December 20, 2005

Meat, meat and more meat

I am enjoying the amazing Argentine beef and barbeque (parrillas). They really know how to prepare beef, and it really does taste better than American beef – supposedly due to natural grass diets and less antibiotics.

The Cordero Patagonico (Patagonian lamb) was excent as well. Whole lambs are butterflied, arranged on a wire frame, and cooked over an open fire. Juicy, sweet and tender…yum.

As expected, there are many cuts of beef , as well as a huge variety of glands, organs and unidentifiable parts. Jonathan and I ordered a Mixed Grill for two, and the first plate came with blood sausage, intestines and several other items I couldn´t even identify. We took one small bite, and then it sat. Our waiter came by to whisk it away, not even batting an eye at the virtually untouched platter. I hate to be a typical tourist, but I couldn´t do it. Internal organs really don´t appeal to me at all.

Pork, and to a lesser extent chicken, are also popular. I also tried goat for the first time, which tastes like a cross between chicken and pork.

The “vegetable” platter included potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, and another starch. Not a single green thing there. To say vegetables are not big in the diet would be a massive understatement. I can feel that I will go into meat overdose very soon…

December 8, 2005

Chocolate capital of Argentina

Chocolate superstore There is more chocolate here on display than I have ever seen in my life. Bariloche is the self proclaimed “Chocolate Capital of Argentina”, and they really mean it. The warm chocolately smell as I entered one of the chocolate supermarkets will be one of the loveliest memories of my trip.

To add to the temptation of constantly eating everything around me, plates and trays of mouth watering pastries and endless rows of metal tubs of gelato were on display, their enticing aromas wafting to the street through the open doors. There is a strong German and Swiss influence here due to early immigration, and it is reflected everywhere. Hence the amazing chocolate, the incredible alpine wooden lodges, and the weird fascination with forest gnomes.

We also sampled some of the famous alfajores, a confection composed of two crumbly shortbread discs glued together with dulce de leche (a completely addictive spreadable caramel, translates on menus as “milk jam”) and then coated entirely in chocolate. Waaaay too sweet for me, but I can understand why it is such a treat for people with insatiable sweet tooths (Jonanthan).

The little mounds of freshly made chocolates mimicked the peaks that surround the city. Bariloche is blessed with mountains, alpine wildflowers and glacial lakes of over 100 km in length. To offset all the eating, we took ample advantage of the outdoors, and went hiking up to several scenic peaks.

The cheap prices for food and excursions, combined with the spectacular scenery and blooming flowers has made this one of the best places I´ve been. We spent 8 days here easily, though we originally had only planned on half that. Though it´s probably a good thing that we had to move on – any restraint on sampling more of the scintillating treats was due to give out at any moment. :)

December 3, 2005

Authentic Argentine Asado

I love food. I also really love seeing food prepared, and I was psyched to particpate in an asado, or an Argentine barbeque. It is some of the most delicious meat I´ve ever tasted. It is also one of the most excruciating excercises in patience I´ve endured, as it takes 2 HOURS to slowly cook the meat over the embers of wood, which first must be produced by burning up serveral logs of wood.

While we were at Rancho Lamaral, we met 2 nice guys (chicos) from Buenos Aires, Mauro and Gaston, who were on a 20 day backpacking trip. We were sitting around wondering what to do about dinner, when we all decided we wanted to barbeque. This was especially cool, since we were doing this with locals…Jonathan and I had seen Argentine barbeques in restaurants, and hotels and hostels will arrange them for guests, but this felt more authentic…like being invited to a bbq at someone´s house, instead of seeing it done at Redbones.

We piled into our Suzuki Fun to go into town to get some meat. I watched in horror as the butcher cut ribs with an enormous electric saw, barely even looking at where his hands were while it sliced efficiently through bone and tendon.

I was told that the appropriate amount of meat for an Asado was 2 kg of meat per person (1 kg if female). That´s 4.4 lbs of meat, per person. No chicken, no vegetables, nothing but beef.

I bought some rice to prepare for myself, as I was going through rice withdrawl (bread is the carb of choice). When I went to prepare it in the kitchen, I was greeted with shock and horror. You want to eat beef with rice? Really? I assured him that Chinese food was based on rice with everything, including beef, and even some vegetables. He looked a little dubious, but allowed me to keep on cooking.

Time slowed as I eagerly anticipated the succulent pieces of meat slowly cooking over glowing wood embers. But, with some good company and a glass or two of wine, soon enough it was all ready. Eating began around 11:30pm. I was so full I could barely fall asleep…

October 11, 2005

Worst Chinese Food to date

I have decided, after eating the “Chinese” food pictured here, that I will not sample any more Chinese food in the Carribean and South America if any of the following paramenters are met:

  1. 1. If I am the only Chinese person in “Chinatown”, and other tourists are delighted to see me.
  2. If no one who works in the restaurant is Chinese.
  3. If there is only a museum now to mark where Chinatown once stood.

I know that I am simply setting myself up for a downfall, but I can´t help myself. If the food were presented as “local food”, I would have no problem eating it and probably enjoying it.

It´s like expecting a thick juicy, grilled steak and instead getting steamed fish. It´s just such a totally wrong experience. It´s not bad, just not right.

So, I am going to try to stick to the local delicacies and hopefully fare better…

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