14 January 2015

Food (written on January 13)

Milly Update: We are socked in with rain here today, all day, so Milly cannot be put on the trailer as planned….long story.  Perhaps a two or three day delay.  We have our fingers crossed that wind, moon and, now we have learned, rain (or lack of), will all be aligned before the end of the week.

Instead, a blog about food.  Although our meals at "home" have been somewhat limited by lack of herbs, spices, condiments etc in our rented abodes, we have enjoyed the Argentinian choices.  Some thoughts follow.

Beef:  Argentinians take great pride in their beef.  Whenever we go to a restaurant and ask for a recommendation, beef is always the answer.  Sadly, Peter and I are not big beef eaters but when the kids were here we did indulge.  The best was probably at our own table on Christmas Day cooked on our apartment’s parilla (grill).

Our chef at home.  It was hot!

Our appetizer plate created by the young pre Christmas Eve dinner.
Vying for first was our meal at La Cabrera, a restaurant in Palermo Hollywood, where Em and Gid’s order took the prize.  They shared an inch and a half piece of meat that was cut by a spoon! at the table for their plates -  a dramatic, but effective, demonstration of tenderness.  The risky part about ordering beef is that you must order by cut…in Spanish.  This often proves to be a matter of luck - I am a novice in beef cuts in English, let alone Spanish.  Tom’s two inch slab was big but not nearly as tender and Peter and I shared a thin, albeit tasty, piece with bacon.  The taste from grilling over a wood fire is what makes it truly delicious.  The steaks came with about twenty sides in eggcup size dishes from which you could choose as many as you wanted.  We also shared a large salad and an interesting dish of melted cheese - that’s it, just melted cheese - that was served skillfully at the table, strings attached, and ate alone with knife and fork. Rich but so good! A bottle of wine and a few beers and the bill was 1300 pesos - about $110, for five of us.  We rolled out of there more than full to the brim.

Asado:  Also with the kids, we experienced an asado for lunch in Tigre by the river.  A selection of meat comes to the table piled on a little hibache-like grill, still sizzling.  We ordered a quantity meant for two - much to Tom’s initial dismay - being a bit beefed out by that time.  By the looks of her gestures, the wait staff seemed a bit perturbed that we would not have enough but the pile of assorted meat was enormous.  Four pieces of steak, some coarse sausage, blood sausage, intestines, kidneys and sweet breads were included.  Like good travellers, we tried it all. Coarse sausage - familiar and good.  Blood sausage - gluey consistency that I couldn’t manage.  Peter was reminded of his childhood and ate most of it.  Sweet breads - surprisingly delicious because of the grill. They could've reminded me of my childhood but luckily didn't. Intestines - chewy, even crunchy; only had one tiny bite and picked a piece that was empty of innards as my strategy!  Kidneys - also good, grill taste overpowered urine taste. Steak was great.  This meal warmed Peter and I up for the grand asado that marks the end of Milly’s commissioning.  I will treat Peter to my portion of blood sausage that day.

The Asado: Blood sausage bottom right, intestines curly white in bottom centre, sweetbreads beside intestines.  It is important to recognize what you are eating before taking a bite!  Most has been consumed already.
Fish:  Argentines have historically looked to their bountiful interior for food and even though they have an enormous coast they are not big fish eaters.  Choices are limited to salmon from Chile, calamari, octopus and a white fish that remains mysterious.  In Iguazu, we ordered an unknown fish - all we knew was that it was freshwater - and it was very good.  Our B&B host told us that the fish was a catfish and recounted a story of helping a Canadian guest catch a two meter specimen in the local river.  That's a lot of bottom dwelling garbage eaten! We have not consumed mysterious white fish since.

We found a restaurant that specialized in fish, very unusual here.  It was extraordinarily decorated to make it seem that you are underwater with the fishes you are eating.  The blue lighting, for example, is not a fault of our camera.

A loaded seafood salad meant for one but easily fed two.

Produce:  Their are many specialty produce shops that have a small, by N. American standards, selection of wonderful, ripe and ready to eat fruit and veg.  I have always believed that Ontario freestone peaches cannot be beat but I have to admit that the peaches and nectarines here are equal and, dare I say, more reliably so.  Lettuce and other greens are only very rarely, even in the big supermercados, refrigerated which in 30 degree heat means they are rather limp.  We have found a shop that refrigerates at extra cost.

Lovely picture in the only market we have found in the city.  

Fruit and veg are not sold in the small plastic bins that are so prevalent at home these days.  Cherry tomatoes, strawberries and the like are in big boxes from which you or the shopkeeper choose individual fruits/veg.  I choose carefully one-by-one; shopkeepers grab by handfuls.  In most stores, the customer asks for the produce and the shopkeeper chooses.  Takes some getting used to.

Pizza:  We have been to two pizza places which vie for the “best pizza in the city” title and both of which are Porteno cultural experiences.  The ambience was a loud, hustle and bustle.  Service was at an atypical extremely fast speed. The walls were adorned with photos of the famous who have eaten there.  The pizza itself is thick crusted, chewy and loaded with cheese.  Other ingredients are in minor amounts comparatively.  Again, delicious but a doggy bag was required.
At one of the pizza joints.  We were upstairs and early as usual but by the time we left it was packed!

Empanadas:  Great and in lots of different “flavours”.  Meat, chicken, veg, cheese, spinach, octopus, tuna, salmon, calamari, ham and cheese, etc.  We get a selection for dinner.

Dinner with salad.  

Oh, and ice cream:  We have read that the gelato here is better than Italian.  And...it is really great after a bike ride in 30 degree temperatures.  For our ice cream-making friends in Canada, it is worth a business trip.

Almost finished.  Mint and limone are our current favourites.
They are very big on bakeries here that serve an incredible assortment of sweet pastries.  We are only buying bread to accompany smoke salmon on Christmas morning.
The spreads here seem to be limited to liverwurst or cheese.  I am really missing alternatives, like hummus.  My recipe is not up to snuff.  If any of you have a tried and true recipe - without garlic - please send it along.  Chick peas are plentiful.  Or any other cracker accompaniment you think might add some welcome variety.  Thanks!

We have also eaten at a “private restaurant” and hope to try another.  More about that in another post.

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