Tarquino. The best restaurant in Buenos Aires?

Last Tuesday was my birthday. I decided to splash out. A nice meal for 2 at what I had been assured was the best restaurant in Buenos Aires. This of course made me very nervous. Not about the money you understand. No, about the potential for disappointment. If you follow my blog you will be aware that my dalliance with “top end” cuisine in BA has hardly been a resounding success and given the self perceived anonymity of my early blogging I didn’t hold back with castigations. Now I am a little more involved in the food scene and a little more public and a lot more determined to remain in this fair city, I wonder whether I could go back to say Paraje Arevalo (they might just have had a bad night) or Hernan Gippioni (it could of been a one-off aberration to try and deconstruct a Favaba Asturiana), without them deciding to poison the weasel Englishman?

My nerves were further compounded by the fact that I have recently become the only English integrant of a group of fine fellows ( the Buena Morfa Social Club) who appear to dedicate an unusual amount of time to thinking about what they are next going to eat, eating it, and then reviewing it in some detail or to be honest in fanatic detail or occasionally irritating detail if you have forgotten to turn off Facebook notifications to your mobile phone. But through this group I have already discovered someone who really does provide French country cooking, another who makes world class chocolates and another who makes Osso Bucco empanadas. Not bad for a few weeks membership.

The problem with this group though is it comprises not only foodie enthusiasts but also a lot of chefs, caterers, ingredient and wine providers and restaurant owners. And judging from one owner’s feedback when a number of integrants criticised his reasonably famous steak restaurant, a little negativity could lead to a full blown drama. Albeit, to give the owner his due, the comments were taken very seriously and his staff were clearly called to account on that particular matter.

So this BMSC had unequivocally recommended Tarquino and guess what, head chef Dante Liporace is an active member of the group. Plenty of room for my little birthday dinner to lead to offence then! When I posted on their Facebook site that I was going the Chef liked my comment. Obviously he had never read my blog! It worked out well though as the Buenamorfenses get a special deal but only for very few of them per night. They were already over their quota but as it was my birthday Tarquino kindly extended the same terms to La Doctora and I. And what a deal it was! I didn’t spend a third of the cash I had stuffed my pockets with, determined not to deprive myself of anything on my birthday night. Which is excellent because it means I can use the residual to go back again, which I assuredly will.

So why do I worry about going to smart places here? Because gastronomy generally reminds me of London 20 years ago, where you ate pretty badly in most places, most of the time. Worse however is the fact that the chefs are frighteningly technically competent. Amazing presentation, spheres and foams, orbs and gels, sous vide and flash chilled…but half of them have never spent enough time eating in decent restaurants to understand that the more complicated the technique, the more you have to ramp up the flavour.

Well this Dante guy actually does. He genuinely understands flavours. His dishes leave you with an aftertaste in the same way a good wine should. And to be fair, while he uses a fair amount of molecular gastronomy techniques, a lot of what he ends up serving could be described as modernised classical. And we didn’t have one dish that could have been described as bland.

Neither did he make the common mistake here, of serving us a sub standard offering because we were paying a sub normal price. In fact I was surprised by the generosity of the portions and the unexpected fact that a very decent cabernet was included in the price.

I didn’t take a camera because I don’t care how food looks. I for one don’t eat with my eyes. Nothing is more misleading in the world of molecular gastronomy or perhaps anything to do with food, than photos. It was all pretty enough though, one desert verging on spectacular, presentation wise. More importantly, the flavours were clear and subtly amplified.

Our menu had 2 choices per course which made life easy. We had one of each. I still can’t tell you which I preferred but they were big enough to share without remorse.

Playful, is a new foodie word that can mean anything from the chef is a moron who should have been a conceptual artist of the type that you have to read an essay to understand each work, to he scattered a few petals over the top and called it “Spring”. Dante is playful in his starters although we were already predisposed to like him due to a fine bread basket served with an intense garlic puree dip. He deconstructed a classic cheesy porteño pizza and served it in a glass as a warm foamy mouse. It worked, much better than the original. The other starter was a “playful” take on Duck a l’orange. Tender and well seasoned (though surely sous vide) duck, a totally classic and not too sweet sauce, and a playful orange budin (sponge cake) served as a semi kind of foam. Damn good.

Main course wise we had beef cheek and Surubi, a meaty river fish. Both excellent. Well sauced, well accompanied. Proper flavours.

And then a twist on traditional argentine puddings for dessert. My only criticism of the meal, my orangey spheres were not as intense as the olive spheres served previously with the bread and therefore a bit pointless.

Obviously it was my birthday and as it didn’t seem we were spending enough (the menu was about £16 per head including wine) it was time to speak to the sommelier. A couple of late harvest sweeties to go with the very fine illy coffee. They had 2 by the glass. We had both. Both excellent.

All in all, nothing not to like. We had the last table, so were sat by the swing doors to the kitchen, but that didn’t bother me. The waitress was excellent, professional and attentive without being condescending (another trait in self professed fine dining establishments that I find intensely irritating). I have to mention that in terms of apron design, the waitresses wear a kind of sexy haute couture version. Looks great on them, wouldn’t look so great on me, but definitely enhanced my enjoyment.

Coffee came with macaroons…perfect.

Yes, this probably is the best restaurant in Buenos Aires. Don’t worry about the fancy techniques, they actually add to the flavour for once. The guy is a peasant at heart (and having spent many of my best eating years in the South of France there is no greater compliment) but with an impressive technical ability. You won’t leave confused or short changed!

How he is only ranked 1,600 out of 2,308 restaurants in BA on Tripadvisor defies imagination. Maybe he needs me to do his PR? After all, if I believe in something I can normally make it happen.

And I believe in this. Proper eating in Buenos Aires! The scene is changing. Tarquino will be the first of many. In 5 years, BA will count as one of the foodie capitals of the world. New things are springing up every day. Who can deny that from grey overcooked “British” food, London now serves some of the most vibrant offerings to be found in a capital city. So given that BA is a city of immigrants, there are plenty of roots to go back to.

Get yourself out there, albeit with a healthy sense of criticism and support it. Life is definitely getting better.

 

 

 

Paraje Arevalo – Who stole all the Flavours?

I’ve waited a few days to write this review, hoping a sense of balance or at least forgiveness might return. I’ve already bored my girlfriend with plain anger, biting sarcasm or what I consider bitter humour but she probably just considers bitter. Why do I take it so personally? Why do I feel I’ve been defrauded? Yes, it was an expensive evening. But two fifths of the cost was reasonably expensive wine, so hardly the restaurant’s fault. Perhaps it is my age. I thoroughly resent it when someone steals three hours of my precious remaining time, to subject me to an unpleasant ordeal. I moved to Buenos Aires to escape tedium. This restaurant managed to inflict it upon me.

The evening started so well. Cocktails and Osso Bucco Empanadas at the Fierro Hotel. Well made drinks and delicious tapas, even if this newcomer dish may have been stolen from my blog (I know they follow it). If it was, they had improved it. Miniaturised the empanadas, stuffed them really full, and then fried them. Excellent. Crisp, light, tasty and juicy. I should have just stayed and eaten a dozen of them!!!

Then we went to the Livian Guest House, drank a couple of glasses of champagne in their garden while listening to a good singer/guitarist before cramming into their living room to watch a show by a magician/mentalist type chap. I hate magicians. This one was a mentalist. He picked up on my negative body language immediately and recruited me as his assistant. And OK, he was brilliant. So good in fact that, despite the fact I was starving and very much looking forward to the tasting menu at Paraje Arevalo, I rather resented leaving 10 minutes before the end of his show to catch our reservation.

But I went with enthusiasm and the expectation (I’d read a lot of reviews, several by people whose opinions I respect, and the chef apparently worked at the Fat Duck) that I was going to eat an adult, sophisticated, intensely flavoured meal, possibly with some challenging dishes. In fact I’ve been meaning to go to Paraje Arevalo for some months, so missing the opportunity to see said magician get it wrong and pierce his hand on one of the hidden spikes he uses and has his audiences shuffle, was a small sacrifice.

Except it wasn’t.

El Bulli, Noma, The Fat Duck, Molecular Gastronomy, etc. etc. etc.!!! Liberally dispersed in marketing material of whichever hip new restaurant, but what does it all mean? Well I’ve eaten at Heston’s restaurant and was the proud owner of his cookbook. It weighs more than the Bible, Koran, Torah, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead put together and only covers about 10 recipes. And its focus has nothing to do with molecular gastronomy, if by that you mean weird scientific practices for nebulising, quick-freezing, sous-viding and all of the rest of the apparently indispensable armoury of equipment and techniques of the “modern” chef. No, the reason his recipes take a minimum of three-bloody-days to cook is that they all start with classic (though sometimes enhanced) methods of concentrating flavours. All of them. In often very non technical and highly labour intensive manners. A mere mortal like me may look at some of them and say, really? Will anyone notice? I mean, if I haven’t slept for 48 hours to get this perfect stock ready to cook with, I want my friends to be such gourmets that they really care. Heston presumes they will.

So if you eat at Heston’s restaurant you may love some of the dishes, you may hate some of the dishes or you may be able to appreciate why something is interesting despite not being remotely to your tastes. What you will not think is “bugger, this is bland”. You won’t sit there thinking, this guy is wasting my time. You will never say, hmm, where is the discernible flavour? Because, like it or hate it, Heston specialises in concentrating all the discernible flavours into something that you can’t ignore. Only then does he move onto (for me the entirely optional step) of an eccentrically, science laboratory assisted, presentation.

You may notice there are no photos in this review? Why? Because with food I’m beginning to think there is nothing more misleading. A picture may speak a thousand words, but they may all be lies. You can’t photograph an aroma, a flavour, a foretaste or aftertaste. We all wander around now clicking our food, thereby impressing upon chefs that appearance is 90% of the battle. We are forcing them towards the flim-flam of presentation rather than the coalface of traditional technique. At cooking school recently my teacher explained that he spent a lot of time with books of Salvador Dali to improve his plating art. Fantastic, if he’s already got the flavours going on. Otherwise I’d prefer to be served by a big Italian mama with the plating technique of Jackson Pollock.

I love tasting menus. A friend of mine recently raved about the pillow menu in the last hotel he stayed at. The height of luxury he thought. I can’t think of anything worse. There are enough decisions to take in life, why do I even need to think about pillows? Just give me a good one or leave a variety on the bed. A tasting menu is perfect for me. Give me eight dishes that you are confident say something. I’m happy if four are good. I don’t even mind if one is disgusting, Heston’s snail porridge for instance (even though I love snails), or his horrible egg and bacon ice cream. The latter actually made me feel slightly nauseous but at least it didn’t bore me. I’m happy to give up free choice if I am confident that “el commandante” knows what he is doing.

Sadly, I know I have to get down to specifics. Eight tedious courses of specifics. I’ll be brief. If you are going to serve retro potato chips (crisps in English) please dry them on a bit of kitchen towel first rather than letting the oil run into the bottom of the serving receptacle. Put salt on the witty fresh popcorn.

Raw (and probably pre-frozen) scallops don’t taste of much here unless marinated. Cauliflower crème didn’t do anything to enhance. If I hadn’t been wearing my glasses the dish would have been invisible, slivers and smears of white against a white plate.

Then a tasty, mushroomy, pancake was ruined by an incomprehensible sugary candy-floss topping.

The sous-vide poached egg, then bread-crumbed and deep fried, was fine, but an egg without salt?

Something else??? Certainly there wasn’t a crunchy mouth cleansing salad!

Sadly, the famous Palermo restaurant hijackers did not come through the door at this point, relieve us of all our money and put us out of our misery.

Then steak. An original choice in Argentina? Sous vide, purple rare. Actually very well seasoned. Perfect for me, horrible for a couple of my companions. As you were not asked how you liked your steak cooked, they were thoroughly put off by the purple meat and the bloody juices seeping into the mashed potato. Good for me, I was starving still, so ate theirs. Strangely though, I have yet to meet an Argentinian who would contemplate eating meat this rare.

A couple of puddings, something on a big Chinese spoon, no idea what it was. Then a chocolate desert. Not only the epitome of bland but surrounded by a white sauce that they didn’t have enough of. So they served the last person at our table with the same but instead of the flavourless white crème, they dragged some yogurt out of the back of the fridge and told us it was the same. It wasn’t but sadly it wasn’t better. The waiter refused to admit it wasn’t the same. The cook didn’t dare come out of the kitchen to answer the accusation. However, as it actually tasted of something (old yogurt) it was undeniable.

I seem to have forgotten a couple of courses, but I remember that they cannot have been memorable. Or maybe the greasy crisps were a course? Was the bread basket the other? Who knows or cares? Halfway through the meal we’d all lost the will to live or at least remain sober, hence the size of the bill. Swigging had become a necessity.

It still confuses me how the reality of this restaurant diverged from my well-researched expectations. Perhaps the chef owners had been called away by a sudden death in the family? Maybe they were running low on ingredients? Maybe their food is designed with the photographer in mind, not the diner? Certainly it was not a patch on Las Pizarras (Thames 2296), which produces classic, big-flavoured dishes with simple presentation. I should go back and give it another go. Anyone can have a bad night. But then again maybe the owner will read this review. Better not to risk it!

Paraje Arevalo, Arevalo 1502, ( tel: 4775-7759) in case for some obscure reason you are still interested in going.

El asado se hace con las brasas!

Good news for an old guy like me. If there is one thing an argentine girl will have been subjected to a thousand times before she graduates from her teenage years, it is the ubiquitous BBQ. If you don’t love it you are immediately stripped of your nationality. Harsh, but that’s the rule here.

I once watched a very amusing but very short (and somewhat portly) friend of mine shoulder his way into a group of svelte fashionistas at some London art opening. He was determined to pick up an non longitudinally challenged Eastern European supermodel, who was clearly out of his league. Her companions looked on amused as, staring up at the underside of her breasts he made his pitch. Looking disdainful she politely told him she didn’t date dwarfs. “Sweetie,” he replied unfazed, “I’m 7 foot tall standing on my wallet.” They married and thankfully divorced quite rapidly thereafter. Apparently he got sick of holding her hair after dinner.

“The barbecue is made with the embers,” is the equivalent phrase for us oldies who don’t have a large wallet as a podium. Of course it needs to be delivered with confidence to be successful and herein lies the problem. In the land of meat mythology, how can an Englishman ever be taken seriously as an “Asador” (the royalty of BBQ chefdom)?

The first rule of competition (at least for the inept) is don’t compete! The fact is they don’t know a lot about marinating here. Sauces, unheard of. Gentle pre-cooking of the tougher meat cuts (in a flavoursome liquid), not on the agenda. So, as long as the fire goes on early, the embers glow evenly and you finish everything over their beloved source of smokiness, you can succeed! And if your short-ribs cut like butter you can win!! While they will wonder how you cooked everything so quickly, they will never suspect. That there are other ways to heat meat will never impinge on their imagination.

But this is a food post. It’s about secrets discovered. And yesterday I discovered a new one, a meaty one and not pertaining to the common knowledge of my Buenos Aires compatriots. With a few friends coming for an alfresco dinner I strolled down to seek the advice of my favourite man, my butcher. He is everything a butcher should be, big, burly, bearded, with enormous hands that manhandle wicked hooks with which he slaps down half a cow on the counter, while looking at the gringo (me) menacingly. You can almost hear him asking what “boludez” I’m going to come up with next. Will I ask for a non-existent cut of meat, or demand a bag of bones (caracú) that I roast for the marrow but they give to their dogs?

So I go with the safe option. “What’s best today?” And he tells me the ojo de bife (the eye of the rib) is spectacular. Who am I to argue. Out comes a side of meat and he starts carving away, slicing off a huge hunk of yellow-fat covered meat and the ends of a couple of protruding ribs, to uncover the tender, dark-purple ojos secreted below. And the truth is they do look “espectacular” but I’m already having doubts because I’m imagining the hunk that he looks ready to discard, sitting flesh-down in a bath of red wine before smouldering, fat-down, over the aforementioned embers. “Uuugh, whats that cut called?” I ask hesitantly, hoping it is an actual cut.

“Marucha, we call it the butcher’s cut here, the porteños don’t ask for it so we keep it for ourselves. In Cordoba though it is one of the most sort after.” So I snag it and out of guilt and also because you never know when they might come in handy and because despite the fact that I already have a huge chicken and several kilos of pork, the ojos do look really good, I get a kilo of them as well.

Final result, the cut cooks like I imagined and quite quickly too and the fat goes crispy, smoky, while imbuing it with a a lot of flavour. And you can serve it reasonably rare without it being tough, though you need to use much more salt on the fat side than you would imagine reasonable. Ask for marucha and not only will you upgrade your client status as a meat connoisseur with your butcher, you will also enhance your asador credibility with Argentine friends who have probably never heard of it.

And once the lovely young thing at your table has munched her way through half a kilo of your flavourful carne, you may feel brave enough to compete with her much younger, better looking boyfriend. “Sabes querida, el asado se hace con las brases?”

Ugly Food!

The problem with immaculate presentation is it raises expectations that only the finest chefs can fulfil. Further, the trend seems to be that if the ingredient is listed in the dish description, it has to appear separately and identifiably on the plate, or the punters will be up in arms. “I thought this came garnished with Kashmiri crocus stigmas?” they moan, not content that their paella’s rich vapour and distinctive yellow hue is due to the prior infusion of said saffron.

More disturbing is the fashion of “deconstructing” a perfectly good dish into its separate ingredients and hoping a clever sauce will somehow meld the flavours together and imbue it with the resonance that good, slow, one pot cooking would have surely provided. There is a reason that certain dishes have stood the test of centuries and the chef that once provided me with a deconstructed Cassoulet de Toulouse certainly deserved beheading by the very brotherhood of French knights whose sworn duty it is to defend this dish, ( see http://www.saveur.com/article/Kitchen/Searching-For-The-Secrets-Of-Cassoulet). The excuse given? Well in these health conscious times the chef was unwilling to inflict on his public’s arteries those delicious beans which act as sponges for the duck and ham fats that make this dish so unctuous. So he served the beans on the side, boiled, with some form of warm garlic and tomato coulis, which just rolled off the beans and clashed acidly with the roast duck breast, shaving of ham hock and garlic sausage rounds. The dish looked pretty though.

Of course good looks do not preclude impressive flavour. I ate 18 times in a my 24 day stay in Beijing at the amazing Da Dong Duck.Their coffee-table book style menu includes full page photos of every one of the hundreds of dishes which all come out tasting like your best imaginings of the images’ potential if the chef was a complete genius who ruled his 150 kitchen staff with tyrannical precision. Which he was and he did. (Click on “dishes” here – http://www.dadongdadong.com/en – to a get a feeling for what I am talking about. The only reason to go to that godforsaken city!). While I have never eaten (and will sadly now never have the opportunity) at El Bulli, I have visited the Fat Duck where Heston Blumenthal’s dishes are love them or hate them but guaranteed to elicit some flavoursome reaction. And are of course exquisitely presented.

(Aside – If you share my obsession with good chefs and better ducks you may enjoy this video of Heston visiting Beijing so Da Dong can teach him how to make the perfect Peking duck – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jsc_hR47E0)

Anyway, I hope the above is adequate justification for what you are about to see. It’s not pretty I’m afraid. The only thing I do worse than food presentation is photography. However, at the request of a young American friend who is forsaking us to return to Yanquilandia, Friday night called for big, dirty flavoursome food and I was tasked with a classic Osso Bucco and fresh pasta as the main course.

The starter barely seems worth mentioning. A nice sweet honeydew melon liberally garnished with Serrano style ham. I bother however, just to take the opportunity to point out to my Buenos Aires brethren that the Fiambreria San Francisco (corner of Thames and Corrientes) provides top quality produce at half the price of anywhere else! Buy their Brie, leave it in a warm cupboard for 3 days, decline your maids urgent admonitions to cleanse the kitchen of the foul smelling beast and once it can run as fast as you, France comes to you thus saving you the money and inconvenience of the opposite course of action.

Image

Shiny, winey, marrow rich sauce with melting meat.

For the Osso Bucco I tweaked the classic Gordon Ramsay recipe (http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/ramsays-secrets/story-e6frefal-1111116489785). However, you can’t get veal in Argentina or at least not the pale fleshed kind from some poor animal that has spent all its life in a box and never felt the sun’s warmth before meeting an untimely demise. So you have to use the robust, fully fledged, cook for at least 4 hours until tender version. The advantage is that you don’t need to muck around making a veal stock to cook it in, as it makes its own as it goes along. If you have clicked on the recipe you will see the benefit. My strategy is simply to combine all the goodies in the veal stock recipe with all the goodies in the Osso Bucco one, cheat with a bit of chicken stock and as I wanted a generous amount of sauce for my pasta rather than the minimalist reduction Gordon requires, tip in some tomatoes and a bottle of red (for about 3 kilos of meat) after about 2 hours of cooking. The great thing about slow cooking is it allows you to layer flavours while giving them time to meld. So while I wanted to enhance the umami flavour of the mushrooms with some worcester (anchovy) or fish sauce and salt up the dish with some soya sauce, I didn’t want to lose the mushrooms texture by adding them early in the process. Fried up quickly in a pan with the added ingredients, they tasted horrible when ready to be added to the sauce but after an hour’s simmer reinforced its depth and counteracted the wines acidity. A technique that I have recently learnt at chef school is the use of cold roux for thickening sauces. Add equal parts flour to belted butter, cook up for 2 minutes and then cool and put into the fridge. When you come to use it it will be a crumbly, plastic texture and you can break it into the sauce progressively until you achieve the thickness you require. Unlike cornflour, it adds a buttery sheen and avoids the risk of uncooked floury lumps that other methods sometimes provoke.

The result? Artery clotting goodness, but sadly not enough bones to suck the marrow from.

Anglo Argentine Cake

Puddings are something I rarely eat. Other than their magnificent ice cream, Argentine preferences verge on the sickly sweet. But as I have no choice but to study Pastelería as part of my course, I went for a simple sponge and some anglo argentine flavour layering. A filling of fresh peaches, quickly cooked up in a liquid of hesperidina (bitter orange) liquor topped with the classic Eton Mess, whipped cream, strawberries and crumbled meringue.

“Eton Mess” topping

Certainly looked a mess, but managed to be surprisingly light and fruity. Now I have to work out how to deconstruct it to rectify its hideous appearance!!

Menu Trial – Argentino Irónico

With 6 months to go before the opening of The 5th Floor, my valiant co-chef Rudie and I are working on some menu ideas for the proposed puerta cerrada restaurant, trying them out on groups of friends of varied nationalities. Every Chef in Buenos Aires will tell you it’s easy to frighten the typical Argy. A mere wave of a chili will have him crying to mummy about the “jodido picante de la re puta madre”, that has left his delicate palate with 3rd degree burns. Many Chefs will also contend that any form of strong flavouring will also have the average punter running for the hills, or at least to the nearest provider of choripans, milanesas, or good honest, un-messed with wood grilled carne. So, what do you do if you don’t want to ostracise the locals from your culinary exploits. Trick them with ingredients that will remind them of their abuela’s cooking, and then bomb them with the strongest flavours you think they can tolerate and see what happens! This is after all the development stage and given a few puerta cerradas like the very excellent Cocina Sunae (http://www.cocinasunae.com) have generated a substantial and loyal local following for the well spiced, if not too spicy, I am keen to do the same. So menu 1, typically argentine produce presented in unusual (at least for Buenos Aires) and hopefully delicious combinations. ImageFirst up, Morcilla, the staple starter of all great argentine asados, only this time on a crunchy base (rosti next time), a slice of caramelised apple, topped with a pickled quails egg, a sprinkle of smoked paprika and a spray of passion fruit vinegar. The presentation was inelegant, the towers too tall and we could have gone madder with the vinegar which added a delicious touch (tested by spraying it directly into some of the guinea pigs’ mouths), but a surprisingly interesting combination. A keeper, albeit with re-engineered architecture.

Second, and luckily no one took a photo of this one, was Caracú. Beautiful roast bone marrow in the classic St. John style (https://www.stjohngroup.uk.com/) with a parsley, caper salad and lemon dressing. Except it wasn’t beautiful. Undercooked! A schoolboy error!!! Yes it looked great and rather archetypically carnivore until we scooped the pink (yes it should have been white) marrow onto the tostados. Would anyone even be brave enough even to try this or should I bin the lot? I kept quiet long enough to see. Surprisingly Tez, an American led the way and pronounced it delicious and after assurances that they were unlikely to die from mad cow disease everyone else tucked in but I was still kicking myself. This was meant to be a dish that was unchallenging for an Argentine (they still eat bits of offal that I haven’t got to grips with) but novel for most of the foreigners. I think the varied opinions were provoked by the unappetising appearance rather than the flavour and it is easy to perfect this dish. It is also economical as your friendly butcher will give you the marrow bones for free. However the decider is that you only get 2 decent pieces of marrow bone from each leg so getting hold of this in bulk is going to be too tricky. OFF the menu and to be reserved for a quick decadent snack with a close friend (normally red and liquid). ImageCourse three, for me the biggest success of the evening, big Sorrentinos (possibly, I can never remember pasta shape names), stuffed with Osso Bucco in a clarified consomme-like reduction of its cooking sauce. Everything cooked according to Gordon Ramsey’s fantastic recipe ( http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/ramsays-secrets/story-e6frefal-1111116489785) until the meat was stuffed into the pasta and the sauce clarified into a soup rather than reduced into a syrop. Rudie’s pasta came out light despite the facts he had to use tequila rather than the white wine he was reserving, that I had thrown into my sauce and that the sun was blazing onto his preparation area. This was as good as anything I have managed to produce. ImageThe main course required this, an evil looking meat syringe that my friend Tez has just brought me from the good old USA, land of the BBQ competition.   A glorious 5 rib bife de chorizo marinated inside and out with an asian marinade, sliced thin and served over a spiced noodle salad. Great taste, but plenty of mucking around pan frying the slices for those that don’t like rare meat. While they wont have the same visual impressiveness 2 lomos (fillets) cooked to different levels of “doneness” would make life easier in the kitchen. A MAYBE until the next trial! And while the dressing was lightly picante we forgot to filter it thus causing the immediate death of one of our Argentine guests as he bit into a minuscule slice of chilli.

If he had still been alive I am sure he would have enjoyed the cooling properties of the mango ricotta cheese cake with a mandarin and hesperidina reduction (which I wont put cinnamon into next time). A bit heavy after 4 courses, and actually much more delicious the next day when the flavours had a chance to meld (and the day after, and the day after that). But not a keeper.

Alcoholic Tres Leches Cake next time?

And the added bonus? What do you do with the remaining Osso Bucco and its jelly that has solidified in the fridge. Well if you are in Argentina there is only one option.

Unreliably claimed by my friends to be the best empanadas they have ever eaten.