Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Montevideo

After Buenos Aires, our way wayward travels took us to Montevideo. I'd been to Uruguay before, but never the capital. Montevideo is one of those cities that everyone, upon hearing that you're on your way there, immediately tells you is lovely, a chilled out version of Buenos Aires. People are friendly and attractive but don't look (or act) like the just walked out of a Ralph Lauren ad, and the city is clean, breezy and generally safe. Coming from Buenos Aires, Montevideo is like dating the down to earth girl next door after getting fed up with the bipolar supermodel.

It's a port city, and if I've learned anything in Rio these last few months, it's that living on the water makes me happy on a very basic level. I also appreciate horses who stop at traffic lights.



We didn't spend much time in Montevideo's old city, but I did wander into one of the most beautiful bookstores I've seen in awhile. They had a restaurant on the second floor, and a piano. Is it weird that I kind of want my house to look like this, I mean in my other life as a countess? (I've been watching too much Downton Abbey, sorry guys.) 







And although the food is similar to what you find in Buenos Aires, we generally found it more homemade-ish and less finicky (as I said, you can tell people like to eat here, in a good way). Uruguay also has its specialty, chivito canadiense: a big mountain of fried egg, ham, cheese, bacon, beef filet, French fries, lettuce and tomato salad. The myth behind the name “chivito canadiense” is that a Canadian was in Patagonia (Argentina) and he tried chivito (goat meat) for the first time. He loved it, and so when he went to Uruguay he asked for “chivito”. Not being in chivito-country, the parrillero (grill dude) took a piece of beef and covered it with everything he had in reach to disguise the taste. Obviously it tasted nothing like goat, but I guess the resultant food-coma creation was so delicious it stuck.

All in all, if you're going to be in the middle of a bureaucratic nightmare, Montevideo is not a bad place to be (I'm not trying to be coy so I'll just tell you what was going on: the Brazilian consulate in Buenos Aires didn't want to give us visas to reenter Brazil, so we had to go to the consulate in Uruguay. I met an Argentinean girl this week who had the same thing happen to her. WTF Buenos Aires, WTF.) In fact, I think it would be an especially nice place to be, especially minus the bureaucratic ridiculousness, that is to say: I highly recommend it. It'd even get along great with your mother.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Qué comen los vegetarianos: Back in Rio



Braised yuca with red pepper, onion, scallions and cilantro
Charred okra with cumin, smoked paprika and lime juice
Arugula and radicchio salad with fresh cheese and persimmons
Jackfruit juice

Yuca sudada con pimentón, cebolla cabezona y larga, cilantro
Ocra asada con comino, pimentón ahumado y limón
Ensalada de rucula, radicchio, queso fresco y caqui
Jugo de jaca en leche

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mi Buenos Aires Querido


We were back in Argentina for some days, hence my absence around here (obviously the internet exists in Argentina, but my mind was elsewhere-- South American bureaucracy will do that to you. Don't ask, I promise you don't want to know.)


As soon as I stepped off the plane, I was surprised by the rush of memories that hit me, and was almost immediately swept into the familiar peculiarities of porteño (Buenos Aires) life. The tall, strikingly beautiful men and women, the incredibly rude service (I should clarify that non-Spanish-speaking tourists are normally treated quite well), the abundant wine and complete lack of variety at the supermarket. I'm certainly not ambivalent about Buenos Aires-- it's just that I love it and hate it simultaneously. We met up with old friends and colleagues, ate at old haunts, and generally tried to ignore the people openly picking their noses on the subway and the fact that prices have literally doubled since the last time we were there a little over a year ago. 

This is my Buenos Aires, with all the love and squalor and dog shit-filled streets fully accounted for. It's eating dulce de leche-filled facturas for breakfast and then being thwarted by a subway strike that brings traffic to a halt in the 9 de Julio, the huge, 16-lane central boulevard. 





It's devouring countless choripanes, empanadas and pizza, and then realizing that the only vegetables you've had all week were a handful of lettuce and two slices of tomato that came as the "salad" alongside the milanesa you had for lunch when you were stuck downtown after an errand you thought would take an hour ended up taking seven.  



 
This time we stayed with our friends Chako and Carmen, who graciously allowed us to stay with them for almost three weeks (!), two weeks longer than we had initially planned (that's Chako with the gas mask above. He was preparing himself to take out the garbage.) They have a gorgeous light and plant-filled apartment which served as an enormous relief from the stresses of the not-to-named bureaucratic nightmare. We cooked a lot, drank Fernet, talked a lot of mierda, and he and Felipe giddily played a lot of soccer video games. Because it was Purim while we were there, I took it upon myself to introduce them to the wonders of hamantaschen gorging, which they took to quite naturally. They're part of my Buenos Aires, too, and we had a fabulous time with them, extenuating, extremely stressful circumstances be damned.


The last night before we left, Carmen and I went to the supermarket to buy ingredients for dinner and so that I could buy a couple of things to take with us. I bought yerba (leaves for mate), Fernet, a package of 9 de Oro galletas agridulces, sweet and salty crackers that Felipe is addicted to and that go great with mate, and Carmen helped me pick out a couple of bottles of wine (while telling me simultaneously telling me, "I don't know very much about wine" and "oh, this estate is really good too." Uh huh.) Though wine has gone up along with everything else, it continues to be crazily cheap in relation to quality (and just in general compared to the rest of the world), and it always makes a great present for friends back at home, especially those who have been lending a mano with stuff that is by no means their responsibility back in Brazil while we've been away. I should have bought alfajores too, but I somehow forgot. Next time, when my head is on straight and I still have a clean change of clothes left in my suitcase. Until then, mi Buenos Aires querido. See you on the flipside.