Don't let cooler weather discourage outdoor dining just as Peruvian cuisine heats up Medford's food-truck scene.
Parked weekday afternoons at Eighth Street and Riverside Avenue, Peruvian Point offers a refreshing alternative to the hot dogs, tacos and bento plates common around downtown. Owner Christian Ainzuain tows his red-and-white trailer across town to Southern Oregon Brewing Co. Monday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Peru's unique food had its darling moment in larger cities around the country over the past few years. But Ainzuain said his is the Rogue Valley's only establishment — albeit mobile — dedicated to Peru's traditional fare, a sort of fusion between indigenous Incan ingredients and the influences of colonialism and immigration.
Beyond the foodstuffs of Spain, Peruvian cuisine combines elements of Chinese, Italian, German, Japanese and African dishes — or so I'd heard. Last week afforded my first chance to try it and conclude that the hype around Peruvian food is not misplaced.
Flavors of lime and cilantro practically jumped off each of the two plates that Ainzuain most recently offered for $8 apiece. Grilled chicken was the main attraction in both the "anticucho de pollo" — a meal with rice and salad — and the Don Cesar sandwich, assembled on a pillowy roll and served with a side of potatoes.
Potatoes are perhaps the predominant player in Peruvian food, as well as the whole grain quinoa. Ainzuain said he hopes to add the latter to his menu. However, his cilantro rice packs so much punch that it would be hard to improve the chicken's side dish. A deliciously tart and savory vinaigrette brightened the plate's basic-yet-fresh mixed-greens salad.
The same greens rounded out the sandwich, a study in textures: tender meat and crunchy slivers of marinated red onion between slabs of white bread with just the right heft. The steamed, red-skinned potatoes reposed in a pool of sauce, tinted yellow and slightly spiced by Peru's quintessential chili, "aji amarillo."
The sauce was so light that I was surprised to hear Ainzuain list cheese among its ingredients. Once the potatoes were gone, I nudged bits of chicken and salad through the addictive condiment.
Ainzuain's mother, Ana Maria, is the architect of some Peruvian Point recipes. The business, itself, was born when Ainzuain parked the trailer at his sister's Jacksonville home for the citywide yard sale in early September.
He also fired up his grill for the Rogue Flavor Food Truck Festival on The Commons in September and later that month for the Greater Medford Multicultural Fair. The former construction worker said he has been operating Peruvian Point full time for the past month. Call 541-261-9299 or see Facebook.
The mobile eatery is one of several that use the parking lot owned by Doug "Digger" O'Dell, who is transforming the site into a food-cart pod similar — but smaller — to those populating Portland. O'Dell said as many as eight food trucks could set up shop on the lot, but he hopes that five regularly will do business there.
Beer and wine, restrooms and seating will be available inside the property's former Goodyear Tire store, which is under renovation to resemble a 1950s or '60s service station, said O'Dell. Food-truck fans should look for it to open toward the end of the year.
— Sarah Lemon