Guest Contributor: The Spitting Guanaco
It’s another wonderful day in the neighborhood, cold, windy, bleak, grey and desolate. Where are all my bros? Meh, whatever, this post is about typical Patagonian dishes and not my furry friends. Welcome to the southernmost reaches of the South American continent, the vast expanse of barren, daunting and formidable lands, my home, the Patagonia.
We as Guanacos are a protected species which mostly represent the ultimate in bashful cuteness (except for my spitting habit) and I am happy to point out that during your visit, none of my family will be served upon your plate. I am no Llama!! I am an old soul commissioned to tell you a tale of gastronomy and of the Patagonian palate. So read on if you will, or forever hold your tongue. Pun intended.
The main cuisine served in the Patagonia is meat, full stop. Beef, chicken, pork, fish, some goat, and the tourist staple, Lamb, thank god. The Cordero (lamb) is traditionally cooked on a full rack spit over wood fire coals. It is a carnivores dream. The carcass is spread out in full form on the spit and slowly rotates over the central fire for at least three hours. The cocinero (cook) periodically marinates the meat with a mix of salt, water and local herbs, all the while testing the choice pieces for the perfect tenderness. This is the traditional way to prepare lamb and often the wood fire cooking area is one of the main attractions for Patagonian restaurants. The Cordero goes best with a nice Malbec or Cab Sav, add a light side salad or mashed potatoes, a beautiful partner, and a warm atmosphere, this is Patagonian dining at its best.
Now in a carnivores dream there is not much room for the green stuff, the good stuff (as I would say). Grass unfortunately does not make the cut. Argentina and Chile are not known for their salads and this gastronomy stereotype holds true in the Patagonia as well. The further south you go the harder it is to find fresh fruits and vegetables. This being said, upon arrival the expectation of gourmet greens should look something like Lettuce, Tomato, and Onion, enjoy!
Postres, postres, postres. I would like a hazelnut dark chocolate brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream slathered in a deliciously sweet mixed berry syrup. Yup, that’s the one, dessert at its finest. The Patagonia is not necessarily known for its postres (desserts) and I believe that this is one of our best kept secrets. Some of the finest wild berries in South America come from the deep south, the most famous being the Calafate. From Bariloche to Puerto Varas, to Punta Arenas, to Ushuaia, the harvest often perfectly accompanies the restaurants après selection. The Calafate is the endemic of the region and has the biggest draw to tourists. It can be found in as many forms as you could possibly believe marketable, trust me. Luckily, it also happens to be delicious!! The Patagonian desserts are definitely one special little treat that will ignite your taste buds and leave you craving more.
Our part of the world is generally windy and cold, and the gastronomical experience has been blended to counteract the sometimes vicious weather outside. Almost all restaurants lean towards warm hues and natural building materials (i.e. wood and stone). They are generally very homely, there will be a place to hang your coat, one or two fire places perfectly spaced to balance the heat inside, an inviting bar with most likely one or two options for incredibly tasty artisanal beers, and a glorious selection of Malbec reds from all over the country. For me, it is pretty close to perfect. The warm and personal atmosphere creates a seductive environment for your dining experience and we (Guanacos) are here to help you indulge in this experience. Come taste, indulge, saver, and smile, the Patagonia awaits, rain or shine, winter or summer, you are in for a treat.
Greg Snell is The Spitting Guanaco
I am a traveller who lives for the moment and dreams of the future. I am one who relishes in the experience. I smile and laugh, cry and bleed. The people I meet are everything to me. I love travel for the patience, the compromise, the acceptance of another’s culture, habits, needs, addictions. The road is long and hard but its rewards are endless and fruitful beyond that of which these words try merely to describe. I am a traveller who lives for the moment and dreams of the future.