Food

The Best Food in the Piriapolis Area

Posted on November 18, 2009. Filed under: Coastal Uruguay, Food, Travel/Tourism |

My friend Alex has just opened a new bistro that hands down has the best food in town. Unless there’s something new in Punta del Este I don’t know about, probably on the entire coast.

Alex lived in Japan and understands the use of spices and exotic preparation. (Salt is considered a spice in Uruguay if that gives you an idea of how unusual his cooking is.) He grows his own hot peppers for instance. In addition to the Parrilla (BBQ) his oven prepared beef is by far the best I’ve had in the country. Last of all, this location fits the Uruguay chic formula to a tee. Vida Devagar is located on a dirt road you’ll never find unless you know the town.

Due yourself a favor and go see Alex. If you don’t know the town, give him a call for directions.

Click here for Vida Devagar

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A Plate of Ravioli for $48?

Posted on July 1, 2009. Filed under: Coastal Uruguay, Food, Travel/Tourism | Tags: , |

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Just when I feel I’ve figured Uruguay out for the most part, it throws a curve my way.

Restaurants in the middle of nowhere are a thing in this country. In North America, location, location is the formula for success with an eatery. Find a street loaded with foot traffic and lots of other restaurants and you’re half way home. In the Land of the Sun? No no sir’ee, put ‘em 20 kilometers out of the nearest town on a unmarked dirt road with no signs in front of the establishment. Here, fine cafes are destination events. And the harder to find the better.

Francis Mallmann has followed the formula to a tee locating his over the top high-end boutique hotel in Garzon. Garwho? Well, Garzon is a wide and not very desirable place in the road about 30 kilometers inland from Jose Ignacio. But of course his trendy hotel/eatery is on a dirt road. So here it is…Gaucho-chic meets the Beverly Hill Billies. The dinning patio is appointed with lien covered tables, crystal stem ware, stray cats and dogs play around the tables and clunker trucks pass by on the dirt road a few meters away.

So how about the food? Well the ravioli may appear to be a bit pricy, but it’s stuffed with pumpkin and wine-braised chicken. That certainly explains the price. There’s the handmade gnocchi, think Iberian ham, a braised lamb dish garnished with arugula, almonds and lemon confit, pork tenderloin with burnt brown sugar and orange confit and the requisite meat cooked over roaring wood fires. His grilled meat dishes have a “burnt” flavor, “dissonance” he calls it. (Nothing else like that in Uruguay.) The price for all this good stuff is quite reasonable. Lunch for two with a bottle of wine will be $220 or so and dinner could be well north of $400.

So how does Mr. Mallmann get away with this? He is perhaps Argentina’s most acclaimed chef; he’s had a series of chic restaurants in Buenos Aires, Mendoza, New York and of course Jose Ignacio. His eateries in Jose Ignacio, La Posada del Mar and Los Negros, in no small way have help mold this sleepy fishing village into a jet-set resort.

So the next time you’re in Jose Ignacio with some time to kill, and a few hundred dollars you don’t need, head over to Francis’ place in Garzon.

Bon appetite!

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Stick To Your Ribs Food

Posted on July 29, 2008. Filed under: Food, Travel/Tourism | Tags: |

If you’re not familiar with Anthony Bourdain’s Travel channel show, No Reservations Required, do yourself a favor and tune in. If you don’t get North American TV, the story is he reviews food and culture from every corner of the planet, including Uruguay.

Bourdain is my kind of guy; he never minces words. He is brash, tattooed, foul-mouthed. He’s like an aging rocker, pounding back so much of the national booze in whatever corner of the world he visits, that his morning-after taping sessions inevitably involve a discussion on the local hangover remedy. All the while looking quite fit for 51.

And he’s fun, in a charming Beavis and Butt-head sort of way. You’ve gotta laugh when he goes off. Blasting restaurant and food personalities he doesn’t love is clearly his favorite sport, second only to the daredevil eating.

Here are a few comments about his trip to Uruguay a few months ago:

“I was just in Uruguay. It was one of those great discoveries. Montevideo is outrageously cool. I ate meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I don’t think I saw a single vegetable for 10 days. Everything is cooked over roaring heaps of wood. They are burning down the whole world to feed themselves. I had armadillo. Hadn’t had that yet. And some emu/ostrich varietal. But the big surprise was how good the blood sausage was. Maybe the best morcilla I ever had.”

So how good is the beef?

“It was better than I had in Argentina. People say the beef in Argentina is great. I prefer American beef to Argentine beef. But everything I had in Uruguay was unexpectedly great.”

His irreverent response when presented with a Chivito for the first time is typical, “That’s really F….d up! This is one massive injection of cholesterol.”

For those of you not familiar with the national equivalent of a hamburger, a Chivito is large toasted bread sandwich, pilled high…..I mean loaded with bacon, beef, chicken and melted cheese to name one possible combination, served with a massive side of fries.

Bourdain declared the Chivito the, “Greatest sandwich in the world, if for no other reason than the calorie and cholesterol count.”

He continues, “Today at noon we went to the Mercado del Puerto. I swear that in this city I ate more meat than I’ve ever eaten in my life. In the parrillada they served us an enormous brazier with five pounds of meat—with sausages, blood sausage, sweetbreads, lamb, asado—and didn’t stop until I finished it all. In Uruguay, they have the best blood sausage, better than the French and whatever other I have tasted, particularly the sweet. I tip my hat to societies like yours that don’t pay attention to cholesterol and the crazy idea of healthy eating. Even more, when I don’t see anywhere the @#$% fast food chains like Burger King, Starbucks, Chicken McNuggets, or Wendy’s. All that I see speaks well of the country. I like countries that aren’t in love with American fast food.”

This little ditty tells you all you need to know about food in the Land of the Sun.

Stay Tuned!

Steve Bowman

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Chris on Food

Posted on October 22, 2007. Filed under: Food, Health Care, People, Uruguay Expatriate |

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Hi, Chris here. I feel like it’s time for a gals perspective and a change of pace with the articles. I want to tell you about one of the more amazing things I’ve discovered about Uruguay.

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, this country is into meat. (Uruguayan cows must be really nervous all the time.) Not only that, but the combinations of ingredients are heavy as well. For instance, the national equivalent of a hamburger is a Chivito. This is served in massive quantity, often a combination of chicken, beef or pork over bread, with melted cheese, mayo, a few olives thrown in for good measure and a giant side of fries. You can have anything you want, as long as it’s some variation of the Chivito. Other common favorites include pasta dishes and pizza; always in mass quantity. Does this sound like a diet designed by teenagers?

Steve and I are kinda When in Rome people and go along with the local foods. We figured we’d put on a ton of weight while we were here because this is sure not the way we eat at home. Well, that’s not what happened. Strangely enough, when we got home after two months of eating the heaviest diets of our lives, we lost weight! I also dropped 49 points on my cholesterol levels. I mentioned this to my US doctor and she laughingly suggested that they might be feeding their cows Lipitor. My guess is that it’s not what they are feeding their cows, but what they aren’t! We talked to other visitors that had a similar experience and they couldn’t believe it either.

Looking back, there was a strong clue about the food supply seen in the slim builds of the Uruguayans. There are not a lot of fat people here. And believe me, I saw locals throwing back these heavy dishes.

I looked into this and the best I can figure it’s because the food here is natural, may be non-poisonous is a better way to say it. There are no growth hormones, preservatives and other chemical junk in the meat and cheese, or anything else for that matter. This is small country with a large agriculture base. There is no need for all these grow it faster, bigger chemicals. And the path from the farm to grocery store is a short one. By the way, wonderfully fresh vegetables, meat and fish are about half of US prices.

In the US, we often lose touch with how horribly tainted our food supply really is. We are fed chemicals at almost every turn. If we can get natural stuff at all, we have to pay extra! I’m convinced much of the reason people in the US have problems with their weight and health is not always how much they eat, but what we’re eating.

This is one more thing I love about Uruguay, it’s pure, inexpensive food.

Until next time,

Chris Thompson

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