As we leave Argentina there are so many things we are thankful to have been able to experience and that we know we are going to miss.
dulce de leche
Most of all we’ll miss the Argentinian people who were always friendly, patient with my bad Spanish, helpful, and welcoming. We’ll miss Argentina, but I know we’ll be back.
Next stop is Chicago to visit friends, family and attend our nephew Matt and his fiance Melissa’s wedding. I’ve also challenged Jeff to a White Castle slider eating contest. I’m pretty sure I know who’s going to win.
When our landlord talked to us Thursday night I heard, “blah blah blah BBQ blah blah blah Sunday.” Jeff, who actually speaks Spanish heard, “What are you doing Sunday, I’m having a BBQ, why don’t you come.” I can’t help but worry about everything. What if he misunderstood? What if she really said, “Hey, I’m having a BBQ on Sunday. Can you please bring your drying laundry inside and keep your obnoxious North American voices down.”
By the time Sunday rolled around I had almost convinced Jeff we weren’t invited. We lurked inside our apartment (which is in her backyard) while she set up tables, got the grill going, and brought out chairs. This is where traveling is hard for me. I’m adventurous enough to go to an Argentinian BBQ, but not confident enough to crash an Argentinian BBQ. Finally we migrated outside onto our porch and were quickly invited to sit down, introduced and cheek kissed by everyone. Either we had been invited all along, or they were extremely welcoming to party crashers.
We sat down and were showered with food. First it was chicken and salads. Next was ribs and chorizo sausage. Then came pork and more meat. As food was ready off the grill it was like a meat auction. Mario, the asador (griller) would take something off the grill, hold it up. “Chorizo? Chorizo?” Then if you wanted it you’d hold up your plate. I tried to pace myself in order to have enough room to try everything. It was all so good, it was hard not to just keep eating.
It’s funny how some things are the same and different. Watermelon for dessert seemed so North American to me. But then it was brought out “upside-down” to my USA eyes.
I was concerned that we would be served something really weird that I wouldn’t be able to eat. But, the most unusual thing I saw was a glass of malbac wine, ice, and diet coke. My favorite part of the day was when they toasted with “to family” It made me miss my own family. But, as I clinked glasses with our new Argentinian friends I was thankful that they included us in their family for the afternoon.
There really isn’t much to report on the eating of a T Bone steak called – beef de costilla and short ribs called tira de asado. Both were delicious.
The thing I found most interesting the atmosphere in the parilla. We went to a restaurant called El Viejo Jack. Not only is it highly recommended in guide books and on Trip Advisor, it’s also recommended by locals.
The restaurant itself was your basic local parilla with the most glaring fluoresent lights ever. We’ve noticed this is pretty typical of local parillas.
It was funny to eat a delicious steak, drink a bottle of really good malbac, and have great attentive service all while feeling like we were in a doctor’s examining room.
It was in sharp contrast to a restaurant we had gone to the night before.
Jose Balcarse was also highly recommended by guidebooks. It was also really good, but I don’t think there were any locals in the restaurant. Even the waitress, who spoke fluent English was from Uruguay.
One thing it did really well, besides the food was the ambiance. The low lighting and exposed brick walls reminded me of restaurants back home. The food at both places were amazing. One seemed really authentic, local and inexpensive. The other – gourmet and touristy, but you didn’t feel like you were at the DMV.
You can really see the contrast in the below videos.
We chose the restaurant Monumental for our next beef adventure. We chose it for several reasons: it’s near our apartment, has outdoor seating, looks like a castle.
I had planned to eat mollejas (sweat breads also known as glands) but the waiter was completely freaked out that I was ordering only sweatbreads for dinner. He didn’t think this was an appropriate dinner. I didn’t either, but assumed they’d be inedible and I’d be going out for dinner #2 at McDonalds afterward.
He suggested corazon which is beef heart. I was little apprehensive so we also ordered lots of wine, a “ensalada Americana,” a backup pork chop and I made sure Jeff was ordering a big enough steak that I could mooch off him if needed.
The heart really wasn’t that bad. It sort of tasted like a weird cut of steak. Now the salad, on the other hand, was totally weird. Lots of corn and white stuff which was either the worst cheese in the world, or a strange vegetable.
My favorite part of dinner was observing the family next to us. It was past 11:30pm and an entire family including a baby, toddler, and nanny were enjoying dinner. At around 12:30am we had to go home, we were yawning, but the family was still on dessert.
Our guidebooks talk about all kinds of scams that can happen in Argentina. Cab drivers give out counterfeit bills, thieves wait at ATM machines, pick pockets throw mustard on your shoe. So far none of these things have come even close to happening.
The only scam so far, has been the old “this matambre steak is cow shoulder,” trick.
The restaurant looks innocent enough, but since they don’t have a menu, the waitress just told us what they were serving that day — matambre. When we asked what part of the cow that was, she said pointed to her shoulder.
Several things could have happened:
it really was shoulder, but she just called it matambre
it was flank steak which she thought came from the shoulder of a cow.
she had a sore shoulder and was massaging it while taking our order.
she was trying to trick me.
Now that I think about it, I’m not sure cows even have shoulders. Later when I googled matambre I got this.
So obviously, she tricked me into eating flank steak. The confusing thing is, there was no roll, vegetables, eggs or herbs. It was just a slab of meat. And, the other weird thing is it was super light, almost white. After much time on the internet comparing my photo to other photos of matambre, I’m pretty sure it was flank steak. You can’t really mind eating a flank steak twice.
Although, I’ve had a lot of flank steak both on this trip and in Seattle and it’s never looked like this. But, it was super good, so no matter what it is, I see lots of matambre in my future.
Notice how I had to edit out me saying “this is cow shoulder.”