Argentina: Buenos Aires – The Argentine Experience

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After spending the day walking around Buenos Aires, that night we headed to Palermo Hollywood for a three course “interactive dinner”.

Now if you’re anything like me, the words “interactive dinner” are a bit off putting (and weird and maybe scary – hey I just want to be served dinner, I don’t want to have to work for it) but! the evening was a lot of fun and *exactly* what we needed to take our minds off the fact that – 8 hours before we were due to fly to Ushuaia – the flights website we’d used *still* hadn’t confirmed that the Ushuaia leg was indeed cancelled (and therefore didn’t affect our flight back to Australia if we didn’t show up). No stress indeed.

But back to The Argentine Experience. It started off as a closed-door restaurant in an apartment in 2011, and after a couple of years they upgraded to separate premises in Palermo Hollywood. There’s a downstairs bar, with the dining room upstairs, which has two large wooden communal tables which seat 28 guests. Dinner at The Argentine Experience is a three course event, complete with activities – hence the interactive part.

Drinks

When Alastair and I arrived we were welcomed with a cocktail before we donned the provided checked apron and hat and introduced ourselves to people around the table.

The apron and hat gives a hint to the nature of the activities – we were going to be involved in some of the food preparation.

Making empanadas

First up: empanadas. Traditionally, the way an empanada is shaped relates to the filling inside, with the most common and recognisable one being the spiral braided shape used for carne (meat) – you’ll see it later. Being taught the shapes came in useful later on in our trip as a visual identifier for different flavours.

Empanada filling

Our first task was to make our own empanadas. We were given a selection of fillings and a pastry circle, and after a quick lesson on how to seal them with the repulgue technique, which creates the spirals around the edges, we were let loose.

Empanada - before baking

While our empanadas were baking, we had our next activity which was more creative. We were given two pastry circles and tasked with making the most imaginative empanada we could think of. This was a competition, with the best novelty empanada winning a prize. Oooooooh.

We only had 15 minutes, so as soon as the time started, I was head down in concentration, cutting pastry shapes, and even dipping my knife into my water glass so I could stick pastry together. Around the table, people were doing different things – someone made a snail, Alastair made a blob (seriously), one person made a star, someone else made a horse race track, someone else made a dinosaur thing. And as for me?

Fish empanada - before baking

I made a fish! Complete with little pastry scales. Look at it!

(You can see Alastair’s blob shape in the background to the right.)

empanada

Our first empanada came back, all freshly baked and golden. I had filled mine with beef and onion.

Chorizo

But that wasn’t the only food we had before our main course. There was slices of grilled chorizo.

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And grilled provoleta cheese, plus homemade chimichurri. Oh, and this was accompanied by white wine – I think it was torrontés, which is a white Argentine wine grape variety.

Fish empanada

Here’s my fish empanada after being baked. And, yes, of course I won the competition. :)

Our main course was – naturally, being Argentina – steak. We were taught how to request rare, medium rare, and well done, and then we practised when they came around the table to ask how we wanted our steak.

By the way, medium rare is jugoso, and I managed to remember this word after the evening. It came in handy later on.

There was some downtime while the steaks were cooked, but this was filled by the staff teaching us how to communicate in Argentine hand gestures. Hilarious.

Steak

Then the main event – steak. This was served with mash, vegetables, and Malbec.

Was it delicious? Yes. Was I too full to properly appreciate it? Sadly, also yes. But it was great and served unadorned to let the meat shine.

Mate

The evening concluded with a lesson about mate, which is a traditional drink, somewhat like tea, that’s very popular in Argentina. It’s made with hot water, heated to about 80°C, and dried leaves of yerba mate, and is served in mate cups with special metallic drinking straws. The straws are both straw and sieve.

Mate cup

Unlike tea, the cup is filled to about 3/4 with the dried mate before water is poured in.

Alastair and I had tried some mate earlier in the day – from a random policewoman who was drinking it outside a supermarket, of all things – and it does taste somewhat like tea.

Mate gif

Before we finished up there was dessert – alfajores, which we constructed ourselves. The wine was free flowing the whole night, which I’m blaming for the fact that all my alfajores photos were blurry. :)

Mate pouring

The evening managed to be both relaxing and educational, plus – most importantly – fun. It was the perfect way to spend our first proper night in Buenos Aires.

The Argentine Experience
Book via: theargentineexperience.com