In the mouth:
Abundance and bitterness
By Sylvie Berthiaume
The vegetarian must be few in Argentina! Fortunately, they can enjoy pizzas, second "national dish" of Argentina after the grilled meat for the vast majority of carnivores who eat an average of 100 kg per year.
The abundance is found in the variety and in the generosity of the plates. The bitterness, not sad at all, is mostly liquid, because the two main beverages are indeed bitter: Maté (tea) and an alcohol, called Fernet.
With regards to the structure of Argentinean wines, they prove to be generous, and not bitter at all.
Let’s see what the Argentineans put themselves at the palate and in the throat, from morning to evening, at a very cheap price, at home, as well
as in countless good restaurants.
Maté, at any time and under any circumstances
Maté is both a comforting drink, a custom and a social ritual. Very remarkable : Everywhere, including sitting in a park, standing in public transportation or walking in the street, throughout the day. First, it is very appealing: The cup of maté is in fact an emptied calabash, whose exterior is either carved and coloured, or covered with smooth leather and decorated with designs. The ledge of the cup is metal.
The drink itself, the maté, is the result of infused tea leaves, to drink with
a metal straw called bombilla, the end of which goes to the bottom of the cup and acts as a sieve.
We always see the Argentineans with their cup of maté in one hand, and
in the other or under the arm, a thermos of hot water, and even small containers of milk and sugar. Why? Because the maté leaves fill the cup up to the rim, and one must regularly pour hot water into the brew and then aspirate the hot liquid through the straw.
When the Argentineans take the time to sit down and talk with people, a sign of friendliness is to share with them the same cup and straw.
Its taste, really very bitter, is not necessarily pleasing to foreigners, even when adding sugar and milk. But to taste it and bring back a maté calabash as a souvenir is unavoidable.
As breakfast or snack
Espresso or Americano coffee is usually accompanied by warm bread and cream cheese or medialunes. The medialunes are pastries which have the shape of croissants, a little smaller and a little less flaky than their French counterparts. They are stuffed with cheese, crème patissière or the very delicious jam of caramelized evaporated milk called dulce de leche.
This same dulce de leche is often found between two shortbread cookies, the alfajores, or spread abundantly on thin crepe rolls.
Pay honours to whom honours are due
The unusual plural is here wanted. In the first place, the beef steak is of all types of cuts, cooked on the barbecue called the asado, flat or the vertical, and served in the parillas (steak houses) or an asado happening. In Argentina, beef is more tender, juicy and tasty than you can even imagine.
Generally, it is served well done, but on request we can have it medium or rare. For the vaca (beef) here are some choices: The bife de lomo (tenderloin); the bife de chorizo (sirloin); the bife ancho (T-bone steak), the entrana (skirt steak); the ojo de bife (rib eye steak); the vacio (flank steak); or the milanesas (veal cutlets Milanese style).
The beef is eaten generally without fanciness, but most of the people add to each bite a small acidulated or pungent touch with the chimichurri, a condiment made of garlic, herbs, vinegar or green pepper. Chimichurri can also serve as a marinade. Of course, we can also eat grilled cordero (lamb), pollo (chicken), chorizo (pork), chivito (goat), the ossobuco (braised veal), and the morcilla (blood pudding).
And any Italian pasta, or again, the true pizzas as those served by the Italian ancestors of millions of Argentineans.
Interlude and dessert
Between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM, some stop at the neighbourhood bar to fill the wait before dinner: They have coffee with a pastry or Italian ice cream.
Others have a glass of wine with hot empanadas, filled with chicken, beef, or ham and cheese (jamon y queso). The Galician version of the empanada, the caballa, is distinguished by being filled with tuna and mackerel.
Dinner at Spanish time
Pizza again. Meat again. But before, as appetizers, we liked the spread of foie gras on a variety of small breads. What characterizes the Argentinean dinner is therefore not the menu, but the hour. As most of their ancestors, the Argentineans eat late, very late: 9:00 PM or even 10:00 PM.
In Buenos Aires, as there are a lot of tourists and business people passing by, many restaurants serve earlier: From 7:00 PM.
In San Antonio de Areco, it is absolutely impossible to eat a full supper before 9:00 PM: The restaurants are either closed or those who open only serve aperitifs and tapas as homemade salami of spicy pork, local cheese creole, eggplant or chili peppers and their marinades.
Note : Some shops announcing their "regional flavours" are shops where you can get them, but that you cannot eat right on the spot.
The red and the white
The soul and the heart of the Argentineans inebriate especially with wine, beer and fernet. The reputation of the Argentinean wines is not to be made any more. At the top of the charts for its notoriety, the Malbec, became the emblem of Argentina vine. Grown mainly in the region of Mendoza, it is fruity, tannic, with an intense violet color.
The other varieties found in Argentina are among the most famous in the world, both those grown in their country of origin and in the new world: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Semillon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon, and the one whose consumption is increasing more and more, the Syrah. White side, we note a grape variety, which now exists only in Argentina, the Torrontés, as well as the Viognier.
More than 50 kinds of beer are produced in Argentina. The Quilmes, created at the end of the 19th century by a German who immigrated in Argentina, figures as a national symbol. After the wine, the beer is the most popular alcoholic drink.
The dark amber
The bitter Fernet, of which we were talking about at the beginning of the story, is an alcohol made of herbs, spices and fruit, whose origin is the Italian Amaro. The Fernet Branca brand is produced since the beginning of the 1940s. Argentinean youths appreciate it as aperitif softened with Coca-Cola and ice cubes. Others love it with a small quantity of vermouth.
Older people appreciate its full bitterness, by taking it straight, as a digestive liquor.
Art and wine bars
We have benefited from an excellent idea: A local company offers a private tour – for solo or as a couple - in two art galleries and two vinotecas in the Palermo-Hollywood. district.
We tasted two wines at each location, surrounded by art and avant-garde design, while being hosted by the owners.
A nice way to appreciate the Milo Lockett Espacio, the Galeria Mar Dulce and the Bread and Wine Bodega.
Rewarding moments for the view and the taste.
What is mainly to remember: Food in Argentina is delicious, generous and inexpensive.