Buenos Aires – Once again I find myself impressed by the straightforward, “varietally correct” style of wine being produced for the Rodas Colección 12 line. This time it was the Tokái, a grape more commonly known as Tocai Friulano. The flavor on the label – grapefruit, peach, apricot – was dead on. I’d picked the wine because I was having a simple dinner of one of my fave Italian appetizers, vitello tonnato (or, as it’s known here, ternero con salsa de tonno), and it seemed an ideal match. It was! The brightness and crisp acidity of the wine cut through the somewhat heavy mayonnaise based tuna sauce, and the peach and apricot flavors played well off the richness of the veal.
Veal, here, is different from what I’m used to in “the States.” There’s no such thing, as best I can determine, as “milk-fed,” which is a good thing, the process may produce very tender, delicately flavored meat, but just never struck me as “kosher,” so to speak. Of course, it’s one of the same objections I have to wagyu or Kobe beef from Japan, even though the animals are destined for the dinner plate, give them a little time to get out there and enjoy the world! Virtually all cattle in Argentina is what we’d call free-range, and that includes the calves. By Argentine law, calves under a certain age and weight, and still nursing are not allowed to be slaughtered, so that very young veal that we see in the U.S. doesn’t exist here. We have a distinction, based on age and weight, between “veal” and “calf,” here it’s all what we’d call “calf,” so more mature, and not the light, delicate pink that we’re used to.
Last month’s El Gourmet magazine (the print magazine of the Argentine version of “Food TV”) had a feature article on Argentine beef. The gist of it was that because cattle here is all free-range, and never sees a feedlot, the final beef products are leaner and lighter than American or much European beef. The writer claimed, and I’ve heard from other sources as well, that Argentine beef has a fat level equivalent to somewhere around that of deep sea fish, i.e., less than poultry. I think that probably isn’t far off, of course the type of fat is quite different from that of fish, so it’s still not as “healthy” for you. It’s actually pretty noticeable that beef here has very little, if any, marbling. That results in meat that to my palate is a bit chewier in texture and gamier in flavor than American beef.
The author went on to talk about this being one of the reasons for the generally lower incidence of cholesterol, heart disease, and obesity related problems here, despite the quantity of red meat that the average Argentine ingests. In fact, the thrust of the article was to raise a red flag over the fact that a few scattered ranchers are starting to adopt “American” or “European” feedlot methods of raising cattle, and that there is no regulation around that here. Looking to the future could mean that if Argentines continue their standard gastronomic practices, but ranchers change their methods, the country could be headed for some far-ranging health disasters. Of course, the fact that there seem to be a zillion McDonald’s and Burger Kings here already raises that same specter.
Just as a tangent, I went to see some of the history of McD’s and BK’s here, though I wasn’t able to find much more than that McDonald’s first got to Argentina in 1994 with a franschisee that opened 20 stores and Burger King has a total of 53 “restaurants” distributed between Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile. Some interesting (perhaps?) statistics though, based on their respective websites: McDonald’s operates “27,000 locations in 120 countries on 5 continents” and Burger King operates “11,220 locations in 61 countries.” Not surprising that the former “wins,” the golden arches are everywhere (despite both companies having officially launched in the same year, 1954). But wait, “5 continents?” Last I checked there are seven continents on this particular planet. I’m guessing that Antarctica is one of the ones not covered, but curiosity now raises its head… which other continent isn’t? I knew there are McD’s in North and South America, Australia and Europe. A quick look at the country listing certainly included China, Japan, and India, so Asia is covered… and lo and behold, a few countries in Africa are as well. I guess someone in McDonald’s public relations department can’t count to six…