Andes Plane

HI! I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July! Peru and Ecuador were so amazing. My best friend Megan and I almost ripped up our return tickets back to California so we could stay longer! I’m going to share the details of the trip with you so please bear with me as there will be about 6 posts related to the trip coming up in the next two weeks. Normal posts will be resume after!  :) 

Piriwana Hostel CuscoPiriwana, our Hostel in Cusco

Our first destination in Peru was Cusco. We shared 6-person room in our hostel that consisted of 3 bunk beds and a private bathroom. Our room opened into the courtyard (pictured above) which was fun because there were always people hanging out there. Megan I ate the hostel’s complimentary breakfast in the morning which included unlimited bread with margarine and jam, cereal, coffee and mate de coca. Mate de coca, or coca tea, is awesome! It helps with altitude sickness and gives you energy so we drank this almost everyday in Peru. Cusco is just a little over 11,000 ft. in elevation so I immediately noticed the thinner air but didn’t feel any altitude sickness except for shortness of breath (quite possibly just due to my lack of exercise).

We were fortunate to be in Cusco the week before Inti Raymi, Cusco’s huge celebration of the Winter Solstice, so that we could see all of the pre-festival parades and events. Locals prepare for this festival throughout the year, so when it happens, it’s huge!! During our stay in Cusco, we saw parades that went all day, big events in Plaza de Armas (the city’s main square), and it was the first topic of conversation when we talked to anyone in the city. There were performances and parades everyday so it was really exciting to see so much of Cusco’s cultural festivities when we walked around.

Performance in the city's main square, Plaza de Armas

Performance in the city’s main square, Plaza de Armas

Kids dancing in the parade

Kids dancing in the parade

The crowds during the parade

The crowds during the parade

While in Cusco, we also checked out the Mercado de San Pedro, a local market in Cusco. It basically has everything you’d ever need. There are isles of textiles, rows upon rows of little stalls that serve as restaurant stands, fresh meats, veggies, grains in bulk, and more. There were a lot of locals here eating at the food stalls, sitting on stools elbow to elbow while they enjoyed their hot soups (caldo), freshly made juices (jugo), and meat dishes.

I think my favorite part of the Mercado de San Pedro might have been the meat/butcher section. It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever seen before! There were organs laid out on display, animal heads, and even brain–we had to brace ourselves! It’s fascinating though.

Mercado de San Pedro Cusco

octopus

In terms of textiles and souveniers, this market was a little more expensive than the others we visited so Megan and I went back to a market that was closer to our hostel to buy a few gifts. Ummm, we ended up buying WAY more than we intended. Oops.

san francisco mercado

After we dropped off our new finds at the hostel, we headed to Los Toldos, a rotisserie restaurant that serves amazing pollo a la brasa (roasted chicken). The moment you walk in, you can see all of the chickens that were previously roasted, and a new batch on the spit with the juices and fats dripping into the fire. I ordered the 1/4 pollo a la brasa which came with fries and a few types of dipping sauces, and Megan ordered chicken soup. Both of our dishes came with an unlimited salad bar too!

polllo a la brasa

The pollo a la brasa was incredible! So juicy and tender. Plus, the portion was huge. The 1/4 pollo dish cost 14 soles (about $5 USD) and I couldn’t even finish it.

After lunch, we made our way to the San Blas area so we could make a dinner reservation at Pachapapa, a place that we heard served delicious “cuy” aka guinea pig! Yep, guinea pig is a delicacy in Peru so we figured we had to try it. We made a reservation for later that night and put a 50% deposit down for the guinea pig. When we got to the restaurant for dinner, we were seated on an outdoor patio with heat lamps. You could also see where the chefs were cooking the cuy over the fire which was kind of neat. We ordered causa rellena (a potato dish) as an appetizer, our first pisco sours of the trip, and a chicha morada (a traditional, non-alcoholic drink made out of purple corn).

Pancha Papa in Cusco

Pancha Papa. Can you see the oven in the back?

cuy

Dinner was fantastic! The cuy was tasty but I wouldn’t exactly say we could see ourselves craving it in the future. They bring it out to you on a platter so you can take pictures and then they cut it into smaller pieces so it’s easier to eat. I can’t really compare it to anything I’ve eaten before but I guess you could say that it subtly resembles the taste of duck or quail. This was one of 2 meal splurges during our trip, and we were not disappointed. After we ate, we rolled ourselves back to our hostel to pack our day packs, leave our backpacks at the hostel’s storage room (because you can’t bring them on the train), and get ready to head to Aguas Calientes around 5am in the morning.

Meg Steph Cuy

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Then the 12 Hour Panic!

After we got on the bus that takes you to Peru Rail (the train that takes you to Aguas Calientes) in the morning, the bus was stopped after about 45 minutes of driving and we were told that all of the buses had to turn around due to a mudslide that happened the night before. The train is the only possible way to get to Aguas Calientes, which is the entrance town to Machu Picchu so we…sort of freaked out!!

Panicked from the fact that there was a chance we wouldn’t be able to see Machu Picchu during our trip, we tried to figure out alternative routes with the help of a wonderful woman from Australia that spoke better Spanish than us (I hope she made it to Machu Picchu the next day!). We asked the Peru Rail employees if we could walk past the mudslide or take a taxi all the way to Aguas Calientes but were told that the train was the only way in and out of the city–unless we wanted to cab 4 hours and then treck through the jungle for another 3 hours. And that was not going to happen so we went back to Cusco and were forced to frantically taxi around the city trying to change our hostel reservations, bus tickets, and Machu Picchu entrance tickets. Luckily, everything worked out and we were able to put Machu Picchu off for a few days and head down to Puno/Lake Titicaca instead! We had already planned on heading to Puno but not until after Machu Picchu so we were happy it all worked out.

Our overnight bus to Puno didn’t depart until 10pm that night, so we were able to check out some more areas of Cusco. We went to the cacao factory and bought/sampled a ton of delicious chocolate. We also got to visit the coca museum and learn about the history/importance of coca leaves in Peruvian culture!

Next stop…Puno and Lake Titicaca! :)

[Normal blog posts will resume in 2 weeks but I have a few recipes for you next week as well!]

Hi friends :) It’s been a few weeks! This post was suppose to go out about 2 weeks ago but then the SF Giants won the World Series! Needless to say I got distracted and this post was put on hold…Go Giants!

Anyway, 3 weekends ago, Dailybuzz Food (formerly Foodbuzz) hosted the 4th Annual Foodbuzz Fest in San Francisco. Bloggers from all over the country flew out to California to meet other bloggers, explore the city, and eat! This event is really like Christmas for bloggers.

Warning: This particular post is a little long but the event was just so amazing that I had to share details!

Friday – October 19, 2012

The event started on a Friday night. We all checked in at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel and then headed up to the 21st floor around 5pm to enjoy a cocktail reception. There I got to meet a bunch of bloggers I had been in touch with the previous weeks. It was so nice to finally meet these ladies! After cocktail hour, DailyBuzz Food partnered with OpenTable to bring us Dine Around Town. We were given a stipend to use at a restaurant of our choice! So awesome.

From left to right: Gina, Lizzie, Faith, Me, Krysten, and Anjali

Saturday – October 20, 2012

The next day, I missed the early morning Scavenger Hunt at the Ferry Building but then headed to the Metreon for the Taste Pavilion.

The Taste Pavilion was on the 4th floor of the Metreon and the view was incredible! Tables filled the room and vendors were giving out samples of their products, handing us recipe cards, and hosting cooking demos. It was great to learn about the local vendors and hear more about their companies!

Bison Beer, Olive Oil, Pork Slider

We even got to see a fish demo from Chef John Ash! I didn’t even know it was John Ash until after the event (rookie mistake!) but I’m glad I snapped a few pics of him during the demo. For those of you who don’t know, I’m actually from Sonoma County (home of John Ash and Co.) and have grown up knowing the name John Ash very well.

Some pics of the huge halibut are below. The halibut was served with a curry sauce and it was one of the tastiest halibut dishes I’ve ever had! It was melt in your mouth perfect, you guys. Big shout out to Alaska Seafood for participating at the Taste Pavilion!

We also sampled a variety of other foods and beverages! So delicious.

I spent some time catching up with other bloggers to the point where all the vendors had already packed up and security was about to kick us out. I think we could have talked about social media, camera settings, and SEO for days.

Left to right: Kristy, Greg, Me, and Krista

Krista from Budget Gourmet Mom and I met at the Foodbuzz event last year so it was so great to see her again!! I’ve missed that girl :)

For the Taste Pavilion event, I was able to bring a guest so I invited my friend Josh! And guys, he fit right into the food scene (maybe he should start a blog?!). Phone camera out, hashtag ready, and no complaints about how much we ate — he was the perfect guest (thanks for coming, Josh!).

We tasted wines, beers, and sampled copious amounts of food for about 3 hours straight. <– That’s a lot of food! And wine. And beer (go Bison Brewery!). We also had a great time learning about teas at the Numi Tea table. Did you guys know that tea can come in bricks? I didn’t. Below is an example of Numi’s bricks (it looks like chocolate, doesn’t it?). Apparently, you break off a piece and add it to water to make your tea.

The table next to Numi Tea was probably our favorite table. We were really impressed by the dishes that Pollen Ranch created with their products. We sampled pork chops, potato salad, and applesauce made with Pollen Ranch’s delicious spices (fennel pollen anyone?).

 Saturday Night – October 20, 2012 – Dinner Gala at the California Academy of Science 

After the Taste Pavilion, we had a few hours to rest and then everyone attending the festival got shuttled to the California Acamdemy of Sciences later that night to check out the exhibits. Did I mention that there were hors d’oeuvres, tons of cheese, and bottomless drinks as well? Yes, it was awesome.

Oh yeah, and then we all got to eat a 4 course meal. All of the courses had 2-8 components so we were in heaven. Our table’s goal was to get a taste of everything on the menu but when dessert rolled around, some of us couldn’t eat anymore. Some of us = me.

Academy-of-Sciences-Dinner-Gala-Foodbuzz

It was the perfect dinner to end the event. We got to say our goodbyes, exchange information, and shuttle back to Union Square.

Food Blogger Group Pic - Foodbuzz Festival

Left to right: Me, Melissa, Gabby, and Krysten

It was a fantastic event, and I’m so glad I got to meet so many wonderful bloggers that weekend.

Can’t wait until next year!

…is not your average coffee shop. HRD Coffee Shop is this wonderful, tiny place in the SOMA district of San Francisco that serves delicious food. The menu consists of items with a Korean-Chinese-American fusion such as kimchee burritos (with bits of kiwi!), firecracker shrimp po boy sandwiches, bibimbaps, and hamburgers. Plus so much more.

This is the fried oyster kimchee po boy sandwich…

The portions are crazy, the fries are delicious, and I must be rolled home after each meal.

HRD was featured on the Food Network a while ago so the line is really insane if you go anytime between 11:30 and 1. However, I’ve found that if I get there around 1:15, there’s barely any line at all! Aw, yeahhh.

The owners? THEY ARE THE SWEETEST. As busy as they are, they take time to greet you with a smile and make sure that you are as satisfied as possible with the food and service, a quality that is becoming extremely rare these days.

This dish is called the Japanese Loco Moco. A hamburger patty and 2 sunny side up eggs are served over a bed of kimchee fried rice, and then a ladle of Japanese curry is poured over the top of everything. Um, did I just say that correctly? I think I did :) This dish is a must!

If you’re ever in SF this would be a great place to try out. Come hungry.

Oh, and THE BEST PART? It’s only about 15 minutes from my office! Talk about some delicious lunchtime eats!

Please excuse the low-quality iPhone 3 camera pictures but this place was just so good I HAD to share it with you all! (Plus, I just got an new phone so no more low-quality phone pictures after this! Can a get a woot woot?!)

Tucked away in an industrial part of West Oakland, there lies a diamond in the ruff. Brown Sugar Kitchen is an amazing place for soul food! I went last weekend with my cousin, and we had such a great time. We arrived around 1:30 for a late lunch and was told that there was about a 45 minute wait. It was a really sunny and beatiful day so we didn’t mind hanging out outside for a bit. Plus, the restaurant closes at 3pm on Sundays so we knew we couldn’t come back later in the day. The. wait. was. totally. WORTH. IT.

We were seated at the counter, and the waitress told us the specials of the day. My cousin and I decided to order two dishes and then split them so we could try a little bit of everything. Right away, we knew we were going to get an order of the “buttermilk fried chicken and cornmeal waffle with brown sugar butter and apple cider syrup.” After all, neither of us had tried chicken and waffles before (shame on us!) and the combination just sounded so intriguing.

We also ended up ordering the catfish po’ boy (one of the specials of the day) with a side of smoked mashed sweet potatoes. When the dishes arrived, we were pretty much drooling. Everything looked incredible.

My first bite of the fried chicken blew my mind. The breading was nicely seasoned and the chicken was so juicy! Then I took a bite of the waffle, and it was the lightest, freshest cornmeal waffle I have EVER tasted. Put those two together and you have an unstoppable dynamic duo right there. The syrup was divine as well!

Then we tried the catfish po’ boy. It was definitely a delicious sandwich with the perfect combination of all the ingredients that make a great po’ boy.

However, what really caught my cousin and I by surprise was the smoked mashed sweet potatoes! After the first bite, I literally stopped and said, “WOAH, this is…smokey.” I guess I knew what I was eating but wasn’t prepared for the strong flavor. I thought there was just going to be a hint of smokey flavor but it was definitely a huge component of the dish. At first, my cousin was surprised by the amount of smokiness as well, but after about 3 bites we were use to it and really enjoyed the unique taste.

Brown Sugar Kitchen is really a wonderful place to eat. If you’re in the Bay Area, I highly suggest you try it out. Honestly, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about their chicken and waffles since! Help me.

Oh, and I have a great St. Paddy’s Day recipe coming up on Wednesday! (Hint: Two main ingredients are chocolate and Guinness.) So excited to share it with you!

Happy Monday, lovely friends :)

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