Peru Travel Diaries: Flavors of Cusco
It's #TravelTuesday, so you know what this means, friends- the next entry on my Peru Travel Diaries is here! Last week I wrote about the Color of Cusco, and today I'm bringing you the Flavors of Cusco, focused on the food and beverages.
As you may have read in my last Peru post, we had a very limited time in Cusco with a packed schedule. We were constantly on the move and would eat on the go during our tours so this trip was not very focused on food as much as it was seeing the sights, but we still were able to have some good meals there. I'll admit the food in Cusco was also a little intimidating- alpaca and guinea pig meat are largely popular there- and I wasn't adventurous enough to try some of the local fare. I just couldn't fathom eating alpaca because they are too cute to me, and after seeing how the guinea pig is served (on a skewer with its head, eyes, and teeth still intact), it made my skin crawl. But hey- this is the point of traveling, to see the way other people live and the Cusco natives consider guinea pig a delicacy, so I really tried to respect their tradition and hide my despair when speaking with the locals. I also had a sour stomach most of the trip from the high altitude, so I ate lightly for the most part and stuck to things that would be easy on me. I will say- Cusco has some amazing coffee and pastries which were the food and beverage highlights of my time there. Maybe next time I visit Cusco I'll be more adventurous, but even with my reservations I still had a few good experiences, which I have recapped below!
Cafe y Chocolate
We passed Cafe y Chocolate on our first night in Cusco and I spotted the angel paintings from the outside and knew I had to go to this cute coffee shop while we were in town. Cafe y Chocolate is on Calle Espaderos right off the Plaza de Armas and is a quint and adorable coffee, tea, and pastry shop. I was attracted to the shop due to their angelic paintings throughout the shop, and in all honestly I knew the pictures from here would be great (life of a blogger, I tell you!). The cafe is small with only 5 tables downstairs, but has a larger seating area on the second level. The staff here was beyond friendly and was patient with my attempts to order our drinks in Spanish. The service and drinks were both great and I thought this was a great place to sit and relax and take a break from the city sightseeing.
We ate here our first night in Cusco and actually heard of this restaurant through my dad, who met a street performer in Old Town Alexandria playing Peruvian music. After speaking with the musician and telling him he was going to Cusco, he gave my dad the name of this restaurant and said his friends owned it, so we decided to give it a try while there. Chez Maggy is a Peruvian pizza restaurant on Calle Procuradores off Plaza de Armas. I know that you're thinking- pizza in Peru?! Yes, Pizza is actually quite common in Cusco and is made with Peruvian cheese and ingredients and toppings local to Cusco. While we didn't try the alpaca pizza that was on the menu, we settled for a Hawaiian and steak pizza to share, which were both flavorful and full of spice, with coca tea as our desired drink since we were adjusting to the high altitude.
We came across La Valeriana bakery and coffee shop and even though we just had coffee at Cafe y Chocolate, we decided to stop in because it looked so nice and they had outdoor seating that looks over a plaza, Plazoleta Comandante Ladislao Espinar, right by the Basílica Menor de La Merced, which makes for a great place to people watch! Although we sat outside, the inside of the bakery is a delight to look at with delicious looking cakes and pastries and cool, innovative interior design elements. Their menu is a few pages and has everything from pastries and cakes to more savory plates like empanadas, and a long list of coffee, teas, juices, and beer. My dad had a Cusquena beer and croissant, my step-sister Genie had juice and an empanada, and I ordered a Pisco Espresso (because I was so intrigued) and a piece of tres leches cake. The food, drinks, service, and people watching were all exceptional here and I highly suggest stopping in for the Pisco Espresso if you ever find yourself in Cusco!
Morena Peruvian Kitchen
For our last night in Cusco, my step-mother, Moza, found this awesome restaurant online and made a reservation for us after we finished the Inti Raymi Festival (post about that coming soon!). She said I'd love it, and she was definitely spot on. The restaurant is ultra cool and has artwork and murals all over the walls of the restaurant. The ambiance and decor was bright and happy, with a nice crowd for a Friday night. Having barely eaten all day, we were all starving but ordered a round of drinks as it was our last night in the city. I had the Chilcano, my favorite drink from Peru, and the presentation (and taste) of the drink was great. The menu featured a number of great looking items, but I instantly decided on their burger when I saw one of the servers deliver it to the table next to us. I know, a burger does not sound like something I should order in Cusco, but the flavor and seasoning was much different than burgers at home, and to be honest, I was starting to get a tiny bit homesick at this point in the trip (primarily I missed my husband and cat), so a burger sounded comforting to me in the moment. Our experience at Morena was very positive and lively and I really liked the atmosphere of this hip spot!
Blonde in the District