I woke up with visions of last night's dinner, visions that I fear will not leave me for a very long time. I am worried no meal can compare to the cuisine of yesterday eve, and that I will be having food envy for a past meal for days, perhaps even weeks...I have two words for Buenos Aires residents or travellers: El Rey.
El Rey is a Peruvian restaurant on Aguero right off of Avenida Corrientes, across from the Abasto Shopping Center. A truckload of us went there last night--Nick, Brenna, their roommate Clara and her two friends, Jenny (our roommate from the homestay), Jenny's two friends, and of course, our Peruvian, emapanada angels, Leonor and Elsa. The twelve of us reserved a giant table, and gathered round. Leonor and Elsa ordered a series of plates for us all to share and we ordered bottles of Quilmes to be passed around. While we waited for the meal, we munched on french bread dipped in Peruvian dipping sauces--some spicy, some with cilantro, some with onion. And then the dishes began to appear.
First came leche de tigre, or tiger's milk--a delicious medley of sweet milk (maybe coconut) with seafood, hot peppers, and cilantro. We passed it around the table with one spoon as if it were mate. It became the communal leche de tigre, and it was too delicious to worry about germs. Then came meat with potatoes in a cheesy sauce over rice, which got absolutely gobbled up. Then came chicken with spicy rice, and then the corazon de vaca, or cow heart, which was absolutely delicious. Finally, a plate of chicken covered in spices accompanied by a giant plate of french fries was placed in the center of the table. We were all so full, but we could not leave one bite leftover--it was too good to waste even a morsel. So we ate and we drank and Leonor and Elsa explained the recipes, and chatted with us about Peru, about the religious festivals, about the Inca, about the family culture, about Lima and the sea, about the different foods (including 3 kilo papayas), and about their own lives there.
At the end of the meal, the Peruvian waitress brought out twelve glasses of refreshing, pear-flavored champagne, which we all used to toast to our wonderful hostesses, Leonor and Elsa. And which we followed with more bottles of Quilmes, all set to the beat of the mariachi father-and-son group who sang famous Mexican ballads such as Bessame Mucho, all accompanied by a guitar and a trumpet and of course in traditional mariachi sombreros and suits. We were at the restaurant for four hours, but I don't think any of us noticed how much time had passed as we listened to the music and ate El Rey's amazing cuisine.
On the way home, without warning, a torrential downpour started, and when we hopped off the bus 3 blocks from our apartment, we were drenched within seconds. We hailed a cap for those last few blocks, got home, and drank a glass of fernet and Coke while listening to the rain. In the morning, the 90 degree humid weather was a distant memory, and an unseasonable chill had taken over, reminding us of a November day in the States. I went to teach for a couple of hours, Nick and I met up with a friend for coffee, and then we made a traditional Argentine dinner that, although it couldn't compare to the comida a la Peru that we had revelled in the night before, was still an exciting new culinary discovery: milanesas.
Milanesas are a popular Argentine type of meat--a thin cut of beef breaded and lightly fried, like a beef version of chicken parmesan. Nick and I hadn't tried them yet, but one of my student's provided me with a recipe, so we decided to take a stab at it. Soaking the slices of meat in egg yolk and parsley, we then dipped them in bread crumbs mixed with minced garlic, and then lightly fried them in olive oil. After the patties were done, we laid them in a pan, topped them with mozzerella, and then Nick's amazing homemade tomato sauce--full of onion and oregeno and hot pepper. After baking for 10 or 15 minutes, they were ready, steaming and looking delicious. We piled them onto our plate and poured glasses of Quilmes and dug in. They were good!! More than that, it was exciting to try a new Argentine recipe, something we will bring home to the States with us as a tasty reminder of life here. ¡Buen provecho!