Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pastel de Papas

If you Google "Pastel de Papas" then Google will tell you this is a traditional Chilean dish.  Maybe so, but I associate Pastel de Papas with Argentina.  Particularly with my first trip to Argentina and my travels to San Martin de los Andes.

To me, Pastel de Papas is pretty much the definition of comfort food.  It falls in line with lasagna and chili (and is a weird variation/combination of the two).  There is also a huge element of improvisation that comes along with PdP.  I have asked people for recipes (and looked online) to find that each person has their own version and they even change it up quite regularly.  The basics are key -- ground meat and mashed potato, but beyond that it's up to the chef!

Feeling in the mood for a culinary adventure (and challenge), I volunteered to cook for my Argentine friend (living in NY) and said I would make Pastel de Papas.  I had to make this as authentic as possible!

Long story short, after 2 hours in the kitchen, we had a wonderful meal in front of us and I was pretty happy with the outcome.  I under-salted the meat and bought way too many potatoes and veggies, but now I'll know better for next time!

The beast of a Pastel de Papas


Cross Section

Some things to note:
  • The basic recipe = Base layer of sautéed ground meat and veggies with raisins or currants mixed in, layer of hard boiled egg slices, layer of pureed potato, grated parmesan (or other salty cheese) on top so it crisps up when you bake!  You can also mix some cheese into the pureed potato
  • Butternut squash puree (pure de calabaza) is very popular in Argentina.  In order to get that flavor (along with potato and sweet potato), I decided to make the mashed veggie topping as a combination of the three.  I think the addition of sweet potato AND butternut squash made it a little sweeter than I expected.  If I were to re-do with all three, I will a) add more cheese and b) add more salt.
  • Veggies used: onion, kale, red pepper
  • The more cheese, the better.

Buen Provecho!


I also tried to make flan and followed the recipe exactly.  But it failed and left a lot of spillover sugary gunk on the bottom of the oven.  Nevertheless, we did eat the weird sugar concoction and the flavor was not half bad.  So if I gain back some flan confidence, I will attempt another time!  I think finding a recipe that calls for cooking the flan in a water bath is probably a safe bet.

Flan?

Note:  I wrote this post a few weeks back (a day or two after creating the meal), but was distracted by other blog-worthy items and never clicked "publish".  Today is a somewhat dreary, cold, rainy Saturday, and the perfect meal for me would be Pastel de Papas.  In honor of the weather, I give you this post.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Austin, a recap.

I finally made it to the city that I love and had a wonderful time.

In addition to tacos, I also ate some delicious other meals/snacks in ATX.

At Max's Wine Dive I ate fried chicken and champagne (because "why the hell not?" they boast on their site.)  It had been years since I tasted the fatty crunchy yum of fried chicken (gluten-free, of course) and I was happy to be back in the game.  They also brought the chicken along with a chipotle honey that I could not stop slathering onto my bird.
Fried Chicken pairs perfectly with a glass of bubbly!
I had an epic burger at HopDoddy's on South Congress. They too catered to the glutards of the world with a "non-gluten" bun option.  The line wrapping around the building was initially intimidating but well worth the wait (and it moved rather fast).  I ordered that day's Daily Special -- a burger topped with pulled pork and cole slaw and maybe some other things....cheese....but I was busy trying not to have a heart attack to remember.  I also had truffle fries and a salted caramel milkshake.  It was a big day and oh so yummy.

A toasted gluten-free bun!
In order to caffeinate during my stay, I made my way to The Brew & Brew which serves coffee and beer (at 8am, I chose a coffee).  They speak of a Modular Espresso machine on their website, so I ordered a latte from this sleek and minimalist apparatus and it was extremely tasty, although a bit too luke warm for my liking.  I need something piping hot for a chilly Austin morning!
Check out the Espresso machines in the back!  They look like large faucets.

I also ate fried pickles from a food truck.  The gluten-freeness was questionable, but their flavor and perfect salty crispiness was not.

It was a shame that I did not eat any BBQ (I hear Stubb's is a great place) or hear live music (Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World....gasp!) or spend a night out on East 6th Street.  These are all very Austiny things to do and I know I will return and do them.  I must.

Other things I did: 
  • Visited UT's campus and took a walk around the enormous football stadium.  Go Bevo!
  • Strolled through the Blanton Museum of Art and saw some really amazing exhibits of modern art
  • Walked a bajillion miles
  • Picked up a copy of Edible Austin and learned about what's cookin' (pun intended) in the Austin area
  • Tried to say y'all
  • Sat in the lobby of the famous Driskill Hotel where the Texas Rangers plotted to capture Bonnie and Clyde
  • Strolled around the Capitol Building and passed by the Governor's Mansion

Almost all of my experiences in Austin have been documented.  Here you go.
I


And some things are just better left unsaid (unblogged).


Monday, March 24, 2014

Austin IIII. Los Tacos.

Austin is known for their tacos.  I know that Texas is where "Tex-Mex" food originated (duh), but what is about Austin and tacos, specifically?  The world wide web yields many results for "Best Tacos in Austin" or restaurant/taqueria proprietary sites, but the strong connection between Austin and Tacos is still a mystery. 

I overcame the unknown and embarked on a taco adventure in Austin, TX.

The first "tacos" I had were at Arturo's Bakery and Cafe on 17th Street (an easy walk from UT's campus).  I walked into this little restaurant/counter service joint and loved how immediately friendly the man behind the counter was.  The chalkboard menu features breakfast (served until 11am) with the ever popular Austin staple -- The Breakfast Taco.  They had sandwiches and salads and quesadillas.  Where were the tacos?  I asked for a quesadillas  suggestion.  If I was in the mood for something sweet, the Sesame Ginger Chicken 'dilla, for something spicy, the Chipotle Chicken quesadilla.  I went spicy and made my way to the lemonade/ice tea "bar" (a counter with 3 different types of iced teas).  After assembling my gourmet Arnold Palmer (1/2 lemonade, 1/4 unsweetened iced tea, 1/4 hibiscus iced tea), I turned towards the door and caught sight of the taco menu.  It was hidden!!!  To the right (and written in very small letters) sat the taco menu I had been searching for.  Oh well, it had been a while since I had a quesadilla and isn't a quesadilla essentially just a cheesy taco?
Where are the tacos?
I sat outside and really enjoyed the Texan heat.  (I was very warm).  The quesadillas came out fairly quickly and complete with rice and beans!  They were quite hot to touch so I waited a few minutes before digging in, but once I did...BAM!  The chipotle was fairly spicy, but it had a sweet aftertaste that was a nice balance to the spicy kick.  The melted cheese was oh so good and finished off with a bite of rice and beans, this was a hearty lunch and a wonderful introduction to my Austin, Texas "taco" fare. 
Outdoor dining

Saucy chipotle chicken yumminess

My second taco adventure came in the morning.  I was rushing up to the Capitol building to meet the group for my free walking tour and passed by a 
Royal Blue Grocery on Brazos Street that advertised Tacodeli Breakfast tacos in their window.  Unfortunately, their tacos do not come in corn tortillas because they don't hold up well to the heat and re-heat.  Limited by my gluten freedom, I resumed my speed-walking and came across Taco Shack just a few steps away.  The line was long, which could have been problematic due to my time crunch, but I took it as a sign that these tacos we good.  I ordered the "shack taco" in a corn tortilla and got ready for my egg, chorizo, potato, and cheese bundle.  It did take quite a while (10 minutes approx.) to get my taco.  Normally this would have bothered me, but it gave me a chance to watch the wonderful assembly line operations that were happening in the kitchen.  I knew this taco would be hot and fresh and really made to order.  Eating on the run was the worst part of consuming this taco because it was a bit messy and I had trouble really tasting the taco.  The flavors were pretty good, nothing super memorable or that I would rush back to have, but it kept me full for hours!


At this time, I felt a bit jipped in my taco adventure, so I reached out to an Austinite friend for her taco suggestion.  "Torchys Tacos. Hands down" she replied to my text.  The North Austin Torchy's seems to be the UT go-to and I jumped in line with the throngs of college students decked out in their burnt orange UT and Longhorns gear.  

Everything on the menu looked delicious and I struggled to decide which tacos to order.  My mistake was thinking that I needed to order two tacos.  One taco is a meal in itself!  Torchy's reminded me a bit of California style tacos (Gordo, Dos Toros etc) due to the filling to tortilla space ratio.  For the sake of comparison, I ordered The Republican - grilled jalapeño sausage, shredded cheese and pico de gallo with poblano sauce, and The Democrat - shredded beef barbacoa, topped with fresh avocado, queso fresco, cilantro,  and onions.  I didn't realize the jalapeño sausage was essentially a hot dog with a spicy pepper embedded into it so I was really surprised when it was placed in front of me.  I alternated bites between The Democrat and The Republican in order to continually compare and contrast the two.  The quantity of avocado that came with the Democrat was fantastic.  Total win.  The pico de gallo on the Republican, as I could have predicted, made the tortilla soggy and the taco fell apart quickly.  The Republican was kinda like a chili cheese dog taco, which isn't a bad thing, just an observation.  Also, the poblano sauce that came with the Republican was like spicy ranch dressing which was mmm mmm good.  The authentic flare (onions and cilantro) of The Democrat was a really nice backbone to fall back on, and the beef was well cooked and extremely flavorful.  

The Torchy's Taco Motto...and truth.

An overwhelming amount of options






Overall, The Democrat (left) won! 






You could roll me out of Torchy's I was so full after those two bad boys.  Well since this wasn't enough taco fare for me, I went to one more taco commissary on South Congress for dinner.  The same Austinite that suggested Torchy's took me to Guero's Tacos for dinner and a chance to have some "queso" (melted cheese with tomato and some other stuff) as a real Tex-Mexer.  The line at Guero's was long, but we made our way to the full-service bar area and plopped down to dive in.  

Salsa and Queso



I ordered Tacos al Pastor (marinated pork) and was most impressed by the rice.  I am used to the soft tomato rice usually accompanying a taco platter, but this rice was less tomato and more salty buttery goodness.  And not over cooked!  Really really delicious.  The taco was good too.  I wish the pork had been a bit more moist or flavorful, something about it was not quite right.  The taco was topped with onion, cilantro, and pineapple, and I loved the sweet tropical pineapple.  It gave the tacos a brightness that kept the plethora of carby food still feeling fresh and light.  According to my friend, the queso dip was subpar, but I was very content with the melted cheese. 


En total, I ate a satisfactory number of tacos/Tex-Mex while in Austin and did not have a bad experience!  Torchy's definitely took the cake and I know there are more tacos to be had so I must go back to Austin.  What I really want to try is a BBQ taco.  That would be a true Austin experience.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Austin III

"Keep Austin Weird. Support Local Businesses."

This is Austin's motto and one that resonates with me.

The facts are as follows:
I am weird.
Austin is weird.
Weird things are entertaining.
Therefore, I am entertaining, as is Austin, TX.


Dos Equis knows local marketing!

I may not be that entertaining, but Austin certainly was.  Coming from New York City which seems to have everything and everyone, I was surprised that I was never really bored in Austin. Yes, everything was new so had an exciting appeal, but even during the weekdays when the main drags of Austin were relatively quiet (I guess people do have jobs...) there was something really peaceful about sitting in a cafe and reading the latest edition of Edible Austin.  I did not feel like I needed to go out and take advantage of the 16 bajillion things happening that minute (as sometimes I do feel in New York).  I just existed.  I embraced the calm. And that was delightful.  Delightfully weird.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Austin II

In Austin there is food.  Lots and lots of food.

I have yet to be hungry.

Food trucks.  Tacos.  Tex-Mex. Thai. Coffee.  Craft beer.  Burgers.  BBQ.  Seafood (questionable because Austin is landlocked?).

Basically, if you want to go on a culinary adventure, check out Austin.

PICTURES TO FOLLOW!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Austin I

Austin, Texas.  Part 1.

Finally!  After months and months (years?) of talking about my love for a city I've never been, I have made it to Austin, Texas.  Not only is this my first time in Austin, it is my first time in Texas (outside of an airport).  Howdy y'all!

A few quick things I've observed:

  • It is warm.  I like that.
  • The water smells funny.  
  • There is a lot of construction happening in the "downtown" area
  • Lots of banks
  • The city is lively and quiet and sprawling and condensed. Lots of contradictions, but they are very good contradictions.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Gato

If someone were to ask me when my love for Bobby Flay started, I would have no idea.  I think it was somewhere around the time that I started watching Food Network's Throwdown with BobbyFlay and thinking to myself whether I could ever create something so good that Bobby would think to challenge on National TV. 

My obsession is fairly passive.  

I do not spend hours following his actions on the internet or reading everything there is to read about him.  I’ve never been to Bar Americain, although I do have the cookbook.  I was fairly upset when Mesa Grill closed.  

My most obsessive moment was in 2010 when I tried to follow Bobby Flay and wife Stephanie March around Northwestern’s campus.  She was Homecoming Marshall and he was her arm candy.  I had to Google her to find out her claim to fame, so Bobby was the real star in my eyes.

Regardless of my engagement with Bobby Flay and his happenings/whereabouts, I have a number of outlets for knowing what is new and exciting in the New York City restaurant scene.  From NY Mag’s Grub Street to Zagat to Eater NY to UrbanDaddy to TastingTable to PureWow to Time Out NY to Refinery 29, I am constantly receiving updates.  In a recent browse through the various emails and websites, I came across the announcement of Bobby Flay’s new restaurant, Gato.  Beyond the excitement of a new Bobby Flay eatery was the fact that this restaurant would be located on Lafayette between Houston and Bleecker (this is within walking distance from my apartment). 


I started salivating. 

With news of the soft opening and the abundance of kale on the menu AND that Bobby got his influence from any place that uses olive oil, I knew I needed a table at Gato ASAP.

With the handy-dandy use of OpenTable.com I booked a table for two on Sunday.  The only available time was 6:30, which for a Sunday night I could put up with.   Knowing how much my mom liked Mesa Grill (we went to the Las Vegas iteration to celebrate our birthdays in 2010), I invited her along. 




The quick recap is as follows: 
  • Food was delectable (is it appropriate to lick the plates?)
  • The room is beautiful and feels rustic, Mediterranean, warm, and hip
  • The server was able to recommend the perfect amount of food and combination of flavors
  • The restaurant was mostly empty.  (This was a bit frustrating because we tried to change the reservation from 2 to 3 the day prior and they said they would be unable to accommodate us)
  • The blood orange/vodka/cava cocktail can be skipped.

Overall: A-




We ordered:

ROASTED OCTOPUS TANGERINE, BACON, OREGANO
SCRAMBLED EGGS ALMOND ROMESCO, BOUCHERON CHEESE, TOMATO CONFIT TOAST
CHARRED CARROTS PARSNIP CHIPS, HARISSA, MINT, YOGURT
BRUSSELS SPROUTS POMEGRANATES, PISTACHIOS
KALE AND WILD MUSHROOM PAELLA CRISPY ARTICHOKES, EGG

The octopus was unreal.  The tender meat paired with the citrusy tangerine vinaigrette and then complimented by the salty and smoky bacon.  Woah.  It was a party in my mouth!



I had read a lot about the scrambled eggs and they were very rich in flavor, but not heavy (which I really appreciated).  Add the boucheron cheese and almond romesco in this dish made for a creamy and nutty mixture that I could not get enough of.



Brussels Sprouts by an all-start chef cannot be half bad.  These were very very good.  I would have liked a bit more crispiness in the other sprout layers, but I loved the pomegranate and pistachio as part of the dish.  Considering we so often see Brussels sprouts paired with bacon or maple syrup based sauces in heavy winter dishes, this was a light rendition of a new "classic". 

Another unreal dish, the carrots.  Charred to perfection, my mom and I both ate the stalks (greens!)



One of my favorite parts of the kale and mushroom paella was the crispiness of the rice.  It perfectly complemented the crispy artichokes which then were juxtaposed by the smoothness of the egg.  My mom and I were both a little shocked about how impactful the mushrooms were in the dish.  Extremely flavorful and hearty, they added a depth of flavor that I was not expecting.



We also got some dessert things -- Vanilla Ice Cream with Cracked Black Pepper and a Fromage Blanc Cheesecake (to be gluten free I had to avoid the crust) with Blood Orange sauce.  Skip the ice cream and get the cheesecake. 



It took us a very long time to signal to the waitress that we were ready for our bill.  But considering that was the greatest downfall of the meal, I am overwhelmingly impressed.

I also did get to see Bobby Flay.  He, sadly, did not come to our table, but I watched him sign an apron for a fellow patron (unintentional rhyme).  Gato also features a semi-open kitchen so, if you’re lucky, you can look in and see Chef Flay at work.


There is lots more on the menu I want to try so I look forward to Gato, Part Two.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Taco Investment

I would love to buy a taco for $2.75.  Can I see a menu?

This article caught my eye, as do most things related to tacos/Mexican cuisine.  But it's less about tacos and more about investments.  Read on:

Buying a $2.75 Taco? This App Invests Your 25¢ Change in the Markets

"Getting in the habit of socking away money is good. The problem is that at current rates, the dollars just sit there, earning almost zero interest."

I really love the concept.  Start investing early.  That's my motto.  And spare change goes a long way.  I had a friend that used to put her coins (pennies, nickels, dimes, but not quarters) in the trash.  Yes, I know it costs more than $0.01 to manufacture a penny, but these things do add up! TD Bank has the "Penny Arcade" to help people count coins and encourage the little ones to start saving early.  

Stay tuned....Android (and iPhone) app will hopefully be out Q2 2014!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Comfortable

Cómodo, the Spanish word for "comfortable" and the name of the restaurant I went to last Saturday is the perfect way to describe my experience.  It was comfortable, warm, and completely unpretentious.

I learned about this restaurant via Tasting Table's Friday email blast.  The subject was "Argentine Farmhouse chic..." so I was immediately hooked!  The email was highlighting a new restaurant in Fort Greene, Colonia Verde, the newest outpost from the couple behind Cómodo in SoHo.



Although the menus are fairly similar, obviously I must try both.  Seeing as SoHo is more convenient than Brooklyn, I ventured to the cozy little (well, medium-sized) Cómodo for dinner with friends.  Everything on the menu looked incredibly appetizing, but I opted for the following:

WARM BRUSSELS SPROUT CAESAR SALAD
Sautéed Brussels sprouts with a mustardy-avocado Parmesan dressing

PÃO DE QUEIJO SLIDERS
Lamb sliders served on homemade Brazilian cheese bread with a chipotle cream sauce

Yum.  Where do I start?  Warm + Brussels Sprouts = Winner.  Always.  The salad was simultaneously hearty and light and simply arranged in a small round stack in the center of the plate.  This is the type of dish I could eat every day.  And, as a mustard fanatic, I loved the spicy tang of the dressing.  They also serve this dish on their brunch menu which is a) called The Sierra, b) named after Grub Street Assistant Editor (and fellow Northwestern Alum...Go 'Cats!) Sierra Tishgart and c) topped with a poached egg.  Now that I need to try!


My appetizer "main course" was the lamb sliders.  Again, Lamb + Pao de Queijo (cheesy bread) = Winner.  The lamb in this dish was incredibly flavorful.  I did really enjoy the chipotle cream for the addition of the smokey heat, but it was not necessary.  The flavors were incredibly in sync and the 3 sliders were enough to fill me up.  



One of my friends ordered the Warm Kale and Quinoa Salad which was perfect for a cold night and the salty feta cheese perfectly balanced the sweet dried blueberries.  It was a festival of textures and flavors!

So many more things on the menu I want to try, such as:
Chipotle Rubbed Cod
Coffee Rubbed Chochinita
Whole Brook Trout

I truly felt like I was being welcomed into someone's home for a freshly cooked meal.  It makes sense that this restaurant is a translation of the puerta cerrada that owners Felipe and Tamy Donnelly once operated.
Cuando la comida es compartida sabe mejor.
When food is shared, it tastes better.  
I agree.



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Subway

Riding the subway in NYC is a unique experience.  No other city has a public transportation system quite like New York's.

I find it fairly easy to navigate (once you get an understanding of all the different lines) and there is something so "New York" about it.  Everyone rides the subway!



Well, there are certainly people who do not.  These people (friends and family of mine, even!) think the subway is dirty, smelly, inconvenient, scary, or some other horrific adjective.  Yes, of course it is!  But not always.  I rarely feel unsafe on the subway.  Even when it smells, I can move cars as soon as I arrive at the next stop.  Maybe it's inconvenient, but so are taxis when they are stuck in traffic or take a stupid route to your destination.

Yesterday I observed two amazing moments on the subway.  One on my way to work.  One on my way home.

On my way to work:
Two kids, I'm guessing 5 and 8, discussing the prank they were going to play on their Dad for April Fool's Day.  It was March 11th.  Their grand plan was to attach a bucket of water to a door so when their Dad opened the door, the water would spill on him.  I liked this idea.  What I liked more were two of the comments they made while plotting this scheme.
"I might make a cardboard bucket."
"Maybe I'll put a live cockroach in the water."

This is why I love kids.
Unbridled creativity.  No one tells them "no". All their ideas may not have a tremendous amount of probability but they have possibility.  These kids take that possibility and run with it.

Moral of the story:  Embrace your crazy ideas.  Someone may find them interesting.

On my way home:
Although I had been sitting all day, I decided to make my way to an open seat in the car.  The woman to my left was reading an article from The New York Times (I quickly identified the publication based on typeface and layout) that was on the topic of Women in Business, particularly in leadership roles.  I love these types of articles, but didn't remember seeing it in my weekend paper (or my online diligence).  The article was in the Sunday, October 13, 2013 issue of the NYT.  Again, this was March 11, 2014.

Moral of the story:  If there is an article in the paper (or a magazine, or online) that you do really want to read, hang on to it.  You will find the time.  Also, check out Pocket and save things there for "offline" reading.  A fantastic new resource for my subway rides.

I think this is the the article she was reading.  Four Executives on Succeeding in Business as a Woman. I had read this back in October.

Other Public Transportation Systems I have opinions on:

Chicago - The El/L is fine as long as you are not trying to move laterally North or South of the Loop.  But, the majority of stations are outside and did you know Chicago has bad winters?
London - The Tube!  I love the Tube.  I also think the Oyster Card is brilliant.  Easier than swiping a MetroCard (NYC) and your fare is dependent on where you start and end.  One stop is cheaper than 10!
Buenos Aires - Is this surprising given my most recent posts?  I am not super familiar with the transportation system, but their bus (el bondi) system is very elaborate and seems to be able to get you anywhere in the city.  Sure, the buses break down sometimes, but who cares!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Learning a Language

What I'm about to say is not a huge revelation and many before me have said the same.

Learning a language is hard.

I technically speak Spanish.  I took classes throughout high school (and my HS had an immersive, no English allowed, approach to teaching languages).  I spent a summer in Spain.  I've visited Argentina (and spent the majority of time with Spanish-speakers) 3 times.  I can get by with my limited knowledge of the subjunctive and the few vocabulary words that I know.

Post-Buenos Aires, I wanted to brush up on my Spanish so I felt confident speaking the language.  I downloaded Duolingo, changed my phone to Spanish, and began texting with my Argentine friends in Spanish only.  I also dedicated a notebook to new Spanish words and phrases that I am learning (or forgot and am relearning).  Sometimes I even listen to Spanish talk radio.  This is all great.

Here's the catch: learning a language is hard when you do not practice speaking.  I can sit and craft witty Spanish text messages for hours.  But put me in front of a group of Spanish speakers and I choke.  This happened on Sunday and I was pretty embarrassed.

What can I (or anyone...) do to get the cojones to just go for it -- speak Spanish, mess up, sound like an American trying to learn Spanish, but improve?

Any and all suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

isms

I have lots of isms.  Well, really they are my life theories that I try and phrase succinctly.  Yes, my tell-tale sayings or phrases that describe a situation.  That is an ism.

When George Bush was President and said some silly things they were coined Bushisms.

I want to coin MayDayisms.  I have lots of philosophies on life that I believe others deserve to hear.   I have been thinking about devoting an entirely new blog to my MayDayisms and musings.  I muse a lot.

Thanks to Google for these 2 very helpful factoids about isms:



Pretty interesting that the use of "ism" has increased in the past 60 or so years.  Can everyone have their own type of ism?



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Experiment

When my sister first visited and then lived in Buenos Aires in 2010 she spoke (and blogged) about yerba mate.  This tea-style drink was an Argentine staple, and actually fairly common throughout South America.  I had heard of "mate" from my visits to Argo Tea when I enjoyed the Roasted Mate or Mate Latte.  The flavor, I recalled, was slightly bitter, but very robust and "chewy" and Argo did a great job of making this drink accessible to the masses.

When I walked out of Ezeiza Airport in Buenos Aires in August 2010, my sister greeted me with an enormous hug and thrust a wooden cup/chalice with a metal spoon/straw in my face.  This was mate.


Well, actually the cup was the mate and the green stuff inside was the yerba.  The metal straw was a bombilla and I was not allowed to touch it.  The tea was delicious and when I handed the "empty" (water-less) mate back to my sister and said "Gracias, Julia" she quickly noted that saying "Gracias" while drinking mate signals that you are finished and would not like anymore.  Wow, I had a lot to learn.

[I could write a very long post about mate (which I may do....), but this post is about my experiment today with yerba mate.]

I own a mate and yerba and a bombilla.  I'm lacking in a thermos to hold and dispense the hot water, but if I wanted to make do I definitely could.  However, due to the lack of understanding in the US around the customs of drinking mate, I decided that bringing all the supplies into the office is probably more hassle than it's worth.

The plot thickens.

While tidying up my kitchen I came across a loose-tea infuser from David's Tea that my roommate had stashed away.  Figuring that all I needed to create a yerba mate drink was a vessel to hold the yerba, hot water, and a device to keep from drinking the tea leaves, I thought this could be a new solution to my yerba mate cravings.  Also, on the David's Tea website, they sell a variety of mate based teas so how hard/bad/inauthentic could this turn out?

Today I experimented.  Using Taragui Yerba and the David's Tea Infuser.  The result is good.


The espuma (foam, bubbles) is a sign of a good mate!

Some things I need to consider for next time:

  • Do not overfill the infuser.  A little yerba goes a long way.  Also, if it's over packed with yerba you can't put a lot of water in and then you don't have as much tea to drink!
  • Little steeping is needed.  The yerba is fairly potent. Unlike using a tea bag, the hot water does not need to hang out with the yerba for a long time before producing the delicious beverage.  I let my first round sit for 3-5 minutes and the result was a very dark and very strong tea.
  • There is a reason the bombilla is used.  As I said, this tea is strong and dark.  I have a vague sense that drinking this all day sans bombilla will cause my teeth to rot out of my head.  I know coffee does damage to tooth enamel but I think mate may be even worse. (But I will probably continue to use this infuser option and no bombilla in the near future.)