“A square egg in a dish of lentils won’t make a marrow bend with the wind, nor will it make rhubarb grow up the milkmaid’s leg.”
– Les Dawson, British Comedian
Buenos Aires – That’s so pretty, I should just let it speak for itself. And, for the moment, I will. Sunday was a whirlwind of activity – well, perhaps more of a lazy swirl of breeze. After spending the vast majority of the day plotzed in front of the computer doing nothing but de-stressing by playing an online game, my friend Barbara called up and suggested we head out to La Rural and the annual book fair. It sounded like a nice way to while away the latter part of the afternoon, and, I think we ended up spending nearly four hours just wandering the aisles, looking at books, chatting, watching a demonstration by a group of anti-paper factory college students – the gist of which seemed to be chanting about no more reading because it involved buying books which involved publishing which involved paper manufacturing which involved the factories – though, it was hard to tell what they were chanting because half of them were blowing whistles so loudly that they were drowning out the chanters, so I may have gotten that wrong and perhaps all they were doing was complaining about it being a drizzly Sunday and there being no television screens available on which to watch the Boca Juniors game. Students and books are not a good mix.
In the end, I picked up a fascinating looking book for myself – La Nueva Cucina Uruguaya: Química, Arte y Fusión – lots of interesting looking techniques, presentations, and flavor combinations to play with; and one for Henry on the revolution of Túpac Amaru, the last indigenous leader of the Incas, who launched the rebellion that, over time, became the continent-wide fight for the liberation of the South American countries from the Spanish and British – for which the credit is almost always given to José de San MartÃn as “The Great Liberator” – though he was merely the final link at the other end of a chain of revolutionary leaders here. Anyway, the book fair goes on until May 7th, and if you haven’t been, it’s worth the 10 peso admission fee just to go spend a few hours amidst the thousands of tomes and folks who are actually interested in reading. Though there was little in the way of any discount pricing going on for the fair, there were alot of things that simply aren’t available here at regular bookstores – especially many of those books being represented by foreign publishers.
After a stop back at the apartment to offload purchases, we decided to get a bite to eat. On a whim, Barbara gave Robert Wright a call, and it turned out that he was ensconced in a new “wine bar” that has just opened in San Telmo, along with Jeff and Ceci, so we soon found ourselves in a somewhat hard to find locale alongside Parque Lezama in a sort of mini gathering of local bloggers. The place is called the Gurda Hotel, and has this sort of lounge upfront facing the street – it’s located at Defensa 1521, just down the hill from the famed cafes of Britanico and Hipopotamo. It’s not really a wine bar, it’s more of a place for cocktails, or a bottle of wine off the list of a couple of dozen usual suspects – very fairly priced I might point out, really not much over retail pricing – but no opportunity to, say, sample the wines by the glass, or have a flight of wines. Still, a very comfy spot to hang out. They offer limited food – salads, sandwiches, and tablas of mixed cured meats and cheeses, but I’d have to say that the latter are not all that exciting unless you simply must have something to nibble on.
So, after nibbling a little and having a glass of wine out of the bottle that the trio had ordered, we decided to head on out to eat. On Ceci’s recommendation, and backed up by the other two, we headed two blocks away down a deserted side street to La Carreteria, Brasil 656, 4300-5564, for some northern Argentine regional cuisine. We were, unfortunately, too late in the evening for the locro, which is Sunday’s stew of the day – each day the place offers a different well known regional stew – it had sold out already, and had been the trio’s prime recommendation. For some reason they had a pot of bubbling lentejas, lentil stew, Thursday’s stew of the day – I’m assuming leftover as opposed to whipped up at last minute, but it’s the sort of stew that gets better over a couple of days of sitting anyway. We started off with some other nibbles – an empanada salteña picante, surprisingly on the bland side, even with the region’s trademark green onion and meat filling; a decent tamale and an okay humita – both also a little on the bland side, though on request, enlivened by an excellent smoky hot sauce. Rather than duplicating Barbara’s order of a bowl of the lentejas, I ordered the special of the day, stuffed zucchini, which were pretty good, though needing salt, and accompanied by, as our waitress suggested, really excellent oven roasted potatoes. The star, however, was clearly the stew, pictured above – just plain delicious. It seems that the place is known for these daily stews, so we’ll be back to try out some of the others.