Columbian Yum

Seems I haven’t included a Yum box in the blog for a while so let me jump back in with the box from Columbia.

I have to say Universal Yums did a great job with this stash of snacks. I’m not sure my usual MO of highlighting the top 2 plus the worst and most unusual will be maintained. Let’s see where the train of consciousness stops. We will start with one of my all time favorites though.

This little box was just fantastic. It pushed several of my buttons (the good buttons), it had variety with 6 different flavors, they were sweets and smooth creamy textures were a joy to eat. Caja de Dulces Surtidos, assorted sweets. There was a milk caramel that was essentially condensed milk and sugar cooked down into a silky consistency and sweet taste that belied it’s simplicity. The Coffee took that fantastic caramel base and added Columbian coffee that tasted fresh brewed. The Guava had a layer of guava paste on top of the caramel to give it a wonderful tropical flavor and add a second texture. The Panela was made from unrefined cane sugar and had kind of a brown sugar taste on top of the dairy goodness. The Orange had orange zest adding some citrus notes and some bitterness to contrast with the sweet of the candy. Finally the Coconut added a different tropical taste and consistency to the dulce de leche and different was good. I’m almost glad they don’t sell these here as I might become an addict.

Picking a second favorite was hard because there was nothing close to the favorite and almost nothing I didn’t like but I’m going with the Bacon Lime chips.

I wasn’t sure about them when I grabbed the bag, I mean bacon and lime? When I saw they looked like little bacon strips I started to come around. The composition was like a rectangular cheese puff and you there is a bacon aroma and flavor right at the start but then the lime joins the party like a diva headed for a microphone. In spite of the fact they look a bit like a dog treat and the lime is a tad strong I really did enjoy these chips.

There wasn’t anything I thought was just bad so the worst in this case is just my least favorite. They were unexciting enough that I forgot to take a picture of them. They were plantain cookies which were crisp and slightly sweet and that’s about all I can say about them. On the other hand I have two for the unusual category.

The first picture is of mayonnaise chips. Some of you may be gagging, some going Yum!, and others just intrigued or a little chip curious. For the most part it isn’t a combo you see in US stores. They were not bad at all. The chips were decent ruffled crisps and the mayo flavor was there but not at all overpowering. Honestly they’d probably be great on a sandwich you were putting mayo on anyway.

The pastel Easter egg looking candies were candy coated white chocolate bits with a gummy bear center. It was quite interesting to take a bite and just like the package shows, have a little gummy staring at you. If you throw a whole one in your mouth you get the crunch of the candy shell followed by the smooth white chocolate and you end with that chewy gummy so it has quite the mouth feel. They were good but also quite unusual.

There were some other nice snacks both sweet and savory, like the garlic plantain chips, the coconut cream wafer cookies, the cheese & butter arepa chips and the passionfruit lollipop with bubblegum in the center to name some.

There is one I’ll mention because the packaging threw me.

I saw this package and just knew I was going to get some turnip flavored gummy candy and that sent a shiver up my spine. I’m game though and gave it a try. Strawberries and cream? Heck yeah! The flavor may have been enhanced by sweet relief but even so I’d recommend them.

Well that’s all for the Columbia Yum box. The next one in queue is from Indonesia and there’s a few interesting tidbits in that one too.

Salivating over Salvadoran

El Salvador

After seeing an early showing of Captain Marvel I decided to just take a right onto South Blvd in Charlotte and see what struck my fancy. I had confidence there’d at least be something with a Latin American influence along the route that would serve. After passing a few that didn’t lure me in I decided to pull into a strip lot parking lot because I saw a Mexican place at the end that looked promising. The I saw Restaurante Comalapa that advertised being Salvadoran, Honduran & Mexican and that roped me right in.

When I first walked in and the waitress rounded the corner and saw me it apparently threw her off her game because she just stood there for a bit staring at me. I don’t know if she thought I was lost, wanted to use the phone or what but after a few seconds of silence I decided to help her out and said “Just uno” and that seemed to cut through the confusion and she went into action, grabbing a menu and beckoning me to follow.

As soon as butt hit booth she asked if I wanted guacamole fresco & chips so I said sure. I expected her to ask me what I wanted to drink first but nope that didn’t come up until she came back several minutes later with a platter of chips, salsa and guacamole.


I ordered up a Modelo Especial and tried my first bite of the guacamole. So let me say until just a few years ago I called this green concoction gag-a-mole or gackamole but I’ve had a change of heart and will eat it now and then. Based on that I am no connoisseur of guacamole but this was the best I’ve ever had. They mean the “fresco” part and that’s why she asked immediately because they make it to order. All the ingredients tasted fresh and it was both creamy and chunky with just the right amount of salt and cilantro. I did try the salsa and while it was good it was the second place finisher in a two dip race. Let me also add this is an appetizer and will show on the bill.

I tried to order the chicken tamales for my meal since the picture made them look pretty cool and they came wrapped in a plantain leaf. I barely got the word tamale out of my mouth and she was channeling her inner Soup Nazi with “no tamales for you!” At least she followed it up with “we ran out”. OK so it wasn’t personal. She recommended the other dish I was considering, pupusas.

These are kind of like corn flour pancakes stuffed with cheese and / or other things like the pork I got. They came with cabbage salad and a thin tomato sauce. I tasted the cabbage salad first and it was crunchy and tart with a bit of carrot and some green herb I think was oregano. At first I thought it was vinegar giving the tangy acidity but the more I had of it the more it reminded me of the tang from fermentation like the homemade sauerkraut I made last year. Regardless it was good but still only a side dish.

The pupusas were new to me but I’m now a fan, at least of the ones from Comalapa. They had a nice corn taste and the filling was ground pork with a little seasoning. It was ground fine, not quite a paste, so the filling layer wasn’t thick, just enough to give additional flavor to the corn bread. The tomato sauce for dipping was called “special” on the menu but that was optimistic at best. It was thin and fairly tasteless but to me it was extraneous anyway. The papusas stood on their own.

Overall I’d have to say this lunch was no kind of fancy but some kind of good. If you find yourself in the neighborhood stop in and grab a meal. Oh and by the end of the meal the waitress was friendly and chatty and on the way out the lady at the register made a point of waving, thanked me for coming and invited me back soon.

Amazonian Yum

Brazil

Opening this month’s Yum box I was greeted with the bright flag of Brazil and on the flip side of the welcome were the first puzzle and some quick facts.

The box was filled with a great looking assortment of sweet & savory snacks.

Like last month I’ll cover my favorite, runner-up, least favorite & most unusual of the 13 snacks and this month I managed to snap some shots of the actual food before chowing down.  None of the snacks were too weird or totally out there but some were certainly better than others.

My favorite was the Amori 1000 – Chocolate covered wafer with coconut filling. Based on the description unless someone figured out how to screw up this combo the Amori 1000 was going to be near the top of the heap for me as chocolate and coconut are a combo I love. Of the two chocolate covered snacks this had a better but thinner layer of chocolate than the Cory Pao Dimel.  It also had crispy wafers and nice layers of coconut creme filling in a triangular shape. No one screwed up, this was a great snack that I’m glad I can’t buy on a regular basis because it wouldn’t do my A1C any favors.  The picture doesn’t do it justice.

There was a tie for the runner-up.  Both of the pepper crackers made the list.

Delicitos Pimenta – Pepper crackers. These little pillows of crunchy pepper flavored snacks were unexpectedly great. As I was eating the first cracker I got a whiff of a vinegary pepper smell that started the anticipation then it hit the taste buds. Pretty salty and the pepper flavor is strong and I was waiting for the accompanying burn. It never came. All the flavor and none of the burn on a crunchy pillow cracker. Definitely a winner.

Snacks! Pimenta Calbresa – Calabrian chili crackers were another winner.  There were a ton of these little crackers in the tube shaped bag. They are about 3/4-1″ long (18-25mm for you metric folk) and if they had been segmented they’d have reminded me of the mealworms they sell for bird food, just in shape not taste. The taste of the calabrian chili was like a smoky paprika to me and the size and shape made for a satisfying crunchy snack. They do have a ton of salt too so have a something to drink close at hand.

My least favorite was Pipoca Vivozinha – Sweet Puffed Corn. These reminded me of Super Sugar Crisp cereal in both taste and texture even though they are different grains. They weren’t bad but there’s a reason I never asked for that cereal as a kid unless it had a rocking prize.

The oddest of the lot was one of the small candies.  Bananada com Chocolate – Chocolate covered banana bar. The chocolate covering was dark and had a good, if slightly artificial, taste. When I bit it I expected a light colored filling since it was supposed to be banana but the inside was black like an extremely ripe banana and the taste was similar. It was good but the texture was a bit different than expected and the black interior could be offputting and the taste had kind of a tobacco taste underlying the banana and while that probably sounds gross the overall flavor was okay.

In addition to the snacks detailed above there were some chocolate covered honey bread cookies that reminded me of a moon pie minus the marshmallow plus two different gummy candies, one loaded with sprinkles and the other flavored yogurt flavored.  The other small candies were a peanut flavored one that reminded me of peanut butter fudge but not as sweet and more like a marzipan texture plus a coconut one that tasted like the coconut bars I got as a kid whenever we stopped for gas on long trips.  Plus a few more that I won’t detail but I’m glad I got to try.

Finally if you want to experience a curated batch of Brazilian music videos check out the link below.

https://www.universalyums.com/tunes

 








Pollo Rapido

Guatemala

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From Belgium last week I took the culinary-passport across the Atlantic and a bit south to Guatemala in the form of Pollo Campero.  This particular location is on South Blvd in Charlotte but this is a chain that originated in Guatemala with one families secret chicken recipe.  I’m sure there’s a GFC joke in there somewhere if I tried hard enough but I just ate and don’t want to work that hard.

Anyway, the interior is very much a fast food décor, you order at the counter, they give you a number to display at your table and deliver it to you when it’s ready.  I was going to say the menu is limited but in this case I think focused is probably a better description.  Like the name says they are a chicken place and you can get it grilled or fried, and also in a bowl or empanada.  I opted for grilled.  They also have interesting signature sides.  If you want fries with that you can get yucca fries, plantains are an option as well as street corn salad which is what I went with.  They also had rice, beans, slaw and regular fries for the less adventurous.  For drinks they had Pepsi products, water, tea and some you don’t see everywhere; horchata, Jamaica and guava.  Even though I knew it was going to be sweet I got the guava.  I did consider the Jamaica which was made from hibiscus.

OK a side note here on the guava.  When I decided on the drink I said, “I’ll take a guava.”  I pronounced it with the hard G.  The young lady behind the counter looked at me and said “So you want a guava?” pronouncing it basically without a G but adding that little sound I can’t replicate in writing but sounds something like an h & w combined with the urge to spit.  “Yep, that’s the one,” was all I could say as I thought to myself that she sounded just like me when someone mispronounces something and I use it in my next sentence so they can hear it correctly without having to be an ass and blatantly call them out on it.  Well played counter girl, well played.

Alright back to the food.

The chicken was very good.  I honestly couldn’t tell exactly what spices they used other than some mild peppers and a little garlic and maybe onion powder but the citrus was very evident but not in a bad way.  I’m not actually sure if the green sauce on the side was supposed to go on the street corn salad or for the chicken so I tried it with both and it worked for either.  The corn salad was cilantro, tomatoes, corn, with some white crumbled cheese and peppers.  I liked it ok but it’s not something I’d want often.  I got tortillas with the meal instead of the dinner roll since I figured that fit the theme a little better.  Overall it was a nice Sunday lunch and a nice departure from other fast food chains that are so much more prevalent.

Check out the Tell Me More page for a turkey soup recipe, some music, a fact and shopping opportunities.

 








Really Southern Breakfast

Venezuela

Yes all the way to South America.  This is not only a country revisit but a restaurant revisit, which is something I hadn’t planned to do much on the blog.  I mentioned revisiting Me-A-More Café to represent the Dominican Republic as I hadn’t found another place for that cuisine but I later did so I didn’t.  However, I was looking for a breakfast place I hadn’t been to and they popped up with a menu that had some different options reflecting a Latin American theme so I grabbed the culinary-passport and headed over.

To catch a flavor for the place you can check out the previous post Two For One as nothing had substantially changed.  I was the only patron in the place and the staff outnumbered me 4 to 1 but that just meant I got good service.  I ordered the headliner on the breakfast page of the menu, Venezuelan Creole breakfast.  For the record breakfast is served all day and some of the lunch options are also served all day to you can be topsy turvy and eat breakfast for lunch and lunch for breakfast if that’s what floats your barco.

The Venezuelan Creole breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions, shredded beef, black beans, shredded white cheese and an arepa.  This was definitely a breakfast to fortify someone who was planning to do a good mornings work.  I thought it was a bit odd the cheese was a side item rather than on or in one of the other dishes but I guess that just meant you could put it where you wanted it.  I folded it into the eggs.  The eggs were well cooked, more so than I personally would have cooked them but they tasted good especially with the addition of the cheese.  If I were to get this again I’d probably request the cheese be added just before the eggs were taken up so it would melt and meld better with the eggs.  The shredded beef is the same shredded beef you get with the lunch entrees and is a nice change of pace to the usual breakfast meat options around town.  I like black beans so even though it’s an oddity for breakfast in these parts they certainly went well with the rest of this breakfast.  The arepa was a fried flat cornbread disk that reminded me very much of the fried cornbread my Grandfather use to enjoy with his collard greens.  It is more dense than the baked cornbread that is common in the US and not as crispy on the outside as a hushpuppy.  It made a serviceable substitute for a biscuit and a handy scoop for those last few beans in the bowl.

They have a few more things on the breakfast menu that are not staples of the local breakfast scene so if you’re looking for something other than the norm and you’re in the Rock Hill area give them a shot.

Also if you missed it the first time check out the Tell Me More page for some Venezuelan culture.

 








Two For One

Venezuela

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This was one of those weeks where things worked out a bit different than planned and actually that was OK.  When I was searching for someplace new to have breakfast a few weekends ago Ava’s Café popped up and I saw they billed themselves as a Venezuelan restaurant.  So while I didn’t go for breakfast I filed them away for as a potential blog candidate since I hadn’t done Venezuela.

This was the day I decided to try them out and off I went.  When I arrived where it was supposed to be, it’s not there.  I mean the building and everything was where it should have been but not Ava’s.  Where it should have been was another little eatery called Me-A-More Café.  I figured maybe it was just a name change since the sign said Café & Latin Street Cuisine so I might still get Venezuela out of this.

The place is small and well lit with 8 or 10 tables and was not very busy when I went in so I was promptly greeted and seated.  The menu did have an item specifically called Venezuelan Pabellon as well as several more Latin American sounding dishes.  I was still in business.  I ordered my dish and fired up my Kindle app to wait but they brought out a little appetizer to get me started.

Now my first thought was “That’s a skimpy bowl of chips, they must not be doing that well.”  Upon closer inspection I realized those were plantain chips and the dip was some kind of mayonnaise based dip with a herby tang to it and a little went a long way.  The combo was good since the slight tang of the sauce balanced the faintly sweet starchiness of the plantains.  Certainly it was something a different.

While I was chowing on the chips I learned some stuff through overheard conversations and direct communication with the staff.  First was they replaced Ava’s here but kept a large part of the menu from Ava’s.  The new owner is also the chef and is from the Dominican Republic and has added a some Dominican items (there’s my 2 for 1, I can come back for Dominican).  The young woman who waited on me was from Haiti.  The owner asks for feedback and actually accepts criticism with grace, seems to be appreciative of the feedback as a way to improve, and isn’t afraid to acknowledge it when she agrees.  I know this last because she spent several minutes talking to a guy who had suggestions for improvement on each of the items he had eaten and she was just as nice and smiley when she walked away as she was when to walked up.  Kudos to her.

The pabellon consisted of rice, black beans, fried ripe plantains and shredded beef.  Nothing fancy about this dish and there’s a lot of commonality with some of the other South American cuisines I’ve had since starting the blog.  The biggest differentiator was the shredded beef which was lightly seasoned and not at all spicy which I was expecting it to be, at least a little.  It all went well as filling comfort food.  In conversation I learned the Dominican version uses red beans, green plantains & shredded pork.

On the way out I decided I’d grab a snack for later and got a guava and cheese empanada.

Later has come and gone so I’ve tried it out and I’m a fan.  At first I thought the cheese was simply cream cheese but it’s something made in house apparently from some other soft white cheese that’s sweetened and has something a little tart added in.  The guava element was jam or preserves that were not too sweet and the empanada crust was soft and just a bit chewy.

Overall I’d say while the afternoon didn’t go as planned it was very successful.  The food was good and they had some nice changes of pace like the plantain chips plus everyone in the place was super friendly.  If you’re local here’s another chance to support a non-chain small business and get rewarded with good food and service.

Check out the Tell Me More page for more on Venezuela

 








I Cried Tio

Honduras

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The weekend started bad for the Culinary-Passport.  My first choice was going to be a repeat country but when I rolled into the parking lot there was a sign in the door that they were closed due to a power outage.  With this setback I had to get of my lazy behind and find someplace else.  OK I didn’t really get off my behind but I did some furious Googling, Binging & Yelping to find some restaurant that represented a country I hadn’t already done.  Success!  I found Restaurante Lempira which had Honduran food.  They have multiple locations in Charlotte and I opted for the one nearest me on South Boulevard.

I got there a bit after noon and the parking lot was already just about full so that was a good sign.  I walked in and immediately saw the clientele was heavily weighted towards the Latin American end of the scale.  Another good sign.  I was seated quickly and had my drink order taken immediately.  FYI they don’t do unsweet tea.  Since I didn’t know what I wanted in the first few seconds I suffered the one dip in service for the day.  The young lady who was supposed to be my server got involved in other things including an involved conversation with a coworker.

The standard chips & salsa were delivered rapido.   The salsa was a little thicker than some with chunky bits of onion and cilantro and a bit of heat. I munched on those sparingly since my intended entrée looked like it was going to be a good deal of food.  My order was eventually taken by a different lady that had an air of authority and a different uniform so I’m guessing she was a boss of some sort.

The menu has a lot of different options from the standard Mexican American fare to items from other Central / South American countries weighted just a bit in favor of Honduras.  I went with the Platillo Hondureño.  Boy was I right it was a gracious plenty.

Let’s start from the bottom left and work our way up.  We have cubed grilled steak that was lightly seasoned so you got the full taste of the beef and it was very tender.  The yucca was just a filling starch and didn’t have much flavor and by itself would have needed salt but in concert with either of the meats was just fine.  The next row had pico de gallo, cabbage salad and an avocado, onion and vinegar combo.  All of these were good in their own right and a nice way to add a little something to the meats.  The back row had an empanada and what they called fried pork skin.  The Honduran empanada was filled with a ground meat and rice combo with a few stray bits of other vegetable matter.  It was deep fried and deeply fried and didn’t have a lot of flavor of it’s own, at least not compared to the other foods.  The fried pork skin was an unexpected surprise.  I expected something akin to crackling or fried fatback and while this was definitely close it was at least 80% meat.  Now it was fried to within an inch of its life which kept the fat from being…well, fatty. There were a couple of wedges of lime to squeeze on whatever you thought needed lime.

There was easily enough food for two here and I called uncle and dropped the fork before this plate was clean.  The food was good, the price reasonable and the supervisory lady checked in on me several times during the meal so aside from the one hiccup the service was good.  I’d definitely eat here again.

Be sure to check out the Tell Me More page for a quesadilla recipe like you’ve likely not seen before as well as music, facts & top Amazon searches.








Don’t Cry For Me

Argentina

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This week after spending a week at the beach chowing down on seafood pretty regularly hitting Parrillada Che Gaucho seemed like a good idea.  This is a restaurant that is supposed to have food authentic to Argentina and Uruguay.  I think it started as an Argentine place and now is owned by Uruguayans based on what I could determine from some light research.

The restaurant is in a, let’s call it a well established, strip of shops off Old Pineville Rd in Charlotte.  Not far off the interstate and easy to get to.  So my first gripe is that the website is awful and inaccurate.  It indicated the place opened at 10:00 on Sat. which seemed odd but what did I know.  When I get there at 11:30 they’re closed still because according to the door sign they open at 12:00.  WTF, where’s the food?

When they do open there’s no line beating down the door so I get a chance to check out the place.  Lots of flags of Argentina, Uruguay and USA along with soccer paraphernalia and one wall has a number of pictures of gauchos covering it.  There’s also a small bar along one wall and a few TVs going.  My waitress spoke enough English to make up for my lack of Spanish. She was friendly but not chatty.

The first thing I ordered, Matambre, she came back and told me they were out of but had other blah, blah, blah.  I was really looking forward to that stuffed flank steak (see the recipe on the Tell Me More page).  My back-up was the parrillada for 1.  It was pricey but had a ton of meat as you can see.

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The meat was delivered on a warmer that had some hot stones or something in the bottom to keep the metal cover warm.  Nice idea.  The parrillada consisted of a chorizo sausage, a blood sausage, sweetbreads, chicken, short ribs, stuffed small intestine, and flank steak.  I got rice and salad as my two sides.  To drink I got what was allegedly tea.

The chorizo sausage was good but I was really expecting some spicy heat and there was none.  The blood sausage had an interesting texture.  It was less dense than most sausage and mixed with some rice it was pretty good.  The Argentine chitterlings were fried and stuffed with some kind of ground something that was pretty much a paste.  Based on the taste and texture I’m guessing it was some sort of organ meat.  It was a bit chewy and didn’t taste bad but the visual and texture made enjoying it beyond me.  The chicken was lightly seasoned and a nice palette cleanser after the intestines.  The sweetbreads were pretty good.  They were a little crispy, again lightly seasoned, and they were probably my favorite of the lot I ate.  I did wind up bringing home the steak, short ribs and a couple of sweetbread chunks.

The salad was just some lettuce, a couple of tomato slices and slivers of onion.  No dressing offered and nothing included when it was delivered.  The tea.  Oh the tea.  If you are a tea fan and especially if you are a Southern iced tea fan just don’t even stop here.  The glass I got had two cubes of ice, which normally I would be fine with if the tea had already been cold but it wasn’t.  The only way I knew this was supposed to be tea and not rusty water was that rusty water would have had taste.

My last gripe is the wait I had to get my bill.  I asked for a box which would normally have indicated I was finished and just might be ready to leave but apparently that was a bit subtle.  When she was bussing the table and asked if everything was okay and I said “Everything was fine but I’m done.” I thought that was also a clue but it apparently wasn’t.  So I finally asked who I had to see to pay the bill and she figured it out.

So in spite of all the meat options I have to say this is the first time I have been disappointed over all with my experience.  This is the only place I’ve been to I wouldn’t go back to.

Just so this doesn’t reflect poorly on Argentina as a nation check out the Tell Me More page for a matambre recipe and what looks like an Argentine Moon Pie.

 








Colombia Calling

Colombia

Colombian Stamp

From NW Africa last week to NW South America this week.  For the food of Colombia I visited Los Paisas Restaurant in Charlotte.  It’s tucked away in the corner of a shopping center just north of Pineville.  The parking lot was busy but the restaurant wasn’t bad and I got seated immediately.  The restaurant has a bar and a few tables in the bar area where I was seated.  They had soccer games going on a couple of big screen TVs as well as some Latin music playing in the background.  The staff hung around the bar area chatting and prepping when they weren’t helping customers.  It was a very relaxed atmosphere.

It only took a minute with the menu to pick out my selection since it was named Bandeja Tipica Colombiana.  I didn’t know what Bandeja was but I could figure out Tipica Colombiana and the waiter confirmed the menu suggestion that it was a “house favorite”.  I was originally going to have just water but they have an interesting array of juices you can get made from water or milk.  I went with mamey with milk since I’d never heard of a mamey before.  Since it was my first trip to Los Paisas the waiter brought a complimentary empanada as an appetizer.

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This was smaller that most empanadas that I’d had before but it was tasty, especially with the salsa verde he brought.  Speaking of the salsa verde that stuff was pretty good and to paraphrase that old lady from the Frank’s Red Hot commercial, I tried that $@*T on everything.  When they brought out the Bandeja Tipica Colombiana I was pretty impressed with the volume of food.  I thought it was going to be a typical menu picture that maximized the appearance and amount of food but if anything the picture undersells it.

There was steak, sausage, crackling pork, an egg, avocado, plantain, beans, rice and an arepa all piled on that plate.  Two people could have shared that an walked away happy.  As it was I managed to do some major damage but had to leave some rice, beans and pork behind to leave bloated and happy.

The grilled steak was a thin cut and didn’t have much seasoning at all but not bland in any way.  The sausage was good but I honestly expected it to be spicy and it was not.  In fact nothing was spicy with heat and the waiter mentioned it wouldn’t be and he could bring some hot sauce if needed.  As mentioned earlier I did try the salsa on everything.  The plantain was a sweet variety as opposed to some of the simply starchy varieties.  Beans, rice and eggs were nothing special but did their job as competent fillers.  The crackling pork was just that, cooked to crackling on the top and less so closer to the skin.  Also not much seasoning so you got the true taste of the fried pork meat.  My first thought was it was a bit bland but it paired nicely with the arepa.  The arepa is a thick corn tortilla and the consistency reminded me of the cornmeal dumplings my Grandfather used to make.  By itself it was also kind of meh but it went with everything and I could see why it is their bread substitute and why there are so many different recipes with it if you look for them.  I wasn’t sure what the avocado was really supposed to go with so I just scooped it out of the skin and ate a little bit with everything and it worked.

The mamey milk juice was pretty good too.  It was a little sweet and the flavor reminded me of a mild strawberry more than anything else.

I mentioned my Grandfather earlier and I couldn’t help but think of him as I ate.  This meal, aside from the avocado and plantain, felt like something he would have thoroughly enjoyed.  Yes I’m sure that Southern American would have like this South American plate.

Check out the arepa recipe and other tidbits on the Tell Me More page.  Below is the restaurant website and you should use it to get the address and check them out.

Los Paisas Restaurant

 

 








Getting started

Up First

Peru was the first stamp in the Culinary Passport.  Represented by Viva Chicken in Ballantyne.
The restaurant is in a shopping area with lots of restaurants and shops.  The traffic patterns and parking are odd but I didn’t have any problem finding a spot.  The restaurant was fairly busy and obviously a popular place as I heard several people talking about previous trips.  You place your order and they give you a number and will bring your food to the table.  They pack a lot of seats in the space so even though it was busy there was no problem finding a spot.  It is a bit loud so if you are looking for a place for a quiet lunch, keep moving.

I went with the Pollo a la Brasa, rotisserie chicken, marinated in their signature herbs and spices and for sides decided on the quinoa and canary beans, both advertised as organic if that is your thing.  I got the maracuya, passion fruit punch, to wash it down.
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The chicken was flavorful by itself but they have three sauces you can try.  It was convenient that the sauces were self service and you could pump them into little cups.  I tried the mild yellow and medium green.  The yellow Aji Amarillo was mild as advertised and a bit tangy.  The green huacatay is made from Peruvian black mint and herbs with just a bit of a kick and was my favorite of the two.
The quinoa caught me off guard because it was a cold dish.  It was made with red quinoa, onions and some other items.  It was a bit like a potato salad with quinoa instead of potatoes.  After the surprise of it being cold I decided I could definitely eat it again.
Canary beans were new to me and I was interested to see if I could figure out where on the canary they came from.  Still a mystery.  They were peppery and like most other white beans to me.  Good balance to the cold quinoa.
Overall my verdict is the food was good and definitely worth visiting again.  I didn’t get a Peruvian vibe from décor but they were good at moving the traffic in and out.
Here’s the link to their website.

 

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