Sorry to leave you hanging with thoughts of a delicious dinner, but I had to go to Belgrano so I can at least pretend that I’m hear to study a little bit. No, I actually really enjoy my classes. They have proved to be one of the best ways to keep improving my Spanish, and they provide some much-needed structure for my weeks. Without some sort of obligation, it would be all too easy to fall into a perpetual vacation that would drain my energy as well as my bank account. And anticipating my three day weekends makes them that much sweeter. To quote Sam Brown, “you have to enjoy your hunger.”
Which, coincidentally, is actually what I was doing sitting in a padded seat of El Baqueano restaurant. The clean, white menu and empty glasses were a tantalizing reminder of what the chef held in store for us. I have been thinking about how to best approach describing the parade of dishes that came out over the next 3 hours. Unfortunately, I’m not a writer for Food & Wine Magazine (yet), so I know I won’t be able to do the meal justice. I think my best bet is to name the dishes, add a few key details, and let your imagination fill in the holes.
To whet our appetites, the waitresses presented us with a tray of 3 different olive oils (Italian, Spanish, and Argentine), ready to be soaked up by a selection of fresh-baked breads and rolls. To quench our thirst, we had champagne and a delicious citrus cocktail, featuring an orange liquor native to Argentina, the recipe for which made up the first ever patent granted by the country’s government. After being teased with bread and oil, we were presented with the appetizer: “Textures of potatoes.” The savory dish displayed about 6 different types/textures of classic root veggie, ranging from smooth puree to crunch chip.
From here, we moved onto the entrees. First, llama (yes, llama) carpaccio with cheese foam and pickle textures, with a bright, fruity Zapata Chardonnay to complement the explosion of flavor. Llama was followed by a “Warm salad and soup vizcacha” (which Wikipedia tells me is a small rodent related to a Chinchilla). After sampling two very exotic meats, we returned to a (seemingly) normal protein- fresh, white fish. Only this fish dish turned out to be anything but normal; it was actually my favorite of the night. Baked to perfection, and topped with a paper-thin slice of candied caramel. This masterpiece, however, only took up 1/4 of the plate. The remainder held an array of beet textures, bleu cheese, and white chocolate. The result was an enormous number of incredible flavor combinations (you haven’t lived til you’ve tried beet puree and white chocolate on a bite of fish). The deep reddish purple of the beets was reflected in the color of a new wine- Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino 2005. From what I could gather at the table, this was basically designed to be the quintessential Argentine Malbec. It certainly tasted it. And of course, once red one was in hand, we were almost obligated to return to red meat for the final entree: Colorado deer with a pine nut native to Patagonia in a sweet sauce. Delicious. Everything, delicious.
Dessert was a fruity affair. First came a delightfully sweet and tangy Malbec sorbet, which made its sister in the wine glass taste even better. To bring the meal full circle, we received another set of textures, this time of apple. Gelled, baked, shaved, iced, and juiced; all on the same plate. Our final drink of the night was a sweet and sharp Patagonia hard cider.
Needless to say, this meal was unlike anything I had seen in my young life. Not only because of the artfully prepared food, but also because of the atmosphere, location, and company. I will be a long time getting the taste of Malbec and white chocolate out of my head, and will never forget who sat next to me for the whole experience.
The final plates were cleared around 12:30, and with dinner behind us, the rest of the night and following morning at the Fierro passed all too quickly. Before I knew it, I was giving Dad another embrace- this one for farewell instead of greeting. I headed back towards Santa Fe Ave. to catch a colectivo with a Catena cowboy hat perched on my head, looking back only long enough to catch another Sam Brown grin before I rounded the corner. So ended what I’m sure will be one of the most memorable chapters of my time here in Buenos Aires.
Fortunately, I had very little time to dwell on what I was leaving behind – I had a bus to catch. Well, 3 actually. The first was from Palermo to my apartment in Recoleta, where I threw a weekend’s worth of supplies into my backpack. For the second I met up with Becky, a girl in our group, so that we could hop a ride to the Retiro bus terminal. Finally, at 12:30pm Becky and I boarded a double-decker coach bus destined for the small town of Tapalque, situated about 275 kilometers outside of Buenos Aires and home to the La Margarita Estancia. After almost a month of big city life, I could hear nature calling me, and I’ve never been one to ignore that summons. I settled into my cushy, “semi-cama” seat and began preparing for part two of my dreamlike weekend….
And, speaking of dreams, my own bed in the corner of my 7th floor apartment is looking more and more comfortable as the minutes pass. I’m going to turn in so that I can collect my thoughts and add the final section to this blog trilogy tomorrow. Thanks for sticking it out with me, and I hope I can attract your wandering eyes one more time tomorrow. Buenas Noches!