Tonight was, sadly, my last night in Bariloche, and my last night at the amazing hostel of Patanuk. But tonight was also time to celebrate: and we did so with an enormous dinner of roast beef. One of the Spanish-speaking new guests in the hostel cooked this sumptuous banquet, which almost all of us feasted on with delight. Juicy meat, crunchy roast veggies, and mountains of salad got polished to the bone. I sure ain't leaving this town hungry.
Before I came here to Argentina, I'd honestly never even heard of mate (pronounced MA-te, with "ma" as in "muster", and "te" as in "test"), let alone been aware that it's the country's most-prided national beverage. But now that I'm here, I've quickly become educated about it; and to visit Argentina without trying the famous drink would be nothing less than sacrilege. So, when I was offered a cupful today, I gladly accepted. It is quite a bitter tea — but it's not that bad, and I think that LP's description of mate-drinking as being akin to "ingesting horse $hit" is a bit harsh. However, I can see that, to put it mildly, mate is an acquired taste.
The sensational midnight parrilla that I had at Alberto's a few nights ago was simply too good — I had to get me some more! Tonight, a massive group of us had an evening exodus out of Patanuk, and so it was that I went to Bariloche's finest steak house one more time. Our table was piled high with platters of juicy beef cuts, with several pyramids of french fries, and with enough bottles of red wine to sink an aircraft carrier. Needless to say, this was a most satisfying night of gluttony in its most carnivorous form.
For dinner at Patanuk tonight, Finlandia spoiled us rotten, by cooking a delicious (and huge) dinner of ceviche (raw fish soaked in lemon juice). Of course, this being Finlandia, it was ceviche chileno — so not quite up there with ceviche peruano (nobody does it like them peruanos); but pretty daym fine nonetheless. Served with bread, salad, and quiche; and (of course) washed down with generous helpings of red wine.
Sarah cooked up a beautiful stew tonight, here at Patanuk, which a whole lot of us devoured in its entirety. Lovely big hunks of meat, fat roasted vegetables, and a thick and juicy gravy-like sauce. Perfect dish for a cold, rainy night in Argentina. And went great with the standard several bottles of red wine (goes without saying, really :P).
The spag bol last night just wasn't enough: tonight, we were up for some more Italian! My mate Dave cooked up a fantastic gnocchi tonight (gnocchi being my favourite food on Earth), with the rich tomato sauce full of fried, chopped-up chorizo (sausage). Because Argentina has had so many Italian immigrants over the years, foods such as gnocchi are widely sold in supermarkets everywhere. Sensational dinner — and accompanied by plenty of the red wine that seems to be standard with every meal around here.
It's been way too long since I've cooked up some of my world-famous, home-made spaghetti bolognese. Back in Oz, I do it once a week. Last time I tried it while travelling, it had rather unfortunate consequences (thanks, Cusco market ingredients!). Tonight, in the Patanuk kitchen, Jaza's Spag Bol returned, as massive in size and as uncompromising on quality as ever. This being Argentina, I decided to use cut-up steak instead of mince-meat in the sauce. And sadly, I couldn't find any mushies at the shops (but I found some nice eggplant). Shared it with Dave and Finlandia, and I received nods of approval all-round.
Tonight was the perfect introduction to this country for me. Only in Argentina can you go to a truly authentic parrilla (special Argentinean steak house) and get the best steak on the planet (along with the best wine on the planet); and only in Argentina can you turn up at midnight, and find the restaurant still jam-packed! The place in question was Alberto's, the best and most famous (and yet quite cheap) parrilla in Bariloche. Turned up at about 11:50pm, and only just managed to get a table. And the bife de lomo (tenderloin steak — three of them in a single order) was so soft and so juicy, I'd say it's pretty much unbeatable.
I woke up at Hostal de Sammy this morning, and went downstairs for breakfast. And oh my g-d, they have CEREAL!!! Unlimited, crunchy-as-can-be corn flakes, with delicious full-cream milk. I never thought, in all my life, that I'd get so excited over a bowl of cereal: but after 5 months of subsisting on the only things on the menu that they have for breakfast, further north — continental (bread, jam, juice, tea), or americano (same, with fried eggs) — it was like a dream come true. I couldn't stop eating the stuff (got through 3 bowls, no probs).
An American guy showed Tony and I a great little restaurant tonight. It's in the middle of Quito's overpriced, tourist-infested Mariscal Sucre district; and yet it's full of locals, and there are only two things on the menu: shawarmas, and beer! Only $1 each, respectively. The shawarmas taste great (be sure to smother them in the provided chili sauce), and they're best eaten on a 1-1 ratio with the large-size Pilsener beers. Relish the chow, get a bit drunk, and enjoy the local company. Nargila pipes (known as pipas around here) also available, if you're into 'em.