Get Into The Groove

Header_8

Well my dorky little self is safely back in California. Thank you to everyone for the nice welcome home messages and to Jenn & Eddy and Troy for taking such amazing care of my little furry children. If I’m this neurotic about being away from my dogs I can only imagine how I’ll be once we have actual human children. I shudder to think.

I promise not to be one of those freakish Hand-Sanitizer dads, I swear.

Orange_dotted_line

Asparagus_trio


Help, my brain is mush.

I spent most of February in flip flops enjoying the summer only to return to a very mild winter here. I’m confused, especially when you consider we’re between seasons and it feels like spring just a little bit.  But only a bit.

So that I may jump start one of my favorite times of the year, I’ve been looking towards asparagus for excitement and satisfaction. And also because if I eat one more steak I’ll scream.

Here’s something from last year, and it’s probably one of my favorite recipes on earth.

Asparagus with Gribiche Sauce

Quickly cooking
asparagus over high heat gives it a smoky, deep flavor. Top it with
Salsa Gribiche, an easy combination of eggs, dijon, herbs, olive oil
and capers. Simple and divine.

Ingredients
For the sauce:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 hard boiled egg, finely chopped
1 teaspoon capers
1/2 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1/2 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
salt and pepper to taste

For the asparagus:
1 bunch asparagus
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Method
1.
Whisk olive oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard together. Once blended, add
chopped egg, capers and herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.

2.
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan until very hot, until almost
smoking. Place asparagus in hot oil and cook until slightly charred.
Top with Gribiche sauce and serve immediately.

Orange_dotted_line
73513783_38cfc5fb28

Cobblers: On your mark, get set, and go!

Remember the freeze we had out west that damaged all those citrus crops? After talking to a few produce and grower folks I found out that it might actually be a beneficial thing for stone fruit. The trees need a good period of dormancy and the freeze delivered just that. I really have my fingers crossed that all the peaches, plums and nectarines will be successful crops – not just for the farmers but for my tastebuds as well.

Orange_dotted_line

Chubby_hubby_capture

A Whole New Look

Big props to Aun for the latest revamp of the enormously popular Chubby Hubby site. It’s so cool, slick and editorial that I feel as if I want to subscribe to the magazine when I read it! Hint hint, you guys! A CH Mag would be amazing.

Also, make sure to check out Cooks Classified, the latest venture from Chubby Hubby. Talk about a terrific resource!

Orange_dotted_line
20349497_8cb0984ec4

But you can get more, right? Tell me you can get more.

What does it mean when you and 3 friends drink an entire hotel’s supply of rosé?

Either:

a) A guest appearance for all on A&E’s Intervention ("Five Red Tops, Darlin!")

b) That you were only taking advantage of a phenomenal exchange rate between the US Dollar and the Argentine Peso and doing your part to boost the economy

c) That you were only trying to color coordinate between your glass and your swimtrunks

d) You really believe it’s Kool Aid for grown ups

e) All of the above

The Good And The Bad in BA

Good_bad

We’ll be heading back to California soon. It’s been an amazing trip, full of good food and lots of rest. I sheepishly regret that I didn’t post as often as I had planned, but once the sunny South American breeze hit my skin (and a few cocktails flew down the hatch), well, blogging was the farthest from my mind. Shame on me! However, we met amazing people who made our trip such an amazing experience and once I’m home I definitely plan on sharing more about Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I’ve compiled a quick list of things we really enjoyed, and if you are planning a trip to Buenos Aires you might want to check them out.

Best_of_graphic

1. Home Hotel and the staff.

Even though I gushed about the hotel a few posts earlier, I could spend a few years going on and on about this place. Seriously folks, if you are heading to Buenos Aires you simply must book a room here. Or visit for tapas. Just go. I’ve never stayed somewhere that felt like a big giant hug. I miss the delightful staff already…not to mention those long afternoons by the pool. This place is off the charts when it comes to quality.

2. El Zanjón De Granados

This historical building, originally built by a weathy family, fell into disrepair after the yellow fever epidemic. It then became tenement housing above and filled with shopkeepers on the ground floor. It was purchased as an abandoned building in the 1980s for commercial development until the demolition process revealed an original foundation that was underneath current street level. The restoration process also revealed a series of underground tunnels where river water once flowed, along with large sisterns that gathered rainwater for drinking (the wealthy employed sea turtles as a purification process inside the wells). The 20-year restoration process was a collaboration between architects, historians, archeologists and various landowners. There are daily tours, and what I most enjoyed was seeing how superbly the various centuries were blended within one building. It was also great getting a slice of Buenos Aires’ history, and I had no idea that the river was only a few steps away from homes and buildings like the Casa Rosada before the city expanded.

3.  Maté

You won’t see me running around town with a thermos of hot water underneath my arm quite yet, but I did learn to enjoy the national drink of Uruguay and Argentina quite a bit. The highly caffeinated bitter herb makes a tasty tea, and while I might argue it’s an acquired taste I must say it’s delicious nonetheless.

Is it only a matter of time before Starbucks starts offerings a Chai Mate Late Frappucino?

4. Medialunas

It’s not breakfast here without a few medialunas, the diminutive version of the flaky croissant. Paired with café con leche and you can’t help but have a great day. I think this may be one of the things I will miss the most once I’m back home.

5. La Cabrera

This gem in Palermo actually has two locations a block apart from each other. It’s pure parilla with a twist– – try the Pato De Confit, a duck leg confit that’s been thrown on the grill until crisp and juicy.

6. The Smoking Ban

You might think it’s funny to know that Adam packed Febreeze so that we could get the dreaded cigarette smoke out of our clothing. But guess what? Buenos Aires recently enacted a smoking ban, very similar to the bans in many American cities. For a city as old as Buenos Aires it seemed impossible, but it’s truly wonderful to not feel like a human ashtray.

7. Beef.

Enough said.

8.  Dulce De Leche. Anything.

I grew up eating Dulce De Leche in Texas (which we called Cajeta). It’s a natural by-product of farming – anywhere there’s beef you’ll find cheese and milk, and anywhere you’ll find milk you should find Dulce De Leche, the caramel sauce made from sugar and milk. It is rumored to have originated here in Argentina, which is something I actually believe based on the ubiquity of this dessert. Ice cream, crepes, as a topping on flan, in and on top of pastries, you name it – if it can be done they’ll add it. And do you hear me complaining? Hell no. Like my hubby says, it’s probably the finest thing one can get from a cow.

9. Provoleta

Take a disc of provolone, garnish with herbs and olive oil, and grill until melted. The result? A crisp, flavorful chewy crust of cheese with a gooey, savory interior. These things literally disappear in my presence.

10. Pacú

This South American cousin of the piranha is an herbivore that grows much larger than its toothy meat eating relatives. Popular in Brazil and parts of Argentina, and we were lucky enough to try it a few times here Buenos Aires at Jangada restaurant. With an earthy flavor and a tasty layer of fat underneath the skin, Pacú is grilled on the parilla which results in a crunchy, flavorful skin and tender, earthy meat. I now understand why it’s called “el lechón del rió”, or suckling pig of the river.

Tiny_gray_bar_1_2_2_1_1_1_1_1_1_1_10_1

Bobo_hotel

Handsdownthumb_1
And now, my biggest trip disappointment: Bobo Hotel. I really wanted to like this small boutique hotel located here in Palermo. I really did. We ate dinner in the restaurant on our last visit to BA and wanted to experience a few nights’ stay, but I wish we hadn’t. In their defense I must say that the staff was cordial and very helpful, but as a guest I felt like an afterthought. I’ll tell you why.

The hotel decided to do some remodeling during our visit. Replacing drywall and installing a new ceiling isn’t exactly quiet, and our room was located directly above the construction. I hated to make a fuss about it, but honestly it was unbearable. The hotel attempted to accommodate us by speeding up the process, but I think it would have been better to either not book the room, move us to a higher floor, or close down for a few days. Instead, guests were inconvenienced and never got to experience the entire Bobo restaurant. During breakfast one morning we were informed that the gas had been temporarily shut off due to construction so pastries and yogurt were all we could get, which was fine – but what if I wanted something from the menu? Again, the needs of the hotel came first and not the guests. I think that’s a shame and can honestly say I won’t return.

Because this area is undergoing a rebirth, construction is everywhere. It’s inevitable. I only wish Bobo would have told us with plenty of warning that we’d be right on top of it. I would have packed a hard hat.

Happy Montevideo, Uruguay

New_header_interstate_3
Matt_in_montevideo_1

I’m really trying NOT to be naive here people, so if you can shed light on my situation I’d greatly appreciate it.

We’ve been in Montevideo for 4 hours, and every single person we’ve come in contact with has been beautiful, smiling, polite, friendly and funny.


The cab driver? Delightful.

The bank teller? Giggly.

The hotel clerk? Uber-sweet.

The bartender? Charming.

The waitress? All smiles

The lady in passing at the ATM? So adorable.

I am going through great pains not to generalize, but there has not been one person here in Montevideo that hasn’t been gracious and warm. It’s like a dream, where everyone is happy and nice and oozes generosity (not to mention that the people here are so utterly attractive!)

What is it? A beautiful country? The old buildings? Something in the water?

Whatever it is, I’m glad we are here.

Montevideo, gracias!

The Best No Name Milanesa

Best_milanesa
Restaurant

“I don’t tell too many people about this place. I’m not sure they’ll ‘get it’ ” Patricia told us as we asked for her recommendation for the best Milanesa in town. And it was not an easy question, considering this is a town of 3 million people–14 if you count the greater Buenos Aires area. But as a Porteño and a hotel owner, she knows exactly what to recommend and what not to share, and we were glad she let us know about this little gem.

As luck would have it, the restaurant in question was only down the street from our hotel. It was the antithesis of fancy, with no sign or name on the outside, just a brightly lit cafe filled with workers, plumbers, electricians, and those searching for a good meal. Because of the strong exchange rate one can eat in Buenos Aires’ nicer restaurants every single day, but sometimes the glitz and glamour of places can wear thin, leaving you wanting something so completely normal, unfussy, and local.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t spend much time with the menu. In fact, I don’t think I even looked at it. I was on a mission and I wasn’t going to be distracted. The friendly yet gruff waiter spoke to us with such speed and force that I immediately felt confused and it took a while for my brain to register that he had advised us to share our entrees. Like many things here in Buenos Aires, people are serious when it comes to their food. Thank god.

Milanesa

“Milanesa con papas fritas, por favor,” I said, while Adam went for the Napolitana version. While I generally agree that anything with cheese, ham, and sauce is an improvement, I was here to enjoy it in its most sublime form, garnished with only a lemon.

If you’ve never had Milanesa, let me break it down for you. It’s food from the gods, pure and simple. And while milanesa varies from region to region, here in Argentina it is a thin cut of beef that has been dipped in eggs, seasoned with salt, sometimes flour, and dipped into breadcrumbs then fried. It is very similar to schnitzel and remarkably close to chicken fried steak. Hmmm, could this be why I love it so much? Squeeze a bit of lemon juice on the meat, slice in and you’re in heaven. Especially when potatoes are standing by.

My milanesa was flavorful with just the perfect amount of outside crunch and inside tenderness. And I’m not embarrassed to say I ate the entire thing, potatoes included. We’ve since returned a few times, trying the bife de chorizo (excellent) and the sandwich de milanesa (yep, excellent too).

I must thank our host for introducing us to such an amazing place. If you’re ever in Palermo you must check out “El Bar Del Gallego”.  It’s not fancy, it’s not fussy, but it’s always good.

Table_top

“El Bar Del Gallego”, corner of Bonpland and Honduras in Buenos Aires.

My Birthday Dinner. With Meat.

Meat_header

Crown_and_matt

336582425_923ed46b98_1
I like to think I have a decent grasp on the 7 deadly sins. I’m not overly vain, anger isn’t an issue for me, and sloth & laziness have never fit into my neurotically busy life. But when we headed to La Cabrera in Buenos Aires for dinner last night, that one little tiny vice-o-mine came crashing into full view.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Gluttony.

Yea yea yea, I know it’s a sin. But it was my 37th birthday and I’ll find any excuse to indulge and overdo it on every possible level. And last night I think we all exceeded our goals.

Buenos Aires is packed with parillas, the traditional Argentine meal of grilled beef that makes the Texas barbecues I grew up with pale in comparison. It’s not my goal to incite a riot here, but you can’t deny the love and passion the porteños have when it comes to their beef. I figured there could be no better way to celebrate than with wine, beef, and good friends.

La Cabrera is located in the Palermo Viejo area of Buenos Aires. Filled with tree lined streets, the area is home to small boutiques, cafes, warehouses and artists’ galleries and is quite the hot spot for hipsters and urbanites alike. I’ve had my share of parillas, some great and some not-so-great, so when La Cabrera was recommended by everyone we met along our trip I knew it could not be missed.  We arrived at 9 to a restaurant that was cozy yet packed, loud and filled with the sounds of people leisurely enjoying a meal. We were strategically seated in the crowded room, ordered a decent bottle of torrontes and proceeded to sin. And sin we did.

Meat_2_up_2

I’m had my share of large meals, but my eyes and delicate sensibilities (hahaha) are always so shocked when an Argentine steak is placed before me. It’s always large, it’s always prepared with nothing more than salt, and I always wonder if I will be able to finish it. And finish it I always do.

I ordered ojo de bife, a punto. This is basically a rib eye, prepared “a punto” which translates to medium. As a rule, Argentina tends to cook their meat longer than we are used to, and this fact caused a bit of frustration with my traveling friends (we’ve sinced learned to ask for things “jugoso”). But in La Cabrera’s case, my steak was perfect and completely delicious, served with an assortment of sides like eggplant and nuts, couscous, tomatoes in sauce, sweet pickled garlic and various small salads. Yes, I tasted everything that was offered, but I was so completed enthralled with my steak that almost nothing else seemed to exist in that moment in time.

Like most meals here in Buenos Aires, we left a few hours later, completely satisfied and in a true beef frenzy. La Cabrera was so completely delicious that we have plans on returning and doing it all over again next week.

Gluttony never tasted so good.

Aftermath

 

La Cabrera, Cabrera 5099, Cuidad de Buenos Aires, Palermo.  Tel: 4831-7002

A “Home” Away From Home

Feb_11_2
Home_hotel_collage_1

Ok, let me get this one little cliché out of the way (sorry, Dana).

There’s no place like home.

This phrase has been running through my mind the past few days as we’ve been spending time at one of Buenos Aires’ newest boutique hotels. Regular readers will know I don’t usually get teary-eyed over accommodations, and I can’t remember actually writing a post dedicated to a hotel, but now I’ve found a reason.

Home Hotel opened in 2005 by Tom Rixton, a British music producer, and his wife Patricia O’Shea, in the hip Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. At first glance you might be taken slightly back by the cool demeanor of the building – polished concrete, mid-century Scandinavian furniture and splashes of vintage colorful wallpaper greet you everywhere you turn. But make no mistake about it: this hotel is just as comfortable and warm as you can imagine. And then some.

Aside from a strong architectural presence and superb graphic design in everything from the web site to their collateral materials (thanks to the stellar Remolino), Home’s true strength is something that can’t be achieved by pushing pixels or polishing concrete. It’s the people-–pure and simple.

I can’t remember the last time a hotel has made me feel like a member of the family. Warm, engaging, and friendly on every level, it’s apparent that this hotel is run by people who enjoy what they do and love their city. In fact, the owner Patricia will generously provide you with a list of the current hot spots tailored to your interests. She alo gets extra points for steering you away from places that don’t offer the best of Buenos Aires.

The rooms are spacious and comfortable and all the amenities are here, but unless you’re staying in the loft or garden suite you may find yourself spending most of your time by the pool. This is a city after all, and a pool and garden nestled within a crowded neighborhood provide a level of tranquility you don’t expect.

Breakfast_images_2

And then there’s my favorite part – the food. Home Hotel has a wonderful café that specializes in tapas and a signature breakfast every morning. Medialunas, café con leche, juice in delicious combinations like apple & basil or orange & saffron, breads with homemade marmalades, ganache and fresh fruit make waking up worthwhile. And that’s saying quite a bit, considering how much Buenos Aires enjoys its nightlife.

There is a reason Home Hotel is so popular with the fashionable jetset crowd. But all the buzz in the world wouldn’t mean a thing if this hotel didn’t offer its guests a truly relaxing, one-of-a-kind experience.

Tom_patricia_2


Life is good. Very good.

Life_is_good

Adampool

We’re here in Argentina, catching up on sleep after a very long flight. We’re also relaxing, eating tons and being taken care of so amazingly well by the wonderful folks at Home Hotel.

I’ll be posting a few updates soon, I just wanted to share a picture of the world’s best husband swimming around in the pool. In February. Thank god for inverted seasons.

Life is good!

Sad Crops and How To Help

Feb_6

Something from EaterLA that I thought I’d pass along…

"The farmers that allow us to have beautiful produce on the table when
we go out to eat are having a tough time following last month’s cold
snap, and chefs Suzanne Goin and Evan Kleinman want to
help. During February, their restaurants and several others will offer
special menus to raise money for the farmers. When you think about this, it’s easy to see why the direct farm-to-restaurant relationship is a good thing. So far, Angeli Caffe, Lucques, AOC, The Hungry Cat, Grace, Canele, Border Grill, Beacon, and others have signed up; a full list, which is updated regularly, can be found here.

If I wasn’t 5,000 miles from home I’d jump on this. An opportunity to help farmers while dining at some of our best restaurants? C’mon now, seriously. AOC? Hungry Cat? Grace? Seems like a natural to me.