Make it, shake it

Does life get much better than a choccie fondue in winter?
Does life get much better than a choccie fondue in winter?
It’s been quite the creative week. And that is an understatement.

By creative, I don’t mean scribbling words and putting them into some kind of order in a sentence, or slapping paint onto a canvas. No, no. The eater has once again turned creator.

Not only have I invented my own cocktail in a top Buenos Aires bar, I also made a chocolate ganache at a top hotel.

This past fortnight has cemented the conclusion that Buenos Aires is more than a steak and chips city. The number of gastronomic events, food markets and chef-led one-off happenings is the proof in the pudding.
These past two weeks have seen the following take place: the BA Market in Caballito, the Underground Market in Almagro, Italian Week around town, the Chili Cookoff, the Chef Mun meets Hernán Gipponi mashup and Masters of Food and Wine — the art of chocolate edition. And those are the ones I’ve been to. No wonder you can find “eat” in “create.”

Take the Park Hyatt. A stunning hotel to stay at, elegant luxury hanging from every corner, it held an evening filled with chocolate that cocoa addicts would kill to attend. In the name of Masters of Food & Wine, the basement hall between Alvear and Posadas streets was filled with different choccie experiences, such as white choc and cauliflower risotto, white chocolate, caviar and pink pepper bruschetta or bacon-wrapped chocolate chunks.

It is the season for pots of melting fondue, after all. And as a polite reminder I was invited to make my own chocolate ganache under the guidance of the hotel’s new pastry chef Damián Betular, previously of Algodon Mansion.

Instead of merely dipping into the copper pan filled with steaming chocolate — and I must add that the Hyatt’s kitchen is now making their own marshmallows fit for dipping into fondue — Damián set us to work to appreciate the full chocolate experience.

Served a base, much like a chocolate loaf tin, first, mix the warm cream with the milk choc pieces. Watch in glee as they start melting. Line the tin with a (wobbly) line of dulce de leche. Mix the cream and the chunks until they become one. Fill the tin then add milk flakes, white hoops, pistachio nuts, biscuit balls bathed in choccie, whatever you wanted.

IMG_1843Mine was a geometric work of art. Even Damián said so. (After I suggested those very words to him.) And then we got to take them home and eat them.

And then, take Verne Club. A new bar led by master barman Fede Cuco, Palermo’s Verne hosted La ruta del aperitivo on Tuesday. This touring workshop, organized by El club del vermut and has already taken in Rosario and will head to Córdoba next, gathered bartenders and liquid consumers who can make a great a Pimm’s Cup when it takes them (me) for a twist on making drinks: creating from scratch.

Although I picked up a miniscule amount of cocktail knowhow at Tales of the Cocktail earlier this year, I’ve never given much thought to the creation process. How do you begin to invent a cocktail? “And on the seventh day, after creating Cynar, rum, brown sugar and mint, God decided to kick back and asked Gabriel to whip up a real drink with all those ingredients.” Wise man. The Cynar Julep is my current favourite.

I’m confident drink-making genius Don the Beachcomber never worked with a team to create a Tiki drink, but fortunately some combined brain power came up with the Plaza Punch, especially because I only managed to get one legitimate bartender in my group.

Take an icon, any Buenos Aires icon. I chose the Bombonera football stadium in La Boca. Consider the ingredients that would make that stadium. Players, a pitch, passion, fans, sweat, shouts, a ball. Then invent a drink based on that.

Fortunately, and most democratically, my team went with Jonny’s concept of the neighbourhood square, which, when it boiled down to ingredients, was far more palatable than my sweat or hooligans.

Think grass, trees, herbs and plants, fresh air, picnic, games, drinking mate, friends, family. Those are essentials ingredients that make a plaza. I was carried away to a late spring and some mooching.

When it came down to the nitty-gritty — making a drink inspired by a plaza for the first time —it wasn’t so tricky. And generous Cuco allowed the six teams behind his bar in order to squeeze and shake.
Drum-roll please as I introduce the Plaza Punch.

Cynar, Aperol, some yerba mate dust, freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, adorned by camomile, poured out on ice.

I’m proud of my yerba touch, not too obtrusive or bitter but a sprinkling blended in to add a herby taste to the final mix. One pro suggested we use a straw as the camomile bush made his nose itch, but I rather liked burying my nose into the top of the highball for a plan-likey waft.

Once the 10-date tour reaches its conclusion, La ruta del aperitivo will have helped identify plenty of new iconic Argentine drinks, each with its own local twist. It’s probably best my Bombonera beverage never made it to fruition.

Duhau Restaurant & Vinoteca
Alvear 1661, Recoleta
Tel: 5171-1234

Verne Club
Medrano 1475, Palermo
Tel: 4822-0980

Buenos Aires Herald, June 30, 2013

Phs: Park Hyatt, Nicolas Ronco

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