Monthly Archives: July 2013

Don Esteban & Don Pancho

UPDATED! 8-1-2013

Since I have a long weekend, I’m just sitting around procrastinating on my homework. So, that means that I decided to have a blog post about all of the random snacks that I have come across in an attempt to have more than two meals per day! This has been a bit difficult here. I tried going to a grocery story to see what was available to take to school for lunch. Unfortunately, most of what they have is stuff that requires cooking. So, I got into the unfortunate habit of eating Snickers for lunch.

At first, I had been stopping by a bakery/cafe to pick up a chocolate croissant (I know, soo much better than a Snickers!) on the way to school. La Valeriana Bake Shop was an interesting seeming place. There were small chandeliers and it had a bit of a French feel to it. Unfortunately, I found that I didn’t like the service. Ordering was difficult, especially if there were multiple people there. I never really figured out if you were supposed to place your order to a waiter, over the counter, or at the cash register. Also, while waiting for my order to be processed there was really no place to wait that was out of the way. Maybe this just wasn’t supposed to be a take-away sort of place, but either way it left me feeling bad about buying food there. That is not a good place to eat at, I think.

In addition to the service, I found that I didn’t really like their food. The chocolate croissant was good, but the rest of it was just edible. This mushroom and onion empanada was kind of good tasting, but it had my stomach churning afterwards. That was the end of me trying a small after school snack before dinner!mushroom empanada


This was a french profiterole. It looked so pretty that I wanted to try it, but it was pretty bland tasting.French pastry

This was the last thing I tried there. It was a toffee covered brownie. Unfortunately, the brownie was pretty crunchy on the edges and the toffee didn’t really add much to it. Hardly any flavor.

Toffee Brownie

So, on to the Snickers!

Fortunately, I have recently found a little coffee shop that has baked goods called Don Esteban & Don Pancho. Not only are they really friendly and helpful there, but I think that their options are better and tastier than the ones I tried in La Valeriana Bake Shop. To be fair, I haven’t tried anything off of either menu, just the baked goods.

New Store

Here is an example of a chocolate croissant. I think that it is from the new place. They are pretty similar in the two places. A giant, puffed up croissant with a layer of rich chocolate in the middle. It doesn’t look like much chocolate, but the flavor is rich enough that it is enough for the pastry. You can get it heated up, but I like mine cold. The chocolate has a slightly crunchy texture from being heated up in the oven when it was baked.

chocolate crossiant croissant 2

One discovery that I have made at this new place is their apple pastry. The pastry is denser and sweeter than the chocolate croissant, and it pairs perfectly with the shredded apple in the middle.

apple croissant apple 2

They also have this lovely bread here. I don’t know what it is called, but it is that type of bread that is nice and crusty on the outside and fluffy inside. This would be perfect heated up with some butter! I think I have access to a microwave. Now I just need to find some butter…

crusty bread

This new place also has a bit of a confusing way of ordering if you are not used to it, but this way of ordering doesn’t seem to change and the people who work there are always willing to help. The part of the store with pastries and baked goods is a tall shelf with baskets of the options. They aren’t labeled, but you can always ask what is what. When you decide what you want you take a little basket and use a set of tongs to take your selection to the counter. There they bag it (after offering to microwave it) and send you further down to the cash register.

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I have also tried both the apple crumble and the lemon pie. They were both really good. The apple was a bit more minced than in the US. I have recently heard that you can get it with ice cream if you eat it in the restaurant! Maybe I should try that next. The lemon pie was really good. It was a little sweet and a little tart with a gooey meringue on top.

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Recently, I decided to try actually eating something off of the menu! I ordered a caprese spaghetti dish and passion fruit juice. The juice was incredibly awesome. The pasta was pretty good. I don’t eat pasta often enough to know just how filling pasta can be, so I think I overate. In addition, there weren’t many tomatoes and the cheese was in odd chunks. Still, the overall flavor was good. I just needed to eat less! My decision for both of these items was based off of the suggestion of a girl from Canada who was sitting next to me. She moved over to my table, and we had a really interesting conversation. Apparently American food really is bad. The term she used to describe it from when she had visited the US was “junky” and I found myself fully agreeing. In addition, it was a bit of a foreign concept to her that we only eat pre-packaged grocery store bread. Where she is from it is more common to buy from bakeries with fresh bread.

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I really like this new place, and I look forward to trying new things. Just last night I tried a bread roll that had a nice crusty outside and a soft inside. It would have been perfect heated up with some butter!



I have been looking forward to this since before I left home, and I finally got to make chocolate from scratch – well, just about!

During the last few weeks, I have been staking out the ChocoMuseo. Not only was I signing up for the chocolate making class, but the people who work there are all fun and friendly. And they have a cafe. Though, it was somewhat difficult to find the place to begin with. I went to one place labeled ChocoMuseo. It was just a small storefront. From there, I went around the corner, up an alleyway, and into a courtyard. There was another place there labeled ChocoMuseo. It was just their workshop. From there, I went up a set of stone stairs hidden in the corner and finally found the real place. And now I go there far too often to try different things from their menu!



The building is made up of six parts and two balconies. When you first walk in you are in the area where you pay. There is the front desk and shelves with various merchandise (aprons, mortar and pestle sets, Willy Wonka movie, chocolate, chocolate soap, chocolate deodorant, and more…) From here, you walk straight forward to reach the central room. There is more merchandise here, and balcony #1 is straight ahead. To the left is the kitchen, both the cafe one and the workshop one. To the right is a room a few steps down that has tables if you are there for the cafe. Balcony #2 is in here. There are also a bunch of signs on the walls with facts that outline a rough history of chocolate. The last two sections are both upstairs, above the kitchen or the cafe. In one, there is a little more seating and a movie that plays on a loop about chocolate making. I haven’t spent much time up here. The other section is also part of the chocolate making tour. There is a cacao tree replica and a bunch of bean-bags that are made out of cacao beans shells. There are some more signs up here. Despite the number of times I’ve been here, I have not managed to read all of the signs!IMG_1413 IMG_1409 IMG_1410 IMG_1423

In addition to the menu in the cafe, they have daily

This mayan hot chocolate was good, but I think that I got a little over-enthusiastic on just about everything and put too much in!

Mayan hot chocolate

This is the cocoa tea and the chocolate fondue. One piece of advice: don’t drink the cocoa tea while eating chocolate – it just tastes like hot water!fondue

These crepes were really good. They had chocolate and bananas in them. I got a coffee with a chocolate tasting with it. I thought that I was getting something else for the drink, but it was pretty good. Maybe a bit too strong for me and it would have been better separate from the crepe.crepe


chocolate tasting

This was a bit of a mistake. I had just eaten lunch and was somewhat full. I thought that the banana muffin with a side of fruit sounded good. I also thought that I should have something to drink, so I got the milkshake. After the fondue, I expected a small side, not one the size of my head! Either way, it was really good. The fruit was good and it had honey on it. The milkshake was like really rich chocolate milk.big meal





Today, I planned on leaving the hotel half an hour before my 11am class. Unfortunately, I left 10 minutes late and ended up arriving just on time and slightly out of breath. After that, some of the others were 5-10 minutes late and I was just standing around…

The class started with us giving up our jackets and backpacks in exchange for an apron. We left the kitchen area and went up into one of the two lofts in the room where there was a cocoa tree replica. We got to learn a little history about cocoa trees and beans. Apparently there are three types of cacao trees. One produces sweeter cacao beans but has a smaller production rate. One produces bitter cacao beans and has a higher production rate. The third is a hybrid of the two. Inside a cacao pod (which is oval and approximately the size of an open hand) there are the cacao seeds and a white pulp (which is sweet and edible). Seeds were distributed by monkeys who ate the white pulp and spat the seeds onto the ground. This is probably a really good thing because raw cacao seeds cause hallucinations. Hallucinating monkeys could be a bad thing…

From there, we went back to the kitchen. We were given some cacao beans that we could eat. This was before they were roasted but after they were fermented (…no hallucinations…). They were difficult to peel. There was only a thin skin to peel off, and I ended up cracking mine on the counter like birds do to nuts. After that, we put the remaining beans into a clay oven/bowl that we took turns stirring over a fire. The beans were roasted until they started to make a loud popping sound and smell really good (like brownies in the oven).

clay oven clay oven 2


After that, the beans were spread out on the counter to cool a little. Once they were cool, we began to peel them. Unlike before, it was really easy. You just grip the bean and twist in two directions. The shell comes right off in two large pieces.

Then, we got to try grinding the beans the mayan way: with a mortar and pestle. In reality, the mayans used a giant stone with a curved stone that they rocked over the beans. We got little individual bowls and a contest to see who could do the best job. At first it seemed simple, but soon the paste stuck to the walls in one giant chunk that I just kept putting pressure on. I thought mine wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the best.



ground cacao


After this strenuous work, we were told that we were going to use a grinder to finish the job. We got to take turns turning the crank on a metal grinder that turned our paste/powder into paste.



chocolate paste


Then, it was time for the drink portion of the event. The tea that had been brewing from our discarded shells was ready. It was really good. It smells and tastes a little like chocolate.

cocoa tea


Next, we got to try a traditional (somewhat) mayan hot chocolate drink. It consists of the cocoa paste, hot water and human blood. We substituted sugar for the blood (thus the somewhat traditional). At this point we also got to learn about how mayans used cocoa beans as currency. It cost about 10 beans for a guinea pig, 15 beans for a prostitute and 100 beans for a slave.

Murkey chocolate mayan chocolate


Our last drink was European hot chocolate. This was probably the best hot chocolate I have ever had! It had some of the cocoa paste, hot milk, cloves, cinnamon and sugar. We all took turns using a traditional wooden stick to whisk the mixture to make foam. Apparently it is also necessary to sing while whisking.

paste in pitcure






European Chocolate


Then, we got to learn about how the paste that we made (and proceeded to drink) can be further refined to make two components: cocoa powder and cocoa butter.

cocoa powder and butter


Next, we got to go into the other half of the kitchen and see some of the heavy machinery that they use to make professional chocolate. This machine spins and stirs the chocolate for 24 hours to make sure that all of the sugar crystals get dissolved.



This person is using a marble slab to control the temperature of the chocolate (I believe that he is tempering it, but I haven’t done enough research to be sure. Tempering is when the chocolate takes on the right texture and becomes shiny. Without tempering chocolate may take on that white film that people associate with old or bad chocolate.) He is currently scraping the chocolate back into a bowl.

marble slab


We also got to see some of the chocolate being made that is sold in the shop. They took chocolate and poured it into a plastic bag inside a pitcher. From there, they tied off the plastic bag and cut off a corner to pour into the waiting molds.

store bars


Here are the bars I made. The chocolate I poured in wasn’t chocolate that I made myself because it takes over 24 hours to make it, but I did do most of the steps. For my chocolate bars, I chose milk chocolate (I wish that I had picked dark chocolate. I tried it before from the store, but I couldn’t remember if it was milk or dark.). I was planning on bringing some home, but I think that I will eat them all within a few days! I will bring some from the store home, and I also hope to try making this at home. I tried a bunch of different flavors for my chocolate bars. I did one plain one, one with crushed almond, one with cocoa nibs, one with milk and someones leftover dark chocolate, one with cinnamon and one with cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. The last one was surprisingly the best, I thought!

my bars


After this last step, we were told to come back in about an hour. I went out for lunch and wandered around for a bit. I came back a little after an hour and they weren’t set yet. I blame that on the fact that I shopped some more.

Despite the fact that I didn’t take home the chocolate that I made, I thought that this was more than worth the 70s/. ($25) I spent on it. It was really fun and informative. I still think that I would like to try this at home. Since I’m not planning on opening a business out of it, the chocolate won’t be quite as good. I won’t be able to grind the cocoa beans as finely and I won’t have the $500 machine to make it smoother, but the flavor should still be good and I can still say that it is homemade chocolate without the preservatives or the add-ins that companies use to expand shelf-life and quantities!


Update 8/9/2013 (I also added some details about the layout of the place up above.)

I went back one more time last night. I got some hot chocolate (European style with cinnamon and cloves) and just said goodbye to the place. I think that this place is what I will miss most about Peru! I also accidentally ordered a brownie. Oops! I had ordered the banana muffin with fruit (the fruit sounded really good!), but when they were out of it I panicked and ordered the brownie instead of just having the hot chocolate…

The brownie was good, it was just really chocolatey! It was dense, like a flour-less cake.


There is this guy who works there who is always encouraging me and helping me to speak Spanish. I told him that I was leaving and he stopped for a moment to tell me that he’ll miss me and to give me a hug. This is a large part of why I’ll miss this place. Yes, the chocolate is probably better than most, if any, that I could find in the US. But the atmosphere and the employees are all so welcoming and friendly and warm. I just loved being there.

Sacred Valley: Ollantaytambo, Pisac and Chinchero

For the students who signed up through USL, this study abroad trip included several tours. By signing up through USIL, these tours were not included. Luckily, once I got here and we realized that these trips weren’t included the USIL students all found out what travel agency these tours were through and managed to get added on. I knew that I wanted the Macchu Picchu tour. It would almost seem embarrassing to come all the way to Cusco, Peru and not see Macchu Picchu! There were two other tours offered. One was a tour of Cusco city. I’m not sure why I didn’t sign up for it now, but that might be because of how great this tour was. The other tour offered was the Sacred Valley tour. I hesitated on purchasing this one. It was another $75, and I was planning to go to Pisac to shop the weekend before anyway. I ended up deciding that it might be worth it, and I am really glad that I did!

The tour started around 8am, so I got up at 6:30am to have time to get ready and eat breakfast. This felt like a ridiculously early time to be up on a Sunday. I thought that the tour was supposed to last until around 4pm (I really don’t remember where I heard that from…), which would be a pretty long tour. In reality, it lasted until a little after 7pm!

The tour started out with what should have been close to a 40 minute or an hour bus ride (I am basing this off of the time it took to get to Pisac by myself). Instead, we got our first surprise. We had an extra stop that wasn’t included in the package (that I know of). We stopped at the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary. Looking online, I found that it is a family owned organization that started in 2007. It helps to rescue abused animals or to help animals that are in danger of extinction. Some of the animals we got to see included alpaca (huacaya and suri), pumas, tropical birds, vicuna and condors. There were other animals, but I’m not sure what types. The group was large and I didn’t hear everything (or remember everything!).DSC_0001 DSC_0003 DSC_0005 DSC_0006


Don’t you love how they pose?DSC_0007 DSC_0012

This is the vicuna.DSC_0013



Condor. This bird is very important in Peruvian history. It is related to the vulture.DSC_0022 DSC_0027


From there, we went on to Pisac, the first stop in our itinerary. During the bus ride, we learned some interesting information from our guide. Apparently, it is incorrect to refer to the people of the ancient Incan civilization as Incas. There was only one Inca: the king. The rest of the people were called Quechua, and they are still around today with people still speaking the Quechua language.

When we arrived in Pisac, we drove up to the top of this hill in the bus, and then we walked, and walked, and walked…

Luckily, we didn’t walk all the way down to the town below, but by the way I felt we might have! We got to see some ruins, and the views were spectacular! On the way, there was a guy playing the flute. It really was magical feeling to be listening to a flute in the mountains.DSC_0040




This may be hard to make out in the picture, but this entire cliff was an ancient graveyard. Each little hole in the wall leads to a tomb with a mummified body in it.


Looking back, I wish that I had gotten more pictures of different things, like the main part of the city or pictures in the city itself. After the exhausting hike, we went down to the Pisac market. I am really glad that I went separately! When I told people that I was going to go the week before this tour they seemed to think that it was odd, but during this tour we only had 25 minutes to shop! That is not enough in a market that I got lost in several times and never managed to see all of it! Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on how you look at it…) I was very low on cash (aka: I spent it all at the animal shelter instead of using a credit card) so I just looked around. You would think that I would spend that time taking pictures, but apparently not. Our meeting spot was this colonial-era oven that bakes some great empanadas. Luckily, those were provided to us without a need of cash! It was very good. It was a fresh-from-the-oven onion and cheese empanada. DSC_0057



From here, I was pretty exhausted, so I’ll blame my use of my iPhone instead of my big camera on that…

Our next stop was lunch, luckily. I was pretty hungry. Unfortunately, the area was so beautiful (and I was so hungry) that I forgot to take pictures of the food… It was a very good buffet and they had very expensive bottled water that I needed to borrow someone’s cash to buy. (Seriously, it cost 7s/. compared to the 1 or 2s/. that it costs in other places!)

Out back, there was a garden with some alpaca and a river.20130724-200847.jpg


This is a picture of the back of the actual restaurant.



There was a spot where you could walk right up to the river. I was tempted to dip a toe in it, but it was rather mossy looking this close to the bank. There were some kids having fun throwing rocks into the river, and overall it was pretty peaceful feeling to be able to just be there.





From there, the next stop was Ollantaytambo. Let me just say that I hate stairs now. Seriously, those were bad stairs. Considering that the ancient peruvian societies are known for their stonework, you would think that their stone stairs would be straighter or more evenly placed! The steps were all at different heights from each other and the stones that made up the steps were sticking out at odd angles. Overall, I am happy that I didn’t injure myself. Though I did manage to get a slightly sore ankle and very sore calf muscles.20130724-200950.jpg


This face carved into the cliff was part of a legend that the ancient civilization had. Apparently a man who looked very different than they looked came and helped them. It was prophesied that he would return when they needed him. Our guide said that when the Spanish came (the first of whom were actually prisoners that Spain wanted to get rid of) that they thought that the prophesy was coming true.

To the right of the face is a food storage system that used windows to keep the food cool from the breeze.




On our way to the last stop we had another surprise stop. We went to a weaving shop where they use traditional weaving techniques. We got to see a demonstration of some of their processes. They use a root to clean the wool. When they grate the root and mix it with water it bubbles up and works like soap.

We also got to see different ingredients that are used to dye the wool. A purple corn is used for purple; flowers are used for yellow; some sort of plant is used for orange; seeds are used for blue; leaves are used for green; some sort of bug that lives in cacti are used for red. The guy who was demonstrating took something off of the cactus leaf that was too small to see and smashed it on his hand. It left a somewhat large puddle of red goop that looked like blood. He demonstrated dying wool with dried red dye mixed with water. Different amounts of time mean different depths of color. Then he showed how salt, which is used to make the color set, changes the red to a more orange color.

We also got to briefly see wool being spun, thread being twisted together, and a cloth being made on a loom. This is another example of a time that it was a good thing that I was out of cash.



The last place we visited was the least exciting to me. It was a church. It was very beautiful inside, but no pictures were allowed. It was very pretty, but at that point I was very tired and very cold!

This tour was great, and I am really looking forward to Macchu Picchu in two weeks!


Moray & Maras: Farming & Salt

Last weekend (I know, I should be doing these posts quicker!), I went on a trip to two nearby areas. The first one was called Maras. The trip there was really great. It was about an hour long bus ride, and the group reserved the USIL bus. The bus driver we had was fun and informative, and he also stopped the bus several times in scenic locations so that we could enjoy the sights. Overall, it had me reminiscing about my trips with People to People, where we just about lived on a bus that was rented for our group.DSC_0061

Here next to the bus are some mud bricks drying in the sun.DSC_0067

We finally arrived in Maras. It was an absolutely beautiful day. Here is a picture that shows the entire area.


Looking up, I could barely see the winding road that we took through the mountainous area. Luckily, I managed to catch a car driving down the path, which had a trail of dust behind it. I hope it shows up okay here.


The salt in these mine come from water. From what I think our bus driver/guide said (he only spoke Spanish, so there may have been a translation issue), the salty water is a naturally occurring phenomenon. This picture shows where the small stream of water begins in the area.


Here is the path of the small stream heading towards the salt mines. The stream goes between the alcoves of salt that are mines, and I assume that it is redirected into empty alcoves when it is needed. Our guide told us to stick our hand into the water to taste it. The water was surprisingly warm, and the salt content was similar to what you would try to achieve when gargling warm salt water for a sore throat.
DSC_0084From what I could understand, the salt is left in the alcoves for 15-20 days to let the water evaporate. From there, I believe that there is just salt left over for the owner of the alcove to mine. Each little alcove has one person who owns the area to work.

From this picture, you can see that there are different colors of salt. Some of the salt is for people and some is for animals. In addition, the gift shops nearby sell white and pink salt.

I found it interesting how the salt stuck to everything. Even the walls by the stream looked like they were coated in snow!

My group walked out along the narrow ledges on the top level of the area. We went almost to the end of the mine. It was a really fascinating experience to see how something so basic, like salt, is produced. Now I just need to find a pepper farm to complete my set!


Next, we drove to Moray. From what I could find online, people believe that Moray was an agricultural experiment. The different circular levels are all slightly different temperatures, which probably allowed the Incas to see how temperature affects crops. There were two different circles. One looked much newer and better maintained while the other one appeared to have been left alone. The better maintained one had some water damage recently, so people weren’t allowed to walk down into the center, but the older looking one didn’t have a restriction like that.



The rock ledges were huge! Here is a picture with some people for reference. To navigate the ledges, the Incas built their own unique version of stairs into the rock wall. The stairs consisted of three or four rocks that stuck out about a foot that you could climb. These appeared to be on all of the ledges in at least one spot.DSC_0090 DSC_0109

All over the place there were rock piles. I don’t really know their purpose, but there were a lot of big rock piles on the ledges of the older looking circle as well as a small one in the center. On the way back up, there were a bunch of small, almost decorative rock piles in a small clearing on the pathway. It was very interesting, and I wonder how they came to be and why they exist.


Overall, I really enjoyed this trip. I had been a little concerned about being able to keep up after the last trip I went on, but I had little to no problem with this larger group. It really was a beautiful day. It was nice and warm, and I didn’t even need a jacket! I hope that the trip to the Sacred Valley this weekend is as fun as this trip was!

Uchu Peruvian Steakhouse

Today I had my midterm tests, so I planned to eat somewhere that I had been wanting to eat for awhile. Uchu Peruvian Steakhouse was highly recommended online, and I have been wanting to try it for awhile. I have been a big steak fan in the past, but during this trip I haven’t had any meat other than chicken or trout (both of which have been excellent, but I was wanting to try some famous peruvian steak!).

The restaurant is in an interesting little courtyard. I’m lucky that I stumbled across it before now, or I might have had some trouble finding it! I went in and was greeted by a waiter who spoke to me a little. When he found out that I am here to learn Spanish, he offered to only speak Spanish. He was very nice and helpful with the menu.

The decor of the restaurant was very interesting. The aqua walls were a very vibrant color to choose, and I found myself liking the decor more as I spent time in the restaurant.



After I ordered, I got my hot tea to drink while I waited as well as the water I ordered (I am trying to consciously drink more water because it is easy to forget). A few minutes after that, I got a small dish of olives to snack on while I waited for my food. The olives were interesting. They had the normal, slightly bitter taste that olives have, but there was also a slightly sweet taste that came before the bitterness. I wonder if they were marinated with onions or something similar because I saw a small, almost clear something in the sauce in the bottom of the dish. Either way, it was a good and interesting start to the meal.



Then the main course came out. It was very impressive and very good. I got steak skewers on the waiter’s suggestion instead of a full steak. I think that I might get the full steak if I return, just because I like my steak so rare. The steak was served on a sizzling hot square of volcanic rock. It came with four dipping sauces as well as a side of potatoes (of my choice) and a salad.


The salad was very good. It had sautéed onions, avocados, marinated red peppers and a nice sweet dressing that went very well with it. For the potatoes, my waiter suggested the fries, but that didn’t sound very good with a steak. So, I took his second suggestion, which was the “hot chili and peanut mashed potatoes.” He said that they are just a little bit hot, but I didn’t find them hot at all – just flavorful!

The steak was marinated with a “traditional sauce made of panca chilies, corn beer, cumin, garlic cream, vinegar, black beer, parsley and oregano,” according to their online menu. The four sauces it came with were interesting and very good. The top left one was a little bit sweet and had a kick to it. The top right one was a bit too spicy for me to enjoy more than a taste or two. The bottom right sauce was a butter with herbs. The last one, the green one, was kind of minty tasting, but without the kick that Indian mint sauces have. Overall, I enjoyed all but the spicy one in the upper right corner, and even that wasn’t bad. I managed to completely clear my plate! The only downside to this was that I discovered that I may be losing my taste for steak. It was very good, but I didn’t find it to be better than the chicken and trout and soup that I’ve had while I’ve been here.

I still might return before I leave Peru. My list of restaurants to return to is growing, and soon I will run out of time. Still, this was an excellent meal and the service was wonderful!

Inka Grill

Today for lunch, I decided to visit one of the few ground-level restaurants in the Plaza. I had seen it before, and I was interested because it was a very pretty looking restaurant.


I went in and was seated in the corner. Unfortunately, it was right under the music speaker, so it was a bit louder than I might have hoped. The table was set up with one chair one booth seat. The booth seat was more like a couch than a booth. It was soft and squishy without the big straight back that many booths have.

The interior design was interesting. It was very blue, and there was a low, over-hanging ceiling over the section I was in. It is difficult to see in the picture, but there is a giant (like 2-3 feet tall) blob of differently colored candle wax. It seems like they light new ones on top and let the wax drip down. This kind of stuck out like it didn’t belong with the rest of the decor, but I thought it was interesting. It was on a table with a set up showing different ingredients being prepared, like grains being ground in a mortar and pestle.


While I waited for my food, they brought out a baskets of chips. There were potato chips and some sort of orange chip. The orange chips weren’t sweet like sweet potatoes, so I wonder if they were some other sort of potato that we don’t have in the US. The chips came with a mint dipping sauce. It was a sweet sort of mint, not spicy like you might find in an Indian restaurant. It was an odd sounding combination, but it was very good!


For my meal, I ordered a vegetarian risotto. I had asked for a suggestion off of the menu, but afterwards I decided that I wanted something with vegetables in it. This may not have been the choice if I was trying to be healthy, or frugal, but it was very good. It had a rich, cheesy taste and lots of vegetables. There were mushrooms and asparagus. There were also bits of a red vegetable and bits of a white one, but I don’t know what they were. The asparagus really was wonderful. Peru is supposed to have good asparagus, but I heard that it is usually really expensive here because they export it. I definitely want to have some asparagus in the future, maybe when I can taste more of the vegetable and less of the risotto (not that the risotto wasn’t worth having again!).


Now, after I finished the entire, giant plate of rich risotto, I decided to pig out a little more and get dessert. I got a poached pear that came with cinnamon ice cream. The pear was warm and sweet, and it went perfectly with the small scoop of very strongly flavored cinnamon ice cream. It was very good, and I wouldn’t mind trying to make something similar back home. I have been wanting to try making risotto for awhile, so maybe I can use this idea for dessert!


Tambomachay to Saqsaywaman: Cusco, Peru

As I am not a hiker, I probably shouldn’t try to conquer the mountain before I conquer the city… right? Unfortunately I either didn’t think this one through or I didn’t have the full details. I think it may have been a bit of both.

A group of people with my university decided to go to the four ruins just outside of Cusco city yesterday for the first weekend off of school. I hadn’t really had plans for these ruins one way or the other, so I thought that it sounded fun. I was a bit concerned about slowing the group down, but they didn’t seem concerned. So, I went with them.

We started out by getting two taxis to split between the six of us to drive up to the most distant ruin, Tambomachay. It was a lovely drive filled with wonderful mountainous scenery, beautiful city streets, rustic villages, Queen music and Grease music. Yeah, that was an interesting combination. Luckily, I liked the music.

Tambomachay was the first ruin. When we got there, we had to buy a “boleto turistico” for 70 s/. It would have been 35 s/., but the group wanted to do this this weekend instead of waiting for the student card our university will provide us tomorrow. Personally, I found the ruin to be mildly interesting, but the mountainous scenery was better. I believe that the area was several thousand feet taller than Cusco city.



I don’t really remember the names of the middle two ruins because I was too exhausted trying to keep up with the group. I did get some good pictures of one of them.


About half-way to the last ruin, Saqsaywaman, we came across a woman who was selling 40 minute horse rides to two extra temples, as well as to Saqsaywaman. I couldn’t do that (I’ve tried in Girl Scouts and come to the conclusion that horses and me don’t get along), so I told the rest of the group to go ahead and that I’d walk to Saqsaywaman. I managed the walk there, but when I got there I was too tired to do much other than look around and leave. That was disappointing because this seemed to be the biggest and most impressive set of ruins on the trip. It also seemed to have the most history about it. People were around selling their services as guides, which I would have liked to do, but I knew that I was lucky to have made it as far as I had. The rocks were truly impressive, some taller than me by four or more feet. There was no cement to hold the stones together, and you can see that the seams are perfectly cut.

From the small amount of information I have found online, it sounds like a fascinating ruin, and I wish I had gotten the chance to see more of it and to better understand it.

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Pisaq (…or Pisac)

Today I went to Pisaq to visit the Sunday market. This involved a taxi ride to a bus station where we were picked up by a van. It was a very cramped and crazy ride where you really get to know your neighbor!

Pisaq is a city about an hour away from Cusco that has a huge market on certain days of the week. I believe that Sunday is the biggest market. I will be returning next week to see the archeological site in the city. The streets here were really beautiful. There was a canal down the middle of the streets (for draining water, I assume) and there were carved bricks that lined the canal.



One thing I loved was the fact that the city was in a valley. I have been on mountains. I have seen mountains. I don’t believe that I have ever been in a valley. The mountains were very impressive from this angle. There were some steps built into some of the mountains. It was all gorgeous.




I should have taken more pictures of the stalls, but maybe I’ll get more next week. The market was very hectic. There was a section that only had produce. The rest of the market was more material goods. There was the usual assortment of alpaca clothing, but there were also some more professionally made clothing. There were a lot of textiles, such as blankets, scarves, table runners, and more, I’m sure. There was a fair amount of clay bowels, and lots of jewelry. There were also a lot of carved stone statues. I would say more about what I got, but some of it is a gift.

I was hoping to be able to buy a bunch of small items to have as reserve gifts for when I don’t know what to get someone, but I wasn’t sure what would work well for that. I may get some things like that when I return. For example, some of the small stone statues were pretty cheap (and small… would people take offense at getting a gift that is small as a quarter? …or at getting a llama or a frog statue as a gift? I guess that I could get some of the larger ones… but it’d still be a llama or a frog…) There are also some little clay bird whistles. They are shaped like a bird and you fill it with water and blow into it. It makes a very cool bird sound. They cost about a dollar each, so I may get several for random presents.

I finished shopping (aka ran out of cash…) so I decided to eat. My roommates had suggested a restaurant called the Blue Llama. They had a sign that said visa, so I went in and found out that that meant they had an ATM. Anyway, I got more money and decided to go ahead and eat here.


The interior had very interesting decorating styles. It was a little child-like but in an adult manner. For example, a lot of the decorations were drawn on the wall in a very realistic style, but it also was reminiscent of crayons in some areas if you looked at the lines.


Once again, I decided to get the menú. I asked the waiter what she recommended and went with that.


I started with pumpkin soup. That really made me want to laugh. In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess there is a part where you help to make a pumpkin/cheese soup. That always seemed funny to me because of the way it fit into the game (not to mention… how long does he carry that soup before he drinks it??) Despite (or maybe because of) the humor, the soup was really fantastic. I do wonder if it was really pumpkin or if that was a translation discrepancy. It may be some sort of squash that doesn’t have an easy translation. Either way, it was wonderful. It was hot and creamy with a nice smooth flavor that wasn’t bland and wasn’t overpowering. The little bit of cheese on the top was really good with it, although there wasn’t quite enough for the soup. (While I’m on the topic of soups, I don’t think that peruvians know the meaning of a cup of soup. This bowl was about the size of my head!)


Next, I got the meat lasagna. By this point, I was pretty full from the soup, but I didn’t want to waste the food. This was pretty good, but it is not what I think of when I think of lasagna. It was thin with a little bit of meat sauce and a lot of cheese!


For my last item, I got some cinnamon and clove tea. It was served at the end of the meal, and it was pretty good. Not my favorite, but still good.

The meal was very good, and I would be happy to come back just for the soup! The service was a little slow, but I’m starting to think that this is normal around here (that, or I am missing some important restaurant etiquette!).

Overall, I was very happy with my entire trip. It was beautiful and I got almost all of my planned shopping done. I also know what to look for next Sunday, now!

Los Portales: Restaurant Turistico

This was an interesting set of circumstances. Today in school, my photography class went on a field trip to a plaza with a fountain to examine how different shutter speeds affect photos of water. It was pretty interesting, but another point that is interesting is the fact that this plaza is connected to the Plaza de Armas and I had never seen it before! I may have stumbled across it early on, but maybe I was too out of it to notice…

Anyway, I decided to return after class for lunch. I went back to the hotel and dropped off my school stuff and picked up my book (the Hobbit). By this point, I was pretty hot, so I forgot my jacket. I got to the plaza and looked around a little. It is very pretty with the fountain and it seems a little less busy with fewer shops and tourists. I decided on one of the more noticeable restaurants. It was a restaurant that had most (if not all) of the tables outside on a stone step that was about five feet tall. There were musicians playing and it seemed like a lovely meal.





(I hope the video comes through alright. This is my first time putting a video on my blog…)

I sat down and enjoyed the view for awhile. I had ordered one of the Andean dishes offered, trout with quinoa. I finally got my tea and tried to drink it slowly, despite the fact that I was starting to get really cold. I eventually finished my tea, but I couldn’t get a waiter’sattention to get another one.

One other bad side to this eating arrangement is the fact that people trying to sell jewelry or paintings would come up and try to talk you into buying something. It made me a little uncomfortable because these sellers are generally very forward and this wasn’t a situation where you can keep walking. Luckily, they weren’t as forward as usual. Maybe they didn’t want to risk getting banned from the area or something. I haven’t really figured out the rules for these street sellers yet.

I finally got my food after a very long wait and asked for another hot tea, thinking that I could drink that before I left to warm up. By this point it wasn’t really a late lunch anymore, it was an early dinner. I just about inhaled my food. This was one very good point about the restaurant. The food was stellar. It turned out that my dish was trout coated with a quinoa crust, like a US breaded dish. It had some very buttery and flavorful potatoes and some nice vegetables. I may come here again just for this dish. I’ll just need to remember my heavier jacket!


I finished eating before my tea came, so I just asked for the bill. I really shouldn’t have eaten so much, but between the hunger, the cold, and the great flavors I had trouble slowing down.

On my way back, I found the ChocoMuseo in the same plaza and stopped by to map it out. First, I found the gift shop. Then, I found a workshop. Last, I found the actual ChocoMuseo through a different doorway and upstairs. This was very nice. Despite the good food, I was in a somewhat bad mood after my meal. I got into the store, and I was almost immediately greeted by a employee. She was very friendly and cheerful, and she gave me a free sample of the cocoa tea (which was very good – I plan to return and buy some before coming home…).

She also was only as tall as halfway up my bicep. It was interesting talking to someone that tall in such a confined space (the room was very busy and Peruvians have a much smaller bubble of personal space). In Missouri, I’m used to most people being within a couple inches of my height or taller. This encounter made me really realize how short the peruvian people generally are, both men and women.

Despite the problems with the service, I may return. The meal was fantastic, and the lovely experience at the ChocoMuseo (which I will return to – both to make chocolate and buy tea) made me feel much better about my evening.

Los Balcones Grill

Another day in the Plaza, and I decided that I really should try a menú. As I might have stated before, a menú is a small menu with around four choices for three to five categories. For 20/s. – 35/s. you can choose one item from each category. The restaurant I chose had another lovely view of the Plaza. The seat was facing outward and there was no glass. It was a perfect day to have a nice breeze while I ate.



Today’s options cost 20/s. for three items. I got a chicken and rice soup that was very nice and flavorful. It had big chicken chunks, rice and herbs. It tasted very fresh and natural.


I also got trout with a side salad. The trout was very good. I think that Peru is turning me into a trout fan! The salad was a bunch of vegetables and a little pickled cabbage. The cabbage was good. I didn’t eat the tomatoes because of personal preference. The rest of the vegetables were alright, but not very good. They were steamed vegetables that had been chilled, and they didn’t have much flavor.


The third item included was tea, which I forgot to take a picture of. It was just normal tea. Overall, it was an alright dinner. Not the best I’ve had here, but it only cost $7.21 for a lot of food that was pretty good (excluding the vegetables).