The best part about visiting Argentina, a country so rich with culture and tradition, is that you’re bound to create new discoveries with each trip. Last week it was something as simple as tasting a condiment for the first time that sent my brain into overdrive. Salsa Golf, a pale slightly orange spread with a salmon hue that straddles the line between mayonnaise and ketchup, appeared on our table when we ordered sandwiches in one of the high rise food courts of an ultra modern shopping mall in Buenos Aires.
“Whoa! Check this out! Oh my god! Salsa Golf!” Adam screamed immediately after emptying the packet next to his small mound of papas fritas. I could completely understand his enthusiasm.
Just so you know, I’m one of those people that gladly mixes ketchup and mayonnaise for french fries. And there’s absolutely no shame in my game. Having felt as if I just discovered Creamy Nirvana Delivered From The Heavens In A Condiment Packet, I felt like I needed to get to the bottom of Salsa Golf. I started asking around Buenos Aires and checked Wikipedia as well as Dan’s blog for clarification. He says it’s known as the national condiment of Argentina (next to Chimichurri, of course) and I can certainly see why. It’s wonderful on sandwiches, hearts of palm, french fries, potato chips, and just about anything else that is at home with a creamy dip. Other than a legend no one has really identified where it gets its name and unfortunately it’s rarely seen outside of South America.
After our Salsa Golf awakening we found ourselves strolling the aisles of Carrefour during an afternoon of shopping. I must say I’m happy that my traveling companions love checking out grocery stores when traveling as much as I do. At Carrefour there was an entire aisle dedicated to mayonnaise, mustards and barbecue sauces and then the jackpot!: an entire section devoted to Salsa Golf. I looked at my traveling companions and the idea hit us simultaneously- A Salsa Golf Tasting! And why not? We were staring at hundreds of packages and jars and bottles of the stuff, from store brands to generic to Hellman’s. We all agreed how much we immediately loved the stuff and knowing we’d never find it at home we thought we might as well get to know it as best as we could considering we’d probably never find it back home. An immersion course in Salsa Golf, if you will.
We filled our basket with various brands and headed back to the hotel. I think the staff caught on to our intentions when we starting asking them one by one about Salsa Golf. Do you like it? What do you eat it with? Do you have a favorite brand? What’s it best with? We told them about our Salsa Golf Taste Off 2009 and they delightfully offered to assist.
The Salsa Golf Taste Off 2009 Judges, clockwise: Brian L, Wine Marketing. Paul C., Wine Wholesaler. Dana R., Director of Online Community, NBC.com. Adam Pearson, Food Stylist. Aaron A., Buyer Amoeba Hollywood. Wade W., Whole Foods.
We planned and trained; we cleared our palates and made notes. We were serious about the SGTO 09 and meant business. And so did Home Hotel. They took our various brands, decanted and labeled them so that we wouldn’t know what we were tasting. Freshly fried french fries became the official food of the tasting and plenty of Quilmes made sure we were hydrated. But an added element of surprise? Home Hotel submitted their own house-made Salsa Golf into the tasting.
The blind tasting began with two groups. We chatted about texture, salinity, sweetness, which brands tasted nothing more than a simple mayo and ketchup blend, which brands had more depth, and how one version in particular had more dimension and flavor than the rest. We took notes as our friends at the hotel looked on. We drank beer. We drank more beer. I realized that taste testing is serious business, jars of fattening dressing or not.
After a group discussion I tallied the forms, noticing a clear winner. The ever delightful bartender Danny (who has quickly become a group favorite) then took our tallied forms and announced the winners. Now I know how those girls feel standing in front of Tyra Banks. And for the record I’d never trip in heels.
With 22 points, we all selected Danica brand as our least favorite in the tasting. The next was Hellman’s with 24.5 points, followed by Fanacoa with 26 points. And the winner, with a whopping 30.5 points?
Home Hotel’s Homemade Salsa Golf.
The casera, or house made, was the only Salsa Golf with dimension and character. It had a pronounced acid flavor that held up through the end of the bite. While the others were good, Home Hotel’s was excellent. It held its own with fries and beer. And the only bad thing about our tasting was knowing that once we return back to California we’ll probably never be able to find Salsa Golf.
I suppose I’ll always have Ketchup and Mayo. But it’s just not the same.
A very special thanks to our friends at Home Hotel in Buenos Aires. I cannot say enough about the owners Tom & Patricia as well as the staff. It’s impossible to have a bad moment at this place, it’s as relaxing and chill as you want it to be. It’s nothing short of magical and you’ll instantly feel like a member of the family once you arrive.
PLUS: I’m working on getting Home Hotel’s recipe for Salsa Golf for a future post. It will be the only thing that sustains me back home in the states until we come back to Buenos Aires. Or I could buy a new carry-on for the flight home and fill it with the stuff.