Eating Buenos Aires! La Cabrera: Your Sweetbreads, are My Weak-Ness

(the title should make sense to those compos mentis in the 80s ;)

In Argentina, you seek out beef. That’s a given. The Argentine and particularly gaucho diets until relatively recently consisted almost entirely of beef and all sorts of offal. All cuts fired over parrilla flames and served toppling on platters.

Nothing is  wasted when an animal is slaughtered here, Argentines absolutely love offal. The sweetbreads (thymus and pancreas) are some of the best that I have ever eaten, simply cooked with lemon juice over some hot coals, the crisp offal taste rich and delicate. The chewy rich chitterlings (intestines) are fought over by children. When the bullocks are castrated, the testicles are slung on the parrilla to be eaten. It’s a time of year that all farmers here look forward to.

Wine list at La Cabrera

So, the Aubergine Parrillas (BBQs) are a must and they are everywhere. In Buenos Aires, I explored and visited quite a few. I have 3 favourites (so far!), the first being La Cabrera in Palermo.

Palermo is like the Notting Hill of Buenos Aires. Once quite a rough area it is now all glamour and gloss, with the associated price tag. It does have some really good restaurants though, and naturally the tourists flock here. With La Cabrera there is a lot of hype and so it is insanely popular (even now in low season) but it really lives up to the chatter.

It is actually split over two restaurants, and we chose to sit outside as it was a beautiful sunny day. We were lucky that we didn’t have to wait, but worry not if you do, they will give you sparkling wine to ease the torture.

Provoleta at La Cabrera

A must when in Argentina is the provoleta, a hallmark of the strong Italian influence here, it is an Argentine variant of Italian provolone cheese, waxy and firm, it cooks beautifully. Cooked in cast iron little pots until gooey and crisp, usually with herbs and olive oil it’s incredibly more-ish. A rich starter when lots of meat is due, but it is a must.

La Cabrera in Buenos Aires

La Cabrera is famous for its sweetbreads so we had to order those. We also, wisely, ordered a large rib eye between 3, and trust me that at lunchtime, with all of the side dishes and the salad (simply to ward off scurvy you understand!), it was enough. We needed to leave room for dinner.

Spinach with Tarragon / Mustard Sauce at La Cabrera

A word of warning when you order here, the Argentines like their beef well done, so be sure to order it to your liking. The sweetbreads arrived, and were enormous. Beef pancreas I expect.. I was grateful that I wasn’t eating on my own as I often do.

Sweetbreads at La Cabrera

A thin crisp coating gave way to a succulent rich mass. An uninitiated diner described them of tasting of delicious crispy fat. I couldn’t put it better although it does ignore the gorgeous lighter interior. The steak was rich and large. And all of those sides (all delivered with every order on the house) were playful and a nice distraction from all of that meat. Some spinach with a tarragon mustard sauce was gorgeous and we just slathered it all over the steak.

BEEF! Lots of beef at La Cabrera, Buenos Aires

Meaty spread at La Cabrera, Buenos Aires

We toddled off happily after. Not slayed but pleasantly full. Which is an acquired talent when eating out in Buenos Aires. A siesta is always in order here though, especially after a parrilla indulgence, so make sure you fit one in.

La Cabrera, José Antonio Cabrera 5127, Buenos Aires


Eating Argentina: Horseriding in the Andes and a Gaucha Lunch

So, if you’ve been reading for a while, and especially if you are on twitter and follow me there, you will know that this trip to Argentina has been delayed twice.

I was supposed to go last November, after I won a trip for a piece published on Bibendum Times, sponsored by Argento Wines with my friend Denise, The Wine Sleuth. I watched from the sidelines (through wet Irish windows) as Denise explored, extended and eventually stayed for 3 months. Pure torture, I couldn’t wait. I had to postpone to January, and then had to postpone again. But, finally I am here, and it’s almost winter, but winter here is like Spring in the UK and it’s lovely.

I finally caught up with Argento Wines in Mendoza, and visited the Bodega, Casa Argento and had a wine tasting (more on that later, for now my favourites, as – almost – always, were the reds, especially the reserva Cabernet Sauvignon & Malbecs). The absolute highlight of the 2-day trip to visit them was a trip to Walter Subillo at his estancia, Estancia San Pablo at the foot of the Andes. I say the foot of the Andes but it’s actually at 1200 metres, which is higher than Ireland’s highest mountain (no great claim I know!).

Walter is a real life gaucho, farmer, and winemaker and lives self sufficiently here with his family. He takes people out on gaucho days, horse riding and fly fishing the traditional gaucho way. So, my crash course in being a gaucha began.

We started with a terrific breakfast of hot crispy gaucho bread with jams – one a lovely stringy melon one and the other cherry – with walnuts before progressing to some horse riding in the Andes.

Horses are notoriously big and cranky, and I am a bit unpredictable myself, so I was nervous but I really wanted to do it. After loading my carcass on to the horse we proceeded and I was thrilled to see that my horse was as lazy as me so we plodded along gently, always behind the others. I was afraid to use the accelerator (by kicking him) with much force.

We rode through the river, up a steep mini mountain, back down, up another, you get my drift. For about 2 hours. I was very proud of myself on my return until I saw a 3 year old get up on my horse. I know my place.

The day really kicked into gear with a terrific lunch. The Andes can be a harsh environment so food is preserved as much as possible, and mostly in Walter’s case it is homegrown.

In his cave were lots of preserved peaches in jars, brined olives, sun or woodoven dried tomatoes with herbs, a leg of ham, homemade salami, lots of jams including cherry. And lots of wine too.

We started with olives, homemade salami and tomatoes and – WOW. Those tomatoes were some of the best that I have ever eaten. The salami and olives were terrific too. Two plates towering with empanadas were too attractive to resist. We washed it all down with some Argento Malbec and proceeded to the next course.

Walter cooked up some trout he had caught in the river and some vegetables over an open fire and served it with a gorgeous fresh salad, more tomatoes with his own vinegar and bread. Delicious and so fresh tasting, it was nice to get a break from the meat.

And then the kid goat was served. Again, Walter’s own animal. Everything was served and I was very impressed to see the kids run to the wood oven and request the chitterlings. Walter’s 9 month old daughter was teething and nibbled on a warm goat bone. Argento Cabernet sauvignon accompanied me as I chowed down on some gorgeous kid goat ribs.

And then the beef. A big plate of beef. I was almost defeated but could fit a bit more in. It was – you guessed – terrific. New adjectives please.

Then to the fire where we had dessert of homemade fresh cheese, with some of those conserved peaches, homemade membrillo, Walter’s walnuts and preserved cherries. Beautiful and fresh, I was grateful for it, and left my coffee sit next to the fire to stay warm as I ate it. I envied the cat and dog sleepy underneath it. But they don’t have tv, eh?

And that was it. Not quite a gaucha (yet) but what an experience.


Estancia San Pablo

I did: US$150 per person horse riding or fly fishing with breakfast and lunch

Also available: US$250 per person for a full day horse riding /fly fishing / breakfast / lunch / dinner / accommodation


Eating Argentina: Mendoza! We’re in Empanada Country Now

Best Empanadas Ever? Well, so far, yes :)

Where are the best empanadas in Argentina? Everyone says Mendoza but where exactly in Mendoza you will only know if you are a local. Happily I was with one.

I was feeling a bit peckish so asked if we could stop off for some empanadas after a long day whizzing around wineries. (It’s a hard life!). It was 5 hours since lunch but still 3 hours from our Argentinian dinner time so my tum was protesting severely. Sure, of course! And she promptly picked up the phone and put in an order.

Home of Amazing Empanadas!

20 minutes later we were at a small typical house outside Mendoza in a small town called Chacro. These are the best empanadas in Mendoza, I was confidently informed, she is very famous and lots of people come here.

An old lady in an apron answered the door and proceeded to joyfully tell us all about a local wedding the week before where one of 5 daughters of a local doctor married an Irish guy and 100 people from Ireland came for the wedding (we do that kind of thing!). She was very proud and thrilled to be there herself.

I got a quick tour of the rotisseria, I was only sad it was too late in the evening to try it. At the side were big jars of preserved peaches and large bottles of homemade tomato sauce. She proudly showed me her enormous outdoor wood oven where she makes her empanadas and her specialty, suckling pig. I was salivating.

Amazing Woodoven, Terrible Photo (Sorry!)

Then came the empanadas. In exchange for 25 pesos (£4) she gave us a paper wrapped parcel which I could not wait to open. In side were twelve gorgeous wood blistered empanadas, about half the size of their bigger Buenos Aires cousins, filled with the traditional Mendocian filling of beef, onion and eggs. Some use olives too but not these ones. apparently that is something the younger people do.

I wondered if we had over egged it, 12 empanadas for 2. I quickly discovered I had no trouble demolishing my 6. The crisp roasted pastry, incredibly savoury and with a gorgeous bite from pork lard, encased a rich gorgeous beef, onion and finely chopped egg filling.

Sadly, and appropriately, the recipe is secret. But, wow, another trip highlight. How will I ever leave Argentina? (I shouldn’t tempt that volcano).


Palate Cleanser: A Postcard from Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Streets - gorgeous paper shop in Palermo

So, here in Buenos Aires it is definitely all about the food. From the parrillas to the Peruvian ceviche, the asados to the empanadas.

There is so much more here though, it would be a crime to speak only of the food. Colourful shops and streets, eccentircities and lots of style. So, here’s a little palate cleanser before my next food post of things I’ve noticed and loved on the Buenos Aires streets and a few other random bits.

Buenos Aires Streets

Lovely light in my hotel room

Buenos Aires Streets

Buenos Aires Streets

Buenos Aires Streets

Superb ( and huge) breakfast at Fierro Hotel, Buenos Aires

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