This was definitely the case when I traveled in Peru. I had planned a trip focused on Machu Picchu and Inca history, but soon after our arrival, it became all about the food. Until then, I thought of quinoa as that healthy but not exciting grain that we ate when we were being virtuous. But that was before I had Peruvian quinoa soup at El Huacatay in the Sacred Valley, pizza with a quinoa crust at Ananau Restaurante in Yucay, and — the pièce de résistance — quinoa pancakes at the Inkaterra Hotel in Aguas Calientes.
Peru has 84 of the 104 microclimates in the world and is home to a blended population representing Japanese, Chinese, Inca, Spanish, and other European cultures. Local farmers can and do grow almost everything, which makes produce markets a feast for all the senses.
Best Sydney Surprise
In the years when I was writing Frommer guides to Australia, I spent a lot of time in Sydney and came to believe that dining in this gorgeous city was almost completely meat- and seafood-centric. On a more recent visit, I realized that things have changed. I found my first clue on the menu at Fred’s in Paddington, where I was surprised at the number of dishes based on locally-sourced produce.
A friend who knows my fondness for Chez Panisse in Berkeley introduced me to this spot, which is the creation of Chez Panisse alum and Alice Waters protégé Danielle Alvarez.
I enjoyed my starter of spring vegetables served with ginger, coriander seed, and ricotta, and a main course of buffalo ricotta ravioli with fresh peas, asparagus, basil, and sorrel pesto. Waters sources some veggies from Chino Farm in Rancho Santa Fe for Chez Panisse, and Alvarez has obviously found its equivalent in Sydney’s surroundings.
Fujis in Fiji?
Sometimes great flavors turn up where you least expect them. That was definitely the case when we were served poached pears for dessert at Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji. Tropical fruit thrives in this environment, so we’d been enjoying watermelons, mangoes, and pineapples, but definitely not pears, which only grow in temperate environments. (I later learned that Fiji imports about
$8 million of fresh fruit a year.)
While I’m normally a big advocate of eating local, I have to admit that this dish was so divine that I enjoyed it more than once during our stay and asked for the recipe, which I have successfully recreated in my La Jolla kitchen.
Delish on the Islands
I’m not the only one who loves Buzz’s Original Steak House in Kailua on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The Obama family frequently spends Christmas at a vacation rental nearby and eats at Buzz’s. The Clintons like it, too. In fact, Buzz’s even has a designated president’s table marked with a plaque.
The menu here has lots of tempting dishes, but the calamari steak, offered as an appetizer or an entrée, is one of the most popular. Buzz’s serves more than 2,400 calamari steaks every month. Unlike the typical preparation, they use the entire body rather than just the tentacles.
Want to try this at home? Here’s what you’ll need: calamari filet, egg, panko, butter, capers, parsley, and lemon butter sauce. Dip the calamari filet in an egg bath, and then press it into panko to get a nice thick crust. Bread it twice to reduce moisture and ensure crispness, then pan fry it in clarified butter. After frying, plate it and top with capers, chopped parsley, and lemon butter sauce. I realize that this recipe is a little vague, but help is available on YouTube where one of Buzz’s chefs posted a demo. Simply search “Hawaii’s Kitchen: Buzz’s Original Steak House Part 3.”
Preparing food that we enjoyed away from home brings back memories of special moments and allows us to savor them all over again. Bon appétit.
Quinoa Pancakes from Inkaterra Hotel, Aguas Calientes, Peru
1 cup cooked red quinoa
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp port or sherry
3 Tbsp white sugar
dash of salt
dash of cinnamon
Mix all ingredients and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Cook in a frying pan without oil or butter for no more than 2 minutes each side.
Poached Pears from Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji
1 qt sugar syrup
4 pears, peeled and seeded (Bosc are my favorite)
1 whole cinnamon stick
5 star anise cloves
1 whole vanilla bean
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
To prepare sugar syrup, combine 1 quart water and 4 cups sugar and boil until sugar dissolves. Peel pears and core from the bottom. Boil pears in the sugar syrup with all the remaining ingredients for about 20 minutes (until the pear is “soft enough”). Remove, cool to desired temperature, and enjoy.