The Rules of Mate Brewing

(Photo by juanpol)

The world of mate is full of tradition and there are many details to keep in mind for this typical beverage to come out just right.

1. The preparation stage of the mate is crucial. To do so properly fill ¾ of the gourd with ‘yerba’ and then place the palm of your hand over the gourd and shake it. You should find some fine mate powder covering your palm. Once you have done this one or two times insert the mate straw on one of the sides of the gourd and don’t move it.

2. Rule of thumb: never brew a mate with boiling water. The water should be hot, between 85-95 C. If the water is boiling it will burn the yerba and destroy its flavor. Plus, if you’re around experienced mate drinkers they will never look at you the same again!

3. One of the most annoying things that happens when a mate isn’t well prepared is that the straw gets clogged. This usually happens when the dust isn’t shaken out (step 1) or when the straw is moved around once its been placed. The straw should be still, in the same place from start to finish.

 4. Another thing to avoid is blowing on the straw to cool it or unclog it. This is inconsiderate to others in the mate round and not very hygienic. The same goes for salivating the straw. Placing your dry lips on it should be enough to enjoy the beverage.

5. Finally, change the ‘yerba’ once its lost its taste , don’t insist on drinking a washed out mate, and never pass a washed out mate on to the next person unless you wish to insult them!

A few things to keep in mind:

The mate gourd must be cured before it can be used or it will tinge the mate with a foul taste. To do so wash it out well with hot water until the water is clear and free of pigments from the wood. Then fill the gourd with yerba up to the top and pour hot water on it. Leave it overnight and wash again well.

When sharing mates with others a few basics must be taken into account; the mate brewer, who must brew the mates for everyone in the round, must drink the first mate to make sure it’s ok, the mate should never be passed on once water has gotten cold and everyone’s turn must be respected.

A Special Tradition for the 29th of the Month

(Photo by paolo.r)

A special tradition involving gnocchi and money is carried out on the 29th of every month. It consists of gathering to eat gnocchi and placing money under ones plate for it to multiply over the following 29 days.

There are two versions of the origin of this odd ritual, neither which have been confirmed.

The first is a legend that dates back to the VIII century. It tells of Pantaleon, a young doctor from Nicosia who traveled to Italy after converting to Christianity. Once there he performed miraculous cures and was canonized. Then, on the 29th of one month, he asked some peasants for bread and they replied by inviting him to join them for a simple dinner. Saint Pantaleon was grateful and moved by their kindness so he blessed them and promised a year of extraordinary harvests. Indeed, that year the yield of their crops was copious and thus on the 29th of every month this patron Saint of Venice was remembered by a simple meal consisting of gnocchi.

Another story, tells of a famished town on a year when wheat had not yielded well. It is said that on the 29th someone came up with the potato gnocchi, saving the town from starvation.

Finally, the tradition is said to have been introduced to Argentina in the 70´s by a group of gastronomic journalists who gathered every month to eat a meal prepared by one of them. On the 29th of the month one of them decided to make a simple plate of gnocchi to commemorate the legend of Pantaleon. It was a big hit and soon after, the “Club del Ñoqui” was created, gathering people from different cultural and social backgrounds for one gnocchi meal a month. Since there were a lot of journalists involved, the tradition quickly spread, and was adopted as an excuse to gather with friends, eat a great plate of gnocchi and hopefully multiply the monetary crop of the month.

Want to try some gnocchi eating and magical money making yourself? Book a table at one of the following recommended Italian restaurants.

Doppio Zero: Open Tue- Sat 8.30pm- closing and Sun 12.30pm-4pm. Soldado de La Independencia 1238, Las Cañitas. 4899-0162

Ill Ballo del Mattone: Gorriti 5737, Palermo. 4776-4247 reservas@ilballo.tv

Sottovoce: Open everyday from 12-4pm and 8pm-closing. Av. Libertador 1098, Recoleta. 4807-6691.

Neighborhood Markets and Fairs in Buenos Aires

(Photo by jvc)

Neighborhood markets are charming places to find local characters and unique flavors and knickknacks. Below is a list of markets in BA where you will come across traditional foods, trinkets, craftwork, bargain prices and freaky finds.

Belgrano

Feria Modelo de Belgrano: Foodies will enjoy this indoor European style fair which was started in the 50´s in a well preserved 1800´s building and is now the place to go for gourmet products such as Patagonian trout, mushrooms, cheeses, and unique meat cuts like quail or armadillo. Open Mon-Fri from 8am-1pm and 5pm-8.30pm, and Sat from 8am-1pm. Ciudad de la Paz and Juramento.

Barrio Chino: Also in Belgrano is the local china town, a popular place amongst locals and foreigners who seek oriental specialties, and unique colors and flavors.  Juramento and Arribeños.

Palermo

Mercado de Pulgas in Palermo: The Dorrego Flea Market in Palermo is often overlooked and is the perfect place to go on a treasure hunt.  Antiques and curious finds are waiting to be dug up and claimed in this charming neighborhood market. Open Tue-Sun 10am-7pm.  Av.Dorrego and Conde.

Recoleta

Feria de Artesanos Plaza Francia: If you´re looking for hand woven textiles, wood carvings, artisanal leather goods and other local craftwork the Artisans fair in Plaza Francia, right next to the Recoleta cemetery, is the place to go. Open on weekends and holidays from 11am-8pm. Av. Libertador and Pueyrredon.

San Telmo

Feria de Antiguedades de San Telmo: San Telmo is a world known antique center where valuable collectors items are sold, but also, where knick-knacks and unique objects from the immigrants that populated the country can be found.  Although the neighborhood is full of antique stores that can be visited during the week, it’s the fair on Sundays that gathers visitors and locals alike.  Defensa and Humberto 1.

Caballito

Mercado del Progreso: This food market in the Caballito neighborhood is one of the oldest in the city having opened in 1889. Colorful vegetable stands and butchers that sell meat fresh from the farms are what the market is known for. The market is also around the corner of the antique tram, which you can visit on the weekends.   Market open on Mon-Sat from 7.30am-1pm, and 5pm-8.30pm. Av. Rivadavia 5430.

Mataderos

Feria de Mataderos: The Mataderos fair is held every Sunday and offers regional foods, gaucho accessories, knitwear, and leather bags amongst others. Gaucho traditions, such as the “carrera de sortija” and typical dances from around the country are also carried out on a stage. The fair is on Lisandro de la Torre Avenue, in Mataderos on Sunday. To get there, we suggest you coordinate transport with the hotel, as you will have to go through some dodgy areas to arrive.

More:

For organic produce, eco products and a laid back atmosphere head to El Galpón de Chacarita. Wednesday and Saturday 9am to 6pm. Av. Fédérico Lacroze 4171, Chacarita. 4554 9330.

Cheap bargains, unusual finds (including odd shaped mannequins) and noisy crowds at the Once shopping district.

Argentina Christmas Cuisine

The  local Christmas menu has incorporated recipes from many of its different immigrants. Because it is summer in Argentine during the holiday season, there is usually a spread of cold cuts (including cold chicken and turkey, cooked the day before) and salads, whilst asados are also very popular. The midnight toast is traditionally done with cider and accompanied by sweets.  Below is a description of the most typical local Christmas dishes.

Asado: Alright, saying that asado is a typical Christmas staple might be an overstatement considering asado is a local staple period! But on Christmas Eve,  the parrillas get going and the city streets are filled with the sizzling aroma of the Argentine barbeque. Additionally, the Christmas asado is often more elaborate than the usual and it is common to find roast suckling pig on the menu.

Vitel Thoné: This is probably THE most typical holiday platter in Argentina and is predictably an imported recipe from Italy. The cold dish consists of  sliced veal covered in a sauce made from anchovies, tuna, mayonnaise, cream and capers. Recipe here.

(Photo by manusmenu)

Piononos: The origin of this dish is not quite clear although there is a sweet version of pionono in Spain. In Argentina they are made in both sweet and salty variations and consist of a thin flat sponge cake which is filled with ham, palm heart, mayonnaise, and other variations for salty versions (with the contrast of the sweet dough), and with dulce de leche (what did you expect?) and fruits and whipped  cream for sweet versions.  Once the ingredients are layered on the sponge cake it is rolled up and voila! Recipe here.

(Photo by From Argentina with Love)

Pan Dulce: Like Vitel Thoné, Pan Dulce is another really typical holiday staple that was also imported by the Italian immigrants. The brioche like high-rise dough filled with dried fruits and nuts is the perfect complement to the sweet cider brought out at midnight on Christmas Eve.  Recipe hereand add some drops of orange blossom water to that for the special local flavor!

(Photo by Gabriela Sellart)

Turrón: The popular Spanish Christmas specialty was incorporated into the local traditions, where it is common to serve peanut and honey turron with the pan dulce at midnight.

(Photo by formalfallacy)

Christmas in Buenos Aires

(Photo by Nico_)

Christmas is right around the corner and here in Buenos Aires this means pool parties, barbeques, panettone and trips to the beach.

Unlike North American and European tradition, in Argentina, Christmas is synonymous with sunny summer weather. Celebrations are also very different and incorporate the traditions of the many immigrants that defined the country’s identity.

So, what can you expect if you’re celebrating in Buenos Aires this year?

First of all, since its summer break, Christmas is the beginning of the beach season, which means the city empties out until the end of January, traffic reduces significantly and people are more relaxed.

Secondly, the big celebration here is on Christmas Eve. Families gather for Christmas dinner and at midnight every one toasts, fireworks light the sky and afterwards the gifts under the Christmas tree are handed out. Once the family festivities are done, younger crowds go out for some late night clubbing with friends.  On Christmas day, the leftovers from Christmas Eve are shared with friends and family at late lunches by the pool.

The Christmas menu varies depending on the family’s heritage. Many families make the typical asado, whilst others display a large variety of salads, cold cuts, stuffed eggs and tomatoes, and chicken or turkey. Another typical Christmas dish is Vitel Thoné, a Piedmontese recipe of cold sliced meat coated in a sauce made of egg, tuna, capers, olive oil, cream and anchovies. Desserts mostly consist of fruit and ice cream and typical panettone (an Italian fruit cake) turrones (of Spanish origin), and dried fruits and nuts are served with the champagne or cider used to toast at midnight.

The Argentine Gaucho

(Photo by tim ellis)

The gaucho is one of the few local characters which the national culture has adopted as truly Argentine. Allthough the origins of these nomadic cattle herders is ambiguous it is generally accepted that they appeared after colonization as the offspring of Natives with Europeans. A few things characterized this new generation of locals; one was their skill riding horses and handling cattle, another was their nomadic nature. They were also proficient with knives, boleadoras and guitars and many of them were payadores, which means they recited poetic stories about their lives to the strum of the guitar. It is the gauchesque payadas that led to the posterior gauchesque literature that was key to transforming the Gaucho into an emblematic national character.

The image of the gaucho was not always positive. For a long time they were considered to be outlaws and rebels, and as social castaways they were readily sent to fight the civil wars. Once the wars were over, there was no place in society for gauchos, so they were culturally resignified. The parallel influx of immigrants to the city had created a need for a national identity, and for the countryside to become appealing as it was the land that needed to be populated. Amidst this context, gauchesque literature, which portrayed the life, tradition and used the language of the gauchos, found its perfect place. From then on, through the local literature of emblematic authors such as José Hernandez who wrote the famous Martín Fierro, Leopoldo Lugones who wrote La Guerra Gaucha and  Ricardo Güiraldes, who wrote Don Segundo Sombra, amongst others, the gaucho acquired a mythical place in society.

Popular literary adaptations to film were also made from gauchesque novels, completing the insertion of this rustic character into the Argentine culture. Some noticeable examples are Juan Moreira adapted to film by Leonardo Fabio, Los Hijos de Fierro, which makes a parallelism between Peron and Martin Fierro, by Pino Solanas and Don Facundo Sombra adapted to film by Manuel Antín.

Chimichurri

(Photo by NicoledeB)

 

Chimichurri is a traditional sauce made from herbs, garlic and vinegar that is used on meat at asados.  It is said that the name of the sauce comes from the British. Allegedly, the English men associated the spice-based sauce with curry, so when they wanted it they said “give me curry” which was locally understood as chimichurri.

There are many ways to make the sauce and we have included just one of the many recipes. Whichever way it’s done  we recommend you make it a few days ahead to enhance the flavor.

 

Ingredients:

● 250 ml water (1 cup)

● 60 ml vinegar (¼ cup)

● 60 ml vegetable oil (¼ cup)

● 1 Tbsp coarse salt

● 1 Tbsp dried oregano

● 1 Tbsp thyme

● 1 Tbsp ground chili pepper

● 1 Bay leaf

●  Fresh parsley

● 5 garlic cloves, chopped

Preparation:

Heat the water, vinegar and salt until they boil.

Mix all the other ingredients except for the oil and incorporate them to the water mixture.

Allow to cool at room temperature.

Add the oil.

Store covered in a glass jar.