Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Dreamy Feast on an Argentine Ranch

I just returned from a trip to Argentina and Brazil. There were many delicious eats but this was by far my most treasured. My husband and I went to an Argentinian ranch that had been passed down along generations. The experience commenced on horseback as we rode along the vast flatlands, happily following the scent of burning wood and smoking meat.

As we approached there was the most enchanting setup of red plaid tablecloths under an enormous tree. We sat and feasted for what seemed like hours as wooden planks spilling with meat were served to us- one cut and variety after the next. It was one of the most memorable culinary experiences I've ever had.

Argentinian meat is arguably the very best in the world. This has to do with the fact that the cattle eats freely and easily on high quality grass and are raised without antibiotics. They are very proud of their beef. It's almost a religion and the sacred meat is treated purely- just salt...that's it. They don't marinate it with any garlic, wine, spices or herbs. The meat is so good, so fresh, so wonderful that it's not disrespected with flavourings to camouflage the taste. The salt simply works to enhance what comes naturally.

I visited the cook and was in awe of the traditional cooking method he employed. Big pieces of wood are heated in a large oven. When they start to break down, he shovels heaping amounts under a grill. I watched salivating as the beautiful embers cooked the meat to such heavenly perfection. Once ready, they were brought to our table and we ate them with a selection of salads and chimichurri! I've never had a meal so close to its source. The beef was fresh from the ranch and the vegetables in the salads were plucked from their gardens.

We concluded the meal with a stunning dessert of homemade ice cream that sat keenly on a bed dulce de leche, drizzled with a perfectly tart berry coulis. The somewhat sour fruit, cold cream and sweet dulce de leche was a brilliant combination.

I will never forget this day. It was magic.

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