Chotos, Pamplonas, & Chajá

2006.Feb.18 Saturday · 6 comments

in Drink, Life, Restaurants

La CelesteBuenos Aires – It may have just been coincidence, or it may have been because he knew I’m heading to Uruguay next week, but my new friend, whom I shall call “Pierre” to protect his identity, chose an Uruguayan parrilla for our lunch yesterday. He’s a local food and wine writer and restaurant reviewer, and it was on his list of places to check out, so off I went to meet up with him in Palermo Viejo at La Celeste, Medrano 1475 Bonpland 1944. “Celeste” means both heavenly and sky-blue, and the owners are clearly going for a bit of each, from the exterior color to the Uruguayan flags draped throughout the interior, to a clear passion for what they’re doing that says “we do it better.” [Closed]

La Celeste - chotosA conversation with our young waiter revealed that other than a few items which we’d noted as unfamiliar, most of the menu, which looked pretty standard parrilla-esque, was indeed more or less what one could expect at any local parrilla, just better. We decided to delve into the specialties of the house, beginning with a bottle of one of the two available Uruguayan wines, the Don Pascual Tannat 2004, a full-bodied red, ripe and ready for drinking with grilled meats. That meant shortly thereafter being confronted by a plate of chotos. I’ve had, and liked, many a time, chinchulines, the grilled small intestine of a calf or cow. The young man said we could expect the same, only from a chivito, or young goat. Well, I’m not so sure – unless the intestine of a goat has multiple branches, there’s something not quite correct here. I’m not – and I did a lot of fruitless online looking and I’ll ask next week when I’m in Uruguay – exactly clear what they are. Honestly, anatomically they look more like a trachea to me, but that would have all sorts of rigid rings on it, which these didn’t. I found one reference to them as “rolled and grilled braids of small intestine” without reference to goats – it certainly fits the picture better – otherwise goats clearly have a strange digestive system.

La Celeste - provoleta rellenaThis was followed up shortly by one of the more interesting provoletas that I’ve had. There’s little better in this world than a nice slab of grilled or fried cheese. This particular dish, a provoleta rellena takes the usual thick slice of provolone and splits it, filling the inside with sliced prosciutto, green olives, roasted red peppers, and a sprinkling of herbs and red pepper flakes, and then cooking the whole thing on the parrilla and under a broiler. It’s a particularly delightful version of provoleta that I’d be happy to have again and again!

La Celeste - pamplona de cerdoThe classic Uruguayan dish off the parrilla is the pamplona. In some ways it is unfortunate that this followed directly after the provoleta rellena – as it’s somewhat of a repeat. It was still excellent – available in pork, chicken, and veal versions, this one being the pork version. It is rolled slices of the appropriate meat, wrapped around a filling of mozzarella, green olives, roasted red peppers, and a sprinkling of herbs and red pepper flakes. In other words, other than substituting mozzarella for provolone, and wrapping the whole thing in a slice of meat, it’s much the same dish. The pork version was tasty, though a little fatty for my tastes – really a heart attack waiting to happen – I’d still eat it again, though I think I might be more tempted in the future to try the veal or chicken.

La Celeste - postre chaja de PaysanduWe finished off with the more interesting sounding of the two Uruguayan desserts – the Postre chajá de Paysandú. Now I’m not sure the Pierre would agree, actually being of British extraction and all, but to me it suggested an English trifle. Buried deep beneath this mound is a sponge cake, it’s topped with a peach flavored whipped cream, a thin layer of meringue, and then the whole thing drizzled over with caramel and a sifting of powdered sugar.

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Art or Shrine?Out wandering around in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood I came across this sight at the corner of Thames and Santa Rosa. Whether it’s meant to be some sort of artistic statement or a shrine of sorts, I have no idea. There was no sign. It has a small shrine looking center to it – sort of an open dollhouse with a bed in it on which is a figure of a woman. It is surrounded by bottles of water and soda – each of them with a small amount of liquid remaining. They were carefully arranged, all sort of leaning in towards the house and the tree that backed it, but as to its purpose, I am at a loss.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

dan March 5, 2006 at 07:56

My friend Roberto sent this on in regard to what is, apparently a shrine:

By the way, I think the little doll you saw laying prostrate in a toy house surrounded by half filled bottles of beverages was a shrine to the Difunta Correa – a woman who supposedly was seeking her husband and went trekking out west to find him but died in route, when people found her body, her infant son was still allegedly alive and suckling from one of her breasts – so I think she is an impromptu quasi-catholic patron of travelers.

A little research…

As legend has it, in the 1830s, Marí­a Antonia Deolinda Correa lived in Argentina’s San Juan province – an area at the foot of the Andes well north of Patagonia. Her husband, Bustos, was taken by force and drafted into the private army of Juan Facundo Quiroga, a regional gaucho warlord. Deolinda was so distraught that she set out on foot, with her newborn son in her arms, to follow her husband. After days of walking through the desert without food or water, she finally collapsed and died. Days later, passing mule drivers found her body; amazingly, her infant son was still alive and nursing at her breast. The men buried her, and having found the name Correa on a pendant she was wearing, labeled her tomb “Difunta Correa”, difunta being a word that literally means “defunct” but is more commonly used to mean “dead”.

Years later, as her story spread, the locals began to think of her as a saint who had given her life for her child. And so, in this predominantly Catholic nation, people in need began to pray to her. When one man’s prayers were miraculously answered, he built a small chapel to honor Deolinda. Shortly thereafter, someone brought an offering of water to this chapel, symbolizing the divine relief from thirst. Soon, small roadside shrines began to appear all over the country, some of them littered with hundreds of bottles of water brought either in supplication or in thanks. Deolinda Correa has become the unofficial regional patron saint of travelers, farmers, and all those whose lives or livelihoods depend on a precarious supply of water. The monument built on the site where Deolinda is said to have died is now a large sanctuary – a hilltop where 17 chapels, and numerous smaller shrines, pay her honor. Over half a million pilgrims visit this site in the small town of Vallecito each year.

gustaw September 12, 2007 at 17:50

Dan,

There is a meaning of “La Celeste” you didn’t know at the time (I don’t know if someone told you after this entry).
It’s the color of the Uruguayan Soccer National Team shirt and just to say “Celeste” with the feminine determinate article in front, it means “La (camiseta) Celeste”, with the only meaning of the National shirt.
As Uruguay was twice soccer world champion and twice Olympic, it’s a matter of national pride.

Regards,

Gustavo

dan September 12, 2007 at 17:54

Nope, you’re the first to mention it – thanks! It’s why I like when people take the time to comment – I learn new things every day.

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