Sunday, May 6, 2007

"El morrón es más caro que el asado"

(Bell peppers are more expensive than meat.) - El Observador, May 5th

A few months ago I put up a post on "Uruguayan Adventure" bragging how I could come home from the market with armfuls of groceries without much damage to the pocket book.
Things have changed slightly.
While some vegetables are still very affordable, others are sky-rocketing in price due to heavy rains and the change of seasons - that is, the lapse between growing produce in the south of Uruguay and the harvesting in the north.

The prices have risen 151% for carrots, 38.69% for tomatoes, 37% for lettuce, and 33% for potatoes. A kilo of bell peppers (about two pounds) is $93 pesos while a kilo of meat for asado is $69 pesos. The paper also pointed out that the price of one kilo is equal to that of a men's haircut or a ticket to the movies.

They are hoping the prices will go back down in about 50 days.

Anyone on the Atkins diet? Now it is not only more convenient to eat meat...but also more affordable.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Mexican Food

Happy Cinco de Mayo! And thank you so much to the Southron for hosting such a lovely party with great company and delicious food.

The food was catered by Hacienda Las Palomas which has two locations. A small version is located in Punta Carretas shopping, while the restaurant is in Carrasco. Everyone was commenting on how tasty the food was and wonderful it was to eat comida mexicana!!! We sampled beef and chicken tacos, cheese quesadillas, black bean dip, and various salsas. From the flavors we enjoyed tonight it seems a visit to the restuaraunt is worth the trek out to Carrasco. There was also a couple delicious homemade salsas from our friends over at A Girl and Guy in Uruguay.

We have had mixed results from the food court location in Punta Carretas Shopping. At times the fajitas are very salty or the meat is over cooked. But I have always liked the "Cruji" which is a hard shell taco with a layer of black beans, a generous portion of chicken, some lettuce, and a cheesy sauce (very similar to a tostada). For $23 pesos or so, it is a good snack or light meal. My husband loves the fact he can get a Mexican beer, and always opts for this choice over water or soda. Who can blame him?

Click on the following link for a review on another Mexican Restaurant
La Lupitas

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Shout out to a reader

Thank you mysterious "la vieja" for the recipe you left on FALL PEARS. I made it last night when I had guests for dinner and it was enjoyed by all!
Two changes on the version you sent:
I plated one pear half. I served it cold, and instead of putting it over ice cream I melted a dark chocolate bar and a shot of chocolate liquor over low heat on the stove. I drizzled that over the pear and more on the plate.
Second, (and going along with the chocolate theme) I crushed up Ferror Rocher chocolates and sprinkled that on top in replacement of biscotti cookies.

Can you tell I love chocolate?

Qué aproveche!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Looking for Organic?

Here is some long awaited information that many people have requested from me. I must give the credit to my lovely Canadian friend, who tipped me to the location.

Ecotienda is located in El Centro and also has a weekly stand at the Sunday feria in Parque Rodó. At the store you will find fresh produce, cheeses, the most delicious yogurt, ice cream, fresh ricota, and dulce de leche - all organic. Ecotienda sells honey, honey studded with almonds and dried fruit, olive oil, jams, preserved vegetables, and some other jarred items. They also have a few baked goods - including scones, tartas, breads, and crackers. Seaweed, eggs, rabbit and "setan" milanesas are some of the more unique items. Best to go on Weds, when a new batch of delivered products arrives at the store.

For those looking for non-toxic cleaning products they also sell alternatives to bleach and other strong cleaning agents.

The staff is friendly and very helpful. If you join as a socio for a mere 100 pesos/month you receive a discount on every purchase.

And here is some great news. In contrary to the United States, the organic products at Ecotienda are either the same price as the grocery store and ferias or less expensive.

How can you go wrong?

Mon, Weds, and Fridays they will deliver to your home. Just call before 1:00pm to make your order. (In my experience don't order eggs....they have come to broken twice!)

Have fun!


Teléfono: (02) 900 65 60
Santiago de Chile 1183 - Montevideo

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

And they deliver?

I can't say enough good things about Las Delicias ice cream. All the flavors I have tried (and, yes...I have tried many) are exceptional in quality, taste, texture. I have had the good fortune to taste ice cream in many parts of the world, and I have to say that Las Delicias may even surpass the best gelato I ate in Italy. In fact, the ice cream reminds me more of gelato, with its creamy texture and unmistakable flavors, than ice cream. Our recent house guest couldn't get over the exceptional taste of the banana split flavor. Is this not the BEST ice cream you have ever eaten???, she asked us.
Banana ice cream, chocolate chips, and swirls of dulce de leche. Yes, in fact it might be the best ice cream ever.

Other extraordinary flavors include:
Las Delicias (tastes just like a ferrer rocher candy crushed in chocolate ice cream)
Bariloche (pure chocolate)
Bariloche Amargo
Café Oriental
Coco biscuit

Oh ya...and just like the well known ice cream palors in Buenos Aires, whose motorbikes are pictured below, Las Delicias will deliver right to your door.* Now if you ask me , that brings ordering in to a whole new level!

Las Delicias
21 de septiembre, esq. José Ellauri
(other locations in Carrasco and the Geant store)

Prices vary
single scoops start at $38 pesos
about $27/pesos per 100 grams

*call to inquire if delivery includes your neighborhood

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fall Pears

I wasn't impressed with this summer's peach crop (just as a reminder for our north american friends we already had our first summer). On the other hand, the fall pears have been amazing. I love sweet cold pears with lemon squeezed on them. Oh, come on...just try it.

However, we tasted true pear delight our last night in Salto when we ordered peras al vino blanco. They were drizzled with a fresh blueberry sauce (the farm is just a few kilometers away), topped with pralines, and served with ice cream.


This delicacy actually seems simple enough to make. For those of you handy in the kitchen, here is a recipe by one of my favourite food performers:

Vanilla Poached Pears
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2005
1 (750-ml) bottle white wine, Riesling or Viognier
1 cup water
5 ounces vanilla sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
1 whole vanilla bean, split and scraped
4 firm Bartlett, Anjou or Bosc pears, peeled leaving the stem intact
Place the white wine, water, sugar and vanilla bean and pulp into a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.

Core the pears from the bottom. Decrease the heat to medium low and place the pears into the liquid, cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the pears are tender but not falling apart. Maintain a gentle simmer. Remove the pears to a serving dish, standing them upright, and place in the refrigerator.

Remove the vanilla bean from the saucepan, increase the heat to high and reduce the syrup to approximately 1 cup of liquid, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Do not allow the syrup to turn brown. Place the syrup in a heatproof container and place in the refrigerator until cool, approximately 1 hour.

Remove the pears from the refrigerator, spoon the sauce over the pears and serve.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Fresh Farm Eggs

Most of the outside influence of cuisine in Uruguay has its roots in Italy. However, tortilla española, a quintessential Spanish dish of potatoes, eggs, and sausage, is often on the list of minutas at your local restaurant. Minutas are entrees that can be prepared in minutes and also include milanesas, chivitos, hamburgers and panchos.

I would love to find a good tortilla española in Montevideo. The one pictured above was part of a delicious meal I enjoyed in Salto, located in the the northwest of Uruguay. We stayed at a Posada, a inn complete with private hot springs, spa services, and a great restaurant -OKKO. Each night the three of us dined at the restaurant, ordering 2-3 entrees, a salad, wine or beer, and 1 or 2 desserts. We shared everything so as to enjoy the different flavors and textures of the meal. After every meal we left happy and satisfied, but not too full, and amazed at how affordable our dinner was.

This tortilla was one of my favourite dishes we tried. The eggs were so fresh and delicious that I have no doubt they were gathered that morning from fresh, free range organic chickens.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Did you say Tarta or Torta???

As I mentioned in my last post, I am a huge fan of tarts and pastries. A few months after living here in Montevideo, I was enlightened on the difference between a torta and a tarta. I still consistently confuse the two, but on a good day I can remember that a torta is sweet and a tarta is savory. (Unless you are talking about a torta frita, which is neither savory or sweet)

I have to say that tartas have been one of my favourite food finds. There is something very satisfying a homemade tarta and a side salad for lunch. Like anything else, the quality, portion size, and ratio of pastry to filling will vary from location. But basically, it is a thin crust on top and bottom filled with either veggies, cheeses, meats or a selection thereof. I have the convenience and pleasure of a small cafetería within in the Pilates studio where I have been training. In the tiny kitchenette, the chef makes a half a dozen varieties from scratch (starting with her own pastry dough) every week. My favourite tarta is the zuchinni and mushroom. The crust is a mix of white and wheat flour and the filling holding the cooked veggies together is a light creamy sauce. Pictured above are two different varieties. On the left is caprese - mozzarella, tomato and basil. On the right another favorite - a layer of squash, a soft white cheese, and corn. She also makes primavera - tomato, hard boiled egg, jam, and cheese, pasquilini- spinach, egg, and red bell pepper, and the classic - jam and cheese. My time is limited here, so I intend to continue to enjoy my favourite lunch find. I've put in my request for a lesson in the making of a tarta before I leave!

Where to find them:
Most confiterías or panaderías, and the deli section of the grocery store
Quality and variety will vary at each location.
Portions tend to be big, ask for a media porción if you want a light lunch or if you want to try a couple varieties.
(Warning: sometimes the combinations get very creative. I would shy away from jam and cheese with frosting on top or tuna with pineapple!!)
Price $20-35 pesos/porción

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Who makes the best empanadas?

I am truly a sucker for anything in pastry shell. I love quiche, tartas (more on those soon), puff pastry savories and sweets, mom's "homemade" chicken tarts, and just about anything else that gets golden brown and flaky. So as you can imagine, I do enjoy empanadas.

In the states I have experienced mediocre quality pizza and chinese delivery. But here in Uruguay almost anything can be delivered. We thank our friends over at a Year in Uruguay for the great tip about La Chacha empanada delivery.

So to locals and friends back home ...where do you recommend eating empanadas??

At La Chacha, my favourite is the chicken curry empanada. We have tried about a dozen different fillings. You can order most either baked or fried. I have never tried the latter. They come pipping hot within minutes of placing your order.* I like serving them warm with a side salad of arugula, tomato, and corn. Pop open a bottle of Tannat and you've got a great meal.

Here are some we have tried and liked:
Pollo al curry
La Chacha (spinach, garlic, and ricota)
Oliva (olives and cheese)
Pampera (cheese, onion, and garlic)
Mediterranea (cheese, tomato, and basil)
Del Bosque (cheese, leeks, and mushrooms)
Clasica (ham and cheese)

Not as tasty as we thought...
Chopsuey (chicken, veggies, and soy sauce)
Mexicana (meat, onion, and tomato, and "salsa mexicana")

La Chacha
$19 pesos/per empanada
706 8505
*delivery is limited to Parque Batlle, Cordon, Buceo, Pocitos, Parque Rodo, Villa Biarritz, and Punta Carretas

But now I ask the locals...who makes the best empanadas???

Monday, April 9, 2007

Yum yum yum

If any of you are planning a trip across the river anytime soon, I imagine you will be exploring some of the many wonderful museums in Buenos Aires. Besides having a wonderful selection of Latin American artists, the MALBA also has a fantastic chic café. Grab a spot outside under the trees, get comfortable in their indoor lounge area, or set your self up at the bar. The meals, Italian coffees, and desserts are exquisite. After sharing a fresh spinach salad with crispy panceta, feta cheese, and mushrooms, I could not let this dessert go untouched. Creamy vanilla ice cream in bath of fresh raspberries and syrupy sauce.


Saturday, March 31, 2007

Korean, Chinese, Arabic, and Thai .... in Uruguay?

Well...yes and no.

Allow me to share some international food experiences I have had the last few weeks. Some are keepers others we can pass on by.

1. Korean

Previously mentioned in a post from our good friend, Chuck, we located some Korean food in Ciudad Vieja. This place is authentic as I can imagine it would be in a Korean neighborhood, as not only the sign but also the menu is totally in Korean. There is not a Spanish word in sight. Located near Radisson in Plaza Independencia, it is easy to pass up unless you are tipped off to its location. They have only been there four months, and when you go inside you will see nothing but Korean faces from the chef, to the chef's wife and baby, to the Korean diners. Ask for the English menu (something we discovered after the third time going and struggling with Korean-Spanish charades) but be forewarned that not everything may be available. I strongly recommend the fried dumplings, the dumpling soup, and their great fresh salads. They also have squid stir fry (pictured below), noodles with black bean sauce, and spicy dishes of meat, rice, and veggies. If you are really hungry, and up for a great feast, order the Korean BBQ (sizzling panceta, onions, jalapenos, garlic accompanied by cold salads, leafy greens, sesame leaves, and sauces). They insist it is for two but my husband and I both agree it could feed four. It is truly delicious and you will not leave hungry. If you go, tell them the North Americans from California sent you.

Unfortunately I can't tell you exact prices as we never receive an actual bill. But here is some idea...
Korean BBQ, beer, dumplings and salad $660 (for "two")

Four main dishes with rice, one soup, two beers, water (complimentary) two orders of dumplings $900 pesos

2. "Chinese"

I give this place a "A" for effort and a "C-" for taste. Located in Punta Carretas shopping, "Verde & Wok" has all the necessary ingredients to make a great lunch. Owned by a well known chef, uses fresh ingredients, includes many vegetables and lean meats, and is even prepared right in front of you. Unfortunately, you can have the best fixins' and still not know how to put them together well. I ordered verduras al provencal which was a mix of sliced vegetables tossed in a sauce and cooked in a wok. What I expected was crisp greens with tasty sauce. What I received was watery, limp veggies with trace amounts of flavor. I was disappointed. I wanted to say...Step aside Che, hand me that wok!!!

Sum up:
verduras a la provencal
wok oriental
drinks and cubierto included
$240 pesos

Puntas Carretas Mall

3. Arabic

Does anyone else besides me just love the Disco in Punta Carretas mall? ( I swear I am far from a mall rat...though you all might be sensing a theme here)

Anyway, IF you can find some out-of-the-ordinary ingredients you may just find them here. This week I stumbled upon whole wheat pan arabe. They come in large pita size, and small snack size as well. If anyone has had the mini whole wheat pitas from TJ's back in the states, they taste just like those! YUM. They also have thin flat bread they suggest for "tacos" and thicker flat bread that reminds me of something you might eat at an Indian restaurant.

4. I teased you with Thai.

Though not found in Montevideo, I did inherit some Thai curry paste and spices from a dear friend who left the country and who had previously done a big shop in BA for Asian ingredients. The pan arabe sure came in handy tonight, as did white rice, as that curry was HOT HOT HOT. Good thing I couldn't find the fresh thai chiles with which to garnish the dish as the directions suggested.

That is all for now....


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pan de Ciruela

At times, Uruguayan food plays with that balance of sweet and savory. When taken to extremes the result is almost unpalatable. For example, friends told us about the specialty "tarta de atún" that was served as a first course at the family Christmas dinner. It consisted of a sweet pie crust, a filling of canned tuna, and another sweet layer on top. I have seen this sort of creation in a grocery store downtown. What I thought was apple pie had a layer of sliced jam and cheese in the middle. There was also the ham and cheese tart with sliced canned pineapple and maraschino cherries.

However..there are those times when the sweet and savory combo is conducted very well and (in my opinion) Pan de Ciruela is a great example. It is a loaf bread made of butter, milk, sugar, eggs, flour, and prunes. After it is baked, it is cooled and sliced and made into little ham and cheese sandwiches and served with coffee or tea. The loaf above is from my own oven, and the sandwiches are the "vegetarian version" ( I ran out of ham in the house!)

At first I thought it would be such an odd combination. I tried to picture cutting up my mom's banana bread and layering turkey and provolone inside. But these delightful little sandwiches I enjoy time and time again at my local tetería, and they were kind enough to give me the recipe.

Where to find them:
Most teterías or confiterías

Qué aproveche!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

No Nonsense Sandwich Bread

I'm big label reader. In the states I see other consumers looking at backs of packages or scanning nutrition ingredients. Here, I think they just want me to chose quickly and move on ahead to the check out line.

I was disappointed to find that most sandwich breads were loaded with trans fats, and those that were not were about as flavorful as cardboard when toasted. I have yet to find a nearby bakery that sells fresh whole wheat sandwich bread, but I have discovered the brand Fargo which makes a whole wheat or integral sliced bread that we use daily in our house. It is free from the offensive trans fats, soft rather than dense, and toasts beautifully for breakfast. They also have a couple other varieties including a white sliced sandwich bread. It is easy to find at most grocery markets and little corner stores.

one loaf about $43 pesos

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Partners in Crime

I can't help but share some great posts on food in Uruguay. Most have gorgeous pictures as well, so be sure to check them out!

Torta Frita
(pictured above)


El Horno

Mercado del Puerto


Beer in Uruguay

Coffee in Uruguay

Friday, March 16, 2007

Balcón del Lobo

This past Friday night, I had a craving to try a new restaurant. I recalled how we stumbled upon a spot not to long ago, when we were walking from the Rambla to Bar Tabaré. At first we thought we spied an outdoor family dinner party, and then realized that nested among the residential area of Punta Carretas, there was a little hideaway called Balcón del Lobo.

Walking past the cava, the room set a side for private dinner parties, we climbed up marble steps to the entrance of the restaurant. Immediately we were warmly welcomed by the smells of the meat roasting on the parilla and the grilling provolone along side it. The restaurant had ample room inside, and with both the aromas and the cozy "at home feel", it was tempting to chose an indoor seat. But the outdoor patio looked equally lovely, and already had more diners, so we chose a seat which would give me a good view of the happenings of the restaurant.

After walking from Pocitos, we had worked up a good appetite and were ready for dinner. The menu did not have many options for appetizers, so we chose a salad to share. Out of a dozen or so different choices, we ordered a corn, tomato, onion, and bell pepper mix. There were several other selections, including todoverde - a mix of green leafy vegetables, rojo - beets, tomatoes, and red peppers, waldorf, zanahoria y pasas - raisins and carrots served with honey and mustard.

The second page of the menu listed their fish choices and sauces, followed by pastas and other Italian fare, and finished off with the wide offerings of parilla.

Diner´s Tip:
As pasta and parilla are always common, I try to look for something special on the menu, but not too different. That is when restaurant tasting in Montevideo, if I see "fusion food" I have learned silence the temptations to chose them. Curried salads, stir-frys, "thai" inspired pasta, or reductions of ginger and honey bring up red flags for me. Not that the food will be BAD. I just know it will not be what I am used to, or what I am hoping for.

However, I find Italian choices are often good. A simple risotto with mushrooms and otras verduras sounded just perfect and so my decision was rapidly made. My husband was going Italian as well, and after wavering back and forth between stuffed eggplant and spaghetti putanseca, he decided on the later.

After finishing our salad and first glass of wine, the main courses were delivered to our table. My risotto was perfect - exactly the tastes and textures that I was hoping for. The risotto rice was al dente, that is firm and chewy, and the chef was generous with the fresh mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, onion, and eggplant that was embedded in the risotto tower.

While my husband liked his choice, it was slightly different then he expected. If you like anchovies, he would highly recommend his dinner. But for him, it lacked the picante of the dried red pepper flakes, and had a very strong anchovy presence. Generous sprinklings of grated cheese helped balance out the flavors. He agreed that the risotto was delicious, and helped me finish up the last few bites.

The ambiance was so tranquil and the Brazilian music was so nice, that we wanted to linger a little longer. Solution? Dessert.

I have often seen panqueque de manzana on dessert menus. I had been imagining an American breakfast pancake with dulce de leche instead of syrup, but when someone told me it was more crepe-like with a caramelized sugar coating, I was suddenly more interested. Neglecting the todochocolate, flan de coco, mocha ice cream, or "diabetic" cheesecake, we choose a panqueque de manzana with vanilla ice cream.

A thin crepe was covered with equally thin apple slices which had been carmelized in sugar. My husband loved it. As you can see from the picture, the apple crepe was served hot, and the ice cream was melting before we even dug in. For me it lacked the sweetness I was craving, as the sugar had been caramelized a bit too much leaving a slightly burnt taste on my palate. Just a few less seconds on the stove and perhaps a serving dulce de leche to sweeten it up would have been perfect.

All told, I would definitely return. The grilled meats smelled amazing, the salads were diverse, and there were filled pastas to try. If nothing else, "Round Two for Risotto" would be fine by me.

Sum up:
Cubierto charge, salad to share, two main dishes, bottle of water, 1/4 liter of wine, and dessert to share

Total: $504 pesos before tip

J.Zorillas de San Martín n. 93
Punta Carretas
Tel: 711 1273

Qué Aproveche!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Milanesa de pollo

To anyone living in Uruguay whether native or on foreign soil, the Milanesa is as common as pizza, parilla, and pasta. That is to say it is a household staple and has a guaranteed spot on the menu of your local resto-bar. Milanesa is pounded cut of either meat or chicken which is lightly breaded, then fried or baked. This is your basic Milanesa, served with a guarnación of papas fritas, arroz, or ensalada mixta. There are also fish, eggplant, and soy milanesas - to list a few. You name it and they probably bread it and fry it. From there, you can find a Milanesa al pan (Milanesa between two burger buns with a bit of tomato and lettuce) or the most satiating - Milanesa Napolitania - topped with ham, cheese, and tomato sauce. Order it for lunch and you won't need to eat until the following day.

I had never ordered a Milanesa in a restaurant simply because I was intimated by the size. Salads, pizzas, and hot toasty sandwiches usually got my vote at a casual restaurant such as Old Maz or Costal Azul. But last week at Trouville Pizzeria, a restuarant whose menu is a perfect example of Uruguayan standard fare, I barely glanced at la carta. "Milanesa de pollo, por favor - con arroz. Y ketchup!" In fact, I was craving the crispy crust and tender interior ever since my husband and I awkwardly fumbled around our neighbor's kitchen, attempting to cook Milanesa for their kids.

We were house sitting - and children sitting - for a few days at the beautiful home of an Uruguayan friend.

I had told the kids ( a daughter age 13 and son age 10) to tell me when they were hungry for dinner. "Gracias, te adviso," the 13 year old told me. Like all Uruguayans I know, they are accustomed to eating later in the evening. And though their mother had suggested dinner should be earlier due to the start of school the following day, there is still no plea of hunger at 9:00. Around 9:15 I ask the son if he is getting hungry for dinner. "No, voy a comer chocolate." Chocolate? Not wanting to be the strict babysitter, I just smile.

But I forget that the psychology of food is different with kids. They are not thinking about what they are going to have for dinner. Nor are they thinking about how long it takes to prepare it. They are just, all of sudden, hungry.

I should have remembered this about kids. But I got relaxed lounging in the living room, waiting for the adviso.

9:30 The son tells my husband he is hungry. He would like a Milanesa. A Milanesa with rice, to be exact.

"Mi amor!" My husband call me from the living room. He has already agreed to help me with dinner, but is coming to remind me that helping does not equal making it alone.

Ok, so Milanesa. Where are they? Fridge? No, freezer. A single Styrofoam plate holds half a dozen Milanesas tightly wrapped in plastic. We undo the plastic and proceed to try to pry the breaded meat apart. Not a crumb falters. As there is no microwave we take them to the toaster oven. As I am reheating the rice, the son enters. "Cena está lista?" We glance worriedly at the toaster oven. So much for a Uruguayan fast food.

Several minutes later and a few hardy jabs with the butter knife, the Milanesas are successfully pulled apart, though some bits are missing their bready covering. My husband heats the oil and starts frying. The oldest grabs the mayo and ketchup from the fridge and tosses a bouillon cube into the rice for more flavor. We bring the hot rice and condiments to the table as hubby serves up the labor of love.

I observe. The kids slather ketchup on the chook and douse their rice with a little mayo. I skip the mayo but load up on the ketchup. I glance at my plate. No veggies? No salad? Whatever. I never said that this post was on health food. I cut into the crispy outer crust and tender inside; with a dollop of ketchup I take a bite. So simple, so good, and very satisfying. I am taken back to "kid food" - days of chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and tater tots. Initially opting for a smaller piece, I join my husband for a second. I like the crunchy bits were he has slightly burnt the crumbly exterior.

As my husband and I finish up dinner the kids are dutifully washing their dishes. It's 10:30. Off to showers, teeth brushing, and then to bed. Babysitting, house caring, and dinner making had been a success. And lucky for me, I have a good food find.

Where to get Milanesas:

Everywhere, you're in Uruguay!
Ready to eat:
-local restaurants, deli counter at the grocery store, some confeterías
Price depends on locale, average around $90 pesos with guaranción.

To make at home:
-meat counter of grocery store (buy fresh not frozen in the box- you can freeze the fresh ones later at home), carnecerías, and even your local almacen

meat, chicken, fish, setan, soya, eggplant, relleno (filled with cheese or ham or both)

Qué aproveche!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

La Creperie

I haven't eaten enough crepes in my lifetime. I say that because every time I have the opportunity to eat this French pancake, I enjoy every bite. Why have I not sought them out more? Perhaps French crepes are hard to come by at your average restaurant, but last night we hit up the perfect spot - La Creperie in Ciudad Vieja.

Though it was nearly 10:30, there were few diners. I thought we were getting closer to dining at the Uruguayan hour, but then I was reminded that it was Saturday and dinner for locals would not really be starting for another hour of so. As usual, it didn't matter to us, and we nestled around a candle lit table in the far corner of the small restaurant.

A quick glance at the drink menu and my husband questioned, "Anyone up for sangria....or clerico?" We were easily convinced, and decided on a full liter of clerico for the three of us. Ideal on a lazy summer day but equally delicious as a dinner companion, clerico is a beverage of white wine, fresh fruit, and sugar. Glancing on another page, I was pleased to see a selection of fresh salads which differed from the normal lettuce, tomato, and grated carrot combo. We selected a large salad to share. Soon a delicious mix of leafy greens, celery, walnuts, apples, and ricotta cheese was delivered to our table. The clerico followed immediately, and "brindamos!" - we toasted to good food, great friends, and future adventure.

The menu is mostly crepes, both salty and sweet, salads, and a large selection of beverages ranging from coffees to licuados (smoothies) to the aforementioned sangria. Empanadas, tortas, and tartas remind the diner he is eating in an Uruguayan restaurant. In addition, there is a selection of specials of the day. The one that stood out to our dining companion was the berejena rellena, cooked eggplant stuffed with carne picada (ground meat), cheese, and a tomato sauce. My husband and I both chose chicken crepes. We decided to keep them simple, that is without sauce, though you can choose from salsa verde, salsa pomodora, salsa roquefort, and salsa de champaniones to accompany your crepe. The pancakes are prepared small and large, accommodating both sized appetites.

Bites of a toasty thin crepe, tender sliced chicken, and a delicate creme sauce entered my mouth in quick succession, only pausing to taste the steaming hot berejena rellena. I was pleased with my choice and a little regretful that I did not chose the larger size. Our companion's dish was flavorful, hearty, and well balanced with vegetable, meet, cheese, and sauce. We helped her polish off a few bites, as we all continued to sip our fruity drink.

I remember in Spain, they warn against eating the fruit in the sangria, as this is where all the alcohol is soaked up. You can say the same thing for clerico. But how can one resist? Around 12:00 I was feeling a bit giggly, after only a glass of the fruit filled potion. Less welcomed is the sleepy effect of sugary drink; coffees were needed to muster up the energy to set off to our next destination. The night was young, and we had a party to go to.

I woke up this morning craving a crepe. Too bad they don't deliver. I'm up for a second visit to taste the other varieties including spinach, mushroom, ricotta and nuts, and of course the sweet crepes. But unless bedtime soon follows, I think I will pass on the clerico. (Sadly, I didn't last too long at the after party.)

Sum up:
Salad to share, empanada for one, three entrees (two crepes and one special of the day), liter of clerico, two coffees (no cubierto charge), and tip
Total Bill = $670 pesos

La Creperie
Bartolome Mitre 1332,
Ciudad Vieja
902 1891

*Selected nights of the week and some mid-day weekends, La Creperia has tango classes and shows. Call for details on prices and times.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


To my dining companion's dismay, I had not tried a bakery-made alfajor in Uruguay until today; nearly five months after arriving in Uruguay. One time in desperation of a sugary fix, I purchased a packaged alfajor, only to be greatly disappointed in taste, freshness, and quality. One bite and it was in the trash. And actually, I did indulge in a chocolatey version while in Buenos Aires, which melted in my mouth like a soft truffle. But today at tea time I was determined to have freshly baked and superior quality dulce de leche treat.

I have yet to elaborate on dulce de leche, and how much the Uruguayans love it, but as a preview, the alfajor is the perfect representative of the national sweet.

An alfajor, pictured above, in its most simple form is a type of masa or masita, which are small cookies that normally have a filling. The alfajor in particular has two soft round cookies held together by a generous dollop of dulce de leche, and then doused in powdered sugar.

I thought I had had my fill of dulce de leche, but I bit in and I was hooked. With powdered sugar covered fingers holding on to half of my delicate cookie, the freshness of the masa and sweetness of the filling lingered on my tongue. One more bite and the little treat was gobbled up...leaving me wanting more.

So where does this delectable dulce come from? The spelling of the word gives a clue, and history confirms that it comes from the Middle East. Alfajor is derived from the Arabic word, al-hasu, which means "stuffed." Making it's way to Uruguay in mid 1800's, the alfajor has continued its popularity here and on other side of the river. In fact, it is said that in a population of 36 million Argentine inhabitants, 6 million alfajores are consumed daily!!

There are, of course, variations on the theme. Some alfajores in the confeterías will be covered in nieve or snow of coconut flakes. They vary in size as well, ranging from bite size to the size of a small donut. As mentioned, packaged alfajores are a different story. Most are covered in either white or dark chocolate, and have two layers of dulce de leche between three layers of cake. Oreo has marketed a type of alfajor, which is a cake like version of 20th century America´s most consumed cookie.

Ok, so who wants me to bring some home for them?

Now if any savvy readers could just shed a little light on a alfajor mystery of mine....
What is "agua helada"??

'Till next time....que aproveche!

Recommended location for the sugar fix:
Oro de Rhin,
-Punta Carretas Shopping Mall and
-Centro, Convención 1403 esq. Colonia

Argentine's famous Alfajor

Popular Uruguayan packaged Alfajores

Monday, February 19, 2007

La Perdiz

I know pictures are worth a thousand words, but words alone will have to suffice for this next the food was so good and the conversation with friends too great to stop and take photos.

We have discovered a handful of Basque restaurants here in Montevideo, and recently returned to La Perdiz. I was in search of a special dinner, that is an extremely tasty dinner, as we were introducing some new friends to Montevideo. Our friends are great lovers of food as we are, as a result my restaurant choice was carefully picked. I am happy to say our selections at La Perdiz exceeded my expectations and pleased everyone's appetite for good food.

We sat inside, as threatening clouds loomed outside, but on a nice day you can enjoy the partially covered outdoor patio. A friendly waitress brought us our menu, and we began to peruse our choices. La Perdiz offers the standard parilla, pasta, and milaneses but specializes also in fish entrees.

We decided to choose mostly seafood, as these were the Basque food selections. For appetizers we choose a Basque dish of squid stuffed with baby octopus, potato croquets, and one of the specialty salads of the day.

The first dish is a regular on the menu. Served in a ceramic dish, the squid is cooked in a delicious sauce accompanied with parsley infused rice. My limited exposure of squid has been fried calamari, and this was a whole different world. Tender, not chewy; flavorful, not bland. We were delighted in the freshness of the seafood and the flavor it carried. Croquets were a nice accompaniment, again another regular on the menu and a very economical choice. Our final selection was a gorgeous salad. Mixed greens, marinated eggplant and mushrooms, red bell pepper, tomatoes, and even a bit of spice...jalapeño. Tossed in a light vinaigrette and presented in generous quantity, this salad could have been a meal in itself for any veggie lover.

As for our main dishes, three of us choose the "pescado a la bizkania". La Perdiz offers a wide selection of fish including fresh salmon, lenguado, and merluza to name a few. "Bizkaina" varies slightly depending on the restaurant, but here it is a tomato sauce with red bell peppers and fresh parsley. The fish is not battered, but pan fried giving it a crispy out layer and flaky interior. I chose the parsley infused rice as my accompaniment, while my companions chose "papas fritas." Last but not least, the fourth diner opted for "lasagna del mar," a rich and creamy entree, perfect for any one who loves cheese. The noodles were thin, and resembled crepes, while the filling was a mixture of soft cheese, small pieces of seafood, and a perhaps a bit of cream. Again, it was rich and decadent, and could definitely be shared among two diners.

Other variations for fish included a butter, white wine and caper sauce, salsa de mariscos, and a simple grilled fish with lemon.

To "wet our whistle" during this feast, we selected a Tanat Merlot. Wine lovers, I recommend indulging in the Tanats during your time in Uruguay, they a perfect choice along side your meal.

Total for dinner including "cubiertos", beer, water, wine, appetizers, and entrees - $375 pesos/person

La Perdiz
Guipúzcoa 350 esq. Balineas
711 8963

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tres Tías

Last night for Valentine´s Day, my husband and I returned to Tres Tías, a teteria and (dare I call it gourmet?) restaurant in the barrio of Pocitos, Montevideo. We had discovered this spot back in September, when we were still fumbling around for apartments and getting to know the city. We had fantastic lunch that day and have returned since for desserts and coffee, but for some STRANGE reason had not been back for a meal until last night.

Suffice to say it knocked our socks off.

What Tres Tías prepared was a special set menu for "El Dia de los Enamorados"
Here is what delighted our taste buds:

Entrada: Hojas verdes, ricota, nueces, chips de panceta y anana con chopito de manzana, curry, y yogurt.
Principal: Pollo hecho al vino blanco con salsa de pimientos, mani, almendras, jengibre, y un toque de chocolate amargo

Desgustacion de Postres: Seno de Novicia, Carlota de los Amantes, y Espuma de Venus


Spinach salad with ricota, walnuts, crispy panceta, and pineapple. Served along side a shot of cold soup consisting of blended apple, curry, and yogurt.

Chicken cooked in white wine with a salsa of peppers, peanuts, almonds, ginger, and a touch of bitter chocolate.

Dessert - Chocolate mouse with fresh creme, slice of chocolate and white mouse torte, and a small fruit and lemoncello smoothie.

Now maybe the locals reading know something I don't....but I have not found items like this at my local Parrilla or Pasiva!

Every bite was mouthwatering, and truly one of those meals that I was sad to finish, because you can't really ask for seconds at a restaurant.

(or can you?)

While I enjoy their strudel de manazana y pasas, tortas de chocolate, y submarinos, I have to give credit as well to the fanastic savory meals the chefs, Mariana and Elisa, prepare each day. During the lunch hour, a "menu del dia" includes an appetizer, main dish, beverage, and dessert. They prepare everything from salads to soups, chicken to fish, and of course meat and pasta options. ($140 pesos/person)

During the tea hour Tres Tías offers a wide range of sweet and savory times including tarts, scones, cakes, hot sandwiches, fondues of either cheese or chocolate, and various drinks ranging from smoothies to cappuccinos with bailey's.

As mentioned, last night's dinner was special, in that it was set menu. I am curious now to partake in their dinner options they offer nightly. I believe the choices are some what limited, but are bound to be delicious.

Open from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm
Ellauri 798 esq Jaime Zudañez
710 7539