From the keyboard of the extremely wordy Walter.
For some this was a bit of stretch – for many a stretch too far, but for those adventurers it was a trip well worth it to the border regions of Islington within cheering distance to Arsenalʼs old and new grounds. Not much cheering was coming from the nearby Gunners pub however as Man United sunk arsenal 1-0 that evening in the Champs League first leg.
The president had sniffed out a suitable dining establishment that promised much for us men of meat [MOM]. Before the evening the Argentine Garufa Grill had two things that would entice confidence in a regular meat club connoisseur – Argentine and Grill. It was with much chagrin that certain membersʼ absence was noted but some new feasters in Sam and Ram showing fine colours on their debut outing heartened us and made up for laggards.
I have to come clean right upfront and admit that having been to Argentina a few times I do feel it is perhaps closest to my heart [read stomach] and is the spiritual home of meat club. A combo of the best beef in the world cut and cooked in an honest way married with great meaty red wines that are smooth as they are alcoholic. A place where Chicken is offered as an option for vegetarians [I kid you not]. However I did not let my expectations run too high and had a small amount of apprehension.
The evening kicked off with an authentic and tasty beer – a brew local to Argentina of course – Quilmes – that put me right at ease. Cervecería y maltería Quilmes to give it its full title is an Argentine Brewery founded in 1888 in Quilmes, Buenos Aires Province, by Otto Bemberg, a German immigrant.
The company quickly started growing and in the 1920s it was already the most popular beer in Buenos Aires. Since then, it has become something of a national symbol, and has 75% of the beer market share in Argentina. It sponsors the Argentina national football team, and the colours of its labels are Argentina’s light blue and white. One fine member summed up the beers pleasure by saying Quilmes tasted like Spanish quim. Charmingly accurate.
Our appetites were piqued and our gullets ready for fayre – a veal tonne to boot things off – tasty tender with a creamy accompaniment to line the stomach no doubt and seal in the meat moment.
Then a small side dished slipped in and what better to carry on the meal than what can be described as the national dish – as much at heart to an Argie as Maradona – the empanada.
Argentine empanadas are often served at parties as a starter or main course, or in festivals. Shops specialize in freshly-made empanadas, with many flavours and fillings. The dough is usually of wheat flour and lard with fillings differing from province to province: in some it is mainly chicken in others beef (cubed or ground depending on the region), perhaps spiced with cumin and paprika, while others include onion, boiled egg, olives, or raisons.
Empanadas can be baked (more common in restaurants and cities) or fried (more common in rural areas and at festivals). They may also contain ham, fish, humita (sweet corn with white sauce) or spinach [for Snr. Waterfall]. Empanadas of the interior regions can be spiced with peppers.
We sampled ground beef of course on this occasion – my only gripe was there was too few to truly get to understand this famous Argentine staple and they were not on par with those Iʼve had in Buenos Aires. After his marvellous mince pies last xmas, a recipe here for the Little Chef to try out and bring to a meat club in the future.
Although hard to decline more beers, they were dispensed with ease and replaced with our first bottles of some red nectar – Santa Rosa, Tempranillo 2007 – a quaffable brew that was rich and smooth and bloody.
So with our stomachs now fully open, our mouths expectant and the sizzle in our ears the main course was served. The Parrillada Garufa consisted of a veritable butchers shop of cuts featuring in no particular order: Argentine Sirloin Steak, Fillet Steak, Rump Steak, Rib eye Steak, Sausage & Black Pudding (morcilla) with some Papas Fritas a la Provenza apparently on the side [which I have to admit I did not notice for all the cow in front of me]. No doubt had Waterfall been there the chips would have been consumed in greater numbers. And for that thought alone he surely won the Waterfall Award with ease again this month despite his continued absence.
To those who donʼt know a parrillada is the Argentine grill the meat is cooked on – the BBQ itself is known as Asado – which if you are ever invited to one or offered one by an true Argentine – NEVER turn this ritual down!
The asado is usually placed in a tray to be immediately served, but it can also be placed on a brasero right on the table to keep the meat warm. Us lucky MOM had it served on the brasero – who needs plates!
To accompany this sizzling platter and wash down our lovely lumps of flesh was one of my favourite grape varieties the Malbec. A Norton, Malbec 2007, to be precise and its gutsy nature more than met the meats requirements. Now a mini wine lesson on the Malbec or Cahor grapes that tend to have an inky dark color and robust tannins: Long known as one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine, the French plantations of Malbec are now found primarily in Cahors in the SW France region where they hail. However it is increasingly celebrated as an Argentine varietal wine and celebrated for its particular plum-like flavor component to add complexity to the clarets. While acreage of Malbec is declining in France, in Argentine the grape is surging and has become a “national variety” of sort that is uniquely identified with wine of that great country.
So how good was the meat? That sire was surely excellent by quality – the range of cuts and textures pleasing. I would have liked to have seen more off the bone options that I have only seen in Argentina but perhaps I am splitting cows tails here as the offering was plentiful and our stomach were feed well that evening. For those who are interested [and you all should be] see here.
Some were better fed than others – its must be said. The Gore must add to his weight at each meat club quite considerably, but this time I can honestly say he walked out at least double his normal weight for the amount of steak he packed away. Impressive. And as ever he always leads the charge for dessert. Gore set about his ice cream like a hungry man [Iʼd hate to have seen the damage to his toilet after this meal]. Again, impressive beast. This time it was Dulce de lecce flavour – another Argentine favourite also know as “milk jam”, a milk-based sauce found as both a syrup and a caramel candy. It is prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to create a product that is vaguely similar in taste to caramel. It is also the basis for the elaboration of many sweets and desserts, which form part of the classics of the Argentine cuisine.
But what made the evening top for me was the stupendous arrival of the amazing, delicious and Malamado Malbec 2004 fortified wine from the Familia Zuccardi Winery found in the Mendoza region. Just knock out. Jonathan Ray, Daily Telegraph, 21 March 2008 said of the marvel: This wine is completely new to me and I think it’s an absolute belter, a real curiosity and exceptionally well made. It is smooth and supple, with buckets of ripe fruit and even subtle hints of chocolate.
Bottles have been ordered and those will be picked up at the next meat club – my juices are flowing already! More info here
And you can get some from here among other stockists: Yorkshire Wine Company
Lastly there was even some yerba mate – drink flying around which is truly, truly Argentine. The infusion called maté is prepared by steeping dry leaves (and twigs) of yerba maté in hot water, rather than in boiling water like black tea. Drinking maté with friends from a shared hollow gourd (also called a maté or guampa) with a metal straw (bombilla) is a common social practice in Argentina. What is it like – having has it over there I personally find it very bitter and a bit too grassy – which is too close to vegetables so I passed!
For my Argentine connections and position as foreign minister for Meat Club the president asked me to give a small speech, which I duly delivered. For this it seemed I was bestowed the honour of wining both the meat club and review Jackets and a guaranteed appearance at the next club meet!
So did it live up to the owners sales pitch – recapped here: “Garufa is a new Argentine restaurant serving a premium selection of meat and wines carefully sourced from Argentina. We complement that with a good selection of vegetarian options and the finest ingredients from local producers to bring the best of Argentine food and Culture to your table.”
Largely the meat and Malamado Malbec won it for me. I was relieved that the ʻvegetarian optionsʼ were not offered! Iʼd like to see more of the famous Argentine boasting, pride and welcome next time but the spread of goods and authentic nature of them was impressive. The Gauchos from the Pampas would surely approve and Iʼd be with them on that.
Parrillada Garufa [Argentine Sirloin Steak, Fillet Steak, Rump Steak, Ribeye Steak, Sausage & Black Pudding]
Papas Fritas a la Provenza
Santa Rosa, Tempranillo 2007, Argentina
Norton, Malbec 2007, Argentina
Malamado, Malbec, Argentina fortified wine by Zucardi
Original PDF version available here. 2.9MB