Peruvian Street Food Takes DC
Street food is often the first measure of a city or culture. In New York, it is impossible to hop off of the bus and not find a hot dog cart. You rarely have to walk a few blocks in Philadelphia before finding pretzels or cheesesteaks. And this past weekend, downtown DC had a new street food of its own: Peruvian.
The “Peruvian Party”, hosted by Living Social at their massive 918 F Strteet venue, was a truly South American experience for the eyes, ears, and taste buds. Featuring Pisco cocktails by Bourbon Steak’s mixologist JP Caceres, Latin music by DJ JD, and Peruvian plates by up and coming Chef Carlos Delgado.
The closest thing to a community center in the District, if you have yet to visit the massive downtown Living Social space, you are truly missing out. This five-story historic building features a wide variety of large lavishly decorated rooms all dedicated to hosting different events. Tasting tables dedicated to specific street food or cocktails were spread out between two rooms (which was a smart move given the large crowd in attendance). The Living Social staff were absolutely fantastic, and pulled out all the stops to make sure that everyone in attendance had a good time.
Party goers were able to chow down on four painstakingly-created (if you think feeding 6 people at your house was painstaking, try feeding 340 people with a staff of 4) Peruvian dishes.
My favorite dish was easily the anticucho (sous vide beef with aji panca and huacatay). The beef was tender, and the sweet fruity flavors (of the aji panca) danced perfectly with the huacatay (sometimes known as black mint). Delgado’s ceviche (featuring aji amarillo and rocoto-marinated white fish with sweet potato and red onions) was a very close runner up. Each bite was sweet, light, and contained a pleasantly surprising hint of spice. The causa (chicken confit with potato, aji amarillo and olives) was also a big hit with party goers.
Perhaps the most intriguing dish was the “alfajor.” This traditional Latin confection most commonly contains flour, almond, honey, and spices. Delgado’s alfajor was an ice cream sandwich with salted caramel ice cream and shortbread cookies. Not only were these sandwiches delicious, they were “delivered” in a most unique fashion — via an ice cream cart/bicycle called the “Cream Cycle,” which is a new venture between Delgado is collaborating on (see photo on left).
By next summer, these bicycle-powered ice cream carts will be pedaling Delgado’s 20-30 rotating ice cream flavors around the district. Not bad for a guy with a few other projects on his plate, including a gig at a soon-to-be opening restaurant downtown (he swore me to secrecy on the name).
Caceres’ hand crafted cocktails allowed party goers to wash down these small fantastic bites in true Peruvian style. Caceres’ Pisco Punches (Pisco Porton with lemon and pineapple)and Pisco Sour (Pisco Porton with lemon, lime and egg whites) were both big hits, though I would have to declare the Pisco Sour as the superior cocktail of the evening. Sweet. smooth and creatively topped off with a “918,” the Sour definitely helped to fuel the dancing that occurred throughout the night. Caceres’ lived up the praise and reputation that follows him behind the bar.
Sean O’Brien is Dining in DC’s only (and therefore strongest and most intelligent) male contributor. Before he became a Daywalker, Sean was a bartender and bar manager for longer than his parents care to admit. A Marylander born and raised, Sean has spent the better part of his twenties exploring and tasting DC from every corner. He is also the author of failed legislation mandating that every week involve crabs, bacon, Saison-style beer, bourbon or Old Bay.
When he is not working or eating, Sean is likely to be found biking or hiking around DC. Follow him on Twitter at @sotweets, but be prepared for sarcasm and comments about people who say “YOLO” (You only live once) or “totes.”