Old friends, Malbec, and Jackie O
Buenos Aires Travel Blog› entry 1 of 5 › view all entries
September 24th, 2007 – by: trhoades
Arriving in Argentina put me at immediate ease because everyone spoke Spanish, it was less smoggy than Rio, and the airport is actually out in the suburbs. On the way to the city center you pass a couple of cattle ranches, the Argentine soccer academy, and even a Mormon church. This mix of seemingly unrelated things is a theme that pervades throughout Buenos Aires. At its core, it's really a European city, but with a twist. The predominant race, religion, language, architecture, culture, and cuisine are European. But when you get a look at the ground level, you can see how the Argentinos have adapted, perfected, or sometimes completely ignored their European influences.
One prime example is their obsession with grilling, or "parrilla" as it's called. With an endless supply of high quality beef, Buenos Aires has a parrilla seemingly on every corner. And Argentinos have never seen a food that they wouldn't grill. I can greatly appreciate that attitude. We started what would turn into a week of full-on bingeing at a parrilla in Las Canitas called "Jackie-O". The restaurant is not to be confused with the bar Jackie O directly across the street from it. Despite the tacky pictures of Jackie Kennedy and various other American movie stars or singers, the food was pure parrilla. The place was completely empty on a Monday night but you could still see the grill master back in the kitchen shoving gigantic hunks of meat onto the barbecue. It looked like they were preparing to feed an army. Gustavo ordered a "parrillada" which is basically a smorgasbord of various cuts of meat served family style on a sizzling platter at your table. It was at that point that I realized that all that meat back in the kitchen was actually just for us.
They brought it out, in all of its cholesterol-infused glory. I had been warned in advance that they cook their beef a lot more thoroughly than in America. We didn't have anything cooked less than medium, but you can ask for it anyway you want it. Regardless, it was all tender, and a lot sweeter in flavor than American beef. It's hard to pick which cut I liked most. A nice surprise was the grilled blood sausage "Morcilla". It's not for everyone to be sure. But I found this version to be even better than the dry and cured version back in Spain. We washed it all down with a bottle of Malbec, the standard Argentine red. The whole bill came to about $35 for 3 people, and you could've eaten there even cheaper than that.
Because 12 steaks, french fries, bread, and 2 bottles of wine weren't enough, Gustavo took us to a homemade ice cream parlor for dessert. As promised in the guidebook, Buenos Aires also has extremely good ice cream. Most people were eating multiple flavors on the same cone. We found that mixing flavors in Argentina was very common, not just in ice cream, but all types of food. Wine with cola, Fernet with cola, plum with bbq beef, dulce de leche with lemon, you are likely to taste something you've never before in Buenos Aires. Their European ancestors might frown upon the lack of "purity" in Argentine cuisine. But Argentinos take it all with tongue firmly emplanted in cheek. I could tell I was going to like Buenos Aires.
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