Back in June, we were invited to the home of Peruvian-born and raised Giuliana and Miguel, both of whom met at medical university, after which they relocated to the states. Our first encounter with Giuliana was at friends Paula and Mike Graham’s house for their respective sons high school graduation party. With Russ’s command of the Spanish language, we hit it off pretty quickly.
She extended an invitation to us in June to dine at her house for an authentic Peruvian-style dinner, but unfortunately, Giuliana had to fly to Peru for a family emergency the night of the scheduled event. Nearly 3 months later we received another offer to host us for dinner, which we quickly accepted. With their proximity near the Graham’s, Paula invited us to enjoy cocktail hour first in their backyard over some select cheeses, nuts and olives on an unusually balmy October evening.
The “pre”cocktail hour at the Graham’s.
You see, even though the invitation was for 7:30, it is considered impolite to arrive on time—a formality I find hard to adjust to (not so much Russ 😉 ). According to Peruvian custom, being an hour late is “fashionable,” though we kind of split the difference pulling into their driveway around 8:00 p.m. with bottles of wine and fresh flowers in hand.
Giuliana selects a vase for the flowers while Miguel uncorks the wine.
As soon as one enters, you can’t help but notice their comfortable home is full of bright colors and paintings from their native country. So without hesitation, the couple got the party started with some heavenly scallop appetizers, and a frothy glass of a pisco drink. What is pisco—other than very good? The story is an intriguing one…
Pisco Portón is a super premium pisco, which is a Peruvian grape-based white spirit. It is crafted at Hacieda La Caraved, established in 1684 in Ica, Peru. Like all good things, pisco began as an act of rebellion. In 1641, the King of Spain—Philip IV—imposed heavy taxes on all wine produced in Peru. In response, his new world subjects dodged the onerous tax by distilling the year’s grape harvest. In hand-forged copper vats nearly four centuries ago, a new white spirit was born and christened pisco, a reference to the Port of Pisco from where this new spirit was exported. Pisco means ‘bird’ in the indigenous Quechua language. To this day, Peruvians call it their native spirit.
While sipping our pisco-based drinks, Giuliana retrieved a few trays of cooked scallops with parmesan cheese from the oven that were baked right on sea shells for an artistic presentation.
Dogs of the smaller variety always seem to gravitate to Russ, and their little collie, Rosa, was no exception. She found a very comfortable little nook at Russ’s feet by the bar stool.
After some laughter and getting to know each other, it was time to move into the dining room for the Peruvian feast. The main attraction, for me at least, was the beautifully colored, and formed, mound of saffron rice and the shrimp, clam and squid stew with peas, along with a side of catfish fillets. The sauté was reminiscent of a Zarzuela. Other accompaniments included sides of corn, and an interesting salad composed of lettuce, hard boiled eggs, olives and cooked potato slices in a spicy pepper and cheese sauce.
And even though I’m not a dessert eater, the crowning star of the show was the gorgeous homemade flan! There were also two citrus-based desserts, one with a lemon foam, and the other with an orange foam topping. (You can see I have no idea what they are called!)
We had an absolutely lovely evening, one we finally had to end because it was getting late and we still had a hike to get home. So before we said our goodbyes, I made sure to take a few snapshots of the ladies and then the gentlemen.
Until we pisco again, Chau…