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Argentina’s most succulent on display

Saturday, May 25, 2013
A delicious salad of grilled eggplant, goats’ cheese, arugula and sun-dried tomatoes. PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON

“Beef, wine and tango,” said Hyatt Regency executive chef Fernando Franco. “That’s what you think of when you hear Argentina.” And that’s what Franco brought to Taste and Tango of Argentina for the Hyatt’s annual food festival. On Wednesday, Franco served some of the best Argentina had to offer. The tango dancers, Lila Flores and Leo Cuestas, direct from the Buenos Aires Colon Theatre, had a stage all to themselves and performed with expertise. But it was the Asado de Tira or beef ribs that really stole the show. 


Imported from Argentina, a country well-known for their high-quality beef, the asado was slowly grilled for a little over an hour and marinated in only salt and pepper. The result was a succulent and slightly charred rib. According to Franco, slow cooking and the bone at the centre of the beef brought out the natural flavours of the meat and added to the tenderness. He said Argentinians use very little to no seasoning because of their quality meats. The beef ribs were just one of the prime cuts served. Also on the grill were boneless legs of lamb, free range chicken, traditional sausage such as chorizo and Salachicha Parillera, and coulette steak. Steak houses are a mainstay in Argentina and Franco was happy to say that Argentina and T&T can a love for barbecue as a similarity. Another common love is the Salachicha Parillera, which is the equivalent of Trinidadian black pudding. 


Alongside the delicious cuts was humita—roasted sweet potatoes and onions. Of course, there were also the sauces for those who wanted some additional flavour. Sauces included chimicurri, made with parsley, garlic, olive oil oregano and red wine vinegar, and criolla, a mixture of bell peppers, onions and tomatoes also garnished with olive oil and vinegar.  Much like Trinidadian families, Sundays is an extravagant food day in Argentina when relatives get together for large meals made from handed-down recipes. Grilled meats are the centre piece, but homemade pasta is also part of the meal. 


As Franco pointed out, Argentinian food reflects the various cultures of migrants to the country from Europe and of the indigenous peoples. The result of these mixtures was uniquely Argentinian. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, as imported foods grew in popularity, European cooking became dominant. According to Franco, a native of Buenos Aires, young chefs are now going "back to the basics" and celebrating locally produced food and recipes. They're also working on creating new dishes. That creativity was probably best seen at the salad bar and during dessert. The many salads on offer included a stellar combination of grilled eggplant, goat cheese, arugula and sun dried tomatoes. Another winner was the combination of baby spinach with radichio, missed green and grilled zucchini. There was also some star dishes among the desserts like the Rogel de Dulce de Leche. Dulce de leche, yet another Argentinian staple, is a caramelised milk spread. Franco served the dulce between oven baked wafers with a meringue topping. As for the wine, Norton malbec and chardonnay from the Mendoza region of Argentina added a great finishing touch. 



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