Roots, awards

“I visited a new territory (Villa Martelli).

“I shuffled around for hours in the sun.”

Francis Mallman and some of his 400 chickens.
Francis Mallman and some of his 400 chickens.

And so begins the lyrical inspiration behind a cocktail I had to create for a booze competition earlier this week.

MAPA Argentine Apertif Movement, organized by Campari, invited several team leaders to gather a squadron of creative drinks makers — as well as myself and Mr Links.

Deadline fortunately extended, I managed to concoct the Cynaropolis, a simple and hopefully effective beverage made out of Cynar and mint tea that will help me win a trip to Italy. I wish. But the truth is, it was inspired by last Sunday’s maiden voyage to Tecnópolis — that distant national attraction that many have tried to write off as a white elephant — and the purchases I made there.

It seems fairly pointless to close the stable door after the horse has bolted, but the four-day Raíz food fair that was held at Villa Martelli venue surpassed expectations, and, working on the assumption it will return, it is really worth the effort, plus it’s free to get in.

“Oh it’s far away.” Well, kind of, but on a Sunday it took 30 minutes on a bus and dropped us four blocks from the entrance.

“Oh, it’s a government-sponsored thing.” Well, yes, that too, but while there were quite a few Evita images, the only aspect that reminded me of our president was a gigantic C on the side of a building.

In short, the reason for going was to eat. And drink. With a beer patio at the entrance to set you on your way, you’ll be pleased to know the bathrooms were immaculate for that post-pint pee.

Some 49 restaurants took part, yet it was a different mix to Masticar, which hosted more upscale eateries. More bargainous favourites such as Congreso’s Chan Chan, a top Peruvian spot that was serving up sole ceviche (35 pesos), nestled alongside the likes of one of LatAm’s 50 Best, Aramburu, whose Aramburger was a ridiculous and mouth-watering bargain at 25 pesos.

It was also refreshing to see fruit and veg vendors selling salad leaves and other fruits from wooden crates, just as they would any other day, and prices were good — five pesos for two bunches of spinach, for example.

The indoor market housed a veritable array of producers from around the country, including the snail breeder and the bunny boilers, alongside cookery demos. I was also intrigued by the Brota seed kit — buy the bag, soak your seed of choice for a few hours then place them in the bag and water twice a day until they are salad-ready — and am busy caring for my wheat.

But the most elaborate demo came from celebrity chef Francis Mallmann whose team slowly yet surely roasted 400 chicken al pirulin, precariously dangling from twine. Quite a sight.

But the goods I snapped up that inspired the Cynaropolis cocktail were fresh mint and verbena. Healthy looking leaves, these little plants cost 12 pesos each and came in decent soil, not that dry stuff that is screams Sahara and now they’ve been repotted, here’s to a long life garnishing my stiff drinks.

Argentina is firmly on the world’s enological map, after Wines of Argentina confirmed its judging panel for the 2014 Argentina Wine Awards this week.

An international jury of eight experts from the UK, the US, Canada, Singapore, Chile and Brazil will take on the enormous task of selecting the wheat from the chaff next February, in what’s set to be the most important such event to date.

Big names on the panel include Decanter’s Steven Spurrier, who organized the infamous Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, Travel + Leisure’s Bruce Shoenfold and Bon Appetit’s Colu Henry, all heavyweights in their field.

While some 710 wines participated in the 2013 awards, next year is set to see even more vintages enter competition given that the figures rises every 12 months.

Besides the gold, silver and bronze medals, new for 2014 are additional trophies for the best winery in each of the Patagonia, north-west Argentina and Cuyo regions.

If you can’t wait until February, however, you can easily get stuck into some of the 2013 winners: Andeluna’s Pasionado Cabernet Franc 2009 is a delicious pourri of forest fruits bursting to escape from the bottle, while Bianchi’s Famiglia Bianchi Chardonnay 2012 is a fusion lesson in light citrus aromas and chewy caramel.

Buenos Aires Herald, October 27, 2013
Ph: Raíz

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