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Day 90 – El Bariloche

January 8, 2011

Location: San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

Date: Saturday, January 8, 2011

A two hour, 120 km bus ride north of El Bolson (i.e. my favorite town in Argentina, so far) is the ski town of San Carlos de Bariloche. Commonly known as El Bariloche, it’s a popular holiday destination mostly because of the world renowned skiing as well as it being the largest city from which to explore surrounding Lakes District. Like all things Argentine, it’s desperately trying to emulate something European—here, it’s a town in the Swiss Alps complete with peaked roofs and Swiss-like clock towers. Lumbering St. Bernards with kitschy barrel collars included.

The town’s very popular with Porteños as a vacation spot and, for some reason, as a place to get married. Its popularity makes it pricey. It’s like Aspen except if all the millionaires spoke like American day laborers.

All this is why I’ve opted to spend only one day in Bariloche—I’m fine with hanging with day laborers, it’s the millionaires that bother me.

The fact that here it’s summer in the middle of January is weird for a Norte Americano like me. The winter crowd has been replaced by people on summer vacation. With all the travelers packed into town, it’s easy to forget this place exists not just for tourists but also for residents.

Today, though, reminded me that there’s day-to-day life in these tourist traps. For example, in the town square, Bariloche was holding foot races for locals of all ages at various distances. The most entertaining, by far, were those held for kids at a distance of only two circuits of the square. If you thought betting horses was fun, you should try picking out the winner from a horde of munchkins. Unlike horses, kids understand the words you scream at them. It’s fascinating to see the desperate face of a child as it reacts to the crowd, looks over its shoulder and realizes, “Dear God, that other kid’s gaining on me– I’m going to lose!”

 

 

 

Even though I was in the city, I couldn’t escape stunning scenery (bleh). In keeping, though, with my vow never to hike again I avoided the trails and took a ride on the Teleferico Cerro Otto. Just like it says, it goes to the top of the Cerro Otto and provides a view of the surrounding lake country. A bit pricey, but worth every penny of not having to walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I kept to my strengths and spent the rest of the day taking advantage of Bariloche’s cuisine scene. With that, let’s move to a new section.

I Put It in My Mouth: Part I – Estrella Galacia

 

 

 

First up was a restaurant that caters to the all too boring Argentine palate; Estrella Galicia. That meant meats and doughs. Luckily there was decent beer to accompany it all. Can’t say the meal blew me away, though the dried deer meat (ciervo seca) was tasty.

I Put it in My Mouth: Part II – naan

Campichuelo 568,

Barrio Belgrano

Tel: 2944/421-785

The hype surrounding dinner did not disappoint. Naan is a highly regarded restaurant run by a couple out of their home in the Belgrano neighborhood. The man cooks, the woman serves. You’re basically seated at tables in their living room. You must call ahead because seating is limited and they might not know to let you in the front door.

As I’ve said before Argentine cuisine is nothing much to write home about after your fifth steak and your umpteenth empanada. But some people, like the couple at naan and the family at La Salteñita are doing God’s work, acting as culinary Moseses trying to lead the wayward Argentines out of the culinary wilderness (“Give us free!”).

The couple who runs naan traveled the world and decided to bring flavors from Asia and the Middle East to Argentina. God bless them. Curries, eggplant sambals, citrusy salmon, and pork belly. Can you guess what I got?

That’s right. Pork. Belly. In my belly. Nothing like strips of fat eaten with a touch of pig meat to get your blood flowing.

The antipastino of cheeses, tomatoes confit, eggplant, prosciutto, and more was delicious. The bottle of vistalba corte B from Mendoza (malbec, cabernet sauvignon, bonarda, and merlot blend) was superb. My pork belly tasted like pork belly. Desserts of crispy de bananas and marquise au chocolat dessert were delightful.

 

 

 

 

The couple–in keeping with the traditions of the Far East–employs child labor (their kids) to bus tables. Through it all, we could see the husband/chef in the reflection of a window, preparing everything and, at the end of the evening, even cleaning out the kitchen himself. Throughout the meal, the couple would come out and chat for a moment and generally make you feel welcome.

In all, the restaurant in a family home was a great reminder that in towns like Bariloche, the hordes may come and visit and occasionally storm the living room for food, but at the end of the day someone’s got to clean up and live there when you’re gone.

A Cool Pic That Just Didn’t Fit The Narrative

GALLERY: No bonus pictures today.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 8, 2014 11:28 pm

    Furrealz? That’s maurleovsly good to know.

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