Taco Maria - Costa Mesa, CA

Dinner - Friday, July 25, 2014

When Carlos Salgado decamped from Oakland's Commis some years ago, it made me sad - this was a man who was responsible for one of my favourite desserts of 2010. Then I heard he was moving to Southern California to run a food truck, and hope returned. Yet, as with many things, I never found the time. Indeed, it took four years, the opening of Salgado's brick-and-mortar location, and some pictures from Trey Foshee to prod me into action.

Central - Lima, Peru

Dinner - Friday, May 9, 2014

Rarely, a meal changes the way you think about food. For me, the most recent place that has succeeded in this regard was Saison (ca. 2011). And now, Virgilio Martinez has done it. This was a truly fantastic meal - every aspect carefully considered, every bite delicious. Central was, far and away, the best meal we had in Peru.

Like many of the modern high-end kitchens, Central has a research team - here, it is the Mater Iniciativa (read their blog/field notes here), devoted to rediscovering the ingredients of Peru and "linking the cultural and biological diversity of Peru with the culinary experience". It is the Mater's discoveries that drive Martinez's sophisticated, thoughtful cuisine. Tonight, the theme of our menu was Elevations - each dish a slice of Peru's many ecosystems, spanning the waters of the Pacific coast to the snow-capped Andean peaks.

Virú at Astrid & Gastón - Lima, Peru

Lunch - Saturday, May 10, 2014

2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of Astrid & Gastón - the first child in what is now a globe-spanning empire. The restaurant, formerly situtated in Lima's Miraflores neighborhood, recently completed a move to the Casa Moreyra, a grand 300-year old house in the neighbouring (and equally upscale) San Isidro district.

To mark this new beginning, Virú is the theme of the restaurant's first tasting menu at Casa Moreyra - a journey through the five macroclimates of Peru in 26 courses. Gastón Acurio was overseeing the kitchen on this day - I gather this is fairly rare, and primarily due to the temporary absence of Diego Munoz.