Eating Elsewhere: Argentina, Part 1 | Bleader

Friday, August 28, 2009

Eating Elsewhere: Argentina, Part 1

Posted By on 08.28.09 at 02:24 PM

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A few months ago I visited Argentina and Chile for about two weeks with my parents, where I ate approximately my own weight in food. I lived in Santiago for a little under two years starting in September 2004, and since I never got a work visa—it’s pretty easy to get paid under the table, and it never seemed worth it since I always thought I was going stay for just three more months—I went to Mendoza, Argentina, fairly often to renew my tourist visa. A couple friends and I would take the six- or seven-hour bus trip over the Andes, spend the weekend consuming obscene amounts of red meat, red wine, and ice cream, and roll back into Santiago early Monday morning with a steak hangover.

We started out in San Antonio de Areco, a small town about two hours north of Buenos Aires by bus. Turns out they have steak, wine, and ice cream there too.

A word of warning: this is not what’s often referred to as “food porn.” I wish it were, but bad lighting conditions, a point-and-shoot camera, and impatience on my part have combined to make the photos pretty crappy. Also, I often forgot to take a picture until I was half done eating. Sometimes I didn’t remember until I’d already finished (in which case I didn't bother, for obvious reasons). I'm pretty easily distracted by food.

There’s a reason professional food photographers exist: unless photographed under good lighting conditions, most food looks pretty unappetizing. This does. Think of the images as an explanatory aid rather than anything that’ll make you crave Argentine food. But trust me: most of it is worth craving.


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Matambre, or flank steak rolled with vegetables and herbs. And a hard-boiled egg. I don't know who decided to add an egg or at what point in history that happened, but it's genius.


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An appetizer plate of cheese, salami, eggplant, garlic fries, beans and red pepper in oil, and mayonnaise. Oh, and wine. A half liter was six pesos, or a little under two dollars, making it literally cheaper than water. This was at a restaurant called Almacén de Ramos Generales, where everything we tried was really good. We went twice.


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Spinach gnocchi with a creamy cheese sauce and leeks, also at Ramos Generales. Argentina has a strong Italian tradition, which means it has really good pasta and pizza. And ice cream. I ate a lot of ice cream there. I took pictures of none of it. But most ice cream looks kind of the same anyway.


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More pasta at Ramos Generales: this was crab and red bell pepper ravioli with blue cheese sauce. It was amazing. So amazing that I was too excited about eating it to take a picture at first. On the right is puré de calabaza, or mashed squash. Calabaza is a generic Spanish term for several types of squash, but in Argentina it always seemed to be something that tasted similar to butternut squash.


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This picture’s not great. But this chocolate mousse was.


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On our last day in San Antonio, we went to a festival in the nearby town of Villa Lia. After the parade, they sold lunches of beef, bread, a salad, and a little pastry with jam in it (hiding behind a piece of bread in the photo) that people ate at tables set up in the town square. It turned out to be BYO silverware, but fortunately my mom always travels with a plastic fork and knife, so we were okay. Argentina has some of the best beef in the world, though you wouldn't know it from this picture. Argentines generally prefer to grill their meat to a tough grey mess, and this is a prime (sorry) example. It was also nearly half fat, and not great. But we got to watch gauchos herd horses during the parade, spent a long time talking to some lovely women from Buenos Aires, and watched people dance to live folk music. Sometimes it's not all about the food.

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Next up: Buenos Aires.

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