Don’t fry for me Argentina
Our first port of call in the beautiful country of Argentina was the magnificent Iguassu Falls, this is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and with over 250 separate falls in a small area it is easy to see why. This area borders three countries (Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil) so the food is a little bit of all mixed up in one. But once again it is very touristy so most menus were filled with the usually pizza, pasta and burgers bollocks that is taking over the world. We did however have our first taste of the famous Asado or Argentinian grill, and it did not let us down.
Lauren and I set of for a walk around the town and straight away we realized a couple of things…
1. We walk way to quickly to stroll around a small town
2. We set off too early for anything to be open in said town
3. We get really hungry, really early
4. We are not nice people when hungry
So with our angry minds set on eating or at least planning our next meal we went in search, we came across a nice old man starting a wood fire in an open pit/grill outside his restaurant on a shitty street in shitty part of town. Lauren was sold instantly and didn’t even need to see a menu, she said, “this place looks the real deal, can we eat here” I then perused the menu, saw black pudding and quickly agreed with her choice. The man however was looking at us crazy gringo’s trying to work out why they were hassling him so effing early in the day. We spoke our terrible Spanish towards the man and worked out through mime and general vibes that we should come back in 90 minutes, in this time we went olive shopping and gazed at some lovely sausage (charcuterie not man pole).
Upon our arrival the man was overwhelmed to see us again as I reckon he had now drank coffee, lite his fire and was thinking gringo money is just what the doctor ordered. As with all restaurants in this beautiful continent, bread came flowing freely with butters and oils, this is like our communion, we break the bread, sip on our wine and thank who ever wants to listen for what we are about to consume… that was the gospel according to fat Paul.
Before anyone has even ordered there is always a few massive cuts of brisket and some whole chickens splayed open and slowly cooking at most Asado’s. This brings such a great feeling to the place, the smell is to die for and I imagine all that fat dripping onto the ashes of dyeing wood embers giving them a final few moments of life. Just enough to impart special flavour notes to fill the fire place and find their way onto your steak or veges, or what ever is lucky enough to be spending the final minutes of their life cycle resting on the metal rack crafted by Zeus himself.
With all Asado menus it reads like a butchers price list, giving only cuts of meat on one page and an array of offal and small goods on the other. Now for a chef or in fact any meat loving foodie, this is heaven, its euphoric and to be quite honest its overwhelming and hard not to order yourself half an effing cow with all the trimmings. Yes this is the kind of problems I’m faced with daily, just how much delicious meat shall I order. Well I went with their finest cut of fatty sirloin cooked only enough to get the smoky flavour through it, topped with bacon, roasted capsicum and grilled onion… now I like my meat without all that shit on it, but it was their house specialty so I went with it, yes I admit I scraped it all off and ate it separately, but I also admit it gave some kick arse flavour to the already fine cut of cow.
Now what sides to have? Well I went with Blood sausage/black pudding/morcilla or blackish sausage as they have translated it here… black pudding holds a special place in my heart and when I come across a good one I tend to get a little excited and bang on about it for days afterwards, and yes this was one of those occasions. This encased tube of deliciousness was crafted by a magical butcher with special powers and spells passed down to him from his one eyed, cauldron stirring grandmother. Who’s final act before she was set alight by the town folk was to make him promise to mesmerize gringo’s for years to come with the grainy, spicy, moist and flavour packed cylinder of blood. Well ‘old crazy eye’ would be proud as I was dumbstruck with what this log of offal brought to the plate, it lifted every component to a place where only angels fly… flavour doesn’t cut it, it was filled with the ashes of fairies and let me tell you that they didn’t die in vein.
So its safe to say I enjoyed my first Asado, I was also served hand cut chips, fried egg, green beans cooked in butter and a corn tart thingy (which was weird) but lets face it you could of served me that steak and the black pudding on the carcass of a dead seagull accompanied with a raw potato and I still would of loved it.
What did Lauren eat?
Good question, well as much as I love meat, Lauren loves cheese and pasta, so she went for gnocchi in a four cheese sauce… not what I’d order for a place famous for cooking meat on an open wood fire, but hey you tell her that and see how far you get. However it was also delicious and extremely well made gnocchi.
That afternoon we had an 18hour bus ride to Buenos Aires and my belly was satisfied the whole way, Lauren lasted a good 9 hours before trying to eat the headrest, but that’s pretty good for her.
Buenos Aires is definitely a very unique city and instantly you feel at home there, it has a very European architecture mixed in with the local culture. I admit it is a strange mix but somehow it work, not sure if the locals with their terrible economy and no real infrastructure will agree but for a tourist passing through it is a beautiful place.
As to be expected there is Asado’s everywhere and most of them doing a stand up job, in fact we often questioned why Australia doesn’t have more of these eateries as we are mad for a good bbq and these guys are showing us up. But along side the myriad of grills there is also heaps of funky new restaurants opening up, offering everything from Japanese to Scandinavian fare. And for the most part doing it all really well, they are very service orientated so this just lifts the place instantly and adds a great dimension even to a small humble café. And with great wines ranging from $4 to $20 at most, I feel I could live comfortably in a place like BA.
We did a few tours of the city which gave us a better understanding of how hard the Locals have had it since basically the city was started, they often say that “their ancestors gave them plaza’s, monuments and amazing buildings when all they wanted was a country” this really rang home with us and you cant help but feel for them, as there dollar is worth less every year and life savings mean nothing, leaving a lot of people on the street. But regardless of that they stay positive and embrace tourists with gusto… we did our part by spending shit loads on food and tipping generously, it’s not much but I feel it’s got to help.
We also did a street art tour as the country as well as the continent is adorned with amazing street art, why oh why cant other countries open their minds and allow otherwise horrid scenes be filled with the most spectacular and relevant art. Recoleta cemetery was also a massive highlight, it is the largest collection of art in an open air setting in the world and is a sight to behold, creepy and stunning, possibly the best mix.
We even ventured out one night to Pacha, which is worldwide super club… those that know me would know that I used to frequent clubs quite a lot, but it is now safe to say that my clubbing days are behind me as I enjoyed the museum of national history a lot more than I did attempting to get a drink form a bar packed with spoiled twats. But we tried and regardless of the rooms full of idiots we where still there with our amazing travel team and as you can imagine had a great night.
But with everything we’ve enjoyed on this incredible trip, it always seems to revolve around food for us and you know what, I’m very comfortable with that, my now huge guts is also very comfortable but lets not worry about that for a few more days. We are currently skiing on the side of a volcano in Pucon (Chile) with the flight home looming we spend every minute jamming meat in our mouth and pouring Chilean wine down our necks, it is hard work but with 8 weeks practice we are getting by just fine.