Inka Heritage

Today is the first day of Madison Restaurant Week, and once again we began with lunch at Inka Heritage. It’s solidified into our traditional starting place partly because we’re sentimental, but mostly because we love the food and the service.

For an appetizer, I picked Spicy Tuna Causa: potatoes that a bohemian like me would call “mashed” but according to the menu are “whipped” – whichever, the potatoes are flavored with chilis called aji amarillo and pressed into circular cakes about the size of half-dollar coins. A dollop of spicy tuna salad is spread between the two cakes, like a sandwich cookie, and garnished with a tiny wedge of boiled egg and avocado. My Darling B just loves this stuff, but instead chose the Cilantro Soup. Just what it says on the tin, it’s a cilantro base with chicken, peas, carrots and white rice. I’m one of those people who can’t abide cilantro – it tastes like soap to me – so I didn’t try it.

My entree was Adobo Arequipeno: three tender chunks of marinated pork served with cooked Peruvian red chilis, carrots, onions, tender beans, and a cake of white rice that I broke apart right away and used to sop up all the yummy juices pooling around the pork.

Adobo Arequipeno

B’s entree was Pescado a la Chorrillana: lightly fried fish seasoned with chilis called aji panca, and served with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and a garnish of boiled egg and olive. This also came with a cake of white rice to soak up all the yummy juices.

Pescado a la Chorrillana

Two of the desserts offered on the menu were described as being drenched in milk and cream, which is my kryptonite, so I went for the third dessert, Alfajores: two sandwich cookies with a rich caramel filling described in the menu as dulce de leche and thickly dusted with powdered sugar. Don’t inhale while you’re taking a bite. And wear a bib. Bearded men are advised to excuse themselves to the bathroom and take a good look in the mirror after.

B wanted Copa de Tres Leches Cake and Frutos del Bosque, a light cake covered with three milks and mixed with reduction of berries. Unfortunately, either our server misheard her or the kitchen got the order wrong, because B got Four Milk cake, and was too kind-hearted to say anything to the server about it. Four Milk cake turned out to be, duh, a mixture of four milks poured over a light cake – that would’ve sat inside me for maybe five minutes before I asploded. B lapped it up like a happy little kitteh. Until the people at the next table got their order of Copa de Tres Leches Cake and Frutos del Bosque, and then she became somewhat covetous and maybe even a little pouty. But she and I both left with our sufficiency surensified and looking forward to lunch tomorrow at Roast, our next stop during Restaurant Week.

setting up shop

What I did with my Sunday:

Well, first I made a big, steaming pot o’ joe, same as I always do. Always. The day doesn’t start without a pot o’ joe. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that. If you have, and you’ve been wondering why your day didn’t start as early as every other day, it was because I got up late. Now you know.

Then, I ate some oatmeal and drank my coffee while I read the morning news. Took me hours. Because Sunday.

At about ten o’clock, My Darling B reminded me that we had a date for eleven o’clock at a restaurant on Park Street called Inka Heritage, our first meal to kick off Madison Restaurant Week, one of our very favoritest festivals. I may be remembering this wrong, but I think Inka was the first restaurant we visited when we started going to Restaurant Week many moons ago, and I think we’ve been starting the winter version of Restaurant Week every year by going to Inka. Even if I’m not remembering that right, I’m pretty sure this is the third time we’ve been there and I know I haven’t been disappointed by the food yet. I don’t know why we don’t go more often. Probably because it’s not in the neighborhoods we usually visit. We should get out more.

We both had the fish, by the way. Scrumptious.

Then I spent all afternoon in the basement throwing crap out, putting away the stuff I couldn’t make myself throw out, and finally knocking together a work bench where I could work on choo-choo trains. I used to make a temporary work bench by throwing a board across an open stretch of the layout, but there aren’t any open stretches any more, and I still needed a place to solder track together or whatever.

I had an old pine shelf that came out of one of our closets, and a dozen or so sawn-off ends of two-by-fours I could knock together into brackets. Took me a little longer than I thought it would to knock them together, but then it always does. Once the braces were up, all I had to do was cut the pine shelf to length and screw it down. The shelf was too long to cut it with the table saw, so I clamped it down to my Black & Decker WorkMate 200, with a board across the top to act as a guide, grabbed my circular saw and got ready to make some serious noise.

The clamp was in the way. It usually is. I don’t use the circular saw very often, so I usually make this mistake. As I was repositioning the clamp it seemed there was something about the way I’d set up the cut that wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t quite figure out what was bothering me about it until I was just about to pull the trigger on the saw, and then I saw it: The line I’d planned to cut was laying right across the middle of my WorkMate. If I’d gone and made the cut, I would’ve sawn the WorkMate in half.

It wouldn’t have been the first time I’ve abused it that way. One end of the WorkMate’s front jaw has been shorter than the back jaw (the top opens like a vise) ever since I sawed it off the same year I got it as a Christmas present, and the tops of the jaws are pockmarked with holes where I’ve drilled through work that I was sure was too thick for the drill bit to get all the way through. I’ve known for years that I’m probably going to saw it in half eventually; it’s pretty surprising, really, that I haven’t done it already. And yet somehow I avoided doing it yesterday.

With the shelf cut to length, all that was left to do was screw it down and cover it with a whole bunch of crap. And done.


My Darling B and I went to lunch at Inka Heritage to kick off Madison’s Restaurant Week (winter edition). I have no idea if they’re serving authentic Peruvian cuisine, never having been to Peru myself, but I can tell you that the food I ate there tasted really, really good.

I started off with an appetizer they call causitas dos sabores. I did not attempt to pronounce that. I ordered by pointing, as I do in all restaurants where they insist on listing foods on the menu in a foreign language. I have nothing against foreign languages, and I love exotic foods, but I won’t open myself to ridicule or insult a country’s gastronomic heritage by pretending I can order in the native language, so I pointed at the appetizer of mashed potatoes pressed into little cakes and served with a tablespoon of chicken salad dabbed on top.

For the main course, I tried escabeche costeno, a lightly-fried fish fillet served in a mild pepper sauce with slivers of onion and a cake of white rice on the side. What I loved most about this dish is that it wasn’t more than I could eat in a sitting. Big thanks to Inka Heritage for not trying to make me waddle back to my car. I also loved that they didn’t overpower the whitefish with the pepper sauce. In fact, as far as the food was concerned they did everything just right: The fish wasn’t overcooked, the rice wasn’t a sticky mess, and they served dessert with a cup of chocolaty-dark coffee.

Dessert, by the way, was a slice of cheesecake, a cup of rice pudding and a caramel cookie dusted with powdered sugar. The cheesecake was wonderful, but then I’m pretty sure I would love just about any cheesecake they put in front of me. I’m very indiscriminate when it comes to cheesecake. I haven’t eaten one that I didn’t like. I don’t usually like rice pudding, but I liked this one. And the cookie, wow. I loved that little cookie. I could have eaten way too many of those.

My Darling B started off with costa, sierra y selva for an appetizer, which appeared to be a small potato drizzled in cream sauce and diced whitefish swimming in a tangy marinade, served on a scallop shell, a nice touch. For her main dish, she chose the tacu tacu mar y tierra, mostly because she loved saying “tacu tacu,” which turned out to be a very subtly-flavored bean cake, too subtle for my palate. The tacu tacu came with a very modest portion of chicken and fish.

Inka Heritage appeared to be a very popular place; it was almost empty when we got there, but filled up within a half-hour and remained busy right up until we left. The staff were friendly and our service was good. My only complaint was, there were no towels in the men’s room so I had to wave my hands dry. If you ask me, keeping the bathrooms in clean, working order is as important as busing tables. Everybody’s going to visit the bathroom at least once while they’re there, right? B didn’t appreciate having to hold on to her handbag for lack of hooks, either, but those hiccups wouldn’t keep us from going back.