More and more Americans are flocking to Peruvian food and discovering a world of flavor beyond pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken). This diverse cuisine, with influences from Andean to Spanish, Japanese and Chinese to African and Italian, is quickly finding its rightful place in the national food scene.
Credit is due in part to Gastón Acurio, the country’s most recognized chef, who acts as the unofficial ambassador of Peruvian cuisine with 34 restaurants in 14 cities worldwide, including the recently-opened La Mar Cebicheria in New York City. In 2008, Acurio, together with Apega, the Peruvian Society for Gastronomy founded Mistura. This 10-day food festival brings together street vendors, herbal stands and high-end chefs showcasing their most popular dishes and attracts over 300,000 every year.
Now, scaled-down versions of this event - complete with quinoa desserts, fresh bread, and traditional herbal drinks - are popping up outside of Peru.
Take one part pub crawl and one part contest mixed vigorously with 10 bartenders on a mini bus, and what do you get? One spirited competition to determine who makes the best drink using pisco, the South American brandy making a comeback in the United States.
Long a fixture in liquor cabinets and bars in Peru and Chile, pisco is popping up in the United States amid an obsession with craft cocktails. From January to July, export sales of the South American grape brandy grew to $2.3 million, up 139% over the same period in 2010, fueled by increased sales in the United States, Peruvian news agency Andina reports.
Peru is known to many as the land of the ancient Incas. Most recently, this South American country received worldwide recognition when the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu were named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.