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Monday, February 11, 2008

Cafe con leche

Café con leche was one of my favorite things to order in Peruvian restaurants and cafes, especially in the Cusco area – and it was never served the same way twice. I ordered my first café con leche at Keros, a small sidewalk café in Aguas Calienes. The waitress brought three pitchers to my table – two small ones filled with strong, sludgy coffee and thick, creamy milk, along with a large one filled with hot water. This setup allowed me to craft my drink to suit my tastes.

One of my most memorable orders of café con leche was at a tiny, no-name restaurant in Ollyantaytambo. Here, I received a huge ceramic mug of warm milk, a tiny glass pitcher of strong coffee, and a large container of sugar. With so much milk, this version of café con leche was extremely filling – but also comforting on that cool morning, as we enjoyed our breakfast outdoors at a heavy wooden table next to the dusty road.

Back in Cusco, the classy café La Bondiet provided a more sophisticated café con leche, which fit right in with the classical music, soft lights, and impressive display case of French and Peruvian pastries. A delicate cup and saucer held warm, fresh milk, and it was accompanied by a pitcher of frothy coffee. This drink was a perfect complement to the plate of tiny handmade pastries like pinonitos (vanilla sponge cake with sweet condensed milk and coconut) and cachitos (puff pastry cones filled with Peruvian sweet milk) we ordered with it.

I think I was spoiled by all the great café con leche I sampled in the Cusco area – so imagine my disappointment when all I could find throughout the rest of our trip was Nescafe…

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