After coming home from spending the day with my sister et al., I was ready to go out. The plan was to meet my friend Talal for a drink at the Bodega, then the two of us would part and meet up with other friends. I got there a minute before he did, and Kenny, the owner, was sitting outside with a couple friends. Said hello, ended up sitting at the table next to theirs. We had some good wine, and a good conversation. A lot of interesting points were demonstrated about politics, and family, and civility and respect, but I'm not going to go into it here. Suffice it to say, some people are just a clear reflection of good parenting.
Eventually it was time for Talal to leave. I hadn't heard definitively from my friends yet, so my next move was still up in the air. I figured I'd go home and wait for the call, and turned towards my street. As I passed Kenny's table, though, he waved me over. He and his friends started asking about my companion, I took a moment to quel any gossip, and before I knew it, Kenny had run in and gotten me another glass of wine.
Long story short, I ended up spending the rest of the night hanging out with this crew at the bar until past closing. We were all well-sauced and they were all very interesting. Cynthia is about to embark on a trip to Argentina, and Arturo, a native of Peru, was giving her his list of must-dos. He followed this with another list: must-eats at Los Angeles' best Peruvian restaurant (in his qualified opinion), Los Balcones del Peru. What a treat! Now I have to go (I'm excited to check this place out. I love Mario's a lot, and if this place is better, it must be really really good)!
Eventually the dusk chill pushed us inside. We chatted some more, checked out the tunes on the bar's extensive playlist, and as the bar began to clear out, Cynthia and Arturo began salsa dancing. I've never danced salsa before, but Kenny graciously showed me the basics, and a mini-dance party ensued. This was great. So unexpected, and great great fun.
I've always been impressed with regulars. I love the idea of going somewhere so frequently that you eventually have a set of people who greet you, warmly and knowingly, each time you go in. They know your story, and ask earnestly how you're doing. I've never really made it happen before though -- I'm pretty shy in that sort of situation, and my conversation with strangers is generally limited to the requisite pleases and thank-yous. But Friday, I was so warmly welcomed to this group, and had such a great time with them. I'm so thrilled this exists literally around the corner from me, and I'm so thrilled to be included.
Arturo's must-eat list for Balcones del Peru
as jotted in my hardly-legible script
- chorito a la chalaca [mussels]
- papa a la huancaina
- lomo saltado
- saltado de mariscos
- aguadito de pollo
- chupe de camarones
- Inka Kola [Peruvian soda that tastes (to me) like bubblegum]
- chicha morada [cold drink made from purple corn]
- Cristal [Peruvian beer]
- pisco sour [per Arturo, not available at Balcones, but the quintessential Peruvian cocktail and worth seeking out]
- alfajores [dulce de leche sandwiched between fluffy cookies]
- leche asada