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48 Hours in Lima, Peru with Qhali Kitchen

A Reprieve from the Storm

After a year of volunteering and navigating systemic racism in Rhode Island, I felt the need to step back. My interactions with various nonprofits left me drained and disillusioned. Seeking connection with people who truly understand me, I found solace in supporting those who needed my help most. Little did I know, it would lead to an adventure abroad.

From Bristol to Lima

Qhali Kitchen, a gem in Bristol, is owned by the talented Peruvian American chef, Vanessa Saldana. Bristol / Rhode Island isn't kind to businesses of color, and my own experiences, along with those of others like us, have mirrored this sentiment. Determined to support Vanessa and share her rich culture with our community, I offered my skills, never intending to get anything in return. Once I started to help, and Vanessa saw the real passion Jon and I have for food, quality, and culture, she insisted we visit Peru to get a deeper understanding of what she wants to bring here. This unexpected invitation set the stage for our unforgettable adventure and a growing friendship.


1st - 4th image: Trying fruit at El Mercado Central - the pink one is tuna from the cactus family and the green one is cherimoya, so tasty! 5th-8th image: Fresh seafood at the central market, Tiradito (fresh yellow pepper sauce) and traditional Peruvian ceviche 9th image: Talented gal making stunning home-goods for your table. A perfect souvenir.


Our Journey

Jon and I arrived in Lima, Vanessa, flying standby, wasn't able to make the original flight. Armed with what I call ‘menu Spanish’ and my AT&T international plan (Jon’s Verizon failed us), we booked a room in the San Isidro area at Los Tallanes Hotel and Suites. The hotel was cozy, clean, and offered breakfast, though we had plans and didn’t partake.


A Night of Cocktails

Venturing out for late night food, we stumbled upon cocktails instead. Our first stop was Ole Bar & Restaurante, where we savored the most amazing Pisco Sours, accompanied by top-notch old-school hospitality. Next, we wandered over to The Parrot Shadow for some flashy Tiki drinks – both spots were fantastic and warrant a return visit.


Saturday’s Culinary Adventure

Saturday was our big day, immersed in ‘comida agachadito’ – street and market-style meals. Our culinary adventure began with surtido, a delightful smoothie of fresh fruit flavors including beets, followed by incredible papa rellenos and empanadas. The central market offered the best ceviche of our lives, perfectly paired with Peruvian beer.


** 1st image: papa relleno of your dreams - we learned Peru grows over 6,000 kinds of potatoes! 2nd image: Enjoying a surtido smoothie and empanadas 3rd image: Freshly made alfajores (butter cookies filled with caramel)


We continued downtown, sampling emoliente, a warm herbal drink known for its health benefits, and visited the home of the Cathedral Pisco Sour. This double-sized Pisco Sour, originally crafted for churchgoers, was also where we tried our first Coca Sour – a coca leaf-infused Pisco Sour that energized our next steps.


** 1st image: Perfectly prepared coca sour. 2nd image: Coca infusion 3rd image: Cathedral Pisco Sour


Cultural Exploration

Our journey included a visit to Retablo Cajon De Maravillas, showcasing retablos art, beautiful handmade, three-dimensional art that records history, and a stroll by the cathedral where a ceremony was taking place. The Pisco Museum was a big highlight, offering an informative and delicious tasting experience. We enjoyed my most favorite Peruvian meal pollo a la brasa and potatoes, a quintessential Peruvian meal with intoxicating aromas. You can find it all over the city and in Bristol at Qhali on the weekends (order a day ahead). This chicken is marinated a minimum of 24 hrs and then coal roasted, long and slow. Seriously delicious stuff, folx.



Nightlife and Discoveries


After a short rest, we explored Lima’s vibrant nightlife. The Ayahuasca cocktail mansion, with its myriad of rooms and bars, was a fascinating find. Barbarian Brewing Co and La Gintoneria offered artisan beers and a cool vibe. Bar Bizou stood out with its meticulous cocktail creation and laid-back ambiance. Our night ended with a thrilling show at the House of Salsa – truly an unforgettable experience.


Sunday Morning Delights


Despite being tired, we were eager for more. We devoured sandwich de butifarra, a Peruvian pork sandwich on a homemade roll, savored 2 kinds of tamales and plenty of delicious coffee. It was National Churro Day and we got a VIP behind-the-scenes tour at Doña Churrita. These churros, different from the star-piped ones you might be more accustomed to, did not disappoint. (They also make the star piped ones and fill them with dulce de leche aka caramel)


** 1st image: Vanessa show us the Peruvian bifutara. 2nd image: White corn tamale 3rd image: Golden corn tamale


** Behind the scenes at Doña Churrita

** Fresh Peruvian mocha fille churro at La Churrita


A Satisfying Farewell

Before heading to the airport, we filled our bellies at Siete Sopas. I had the most amazing sancocho, a hearty soup that left such an impression we sought another bowl as soon as we landed in Boston – though it wasn’t quite the same.


**Siete Sopas soup pots cooking up savory broths to serve the lines of people who come daily

** 1st image: Fresh bread and all the peruvian sauce you can dream of - they have the best dipping sauces (don't worry it comes with a guide!) 2nd image is my delicious bowl of Sancocho and peek of my final Pisco Sour - made with maracuya aka passionfruit. 3rd Image: Chaufa rice is a popular dish that shows the Chinese influence here in Peru. Cultural influences from all around the world are found in Peruvian cuisine. Chaufa refers to Chinese roots, Bachiche refers to Italian and Nikai, Japan(a personal fave).


A Special Evening in Bristol

Last week, we hosted a tasting event at Qhali Kitchen, inviting a small group of caring community members to experience the flavors of Peru. It was heartwarming to see Vanessa’s pride as she shared her culinary heritage, and I was proud to have played a part in making the event a success.

** 1st image: guests enjoying the final course at the Qhali dinner (chuleta with potatoes). 2nd image: 1st course, Peruvian potato with house peanut sauce (so good!) 3rd image: Omar Clavijo - playing traditional music for the event.


Reflection

Our 48 hours in Lima were filled with incredible flavors, cultural discoveries, and unforgettable experiences. It was a journey that reminded me of the power of food to connect people and cultures. Vanessa’s pride in sharing her heritage and the community’s warm reception reinforced the importance of supporting each other. This adventure abroad was more than a trip; it was a celebration of unity, resilience, and the vibrant culture of Peru. For more footage from the trip visit story tab on my Instagram page.


I hope you'll join Vanessa's next tasting dinner. If you know me, you know I dream of a world where we can all be ourselves and share our authenticity in genuine ways just like this so I host a variety of offerings that encourage us to do just that. Please, come on over and join us!

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