Argentinian BBQ Party: The Patagonian Asado in El Chalten

In a country famous for it’s meat, you’d better believe there’s a proper way to throw down a good BBQ. Lucky for you, I’ve created this easy to follow guide for having a traditional Asado in your own backyard.

  1. Go see your buddy at the market and if you are cooking for ten people, buy enough dead animal for 20.
  2. Hike down to the nearby river, gather tree trunk sized pieces of driftwood and start an enormous fire.
  3. Open magnum sized bottles of red wine from Mendoza (your relative’s vineyard of course) and debate over which cassette tapes of Gaucho (country) music to play.
  4. If you’ve bought a whole lamb, season it with salt only and hang it on a cruz (metal crucifix looking thing). Angle the whole animal upright leaning towards the roaring flames and a couple feet back. Cook the inside first before turning it around and making the skin all brown and crispy. Continue to pound red wine from Mendoza. Did I mention you’re opening wine with steak knives?
  5. Shovel hot coals, some under lamb, but most under cast iron grates/tables (aka the parilla) near the fire.
  6. Thinly slice potatoes and slap them down on the flat cast iron table w/plenty of oil. Season w/salt/pepper/aji. Maybe switch to drinking Fernet Branca in Coke and/or pound more red wine. Turn Gaucho tape to side B.
  7. Slowly roast all other red meat and offal on the grate, season w/only salt!
  8. When the meat is ready to go (nice med-rare), slice it up, put it in a fresh baked whitebread bun w/ nothing else! Everyone gets a sandwich. Everyone drinks. There’s no dancing, but lots of laughter.
  9. Once you’re all fed, bust out the classical guitar and sing old Gaucho songs until 4am.

If you disagree with any of the steps above, please take up your complaints with Domingo, the gaucho who owns El Refugio Campsite in El Chalten, preferably before the fire/meat-eating/wine drinking commences each evening.



Food Truck in Ancud: Delicias de Abril

I love a good food truck. The efficiency, the convenience, the lack of pretension. Nobody likes to wait in lines but that’s most often what’s going to dictate whose truck is dishing out the best product.


Street food in Chiloé consisted of a lot of Milcaos and Pan de papa. There were always completos as well, which is a hot dog done wrong in several different ways.

Then, we come across Delicias de Abril. There is a line of about ten people and it’s moving slowly. I crane my neck around to see what he’s got going on and I see him meticulously crafting sandwiches – two at a time. I didn’t even have to read the menu to know that whatever he was making was worth a try. He had 7 different homemade sauces in front and while making the sandwiches not a single shred of food or movement on his part was wasted. As a line cook, you can spot the others who have spent thousands of hours going through the motions – this guys was smooth. After speaking with him, I learned that he used to cook for a hotel in town but eventually felt stifled by the lack of creativity. He was now his own boss and could clearly sell as many sandwiches as he felt like making.


How was it? Killer. It was neither the most gourmet or gut-busting thing I’ve ever eaten, but you could just taste that every element was done right. The bread was toasted on both sides, the pork was tender, the homemade salsa verde, garlic aioli and aji all together had a well balanced herbal-richness and spicy acidity. He even introduced me to a texture I hadn’t had in a sandwich before. He replaced lettuce with blanched and chopped up green beans. Throw a thick cut, perfectly ripe tomato in the middle and that was the sandwich. We each ate one, felt great, and immediately got back in line to get another.

Definitely check out his food truck if you are exploring Ancud. It is called Delicias de Abril, located in the main plaza next to the tourist office and you can find them on facebook! Here is a youtube video we found of him as well:

Exploring Chiloé: Costumbrista in Guabun

On one of our free days from wwoofing on a farm on Chiloé we walked to a local Costumbrista near the beach area of Guabun. A Costumbrista is like a festival with food, dancing and brute displays of manly strength as men line up to take a turn cranking the old grain mill used by their ancestors. We drank wine, ate empanadas and a patagonian style lamb called an asado, and watched a dance troupe in full garb perform the national dance of Chilote origin, the Cueca. It was such a lighthearted and fun affair. I couldn’t help but think about a video I watched in the Museo de Memoria in Santiago of older women dancing the cueca, normally a partner dance, alone because their husbands had been killed during the Pinochet era. It was nice to see the dance tradition continue with both old and young performers in the troupe. The dance itself is innocent and fun with a n awesome amount of handkerchief swirling.

We also walked a bit further to Playa Guabun to glance at the Pacific, but didn’t stay too long due to the abundance of horrible, biting black flies swarming us. Apparently these flies are a summer phenomenon that are only bad in and around January.


these black flies almost made me lose my mind!

these black flies almost made me lose my mind!


Milking Cows (aka: the life-giving gauntlet of scabby poop explosions)

I think it was visions of Gina Davis milking cows in ‘A League of Their Own’ that put the romanticism of milking cows in my head. What could be better than milking a cow, then eating the cheese a few days later? The answer to that question is just eating the cheese and being no where near the milk extraction process.

With no good pictures of the milk cows, I present you with a picture of a bull. You get the idea though...

With no good pictures of the milk cows, I present you with a picture of a bull. You get the idea though…

During the first week of wwoofing on the island of Chiloé, I eagerly volunteered Jordan and I to help with the daily milking. Turns out that the cows are up in the summer pasture, so we hiked up to the highest hill to collect the cows with the family patriarch. I tried to pretend that my instinctive ‘flight’ reaction to a cow stepping out of line wasn’t me running away scared, but instead a happy frolic in the meadow. This was off to a tenuous start.

When the cows come down from pasture, the calfs who spent the night away from their milk bearing mothers are each given turns to drink, which also helps get the udders ‘warmed up’ if you will. Once we pried the milk crazed calfs from the udders and secured them behind a fence, we got to work tying the cows’ back legs together so that they would not be able to kick us in the head while we were milking them. It’s tricky though because in order to tie their legs together, you have to put your head right behind them to get the rope around. When I wrote earlier that ‘we’ had to tie the legs together, you can be sure that I just watched as the seasoned farmed did all the work. Once the legs (and consequently the tail) are all tied up, you are ready to grab your short bench and bucket and start milking.

First, we use a little fresh water to rinse the layer of calf saliva from the udders, noting the scabby areas of flesh caused by some over eager baby cows. No one likes calf saliva in their cheese, am I right??! Then, remembering to keep the udder lubricated with the milk you are extracting, you grab hold and try to figure out a pressure/pull combo which makes the milk come out. This can be difficult especially with an endless stream of ‘that’s what she said’ scenarios popping into your head.

Ten minutes later, when I first started to get milk out of my udder and the patriarch had already finished milking two cows, I started to notice the cow leaning. A cow that leans probably doesn’t seem like a event worthy of note, but when you are crouching beneath a behemoth heifer, whose back legs are tied up, you start to realize, ‘wow, if this cow falls over on me, I’ll most certainly die.’ So anyway, I was just coming to terms with the whole leaning thing, when we noticed the beginning of a leg shuffle. Listen to me when I say this, never ignore the leg shuffle of a cow getting milked. In a series of slow motion events, Jordan and I dove out of the way barely in time to avoid a successive eruption of feces, chaotically trying to explode from a knotted tail/leg tie up, followed by a tidal wave of urine that might have been tinged with revenge for the amateur milking job we were doing on this poor cow. We left the muddy milk pen, buckets virtually empty, forearms burning, feeling unclean, emotionally even more so than physically, hoping to forget about the scabby udders threatening to haunt our morning yogurt for the rest of our days.

All jokes aside, what I once thought would be an easy, new thing to learn, turns out to be a difficult job, requiring much strength and skill. It was amazing watching the farm patriarch handle the cows expertly from pasture to milking. If you wondered why most farmers have such strong handshakes, its because they have been milking cows for decades! I was glad to have been given the chance to try milking a cow with expert teachers, and even more grateful for the people out there who do it on a regular basis so I can enjoy the cheese, yogurt and butter that I love so much!

Has anyone else out there ever tried milking cows? How was your experience? We’d love to hear about it.

Wwoofing on Chiloé: The Food!

One of the most spectacular things we ate while wwoofing at Al Norte Del Sur was a traditional curanto, which you can read about in our previous post. Almost everything we ate was cultivated on the farm and made from scratch. It is pretty amazing when a large family, with a restaurant, only has one relatively small refridgerator. That’s all they needed because the produce was just waiting to be picked and the dairy products were squeezed and cultured each day! There was fresh cheese, jam, hearty stews, eight varieties of potatoes and all sorts of delicious homemade breads, fried dough and empanadas. By the end of the month I think I was averaging about 10 rolls a day, which was totally inappropriate considering bending my arm to pick raspberries was hardly the ‘strenuous farm work’ that would necessitate the frantic carbo-loading mania which possessed me at each meal. Not only did Al Norte cook deliciouus food, they also employed a zero waste lifestyle on the farm which taught us alot about sustainability. No food (or water for that matter) was ever wasted. Between the humans, dogs, pigs and compost pile, every morsel was consumed. Needless to say, we were fed very well and, despite my increased risk of developing jam-onset diabetes, we ate happily.


Homemade jams, local honey and all sorts of other delicious spreads were always available to eat with the fresh bread!

Homemade jams, local honey and all sorts of other delicious spreads were always available to eat with the fresh bread!



Chilote Curanto: A Fire Pit Feast

image image Aside from homemade cheese and jam, a curanto was the most distinctly chilote cuisine we were lucky enough to enjoy, several times. Nowadays, the people of Chiloé can cook a curanto in a large olla, or pot, on the stove. However, traditionally a curanto is cooked and eaten outside. The benefit of cooking a curanto in a pot is that you can save all the broth from the melange of ingredients, which is then ladled out and sipped on as a lovely addition to the meal. Some even say this special liquor is a type of aphrodisiac! The benefit of the traditional curanto is the rich, smoky flavor imparted by the firepit. We had the pleasure of learning about curantos from the family farm we wwoofed at, Al Norte Del Sur. Curantos can be an all day affair, requiring much preparation. As you can see from the pictures below, the result is well worth the effort! Stones are heated to blazing levels in the morning over a big fire. The stones provide the heat to cook the curanto so it is essential that they get very hot. Once the stones were ready, they piled on sacks of gigantic mussels and clams, freshly picked potatoes, fava and pea pods, chicken, pork belly and sausage. They covered the meat with gigantic leaves that grow all over the island. The leaves help to seal in the heat and also provide a platform to cook the final component of a curanto: milcau and pan de papas! Milcaus are like giant potato dumplings, made from flour, the starch extracted from shredded raw potatoes, and pork fat. Pan de papas consist of flour and freshly mashed potatoes, formed into a disk and stuffed with cheese. These delicious dumplings get spread over the steaming heap of food and covered with more leaves. The entire thing is then covered with a mountain of tall dried weeds and grasses to help seal in all the steam and heat. After about an hour, we would gather around the fire pit and, like kids on Christmas morning, watch wide-eyed as the family matriarch peeled away the grass and leaves revealing the feast beneath. image imageimageimageimage imageimageimageimageimageimage Traditionally, people gathered around the curanto to eat directly from the fire pit, but we filled our plates and ate the feast on the grass in the sun. Additionally, Al Norte spiced up the affair a bit more, serving up glasses of freshly harvested strawberry smoothies and a cocktail of homemade fermented apple cider called chicha, warmed and mixed with honey. We loved the taste of the chicha, a much more rustic flavor than the sweet Terremottos of Santiago! Since the family has a restaurant at the farm we were lucky to taste these curantos and cocktails several times during our month long stay. The restaurant patrons always left the feast happy, and so did we! image image

Strolling for Salumi: A Day in Boston’s North End

Being a Bostonian that grew up in a New York family (go Yankees!) can make it difficult for me to woo my non-Boston friends and family of all the wonders Boston has to offer. I am also from an Italian family from whom I have heard frequent laments of the ever shrinking Little Italy in New York. As soon as I got to know Boston’s Italian neighborhood, the North End, I knew I found something special about Boston that would impress even the most steadfast “New York is better” kind of people.

The old brick buildings and narrow streets of the North End make the historic nature of the neighborhood almost palpable. Keeping with the prevalent revolutionary history Boston has to offer, the North End contains the Paul Revere House and the original North Church, now known as the Second Church. The neighborhood has gone through many changes, at first a wealthy puritan stronghold, it became a disease ridden hub for impoverished waves of immigrants, at first the Irish, then Eastern European Jews and finally the Italians. Today, Italians still comprise over 40% of the population in the neighborhood (source). Although I don’t understand what they’re saying (yet!) I am always elated to hear the locals conversing in Italian on the streets of the North End, which for me solidifies its authenticity as a standout Italian neighborhood.

Although there are copious amounts of sit down restaurants in the North End my ideal day typically avoids those establishments in favor of snacking on the go while exploring the neighborhood, the harbor or the beautiful Rose Kennedy Greenway. As a budget traveler myself, my ideal North End day described below is meant to give you delicious and luxurious experiences but on the cheap!

To pick up some delicious snacks my first stop is always the Salumeria (located at 151 Richmond St). They offer the best selection of sliced cured meats, including several types of prosciutto and my favorite, a delicious mortadella! Don’t miss sampling their pesto and be sure to grab a few artichoke hearts and olives from the anti-pasti bar. The ultimate standout product that the Salumeria sells however is a nip sized container of top quality balsamic vinegar, called Rubio Aged Balsamic Vinegar, which is ideal for snacking on the go! To be legitimate balsamic vinegar, it must be created in the Italian areas of Modena or Emilia-Romagna and aged at least 12 years before it can be certified by the government as legit. This is the kind of balsamic vinegar that slowly crawls out of the container and packs an intense flavor punch in every drop! It also costs an arm and a leg as far as vinegar is concerned. Now, Rubio Aged Balsamic Vinegar did not go through any type of official certification process but it is of the same quality and at a much reduced cost. Grabbing one or two nips of Rubio Aged Balsamic Vinegar to enhance your snacking will only set you back a couple dollars but will make you feel like you are winning during your lovely day in the North End.

Another place to get savory prepared foods for snacking is Monica’s Mercato (located at 130 Salem Street). Although they also have some sliced meats, I would stick to the prepared foods here. My particular favorite is the Arancini, which they will heat up for you. As it turns out, both the Salumeria and Monica’s are typically staffed with very good looking Italian men – but I can assure you this has not impacted my opinion of their products! I would recommend eating the heated snacks from Monica’s as you stroll around and saving the goods from Salumeria for the final destination of this day (described below).

Last but not least you will need to buy something sweet to round out your meal. On hot summer days the people at Polcari’s (located at 105 Salem St) will scrape you up a refreshing lemon slush to cool you down. However, if you’re like me and prefer sweets of the pastry, butter laden variety then I would recommend heading to Maria’s Pastry Shop (located 46 Cross St). Anyone who visits Boston will inevitably see people toting the blue and white boxes of Mike’s Pastry as far away from the North End as Somerville! For some reason, perhaps due to its central location on the main drag of Hanover Street, Mike’s is always packed! I have eaten the confections from Mike’s as well as the nearby, and also popular, Modern Pastry, but I confidently assert that Maria’s is best! In a direct head to head to head taste test (this was difficult work indeed!), Maria’s cannoli won my heart with her light ricotta cream filling which had a hint of lemon that you don’t get from the other guys. Maria’s also sells all the traditional Italian cookies, including my favorite tri-colored Neapolitans! Maria also makes Savoiardi from scratch (lady fingers) which I NEVER see anywhere else. To give you a little perspective on why I am so excited about the homemade Savoiardi, they are my 92 year old grandmother’s favorite. The last time she had the energy to go back to NYC she insisted on looking for some Savoiardi at the local bakeries in Little Italy and we had to give up after checking the 3rd shop. We couldn’t find them anywhere! Points for Maria’s! It certainly wouldn’t hurt to try the pastries from all the pastry shops in the neighborhood, I mean does that sound bad? But Maria’s is definitely my favorite.

The North End is also located adjacent to the Boston harbor. In lieu of fancy (read: expensive!) harbor cruises, my friends and I have gotten into the practice of taking our North End treats onto the MBTA commuter ferry which takes off from Long Wharf – a short walk from the North End. We generally take the F2 line which takes off from Long Wharf North and goes down to the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy and back again. We always buy a one way ticket because we never get off the boat at the Quincy side and no one has ever given us any problems for doing this (though I wouldn’t flaunt your plan to the employees!). The one way pass is $8 and there is a bar on the boat! Be prepared for a windy ride (the commuter ferry goes faster than a normal cruise boat) that lasts about 1 ½ hours. You’ll be able to look at the many harbor islands that dot the Boston Harbor and check out the old USS Salem, a heavy cruiser commissioned by the US Navy. It was decommissioned and brought to Fore River Shipyard I believe as part of a museum in the area. It’s gun laden frame is a unique site to see. The ferry route is adjacent to the airport and if you are luck a plane might fly directly over the boat providing a sufficiently awesome Wayne’s World moment. If possible try to time your ferry ride so that you will be returning to Long Wharf as the sun is setting. There is really no better time to see the Boston skyline on your way back to shore!

Behind me is the dock where the ferry runs.

Behind me is the dock where the ferry runs.

Hanover Street during the St. Anthony's Feast weekend

Hanover Street during the St. Anthony’s Feast weekend


Day at a glance:

When to Go: Any day but Sunday! Many of the shops are closed on Sunday’s in the North End. Also, this is best as a warmer weather excursion (particularly for the boat ride). Try to start mid-afternoon, a few hours before the sunset!


  • Sliced meats and anti-pasti at Salumeria (151 Richmond Street)
  • Prepared snacks/appetizers at Monica’s Mercato (130 Salem Street)
  • Dessert from Maria’s Pastry (46 Cross Street)


  • Walk around and explore!
  • Visit the Paul Revere House(for history buffs)
  • Enjoy your snacks, explore the Boston Harbor Islands and view the Boston skyline at sunset on the MBTA commuter ferry