Monday, November 22, 2010


Before heading up the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, we overnight in Urubamba at the San Augustin Hotel. After some dodgy accommodation in Puerto Inca and Cusco (hot water?  you like hot water for your shower?), this place is a step up. The architecture reflects the look and feel of the colonial estate it once was, with attractive landscaping.

Where to have dinner is an easy choice, as Urubamba (which means “Land of Spiders” in Quechuan) is a small town and it caters more to the lunch crowd. So, the hotel restaurant it is.

Michèle is finally feeling better after a very nasty case of some gastro-disease. Food poisoning? Norwalk virus? The "whatever it is" has knocked down two-thirds of our group already, almost all of whom needed the attention of a local doctor. And we’re not done with it yet. It’s not a healthy place.

But after a rather large buffet lunch, we go easy at dinner. Michèle’s choice is Quinoa Ravioli with a Cream and Cheese Sauce.  If you don't know it, quinoa is an amazing grain that's good and good for you.  It's native to Peru, where they've grown it for thousands of years.

My choice is Trout with Almond Curry Sauce, Rice, Potatoes – it’s not unusual to get both rice and potatoes – and cooked vegetables.  You can find both farmed and wild trout in many Peruvian rivers and lakes (including Titicaca) but it's not native.  Peruvians introduced trout from...Canada (!) as a source of protein.  Good, eh? 

The wine? We’re back to Tacama Blanco de Blancos – this time from 2009. As with the 2010, it’s a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Chardonnay; 13.5% ABV. Pale straw colour, floral and citrus aromas. Flavours of lemon, lime, white peach, and bitter almond at the finish. Medium acidity, it starts with some roundness but then the acidity kicks in at the end. The bitterness on the finish makes it a good match with the food.

Of course, there’s the obligatory pan flute ensemble that we’ve come to expect in every restaurant, every lunch, every dinner. Play a few tunes (we may never be able to listen to El Condor Pasa again), sell a few CDs, pass the hat, good night! In between sets, every restaurant plays music ranging from the 1950s to the early 1990s. For Peruvians, new music seems to have ceased around 1990. When I ask them why, the answer is always in the same perplexed tone, “Tell me, has there been any good music since 1990?”  Hmmm…

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