This year, the Latin Americans have really played with our hearts, haven’t they?
Earlier this year, they tugged at our heart-strings through the goofy Blue Macaw named Blu in Rio 2 – an adorable movie set in the vibrant, dramatic and colourful backdrop of the Amazon.
Just a few weeks after, it was the real-life drama of the FIFA World Cup that first divided our whole nation into ‘blue-white’ and ‘yellow’ – rooting for the Argentina and Brazil teams – and then united us in shocked grief because neither team lifted the cup! 😦
And now, just a few months after, it’s a different kind of drama unfolding here… a drama bursting with the passions of the land that is Argentina! Those who have experienced the magic of the Tango, watching it (remember Al Pacino in ‘Scent of a Woman’? watch here!) or doing it yourselves, will know the beauty, grace, power and precision that it embodies. The food from Argentina is no less… it’s a Tango with your taste buds!
With an Argentinian Food Festival in town, Teddy and I, having failed miserably at Tango lessons with J J Rodriguez, decided to explore other things Argentinian, and hopefully enjoy them much more 😉 So we headed straight for Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, and kicked off the evening on a quiet note with a crisp and fruity Chardonnay from the Mendoza valley of Argentina.
But then, in walked the good-looking duo of Argentinian Chefs, Executive Chef Daniel Godoy and his assistant Agustin Bogado, from Alvear Art Hotel in Buenos Aires, and turned the tables… well, not literally 😉 An animated conversation followed on food, culture, movies and, of course, football, and slowly the disappointed face of dear Mr. Rodriguez faded away…
Realising that we are true food adventurers, and eat pretty much ‘anything that moves’, Chef Daniel suggested we try tasting portions from the special menu, so he could take us on a culinary journey into the very fibre of Argentina. We were only too happy to go with the flow 🙂
And flow it did! The journey started with the traditional Empanada – a crescent-shaped pastry parcel with savoury fillings, sometimes sweet like our Karanji or Gujiya. These flaky dumplings with beef mince filling left Teddy smacking his lips… and asking for a few dozen more!
Chef Daniel’s take on the Humita, a classic Argentinian dish, was a first for me… and made me fall in love with the humble corn all over again! Set before us was a pretty mélange of fresh corn in a cheese paprika sauce, a slice of corn on the cobs, AND little salty, crunchy pods of Cancheta – a traditional un-popped popcorn, made painstakingly by first soaking for days, then deep-frying to give it that lovely brittle pop!
The Chef’s favourite Quinoa Risotto followed, topped with a beautiful, green Parsley Sponge. And then came a hearty Fillet Mignon, served with the traditional tangy-sweet-spicy Chimichurri Sauce. Teddy liked the name so much, he got stuck with it… or rather I did, because the 3 boys got together and officially named me ‘Chimichurri’!
Finally it was time for dessert… and instead of one, we got a spectacular platter of desserts, made specially just for us! A Pumpkin Confit. A Dulce de Leche Icecream. An Alfajor – the traditional dessert of Shrewsbury-like cookies sandwiched with a dark Dulce de Leche paste. Crumbly bits of white Meringue, small dots of Vanilla Crème Anglaise, a large blob of Goat Cheese Sorbet and crunchy clusters of Almond Streusel. Every bit as great to gawp at, as it was to eat!
Just as we were about to demolish the dessert, Chef Agustin sheepishly announced it was his birthday! So a little candle was plonked on the mound of the Dulce de Leche icecream, and we had ourselves a little private birthday celebration – a birthday of someone who we had just met, who comes from the other side of the world, brought close to us through the magic of food!
Yes, it’s the magic of food that unites, but it’s also an intangible connection, an invisible thread, that links Argentina and India in a secret bond. Some would put it down to similar customs, others to similar palates, weather patterns, love for colours, festivals, politics? But I think it’s just one young man, and our shared love for him… Messi! 😉