Let’s Talk Food and Drink

Argentines love eating. Similar to Parisians a great deal of their social and political life involves a table with conversation. The selection is endless, but the main staples arise from the culinary best of Spain and Italy. A couple of our favorites include:

1. Parrillada (mixed grill): nothing like a sizzling asado (barbeque grill) at the entrance of a restaurant to rev up your appetite. As we stated before, the steak is superb (free-range and fabulous). This is not a country of vegetarians.
2. Empanada: a tasty turnover filled with ground beef, ham and cheese, chicken or just about anything else. Comes either baked (al horno), the best way, or fried (frito).
3. Pizza and ice cream (helado): are particularly good secondary to the Italian influence.

Now drink is another story. Mendoza is the premier wine region and Malbec the definitive Argentine wine. Given the current devalued Peso a great bottle can be had for 10 – 20 dollars. For an even greater experience try one from Bodega Catena Zapata, Achaval-Ferrer, or Cheval des Andes which are among the worlds best. San Juan is famous for its Syrah and the area around Cafayate for its white (torrontés).

Coffee lovers have a place to die and call heaven. Even the little hole in the wall places on the side streets have an excellent espresso machine. An espresso with a drop of milk is café cortado – the best in my opinion. Starbucks has invaded Argentina, but if you want a more local similar experience try Havanna. Nothing like an alfajores (cookie-type sandwich) with dulce de leche (creamy caramel) filling while people watching around the square.

This would not be complete without a discussion of mate (pronounced mah-tay). More that a simple drink, mate is a social ritual. Yerbe mate is the dried, chopped leaf of Ilex paraguayensis, a relative of the common holly. The cebador (server) fills the mate gourd with yerba, then hot, not boiling, water from a pava (kettle). You then sip it through a bombilla, a silver straw with a bulbous filter at its lower end that prevents the yerba leaves from entering the tube. And the taste…like wet hay, I guess it’s an acquired thing.

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