|This is not lunch for four -- it's HALF of lunch for four, not counting side dishes|
|A world-class wine, intense and delightful|
A couple decades ago you might expect to scrape your tongue dry with a glass of Tannat. This week I've already had several delicious wines with plenty of fruit, great freshness and good structure. The climate here allows the wines to get quite ripe without excessive alcohol, so the best of these are really excellent, world-class wines, nothing like the Tannat you may have tried elsewhere.
But that's all I want to say about the wines tonight, in my Montevideo hotel room, only halfway through my week here, after coming back from a desperate hunt for a salad with only a little meat on it.
Uruguayans are proud of their cattle; more than one person has told me they have the best beef in the world. I'm still in the country so I'm not going to comment on that. I will say that Uruguayans rival their neighbors in Argentina for their enthusiasm in serving a lotttt of meat.
The Uruguayan peso is very strong, because the economy is thriving, so unfortunately these insane meat feasts aren't as cheap as they are in Argentina. But that doesn't appear to stop anyone from their accustomed way of ordering. That platter of meat at the top -- you see heated platters like that arrive at tables for four all the time. If you like your meat rare, as I do, you need to let them know that early and snatch your share off the platter right away, because it continues to cook in front of you. Sauces are popular, probably for this reason. I have had some excellent, mildly spicy chimichurri.
Uruguayans butcher the cow differently than most. Instead of long ribs with delectable (and fatty) meat alongside, they cut across the bone, so you get short knuckle-like ribs; you can see some in the plate at the top. These are still the best pieces but please don't tell Joe Roberts or Richard Jennings that.
The national dish is the chivito: a sandwich with grilled beef, bacon, hard boiled egg, mayonnaise and lettuce on a mildly sweet roll. We stopped at a highly regarded roadside place called American Bar for the sandwich at left, and it cost about $10 US -- and this was the cheapest one we've seen. It's a decent sandwich, but the appeal of chivitos historically was that they were cheap. My colleagues had lesser chivitos our first night for about $16 each. I balked and ate supermarket empanadas, and even those were $5. So while the wine in Uruguay compares very favorably with the wine in Argentina, for travelers, budget-wise, be advised.
|One of Alto de la Ballena's formerly two toilet frogs. Sorry!|