Bite-size Masticar

Maybe it’s the perfect spring weather. Maybe it’s because Raíz food fair fell at the bad weather hurdle two weeks ago. But with hundreds keen to gobble down the fair’s third edition, it meant day one of Masticar kicked off today with a huge bang.

Narda Lepes' corn que lo parió
Narda Lepes’ corn que lo parió

Rammed with skinny hipsters, these famished foodies — quick to snap a photo with celebrity chefs such as Masterchef’s Christophe Krywonis (Buenos Aires Herald, November 2, 2013), Germán Martitegui, chef-owner of Argentina’s top restaurant Tegui and veteran patisserie chef Beatriz Chomnalez — had come to the right place.

Hosted for the third consecutive year at El Dorrego on the Colegiales-Palermo frontier, Masticar’s menu comprises food and drinks stands, including a ramped-up food truck section, an extended market section with special emphasis on regional producers, and the ever-popular classes and talks led by members of the ACELGA chefs’ association.

Numerically speaking, there are four days to tuck into 120 dishes at 41 food and drink stands, while making time for 46 classes and snapping up produce from 60 producers from around the country. Clearly no belly can comfortable digest that lot and with most main courses costing 60 pesos, few wallets can afford it either. Let’s cut to the chase with this bite-size guide to Masticar 2014.

This year’s mobile revelation could well be the Chori Bondi, brought to you by La Cabrera. The famed steakhouse has converted a legit number 17 bus into a mobile grill, and is whipping up bife de chorizo sandwiches (60 pesos) and vast chorizan sausage sarnies (40 pesos), of course.

The highly original, stenciled food truck Nomade is back by demand, creating last year’s popular mini mushroom pao steamed buns as well as a shrimp curry (60 pesos).

Also stop by the sweet green VW camper van cleverly converted by Cervecería Patagonia into a mobile bar – if the weather keeps this heat up, hanging out by the Beetle for easy beer access will be the place to be.

In a similar vein to the Peruvian huarique, it’s good to see a few more smaller street carts popping up around Masticar. Paraje Arevalo has put together a cute one selling small pockets of potato and beetroot crisps (20 pesos), while fruity kebabs are on the move in the main covered salon.

I could name a whole heap of celebrity cooks fresh from the TV screen, an advertising campaign or with products to their name. But snuffle out — and get messy with — the Narda Lepes Choclo que lo parió barbecued corn on the cob (20 pesos) and soup it up with extra hot sauce. This is another favourite returning from last year and you’ll find it at her Boca de Lobo mobile kitchen.

Meanwhile, her male equivalent’s establishment is whipping up flame-grilled oranges with rosemary, praline and mascarpone — just the ticket for a sweet finish — plus Francis Mallmann’s Tierra de Fuegos stand is ensuring there’s no DDL in sight.

For a quick trip to meat heaven, Don Julio’s matambre de cerdo pork flank steak is exquisite, and is backed up by a succulent sweet potato and chimichurri sauce (60 pesos). Support these grillers and others, who are cooking in extreme heat, just to fill your belly!

And Antonio Soriano’s Calle Manduque — the street food pop-up part of his bistro, Astor — is knocking up delicious smoked venison with a chickpea, yoghurt and mint salsa.

The best dressed chef award goes to the leader of Chan Chan, sporting violent tropicana day wear to match the Peruvian restaurant’s wallpaper. Just as cute as the lady herself, Beatriz Chomnalez for M Gallery’s kitchen space is a delightful black-and-white cartoon complete with painted shelves, teapots and cooking implements. Yeite by Pamela Villar picks up my green award for the lushest, living food stand.

Also keep an eye out for cool regional produce such as Sal de Aquí salt from Chubut, Valle Paraíso spices from Cachi in Salta and Azafranes del Sur saffron from Córdoba.

Given that “main” courses at Masticar cost around 40 pesos last year, a hike up to 60 pesos is steep, given the small portion size overall. In addition, I know that Paraje Arévalo pulls off top-notch food in the restaurant, but by presenting me with a pre-stuffed lamb, bulgur wheat and potatoes pitta bread within nano-seconds means the pitta will go soggy. Tasty lamb. Soggy bread.

I’d have snapped up and wolfed down the trout carpaccio with a citrus vinaigrette (40 pesos) at BASA; the pickled alligator at Pura Tierra (40 pesos), a LatAm 50 Best restaurant winner; prawns sauteéd in spring onions (40 pesos) by Gipponi-Rastellino; a choripan from El Pobre Luis (20 pesos); and seafood stew from another local 50 Best winner, Oviedo. I’d also throw myself into the Wine Tunnel and climb out in a few days.

Buy your Masticar money at the same time as your entrance ticket — the 150-peso bulk purchase will mean you’ll be snapping up goodies in no time. If you’re offered a free drink, take it — the weather is set to stay warm. Bring some wet wipes. Wear solid shoes to avoid inadvertent toenail loss, and don’t sport your finest togs — you’ll smell like a barbecue by the time you leave, guaranteed.

Fería Masticar
El Dorrego, Zapiola 50
From 12pm to 11pm
Until Sunday, October 19

Buenos Aires Herald, October 16, 2014

Last week, I wrote about how Chandon sparkling wine in Argentina has 40 harvests’ experience in every bottle.

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