Tag Archives: customs

La Peña del Colorado

Where do you take a newcomer to Buenos Aires to show him the grittier, more rustic, and way romantic side of the music I so love? La Peña del Colorado of course (we mentioned it in our list of Ten Things to Do in Buenos Aires). The live shows are great, but I also recommend staying later to see the spontaneous guitarists and drunken singers that stick around until dawn. Plan for a late night.

 La Jury

Last Friday we watched La Jury sing her heart out for over two hours. La Jury, whose real name is Luciana, is from Buenos Aires. She sings in the style called “canto criollo.” Here are the names of a few famous criollo singers from Chile, Argentina, and Mexico to help you get familiarized with the style should you want to study up on the style before getting here (Violeta Parra, Mercedes Sosa, Lhasa del Sela, Chango Rodriguez, Oscar Valles, Chavela Vargas). 

At first, La Jury was accompanied by Carlos Delgado on guitar and vocals. 

Midway through her performance, master guitarist, Carlos Moscardini, joined her. Amazing. Truly amazing. 

 Carlos Moscardini

My memory stick was full, which was a total bummer because Carlos Moscardini’s guitar playing coupled with La Jury’s amazing pipes was truly spectacular. But here is Carlos Moscardini on guitar. Wow!

La Peña del Colorado is located in Palermo/Barrio Norte on Guemes, 3657. Call for a reservation and ask for a table close to the stage. The show was scheduled to start at 10:00 but really began closer to 10:30 (as is to be expected in Argentina). It cost 25 pesos for the show, and we had some dinner, too. Now, let me say that I would not go to La Peña del Colorado for sophisticated dishes or the best of Buenos Aires (here’s the menu). But I love that it is so very typical. Typical parrilla fare. Very good empanadas salteñas. Yummy casseroles of pumpkin with quinoa and goat cheese. Traditional guisos or locro. Tablas of cheese, meats and olives. It’s not creative; it’s traditional. As it should be.

 

La Jury y Carlos Moscardini

If you really want to do things the way the locals do, order a penguino instead of a regular bottle of wine and ask for a bottle of soda to go with it. The penguino is actually the shape of the pitcher that the house wine is served in. Because it’s not the greatest quality wine, Argentines often add a bit of soda to it. It’s like a sangria without the goodies. If you’re picky about wine, you might want to get a regular bottle first to have with your food and then switch over to the penguino when your taste buds don’t care anymore.

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Argentinean Asado 101

The strike has ended for now, so it’s time to beef up again. For tourists, that’s a very good thing since eating Argentinean beef should be at the top of all non-vegetarians’ list of “What not to Miss.”

 

The Lomo

You can opt for an upscale restaurant and order a lomo (tenderloin) with a dijon-béchamel sauce and fancy potatoes or you can go native. Going native, however, requires a quick Asado 101 course. So here goes.

Basic Terms:
asado – barbecue (comes from asar, which means to roast, so asado means roasted)
achuras – offals or entrails and internal organs of a animal used as food
parilla – grill or open fire
asador – person doing the grilling (typically a man)

Asador

Should you be invited to someone’s house for an asado, prepare for hours of gorging. My first asado lasted 12 hours and I left before several other guests. The word asado is actually used to describe the entire meal, the event, the feast. There can be confusion between how Argentines use the words asado and parilla

Say you’re talking with some friends about where to get dinner. If what you want is meat, you’d probably say “Let’s have asado.” But once you’re in the restaurant, you’d order the parilla and they’ll bring out a small grill with coals keeping the meat warm. 

Parilla Argentinean Style

 Starters:
Typically, an asado begins with achuras (which actually comes from the Quechua language and means “sharing” or “distributing”). But here we’re talking about the various internal organs that whet your appetite before the upper-end cuts come out. You can decline the achuras if they make you queasy, but you’d be missing out on one of the best parts of the asado experience. 

Because different cuts require more or less time on the fire, the asador will bring out a wooden plate of achuras one type at a time. The plate gets passed around for you to either snag your piece or pass it on. Here are the most common achuras listed in order of my preference (in case you want to try only a few) and their definitions.
 
Common Achuras:
mollejas – sweetbreads (actually thymus and pancreas glands… and very very yummy)
chorizo – sausage 
morcilla – blood sausage (I can only eat this one spread on a piece of bread, but it’s delicious that way)
chinchulin – lower intestines
rinones – kidneys
tripa gorda – tripe (stomach)

Cooking the Meat

The last three are achuras I’ve never gotten used to eating. Higado (liver) and lengua (tongue) other entrails that Argentines eat but aren’t typically part of an asado.

Main Course:
The preparation of the cuts of meat is incredibly simple here. There’s no marinating, just a bit of salt to bring out the flavor. Most tourists are surprised that it’s so simple. But the complexity comes in the actual cooking of the meat. This is a true art form.

Argentines are serious about their beef. Beef consumption here is approximately 68 kg a year per capita.

The meat is cooked slowly. So a good asador knows how much distance to keep between the meat and the coals. Argentinean asadors use wood as opposed to charcoal which also gives the meat a better flavor. 

Parilla

The parilla, or grill, here in Argentina has a chain and hand crank to raise or lower the grill and keep the distance between the embers and the meat just right depending on the cut of meat. They’re also designed to keep the grease from dropping on the coals or embers and creating smoke, which would adversely affect the flavor of the meat.

Because various cuts require longer or shorter cooking times, an asador will likely bring out the meat cut by cut as the guests shout out “un aplausa para el asador!” to thank the cook.

Asador

Cuts of Meat:
costillas – rib roast
tira de asado – rack of ribs
colita de cuadril – rump steak
vacio – flank steak
matambre – thin flank steak (my favorite)
pollo – chicken 
chivito – kid (baby goat)

The meat is usually served with sides dishes such as salad, grilled vegetables, and bread. And there is always enough red wine (vino tinto) for Caesar and his entire entourage. 

Other cuts of meat that aren’t often part of an asado, but are the cuts you’ll want to order in a restaurant if you’ve decided not to go the parilla route are bife de lomo (tenderloin) and bife de chorizo (sirloin) and osso buco (shank or osso bucco). 

Courtesy of the American Angus Association
 
The above image from the American Angus Association and shows which part of the cow’s body each cut comes from. Study up and impress your Argentinean friends. Oh, and it’s customary to bring something with you to an asado. I say bring wine (Malbec goes especially well with meat), but you could bring flowers or a dessert if you prefer.

Wine Bottles

Once you’re back home and have had enough time to recuperate from beef overdoses, the blog Asado Argentina is written by an expat living in Tierra del Fuego. Asado Argentina will show you hot to recreate your Argentinean asado back home. Enjoy!

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Asking for the Check

Restaurant customs are different all over the world. For example, in Egypt, waiters tend to take your plates and drinks before you’ve finished. This always annoyed my ex-pat friends. I think they felt like we were being asked to leave. But you can stay at a table in Egypt as long as you like and you’ll rarely be bothered by the wait staff to order something else or free up the table.

Mott in Soho 

Here in Buenos Aires, wait staff always ask if they can take your plate. There may be nothing at all left, but still they ask “Puedo tirar los platos?” Then they’ll come back to see if you want dessert or coffee. 

To an American,  when you decline dessert it’s obvious you’ve finished and the waiter will likely bring the check to the table. Here you have to ask for the check. It’s similar to Egypt, you’re welcome to linger at the table just as long as you like even if you don’t order another thing.

These differences are sometimes frustrating to foreigners who might think, “geez, how come they haven’t brought the check yet?” But until you request it, “la cuenta, por favor,” you won’t see a check. Sometimes tracking them down for the check takes effort. They aren’t eyeing you like a hawk, waiting for those diners to get up so another tip can come in.

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