Perú Mucho Gusto San Martin 2011

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The Perú Mucho Gusto San Martin 2011 gastronomic fair was a total success! Well-organized, excellent food and free forks… can’t argue with that. It was a little cloudy on the last day of the four-day event, but the rain held off and the crowds were beaming…

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I arrived at Perú Mucho Gusto at about 1 pm, and headed straight into the market area. After sampling some fine Chachapoyas cheeses (and buying a ball of smoked provolone), I found myself standing before a row of four or five stands offering free alcohol samples. Being a connoisseur of free booze, I forced myself to sample a whole range of cocktails, including creamy coffee, cacao and coconut varieties. An excellent start to the day…

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Next up was gourmet Monteverde coffee, also from the Chachapoyas area. Good stuff, and a well-placed buffer between the free cocktail samples and the main eating area. Now it was time to get a full plate of food. With 19 or so food stalls to choose from, it was time for some tough decisions…

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The ladies at this particular stand were very friendly, but there were two requirements that needed to be met: the food should be from outside San Martin (not much point buying stuff you eat every day) and it should contain meat, ideally big chunks of meat.

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This chef certainly met the meat requirements — and the marinade looked good — but I was too hungry to wait. Maybe later…

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Above is the stall of La Real Cecina, a restaurant located about five blocks from the Plaza de Armas in Chachapoyas. I’m a fan of cecina, but it’s all too common in Tarapoto. The fish dish looked good, but the smell of meat from the next few stalls had me edging along the line.

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Ah, the sweet smell of temptation! But no, it was not an option. This was Tio Sergio’s stand, a well-known purveyor of fine cecina, chorizo and other delights right here in Tarapoto. It looked good, but too close to home…

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In the end, I happily settled for some pork from a stall from Cajamarca. And boy was it good. Incredibly tender, full of flavour and accompanied by the best mote (white corn kernels) I’ve ever tasted. Remember that chef with his hands in a table of meat? This was the final product. Sir, I salute you.

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There’s no point going to a food festival without getting really stuffed. So when I saw these bits of pork gleaming up at me, I quickly thought of round two. This stall was run by friendly chefs from La Tomasita, a restaurant of some renown in Piura. Feeling adventurous (and already full of pork), I ended up with a plate of goat and rice. The sauce was spot on, but the meat didn’t really float my boat. I’ve eaten goat on a few occasions, and I remain convinced that goats were born to eat, not to be eaten.

Anyway, I left the Perú Mucho Gusto San Martin 2011 gastronomic fair with a great sense of satisfaction. I’d eaten well, I’d had a few drinks and I was thoroughly impressed with the whole event. I also had my ball of smoked cheese to take home, as well as a box of sugar-coated nuts, a mound of shiny new PromPeru leaflets and six brand new (and totally free) stainless steel forks.

All in all, a great day out.