[sitting seaside sipping white wine in Arica, Chile]
“Are you still a vegan?” my ten-year old cousin whined over FaceTime. “Yes, Luke I’m still vegan,” I replied.
People are sometimes shocked when Ryan and I admit this. It may not be the easiest way to travel, and definitely not the cheapest, but if we can control it we follow a vegan diet and thankfully Peru has filled our bellies in incredible ways. When telling friends about my travels through South America, they’d often ask if I planned on continuing my dietary restrictions in which I always said yes, but I agreed I would try certain country’s delicacies as long as they did not include meat. In Peru I drooled over lemon drenched whitefish, falling in love with ceviche and guiltlessly ordering it more than once. I drank Pisco Sours, their famous frothy egg-white cocktail, but my stomach could only handle one a session. Trekking through the Colca Canyon with little to no food, I ate chocolate to increase my blood sugar. I’ve eaten pizza without cheese, sad veggie sandwiches, fries as meals, and sometimes just plain rice to fill my crying belly. Some days we go from restaurant to restaurant asking veg options and walking out sadly when our only options are crappy spaghetti dishes or a poor, veg-less salad. But for the days we eat just to get our fill, there are days we eat like kings. Thank you person who created Happy Cow, (a search engine that lists every vegan/veggie restaurant in just about every city in the world) you have blown my mind by presenting restaurants in cities I was sure we’d struggle in. So as hard as it can be, sometimes all the bland, basic food turns in to some of the best vegan food that’s ever hit my lips….
In Cusco, a tourist paradise, we chased around Happy Cow restaurants the minute we arrived. Govinda’s, a veg Indian spot, did not exist. The next spot had barely any vegan options. But after walking and climbing the 3,200m high city we saw the green light down the road. Green Point. It would be our “home cooked meals” every day we spent in Cusco. We stayed for 17 days (subtract the few days we were out trekking). Brazilian nut cheese poured over sweet potato lasagna. Drool. The presentation Green Point demonstrated was top chef shit. This chocolate mousse circled with granny smith apples, spider-web thin sponge sugar with a mango, caramel sauce encircling the plate and a touch of hibiscus petals. Mouth orgasm. As I said before Pisco Sours are the Peruvians most proud drink, well Green Point did a vegan version (and honestly I preferred it). Instead of egg white they use pineapple juice, which froths perfectly as you can see in the picture below 🙂
I wish I had more photos of the amazing dishes we shoveled down our throats, but here are a few I did snap before gobbling down: Chickpea curry with chapati paired with fresh grilled veggies and the most delicious mango chutney. Empanadas filled with beans, soy meat, and veggies almost fully fried but still a tad doughy.
And the best of Green Point. The cheapest meal with the most amount of food; the famous set menu. In all of South America, you will find set menus along all restaurants for the lunch rush. Most go as follows: juice (chosen by restaurant), two choices of soup, two-three choices of a main, and sometimes finishing with a dessert. These overfilling mid-afternoon meals would cost a measly $2-4. Green Point did their own set menu and by God we’d walk out feeling like we robbed the place. First course; salad buffet. Lettuce, beets, carrots, bread, sweet potato fries, cucumbers, and whatever else they threw out in a dish we’d load our tiny plates then cover them with salsa verde, roja, y tomate. Second course; soup, usually a brothy veg/quinoa/lentil sopa that was so tasty we’d slurp out every last sip. Third course; our choice of a main. Mushroom risotto, veggie filled cannelloni, avocado stuffed potato, mango curried potatoes with rice, spinach mashed potatoes with a side of seitan and on and on. Ryan and I would order one of each and tear through the dish in absolute awe and gravel when our servers stopped by. After the point of “please not another bite” the postre (dessert) would arrive. Carrot cake bites, coconut-dark chocolate covered chocolate balls, apple pie slices, oh and I forgot to mention a delicious fresh juice or warm, healthy tea we’d pick up at the salad bar. The dessert completed the four course meal with that sugar we all crave after finishing a feast but keeping it small enough it didn’t get you stuck in your seat. We’d walk away more than pleased saying g’bye to the entire staff (because after two weeks we knew everyone) and saying “gracias muchas gracias” until we crossed the threshold. For $4 I have never and possibly will never eat that well in my life. The first day we entered vegan heaven we met Jamelle. Our server, and fellow vegan, who like us fell in love at first meal sight. Hailing from Miami, he jokingly asked if they need extra hands in the restaurant and the next day he was on the floor as a server. He shared his love and made us swoon as he brought dish after dish out of the kitchen making sure to waft their mouthwatering smells our way. When he got time he chatted with us and we learned the chef, a young Peruvian, had started at an early age in fine dining. Working his way up and learning his culinary skills with top chefs in Cusco he eventually decided to become his own boss. Knowing the importance of veganism and understanding the broad range of tourists’ choices of food, he started Green Point in 2012. By the time we arrived, the talented young entrepreneur was opening his second location in San Francisco square which offered a smaller, simpler menu with cheaper eats but just as filling and delicious and this location had a pastry bar vegans dream for. Everyday we visited one of the two GP restaurants leaving delightfully happy, healthy, and planning what we’d devour tomorrow.
Love and light,
(and no this post is not to persuade to turn vegan, just a little insight on the delicious eats I’ve experienced thus far)