Thursday, November 3, 2011

Drugged in Argentina: Our Correspondent Learns a Valuable Lesson

It happened just like the stories say it will. One minute I was surrounded by a table of laughing, friendly faces. The next, I was stricken with a heavy sleep. My eyelids were unable to struggle against the powerful substances now swirling in my stomach. I struggled from the table. I nearly stumbled, lazily brushing the chair aside. Hand on the wall for support, legs heavy, I collapsed into bed unable to muster the strength to put a sheet over my bare arms.

I awoke about one hour later. My pockets were empty. I was still intoxicated and hazy as a hand roused me and a voice called my name. I was numb, stung – my stomach the site of a strange warmth that continued to pulse through my body. I tired to collect my senses and to focus on the voice. The voice grew more urgent, telling me it was time to leave. My eyes snapped to focus and I was staring into the face of one of the people from the table.

I realized in horror that…..nothing. It was my girlfriend. My pockets were empty because they were empty when I fell asleep. I was not pricked by some voodoo curare, nor was I delirious with dengue. Indeed, the slumber-inducing agents were intentionally consumed: Malbec, Tempranillo, Cabernet, Chorizos, Pollo, Matambre and Colita de Cuadril.

I had taken a glorious nap after eating a glorious meal. I felt rather glorious, too. I could only feel more glorious if my name was Gloria and was picking Morning Glories while listening to Oasis.

I kid you not: as I sat at the table I could feel my body absorb the juices of the meats and the vital power of the spices. Curling together with the wine, this formed a potent cocktail that invaded my being. I felt like a sponge that was absorbing pure power and powerful opiates at the same time. I felt stronger, primitive and very tired.

In absolute seriousness, as I lay down on the bed and dissolved into a sleep, I could feel pangs of pure pleasure course through my body. My abdominal muscles loosened. Each peristaltic pulse sent waves of relief emanating outwards. I felt unburdened and delightfully un-tethered. I felt like a suspension bridge deciding to loosen the cables and stretch a little bit. Atlas shrugged and ate barbecue.

I will spare you the background and get, quite literally to the meat of the story:

  • Chorizo – These were handmade sausages brought by the host. They were spiced and filled at home by his son’s girlfriend. She’s a keeper. 
  •  Pollo – Known to us gringos as Chicken, we ate a whole bird cut down the center. The Argentines call this Mariposa (butterfly) but it has other names as well. My favourite is spatchcock (tee hee hee) a word I learned from watching Steven Raichlen’s Primal Grill.
  •   Matambre – this word has several meanings. In this case we are talking about Pork Flank Steak ( it can be beef or pork). Grilled, you can eat it alone, with fries or on a sandwich. Confusingly, it is also a kind of grilled meat-wrap. The flank steak is rolled with egg, veggies and spices inside, baked, sliced crossways and grilled. This was seasoned with red pepper and garlic.
  • Colita de Quadril – This is a Tri-Tip in the English meat lexicon. It is from the rear legs of the cow. There is a nice fat cap on the top side that helps make the meat incredibly juicy. This was marinated with some garlic and seasoned only with salt.
Pollo aka Chicken
Matabmre de Cerdo (pork)
Colita de Quadril (Tri Tip)

The wines were all divine and were chosen by people who drink a fair bit of wine. I tend to trust the wine selection of retired and semi-retired professionals (especially when the bottles as brought as gifts). They don’t mess around and they won’t hesitate to spend and extra buck on a solid bottle* Buying bad wine is an absolute waste of retirement.

Haroldos - Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008
A definite chocolate flavour here. Dry blueberries and blackcurrant jam. The tannins let you know they are there but the wine is round and juicy too.

The lack of depth to the noted belis the fact that this was a close favourite to the Weinert I had next. I would rate this as Very Nice.

Don Domenico - Tempranillo, 2009

This wine was noticeably darker, taking on a more brown/purple tone. It had a musty chocolate nose…quite a foreboding smell to be honest. This wine was a touch saltier and fruiter and the chocolate note popped much more as I tore into my steak. The overlapping chocolate flavours were quite interesting. I really liked this wine. I felt like I was exploring and thinking a lot. This is the first time I had ever had Tempranillo. It is native to Spain but this wine was made in Argentina.

I rate this as Very Nice.

Wienert Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

This had a smokey and smelled vaguely like some kind of decay. This is going to sound bad, of course, but it really wasn't. It was something mildly funky sort of like a cheese rind. You'd smell strange too if you sat in a bottle for eight years. It had more of the taste that comes with a raw grape, but with a strange funky twist to it. The tannins tied it all together.

This wine was tough to describe and I liked it the least. That said, all three were delicious. This one was just outshone.

Overall, it was a Very Nice wine but in the context of the three I rate this as Nice. That isn't really fair but life isn't fair either.

A note on my wine notes: I like wine but I am a neophyte compared to Josh. My current goal with wine is to learn, loosely, what to expect from different varieties of red grapes.

I read the front label, smell, do a thorough job of coating the mouth and coaxing out flavours and I repeat. I think. I take a quick note. Then I look on the back label to see if anything there matched my notes or put a finger on an elusive taste. I am going slowly.

*That said, I have seen all of the wine brands we drank that day (but not all the same vintages) in grocery stores here and they weren’t terribly expensive.

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