I will give anything a go — once. Brain, testicle, eyeball, other bits that make you squirm, pretty much anything. A few weeks ago, a small posse of people who adore eating, including chef Christina Sunae and KT, who runs day-long dessert tours in Sydney, Australia, headed to a hole-in-the-wall in Villa Crespo.
It is definitely beneficial to book a table with 24 hours’ notice at Bai Fu (Scalabrini Ortiz 152) — not just to order the scrumptious Cantonese duck, with every last piece of flesh present on the platter in front of us (unlike other Chinese restaurants I could mention, which seem to whip the good bits back to the kitchen) — but also to ensure you try the most authentic dishes.
That was the night I lost my virginity to jellyfish (a bit of a soggy non-event that I thought might attack my throat), chicken’s feet (good crunch and flavour) and spicy tripe (certainly not a letdown on the heat front). Never say never, say I, but despite the bravado, I preferred the succulent roast duck and the coriander-steamed catch of the day.
Of course, one of the more common things to try in BA is a selection of Argentine wine at an organized tasting such as Anuva or 0800 Vino, and if you’re lucky enough to be in Mendoza, not only do you get to gurgle varietals on home terroir, you can also indulge in a spot of olive oil tasting at Tapiz winery in Chacras de Coria, Pan y Oliva at Familia Zuccardi or at Verolio in Mendoza City.
However, this is not about feet or plonk tasting. This is about a different kind of Argentine goody, and one that has its origins on the Old Continent, and can be much improved on the original product.
Gelato, or helado, has set the stakes high, surely due to the local sweet-toothed palette. When I realized dulce de leche came in ice-cream format, I passed out at the mere thought of such a sugar rush.
Given a choice between a starter and a dessert, usually I will go savoury. But, the possibility of attending a gelato-tasting event was impossible to turn down, so I winded my way to another part of Villa Crespo to Colombian puerta cerrada restaurant I Latina and a date with ice-cream parlour Jauja.
A few weeks ago, my mate Annie had read a Twitter post of mine, bitching about a kilo of ice-cream costing 100 pesos. She sympathetically invited me to share her buy one, get one free, voucher, and I wasn’t going to turn that down. She couldn’t wait for me — a sign of its quality — and shamefacedly said that owner Lucas was waiting for me.
There was quite an array of flavours, colours, sorbets, DDLs and chocolates. I was allowed three flavours for my quarter-kilo pot (perhaps if I write it as 250g it doesn’t sound quite so terrifyingly lardy), and I went with old friend cookies ‘n cream, plus two newbies, pineapple and ginger, and fizzy lemonade with raspberry. Needless to say, I polished off the lot and didn’t share a spoonful with Annie.
Back to Jauja at I Latina, and 14 flavours, goddamit, had been lined up for a select group of hacks and food bloggers. Deep breath. Fourteen is quite a lot to handle. In addition, this was a competition, just to keep tasters on their toes.
With a list divided into two sections, tasting and blind tasting, not only did we have to guess the flavour, but also whether it was made with cream or eggs. Five ice-creams in, and I had dumped the mini cones and was back to basics, licking at it like a cat, vicariously dumping it when the numb tongue was too chilled to make decisions.
Jauja uses real fruits and takes plenty of inspiration from Patagonia, so there was plenty of strawberry, raspberry and also cassis from blackcurrants. A simple way to check that an heladería is using genuine and not artificial flavours is with the banana test. If the colour is yellow, then it’s fake, whereas a peeled fruit churned into ice-cream takes on a light brownish colour.
Of course, the really hard work began when we were blindfolded. To enhance the senses, quite the classic iPod selection of music blasted out, including some Beethoven, Guns ‘n Roses and Frank Sinatra. It didn’t help me.
Tasting raspberry and cream, white chocolate, extremely dark chocolate and others in the dark was fun, if a little exhausting and despite all efforts, I scored the same in round two as in round one, when I could see. And I even had the upper hand when they produced pineapple-and-ginger, goddamit.
Still, I was in equal last place with various others blind-tasters, and will be picking up my quarter-kilo (250g?) pot as soon as the cassis and forest fruits in the freezer are history.
Cerviño 3901, Palermo Chico
Published in the >Buenos Aires Herald on December 16, 2012
Photo courtesy of Pick Up The Fork