Argentina – Polo, Maradona, Beef, Pigs Small Intestines and Sweetbreads!

Looking into the ‘Devil’s Throat’ on the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls was quite surreal! A few days earlier, an 11.5 hour flight from Heathrow had bought 30 or so of us workmates on a trip of a lifetime, a reward for (very) hard work well done, and I was in the group.2018-12-10 12.31.45The landing point was Buenos Aires in Argentina, only 6,910 miles from London and our base for the first few days was the delightful Four Seasons Hotel on the edge of the city, brushing the River Plate which is the widest river in the world, 140 miles at its mouth.

Argentina has not really been high on my bucket list, other than the area of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego which has always appealed due to the amazing landscape and ‘rawness’, so the opportunity to visit South America was not to be missed, and we would also be going to Brazil, but more of that 07-12-2018, 00 40 12A buffet had been organised on our arrival which was very tasty and the 1st introduction to Argentina’s ‘style’, albeit at a top end hotel the selection was very good with Ceviche which has its origins in Peru and Beef, obviously on the menu as an Argentinian staple. A lovely selection of beautiful desserts finished the meal for those with a sweet tooth. photo 06-12-2018, 17 42 09Following lunch, free time enabled us to explore and stretch the legs after the long flight so with the nearby Recoleta Cemetery being a short walk away, a famous land mark where ‘Evita’ was entombed that’s where most of us randomly headed, in my case via some deli’s to see what was on offer!!photo 06-12-2018, 17 41 53The deli’s were very good, with a surprising selection of cheese, something you do not associate with South America!

The first ‘proper’ meal out was at a local restaurant ‘Cabana Las Lilas’, one of the 10 best restaurants in the world according to the New York times and also awarded for its fine wine cellar, they have their own Estancias or ranches where their best Beef is 07-12-2018, 00 58 53There were several interesting new ‘tastes’ on the menu at this lovely waterside establishment, the ‘Provoleta’, a grilled chewy cheese pictured above, not unlike Halloumi in texture but without the bacon flavour it’s marinaded in herbs before being given the fire treatment!photo 07-12-2018, 01 34 05Pommes soufflées, crispy twice cooked puffed potatoes which were really delicious, the skill in making these is something on my list of things to do in 2019!! BUT, they do need a decent slug of salt to make them 07-12-2018, 02 31 58There was of course meat, and lots of it, Steak done three ways, Chorizo Sausage and Chicken it was all very tasty and washed down with copious quantities of Malbec. Chimichurri was the sauce of preference and is made of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano and red wine vinegar. Dessert was a simple but extremely tasty Tarte Tartin with Vanilla Ice Cream. #Stuffed!!!photo-07-12-2018-11-07-22.jpgRush hour in Buenos Aires is intense, 4 lanes solid for what seems likes hours but the sun was shining on the 1st full day in Argentina, and there was lots on the agenda to get done, next stop brekkies!!

Breakfast was very good indeed, the highlight being the most delicious home (Hotel) cured ham that was on offer with fresh sour dough bread and ‘proper’ tomatoes and local cheese. It’s so nice to try the local produce and a real treat to miss the heavy fried offerings that usually don’t work due to availability of produce, or interpretations that miss the point! The meat ageing fridges were visible and you could see the love, care and attention afforded to the produce.2018-12-07 18.46.08Anyone for POLO? The coach arrived on time and took us south of Buenos Aires to ‘Polo One’, a massive area with 2 Polo Pitches and all the facilities to make for an interesting day.

Our host was a national Polo hero and now retired from active playing, he commentates on ESPN, and trains Polo Players all over the world, his brother still plays and was in the special match organised for us after the history and game had been explained to us, with top players from India, Chile and the one that had flown in from Singapore the day before, it was one hell of an experience!

Each of our numerous meals had a menu (as above)  and in this case was an ‘Asado’ , a barbecue of assorted meats. To get the taste buds going we had ‘Choripán’, Chorizo Sausage in Bread and a staple of Argentina’s street scene along with ‘Empanadas’ the famous small baked pasties with either Meat or Vegetable filling, both were very tasty washed down with suitable refreshment.

Then meat, more meat and even more meat, and the ubiquitous Malbec Red Wine which was always very popular for some reason!  The event was fantastic, the Polo was amazing and we were made to feel really welcome, an experience well worth looking for if you get to this part of the 08-12-2018, 01 03 08The restaurant ‘Sucre’ was our destination for the evenings entertainment food wise, a 20 minute coach ride from the hotel, the suspicion was that meat might be on the menu, and of course it was!

We were presented with options for each course and my eye was attracted by ‘Grilled Sweetbreads’, never had those before so that course was easy! Mains included the ubiquitous Beef, along with Fresh Atlantic Fish of the Day and a Pesto dish, so I went for Fish. Not being a sweet fiend (diabetic Type I reasons), I normally go for the cheese course but the speciality of the house was Dulce de Leche Lava Cake with Banana Sorbet, so that was the job done!

So, the Sweetbreads were delicious, will defo order them again, the fish was unfortunately overcooked and for me the dish didn’t really work, the Pak Choi was so tough you could not cut it with the Fish Knife, the dessert…..BOOOOOOOOM! A nice Chardonnay worked throughout. Despite the Fish it was a nice meal and I got to try something new.2018-12-08 15.48.02I’m not into football but that did not stop the enjoyment of the next day, visiting the infamous ‘Hand of God’s’ (Maradona) football club Boca Juniors at La Bombonera Stadium, in the La Boca area of Buenos Aires. Following the tour free time enabled us to see the colourful district and sample some more…….meat!

Menus are dangerous! Gran Paraiso ‘Parilla al Carbon’ sits in a lovely sheltered courtyard and serves traditional food, at the entrance the chef is doing his magic to various cuts of meat, and ‘other’ items as will become clear.

If you order the Parrillada Completa (complete Barbecue), your selection is served on a miniature barbecue with hot coals keeping things very warm indeed! So surveying the menu some options hit me straight away, ‘Chitterlings’, hmmmm, Pigs Small Intestine, they sound……interesting. Yep, lets go for those and oh, a Barbecue for One and the Baked Potato thingy.

My colleagues went conventional and ordered steak, ribs and stuff along with beers, I was on the wine as usual! The food arrived and OMG, enough for a family of four was presented before me as you can see above. Blood Sausage, Kidney, Chorizo, Ribs, Flank Steak, Pork and Chicken, along with the interesting looking Chitterlings, yummmmm. It worked out at £27 for my food and drink, and it was very tasty. The Chitterlings I would say might be an acquired taste, which I acquired very quickly, another item off the menu bucket list!

Following lunch we wandered the colourful streets, walking off the calories ready for the evenings events and another delicious meal!!  Anyone for TANGO!!file-05-01-2019-18-04-48.pngArgentinas other passions include Tango. La Boca, the area we had been in earlier had numerous displays of dancers strutting their stuff on the street, but the evenings treat was a ‘proper’ show with a nice meal beforehand.file 05-01-2019, 18 16 39 This was probably my favourite meal during the 5 day tour, the Burrata was simple but very tasty, the Lamb Ravioli with Sage Cream was stunning, the Chocolate Marquise was rich, very rich, in fact the portion size was massive and could have been halved, with the accompanying sauce doubled and it would have been perfect.

The Tango show was absolutely stunning, the dancing exquisite, the singing beautiful and the live band delivered an amazingly tuneful experience which was thoroughly enjoyable. #Stuffed_Again!

If ever you are in Buenos Aires the show is held at the ‘Faena Hotel’ and well worth booking for a proper Tango experience. Time for bed, up early tomorrow!

The Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas is located on the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls, the only Hotel in the National Park and a 5* Paradise. The views of the falls are stunning from the viewing point very close to the hotel and if you are lucky as I was, you can see Toucan’s in their native habitat, and in my case a baby Toucan which is in the header picture, mind blowing!!

We had left Buenos Aires 1st thing and with a flight of only 1 hour 15 mins, and successfully navigating border crossings etc. were soon ready for our next adventure, we were now in Brazil and going to get………. Wet, Wet, Wet!img_4593It’s difficult to describe the feeling of tons of water falling down on you, the waterproof cameraphone stood up to the deluge and I have about 15 minutes video of the numerous times our skipper drove the boat into the water at different angles. Above is a capture of our other boat with the rest of the gang getting a thorough soaking, it was an experience I shall never forget. You can see several videos of other people doing this on Youtube if you want more detail!!photo 10-12-2018, 00 15 11When in Brazil and all that! The evening was the last of the trip and so everyone was talking about the numerous experiences, Polo, Football, Tango, Waterfalls, Getting Wet and of course the food.

Our last evenings food was, as usual very good and no surprises Beef was to be the main event. Tilapia Ceviche led the parade with a selection of desserts finishing things off the evening flew buy with much laughter as our hosts said well done to all of use for making the trip, and gave out a few awards in jest for various events. I won the David Bellamy award for the Toucan Pictures, well chuffed I was indeed.

Caramel Bananas for Breakfast anyone! I think I was first to eat the following day, not that I was keen to start the journey home but we had a ‘whats app’ group and my habit of posting breakfast pictures did sway a few people in their choice of food. This morning I went for a freshly cooked omelette, which was lovely.

We had a walking tour of the falls after breakfast, following a farewell drink and packed lunch we headed to the regional airport to fly to Sao Paulo, and then to Rio de Janeiro before heading back to London, quite a trek but well worth it.

I will leave you with some pictures of the falls, stunning they are the largest in the world.  After nearly 12 months break from the food blog I will be kicking into action this year so watch out.

……………………….Until Next Time…………….L8ers……………..