Asados, Malbec and New Friends

“Average food with people you love is a lot better than Kobe beef with an asshole.” – Penn Jillette

I heard this quote on a goofy show back in August of 2005 and it’s stuck with me since. It reminds me that regardless of how much effort a chef or cook puts into a meal, it will never trump the diner sharing that meal surrounded by people they love. And in turn, expecting a restaurant to make your day filled with assholes any better will leave you severely disappointed.

I have been reminded of this again and again over the last week as I’ve met my new tramily over many meals and drinks. Honestly the food hasn’t been amazing, luckily the company has been!

Argentines are a very social bunch and they love their meat which makes it easy to understand why they asado nearly every Sunday. The word asado, similar to the American barbecue means many things- it’s a cut of meat made from ribs of beef, it’s the style of cooking on a parilla, and perhaps most importantly it’s the act of sharing all of that with great friends. What I love about the asado is the laid back vibe while keeping a serious approach to the food.

The asador (grill man) runs the show. He/she selects and buys the meat, starts the fire and controls the pace of the evening. Guests bring their salads, side dishes and wine to add to the table and provide company to the asador over the smell of smoky wood and charring meat. I’m not sure it’s a rule here, but I say the group needs to make sure the asador has a Fernet and Coke in his hand at all times!

I was lucky enough to have a bit of an inside advantage with my traveling group as I share a mutual friend with the Remote Year GM in Buenos Aires. I had been looking forward to meeting Santi in person, and there’s no better way to get to know someone than cook together. I also “got lucky” when the team assigned apartments and ended up with a parilla on the oversized patio connected to mine. Needless to say, I was planning a party within the first few days in BsAs.

Santi and I hit up a local butcher shop to get the tour of the good stuff, grabbed a bag of ice for the cocktails and we got to cooking. Ok, Santi got to cooking as he is a natural asador and jumped in to let me observe the true Argentine style and play host. I whipped up salsa criolla and chimichurri, with dried oregano as fresh is nearly impossible to find, which thankfully got plenty of thumbs up. Guests filled the tables with salads, hummus, salamis, cheese, wine and desserts then set out to mingle and enjoy our new friends.

Cold morcilla on French bread with a spoonful of chimi, a bite of brie and grapes, choripan hot off the grill and a half dozen Fernet and Cokes later I was smiling ear to ear. I enjoyed watching the guests puzzled as they finished their first plate of food and we then announced another cut coming off the grill.

See, the Argentines have it figured out with the asado timing. Everything hits the grill at nearly the same time, but comes off in stages. Grilled morcilla first with its rich and chocolatey yumminess, then a steady progression of vacio, lomo, pechito de cerdo, asado de tira (That’s blood sausage, flank steak, tenderloin/fillet, pork ribs and beef short ribs) and maybe more. The whole point is that if you spread out the eating, you can fit in more meat! The rule of thumb here is 1/2 kilo per guest, that’s over a POUND PER PERSON…

The building I’m staying in has about 10 of us, with the other ~45 in the group staying a few blocks away. This made it easy to invite over my building mates and the staff of RY for the first asado. My neighbors all pitched in with tables, chairs, glasses and silverware to make the night happen. They even jumped right in to wash up all the dishes! Elevators were busy moving furniture around all afternoon and I can only guess the other tenants of the building were wondering how late we would be keeping them up.

Around 2 am there was still a small group of us chatting it up on the patio over the last few drops of wine. Talks of American gun control, politics, language, community, travel, airport security and more were all had without a hint of attitude or offense. I was surrounded by folks from around the world both well traveled and not, that had enough respect for each other after just a week to consider the outlooks and opinions of others. It was at this point that I leaned back and smiled as I saw the magic of good food go to work bringing folks together.

I’ll be doing it again in a week. And it’s a bring your own chair kind of party.

2018-02-22T08:57:05+00:00 January 10th, 2018|
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