"You have to excuse me but I must get some meat, I'm Argentinean," a friend of mine said as we dined in Buenos Aires.
There was no excuse needed. It made perfect sense; Argentina is a meat-lovers paradise. The country has the world's highest consumption rate of beef. The delicious meat offered in Argentina would be enough to make a San Francisco vegetarian's head literally explode; the country 's huge delicious steaks particularly melt in your mouth. Yes, don't cry for meaty Argentina!
Where do you even begin with an Argentinean meat-eating Odyssey? Do you start with >Entrana, Falda, Higado, or Matambre and Mollejas?
Wanting to become a meat-eating connoisseur, I took the Say Hueque meat eating tour of Buenos Aires. The first stop was a restaurant in the funky bohemian neighborhood of Palermo Viejo. I fell in love with this area of Buenos Aires from the start. With its quirky shops, arty bars, cool galleries, and trendy restaurants, I immediately felt like I found my home away from home in Argentina.
The restaurant for our first meat excursion: La Escondida.
What a hell of a great place for chomping down some Argentinean beef. This steakhouse had an amazing ambiance with high ceilings, an open-air space , and was splattering with delightful colorful walls.
Also: Meat! Meat! Meat!
Dining in Argentina is a vegetarian's worst nightmare. My gracious host, Rafael, knew the full skinny on Argentinean meat as we dined on chorizo (spicy sausage), chinchulines (crispy intestines) for starters. For the main dish we added to the mix Bife de lomo (very tender filet), Bife de Chorizo (a ribe-eye type steak), and a Matambre de cerdo (grilled pork flank steak). All I could say was "meat-tastic!" More steak!
Our meat were prepared in ultra-rare fashion, or as our waitress joked, "still mooing." As I indulged in the chinchulines, I had to think this was the best crispy intestines I have ever eaten.
As we gorged ourselves with even more meat, Rafael explained the troubles vegetarians have when they travel to Argentina: "It's a problem. There's not a lot of options," he said as I helped myself to more delicious Matambre de cerdo.
Sure, La Escondida also offered an ornate salad bar, with fresh fruits and vegetables (except no meat to place on top of it), but the choices are different in remote regions of Argentina--such as when vegetarian travelers take Say Hueque's tour of Patagonia and ask for non-meat culinary offerings. "The guides will look at them funny. 'Are you okay? What's wrong with you? Why don't you want meat?' They will try and take their temperature to see if they are okay." Rafael joked, adding, "It's not normal for a typical Argentina family to have fish."
Later that evening I had yet another fantastic Argentina meat eating experience at El Viejo Almacen's dinner and tango show. What a truly incredible place to eat meat! Tango is the blues of Argentina. Within the frame of an old colonial style mansion, set in an elegant dining room, I had yet another huge Argentinean steak (Bife de chorizo) the size of a baby's head.
El Viejo Almacen is also hosts Buenos Aires' most famous tango show. This has got to be one of the most romantic spots I've been. Except I went on my own and sort of felt like the lone creepy guy. The maroon jacketed waiter went around snapping photos of all the couples enjoying their wonderful meals. When he got to me, he had another waiter jump into the shot and shake my hand--not as romantic as I'd like it to be.
Regardless, the tango show kicked some serious tango butt while I enjoyed fine red Argentinean wine. The stylish, traditional tango dancers moved with pure precision. Unbelievable, as as the male dancers flung their partners through the air while the orchestra played the most emotional music in the world. A special tango shout out to the accordion player and violinist.
Even though I woke up in the morning with a bit of a beef-over (kind of like a meat hangover), I made my last stop on the Say Hueque's meat tour, which was a journey to the legendary Cafe Tortoni . Founded in 1858, I certainly had to eat some meat at the the oldest coffee shop in Argentina. This impressive joint had the flavor of a Parissiense cafe at its highest level. One of the most impressive jazz clubs I've seen was set in the basement as well. With a very rich history, Cafe Tortoni has been visited through the years by intellectuals, politicians and artists. What better way to conclude my trip to Buenos Aires with their traditional Argentina picada meat platter. Meat-rific!
One can't help but to fall in love with not only Buenos Aires, but also all the culinary delights that are concocted with their fine beef and meats. Ahoy meaty!