Dreaming of Artichokes

Argentinian barbecue, too

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There’s never been a better time to indulge in a little idle fantasy, and travel planning is such a good mental escape. It’s even better when it’s unlikely the trip will even happen. The better to scroll through the websites of world-class hotels.

I recently spoke to Erica Firpo, a resident of Rome and its head cheerleader. It’s now top of my pretend list to go there and eat artichokes and become an expert in dolce far niente.

I also want to go to Provence for the freshest fruit and stankiest cheese. Bangkok for stir-fried noodles. Saigon for chả giò.

What’s your dream destination, food-wise?

Please forward Smart Mouth to your most culture-hungry friend!

Photo: RLP Stock Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

Asados Are the GOAT of Patagonian Feasts

By Jennifer Billock

On my fourth day horseback riding across the Patagonian cordillera in Argentina, I had my first goat asado. Earlier that day, I’d reached the apex of the mountain range I was crossing — about 7,800 feet elevation — and made my way over to the high-country camp where the horses from Estancia Ranquilco (my home base at the time) spend the summer. The asado, which is basically a whole-goat roast, was a great way to celebrate the achievement. That’s what it’s normally for, anyway: celebrations, the locals told me.

Goat asados are a cultural institution in Patagonia. For the gauchos (Argentine cowboys) that herd the livestock to the high camps, they may have asados every night (they’ve got the herd with them anyway), but lower down the mountains, it’s a party. It evolved out of a need for gauchos in the mid-1800s to have a good, filling meal after a long day running the herd. It doesn’t have to be goat, either; lamb or beef are acceptable substitutes.

On the morning of the asado occasion, whoever is cooking (called el asador) will prepare the goat. The asador goes out and pulls a goat from the herd, slaughters it, cleans it up, and brings it over to a roaring fire. The entire goat is then crucified on a metal cross, doused with water and covered in packed salt. Then, the cross is stood up next to the fire and pounded into the ground so it stays upright, and the goat is slow-cooked for hours, until the meat is tender and juicy and the exterior is extra crisp. When it’s ready to eat, the meat is cut off in chunks and served with tortas fritas, potato salad, grilled veggies, salsa, chimichurri … or dozens of other side options, depending on who’s hosting the meal.

And then the real party begins. At mine, we ate goat alongside fry bread, onion salad, and chimichurri. We put on traditional gaucho music and spent the night eating, singing, and laughing around the fire, passing around whiskey and wine. At the end of the night, one of the local dogs got his head caught in the fry bread box. Every asado is a different experience. 🐐

This newsletter is edited by Katherine Spiers, host of the podcast Smart Mouth.

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