It’s 3pm on Thursday, Feria Masticar IV opened to the general public an hour ago – and it’s already heaving.
And while this is the first autumnal edition of the food fair organised by Acelga food association, the weather is certainly warm enough to be nursing a gin and tonic. That’s lucky, because Nomade food truck is selling G&T popsicles with a hint of cucumber… Set to be as popular as always, this is your Masticar survival guide.
It’s the year of the food truck with a city government bill in the pipeline as I wrote in Wining On, March 22, with four parking up at the Masticar preview – but at the main event there’s a whole host more. While the Retro Food Truck VW camper van has made way for Kensho’s vegan terroir, and old hands Paraje Arevalo, Nomade and La Cabrera are in attendance, check out the following morfi mobiles: Bon Bouquet Créperie’s Martín Bouquet is sharing his van with TV chef Juliana López May who’s whipping up a goat’s cheese, Malbec-infused onion jam and caramel-coated chestnuts crepe alongside his smoked salmon version; I Latina’s Santiago Macías is serving a Colombian arepa topped with pork, avocado and mezcal-marinated red onion pickles, the Peterson brothers have a smoked salmon and poached egg pancake, and the Guido Tassi (Restó) Fernando Mayoral (ex-Thymus) combo has a delectable fried cod and tartare as well as hard-to-find rhubarb compote. Bigger brands have also caught onto the trucking trend – Patagonia craft beer, Campari and Peabody are also attendance, the latter showing off their MaxJuicer with a carrot, orange and ginger concoction.
Outside, nestled among the big smokers such as Don Julio and Francis Mallmann, you’ll find the Villa Crespo-based 1893. Why would you want to eat a pizza at Masticar? Cos it’s a pleasant change from the gooey porteña ones, that’s why. Led by Danilo Ferraz who also runs Morelia, his team of pie a la parrilla makers are grilling up crispy bases topped with mozzarella, rocket and roasted tomatoes then drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar reduction. 60 pesos. Great cheese, thin and crunchy base, fresh toppings – I’ll be heading to the fixed abode tomorrow. Also try their tapenade and yoghurt-topped fainá. 30 pesos.
Drop by La Pastronería de Celigourmet for a warm pastrami sandwich, one of those hard-to-find goodies in Buenos Aires. With one side of the mandioc and poppy seed toasted bun slathered in honey mustard, this loaded beast also comes with homemade pickles. Good for big appetites, I heard one food writer even claim it was too big. (Nothing is ever too big, in my book.) 60 pesos.
One Italian hit comes straight from Retiro courtesy of BASA. Normally on the radar for its cool drinks, BASA had a change in the kitchen last year after Julieta Oriolo left to launch La Alacena. Pablo Campoy is doing quite well thank you very much as you can tell from his lush lamb shank braised in its own juices then stuffed within four agnolotti and topped with mascarpone that melts straight into the meaty gravy. Man-size helping. Delicious. 60 pesos.
Over at Astor, veggies should look away as Antonio Soriano is whipping up the Bambi Burger. This venison, roast aubergine and pickle affair will set you back 60 pesos while giving you a shortcut to hell though his roasted boar and carrot mash number is heavenly. Shove both components in your mouth and you’ll die happy, wherever you end up. Another hefty portion. 50 pesos.
In a change up from the weight yet yummy meat dishes, Pablo Buzzo’s smoked trout topped with caper salsa criolla and pickled beetroots was so refreshing it was practically a palate cleanser. Executive chef of Bodega Del Fin del Mundo, he brought Patagonia to Colegiales in just a few delicate bites. 30 pesos.
This is also your chance to try out La Mar’s wares, if you haven’t already made a reservation at the city’s hottest new cebichería. I’ll also be heading back tomorrow to try Fleur de Sel’s cuttlefish coconut-based curry.
Back the small producers
With familiar foodie faces such as La Suerte and Cabañas Piedras Blancas cheese makers and Il Mirtilo blueberry producers making a welcome return to the marketplace, plenty of newbies have travelled from all corners of the country to make it to Masticar.
Take the herb and spice growers from Cachi, near Cafayate in Salta. They totally captured my heart with their vibrant attitude, cheerful nature – and vocal chords. Rene Reyes and Fermín Burgos from the Fuerte Alto association in Cachi travelled 1,700km to sell their wares such as spicy chilis, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano and paprika. The body was represented at the last Masticar although this is the first time the farmers themselves have made it. I snapped up a bag of their toasted cumin, potent and smelling just like this spice should, and it’s hard to come by the good stuff in the city. Get chatting to Rene and he assures you everyone knows him the Calchaquí Valley. Charm him a little more and he’ll even sing a tune so beautiful it’ll bring a tear to your eye. 30 pesos for 100 grams.
Neighbouring Jujuy is representing with two types of organic quinoa from Finca La Estrella. This superfood is harvested in the Puna by hand, as Argentina is a good 10 years behind competitor Peru agrotechnology wise, according to Enzo Gonzales who works for the 80-year-old firm. “Peru has an advantage when it comes to technology but it does mean that we harvest everything by hand, which is also positive,” he told me. This finca also produces an ample variety of red, black and mung beans as well as green beans and chia. Half a kilo 70 pesos (cheaper than El Galpón.)
Another new producer is Rimonim from San Juan, selling delicious, bright red pomegranate. Buy this superfruit whole or already de-jewelled (de-seeded) in jars for 20 or 40 pesos. It’s the season for them and these babies are ripe.
I also tried a tiny piece of black garlic from Oro Rubi in Mendoza. This quirky coloured member of the onion genus sells for 40 pesos a bulb – following caramelisation, one tooth is the equivalent of an entire white bulb, so it saves you cash in the long run.
Another new producer from Catamarca is Valles Andinos, saffron growers from Villa Paman. I bought a small pot for 50 pesos, which will last for 16 dishes, according to the producers. With a bright red tone and a potent aroma, paella is on the cards for sure.
Also look out for a fine display of pumpkins from Expresión orgánica farm based in Buenos Aire as well as pecan nut oil from Entre Ríos, Neuquén’s Finca Araucaria that makes venson and wild boar cured cuts and Pescadería Puerto Lobos from Chubut, a fishmonger selling mussels, scallops, razor clams and clams.
I’m not stalking you but…
Nothing like a touch of celebrity chef spotting, especially now that so many culinary faces are familiar on the box. Selfie hunters went mad for Maru Botana, Germán Martitegui from Tegui and MasterChef managed to slip through the early birds unscathed while telly colleague Christophe Krywonis was busily manning his own stand Mundo Christophe, Francis Mallmann did a radio interview on site before heading to his own stand for photos, Sucre’s Fernando Trocca kicked back with some grub while Pablo del Río flew in from Mendoza. TV chef Narda Lepes and patisserie goddess Beatriz Chomnalez were also in the house, as were Donato de Santi and Juliana López May.
Zapiola 50, Colegiales
Until Sunday 19 April, 11pm