Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ode to October

As a child, I didn't like the fact that my birthday fell on the month of October because all anybody ever associates October with is Halloween (also, I thought that the colors orange and black looked horrible together).  But now, I totally embrace October and everything about it, even the frivolity of Halloween.  The weather has cooled, the sunlight is less harsh, school is well under way, and the year's best heirloom vegetables and fruits are being harvested.  It's also the perfect season to treat myself to either a pumpkin latte from Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters (only the best latte in the world) or pumpkin ice cream (from anywhere) - the weather is not too hot for one, and not too cold for the other.  I basically have come to love October for the flavors, scents, sights, and emotions evoked by Autumn.  Thanks Mom, you couldn't have picked a more ideal time of year to birth me.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Peruvian Pachamanca Feast in Ollantaytambo: Farm To Earth To Table

Imagine knobby Peruvian potatoes and slabs of bone-in meat tossed in Andean herbs, thrown directly between scalding granite stones to cook underground.  Pachamanca (rough translation: "Earth oven") is a traditional style of cooking mainly done as a backyard-barbecue-type format in Peru where the only "kitchen" tools involved are shovels and maybe an occasion pair of tongs.  It is not commonly seen outside of people's homes, and it isn't really something that can be fully experienced at a restaurant or anywhere too urban.  Whenever we mentioned the word pachamanca to any of our local guides, they would get this dreamy look on their faces and tell us that if there was a way we could eat this, we must.

Luckily, I found out about El Albergue ("the refuge"), where pachamanca feasts plus a tour of their farm occur a few times a day and can be booked in advance.  El Albergue was built back in 1925 as a small lodge and restaurant connected to the Ollantaytambo train station.  Ollantaytambo (what a mouthful of a name!) is a village in the Sacred Valley of south Peru, set on the Urubamba River, about two hours outside the city of Cusco.  We already had plans to stay in the Sacred Valley after our trek to Machu Picchu, so it worked out well with our travel plans.  Anyway, we were looking forward to learning about this unique way of preparing food and to partake in a legit farm-to-table meal, but we had no idea of what an intimate and soul-enriching experience it was going to be.