Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our Food of the Week is...Chipa!

Chipa is actually a Paraguayan specialty. Our friend, Lola, introduced us to the addictiveness of chipa when we went for a visit to her house on day. Chipa or Chipitas (little chipas), are these little chewy biscuits studded with cheese bits. Good chipitas are slightly crusty on the outside, and chewy on the inside. We usually eat chipitas with mate' (to be covered in another post) on Friday afternoons. Not every bakery sells good chipa or chipitas, so we are constantly searching for one that makes these little delicacies close to our neighborhood. Currently, the only bakery we can find is a good 30 minute walk away from our apartment in San Telmo. However, one could argue that this is also a good thing because if there were a bakery close by with good chipitas, we would probably just end up surviving on chipitas and nothing else.
I tried to look up a recipe and I stumbled across a blog authored by a Paraguayan chef who explained that the secret behind chipa is using yucca starch/flour...and not regular corn or wheat flour. The yucca starch base gives chipa it's chewy texture, while the other flours can result in a chalky texture.
Though chipa is not Argentine, it is for sure something we will try to recreate once we return home.

Chipitas with mate'
It seems like a lot, but before you know it, they are all gone
and you're wondering why you didn't buy more.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Milanesas and a Look at Our City

When you live somewhere, it's easy to overlook or become used to the things that make a city or environment unique. Every barrio (neighborhood) has it's own story and culture to go along with it. Buenos Aires has so much character and the city itself has so many different distinguishing landmarks and characteristics, it's hard to pick a place to begin. Jesse and I live in the heart of the city, and everyday we walk by old, carefully designed, absolutely gorgeous buildings. We've become used to strolling by some of these places without staring in awe.  Yesterday, we strolled around the San Telmo market and took some pictures of some buildings in and around our neighborhood. We aren't entirely sure the significance of some of these buildings because there are historical buildings everywhere. You can literally just stroll down any old street and stumble upon some beautiful, early 20th century building - they're everywhere. 
The white building used to be a church that has now been converted into a museum at the top of Plaza de Mayo.
We walk by these 3 clock tower buildings everyday. 

This is the oldest church in Buenos Aires - that we also pass by everyday. They recently renovated and re-painted it. For years, it was hidden by scaffolding, and we were lucky enough to be here when they finally took it all down and re-opened the church and it's museum.

Teatro Colon - the famous theatre on 9 de Julio. 

Another structure we see everyday. We don't know the history, but this building is now filled with offices. 

Right up the street from our house, and across the street from the oldest church in Buenos Aires, you have the oldest book store in Buenos Aires. It's filled with books old (like hundreds of years old) and new.

We're not really sure of the significance of this church, but it's located in San Telmo, on Defensa St., where the market is every Sunday. 
 Also, some of you may remember that awhile ago, we had started a "food of the week." This sort of fell by the wayside, but we're bringing it back! So, our food of the week is...Milanesas!
Milanesas are basically breaded and fried meat. I know, what more explanation do you need?! They are very similar to a chicken fried steak...only their flavor and texture is much more delicate and subtle. You have to use the right type of breadcrumbs (finely ground stale french bread - nothing else will suffice), and milanesas are best when you use veal. First you buy a thin cut of veal, and then you pound it out so that it's extremely thin and very tender. Next, you lightly coat it with egg (lightly), lightly bread the meat (lightly), and then flash fry the meat in a pan. It's important that your pan is really hot, but not so hot that your breadcrumbs taste like ash afterwards. If your pan is too cold, you will have oil soaked milanesas...not a crispy milanesa. 
Milanesas can come with many different kinds of toppings. One of our favorites in "milanesa napolitana," which is a milanesa topped with a slice of ham, a thin layer of cheese, and tomato. Jesse also really enjoys a milanesa topped with a fried egg.  I made  milanesas the other night for Jesse's birthday and I topped them with red bell peppers and olives. No, it's not traditional but it was freaking delicious either way! 
breaded and ready to be fried
Finished product. Crispy milanesa de ternera con aceitunas, morrones, y aji.
(veal milanesa with olives, red pepper, and garlic)

Friday, August 19, 2011

You Might Be A Porteño If...

... you can walk across 9 de Julio in one move/one traffic light rotation. 

 For those of you new to Buenos Aires, this street boasts to be the biggest avenue in the world at 140 meters (462ft) wide. 

This picture represents 14 of the 19 lanes it has when you include to two one way side streets.  Walking from one side of very tall buildings to the other side of the street without stopping somewhere in the middle is almost impossible. Each section is separated by pedestrian traffic lights.  I haven't seen it done, but I believe it to be possible.  My record is three sections of the four.  With proper timing, watching traffic lights, etc., I think this goal will be accomplished sooner rather than later...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tandil: Escape from BA

Jesse arriving at Cabinas Tandilia (ours is the third from left).
What do I see?  A concrete jungle.  Nope!  Grass, animals and nature.  What’s that smell?  Smog?  Not so much.  Fresh mountain air.  What’s that sound?  Blaring car horns?  Wrong.  It’s nothing.  What’s this sensation I’m feeling washing over me?  Stress.  Absolutely not.  Complete tranquility.  This was our weekend in Tandil.  Nestled in the foothills of an ancient, crumbling mountain range, Tandil was the perfect way for us to spend a weekend celebrating our first anniversary of marriage.  As delightful as the hustle and bustle of city life is, constantly bumping into people on the sidewalk, taking large breaths of bus exhaust, and having Old Man Leland bust our humps over our reports, we decided to break free and lap in a subdued atmosphere for the first time since we arrived.
Tandil sunset from
our cabin

Tandil is well known for several things.  Chiefly among them, and obvious draws to us, are their artesian beer, handcrafted cheeses, cured meats and of course, wine.  More on the delights of their culinary wizardry later, but besides the quietness, these things highlighted our weekend.

Meat and cheese at Epoca de Quesos
We stayed in a small cabin outside the town.  The cabin was fully equipped with all the amenities you would need, which was perfect since we planned on using exactly none of it.  OK, we used the stove to heat water for mate…  It was at the end of a long dirt road, far from anyone but us and the other patrons.  And since there are only four cabins total, we found were pretty isolated.  Which is exactly what we wanted.  We arrived Friday afternoon, got some lunch and headed out, via taxi, to the cabins.  Quickly, we transitioned into chill mode.  We ate our sandwiches and had a beer on our deck.  Bellies full and relaxing, we did what any red-blooded person would do and took a nap.  Refreshed, we utilized the hospitality of Miguel, the owner of the cabins and a very nice man, and had him drive us into town for dinner at Epoca de Quesos.  We came here for three reasons: cheese, meat, beer.  And it was incredible.  We had a platter with a smattering of different cheese and meat.  It was beyond delightful.  After saying, “Oh wow, this one is so good,” after every piece, we just shut, smiled, and plumped up.  We washed it down with their handcrafted beer, got a bottle of wine and headed home for some Rummy and wine.  Fantastic night.
Lindsay surveying the pampas

The next day we woke up to mate and the sounds of birds.  We headed over to Sierra del Tigre, a nature reserve adjacent to the cabin’s property.  It was a nice walk on a calm day.  The reserve has llamas, donkeys, and horses.  The have some cages of different bird species as well, including a very sad looking puma, but our main attraction were the views.  The peak of the “mountain” was only 380 meters or so, but still yielded some great views around the pampas.  We also found the remains of a llama scattered around one of the fields.  It was most likely killed by a pack of ravenous coyote like animals (closer to a fox) that we saw around the cabin in a crazed blood lust for lazy pachyderms.  After the hike (speaking of blood lust), we had some mate, chilled out, watched the sunset, then headed back into town and upon Miguel’s recommendation, went to dinner to a place called El Trebol.

Mate on the porch
This is a parrilla (bbq), but not a normal parrilla.  An all you can EAT parrilla.  For 60 pesos, we sit down with a plate and a guy comes around with a plate of meat that has just been removed from the grill or pit of fiery deliciousness, and asks you if you want some.  Of course you say yes (even to liver and intestine which we tried) and eat until you cannot eat anymore.  Besides eating meat, we each had an empanada.  Filled with meat.  No vegetables.  No breads.  No nothing.  Meat.  It was fan-freaking-tastic!!  The people next to us watched in awe as Jesse consumed piece after piece, outdistancing Lindsay by a wide margin.  (no, this wasn’t an eating competition, but just saying).  Again, our bellies more than happy, we headed home and crashed like a pair of…hmmm… insert your own metaphor here.
The grill...

The grillmaster...
The next morning, we did our morning routine, packed up, and meandered on back to Buenos Aires.  It was one of the most welcomed, needed, and pleasant weekends of our lives.  Highly recommended to anyone in the neighborhood and a wonderful memory for a first anniversary.

The Meat Room at Syquet