Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sacred Salad: Escondida Trattoria, Pisac, Peru

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 2:42 PM

I recently returned from a brief hiatus to a little town in Peru called Pisac, located in Cuzco, at the entrance to the Sacred Valley. While there, I was to participate in a retreat that included a 7-day fast and an ayahuasca ceremony, so certain foods were restricted from the menu, especially those containing meat, tyramine, and excess salt. This was my last meal before the fast began the next day, so of course I had to write about it. 

Chef Tim runs Trattoria Escondida, the most remote restaurant I've ever visited, and it was quite a surprise to see a fully functioning Italian trattoria operating as any other would, only the location was built into into the base of a mountain in a small village, its customers mostly travelers on a spiritual quest of some sort. 

The menu was decided each day based on what the chef found at the local market. The day we arrived, we saw him walking down the path on his return from 'town' carrying a white sack which he proudly opened for us to show its contents- local mushrooms freshly procured from some happy little field within walking distance- though it might have been a longer walk than most of us are used to...the market in Pisac is Peru's largest indigenous gathering of locals from the surrounding villages offering their dizzying selection of fruits, vegetables, meats, potatoes, breads, herbs, spices, and of course the usual tourist-centric doodads for those just passing through. 

The salad you see above was not just any salad. It was the happiest salad I've ever had, happy to be eaten by someone who was happy to eat it. Sounds cheesy, but it's true! Those carrots...smaller than my pinky finger, but the biggest, most nutritiously enhanced flavor a carrot could hope to muster. The tomatoes, smaller than a nickel, finally clarified to me the meaning of 'umami.' They were as satisfying as little bites of filet mignon, showcasing the earthy, almost salty, minerals of the local soil. The baby greens each had their own personality, texture, flavor, history, and were as enjoyable to eat as a good conversation with good friends is enjoyed.

My friend Lucy, the Louise to my Thelma experience, opted for the eggplant parmesan—just look at it! You can see how delicious it was. Luckily, she didn't make me just look at it, and I can still recall the crisp barrier between supple eggplant flesh and the pesto and cheese topping, the homemade pasta, all so warm and full of the valley's richness.  

I had the homemade spinach cannelloni because it featured the mushrooms we'd been introduced to earlier in the day. The sauce was simple yet vibrant—tomatoes and basil—and didn't overshadow the delicate flavors of the more subtle ingredients. Yes, I shared with Lucy, and she agreed that it was super-tasty. We passed our plates back and forth, doing our best to clean them, but sadly, there were a few bites left. I wish I had them now...

So if you're ever in the Sacred Valley in Pisac Peru, with a little luck, you'll find a great meal here. The days and hours of operation vary as does the menu. The scenery of the valley is a feast for all of your senses, and Escondida Trattoria does a wonderful job in bringing it all together on your plate. 


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