Last Saturday July 28 was Peruvian Independence Day and I celebrated by cooking a 4-course dinner at Carmo Cafe in New Orleans. And a few days later, on Tuesday July 31, I prepared a similar 3-course menu at 18 Reasons in San Francisco. And though cooking for over 70 people in two cities required more planning and time in the kitchen than usual, I was delighted to share the food I love with so many people on such a special occasion.
Whenever I visit New Orleans, the food reminds me of Peru and I imagine that I am in the Lima of a century ago. The fusion of Spanish, African, Creole, and Native American cuisines in Louisiana makes me feel at home, and I was very excited to be bringing Peruvian cuisine to New Orleans. To connect Lima and New Orleans, I put together a menu that paid homage to the Spanish traditions in Peruvian cuisine and served it paired with Pisco, wine, and port:
- Gazpacho + Pisco Punch
- Causa with Cold Smoked Tuna and Conch Cakes + Montsarra Cava
- Escabeche de Pescado + Malborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
- Arroz con Leche + Port
Typical of July, the weather in New Orleans was hot and muggy with thunderstorms and showers in the afternoon. And the menu I prepared was perfect for a hot summer night: a spicy and refreshing combination of ingredients that were somehow familiar to everyone but combined in a new and exciting way. Throughout the evening, I enjoyed talking to the dinner guests and sharing about the history of Peruvian food. For many, it was their first time drinking Pisco and they were fascinated by the story of the Pisco Punch. A table even asked to have their picture taken with the chef, and I was filled with pride to be representing Peru.
Meanwhile, at the dinner in San Francisco, for the first time ever, there was a line out the door when we opened at 7 pm, and it was our most popular event to date. Someone asked me how I knew it would be a warm summer night, and all I could think was that I brought back a little bit of NOLA with me. At the end of the night, it was a real joy to have a staff dinner to thank everyone who had helped with the event, and I realized something very important: few things make me as happy as seeing a room full of people that have come together to enjoy a special Peruvian dinner that I prepared just for them — and I can’t wait to do it again.
A special thanks to the staff at Carmo for all their help planning the event and helping me introduce Peruvian cuisine to New Orleans. As always, I am grateful for the help from the butchers at Bi-Rite and the event organizer and volunteers at 18 Reasons. I look forward to our next event soon!