Last weekend, I had the pleasure of traveling to Monterey to prepare a Peruvian tasting menu for Team Peru at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The idea for this dinner was born several weeks ago when I first met several MIIS students at a non-profit in San Francisco. Our shared passion for Peruvian culture had us quickly bonding and plotting an event involving food and of course Pisco cocktails.
Since the dinner was in Monterey, I wanted to prepare most of the dishes on the spot so as to serve them warm. Fortunately, one of the students offered to host the event and graciously donated the use of their kitchen. The only things I had to do ahead of time was plan the menu, find a place to get local ingredients, and recruit a couple of student volunteers as sous-chefs. I did, however, bring a few bottles of Pisco.
My goal for the 4-course menu was to represent the different cultures that make up Peruvian cuisine — Inca, Spanish, African, Chinese, and Japanese. And each dish was paired with a Pisco cocktail:
- Squid stuffed with Tacu Tacu — a fusion of Nikkei and Afro-Peruvian dishes paired with a Pisco Sour
- Lomo Saltado — a classic Chinese-Peruvian dish paired with a Pisco Punch
- Aji de Gallina Empanadas — oven-baked hand-made empanadas with Aji de Gallina and purple potatoes paired with a warm Apple Cider Pisco
- Crema Volteada with Quinoa — a fusion of quinoa, the Inca “Mother Grain”, with the Spanish flan paired with a Pisco Sazerac
Throughout the dinner, I enjoyed sharing stories about the dishes and their cultural significance, and the students were truly appreciative of the menu I prepared. By the end of the evening, I could hardly believe that I had been prepping, cooking, baking, sautéing, and mixing Pisco cocktails for over 6 hours. But I was very grateful for the opportunity to bring a little bit of Peru to Monterey for one night — let’s do it again.
A special thanks to the students who hosted and organized the event, to my student sous-chefs, and to the wonderful photographer who documented all the fun.