mardi, avril 18, 2006

itching to go walkabout

It could be the stress of school and work right now, or the fact that I just got my tax refund. Either way, my travel jones is kicking in in a big way at the moment and I'm weighing the possibility of not one, but two big trips in the next 12 months. Time to get a roommate, already.

Who Needs Clubs When Everyone Is at the Cafe?
You feel the buzz as you approach La Mar — in a smart industrial-gray cement building in a neighborhood of auto body shops. Chauffeurs line up around the block and stand outside their cars after dropping off the sunglassed socialites who stream down the entrance walkway. Bamboo lines the path like paparazzi, and everyone turns to see who's arriving. The upbeat music of the Colombian pop group Aterciopelados blasts from speakers overhead. It's a party, but what could be going on now, at 1:30 on a Tuesday afternoon?

Inside, attractive Peruvian 20-somethings drink pisco sours at the bar, ogled by slick-looking men dressed in black and wearing black Gucci sunglasses. Businessmen in suits eat plates of raw fish while the crowds lining up at the hostess's stand scan the surroundings for empty tables.
The open dining room feels more like an outdoor terrace: sheltered with leafy palms, roofed with bamboo and partly open to the sidewalk. Everyone appears to know everyone, and you'd think you had dropped in on the most exuberant party at the beach, although it's unlikely you would find such impeccable service, or ceviche served in martini glasses, at a beach joint.

In a country where the restaurant scene is in full gastronomic swing, La Mar, in the prosperous district of Miraflores, is the most exciting new spot, embodying a cuisine that is bringing together disparate ethnic influences both on the dinner plate and in a new national pride. The owner is Gastón Acurio, a celebrity chef who also runs the more formal Astrid y Gastón with his wife, Astrid. Perhaps it is because he is the son of a former prime minister and senator, Gastón Acurio Velarde, that Mr. Acurio holds an avid interest in the power of culinary success to bring not only international recognition but also, by extension, a feeling of national identity that can move
Peru forward.

"Food is becoming a powerful symbol of what we are, and the most important thing about our food is the mixture," Mr. Acurio said. "We are proud of that mixture now." The word that describes their mixture of Andean, Spanish, Italian and Asian — in both food and culture — is criollo.

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