God’s gift to Man: MISTURA
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending one of the world’s largest food festivals right here in downtown Lima: Mistura. With everything from “emoliente” stands to an entire “rincón del chocolate,” Mistura far exceeded my expectations. Lasting two weeks and attracting nearly 600,000 visitors, the food festival is an integral part of Peruvian culture, serving to tie its culinary successes to those of the rest of the world. The slogan on the special edition Mistura cans of Cristal (La Cerveza del Perú) said it all: “Nuestra comida nos une.”
(“Our food unites us.”) Mistura served up more than just tasty Peruvian treats; a hearty dose of Peruvian nationalism, Peruvian identity expressed through culinary excellence, was the theme of this gastronomic affair.
Now, I’m a man of many passions…and food is certainly not least among them. Let’s take a photo-filled, play-by-play journey through one of the most delectable days of my life!
First up, queso helado.
Our group decided to start the morning festivities off with this sweet treat…direct translation = cheese ice cream. To some, it may sound odd, but this was right up my alley. It was essentially the equivalent of frozen cream cheese icing. Fantastic.
Lo siguiente, el rincón del pan (bread corner)!
This corner of the festival was comprised of beautiful artisan breads (as you can see above) baked and sculpted on-site by local bread aficionados! The various types of bread represented individual regions of the country, with some taking the form of llamas and others celebrating members of indigenous Peruvian communities. Whatever the shape, size or type, the bread baked here was more than just a little “lagniappe,” it was a meal in and of itself…warm, gooey, and delicious (and at only 5 soles (~ $2) per bag of 5 pieces, a great deal as well).
If I hadn’t already developed a sweet tooth after moving to Lima, I most certainly did after experiencing this: El rincón del chocolate.
The chocolate corner sold everything from raw cocoa beans to chocolate flavored pisco (Peruvian liquor distilled from grapes). There were chocolate/oatmeal cupcakes, chocolate bars from the Andes, chocolate bars from the Sierra, hot chocolate, “designer” chocolate truffles and ganaches, and a plethora of other cocoa covered delights.
Not to be outdone by the chocolatiers, candy and sweets specialists from around Perú set up booths brimming with Alfajores (cookie “sandwiches” filled with manjar blanco (creamy, caramel-like filling) and topped with powdered sugar), chocolate-filled churros, arroz con leche (sweet rice in condensed milk with raisins), mazamorra morada (purple corn jelly), Picarones (fried donuts)….the list is endless. Peruvians like their desserts.
At first, I wasn’t sure what this was, so naturally I had to try it…it turned out to be a crispy slab of fried dough drizzled with orange-flavored sugar. The best word to describe it: sticky.
After an indulgent morning of satisfying my sweet-tooth, it was time to move on to something more hearty! Our group ordered several different meat/fish dishes to share…and here they are!
Ceviche, my personal favorite (Raw fish marinated in acidic lime/lemon juices and accompanied by cebolla (onion), choclo (Peruvian corn), ají (spicy pepper), and camote (sweet potato) to cleanse the palate.
Anticuchos (Beef-heart skewers)…delicious, and surprisingly tender for such a muscular organ.
Ají de gallina (Shredded chicken in a spicy sauce flavored with parmesan cheese, garlic, and ají and topped traditionally with a hard-boiled egg and an olive)
All in all, Mistura was a success. I came home with a full stomach, ready for the ensuing weeks in which I could embark on more culinary adventures.
Sorry for the delay in posts….Midterms kept me busy for a while, but be expecting very shortly a review of my trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu!