15 May, 2013 | Sophia Howe, Alan Pierce, Robert Noyes
Pronto Delicatessen by Alan Pierce
Photo: Alan Pierce
Initiation to Pronto Dalicatessen’s Italian fusion is like getting back together with an old flame. The culinary experience sparks an effortless mix of the familiar, paired with the unexpected pleasure of the totally unexpected. The Italian purist in me quivered at traditional offerings of pesto pasta or a tantalizing tiramisu, while my more adventurous taste buds tingled at the possibility of a llama carpaccio or quinoa ravioli. Bathed in romantic candlelight, the surrounding décor for this breathtaking and very complementary union of ingredients is less eclectic, although equally as unique as the menu. As the restaurant’s name alludes to, almost the entirety of the interior is dedicated to the works of Spanish surrealist artist, Salvador Dalí. Yet, while one eats under his famous Persistence of Memory, savoring the unforgettable embrace of Italian and novo andino flavors, any feeling of overreaching culinary surrealism quickly blends away, replaced exquisitely with a tummy full of gratitude for the courageous blend of flavors that is Pronto Dalicatessen’s Italian fusion.
Address: Pasaje Jauregui 2248 (between 20 de Octubre and 6 de Agosto. La Paz)
Facetious Felicitations: A Tale of Frantic Devotion by Robert Noyes
‘Café Mocha, por favor?’ These words elicit more pleasure, excitement and relief than any other combination of Spanish words I will ever learn. When I left my job at The Gorvett & Stone chocolate shop to follow in the footsteps of Che Guevara and travel through South America, I assumed I would never love again. The lonely evenings spent rocking myself to sleep like a baby in the early days of my trip reminded me time and time again that life was tough. Truth be told, I considered going home. Life just wasn’t quite the same without the silky, salacious beauty of the Gorvett and Stone mocha. And then I met Alexander.
Alexander works tirelessly throughout the day, smothering customers with his ever-changing wifi-coded love. Sliding thin green notes of adoration under my empty coffee at irregular intervals—surprises let me know he cares. Alexander cares not for a return of gratitude—he loves freely (at an average minimum consumption of Bs 20). He envelopes you with his wide, welcoming arms between 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sure, Alexander isn’t the richest, nor the most handsome (though at least I think he is). But damn, he makes a mighty fine mocha. Sitting in front of me is my muse. From top to toe, she is a pure miracle of creation. Crisp crests of cream ebb and flow, betraying the mythical labyrinth enclosed within Davy Jones’ locker. Once the spoon has surreptitiously slipped into the deep, the inevitability of what’s to come strikes, so mouth-watering I think I may drown in my own sultry saliva.
Blindly swimming down to recover the wreckage of the sunken submarine of chocolate at the bottom is a tantalising experience at the best of times. Some mix in this submarine with their coffee. By doing this, the mystery of the sunken vessel is lost forever in a whirlpool of chocolatey espresso. Unthinkable. Any regular knows that the only way to drink it is to dunk into the pit and scoop up the submarine: Don’t Postpone Enjoyment.
Philosopher William Paley once had an observation when he stumbled across a watch. He decided that the watch, being a most elusive wonder of beauty, must have a creator. As such, he resolved that the world, also being a complex matter of extreme, striking attraction, must have a creator—God. I like his argument for design. It seems appealing. Yet surely he made a mistake in stumbling across the watch before the muse staring back at me from the table. Paley’s watch argument would surely be more compelling if only it focused on the perfect design and completion of this exact, golden, mocha.
Or. Or, it’s just a coffee and I really should get out more. Either way, this dangerous chocolate, coffee and cream concoction is still smiling silently, patiently waiting for me to grab a spoon and plunge carefree into its pool of oblivious perfection..
Address: Alexander Coffee (multiple locations in La Paz): Plaza Avaroa Av. 20 de Octubre, Multicine, Calle Potosi, Av. 16 de Julio, Calle Montenegro, Calle 21 de Calacoto
Doña Lucy by Sophia Howe
From lakeside to streetside, I go in search for the hidden Bolivian gem; Doña Lucy of Calle Lizardo Taborga, hidden amongst the crowded corners of the La Paz General Cemetery. Her door opens each night at 6 p.m. faced by an already-queuing crowd, who battle it out for the limited 40 trout dishes; ‘40 platos, no más’.
The fish is prepared daily and brought from Desaguadero by her eponymous supplier, Doña Lucy. The lucky few who try her trucha frita can be thankful to these two exceptional women for preparing the best caught fish available. Having carried out research for my trout article, I can safely say that it rivals the fish I tried on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
‘Bueno, bonito y barato’ advertised one of her regular customers, who had brought along her Peruvian friend, possibly to show that a landlocked country can also offer exceptional fish.
When asked about the secret for her success, Doña Lucy proudly states that ‘it was the Lord who taught me how to cook’. The small concrete room (seating capacity for 12) is decorated with religious posters. Couples, old friends, businessmen, and street workers feast in silence. People enter one-in-one-out like at a bustling London pub.
Karachi and trout are the only fish on the menu. We’re warned in advance by a regular customer to ask for less carbohydrates, which even after the request come in plentiful supply. The locals leave nothing but the splintered spine in their wake. The fish comes stacked-up on top of a bed of carbs and there are no knives or forks, so not an ideal place for a first date, unless you expect a ‘fishgasm’, as a friend describes his experience. The Karachi is filled with bones, though the tender taste of the flesh is unique and rewards patient and nimble fingers. It’s not unusual to fish out runaway bones from inside one’s mouth during the eating procedure. I wonder whether the Heimlich Manoeuvre is taught in the staff safety training. Happily satiated by the fish, and only 15 Bolivianos poorer, I left the venue without daring to pose the question.