But I didn’t have the pizza. Looked fine though…as did the one of many salads (creative for Argentina although why the hell is there RICE in it?) featured on the menu. My friend got this one:
I wasn’t in the mood for pizza.
Lately I’ve been a bit nostalgic and I’ve often thought of the first few weeks that I spent here, when I had no idea how to approach the food scene and knew no one who could show me. This was the time when empanadas were still exciting, when I was still convinced that there is a huge difference between them (beyond baked or fried). Since then I’ve eaten hundreds of them (they’re like a dollar) and I’ve learned that carne is GENERALLY (definitely not always, there are definitely exceptions) flavorless, gray ground beef. Vegetal means watery, wilted spinach in desperate need of something creamy, garlic, cumin, hell – SALT – anything to give it flavor. Jamon y queso gives you dry, flavorless provolone-esque cheese passed off as mozzarella (let’s all agree on this….this is NOT mozzarella) with cubes of overly salty, gummy cooked ham. Nepolitana and queso y cebolla are basically giant balls of the same fake mozzarella cheese with bits of unidentifiable, overcooked tomato and onion, respectively lost within. Choclo is dry and there’s usually not enough filling, making it too bread-y. Pollo… pollo‘s cool actually, I have nothing bad to say about pollo. Roquefort is cool too but they’re usually out of it because people know it’s the best one…
I’m referring, of course, to the cheap 4-6 peso empanadas at late night pizza places and grab-a-bite-for-lunch confiterias which happen to have them in addition to sweet pastries. Obviously, there are a ton of amazing 6-10 peso sit-down, fork-and-knife restaurant-style empanadas out there. But at 12:30-2 a.m,, during or after a long night out, these are pretty difficult to find. And who really wants to deal with the atmosphere they come with at this time of night anyway?
But I still remember those first few weeks when they were a novelty. And specifically, I remember that one time a friend (who was in around the same stage of food-discovery in BsAs as I was) told me to try a certain type I hadn’t before and I laughed and rejected her suggestion immediately. It was the humita. At this time I was still caught up in the carne and jamon y queso. Anything that didn’t have protein I rejected as a waste of space in my stomach. It’s been 7 months since then and I’m now sick of just about every other type, so I recently decided to try the humita empanada for the first time a few days ago – at Amelia’s (Pueyrredon 2102, Recoleta). It wasn’t bad at all.
What I liked about this empanada had almost everything to do with its texture, but not so much with flavor. The latter was pretty static – a slightly-sweet and comforting but not too exciting warm corn taste. The texture, however, was fantastic. The tongue-hugging mushiness of the mashed corn was punctuated here and there with crisp whole corn grains which squirted out the perfect amount of moisture when bitten into. The empanada dough wrapped around this filling was warm, flaky and delicious with crispy, slightly burnt edges and a soft but firm center. Adding a few drops of balsamic (clearly meant for the bread and salad, not for my snack) did wonders to the flavor, pulling the dull sweetness of the corn in a certain direction and adding some zang to each bite.
We ordered a glass of house wine each and our waiters smiled and recommended a half-bottle which had a bit more in it, would cost us the same and which, in his opinion, was a much better deal. When he brought it out and I smiled a thanks he winked in a non-creepy way.
Definitely coming back here.