pouring sodas at age six. I begged them to let me do it. I couldn't reach the counter so they had to put me up on a little stool.
New York, NY (PRWEB) April 3, 2009
When native New Yorker Santina Matwey, whose family has owned and operated the popular Ray Bari pizza restaurants since 1973, went on a vacation to Perú during the summer of 2008, she immediately became enamored with the country, so much so that she decided to bring a taste of it back home with her. The lively social clubs known as peñas in the coastal capital of Lima had a warm community spirit she found both welcoming and captivating. She was especially attracted to the native Afro-Peruvian music performed there, a distinctive sound of particular sophistication and rhythm.
Matwey was also tremendously impressed by the food she discovered in Perú. Some of the more memorable flavors came from upscale tapas dishes prepared by a new generation of innovative chefs who are merging aspects of Perú's traditional cuisine with a repertoire of contemporary culinary concepts acquired in various food capitals of the world.
Matwey was in Perú on a cultural tourism expedition led by trumpeter Gabriel Alegría -- one of the world's foremost players and composers of Afro-Peruvian jazz -- who brought the group along to clubs where he played. Matwey had an intuitive feeling that other New Yorkers would welcome both the exciting food and the atmosphere of the peñas and Alegría said if she were serious, he would help her develop a venue where prominent Afro-Peruvian jazz artists could perform. Thus was Tutuma Social Club, which is scheduled to open April 28th, 2009 in Midtown Manhattan, born.
It would be fair to say that a flair for entertaining guests with food was in Matwey's genes. Her father, the restaurateur Joseph Bari, founded the Ray Bari Pizza chain and in the early 1970's her parents often worked 17-hour days establishing the business. Matwey literally grew up "pouring sodas at age six. I begged them to let me do it. I couldn't reach the counter so they had to put me up on a little stool."
Matwey approached Carlos Testino and Rodrigo Conroy -- two chefs with international followings whose dishes had impressed her when she sampled their cooking in Perú. After Matwey explained her concept and finding an affinity between creating music and their own original recipes, the chefs - whose resumes includes experience working in restaurants in Barcelona and Paris -- designed an innovative menu for Tutuma Social Club.
So for those who haven't tried it yet, what is it about Peruvian food that makes it worth discovering? Most of us think of Perú as a land of jagged mountain peaks, lost cities, Inca gold, Spanish conquistadors and dense jungles. But the country is also noted for its food. Even the most cursory web search will reveal that experts agree Perú's unique historical, biological and cultural factors gave rise to one of the world's most diverse cuisines.
Chocolate, hot peppers, corn, tomatoes, quinoa and potatoes all originated in the New World, where the Incas worshiped them as gifts from the gods.
A staggering number of fruits grew naturally in Perú, and the exceptionally rich plankton life in the Pacific fed more species of fish than along any other coast in the world. Even many centuries ago, Perú's culinary offerings represented a cornucopia compared to those of countries in other parts of the world.
Spanish explorers introduced their own foods: limes, olives and grapes. The conquistadors also brought significant numbers of African slaves who were partial to rice, peanuts, peppers and seafood and whose descendants settled primarily along the coast where they intermingled with the native Indian population. In the late 19th century, Perú was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Japan, and waves of Japanese and Chinese worker immigrants contributed Asian influences to the menu.
Peruvians have always added their own "spin" to traditional Spanish and Amerindian dishes. In fact there is an abundance of foods and beverages there that simply don't exist anywhere else in the world. Take for instance the Pisco Sour, made from Pisco (a clear grape brandy developed in Perú), Key limes, simple syrup and egg whites. Anticuchos (thinly sliced beef heart skewers) and meat and fish stews that incorporate a wide variety of unique local Peruvian hot peppers like rocoto and ají amarillo are all staples.
An absolute must at Tutuma Social Club will be the authentic ceviche: sole or flounder cured in a marinade of limes, hot Peruvian peppers and onions. Ceviche is generally agreed to have been invented in Perú and although it has caught on all over the world, aficionados say the original Peruvian version is still the best.
Other specialties abound: Conchas a la Parmesana - shellfish baked with garlic and topped with parmesan; Anticuchos de Lomo - beef loin skewered and marinated in ají panca, rocoto, ají amarillo and other native Peruvian herbs; Rice with Seafood - spicy rice mixed with seafood of the season; similar to paella but with a completely different taste; and Tacu Tacu - softened butter-beans and rice mixed and baked to create a bed for glazed pork ribs, crispy "pig's ear," vinaigrette and pine nuts.
The dessert list will also be pleasantly unfamiliar to most New Yorkers. Lucuma and chocolate Makis is made from lucuma, a firm dessert fruit with a boiled egg-like texture that tastes rather like sweet maple and is covered in a sauce of chocolate and Pisco. Or, try Alfajores, a flaky biscuit-like cookie that has a creamy, condensed milk filling.
The legendary Pisco Sour will be the signature drink of Tutuma. Pisco, a brandy, is distilled from black Quebranta grapes imported from Spain by the conquistadors. In the Peruvian terroir, the grapes mutated and took on that soil's earthy flavor.
Keeping things authentic, the bar plans to feature unfamiliar cocktails with exotic names like the Algarrobina, Chilcano, Tutuma, Machupichu, and Perú Libre. Cusqueña, Perú's award winning lager brewed totally from natural ingredients, will be the house beer.
In addition to serving distinctive food and drink there's another side to Tutuma Social Club that will set the restaurant apart from other locales: live music nightly as well as during lunch performed by world class artists…and without a cover charge or a minimum. At Tutuma, music won't be relegated to the background like a soundtrack - a professor of music technology designed the stage for example - and a roster of distinguished international talent is slated to appear.
Gabriel Alegría, who has played with outstanding musicians all over the world and is one of the foremost proponents of Afro-Peruvian Jazz, intends to showcase the music in a manner unlike that of any other club outside Perú. The mix of food and music will be equally important in creating the party atmosphere Matwey wants to foster every night.
Her natural talent for creating a welcoming ambiance and running a superior restaurant kitchen combined with unparalleled performances of Afro-Peruvian jazz will ensure that Tutuma Social Club will be an exciting addition to Manhattan's cultural, restaurant and music scenes.