Argentina On Two Steaks A Day
April 12, 2006 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Argentina On Two Steaks A Day The classic beginner's mistake in Argentina is to neglect the first steak of the day. You will be tempted to just peck at it or even skip it altogether, rationalizing that you need to save yourself for the much larger steak later that night. But this is a false economy, like refusing to drink water in the early parts of a marathon.
posted by rxrfrx (78 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
What a compelling article. Thanks!
posted by chudmonkey at 11:34 AM on April 12, 2006

Okay, I'm going to Argentina.
posted by Roger Dodger at 11:34 AM on April 12, 2006

Eating steaks in Argentina feels like joining a cult. You find yourself leaning on friends to come visit, and writing YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND in all caps more often than feels comfortable. Argentine beef really is extraordinary.

So true.

I haven't been down there in nearly 10 years and miss asados so, so, so much.

It's a shame I cannot have a nice bife de chorizo fedexed up here...
posted by birdsong at 11:40 AM on April 12, 2006

Even Morrissey would like this article.
posted by punkfloyd at 11:41 AM on April 12, 2006

Yeah. When I was in Chile a few years ago I had an 'afternoon steak' like the author described. It was huge, delicious, and cost something like $4.
posted by driveler at 11:44 AM on April 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've wanted to go to Argentina for ages. This just makes me want to go all the more...
posted by ob at 11:47 AM on April 12, 2006

Thank God, therefore, for the ice cream: This article made me cry a little tear for Freddo's "Dulce de Leche con brownie" and "Dulce de leche tentación".

Everything in this article is spot on.
posted by whatzit at 11:48 AM on April 12, 2006

Well done, rxrfrx. My gout kicks up just reading this, so when I go to the little Mexican restaurant down the street for my chicken platter, I will do so with a tear in my eye, knowing that I'll never enjoy a steak that overhangs the plate and is as thick as a pressed ham.
posted by boo_radley at 11:50 AM on April 12, 2006

That article made me so hungry. Thanks.
posted by Prospero at 11:51 AM on April 12, 2006

Good article. driveler: meat in Chile's OK, but nothing at all compared to Argentina's.
posted by signal at 11:55 AM on April 12, 2006

And the cows spend their lives out grazing in the field, not locked into some small pen. You can taste the joy.

Well, until...
posted by NationalKato at 11:56 AM on April 12, 2006

15 years ago, my friends and I stumbled off a failed attempt to climb Aconcagua. After three weeks of boiled pasta and rancid butter, we found ourselves facing 4" thick slabs of Argentine beef in a Mendoza restaurant. I still shudder at the memory of the pure deliciousness...
posted by LarryC at 11:58 AM on April 12, 2006

Argentina is the only place I've ever had a three-course meal where every course was a different type of meat.
posted by nyterrant at 11:59 AM on April 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

I just got back from a two-week vacation in Buenos Aires a week ago, and this article made me want to go right back. I know there must be some way to pack more steak and ice cream into my next trip.
posted by tew at 11:59 AM on April 12, 2006

There are no factory feedlots in Argentina; the animals still eat pampas grass their whole lives, in open pasture, and not the chicken droppings and feathers mixed with corn that pass for animal feed in the United States. Since this is the way of life a cow was designed for, it is not necessary to pump the animal full of antibiotics. The meat is leaner, healthier and more flavorful than that of corn-fed cattle. It has fewer calories, contains less cholesterol, and tastes less mushy and waterlogged than American meat.
It is an endless source of amazement to me how difficult it is to get good food of any kind in this country, let alone something of this quality, when we have (or to an extent, had) the best land in the world. And the worst part is that the wretched stuff doesn't even have the the virtue of being cheap.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:01 PM on April 12, 2006

I just planned my next vacation. I already know I love Argentine red wine , and I now have to pair it with a food steak
posted by darsh at 12:04 PM on April 12, 2006

Note to self:
1. Goto Argentina
2. Find Hotel
3. Eat Steak until protein-induced coma sets in
4. Return to Hotel
5. Pass Out in Bliss
6. Repeat steps 3-6
posted by MasonDixon at 12:12 PM on April 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

This reminds me of when I was back home on the ranch in Nebraska. Everyday steak and hamburgers. It actually gets old after a while. Argentina is fairly similar to Nebraska geographically; however, Nebraska lacks anything exciting.
posted by j-urb at 12:14 PM on April 12, 2006

Man, just thinking about having read this article gives me a rush of steak-memory-induced dopamine tinglies.
posted by rxrfrx at 12:15 PM on April 12, 2006

Up until the mad cow outbreak, I could get Argentine steak at a Whole Foods. It wasn't even expensive by Whole "Paycheck" standards. Oh it was good. I had relatives who lived in Argentina in the 70s, and never could stop talking about the beef. It was good to know, for those few years, what they were talking about.
posted by bendybendy at 12:19 PM on April 12, 2006

"As you might expect, vegetarians will have a somewhat rough time here. For most people in Argentina, a vegetarian is something you eat."

posted by Malor at 12:21 PM on April 12, 2006

This is the most damnable thing about moving from Texas to California, the paucity of the beef.

My college roomates and I would take a road trip to Somerville, TX, where they served absolutely gigantic steaks for dirt cheap prices at the Country Inn Steakhouse. I bought a medium once for $20. I ate for two days.
posted by zabuni at 12:21 PM on April 12, 2006

I don't even enjoy beef very much, and I want to go to Argentina and chow down. Best single-link FPP in a long time. Thanks for posting it.
posted by davejay at 12:26 PM on April 12, 2006

Maciej just totally rules. Somebody give the guy a book contract, he's a natural.
posted by zadcat at 12:31 PM on April 12, 2006

Note to self:
1. Goto Argentina
2. Find Hotel
3. Eat Steak until protein-induced coma sets in
4. Return to Hotel
5. Pass Out in Bliss
6. Repeat steps 3-6

Heh heh, this pretty much describes my last holiday: Hotel...Window shopping in the Buenos Aires leather shops (because they're all leather shops)...Parilla below the hotel for steak. Repeat.

Thanks, cows!

(great article btw, rxrfrx, thanks for deciding what I'm having for dinner tonight...)
posted by penguin pie at 12:32 PM on April 12, 2006

That's some of the best in-the-trenches food writing I've read in years. Excellent work, rxrfrx.
posted by rush at 12:32 PM on April 12, 2006

Getting constipated just reading the first paragraph.
posted by docpops at 12:37 PM on April 12, 2006

So... very... hungry. Must... eat... steak.
posted by MetaMonkey at 12:43 PM on April 12, 2006

Whatzit is right: everything in that article is dead on. I was in Patagonia for three weeks and every restaurant had the identical menu. Don't go to Argentina if you don't like beef very much, cuz that's all yer gonna get. I remember one place actually had a salad on the menu and it kind of threw us off for a minute. And don't go if you don't like ham and cheese, either (see the "lunchtime steak" in the article for an example of this ubiquitious snack in action). The mayonnaise is truly odd and it's just like the writer says: it shows up everywhere and when you least expect it.

I'm surprised, though, that pizza isn't mentioned. The pizza in Argentina is universally fantastic.
posted by Lockjaw at 12:47 PM on April 12, 2006

Why, oh why didn't I learn this BEFORE the quadruple bypass?

::weeps quietly::
posted by briank at 12:50 PM on April 12, 2006

Sorry for the threadjack, but I'm inspired!

For anyone who has any interest in going to Argentina -- go!!

I loved it so much that I'm returning this year, and - pertinent to this article - the steak that I had on New Year's Eve has rendered me vegetarian since... not because am in any way a consciencious objector, rather that I shall never encounter meat like it where I live (London).

(Okay, yes before you say I know Gaucho's is great, but it is the principle and the timing that keeps me veggie!!)

Palermo in Buenos Aires is absolutely beautiful.

posted by catchmurray at 1:00 PM on April 12, 2006

Everything in this article is spot on.

Absolutely. I haven't been in Argentina in decades, but reading this brought the experience back to me in vivid detail, and I want to go back right now. God, the meat is good. (That's what they call beef: carne, or 'meat.' They don't really acknowledge the existence of other forms of flesh.) And the wine! Malbec is the perfect accompaniment to a good steak.

I'm surprised, though, that pizza isn't mentioned. The pizza in Argentina is universally fantastic.

Beat me to it. That's the one blatant omission in the article. If for whatever reason you temporarily get bored with steak, you can recharge your batteries with the best pizza in the world (washed down with more malbec).
posted by languagehat at 1:08 PM on April 12, 2006

some of the best travel advice i've ever read. thankfully my local supermarket has a daily supply of argentinian beef and it is truly magnificent.

how i would love to introduce this to my maasai friends
posted by quarsan at 1:09 PM on April 12, 2006

Ahhhhh in Spain we are lucky having a lot of Argentinian immigration. There are some great Argentinian restaurantes serving matahambre + entrana with home made chimichurri and wonderful dulce de leche desserts; factoritas and alfajores. I've just reserved my table for tomorrow!
posted by adamvasco at 1:12 PM on April 12, 2006

Argentina is certainly nothing like Nebraska unless you limit yourself to the Pampas which, admittedly, are flatter than a pampcake. I worked in a tiny town there for four months and we ate meat three times a day. A salad was a can of chick peas passed around with a spoon in it. Breakfast was dry saltines with leftover meat. The asados and parillas were incredible -- the only trees on the Pampas are imported eucalyptoids and they give very flavourful smoke, not at all coughdroppy as you might expect. Every night we sat outside under the Pampas sky and cooked meat and drank wine and played the guitar. Magic.
Even in the city, Olavarria or La Plata, it was meat every day, though the veggies were slightly better and the bread was fresh. I'd go back there in a heartbeat. Wow.

And yes, the beef there is to North American beef like a baguette is to wonderbread. Its all about the happiness of the animal, the organic, range (read: clover) feed, the knowledge, the slow cooking, the cuts close to the bone. Strips of short ribs grilled for an hour and a half. (I'm more or less a veggie now but that wouldn't last....)
posted by Rumple at 1:22 PM on April 12, 2006

Goodness... I just went to the Argentine steakhouse around the corner for my birthday last week. Knowing that it is just Argentine style cuts of American beef, that there is meat even _more_ delicious, makes me weep.
posted by kableh at 1:23 PM on April 12, 2006

This is good, thanks.
posted by Divine_Wino at 1:24 PM on April 12, 2006

Cripes I can't stop drooling. I haven't had steak and eggs for breakfast in ages but I just may have been inspired to fire up the BBQ this Friday morning.
posted by Mitheral at 1:26 PM on April 12, 2006

Fantastic article, rxrfrx
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:35 PM on April 12, 2006

Droolin at my desk..........change the subject quick!
posted by winks007 at 1:35 PM on April 12, 2006

"He had never known cow until that moment"

Great article. I shall certainly include Argentina in my future travel plans!
posted by kosher_jenny at 1:49 PM on April 12, 2006

Excellent article, I'm salivating.
posted by safetyfork at 2:00 PM on April 12, 2006

My God, that's one of the greatest pieces of food writing I've read in years. (I used to be a restaurant critic.) Thanks! I'm mailing it out to all the foodies I know.
posted by digaman at 2:06 PM on April 12, 2006

What a lovely article. My whole family's Argentine and I was there for 4 months in 2004.

Listen to me, folks, absolutely everything that guy says is true. If anything, he didn't emphasize how much all of those things rule. Sure, it looked like he was going overboard, but trust me, all those things are actually better than he describes.

As a Californian, life in other places without tacos seems very difficult - hardly worth living. However, life without Dulce de Leche is simply impossible. If you've never had it, consider yourself lucky to be alive. It contains an absolutely vital deliciousness.

Also, Yerba Mate. OMG. Yeah, go to any park on a nice day and everyone is drinking some. Just as gas stations in the USA have things like air pumps, gas stations over there have a big dispenser of 85C hot water for your thermos - for the mate. All the college students drink it as well. Hell, I'm going to make myself some right now.

As for the food, I can honestly say that the beef has a completely different taste. Everyone eats pasta and beef late. Everyone's also skinny.

Here's where I'm going to encourage everyone to just go there. I think that if you don't hang around Buenos Aires too long and don't visit Patagonia, that it's probably as cheap as India over there, really.

All the food this guy mentioned is CHEAP. Seriously. You can actually get an amazing meal for ~US$5 - often for less. If you go to a place called a "rotiseria" you can get a delicious home-cooked meal (yes, they often live there) to go eat in a park for under US$2. While in the park you can look at beautiful girls walk by. Then you can walk around and get into an amazing conversation with just about anyone. People will be delighted to speak with you because you're foreign. Did I mention the beautiful girls? Ok. Get over there already.
posted by redteam at 2:10 PM on April 12, 2006

Damnit. If I hadn't just left NYC I'd get my ass over to Pampa for dinner tonight. Anyone here know where in Boston I can find an Argentine steak?
posted by mds35 at 2:13 PM on April 12, 2006

What the article doesn't mention is that the steak dinner costs about $35 pesos (or $12 dollars), you would pay 10 times that for an inferior steak in the US. I've only been home from Argentina 3 weeks and just looking at those pictures makes my mouth water...
posted by youthenrage at 2:17 PM on April 12, 2006

Previously from Maciej on MetaFilter: 1, 2, 3. Dude is a freakin' superstar.
posted by gleuschk at 2:17 PM on April 12, 2006

Another thing: the guy never mentions ñoqui (gnocchi everywhere else). Here's the Wikipedia article on them. I probably had them about 7 out of 10 days. Still, when I got home I was so skinny that everyone thought that I was sick or a tweaker. I heard that it was because I was eating so much fresh food.

posted by redteam at 2:19 PM on April 12, 2006

posted by gleuschk at 2:19 PM on April 12, 2006

Well, redteam pretty much summed it up - but let add a little bit more. The article, and many commentators have said things like "I can't say it enough", "It sounds like I'm overemphasizing", etc... when talking about how good argentinian steak is. This same principle can be allowed the argentinian women. I kept telling everybody I knew that Centro in Buenos Aires had more hot girls than LA, NYC, London and Paris combined (I've been to all of them...). They're all skinny and they're all HOT. GO THERE NOW.
posted by youthenrage at 2:21 PM on April 12, 2006

man, it sounds like there should've been a meet-up in BA over the last few weeks since so many were down there!

The other "alternative" meal that doesn't make much appearance here is the glorious empanada, or fried pastry stuffed with ... stuff. Of course the most common is filled with carne picante (spicy beef) or carne suave (not spicy beef), but the other delish are chicken, ham and cheese, and, well, anything else they throw in there. If you're in BA, I really liked Zapi. If you're stuck in the states, you can get the same effect at Empanada Mama in NYC, for around 5 times the prive (hmph).
posted by whatzit at 2:25 PM on April 12, 2006

mayonnaise is sold in foil bags (bags!) of up to two liters in size. These are great fun to drop off your balcony.


You see a thick layer of dark brown jam-like material and think, this couldn't possibly be caramel, there's just too much of it. And so worldliness leads you to great giant bites and then disaster.


Best of the Web! Kudos, rxrfrx!
posted by Aknaton at 3:25 PM on April 12, 2006

I've lived in Buenos Aires for a year and a half and a lot of this rings true -- the lard ubiquity, the bacteria-count guarantee on the bag o' milk (mmm. . . appetizing!)

And, yeah, they might be a little heavy-handed with the dulce de leche. A little goes a long way, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have its place(s).

All around, a great piece, though. Good to see the love for Argentina in this thread!
posted by veggieboy at 3:30 PM on April 12, 2006

Great article


posted by catchmurray at 3:33 PM on April 12, 2006

sounds like there should've been a meet-up in BA over the last few weeks since so many were down there

Seriously. I go thinking I'm a MeFi island and then it turns out this place is lousy with MeFites passing through?

[Shout out to wetspot if he's in the house -- thanks again for the drink. Hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip down here]
posted by veggieboy at 3:35 PM on April 12, 2006

posted by Smedleyman at 3:57 PM on April 12, 2006

Boston & its surrounds have many more Brazilians than Argentinians, I'm afraid. Not sure how their meat compares, but you can look for the churrasquerias in Cambridge/Somerville.
posted by enakaja at 4:13 PM on April 12, 2006

[This is good]
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:41 PM on April 12, 2006

I've not been to Argentina, but there's a fair share of Argentinian (and Uruguayan, Uruguayan food culture being basically the same as Argentinian) restaurants here in Mexico City. They import meat from Argentina, and it is definitely excellent stuff, and in huge portions.

Going to Argentina is probably also attractive since their economy tanked a few years ago, and everything's still pretty cheap there.

The main problem with Argentina is, well, Argentinians. I don't know how they treat Americans, but they treat people from any other Latin American country as subhuman, basically. Even the Argentinian immigrants here are like that towards Mexicans; the most arrogant people in the world.

The few non-arrogant Argentinians I've run into confirm it, seemingly the consensus is that it's caused by a combination of two things: Argentina having practically no indiginous population (they massacred all of them instead of mixing, like in most other Latin American countries), so they see themselves as "pure Europeans", a huge status symbol in the Latin American cultural context. Also, the fascist attitudes of superiority are still around from the dictatorship days.

As for Argentinian women, I've got to disagree. Tall, blonde and horse-faced, all of them. Mexican men love the type, since they're rare here, which is probably why fully half of all call-girls in Mexico City are Argentinian, but if you're going to a Latin American country to meet hot women, especially hot Latin women, you're better off going to Cuba or Brazil.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:42 PM on April 12, 2006

Great post, thanks.
posted by Galvatron at 5:11 PM on April 12, 2006

His account of his New York City Marathon is rather nice as well.
posted by Aknaton at 5:18 PM on April 12, 2006

I'm moving to Argentina.
posted by blacklite at 5:27 PM on April 12, 2006

I would have visited Argentina on a spring break trip when I was in high school, but instead I got the chickenpox. I am reading this thread and crying inside.
posted by furiousthought at 5:43 PM on April 12, 2006

I just read the article. Now I am crying on the outside.
posted by furiousthought at 5:47 PM on April 12, 2006

Interesting old WaPo article about the famous Argentine arrogance, and whence, and whither.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:02 PM on April 12, 2006

I'm a veggie who has eaten steak once and I didn't get it - tasted like chewy wet cardboard. And I was told it was a good steak by my carnivore chums. It was in a restaurant in Arizona somewhere. I guess I won't be moving to Argentina
posted by A189Nut at 6:17 PM on April 12, 2006

To sum up: amazing steak, potatoes, milk, ice cream, and dulce de leche?

...what's new, Buenos Aires? I wanna say I'm just a little stuck on you.

How do Argentinean guys feel about American girls?
posted by booksandlibretti at 6:23 PM on April 12, 2006

So I'm guessing Hinduism isn't big around the River Plate, huh?
posted by rob511 at 6:30 PM on April 12, 2006

To the sour grapes about Argentinean people: your insecurities are showing. Argentinians are abou the nicest people in the world, they're just loud and, well, loud, which is what makes them so much fun.
Go there, now.
posted by signal at 7:30 PM on April 12, 2006

The first time I was in Argentina was before they pecked the peso (or whatever it's called now) to the dollar. We would have the kind of meat the author describes together with a huge bowl of salad and french fries plus the best wine of the house for 5 - 10$. Runaway inflation can be your friend.
posted by sour cream at 7:35 PM on April 12, 2006

Meat is prepared in two ways, either on a parrilla (charcoal grill) or an asador (a system of iron crucifixes circling an open fire). The crucifix shape is suggestive and amusing.

posted by UbuRoivas at 8:14 PM on April 12, 2006

Hitler loved a good steak...???

-"Come now. After the war Argentina and Paraguay were run for years by nationalist strongmen, Juan Peron and Alfredo Stroessner respectively, who liked to strut around in military regalia and brutalize dissidents. Argentina had remained officially neutral until early 1945, when economic pressure forced it to throw in with the Allies, but until that point was in intimate contact with Hitler's regime and the fascist Franco government in Spain. Postwar Brazil was still fascist-friendly, a legacy of deposed dictator Getulio Vargas. Surely it's no surprise that the leaders of these countries nurtured fraternal feelings for fleeing Nazis. I That said, the true story of how war criminals like Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele wound up in the land of the gauchos has never been fully told, and even now it's difficult to separate fact from fiction."
posted by OU812 at 8:46 PM on April 12, 2006

I was there last month. I've been raving about the meat since coming back, everyone thinks I'm nuts. Now I can show my friends this thread - maybe I'm not so nuts after all.

It's not just the beef that's good - I also had Patagonian lamb, goat, pork, veal, suckling pig, duck, turkey, chicken. Everything was phenomenal! Especially the lamb. I've never been sure if my taste buds have deteriorated over the years, or if the flavor has been bred out of American meat. Now I know - my taste buds are fine.

I echo the advice given by others here - just go!

Hi veggieboy - you're welcome! And the rest of my trip was great.
posted by Wet Spot at 9:02 PM on April 12, 2006

My best friend from high school moved to Argentina. Now he's fat. Go figure.
posted by Soulfather at 10:20 PM on April 12, 2006

Although the domestic beef here in Korea tends to be splendid, it also costs anywhere from the equivalent of $20-$30 per kilogram on upwards. There is pretty much no such thing as a decent steak other than in restaurants that cater to foreigners (and where you will consequently pay through the nose), although you can induce a butcher to approximate one, if you can speak Korean well enough to describe what you want. I don't get to eat much beef.

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:23 AM on April 13, 2006

signal: No, actually, Argentinians tend to treat me fairly well, probably because I'm European and white, and thus live up to their standards. But anyone vaguely brown is treated like shit. Ask any Mexican who's had contact with Argentinians, they'll all tell you the same. They'll talk about how dirty everything is, how much better Argentina is, how they dislike the "Indians", etc.

It might be that Argentinians in Argentina are nicer, I've never been. But the ones living in Mexico are horrible, with a few exceptions (artistic types and movie people, but they tend to be a more tolerant and relaxed lot all over the world).
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:11 AM on April 13, 2006

The article George_Spiggott linked is a good description of Argentine attitudes and their history. Yes, Argentines are great people, but they do tend to be arrogant (or did—I was shocked to see that President Eduardo Duhalde recently said Argentina should "be more like Chile"!), and I guess I picked up that attitude unconsciously during the years I lived there: I still tend to feel Argentina and its people are the Best of the Americas (and I sing the himno nacional at the drop of a hat). It was weird being in NYC during the Falkland War and hearing all the rage at Argentina expressed by other Latin Americans, while a little voice in my head kept repeating Las Islas Malvinas son argentinas...

Anyway, I can see why you feel the way you do, Joakim. But the food is really good.
posted by languagehat at 5:18 AM on April 13, 2006

Joakim Ziegler writes "But anyone vaguely brown is treated like shit. Ask any Mexican who's had contact with Argentinians, they'll all tell you the same. They'll talk about how dirty everything is, how much better Argentina is, how they dislike the 'Indians', etc."

A stereotype both ways, how delightful.
posted by Mitheral at 2:35 PM on April 13, 2006

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