In what has now become an annual tradition, I returned to NOLA last weekend to cook a 4-course Peruvian pop-up dinner and serve Pisco cocktails at Carmo to celebrate Peruvian Independence Day, and I was delighted for the opportunity to once again share Peruvian food and culture with a city that in many ways reminds me of Peru.
In addition to visiting with my friends, and cooking together, one of the best surprises of this trip was a last minute invite to do a live TV cooking demo of one of the dishes we were serving at the dinner. I was also excited that many bars I frequented had Pisco cocktails on their menu. Being Peruvian Independence Day weekend, I had to order them all.
To welcome the dinner guests, we served one of my original Pisco cocktails, The Saint and The Viceroy — Pisco, Rum, Bourbon, and Herbsaint with citrus to honor the connection between Peru and New Orleans. Next was a seafood sashimi, known in Peru as tiradito, that was prepared by one of Carmo’s chefs. We continued the seafood theme with the Choros a la Chalaca steamed mussels that we demoed on TV, before moving on to the Aji de Gallina, a creamy and spicy pulled chicken stew. And for dessert, Pisco Balls, to pay homage to the local Bourbon Balls, but with Pisco.
Throughout the evening, I had a lot of help from Carmo’s chefs, owners, and staff, cooking, plating, and serving the dishes that were enjoyed by all of the guests. I was especially grateful to my friend Dana, who prepared vegetarian versions of the dishes that preserved the taste and texture of the originals, an impressive culinary feat indeed. I also enjoyed chatting with the guests, and after every dish we brought out, one gentleman from Peru kept asking me when I was going to open my own Peruvian restaurant in New Orleans.
After dessert and coffee, I offered some yapa, which is known in New Orleans as lagniappe, or a little something extra. What was it? Another Pisco cocktail of course — the Mardi Gras Pisco Sour, Pisco, Bourbon, and Sweet Vermouth with hints of chicory, coffee, and chocolate, served in small shot glasses. But after tasting it, some guests asked for full-size servings, which I was happy to oblige. Though I love to cook these pop-up dinners and share Peruvian food and culture with the guests, my favorite part is always the staff meal. A time when all that worked so hard to make the evening a success get to sit down together, drink, and share a meal.
The next day, we went out for a celebratory dinner and drinks in the French Quarter, and as always our conversation turned to food, and upcoming events, such as the White Linen dinner next weekend, which I am sad to miss. But we also decided not to wait until next July for another Peruvian pop-up dinner, and we shook hands on planning another one in December of this year. By then, I will have already travelled to Peru and Spain, but I know the months won’t pass quickly enough until I get to see New Orleans again.
Thank you Carmo for starting one of my favorite traditions — celebrating Peruvian Independence Day in NOLA. A special thank you to Encanto Pisco for providing the Pisco for the cocktails we served. And finally, thank you to all the staff at Carmo for your help prepping, cooking, plating, serving, and cleaning-up after the event, I could not have done this without you. See you in December!