Como Sur | South American Gastronomy

All posts in Cusco

[photo: Andrew Dare / Zenith]

Brewing With Cusco’s Zenith Cervecería

By Lauren Barragan

Tucked away just past the beautiful hills of the Sacred Valley lay the constantly booming center of Cusco, Peru, the Plaza de Armas.  It is here that you can find all the usual suspects present in any plaza: a beautiful cathedral that’s almost as old as God himself, tourist vendors selling local goods moderately priced because, well, convenience should cost extra, as well as restaurants that rock local foods for visitors to experience.  What you might not expect to find right in the heart of a city as historical as Cusco, though, is a good and proper beer, one that quenches your thirst after a day of discovering an ancient city, but that also awakens your taste buds to the fact that something very new and progressive is happening in this very same city.

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

Here in the Plaza de Armas of Cusco that you can walk into Norton Rat’s Tavern (Norton’s, to locals), a very centrally-located bar that, due to the altitude, you will grow to love after a few days of acclimating in Cusco.  You might be thinking, “Sports bar?  Why would I come all the way to Cusco to drink at a sports bar?”  You’d be doing yourself a great disservice by giving into this question and not experiencing it for yourself.  Because if you don’t make the trip upstairs to Norton’s, you simply miss out on enjoying one of the exquisitely hand crafted Zenith beers that are offered exclusively at this bar and this bar alone.

[photo: Andrew Dare / Zenith]

[photo: Andrew Dare / Zenith]

While you may be asking, “Who is this new beer kid on the block that I’ve never heard of?”, Zenith has a more than legitimate background in beer making than most of the new up and coming microbreweries you’ve been hearing about in the Southern Cone. And, quite frankly, the proof is in the pudding.  Owners and creators of Zenith, Zac Lanham and wife Milka Sotomayor, have shared their love and passion for beer in each of their styles.  Currently you can find three to four of Zenith’s beers on tap at Norton’s, including their pale ale, porter, and brown ale.  It was their seasonal Navidad beer that caused quite a stir during the holiday season, a promising blend of festive spices like cinnamon and clove, giving drinkers all of the nostalgic fuzzies one may have experienced as a child while sipping on family recipes for spicy holiday beverages.  While the Navidad didn’t last long after the holiday itself–because fans couldn’t consume enough of it–there are still many beautiful flavors to be enjoyed in each and every one of their beers.

[photo: Andrew Dare / Zenith]

[photo: Andrew Dare / Zenith]

The porter holds up its end of the bargain by allowing its malty, nuttier notes to shine through, while holding a somewhat lighter body that makes this the most drinkable porter to be had in summer months.  Of course, every yin has its yang, and in this case the pale ale would be just that to its darker sister, the porter.  This pale ale holds such a beautiful, light, floral aroma that in one whiff sweeps you away deep into the Sacred Valley and its grassy hills.  It is apparent when you take your first sip of any of Zenith’s creations that they put their heart and soul into it.

While catching up with the Zac and Milka, both spoke of their work in a way that almost gave off a twinkle in their eyes.  They love beer, plain and simple.  They love to make beer and they enjoy sharing it with others.  Between the married couple, along with Zac’s parents who spent a good part of the year away from their home in Austrailia to help out at the brewery, Zenith has all of the feel to go right along side the fact that it really is a big family.  One immediately feels welcome when they share one of the thoughtfully made beers with them.  Zac was kind enough to share a little more about his history of migrating from Australia to Peru, making beer back in college and how that has evolved for him, as well as what’s next in the future for Zenith.  With their popularity growing rapidly and bringing tons of foot traffic to the only bar in Cusco where you can get it, Zac says that they will be expanding this year and begin bottle production in the upcoming months.  In addition to the exciting news of their expansion, Zenith will also be making their first fruit beer and possibly some new seasonal cameos as well.  But not to worry–if you weren’t one of the lucky ones in Cusco for the Christmas holiday last year, they have assured us that it will be making a comeback for this year’s season, by popular demand.

[photo: Andrew Dare / Zenith]

[photo: Andrew Dare / Zenith]

The name Zenith comes from the word meaning the top of a point or the highest peak that celestial objects can reach.  It couldn’t be a more fitting name for this beer, since the sky is the limit for them with a line up of beers this good.  We look forward to seeing them make their way down from the peak and over to our neck of the woods, so we, along with the rest of the world, can enjoy them.

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

Senzo: Sacred Tastes Of The Sacred Valley

By Lauren Barragan

To travel is to experience a taste of other cultures, foreign to one’s own.  At Como Sur we believe that taste is more literal than not.  To travel is to eat.  It’s to explore the local cuisine and ingredients of a region and experience it in whatever capacity it is intended to be.  In a place as deeply rooted in its history and agriculture, as Cusco, one should be prepared from the get go to see the food from a perspective as sacred as the valley it rests near:  the farmer.

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

 

 

 

 

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Senzo restaurant, modestly tucked away in the Palacio Nazarenas hotel, they have captured all of the essence of the land they are engulfed by.  The hotel itself, once a convent for the Beatas of the Order of Barefoot Nazarenas, has the stories of these women so deeply embedded in the walls, one can feel the history upon walking through the doors.  The hotel honors the concept that Senzo strives to make as the focus, which is keeping everything local and as fresh as possible, by hosting an herb and vegetable garden in their courtyards.  Guests and patrons of the restaurant can walk through and see, touch, smell, even taste the herbs that are literally being picked for their thoughtful and delicately created meals.

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senzo’s chef, Virgilio Martínez, held one major concept close to his heart while structuring the very base of this restaurant: Cusco.  In a city visited by people from all over the world to witness all of its natural beauty, Martínez knew he wanted to share all that Cusco’s land has to offer in the purest of forms.  As a result he has established a fine dining experience that is as far away from feeling pretentious as anyone has ever been able to do here.  The bottom line in keeping a meal this perfectly executed, down to earth, is that every single ingredient used in Senzo is locally sourced within the Andean terrain.  Nothing is imported into the restaurant and everything grown is the product of love and respect for the local land, as well as the beautiful relationship Martínez and his kitchen staff have established with every grower of the products they utilize at Senzo.

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the exquisite dishes on the menu include a black quinoa ceviche, served with a Tiger’s Milk sauce that creates such a bright, summery flavor to perfectly contrast the warm and earthy hints from the quinoa itself.  Also worth tasting while there is trout dish which is plated as a work of art, that Picasso himself would have given a standing O for.  The delicate slivers of fish vortex together on the plate, drawing your eyes to an almost army-like appearance of onion, yellow peppers and cushuro, marching off the plate in perfect formation.  The cushuro, a local algae, literally tastes like a breath of sea air on your tongue.  Even the desert stayed true to the theme and title of the tasting menu, “Diverse Terrains”.  The restaurant served up an ice cream that had been infused with palo santo wood served on a bed of toasted quinoa, as well as a palate cleansing flight of bites that included Eucalyptus infused white chocolate.

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senzo is, without a doubt, a tour of the local land from start to finish.  With every bite, you can not only taste but feel the passion that lay within the man who harvested the ingredients with care, all the way to the chef that has created each pleasurable bite with both the farmer and the diner in mind.  And with a land so filled with unique flavors, above and below the earth, that is literally called sacred, anyone who has passion for food must get to Cusco to be a part of the excursion Senzo takes you on.