Tag Archives: asado

Córdoba Part II: For the adrenaline junkie

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Having learnt all there was to learn from the capital city, we headed south to La Cumbrecita, a pedestrian-only village (the bus drops you off in a parking lot and you cross a bridge on foot to get into town) founded by the survivors of a German shipwreck of the Graf Spee (okay, I guess the history lessons weren’t completely over, though how a bunch of shipwreck survivors made it all the way to the dead center of the country was never clearly explained).

The town is hilariously Deutsch in everything from its alpine-style houses to its abundance of chocolate shops. We found the one campsite in town (which happened to be the most visually stunning we’d encountered thus far, despite the wild horses which seemed inordinately interested in our tent) and spent the next the next couple days eating goulash and knackwürst and zip-lining across magnificent waterfalls at the “Alpine* Adventure Park” with our leiderhosen-clad guides. A thoroughly good time was had by all. *Note on just how German this town is… Did anyone else notice that we’re in the Andes?

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Remember the ham buns we raved about? Here is the source!
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Waiting for the trencita – En route to the Alpine Adventure Park! (yodel-le-eehoo!!)
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The alarmingly friendly horse: our tent may be green, but it’s not on the menu!!
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Our last stop in Córdoba was a town called La Cumbre, where we spent a couple lazy days enjoying the much-awaited break in humidity (autumn has finally reached the southern hemisphere!!!) and drinking mate with Martín, the owner of the campsite.

Our last day there, however, we made up for our laziness by throwing ourselves off a cliff while strapped to burly Hispanic men and large sheets of silk: aka paragliding!

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Fechu, our paragliding professional, picked us up at our campsite and drove us to the top of a mountain, where we stood on the edge and stared in awe at the minuscule rivers in the valley below, trying to fathom our descent. As we stood patiently, being strapped into innumerable harnesses, Pablo, another paraglider, asked Josh to move forward a bit. Then to take a few more steps forward…

All I heard next was my husband yelling, “Wait – we’re going?!!” and suddenly there they went, off the edge of the cliff and disappearing around the mountain.

As I debated whether or not I should let someone know that Josh and Pablo had just vanished, Fechu called another guy over to “hold me down.” As they lifted up the parachute, someone kept hold of my harness and yanked me firmly downwards, to keep me from floating prematurely away! Suddenly it was my turn to be told to “Run – you need to run forward now!”

“Towards the edge?!” I shrieked.

“Yes, go!!!”

So I ran (as fast as one can run when strapped to both a brawny Argentine as well as a parachute)… but suddenly, my feet weren’t touching the ground anymore; instead, they were swinging freely as the wind whooshed beneath them. Every dream I’ve ever had of flying was realized in that glorious half-hour of circling thousands of meters above the earth. With nothing touching me but the seat of the harness, the sun on my face, and the breeze around my legs, I felt more peaceful – and more invigorated! – than I could ever have imagined.

Going…
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Going…
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Gone!
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My flight from Josh’s perspective:
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After a few minutes of flying, I guess my silence worried Fechu, since he called, “Te gusta?”
(Do you like it?)

“Si, me encanta,” I responded, amazed he could think any less, “pero no tengo palabras!”
(I love it, but I just don’t have the words for it!)

The entire time in the air, I had two thoughts:
1. This is incredible.
2. Mom really wouldn’t be happy about this.

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The landing worried me: I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories of knee-wrecking impacts and having to run your feet off. But as the ground started to loom closer, Fechu maneuvered it so that we landed softly on the ground, with as much impact as sitting down on a chair. The only mishap? We landed in a horse pasture, and both Josh and I landed right in poop.

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Afterwards, we were waiting for a ride back down the mountain when they asked us if we’d like to go see the nearby Río Pinto. We readily agreed, and got packed into a truck with four Argentines who had also just been paragliding. When we were dropped off at the river, we discovered that our ride back to town wasn’t leaving for five hours, so we were stuck here in the middle of nowhere with four strangers.

Amazingly, the strangers turned out to be some of the funniest and kindest people, four friends reunited for a week-long vacation who were happy to share their time together with us. After lunching together on asado, we found a gorgeous swimming hole and spent all afternoon relaxing, getting driven back to town in time to catch the most amazing sunset over the mountains.

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Yanina, Seba, Victoria y Leo: ¡Muchísimas gracias por un día inolvidable! 🙂

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¡Viva la Vino!

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We wrote it off as just another funny but exaggerated story told by our hosts: sure, Argentines are notoriously loco for their fiestas, but there was no way a parade would actually have beauty queens hurling fruit into the crowds.

To our hosts – and Vendimia – we apologize for doubting you.

Friday night, Josh and I followed the excited throng to Calle San Martin in Mendoza capital. We wedged ourselves between two little girls decked out in sparkles and crowns and waving baskets adorned with “Señorita Agostina’s” picture.

Turning water into wine (or at least close enough!)
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Every summer, each region of the Mendoza province elects a queen, and in the weeks preceding Vendimia, pictures of these regional queens pop up everywhere: in store windows, in the newspaper, in our host family’s kitchen (where the kids then demanded that Josh and I pick our favorite queen…) The reina madness culminates in Via Blanca, a procession of regional floats each bearing their queen and all her attendants decked out in prom dresses and hair that would do Dolly Parton proud. While the queen graciously waves to her adoring public, her attendants have the task of hurling regional delicacies into the crowd. Apples, grapes, bottles of Mendocino spring water, bottles of wine, melons, and in the case of one float, bits of asado meat are all chucked with gusto into a sea of outstretched hands and (for the Vendimia-veterans out there) baskets on tall poles.

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It felt a bit like the Winnipeg Hydro Santa Claus Parade I attend every year with my mom… Just put Santa in a sparkly dress, and have cantaloupe exploding at your feet instead of pieces of candy cane.

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What would a wine festival be without Bacchus? (Hey, the girls in the crowd need some eye candy too!)
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Only in Argentina: The asado float!
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To further celebrate Mendoza wine, we took a day trip to Maipu, a tiny town about an hour from the capital, where we spent a gloriously sunny afternoon biking around town and exploring its countless wineries and olive groves.

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La Bodega Rural (Est. 1885)

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Wine press and skins made of entire cow hides
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La Trapiche (Est. 1883)
* Fun fact: The main man at Trapiche was originally in cahoots with La Rural! *

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For all you wine enthusiasts out there, head to your nearest LC (or gas station, you crazy Yanks), pick up a bottle of La Trapiche, and think of us!
FYI: Don’t waste time worrying about “good” or “bad” vintages of Mendocino wine. Mendoza has near-perfect growing conditions 363/365 days of the year, so every year is a good year!

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¡Feliz cumpleaños!

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Birthdays are always exciting (so much so that I usually try to claim an entire birthday week to celebrate!) but this year, being several continents away from home lent an extra-special air to each of our birthdays.

November 03: ¡Feliz cumple JOSUÉ!
Josh’s birthday took place in Antarctica.

I feel like little more needs to be said about why it was amazing.

However! While any birthday (/any day at all) spent in Antarctica is guaranteed to be absolutely incredible and unique and mind-blowing, Josh’s birthday managed to be even more eventful than expected. His birthday celebration actually started on November 01 (two days before his actual birthday), when all the lights went off in the dining room and Hector the chef walked in carrying a blazing cake and singing happy birthday.

My first reaction was one of panic – I had been planning to talk to the kitchen the next day to see if they could arrange a special dessert or at least find a candle to stick in Josh’s dinner. Now, someone had beaten me to it… and they were two days early!

Josh’s reaction was one of bemusement – it wasn’t even his birthday, but everyone was urging him to blow the candles out, so he did.

“¡Feliz cumpleaños, Stefan!” beamed Hector.

“Stefan?” questioned a startled Josh.

“Um… It’s actually my birthday,” said a confused voice from the other corner of the dining room.

What are the odds of two twenty-something, shaggy-headed guys wearing white toques, with birthdays two days apart, both being on the same boat to Antarctica? Apparently once you’re in Antarctica, anything is possible! 🙂

We had to spend the next two days trying to convince people who jokingly wished Josh a happy birthday that his birthday really was coming up! Josh’s actual birthday was spent cruising fields of icebergs in the zodiacs and exploring Neko Harbour, home to an old emergency supply hut that is now overrun by a colony of curious Gentoo penguins.

Zodiac exploration:
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Our snow penguin:
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Gentoo penguins:
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That evening, we were eating dinner when, surprise! The lights went out and there was Hector, bearing another cake, this one, finally, with Josh’s name written on it!
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December 05: ¡Feliz cumple SARA!
When we were trying to plan our trip to Antarctica, we had two possibilities: we could either plan to celebrate Josh’s birthday in the white continent, or mine. We agreed that the November trip worked better… But I warned Josh that the standard was now set pretty high for my birthday! 😛

As always, my amazing husband did not disappoint! I was woken up at 6am (it was still a workday, sigh!) on the morning of my 24th birthday by Switchfoot’s “24” playing in the tent, which was decorated with streamers and balloons. As it happened, both our hosts had to go to town for the morning, so we had the house to ourselves as we worked, meaning that after weeks of very fun but unfamiliar Argentine punk music, we finally got to play U2 at full volume! Having a house to ourselves for the morning was maybe the best present I could have asked for: I absolutely loved our hosts, but you don’t realize how much you appreciate being able cook for yourself until you haven’t had your own kitchen for three months! My 24th birthday marked the occasion of me making my first mate, as well as cooking my first meal over a wood-stove (risotto – needs tweaking, but wasn’t too bad!)

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When our hosts returned home, I showed them Josh’s present to me, which was a pair of beautiful Mapuche earrings handmade by one of our host’s friends. But my birthday surprises still weren’t done: our host then gave me a necklace she had designed and made for me. It turned out Josh had gone to buy a necklace from her for my birthday, but she was already planning to make one for me specially, so she told him to go find something else! 🙂

Beautiful jewelry and kittens… What better birthday presents could there be?!
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We then saw our other host dragging a huge pile of firewood to the back of the house, which then was transformed into a huge roaring bonfire, which soon became a huge asado of Patagonico corderito (“lamb from Patagonia” aka world famous BBQ), which we had watched him slaughter the day before. For my birthday dinner, they cooked the lomo (tenderloin), which is ¡el parte más rico del animal! (the most delicious part of the animal!) We stood around eating lomo with our fingers until it grew dark, at which point our host brought out the nuez y dulce de leche cake she had baked for me.

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For lack of a candle, they had me blow out the burning end of a massive piece of firewood. Around 3am, we all finally stumbled off to bed.

It definitely wasn’t the same as celebrating at home, and all our lovely family and friends were definitely missed. But our birthdays this year were definitely very happy! 😀

Asado Lessons

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This is an emergency post in response to a comment from my dear mother on the nature of asado. First off, it’s important to know that all argentines eat meat literally all the time, in massive quantities, which they buy from a carneceria (literally translated as meatery) and cook on a grill (called a parrilla) over burning coals. My lesson (muchas gracias a David y Daniel) proceeded as follows:

1. Build a fire in a vented tin can, so as to heat the coals inside (also purchased from the meatery)

2. While coals are heating, clean grill with bits of frozen fat.

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3. Spread only the hottest coals underneath the parrilla. Once you can hold your hand directly over the metal for about fifteen seconds before it starts burning, it’s ready to go.

4. Ready the meat by rubbing in chimichurri (sauce made of garlic, jalapenos, onions, and other good things), then lay on the parrilla. The meat should NOT be cut into edible portions yet, and there should be enough to feed at least four times the number of people actually eating :P.

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5. After about half an hour, the meat is ready to flip. Note: flipping an entire chicken is extremely difficult.
(Note from Sara: the look on a porteño’s face as a Canadian attempts to flip an entire chicken is extremely entertaining!)

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6. Another half hour and the asado is ready to go. Cut into portions and balance the impressive heap on a plate. Bring into the eagerly awaiting comereros (‘eaters’…no, really, it’s a word!) who will traditionally applaud your arrival. Enjoy, possibly with a small side of lettuce and tomatoes as a polite nod to the fact that there are some other food groups out there besides meat. But who cares about those?

Bien provecho!

Wandering Canadians adopted by Argentine family: Part 1

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After two lovely days of wandering BA on our own, we braved Argentina’s telecabinas and finally got ahold of Cecilia, my aunt Esther’s cousin’s daughter (international travel is all about the ridiculously complicated connections!). Cecilia brought us home with her to Lanús, a barrio of Gran Buenos Aires (GBA).

Quick explanation: The city of Buenos Aires (BA) is located in the province of Buenos Aires (Bs.As.) and is utterly massive! The city centre (most often referred to as BA) is where most of the famous sites are located and is where most porteños (residents of BA) work, but most people live in the surrounding neighbourhoods (GBA).

Immediately, we were adopted by Lidia and Emilio, my aunt’s cousins, and their children: Raquel, Cecilia, David and Daniel. When we ended up having a 2-hour jam sesh on our very first night there, Josh and I knew we would feel right at home!

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This amazing family filled our days with delicious food, guided tours of the city, long discussions of politics and faith (in Spanish!) over copious servings of mate, and (much to Josh’s delight) asado lessons!

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It was Cecilia’s birthday the week we were there, and she decided to have a party with an “international” theme, preparing dishes from all the places she’s visited. She asked us if we could prepare a special dish from Canada. Josh and I put our heads together, trying to think of an authentically Canadian dish, whose recipe we could remember offhand and whose ingredients were readily available: RICE KRISPIE CAKE was the obvious choice!

However, it turns out Argentina has never heard of marshmallows, so the family was very intrigued to try this exotic and obviously very elaborate Canadian dish. Raquel made a special trip to the one store in the city where they had seen marshmallows sold… and brought home crazy, twisted pink marshmallows that smelt like coconut and vanilla. The end result? A neon-pink cake that was almost devoured before we could get it into the pan! 🙂

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Cecilia also asked us to teach the little kids from church a song in English, so Josh and I led them in a rousing rendition of “Peace Like a River” (and we knew we for sure in Argentina when one of the moms explained to her son, “Si, River, ¡como River Plate!”), and eventually got all the adults singing along too! All the people from their church felt like family: we had such a hard time saying goodbye and were only able to leave them by promising to return in April.

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¡Muchísimas gracias¡ a nuestra nueva familia y todos de nuestros nuevos amigos. 🙂