July 28th marks the anniversary of Peru’s independence from Spain, which they won in 1821. The annual Peruvian Independence Day Festival promised a gastronomically enlightening tour of Peruvian culture. That also meant plenty of ceviche to go around.
The web site announced that Lurin breakfast would be served at 10am. Upon our arrival at around 10:15, breakfast was nowhere to be found. Having refrained from eating anything to reserve the space in my tummy for Peruvian delights, this was a major disappointment. There was a stand making chicken salad sandwiches, which I had while I waited for the other food vendors to set up.
Cecci, a restaurant in Miami Beach, was my first stop. They were making these pork sandwiches topped with sweet potato and red onions, as well as fish ceviche served with potato Huancaina. I found the ceviche and potatoes to be very good, but the pork sandwich was what stood out. The pork looked dry, but was actually very tender and juicy. The tangy onion slaw served on the sandwich actually added a brightness to it that paired very well with the salty pork.
My next stop was a vendor offering Picarones, which are donut-shaped fritters made from squash and sweet potato. They are drizzled with a dark syrup, and served hot. These, in my opinion, were the highlight of the day. They were sweet, fluffy, and delicious. The syrup, she said, is made by boiling brown sugar with water, vanilla, and fruits. My own research afterwards found that the “fruit” is actually lime and orange zest. I am not sure if she has an actual store front. I should have found out.
Next was another round of ceviche, from Senorial Peruvian Cuisine and Ceviche Bar. This one was not marinated in the lime mixture, which meant that this was more like “Peruvian style sashimi.” This also meant that the fish wasn’t as flavorful. I still enjoyed it, though.
My next stop was Macchu Picchu, which were offering tamales, ceviche, and lomo saltado skewers. Lomo saltado, a Peruvian dish of stir fried beef tenderloin, is normally served with french fries and white rice. These were served on skewers, which I thought was a smart move for portable festival food.
The meat was tender and juicy, despite sitting in one of those buffet warmers. I can only imagine how it would taste when it’s hot and fresh out of the kitchen.
I was fascinated by the chefs from Mixtura in Miami Beach making their ceviche on site. They moved with a methodical, calculated grace that showed their experience in the art. They offered three kinds of ceviche on this day; traditional, chipotle, and yellow. I went with the traditional, and was not disappointed. It ended up being the best ceviche of the day, out of the three that we tried.
Meanwhile, while waiting for my ceviche at Mixture, I noticed a crowd forming at the station beside them.
I wasn’t sure what they were serving here, but they were serving out of clay pots. That alone was enough to make me want to taste some. Not really knowing what anything was, I handed over my vouchers and asked for a sampling. There was beans, beef, chicken, green rice, some sort of tripe dish, and other things poured into the container. Most of it was good, but unremarkable. I also didn’t see any restaurant name anywhere on this station, and they were wearing festival volunteer shirts.
Our last stop was at a Delizzia, a vendor offering Peruvian desserts. I had already eaten my fill, but my friend got a Lucuma mousse, which she enjoyed.
It was definitely an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Best of all, this event was held indoors, away from the South Florida heat. I am looking forward to next year!