivid evidences. In very general terms, table 25 has witnessed birthday celebrations, graduations dinners, first dates, anniversaries, and engagements.
    On the occasion of the table’s first engagement dinner, the gentleman came early, and approached our hosting area, asking us if we would keep a precious bouquet of red roses, which he was going to give to his fiancée during his formal proposal. Being new in the business, and sensitive to that “special
    moment,” all of us, hostesses, servers and I were constantly watching from a distance to assess the development of the event; for us it seemed an eternity, but it happened. It was before their dessert
    when the gentleman approached us, received the bouquet, went to his table, presented the roses to his surprised fiancée, and kneeling down, opened a little box…the rest is history. All of us had tears in our eyes when we saw that both of them kissed, and again later, when we saw them leaving the restaurant, with their bouquet of roses and the ring on her hand.
    Another event that comes to my mind is the celebration of the 60th wedding anniversary of a delightful
    elderly couple, who had been escorted to the restaurant by their grandchild, a young man perhaps in his 30’s. This couple sat on table 25, and had a wonderful dinner complemented with good wine, all as a gift from their grandchild. We knew that the gift was a tribute to their love and the longevity of being together. This was especially clear to me when I saw their eyes, still gleaming looking at the other’s, and when I saw them holding hands, like any young couple in love. All of this happened on table 25.
    The other day we had further evidence of the magic of table 25. While making a reservation, a young married couple insisted on being seated at table 25 to celebrate the 1st anniversary of their marriage.
    Though we make every effort possible to accommodate our guests’ requests, as a rule we can never guarantee the availability of any specific table. We record in detail all notes regarding special requests, and plan as far in advance in order to honor as many requests as possible. But we simply never know if a given table will be available at the given time. Our hostess explained these procedures and policies, but the young couple insisted firmly, and this was their argument: two years ago, friends arranged for them to meet on a blind date at Andina. It is likely that our reservation notes recorded the fact that the occasion was a special one. The couple was seated on table 25, which is where they first came to know one another. And it seems they cared for each other a great deal. For a year later they came to Andina. Noted in advance, table 25 was again available, and it was at the table that he proposed to her and their engagement took place. Then once more, the very day following their marriage, they came to Andina to honor the place where they met, and asked table for 25. The table was available, as if waiting for them, and their request was very happily honored. These were the reasons why, as they were now making a new reservation for their 1st anniversary celebration,
    they requested table 25. Something unusual happened that evening. Having noted in detail their wonderful history and many visits to Andina, we had asked the couple to trust that we would do everything in our power to honor their request; and at the precise time of their arrival, table 25 turned and was set. Was it only a coincidence to have table 25 available for them at the moment they arrived? Or perhaps, did the table know better than we did how to be available to celebrate love? The only thing we know is that this couple and many others will come to celebrate their love, and of course, table 25 will be available.
    CODA: Two weeks ago a couple in their 50’s asked to see me. They were seated at table 25, and when I approached them they reminded me that maybe a year ago I had visited them at the same table, and told stories about the table’s good fortune. Well, this time they wanted to communicate to me that a year ago had been their first visit to Andina, which had come upon the recommendation of their mutual friend, who had also introduced them. Following that dinner, they began seeing each other, sometimes in California, where she lived, and some other times in Portland, where he lived, and they felt that they found in each other more than their common friend perhaps had expected. Now they came to Andina to celebrate once more their happy encounter. I felt honored to hear this story, but never in my life could I have imagined what happened next. I was going to leave them to enjoy their meal, when the gentleman said to me – “Wait, wait, don’t go. I want for you to see this.” Immediately he stood up, put one of his hands in his pocket, and nervously looked for something. When he found it, it was a little box. He made his way toward his companion, and kneeling down proposed to her to marry him. She was in tears, and I was dizzy with awe. Of course she said Yes! They embraced and kissed each other, and I started to understand what was happening. It was after that magic moment, that the man said to me “I wanted for you to witness this, to know that we really believed that at this table we found love, and that you were right. This table was and always will be a good omen for both of us.”
    In truth, I can say with great joy that each of our tables has a tale to tell. Some have a great many. In time, I hope to share the small histories that whisper from the furthest corners of our dining room. Because now I have an ear to hear them with.
    Here’s to a Happy Valentine’s Day, whether at Table 25 or anywhere else. May there be a bit of magic in your lives.
    Viva el Amor!
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  • Dining al fresco: Peruvian stalls, shacks, street corners

    “Eat with confidence and you won’t get sick,” said Christian, an employee at the Cusco, Peru hostel where I was staying. “As soon as I question the food, I get sick,” he said. “So eat with confidence!” His advice may sound haphazard but it led me to some of the most interesting dishes I ate during my trip to Peru.
    Many travelers avoid foods sold at stalls, shacks and street corners throughout the country. They have been warned to stay away – that the food is unsafe and unsanitary. With little regulation, there is no way to judge the quality aside from looking for the vendor with the longest line and following your gut.
    Andina customers may already be familiar with anticucho de corazón. These smoky charred beef hearts are a traditional Peruvian street food and can be found grilling over open charcoal barbeques all over the country.
    Some other common, and relatively worry-free, Peruvian street snacks include:
    Chifles or fried banana chips are sold in little plastic bags. For those without a sweet tooth, fried plantain chips are just as easy to find.
    Choclo con queso is comfort food that travels. For a couple of soles, you get a hot piece of big-kernelled corn on the cob accompanied
    by slices of fresh cheese. Also called tarwi, chochos are legumes related to the lupine family and are extremely high in protein. Cebiche de chocho is sold in Andean city streets and villages, in little plastic bags mixed with sliced onion and pepper, then sprinkled with lemon, salt, and fried popcorn kernels called cancha.
    Peruvian tamales are made from ground dried-corn masa and usually stuffed with meat, olives and egg, or more simply with cheese, then wrapped in fresh banana leaves and steamed. Humitas are similar but start with a fresh corn mixture, which makes a silkier masa, and filled with meat or cheese and wrapped in a corn husk. Humitas also come in sweet versions, with sugar, cinnamon and raisins.
    Nueces Dulces, or roasted candied nuts, can be found on every bus and street corner. Candied clusters made with cane sugar and served in a paper cup or cone, they are nothing like the packaged nuts sold in every gas station in the U.S.
    Everyone loves a donut. In Peru, Picarones are made from squash and sweet potato dough, deep-fried and drizzled with miel de chancaca, a cinnamon-orange sugar glaze.
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  • Giving water, energy and life

    On Feb. 9 and 10, Andina is proud to host for the fourth consecutive year, another dinner to benefit Green Empowerment’s “Peru Community
    Energy Project.” Green Empowerment is a local non-profit organization
    that provides environmentally-responsible energy and water systems
    to those in need around the world.
    Green Empowerment operates in Cajamarca — the Andean northern part of Peru where I come from — in collaboration with “Soluciones Practicas,” a Peruvian non-profit organization and the community itself.
    Together, they bring electricity, solar, micro-hydro and wind energy
    to those remote areas. Without their help, these communities would not have potable water; refrigerators to store vaccines or antibiotics that could save their lives; and light to illuminate their health centers and schools.
    During these four years of cooperation between Andina and Green Empowerment, we have witnessed the enthusiasm, commitment, and generosity, of not only the personnel in Peru, putting their heart and their energy, in all that they do; but also from the people of Portland, who year after year are contributing with their time and money to make these benefit dinners a success, allowing Green Empowerment
    to continue their projects in favor of the people of Peru.
    From the depth of our hearts, we thank all the members of Green Empowerment, and the Portland community who contributing to bringing “light” and hope to Peru, especially to Cajamarca, my beThe
    Fourth Annual Benefit will be hosted at Andina Restaurant on Feb. 9 and 10. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $150.
    For reservations, tickets or more information, visit
    http://www.greenempowerment.com or contact Steph Routh at 503.284.5774 or by e-mail at stephanie@greenempowerment.org.
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  • Port: The civilized after-dinner choice

    You’ve just finished a wonderful dinner at home with friends. Every dish was superb, as were the wines. Now what? Do you:
    a. Go to the living room, put some hoops on the tube and doze off after
    about five minutes;
    b. Don’t bother to get up, and just doze off at the dining table, or
    c. Put Mozart’s “Jupiter Symphony” on the CD player and bring out the Port.
    You’d be surprised how many guys choose A or B, but C is truly the civilized
    choice. And if chocolate comes into the equation, wines like Port can match up magnificently. Conversely, they tend to clash with lighter dishes, so the recommendation here is to offer them with blue-veined cheese or chocolate-based dishes. You can even pour them alone, which is perfectly acceptable since they pack a wallop and loads of sugar.
    Port is produced from wines grown in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. They are produced from five little-known indigenous grape varieties: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao and Touriga Francesa. Port is a fortified wine, meaning a grape spirit (clear brandy) is added to the must while it’s in full fermentation. This leaves the wine with a ripe fruity flavor and at the same time increases the alcoholic strength to around 20% by volume. Here are some of the styles of Port:
    Ruby Ports labeled Ruby are blends having been kept in large vats where there is little or no oxidation.
    After a few years, they are bottled and sold. Rubies don’t improve over time, and are ready to drink on release. These wines are full of fruit, but can possess a hot, alcoholic kick on the finish.
    Tawny Tawny ports are made from blends of different years that are aged in wood. Most of those seen in our markets are labeled 10, 20, 30 or 40 years of age. They’re kept in huge oak casks, and lose their bright color over time, gaining a brownish tinge. Ten-year-olds are powerfully sweet and fruit-driven; 20-year-old versions take on a dried-fruit edge, and seem to my palate to be the most complete of fine Tawnies; 30- and 40-year-old versions are less powerful, more complex wines, with just a slight diminishing of the sweetness levels.
    Tawny Ports have been filtered before bottling, therefore do not throw the heavy sediment that Vintage
    Ports do. They can be kept standing upright and never need decanting.
    Vintage Most major houses declare a Vintage three or four times a decade. They come from the years of highest repute, and are the most expensive of all Port wines. They’re aged only two years in wood before bottling and generally need 10 to 20 years to show their stuff.
    In their youth, Vintage Ports will be intensely colored, and will offer fiery
    blasts of rich, sweet fruit and mouth-searing tannins. As they reach a certain plateau of age, the fire decreases and the tannins smooth out, providing a perfect match for apples, walnuts and blue-veined cheese. I always enjoy tossing some dry sausage onto the plate as well, like Italian sorpresata, Spanish chorizo or French saucisson sec.
    As the year pass, Vintage Ports develop a thick sediment. The bottles should be aged and opened horizontally. Gentle handling is imperative, lest the caked deposit breaks loose and mingles with the wine. This same attentive care should taken when decanting.
    There are other styles seen, albeit on a less-regular basis. They include:
    LBV, or Late-Bottled-Vintage. These are wines from Vintage years that have spent five or so years in oak. They’re more complex than Rubies, but softer than true Vintage Ports.
    Colheitas. This is basically a Vintage wine that has been aged in oak like a Tawny. They can be excellent
    values.
    Single-Quintas. Made from single-vineyard sites, and usually only offered in the finest vintages.
    top vintages
    (last 40 years)
    2000, 1997, 1994, 1992, 1991, 1985, 1983, 1977, 1970 and 1963.
    top Port houses
    Dow, Fonseca, Graham, Kopke, Niepoort, Quinta do Noval, Sandeman, Smith-Woodhouse, Taylor and Warre.
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  • No tortillas in Peru

    “How was the food?” asked my friend Carra when I got back from
    a seven-week trip through Peru in 2006. “Are the tortillas like the
    ones here?”
    “No,” I said. “Actually they don’t have tortillas.”
    “Oh, how do they make burritos?”
    “They don’t.”
    “No burritos?” she said.
    “No. No burritos, no tacos, no tortillas,” I said.
    8
    During the months I spent planning my trip, I met misconceptions of my own and of others, the very worst of which I am almost embarrassed to discuss. But for the sake of the story, I’m just going to throw my cousin under the bus. This cousin, we’ll call her Ruth, was educated at one of the best private
    schools in Miami, a city with hundreds of thousands of residents from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Puerto Rico…
    “When are you going to Mexico?” she asked.
    “Actually I’m going to Peru,” I said. “Peru and Ecuador.”
    “Oh yeah. Well…isn’t Peru in Mexico?”
    “Ruth?!,” I laughed. “Are you serious?”
    “No, Peru is in South America,” I said after she didn’t respond.
    “Isn’t that…?”
    “Ok,” I began, with fearful sarcasm, “there are seven continents…”
    When I told this story to Andina bartender Ramiro Ortiz one day after work, he laughed. “Once,” he said, “two guys were in here waiting for their drinks and they called over to me, ‘hey can we get some chips and salsa over here?’”
    I don’t blame them. They don’t know that chips and salsa isn’t a customary Peruvian dish and theirsis a common (mis) assumption. With Mexico as our closest Latin neighbor, it’s easy to process any and all Latin cultures through the filter of what we know about Mexico. We don’t all have the time, money or inclination to travel throughout Latin America fine-tuning our knowledge of specific regional customs and foods, but we can listen sharply when someone describes their culture. Andina is a Peruvian restaurant, but its employees come from all over Latin America: from Mexico and Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala and Argentina. While some share similarities, their countries are no more universally united through the Spanish language than the U.S. is with England or Australia.
    Among these voices is Mama Doris, who works diligently to enlighten guests on Peruvian culture, clarifying when necessary the minutiae that to some may seem arbitrary or exhaustive. But the subtle difference between Peruvian purple corn and Paraguayan yellow corn, for example, is a difference.
    It is important because as they say in the restaurant industry, “it’s all in the details.” Details define a culture and distinguish it from its neighboring regions. When Mama Doris is particular about the specifics of a Peruvian dish or tradition, she is ensuring its preservation. So that one day, through
    exchanges made and attention paid, we will all know that there are no tortillas in Peru.


    Mix up your holiday party venue this season with a seated dinner or cocktail party in Andina’s beautifully renovated private event space, Tupai. Andina also offers several other private dining rooms for smaller company parties, social gatherings and special events. For a tour or to reserve one of these spaces, please contact Jennifer Clegg at
    (503) 228-9535 x206 or jennifer@andinarestaurant.com.
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  • Nuestra lucuma en Andina

    On those occasions when our guests ask for recommendations as to desserts with an especially distinctive Peruvian flavor, I always recommend both the Mousse del Valle y Selva and the Torta de Chocolate con Helado de Lúcuma. While the chocolate elements in each of these desserts hardly fail to please our guests, their pleasure and memory fix most enduringly upon the unusual and delicious flavor of the lucuma, an Andean fruit hardly known in other parts of the world.


    Here are some interesting facts about the lúcuma. Botanically identified as Pouteria lúcuma, it is the fruit of the Lúcumo tree, which grows abundantly in the warm valleys of the Andes (at around 7500 feet above the sea level), and in certain areas of the coast that have a constant temperature of around 20 to 22°C. The Lúcumo does not grow well in hot climates. The best soil for these trees is a well drained one. The trees are fragile and their wood can be carved without difficulty. The Lúcumo reproduces by seeds, and starts to give fruit after 5 years. The ideal time to harvest the lucuma fruit is after 10 years. The average Lúcumo tree gives from 200 to 300 lúcumas per year.


    The lúcuma’s shape is rounded with a pointy peak surrounded by a brownish or grayish color. The skin of the fruit is bright green when young and lustrous brownish green when ripe and ready to pick. Because the fruit requires 9 months (about 10 lunar cycles) to fully ripen, exudes a milky sap when it is cut from the tree, and has a shapeliness reminiscent of a nourishing breast, the lúcuma has been considered a symbol of fertility since ancient times (as early as 8000 BC).


    The lúcuma, like the apple in the Christian myth of Creation, has a central place in ancient Peruvian myths explaining the origin of the world. Because of its role in these indigenous creation myths, the Lucumo is respected as a sacred tree. Unlike the apple, at least as that fruit is treated in its usual allegorical exegesis, the lúcuma is a source of myth precisely because of its qualities as a fruit, not only shapely and appearing cyclically, but rich in nutrients and medicinal properties.


    Ceramic representations of the lúcuma can be found in pre-Incan cultures that populated the Andean lowlands and the long bountiful Peruvian coast. From all of them, especially from the Mochica culture in the north, and the Nazca culture in the South, we learn how the lúcuma, together with corn and potatoes, formed the basic diet of the pre-Colombian Peruvians. In and around Peru’s ancient coastal tombs and city-forts, archeologists and historians have discovered desiccated corn, potatoes, and seeds of the lúcuma, as well as pottery representing the fruit.
    I grew up in the land of lúcuma, Cajamarca, in the mountains of northern Peru. I cherish some of my childhood beliefs about the lúcuma, and here are a few. We believed that if you were ever hit by a lúcuma pit (which is as large as the pit of an avocado), another pit would grow under you skin in just that spot, and nobody would have the power to remove it. Forever you would live with a lúcuma bump, like a knotted muscle but visible to the world. Your luck would be even worse if, by accident, you swallowed the pit entire. In you stomach, the pit would grow into a real plant and its branches would come out from your mouth, nose and ears. I do not need to mention how scary the thought was! Yet it didn’t stop us from collecting those beautiful shiny pits, which became our treasure and pride, and formed collections to compare between friends. And, of course, most pits came into our possession after we had just eaten the precious, delicious pulp of the lúcuma.


    When the lúcuma is cut into halves, a beautiful yolk-colored pulp appears with a pit in the center that shines in an amazing red-brown color. The pulp is moist and finely poised in texture between the silken and the mealy. The taste is light, sweet and subtle, with notes of vanilla and maple. Its lingering effect leaves your mouth a little dry, very much as tannins in wine will do. We indulge its flavor in all its uniqueness when we make fresh lúcuma juice or ice cream.


    In our restaurant we use the paste of lucuma, imported from Peru, to prepare our signature mousse and our helado de lúcuma, or lúcuma ice cream. And on occasion, our Peruvian chef creates wonderful lúcuma sauces that enhance our savory dishes.


    I really encourage you to taste any of the desserts and dishes in which we feature this delicious, unusual fruit. You will enjoy the uniqueness of its flavor. Subtle, “mapley” and sweet, it is a flavor that often transports me toward those heavens under which the Lúcumo trees continue to grow.
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  • Being a Sommelier: Insider Tips

    There have been many articles written about proper wine service, generally by folks whose opinions are highly valued in the restaurant community. Without refuting any suggestions that have come before, here are a few of the things that have worked for me over the years:

    Approaching the Table and Getting an Order. Choose your moment to approach judiciously. If the table is discussing something avidly, lay back and wait for a lull in the conversation. After offering your services, someone generally will take the lead and describe what the table might like to drink. That’s your Host for the rest of the night. He/She may say, “We like rich, full-bodied reds, so what do you suggest?” I like to ask two things at this juncture: “What are you planning to eat,” and “What’s your price point of happiness?” If the guests seem unsure of price, open the wine list in front of the Host and point to a few full-bodied reds then slide your finger over to the prices. This should get the job done.

    Corkscrew and Cloth. We’ve all seen it: Sommelier arrives at table with wine, shatters the cork and spends three minutes stabbing down the neck of the bottle for the remains, beads of sweat developing on forehead. It’s embarrassing on both sides (guest thinks sommelier is inept and sommelier is just plain annoyed). Priority one is to get a corkscrew you like. It really doesn’t matter what type it is, as long as you can open bottle after bottle flawlessly while being stared at by lots of people. I use a traditional “waiter’s friend” with a soft-rubber handle. I can’t remember the last time I broke a cork with it. And always have a pliable, folded cloth with you. You’ll need it for dabbing at spills, picking up hot plates, cleaning off chairs and tables, catching drips and mopping the aforementioned sweat off your brow.

    Temperature and Stemware. In the eyes of a discerning guest, the temperature at which your wine is served and into what type of glass it is poured will establish the level of commitment the restaurant has towards its wine program. Serving reds cool and whites not too cold will assure that the wines will perform their best. Too warm reds are flaccid and flat, rarely improving during the meal. Too cold whites can be inexpressive both on the nose and palate. The stemware doesn’t have to be super elaborate, only requiring a thin lip, more or less tulip-shape and a degree of sturdiness. Andina uses Riedel Magnums, which feature a short stem and a bowl that works equally well for reds or whites.

    Opening and Pouring. This is an area where personal preference comes into play. After presenting the bottle to the Host, with label forward and verbalizing what the label says, I prefer to set the bottle flat and remove the entire capsule before pulling the cork. This method is less invasive to the wine (please don’t shake the wine while attempting to slice the upper portion of the capsule off) and presents a more elegant appearance. Place the removed capsule in your pocket and the cork in front of the Host. If, after smelling the bottle, you sense off aromas, replace the bottle immediately. Never knowingly serve off wine. Give the Host about two ounces to taste. Pour ladies first on tables of 6 or under, or clockwise from the host on tables of 7 or more, always pouring the Host last. Place the bottle next to the Host, with the label facing him/her. Keep an eye on the table, repouring appropriately throughout the night.

    I’m sure with all that has been written on the subject, no new ground is being broken here. This is just solid, unpretentious wine service, applicable in any restaurant where wine is offered for sale.

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  • Special Dispatch: Birthing New Approaches to Quechuan Traditions

    Deep in the southern Andes, this isolated, rural area is home to a majority of Quechuans, one of Peru’s remaining indigenous populations. From 1980 to 1992, the Ayacucho region was at the epicenter of bloody battles between Maoist group, The Shining Path, and the Peruvian government. Almost two decades later, Williams traveled to the area to help improve rural maternal health and birthing practices. Doris and John Platt were generous contributors to her fundraising efforts for the project.
    The small town of San Jose de Secce, Peru, lies surrounded by mountains in the heart of the Ayacuchan highlands. My research partners and I were sent there on a reconnaissance mission for a small American non-profit, Primary Cares, which is dedicated to supporting rural health initiatives worldwide. Our goal was to survey the region and identify ways that Primary Cares could improve maternal health in a way that is sustainable and appropriately adapted to the cultural traditions of the region…not a small challenge!
    For centuries, Quechuan women have given birth in their homes. They prefer
    giving birth “vertically,” which can mean sitting on a stool grasping a rope,
    squatting on the floor, or kneeling. Regardless of the position, a woman’s husband or another trusted assistant always embraces her from behind. This support is believed to transfer strength to the laboring mother while she endures painful contractions.
    Quechuan women rely on this pain management technique as much as American women have come to depend on the epidural. During the first few months, our work involved gathering information about the tiny and often isolated communities surrounding San Jose de Secce. In order to get to these communities, we often walked for hours on trails crowded with sheep and goats or along precipitous roads that dropped hundreds of feet to river valleys
    below. Once there, we visited the local health promoters – individuals who oversee the health of their communities.
    Due to the successful work of the health promoters – referring people to health centers when they are sick, making sure pregnant women go to their prenatal checkups, and giving workshops on anything from contraception to nutrition – the general health of the region has drastically improved over the last decade. And they do this work voluntarily.
    We were often welcomed into the promoters´ homes with offerings of boiled
    potatoes or fresh cheese, after which we sat down to discuss the major health
    problems of each community and how the promoters felt the health of his or her community could be improved. Historically, women in this region have resisted giving birth in health establishments because at most health centers vertical birth was not an option. A local NGO recently installed “traditional birthing stations” in five health centers near San Jose de Secce. Now instead of braving it at home, women now willingly trek to the nearest health center to give vertical birth with professional attention in a sanitary establishment. As a result, fewer mothers are dying.
    Towards the end of our time in Ayacucho, we identified a need to construct two additional traditional birthing stations. With collaboration from local health personnel and community members, we constructed the stations and worked to inform and excite the communities about them through trainings and inaugural celebrations. Since their completion, dozens of women have used them for the safe birthing. When executed well, small projects can have a large impact. Building on the success of our first projects, Primary Cares plans to build four more vertical birthing centers and pursue, in collaboration with a local NGO, an overarching maternal health initiative in Ayacucho in the coming year. Fortunately, we already posses one tool for the continued success of our projects in the region: the ability to ask Ayacuchans what they think.

    I thank the Platt-Rodriguez family for their support in making the project possible.

    Saludos,
    Beth Williams
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  • Sharing at Andina

    After 5 years of being in the restaurant business, we can affirm without any doubt, that our guests love our Peruvian Tapas. They like the possibility to order several of them, in small or medium sizes, so they can explore the variety of flavors and textures that our Peruvian cuisine brings for them to share and enjoy.

    Sharing with our guests our way to eat, we communicate our belief, that besides the flavor, the smell, and the texture of any food that delights our senses, there is something more about food that speaks deeply to our human nature. People, throughout time, from different cultures: primitive or sophisticated, look for the moment and the place where they can eat together. Food has the magical power to unite people and make them happy when they share and enjoy what they eat being together. It is in our nature not to be alone but in company of others. We are sociable creatures. We love to eat and share.

    In Peru since we are children we learn to share. Probably because in each household the space or money is limited, parents teach their children to share almost everything. We share our room, our toys, our time, our work and the food that we have in our plate or in our hands. It you are eating in front of somebody young or old , you are obligated to invite them at least a small bite, it doesn’t matter if they refuse, you need to insist, once twice, three times. If you don’t want to share, hide yourself to eat without anybody seeing you (mom’s recommendation). We also share worries, problems and joys with each member of the family. We believe and live, what an old proverb says: “Sharing sorrows we divide them, sharing joys we multiply them.”
    In Andina, we celebrate the goodness of sharing in many aspects: With our Tapas and with our family style dinners we provide to our guests the
    enjoyment of sharing small bites from the same plate, to experience and enjoy the same flavors, the same textures, and the pleasure to eat together. By the way we prepare our food with our native ingredients we share with our guests the History of Peru. A traditional tapa or a modern dish, both become an open book where the rainbow of flavors that the palate detects, reveal to our guests the different cultural influences that Peru had through its history.
    By our way to treat our guests with hospitality and warmth, we are sharing with them, the traditions and the idiosyncrasy of the Latin American people, especially of Peruvians.

    We also share with our guests the respect and the appreciation for the quality of the food that we give and our guests receive; at the same time that we value the quality of our guests, they value the culture that we and our food come from.

    Finally, Andina wants to express our deep thanks to Oregon that allows us to share with its people the bounty of its natural products and the beauty of its people and its nature.

    Mama Doris.
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  • Wine Speak

     

    Let’s face it; the language of wine can be an intimidating lexicon when first encountered. It can seem so pretentious at the outset that some folks are willing to cast off the exploration of wine just as they’ve approached the edge of the forest. All that swirling and sniffing, the tableside etiquette, not to mention the perplexing nomenclature. With terms like “spice box,” “garrigue,” “barnyard” and “cassis,” how is one to discern what is just plain enjoyable? And why, you ask, would anyone be interested in tossing something akin to barnyard down their gullet? Well, for one thing, it’s wine barnyard, not real barnyard. And when we talk about raspberries and black pepper, for example, these are just terms to help us wrap our heads around the many aromatic compounds found in the mystifying elixir of fermented grapes. The truth is, all the wine talk you may have heard is really just an important group of signifiers (little icons, if you will) used to construct a viable image with which we can understand this liquid. For instance, Pinot Noir is often redolent with black cherry aromas, freshly harvested mushrooms and, sometimes, cola. Does it really taste exactly like these things? No, not exactly. But now we have a picture of some of the elements that are involved in this wine so that we can better understand its character. On the other side of that, the language that we possess doesn’t often do justice to the sensations we feel on a variety of levels. That’s why when you sit around a table and eat a rapturously delicious meal, all you hear from your dining companions is, “Mmmmm. Yum. That’s good.” When that perfect marriage happens in your mouth, a successful rhythm takes hold that goes far deeper than words.

    This rhythmic form of balance is a sensation that your mouth instinctually knows, even if you cannot speak the language. Before flavor profiles become the talk of the table, a balanced experience must first take place on the tongue. I recently experienced a beautiful example of this balance in the 2007 Matello Carey Creek Riesling, a show-stopping Oregon white wine. I tasted this wine and sat straight back in my chair in wonderment at such equilibrium. Stream-lined acidity ran straight down the palate, along with textured sugars and bright limestone. Put the language away, and this Riesling showed itself as a focused, linear missile … not a molecule out of line. And the tongue has a cognizance of this before the brain has even begun to put words to it.

    While language can have a tendency to fall short, it is the communicable tool with which we are armed. If you want it to be, the wine on the table can be an abounding vessel for discussion. If it seems haughty or intimidating, demystify it with humor or the realization that it’s subjective; it’s your game. A friend and I were having a couple glasses of wine recently and talking about flavor profiles, and he asked, “At what point does it begin to seem ridiculous? You say it tastes like petrol and grapefruit? What if I taste tree bark and stuffed teddy bear?” I laughed first, but then replied, “So be it, it goes as far as you want it to.” The experience is truly subjective, and if you taste stuffed teddy bear, then, by God, you do. The real goal is to have a truly engaging experience with the things that you ingest or imbibe that is then translatable to the rest of your world experience. While wine-speak can be a little intimidating, drinking wine doesn’t have to be. The table is its own venue, and the food adorning it defines its genre. The wine, however, is the liquid adhesive that binds the community around it. It’s a conversation starter, a complement to ceviche or roasted lamb–a vehicle, a vessel, or a lovely way to relax and liven a human interaction.
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  • Sexy Woman is More Than Just A Spicy Name

    Two miles outside of Cusco, Peru on a grassy hilltop overlooking a wide, fertile valley, is one of the most well preserved examples of Inca stonework in the country. Only a hint of its original incarnation and impressive still, Sacsayhuaman consists of three adjacent stone walls that reach up to 8 ½ meters tall and zig zag down the hill for 300 meters. Its enormous cartoonish boulders, the biggest of which weighs 361 tons, are held together not by mortar but by the intricate locking of the stones – a testament to the sophistication of Inca construction.
    As with many Inca sites, speculation of its historical use runs rampant. According to the Peruvian tourism board, Sacsayhuaman was an ancient fortress built to keep out invading tribes from the Antis region in the Peruvian Amazon. But some argue that it was nothing more than an elaborate construction to represent the head of a puma, an Inca god figure.
    In 1536, Sacsayhuaman was the site of one of the last Spanish-Inca battles before Spain officially came into power – a bloody dramatic affair in which 1,500 Incas were killed and legends of them leaping to death from lookout towers remain deeply embedded in the region’s cultural narrative. Today the towers are gone and only the base of Sacsayhuaman’s structure remains. When the Spanish occupied Cusco, they had no qualms about quarrying the stones to construct their churches and did so freely.
    Sacsayhuaman remains an important site for modern Peruvians. Every June 24th, thousands of Peruvians and tourists from around the world form a rowdy procession in celebration of Inti Raymi. Inti Raymi, or “resurrection of the sun,” is the winter solstice according to the Inca calendar. Outside of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Cusco’s Inti Raymi is the largest festival in South America.
    Led by a brightly costumed actor playing the part of ruler Sapa Inca, the procession begins in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas and culminates at Sacsayhuaman. Over 500 actors portray Inca high priests, nobles and officials of the court in the colorful, elaborate ceremony. Sapa Inca rises from his golden throne onto the central altar, where he and the nobles give speeches and blessings to the crowd in Quechua. In order to ensure a bountiful harvest in the year to come, a white llama was historically sacrificed atop the altar. Today though it is only a staged simulation, the act that remains an
    important part of Inti Raymi.
    The history of Sacsayhuaman is certainly a bloody one, but its future tastes bright with a spicy kick.
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  • andina en su quinto aniversario

    On June 19, 2003 Andina opened its doors in Portland, Oregon. Since that date until now we are impressed and thankful for the reception that our food is having in the Northwest of the USA, and for the invaluable help of all of our staff.
    Without the quality of our clientele that is open to new flavors; without the
    enthusiasm and energy of all of our staff, and their willingness to know more about our Peruvian food; the mission of our restaurant can’t be accomplished.
    After 5 years of Andina’s existence, and the relative success of our restaurant, we want to share with our clients and readers some of our thoughts related to the essence of Andina.
    Probably many of our readers ask: what is the essence of Andina, besides that of being a Peruvian restaurant? The answer rests in its mission, in the characteristics of its food, and in its spirit….Andina’s mission
    Andina’s mission is to be an ambassador of Peru’s culture, through our food and hospitality. We want to provide to each of our guests a unique experience, as if they were in Peru. Our restaurant colors, design, decorations, music and the way we treat our guests, contribute with our food to create the feeling that Andina is Peru. My family firmly believes that accomplishing Andina’s mission, we are erasing stereotypes and barriers between Latin America and North America. Sharing our good food with others that appreciate it and praise it, we are creating a bridge of mutual recognition and respect between those who are the givers, and the others who are the receivers; and who knows, doing this we are making people of two cultures closer to each other, and all together are contributing for a better understanding of the world.
    Andina’s food
    Our food has two important characteristics:
    1. It is “the shining star” of the restaurant. At Andina we don’t have a “Star Chef.” With great pride, we can tell that all of our fine Chefs, Peruvian and not Peruvian, contribute with their talent, techniques, and experience to perfect our Peruvian food. Their role is to keep the “Peruvian flavor” of our traditional dishes, polishing and beautifying them or creating other dishes, by adding to our Peruvian flavor more sophisticated elements newly discovered in the exotic realm of our rain forest or in the bounty of Oregon.
    2. Most of Andina’s dishes could be called “historical food”. They reveal in their preparation and flavor all the cultures that influenced Peru, from ancient times until the present. Our Pre-Inca and Inca way of eating based in our native potatoes, quinoa, peppers and Andean herbs was influenced by Spain (XVI century), that brought to Peru not only European, but also Moorish ingredients and techniques. Thanks to Spanish influence, Peru incorporated into its way of cooking new techniques and
    ingredients such as, onions, garlic, spices, rice and citric fruits, essential now in our gastronomy. The presence of black slaves brought from Africa to Peru during the Spanish colonization (XVI to XVIII centuries), influenced also in our way to cook, making humble ingredients palatable and delicious. After the Independence of Peru, from Spain (1821), the immigration of Chinese and Japanese people introduced to us their own techniques and ingredients. Later Italians, Jews and French enriched and sophisticated our way of cooking, especially in making ice creams and in pastry.
    When people praise our food, they describe it as “an explosion of flavors in their mouths that come one after another”; or as “a rainbow of flavors never before experienced”. We find a logical explanation, our food portrays each and all of the cultural influences of its history. When we add to the basic flavor of our peppers, onions, garlic and many other ingredients brought by other cultures we are creating a food that incorporates all in an incredible Peruvian flavor . In that sense our food should be good…very, very good. Many generations before us, created it, improved it, tasted it and approved it . We in Andina present a final product in a food that shines.
    Andina’s spirit
    Andina’s spirit can be found in the spirit of “family” that we created 5 years ago, and which we try to maintain among all of the members of the restaurant. Andina was born as the product of the vision of our son Peter, shared with the rest of our family, and the hard work of all of our staff that believing in our mission, made Andina a reality. All of us, founders and everyone who came to work with us, share the same love for what we do, related to Peru , its food, and our way to treat people. I see in all of the members of Andina’s family the joy, the pride, and the enthusiasm they put wherever they work. I, as a mother, feel proud and thankful for being part of the family of Andina and its spirit. I am convinced that we in Andina, are providing food and an experience that nurtures the body and also the soul of our guests.
    Finally on our 5th Anniversary, I want to express in the name of Andina’s family, our deep gratitude to our guests, especially to those that are faithful to us; and to those that motivated by our food and our spirit decided to visit Peru to encounter a different world full of contrasts, but also full of history, traditions and hospitable people. If success is measured by the number of our clients that are visiting Peru or feel curiosity to know more about it, then Andina is succeeding in its mission.
    Mama Doris.
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  • Greatness

    While glancing through wine magazines recently, I came across an article that interested me, written by a guy I respect. It dealt with wines of greatness, and what these great wines meant to the author. As I had been meaning to put together something of a similar, yet different nature, this article has prodded me along. Any writer that says he’s never been inspired to better things by the works of his peers is not truly in touch with his feelings.
    The first thing I want to do here is to try to explain my perception of greatness. Webster’s definition uses words like admirable; eminent; mighty; uncommonly gifted. There’s also a slang connotation, which is characterized as “splendid.” It’s this slang that we tend to use the most: “Doesn’t Lucy look great?” or “What a great way to top off an excellent meal!” In reality, Lucy looks pretty much the same as she always has, and that brilliant end to the meal was just another cup of hot java. It amounts to the misuse of a word that should really be employed when discussing something special, something out of the ordinary. I don’t know how other folks react when closely confronted with greatness. With me, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and my skin tingles. This doesn’t happen very often. Usually it occurs when I hear certain pieces of music, like Paul Tortellier’s version of Bach’s Cello Suites; or Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans and Cannonball Adderley playing on Davis’ “Kind of Blue,” or Jimi Hendrix ripping it up on “Are You Experienced?”

    Works of art can provide a comparable feeling. I remember spending nearly two hours at the Prado Museum in Madrid standing in front of Hieronymous Bosch’s triptych, “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” and I would have stayed longer, but the museum was closing. And my neck hairs always start shuffling around each time I watch “On the Waterfront.” Another occasion also comes to mind: Standing at the rail at Belmont Park and gawking as the magnificent thoroughbred Seattle Slew came on to the track. He was tiptoeing on all fours like a ballet dancer. Every muscle in his flank was rippling, and his color shimmered as if made of satin. Then he ran so fluidly, with such effortless supremacy. Sheer visual brilliance.

    Wines that provide this kind of excitement are few and far between. I’ve
    probably only tasted a dozen or so in my life that qualify. A wine of true greatness combines two distinctive traits, power and elegance. Think about it. Often we taste wines that are rich and forceful, but rarely display elegance as well. Conversely, there many finesse-driven wines that lack stuffing.
    When you come across a great wine, you’ll know it. All cylinders will hit
    simultaneously. Flavors will literally explode in the mouth, then cascade into a finish that you’ll taste from ear to ear. Minutes will pass, and the finish will linger. Thoughts about this wine will linger as well, years after it’s gone.
    A few that come to mind are the Bonnes Mares 1985 from Georges Roumier in Burgundy; the 1986 Hill of Grace Shiraz from Henschke in South Australia; Vega Sicilia 1962 from the Ribera del Duero in Spain and, ultimately, a tasting at Etienne Guigal’s winery in the Rhone Valley. That day I tasted through his three single-vineyard Cote-Roties: La Landonne, La Mouline and La Turque. The 1991 and 1990 from barrel then the 1989 and 1988 from bottle. At the completion of this endeavor, I sat on a bench in the street outside for at least a half-hour trying to gather my thoughts, as I had never tasted wines such as these.

    The next time you hear someone raving about how great something they experienced was, put the comment into context because greatness is truly rare.
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  • Fast Track Grapes

     

    Things go through cycles. Something that was out of favor a few years ago can change direction radically, almost overnight, and become highly desirable in the eyes of consumers. After a little time passes, the latest fad fades and reverts to obscurity.


    A couple of American trends that come to mind are men’s haircuts and bell-bottom pants.


    I was one of an army of longhaired hippies back when. The crew-cut no-necks would call out to us from their flatbeds, “Hey sweetie, get a haircut,” but we just grew it longer.


    Now I’m the one with the crew cut, and it’s the guys driving the flatbeds that have the ponytails. Go figure.


    And, yes, bell-bottom jeans are coming back. I can recall wearing pants so wide at the bottom that if I had four legs, all of them would have fit with room to spare. Why today’s kids would want to wear such garments are beyond me. But I bet my mom probably said the same thing in the day.


    Now, let’s put these thoughts into vinous terms.


    Until recently, wines made from grapes like grenache and pinot gris toiled away virtually unnoticed. Very little was ever written about them, and only the most eclectic wine lists would feature them. Well, how things have changed.


    Grenache, the workhorse of the Southern Rhone Valley, has emerged from the abyss to become one of the hottest grapes on the market. Not too long ago, bottles of grenache would just gather dust. For some reason, folks here in the U.S. thought them inferior. Part of this problem might be color.


    He-men drinkers disdain pale wines. Grenache can be garnet in color, even in youth, and it will never bring to the glass the deep ruby found in cabernet or syrah. But when blended with grapes like mourvedre, carignane and the aforementioned syrah, grenache becomes poignant, encompassing both power and grace.


    Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the south of France is the oldest Appellation (demarcated region) in France. The Pope, under siege in Italy, sought refuge in Avignon in the early 1300’s, and a new castle was built to house him and his entourage, hence Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Look closely at the next one you buy, and you’ll see the Pope’s insignia embossed on the bottle.


    The southern Rhone is home to the world’s greatest grenache. Gigondas,
    Vacqueyas, Rasteau, Cairanne are just some of the villages producing magnificent grenache blends.


    The Australians have rediscovered grenache as well, releasing numerous GSM
    bottlings (grenache, syrah/shiraz, mourvedre) on the market.  Search for these avidly, as they pack rich fruit and are deftly balanced, which sets them apart from some of the more massively decked-out pure shiraz bottlings.


    Releases from the States, especially those from regions on Central Coast of
    California, are reminiscent of their French ancestors. Here’s an aside: you can find 75 to 100-year-old vines of grenache, carignane and mourvedre in California. These were considered trash grapes in years gone by. Keep your eyes peeled for them. Superb wines at exceptional prices.


    Everybody has heard of pinot grigio. Whites from Italy, made from pinot gris,
    cold-fermented for easy-drinking. Pretty good every year, but rarely exciting. What I like is that, all of a sudden, it’s not just pinot grigio that people want to drink, but it’s pinot gris!


    America’s finest come from right here in Oregon, where the grape assumes a medium-bodied profile. Oregon pinot gris is immensely popular right now. We strive to keep them in stock as they leap off the list. They’re crisp and aromatic, and work with a broad range of dishes.


    And please don’t overlook the pinot gris from Alsace in France. They are lush, almost oily, yet acidic and versatile. Great food wines.


    The formerly forgotten are now ruling the roost. I think I like this concept. But check in again in two years, and there will be new pretenders to the fast track. That’s what makes this business so interesting.


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  • SUMMER ACTIVITIES AT ANDINA

     

    As Summer approaches, and the days become longer, warmer and brighter, andina will be branching out to participate in Outdoor Events sponsored by our clients who own Wineries and are connected with the Oregon Wine Industry. As a restaurant that represents Peru, we are honored to be part of the Oregon food service industry,  contributing to a flourishing wine industry that is becoming not only the pride of our state, but also the entire Northwest.


    Andina’s first wine event will be on June 22nd at Adea Winery. We will serve adinner for 60 people, many of whom are connected with the wine industry. Our Peruvian chef Hernan Castañeda will present a menu where fresh Oregon
    products and Andean flavors will be combined and prepared in the Peruvian style. In collaboration with the Adea Winery owners, our Wine Director Ken Collura will carefully match each dish with the corresponding Adea wine.


    For tickets, please contact the Adea Winery at 503.662.4509.


    Our second event will take place on July 12th in the heart of Oregon’s wine country. Andina is honored to be the featured restaurant at the annual Main Course Dinner event located on the main street in downtown Forest Grove. This is the second year in a row that we have been invited by the Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce, and we look forward to serving approximately 250 people. This event is open to the public and many of the guests belong to the Wine Community of the region who are proud to present their finest wines to match Andina’s food. Honored by this invitation and by the quality of wines, Hernan, our Peruvian Chef has designed a special menu that features buffalo meat with seasonal Oregon products, such as shrimp, prawns, trout, and fresh vegetables. Each dish is prepared with traditional and modern Peruvian
    techniques that feature our special peppers, garlic, and aromatic herbs to bring out the distinctive flavors of our cuisine.


    For information and tickets, please visit the Main Course event website at www.maincoursedinner.com or contact the Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce directly at 503.357.3006 or info@fgchamber.org.


    At both events, Hernan will introduce a unique Andean oil called “Sacha Inchi” a legendary oil used by the Incas, then forgotten for centuries but recently rediscovered and now used in our modern cuisine. It is extracted from the seeds of a plant that grows in our Amazon rain forest, is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and has a delicate flavor and herbal aroma.
    We hope these events will allow our guests to enjoy a wonderful experience through the perfect marriage of Oregon’s finest wines with Peru’s ways to prepare fresh local food, providing the palate with unique flavors and textures.


    Andina wishes to all of our clients a good start to a pleasant and joyful Summer.




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  • No Substitutions: The Cultural Significance of Set Meals

    What’s for dinner?” is a common evening refrain in homes across the country. The possibilities range from American classics like meatloaf and mashed potatoes to exotic dishes such as pad Thai or Moroccan spiced chicken. But what if everyone doesn’t want the same thing? There are allergies, sensitivities, likes, dislikes and plain old picky eaters. Maybe the chef is coerced into whipping up a little something special, something “off menu.” Does this engage our senses or alienate us from one another? Scrunched into a sidewalk café or bustling cafeteria-like space, you find yourself seated next to business executives, young families, older women taking a break from their market stands. In comedores, the most basic establishments, poor families feed on basic, filling foods in a communal side-by-side setting. By eating dishes from a set menu designed particularly for the day, you partake in a sort of familial ritual. It’s not “this is what I want for lunch,” but “this is what is for lunch.”


    As William Doherty, a social science professor at the University of
    Minneapolis at Minnesota, said in a recent Time magazine article: “A meal is about sharing. I see this trend where parents areWhat if everyone had to eat the same thing? Would they grow to love it and more importantly, would it forge a connection between them?

    To consider these questions, we look to the heart of everyday Peruvian dining – the set menu or menu del día. Whether served in rural comedors or upscale metropolitan restaurants, the menu del día is generally the most economical
    option for dining in Peru. Quality and presentation vary widely but the idea remains consistent: a set three-course almuerzo (lunch) or cena (dinner) with one main entrée or at times a couple selections to choose from. The entrée comes accompanied by a set soup or salad, side dishes, and possibly a dessert and refresco (juice or tea). At times, an upgraded option called menu ejecutivo is offered, which follows the same structure but includes more elaborate options for about $1 more. Preparing different meals for each kid, and it takes away from that. The sharing is the compromise. Not everyone gets their ideal menu every night.”

    In the U.S., dining is heavily delineated by class and menu structure caters to the wants and needs of the individual. Many will scoff at a menu that states “no substitutions.” As is the case anywhere, Peruvian diners choose a restaurant based on cost, appearance, consistency, and social alliances. But with a set menu, it is not at their whim that the meal is determined.
    Just as riding the bus in Peru doesn’t so much distinguish your class as get you from point A to point B, dining collectively on menu del día is a community affair. While done individually or in small groups, sharing a collective dish brings some connection to the diners. At the conclusion of a decade-long research study recently released by Columbia University, scientists concluded that eating regular family meals together diminishes delinquency and drug use in adolescents. It was concluded that more Hispanic teens eat meals with their families than black or white teens, and that parents with less than a high school education eat with their children more often than parents with high school or college diplomas.
    Cultures worldwide still take in heady midday meals together and many Latin countries place an emphasis on this practice. If meeting the demands of a modern workday keeps families from home, partaking in a Peruvian-inspired collective dining experience can provide kinship at this culturally significant time of day.
    When homesick from traveling in another country, often the most commonplace experiences are the ones we yearn for. Those activities that we may have seen as ordinary, even plebian at times begin to manifest as the basis of our cultural identities. At the root of all cultures lies a fundamental need for food. It is how, when, and with whom we eat it that defines us.
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  • Chicha as a Way of Life

     

    One of the first things that diners at Andina see is a wide wooden bowl full of key limes, dried aji peppers, and the most attention getting item – small ears of dried purple corn. We use the purple corn to make a sugary Peruvian drink called Chicha Morada. As good as it is, Chicha Morada can’t quite match the intrigue of its cousin, Chicha de Jora – a foamy homemade beer that has been made for centuries in small towns across Peru.


    Señora Zoraya is a native from the southern valleys of highland Peru, close to Cusco. She sat down to talk with me about Chicha de Jora, a fermented corn beer, and its significance to the Quechuan culture. Made from maiz amarillo, the chicha dates back to Incan times, when it was made by chewing the corn to kickstart the fermentation process. Sans the saliva, it is made today by a traditional laborious process in both small handmade batches and in large commercial plants.


    For campesinos and people living in the countryside surrounding Cuzco,
    Chicha de Jora is not a drink, but a way of life. The Cuzco valley is ancient Incan territory and its inhabitants conserve their heritage by consuming chicha, which symbolizes their inherent connection to the land. “In a strongly Quechuan community,” Zoraya says, “everyone drinks chicha”. Even the children.


    Though its alcoholic content ranges from 1 to 3%, residents view chicha as a traditional way of life and a boon to the health of all ages. “For one, it is a
    tradition,” says Zoraya. “Two, it’s good for you; they say it combats prostate
    cancer. And for three, it’s cheap.”


    Chicha de Jora is often made and consumed in chicherias – small countryside homes appointed with simple wooden tables and earthen floors. The woman of the house makes her chicha and hoists a red plastic bandera, or flag, atop the house when it is ready to drink. She stays open for business until her supply runs out.


    The chicheria is a place of refreshment and socialization where farmers come in from the fields for a midday break or after-work refreshment. Inside patrons gather around the rustic wooden table, drinking and chatting to the sounds of the Huayno music piped through the room. Huayno is an ancient form of folk dance music that Zoraya describes as “happy!”


    And what is a good beer without a salty snack? One of the most famous
    chicheria snacks is “Nabus Jaucha”: a sofrito of potato, onion, and garlic garnished with boiled parsnip, smeared with an “uchucuta” of peppers and cilantro, and topped off with boiled large kerneled corn called “mote.”
    How To?


    v On the Farm
    20 pounds of choclo or maiz Amarillo is picked and lain to dry on a field for one month so it becomes very dry.
    v Germination
    After that, soak the corn in water for one day. Lay a big sheet of
    plastic on the ground and cover it with corn leaves. Place the corn  on top of the leaves and cover with more leaves. Wrap the sides of the plastic over the top and seal to create an incubator for the corn to germinate. Leave corn in the plastic pouch for 7-10 days, opening once a day to sprinkle with water.
    v Grinding Corn
    After this the corn is ground on two smooth river rocks, the top,
    “tunao,” rocking against the bottom, “batan,” act as a smooth mortar and pestle.
    Every family home, rich or poor, has one of these stone grinders, and over the years, the rocks wear into perfect sync with each other.
    v Extracting Malt Sugars
    Add the corn meal into a clay pot with water and slow cook over a wood fire for 2-3 hours. Drain the liquid in fine wicker baskets lined with hay to catch the solids, or suttuchi, which is then used to feed livestock and chickens.
    v Boiling the Wort
    In a second clay pot combine wheat flour, fennel fronds, water, cane sugar, 2 beers and/or cañazo (sugar cane liquor). Bring to a boil, then strain in a standard colander. Mix the strained liquid with the reserved corn liquid.
    v Fermentation
    Pour the final product into a “chomba,” a traditional clay chicha pot, cover with a white cloth and let sit for 48 hours. Enjoy.
    Special thanks to Victor Platt for translating the interview and ensuring the
    accuracy of the exchange between Señora Zoraya and Nina Lary.
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  • Drinking Rose Shouldn’t be Difficult

     

    The moment the first day of hot sunshine hits the back of my neck and bounces off white and pink blossoms lining the streets, the back of my mouth begins to yearn for a glass of rose.  I put the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio to side and search for my screw-capped friend, dry rose.  As I reach for a bottle drenched in ice, lazily bathing atop the kitchen counter, I twist the cap only to hear complaints from friends about how they refuse ever to imbibe in sweet wine, pink as cotton candy.  My first instinct is allow them to revel in their own naiveity and enjoy the crisp, clean juice all to
    myself. I inform these folks about the beauty and lively sparkle  inside of each and every bottle of a wonderfully crafted rose.  The tasting begins and the ooohs and ahhhs follow accordingly.


    As summer approaches and the wine distributors begin showcasing ever larger selections of roses made from Tempranillo, Garnacha, Pinot Noir and Zweigelt, I am utterly baffled that some of these wines are still sealed with traditional corks.  Roses are meant to be drunk as soon as they are released.  Cork and rose should never be allowed in the same sentence, unless “should not” is included within that sentence.  One instance that really amazed me was when I came across a bottle of rose that had been wax sealed.  I struggled with that bottle for about a minute and a half and wondered why I was doing so. What had this ready to drink bottle ever done to have been wax coated and locked down tight with all of those dusty bottles of Madeira?  I yearned for the screw cap and decided to announce to the rest of the world my unhesitant (and unable to be wavered) vote.  Youthful rose is fun, delicious and
    vibrant, clean and ready for immediate consumption.  So I encourage everyone to reach for a bottle of dry rose, corkscrewed, wax sealed or screw-capped and lavish the contents within. Salud!


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  • ANDINA AT THE JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION


    On Monday April 28th at 7:00 pm, in New York, Andina was proud to
    present a Peruvian dinner at the James Beard Foundation, the long-
    standing organization that promotes culinary excellence in the United States.


    The attendance for our event was great. We counted among our guests, besides the James Beard members, representatives from well known culinary magazines, such as Gourmet, Saveur, Cheers, The Wine Enthusiast, as well as reporters from The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and other freelance writers. All were intrigued by the nature of our cuisine, and surprised by the flavors and presentation of our dishes.


    Andina’s menu for the night was skillfully crafted and designed by Hernan Castañeda, who came from Peru five months ago to be our Consulting Chef and who has since worked intensively to ensure the authenticity and the quality of our food. His long experience as a chef of well-known restaurants in Peru, and as a visiting chef in South and Central America more broadly, as well as his creativity and his vast knowledge of the art of our Peruvian cuisine, shone brightly that night.


    The comments and praise that we received from our guests for each of our seven courses, and the fact that they “cleaned each plate,” proved to us once more that our Peruvian cuisine – both traditional and modern – is starting to be known and appreciated by those who taste it. Our thanks go to all our distinguished guests who convinced us that the cuisine of Peru can compete with the best in the world.


    Another noteworthy aspect that we want to share regarding the dinner in New York, is our newly bolstered belief in the value and wonder of teamwork. We are convinced, now more than ever, that our success at the James Beard Foundation was a result of two big factors: one was the well-designed menu of Hernan Castañeda, our Consulting Chef; and the other, no less important, was the invaluable cooperation and dedication of those among Andina’s team who traveled to New York.


    Our thanks go to all of them, starting with Ken Collura, our Wine Director, who did a superb job selecting and pairing unique wines for each of our courses, complementing this work with his presence on the floor throughout the event. Peter Platt was also an important key for our success. He coordinated all logistics for our trip, and he was our constant supplier for all the products and ingredients we needed at the last minute. Thanks Peter for defying cold and rainy weather and for your multiple trips in the subways of New York. Last but not least, thanks go to our invaluable kitchen team; without their hard work, their enthusiasm, their genuine love for cooking, and their cooperation, we couldn’t have achieved the success we that we did. Our gratitude goes to the team, formed by Ethan Powell, our Kitchen Manager; to Jose Luis de Cossio, our former Chef de Cuisine, who traveled from San Francisco to help us; and to Arran Stark, another of Andina’s former chefs, who traveled from the Seattle area, responding once again to our call.


    Finally we thank all of our staff who continued laboring at Andina in Portland, while we were in New York, representing Peru and Oregon.
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  • Traveler’s Notebook: A Trip to Peru Brings the Andina Family Full Circle

    When Annie Amspoker, a hostess, food runner and barback, and Alyssa Minchow, a server, took their first trip to Peru this January, they experienced just how deep Andina’s network runs.

     

    Anyone who had any family in or connections to Peru started scrawling down names, numbers and places they just had to see. “Zoraya learned that we were going to Peru,” says Minchow, “and started writing down literally ALL of her family members names, phone numbers, addresses…”

     

    Zoraya….,a cook from Cusco, Peru, brought many traditional recipes with her when she came to work in the kitchen at Andina four years ago. She has not seen her children, ages 20 and 16, since, but talks to them every day via email and phone.

     

    Renzo…, an Andina server from Lima, Peru, was returning home at the same time to visit his family after nearly 10 years away. “He immediately opened his heart and his home to us,” says Minchow. “Not only inviting us to come but encouraging and almost demanding it on a daily basis!”

     

    ……………………………………………………………………..

     

    Minchow remembers her first morning in Peru: “I was in Lima and before I even opened my eyes I smelled the air, and faintly the ocean…I heard the raucous noises of the street…I hung my head out the window and saw multi-colored, flat rooftops and tropical foliage stretching out until the base of the barren mountains not too far in the distance.”

     

    As is often the case, just getting from point A to point B was the real challenge. “Some of the more memorable experiences from the trip revolve around our transportation mishaps,” says Minchow. “We were once riding a bus up above Cusco and I just remember that parts of the bus kept falling off. Each time, we would come to a stop or at least a slow, a teenage-ish looking boy would hop off the bus, pick whatever object up, hop back on the bus, add it to the pile accumulating in the front, and our trip would resume. A perfectly normal day in Peru.”

     

    What Amspoker lacked in Spanish skills, she made up for in street-savvy, while Minchow, a Spanish major, smoothly navigated the bulk of their conversations.

     

    “I don’t speak Spanish and was incredibly grateful to have Alyssa translate,” says Amspoker. “I picked up some along the way, but would have been in some bad situations without her language skills.”  “I felt grateful to be able to communicate in Spanish as comfortably as I do,” says Minchow. “Though I still managed to get us in hot water a couple of times.”

     

    The food was not what they were accustomed to in terms of Peruvian cuisine. While Andina represents a mix of traditional ingredients and high-end Peruvian dining, typical set menus, or menu del dia, cost about $1 or $2 and generally consist of a flavorful, yet simple soup or salad, chicken or meat dish, rice and dessert.

     

    Their trip came full circle in Cusco, a vibrant colonial city and the jumping off point for trips to Machu Picchu. Amspoker enjoyed “the beautiful atmosphere and the cobblestone streets.”

     

    There they met Zoraya’s children. “It was great to hear their story,” says Minchow. “The story of their family and their mother, from their own perspective…to take pictures that I knew I could bring back to their mom, after years of not seeing one another. I tried to…paint a picture for them of her role at Andina…expert of all things culinary and Peruvian…”

    ……………………………………………………………….

     

    The fluidity with which employees can travel from Andina to Peru, supported along the way, illustrates subtle connections to the culture that we have all gained – connections we may be unaware of until we take the trek ourselves.

     

    “I feel like Andina adopted me when I moved to Portland, and now I have traveled to its country, been in its living rooms, met its children, parents, seen its stories and its inspirations,” says Minchow.

     

    “I really appreciate the rich representation of culture that Andina brings to Portland,” adds Amspoker. “But I’ve always felt this way.”

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  • PRIMAVERA EN LOS ANDES DEL PERU, Y NUESTRAS PAPAS