Saturday, April 5, 2014

Loving Brit


There is a unique pain reserved for telling someone a loved one has died. A loved one does not have to be an intimate relationship or a family member. There are many different ways to love a person. I loved my friend Brittney, because she brought out the best in the world.

While standing outside my house, clutching my phone, I etched a scar deep inside of me. I knew I had to press the call button. It had to be me. I would regret it if it wasn't me. Nothing seemed scarier than that button, not even the loss I had already experienced. I knew my pain, but now I had to transfer it to someone else I cared about.

When the call was finally made, it started off normal, almost casual. A call from a friend is received happy, but I could not match her tone. Even though cancer was now always hidden underneath our conversations, she couldn't bring herself to understand. This is not the kind of news one wants to understand.

It all feels the same; a sharp numbness like your body is made out of icicles. When she finally understood, there was silence, and then cries that echoed louder than my own tormented blood. Both outcomes will shatter you, and the ice turns to shards of glass scattered across the floor boards. The pieces fall between the cracks before you can reach towards them.

Even though it feels like there is nothing left inside of you, your heart survives. Your heart holds on to the love your current pain tries to destroy. With time, the pain subsides, and all that is left is the love you shared.

Today is your birthday, Brittney. You would have been turning 23 with me this year. It has been almost four years, but that October 3rd will always feel like yesterday.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Transitioning from Traveler to Resident

Solo travel is focused completely on yourself and what you want, but finding the time to incorporate your findings and new surroundings into your life is another matter. There is just too much happening at once: new places, new faces, new tongues, new cuisine. Travel is often thought of as a soul searching activity. However, it's only after you stop traveling that change is allowed to move in.

Incorporating your travel experiences into your everyday life ends up defining the change you allow yourself to experience. When I traveled to Thailand and Laos, what effected me most was the happiness of the people in the face of high poverty, and low hygienic infrastructures. Even though I developed a strange appreciation for toilettes, none of my everyday actions changed. I returned to the same place, and did not continue to challenge my present mindset; thus, I did not change.


After traveling through Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, I did not return to the states, but instead started a life in Vista Flores, Mendoza, Argentina, working as a winemaking intern at Bodega Catena Zapata. Here in Vista Flores I live in my own cabana, which is nice, but extremely isolated. It is a forty minute walk to the small town of Vista Flores, and their limited supply of grocery stores. Additionally, due to expensive Bay Area housing, and a long term relationship, this is the first time I am truly living alone. I am learning the art of solitude.

This solitude has put me in the unique position. Every day I am forced to challenge my mindset. I realized that despite the fact I was living my dream, making wine in Mendoza, I was having difficulty staying happy after work. Due to my isolation, entertainment is limited, and I must rely purely on myself, but to do this I have to first accept myself. In the beginning I tried to pick up productive hobbies such a reading, and writing, but I did not find much enjoyment in them. They were a window into myself I wasn't quite ready to open.


Emotionally, I had to become that open, and stable person I discovered in Patagonia. When its just you, its much harder to pretend. I had to stop occupying my time downloading TV shows, thinking about what comes next, and all the things I have lost due to abruptly leaving for Argentina. The change did come, but it is hard to share, because it is not represented by actions. Instead, it is an internal dialogue. There is hardly a physical change. If you saw me, I would be the same, but how I spend my time, and find enjoyment differs.

Travel taught me who I was destined to be, but solitude showed how to become that person; I had to start with me, and everything else would follow. When all you need is yourself, you truly can go anywhere, emotionally and physically.

Monday, March 17, 2014

El Bolson & Scrambled Eggs and Steak

El Bolson was like an ongoing Renaissance fair back in the states, just without the period costumes. I had been told El Bolson was a hippy town, and it definitely delivered. I arrived on a Saturday, which corresponded with a type of farmers market. The center of town was filled with vendors selling fresh fruit, artisan beers, and hand crafted goods. There was some pretty cool items. I even found earrings with my name on them! Growing up with constant exposure to Renaissance fairs and Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, El Bolson felt like a break from travel. I didn't feel out of my comfort zone. Although, after 2 months of travel, almost anything can seem ordinary. 

One of my favorite parts was hiking to the view point above the town. From there I had a beautiful view of the town and all of its organic agriculture. Sitting on the ledge overlooking the scurrying below, I did as I had in Ushuaia, and enjoyed a nice crisp apple. Although, this time I wasn't being snowed on. El Bolson is much farther north then my travels in Patagonia, and my body hadn't quite adjusted to the heat. In a place like El Bolson there is nothing wrong with taking off some clothes while alone in the wilderness. 

The town had great night life filled with local breweries. Travel in Argentina has given me great access to good cheap wine, but the beer has been dismal. If you are a beer person then a stop in El Bolson or Bariloche is must to replenish your thirst. This is one of the few places in Argentina with good craft breweries. Besides the beer, they had amazing ice cream. Half my meals here consisted of ice cream. One of my favorite ice cream stores near the center of town, was a local hot spot always filled with musicians and dancing. 

El Bolson also has great opportunities for trekking, camping, and day hiking adventures. Due to the short time span of my trip, I didn't get to expand on many of these opportunities, but I did visit the local lake late in the afternoon. The rocky shore didn't stop the locals from sunbathing on their beach towels or lawn chairs. The views, as usual, were breath taking. I walked around the shore, taking advantage of my waterproof boots, and observing all the people. 


Steak with Scrambled Eggs
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes 

This concoction was the result of a protein craving. Due to a hungry tummy, this was a hurried experiment, and I just threw together all the ingredients I had. I have no idea how much of each item I started with. 

Ingredients: 
  • your choice of steak
  •  onion
  • eggs
  • avocado
  • tomatoes

Loosely cut up the onion, and then sauté until clear, but firm. Cut the steak into small cubes, and add to the onions. Cook until browned on all sides, but still juicy in the middle, or however you like your steak. I had lots of onions so I sautéed some more for the scrambled eggs. I added the eggs to the extra onions, once they were caramelized. I diced the tomatoes and avocados and heated them on the skillet separate from the eggs and meat, and then added them to the scrambled eggs. I ate this mess all together in a hurried frenzy. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cartoon Recap: Patagonia

While I have been traveling, my father, Ted Barton, has been recording some of my excursions through cartoons. He has been drawing cartoons of my life for as long as I can remember. However, his drawing of me were of the same 8 year old until I turned 20. Flipping through his cartoons, it is always funny to see an 8 year old me for 10 years, and then all of a sudden 20 year old me. If only cartoons were real life, I would have gladly skipped those awkward teenage years anyway. I think my dad should turn this hobby into a reality, don't you?







These drawings are from my travels in Patagonia. As a family we have always expressed humor through animals. Even though it is funny, please don't actually feed wild animals.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Carretera Austral (Chile's Route 7)

After El Chalten, Jules and I set off to hitch hike the scenic Carretera Austral road on the Chilean side of Patagonia. This adventure was more like a string of disasters, but each wrong turn was beautiful. The first night was spent right on the Argentinian border at Los Antiquos. The next morning, a guy from a local kiosko volunteered to give us a ride to the border in the back of his pick up truck. After getting our passports stamped, we met a local lady looking for a ride to the next town over, Chile Chico. She sweet talked a driver into giving us all a ride. It was a good thing too, because it didn't look like many cars were coming down this road any time soon. 

In Chile Chico, we were approached by a couple, Charlotte and Abel, chefs from France, trying to organize a van rental from a local, and needed two more people.  Apparently the buses out of town weren't leaving for a couple more days, and no one was picking up hitch hikers. They approached us in English, but after learning Jules was also from France, the conversation switched to French. I followed along, and decided to take the rental van with them. However, we needed Chilean pesos. Easier said than done, as none of the ATMs in town were working. Like always, we found a way to make it work, but not without franticly running around town. 

In the van we met a brother and sister from Germany, Annika and Dirk, a couple from Austria, Silvia and Reto, a solo traveler from France, Marie, and Chris, a chef from San Francisco. Jules and I were in the very back of the van, basically on top of the bags, which kept falling on us. In the end, I wound up sleeping on top of them. Who needs seat belts anyway?

We arrived in Puerto Tranqillo, thoroughly covered in dust from the unpaved road. The rest of the group had camping gear, and decided to set up at a local camp site, which was really just someones backyard. Jules and I didn't having any camping gear, but the generosity of the group allowed us to scrounge up an extra tent. We cooked pasta for 12 in small personalized camp cooking pots. It took us around 2 hours to feed everyone, but the boxed wine was a great distraction!

The next morning we ended up hiring another local to drive us to Coyhaquie. Once again, we were all squished for the next 8 hours. None of us had been able to take a real shower the night before, and the dust was coming in through the floor of the car. You could see clouds of dust emerge from below your feet. We were all disgusting, absolutely covered in dirt. The van was hot, but opening windows just increased the dust. When I wiped the sweat off my forehead, my fingers became brown with dirt. All of our hair was stiff, and sticking up in every direction. 

Once in Coyhaquie we found a campsite with a shower and a bbq. We spent two nights here, taking turns with the one shower, doing laundry, and cooking. Every night we had an amazing dinner prepared for us by the three chefs in the group. The campsite was full of dogs, which occasionally would sit on my tent at 4am, causing it to collapse. While I was searching for another bathroom, I walked passed the owner who was literally sawing meat off half a dead cow. It was a straight up wood saw. Of course, he was surrounded by the camp site dogs. 

I ended up leaving the group, after snagging the last bus ticket to the Chaiten, another 9 hour bus ride, but this time on a real bus. I realized I was running out of time to get to Mendoza; however, time is irrelevant while traveling across the Carretera Austral. On the bus to Chaiten I made friends with another guy from France and a girl from Canada. We ended up renting a cabana together in Chaiten for a couple of nights. The cabana was cheap, had its own bathroom, dinning room, wifi, and cable tv! I felt like I was back in the states.





The bus to Puerto Montt was considered full once the aisles were back to back with people standing.I had snagged a seat, but decided to share it with an older lady from Santiago and her friend. They proceeded to tell me all about their children and many grandchildren. There were many more stories, but my limited Spanish didn't pick up on the rest. The bus ride was only half on the road, and the other on ferries. While on the ferry, the lady and her friend would bring me out to the deck, making sure I saw the amazing views. They also took lots of pictures of the three of us. By the time we got to Puerto Montt, it was late, and I was ready to be back in Argentina. I only stayed one night in Puerto Montt before taking the next bus to Bariloche, Argentina.

Chile's Carretera Austral was absolutely beautiful, and I am really glad I got to experience it. Everything seemed to go wrong in one way or another, but since I didn't start with any plans or expectations it was still a lot of fun. I made some great friends, some of whom I may see again. This part of the trip was about the travel and bus rides themselves. There was no final destination, just van after van. Even though I had a great time, I think I am done with cramped bus rides for a while. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mt. Fitz Roy & Pizza at Juan's House

I showed up in El Chalten without lodging, or any other plans. It was the first time I had completely embraced the spontaneous nature of travel, and I was rewarded for it. When I first arrived, I walked around town, and found a hostel for the night. El Chalten is a very small town that you can walk across in a half an hour. While exploring the town, I came across a Chocolateria, which of course I had to enter. The wooden restaurant looked like it was barely holding itself up. It was how I imagined the Weaseley's hovel to be like. 

Upon entering, I saw a familiar face, which is always a nice surprise when traveling alone. I had met Jules previously in Ushuaia, albeit brief. He had just returned from trekking in the mountains around El Chalten, and was terribly sunburnt. After joining him for a hot chocolate, he showed me around town, and Juan's house.

Juan's house is a local guy who rents out rooms in the trailer in his backyard. For $5-7 a night, you share a room, and have access to the full kitchen, dinning room, and bathroom. The house was full of climbers from the States, who were staying in El Chalten during the climbing season. There was also an Argentine family camping in the backyard. Every night was spent cooking together. 

Even though I was staying at another hostel for the first couple nights, I spent my days at Juan's house, waiting for the weather to improve. The first night we made pizza together. The next night was a Japanese dish and crepes for dessert. There was also lots of spanish omelets and wine. I arrived after the climbers had recently come back from the mountains, and were beginning to prepare for their next adventure. During their break from climbing, there time is spent eating, sleeping, eating, and sleeping again. Hearing about their life threatening adventures was enough for me to settle for hiking. I spent my time hiking around Mt. Fitz Roy, a mountaineers paradise. At one point the sun even came out long enough for Jules and I to take a quick nap on the beach, with a view of the mountain. 

Other than hiking, and eating, my days in El Chalten were also spent helping paint a mural on the side of Juan's trailer. The painter, David Russel, runs a mobile mural program (mobilemurallab.com) back in the states, that encourages learning and community through art. It was really neat to be a part of it. David organized, planned, and polished the mural, while helping everyone else contribute to the project. We all got to sign our names, leaving a little piece of ourselves in El Chalten. If you are ever in El Chalten stop at Juan's, the blue house behind the Waffleria. The sense of community and contentment made life easy. 

Pears and Caramelized Onions at Juan's 
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Serves: 3-4

This was one of my creations, based on pizzas we make back home in California. I was surprised to find all the ingredients, so I decided to give it a shot. And it was a hit!

Ingredients: 
  • 2 medium pears
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • Blue cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Optional: goat cheese, raisins, walnuts

Start with a thin crust. Caramelize onions with olive oil. Before spreading them across the unbaked crust, lightly coat the dough with olive oil. Cut the apples into thin splices and place them on top of the onions like you are making a tart. Then top it off with crumbled blue cheese. I like to place the blue cheese in between the apples, so I don't add too much. When available, I also add crumbled goat cheese, raisins, and chopped walnuts. 

We were baking the pizza in an oven without reliable temperature control, so I can't give correct temperatures or cooking times. However, I usually suggest something around 400 degrees, for 8-12 minutes. 

Climber's Day Off Pizza
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Serves: 3-4

I have been given direct instructions to give credit to the chef, Jules Jassef, for this creation. We took a chance with this pizza, and it paid off. Thanks Jules!

Ingredients: 
  • Steak
  • 1 small onion 
  • Milk
  • Flour
  • Blue Cheese
  • Tomato paste

Again, this is best with a thin crust. I don't remember how much meat we used, but it was about 1-2 inches thick and a little bigger than my fist. Cut the meat into small cubes. Saute the onions until tender, and then add the meat cubes. Slightly cook the meat. You want bloody pieces that will continue to cook in the oven. Meanwhile, melt about 2-3 tablespoons of blue cheese in a small pot. Add milk and flour until it reaches a creamy consistency. I am not quite sure how Jules did this, but it seems easy to replicate with a little trial and error. 

Spread tomato paste around the unbaked crust. Then add the blue cheese sauce on top of the tomato paste. Top of the pizza with the chunks of steak and onions. Once again, we were baking the pizza in an oven without reliable temperature control, so I can't give correct temperatures of cooking times. However, I usually suggest something around 400 degrees, for 8-12 minutes. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Glaciar Perito Moreno & Scrambled Eggs

I stopped in El Calafate on my way to El Chalten. The main attraction here is Glaciar Perito Moreno. At first I was indifferent on whether or not I should stop by. When I was in Alaska, a couple years back, I was able to see a couple glaciers, and even walk on the foot of one. I had already experienced the initial shock of the their size and striking blue color. 

I am glad I stopped by. Perito Moreno was alive, as pieces were continually falling off. The first sound, when a piece would break off, was that of a cannon ball. Then there would be a roar as the waters below swallowed the pieces. Sometimes, when a really big piece would fall, the initial crack would lasts for minutes, and sound like a bone breaking. The sound stops you in your tracks, throwing off your equilibrium.  The hail and grey skies only added to the deafening blows. 

Scrambled Eggs with Ham and Tomato
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Serves: 1

Breakfast in the hostels has been toast with jam or dulce de leche, and the occasional bowl of corn flakes. I have been craving a heartier breakfast, but didn't want to waste the free toast provided, so I simply added eggs to my usual set up. 

Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 large tomato
  • 2 slices of ham
  • toast
  • butter

While you toast your bread, scramble two eggs in a small bowl. Cut up the ham and tomato into small chunks. Add butter to a hot pan. After the pan is coated in butter, add the eggs. With a spatula move the eggs around on the pan, until they begin to stick together. Add the tomatoes and ham, and mix into the eggs on the pan. Once the eggs are no longer runny, or at your liking, remove from pan, and place onto toast with butter. I have found that cooking the eggs a little before adding the tomatoes prevents overly soggy scrambled eggs.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hiking at the End of the World & Polenta with Carrots and Beets

Tierra del Fuego National Park is a group of islands off the southernmost tip of South America. The park has several designated trails and camping sites. The following two hikes best represent our experience.

Guanaco Trail
This is the most rigorous and rewarding day hike. It is a 4km climb to the top of Cerro Guanaco, but the last 1km, felt like 3km. The first 3km are spent hiking in the forest, until you reach a plateau with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. However, right before the plateau there is a giant mud pit. Watching everyones faces as we tried and failed to predict which patches of mud were safe, was hilarious. Even though we were all more than slightly miserable, we couldn't stop laughing.

However, the laughter ended when we realized the last 1 km to the top of the mountain was at approximately a 30% incline. My thighs were already screaming, when Brianna decided it was a good idea to make us run the last couple of meters, because we were walking to slow. The pain melted away after seeing the view from the top. We were at the same level as the mountain ridge, and were the only ones there. I sat on the ledge overlooking Ushuaia, and ate a nice crisp apple as it started to snow.

Coastal Trail
Technically the coastal trail is longer then the Guanaco trail, but it was relatively flat, and took less time. This hike weaves in and out of the forrest, following the water. The view didn't compare to that of Cerro Guanoca, but it was still breathtaking. The end of this trail also leads to several smaller trails full of horses, beavers, and overly domesticated foxes.




The fox came out from the woods behind me, while I was eating lunch. He eagerly awaited the possibility of salami (don't worry, I didn't feed him). He was so close I could have stroked his back, but I didn't trust his intentions. I know he was just waiting for the right moment to grab my salami containing bag.

Polenta with Carrots and Beets
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45-60 minutes
Servings: 4

While I was in Ushuaia I made this dish several times. It involves vegetables, which is always a plus, and is a cheap way to feed a crowd. I brought left overs on the Guanaco hike, but my container spilled. The polenta rolled down the mountain, and I was left without any food.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large carrots
  • 1-2 medium beets
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 4 cups water
  • garlic olive oil

Boil the beets until tender (about 40 minutes), remove the skins, and chop them into bite sized pieces. While the beets are boiling, chop the onion and carrots. Add oil to a hot pan, and then add in the onions and carrots. Stir to prevent the onions from over cooking, and to ensure the carrots are cooked evenly.  Cook the polenta based on the instructions on the container. Usually it is a 4:1, water to polenta ratio.  Add garlic olive oil to the polenta to taste. After the vegetables are done cooking, toss them together, before adding to the polenta.

This dish is easy to make if each section is timed correctly. I like to start by boiling the beets. Once the beets are in the pot, I start to boil the water for the polenta. Then I begin to cook the carrots and onions. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Welsh Tea Houses and Traditional Recipes

"Lets do a tea crawl in Gaiman today!"

"What is a tea crawl?"

"It like bar hopping, but in tea houses filled with cakes and cats. Each tea house gives you an endless supply of tea, and an elaborate assortment of handmade cakes. We stuff ourselves full of sweets until our blood begins to shake, and then we crawl our way to the next tea house, to eat more than we thought was humanly possible."

"This doesn't really seem like a good idea, but I'm down."

The town of Gaiman is the centre of the Welsh settlements in Argentina. It is a quiet little town where everything always seems to be closed for siesta. Tucked in corners around the town are tea houses, started by many different Welsh families. Directions to the tea houses are marked with signs containing the Welsh dragon from the national flag of Whales.

Despite our desire to comatose our selves with tea cakes, we only ended up making it to one tea house, Plas y Coed. We spent almost three hours there, eating, drinking, and getting to know Ana, who runs the Casa de Té. The house was started in 1944 by Ana's great grandmother, Dilys Owen.


Within Gaiman, Dilys was known for her baking, especially her cacen ddu (black cake), which was often served at local weddings. The Welsh settlers in the Chubut region of Patagonia perfected their version of Welsh cake to reminisce of home, and create a food that would last for months while the settlers were struggling with supplies.  After Dilys, the tea house was passed down to her son Gwyn Rees and his wife Marta Roberts.

Ana learned how to cook the pastries and cakes served at the tea house from her grandmother, Marta Roberts. Ana is now responsible for running the tea house, and has made some changes to the menu to focus on her Welsh roots. The cakes themselves are what makes this tea room special, because the recipes have been passed down through the family. Even the homemade jams come from fruit trees planted by her grandparents.


Ana speaks Spanish, English, and Welsh, attending Lampeter University in West Wales on scholarship. She works hard towards preserving the Welsh culture in Patagonia. Visiting her tea room is a trip through the history of the first Welsh families in Patagonia. But above all, go for her cakes. I will be forever impressed by her amazing cakes, which I have been continually craving since I left her tea house.

Ana gave me a small booklet containing some of the recipes she uses at her tea house, to share with my readers. I have not yet been able to make these recipes myself due to travel constraints. Please let me know how they worked for you, and any adjustments you made based on your particular cooking appliances. Ana's uses these recipes every day, thus most of her cooking is done by memory or taste, and the recipes reflect this.


Tarten Hufen (Cream Cake)
This cake is in the photo below on the left side, towards the back of the middle of the plate. It has a brown top with the cream visible underneath. 

For the filling:

  • 1 litre of double cream
  • 2 eggs whites
  • 150gm of sugar
  • 1 tbs of gelatin (flavourless)
  • cup of raisins of fresh raspberries

For the pastry:

  • 1/2 kg flour
  • 100gm butter
  • 50gm sugar
  • warm water

For the filling, combine the sugar and gelatin. Add the double cream to the sugar and gelatin. In a separate bowl whisk in the egg whites until they become stiff and begin to stand up. Then add the egg whites to the cream mixture.

For the pastry, mix the flour and sugar.  Mix in the butter and add a little warm water until a fairly smooth, soft dough is achieved. Place the dough in the fridge for a half an hour. Roll out the dough and use it to line the baking dish. 

Place the raisins or the raspberries on the pastry, and then add the the filling on top.  Cook at a very low temperature for about an hour or until the tart has become lightly brown. Ana suggests, if possible, leaving the oven door slightly open. The low temperature is a must to prevent the cream from boiling and bubbling over. 

Makes 2 small tarts or 1 large (Ana normally makes 1 large cake in a square tin and then cuts it into smaller squares afterwards.)


Pice ar y maen (pica bach)
This is the circular bread in the right hand photo, behind the black cake. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup butter
  • Milk
  • 1 egg

Mix together the dry ingredients, and then fold in the egg. Add a little bit of milk at a time until a soft but not runny mixture is produced. Roll the dough out with flour until 3/4 inches thick. Cut out circles and place them on a heated greased griddle pan until brown on both sides. Making these cakes reminds me of cooking pancakes, but these cakes are stiffer and full of wonderful spices. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Pingüinos & Una Tarta de Manzanas y Dulce de Leche



It started with a shared meal between an Australian engineer, a Swiss girl, and the three of us Americans. Over barbecued veggies, steak, our usual pasta with tomato sauce, and grilled peaches for dessert, we discovered our mutual interest in viewing Peninsula Valdes off Puerto Madryn. The next morning we got up early and headed to the local car rental and got a white Fiat sedan, stick shift. Our instructions were clear; do not hit the local Guanaco, a protected animal that looks like a cross between a camel and a llama, because it will cost us the same as flipping the car.


Cramped in the little Fiat we listened to Argentinian mashups of America's top 40 list on the radio. All was well until the Australian took off his shoes, proclaiming "I need to air them out", while placing them half out the window. This was met with a slightly too hostile, "Oh, thats what smells." The shoes were placed in the trunk for the rest of our travels, and the Australian adventured barefoot collecting splinters.

Soon the paved road ended and we were driving in mountains of dust, skidding every 15 minutes. When we put the air conditioning on, it spit a cloud of dust into our faces. We distracted ourselves for the next hour with a never ending game of 20 questions. Playing 20 questions with a group of scientists lead to overly specific definitions, and debates over the word 'organic'.

After arguing which turn to take at a fork in the middle of nowhere, we reached our first stop, penguins. These little guys were just as awkward as I had hoped. I found myself staring at them, trying to figure out how their knees worked. The sun was so bright it was hard to grasp just how blue the water was behind them.


Next were the elephant seals. These giants were even lazier than the penguins. The sun seemed to have stupefying powers making all the animals unable to move. It made me feel better regarding my personal policy of avoiding direct sunlight from 1-4pm.

Our last animal adventure was at Punta Norte, where killer whales come to eat baby seals. At this location, whales will attack the seals even when they are on the beach. I was slightly relieved to see piles upon piles of baby seals, but no killer whales.  We sat on the cliffs watching territory disagreements, and mothers barking at their children for almost 2 hours. We were also visited by armadillos in the parking lot who had discovered my bananas and Nutella. The little guys kept circling me, looking like they were going to attack all for the sake of chocolate.

Then it was nap time on the pot hole ridden dirt road until we reached a sleepy little beach town. The first thing I noticed was the abundance of golden retrievers scattered along the corners of the town. The Australian jumped into the ocean, while the rest of us regrouped with hot tea and sandwiches. We walked through town with our new friends, and shed 10 years as we laughed about everything and nothing, taking silly pictures.


The day was full of new experiences and excitement, but by the end all I wanted was a little taste of home, apple pie. Since we are in Argentina, I decided to mix up my usual apple pie with dulce de leche. Here the streets are practically paved with the stuff. Breakfast consists of dulce de leche on toast, and the dulce de leche section of the grocery store is one of the largest. Dulce de leche has replaced peanut butter down here (literally, I can't find peanut butter anywhere). Toasted almonds were added to offset the sweetness, and create a little crunch.

Un Tarta de Manzanas y Dulce de Leche
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 40-50 minutes
Ingredients:
  • 3-4 medium green apples
  • 1/2 cup dulce de leche
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Bake the crust for 10-15 minutes at 425. While the crust is baking, slice the apples and saute them in butter, until slightly pliable. Cover the bottom of the crust in dulce de leche. In a bowl, toss the apples with lemon juice, and then place them on top of the dulce de leche. Bake the pie for 30 minutes at 375 or until the apples start to brown and the dulce de leche begins to bubble. Slice almonds, toast them on the stove, and sprinkle them on the pie while it is still hot.

This makes one nine inch pie. However, the picture is of a miniature version due to the constraints of travel.

Note: I am cooking in a hostel kitchen without the ability to set the temperature of the oven.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Cafe Tortoni, 825 Avenida de Mayo, Buenos Aires

For breakfast we went to Cafe Tortoni, which is a must for anyone traveling through Buenos Aires. It is a versatile location, offering something for all. The first floor is a restaurant full of small round marble tables, and artwork. In the back you can play billiards, dominos, and dice. The basement has an additional cafe along with poetry readings, jazz, and tango shows. 



This was the kind of breakfast where you eat for a half an hour, and sit for 3 hours. The small marble tables felt very personal. I ordered hot chocolate with croissants. Traditionally the dish comes with churros but they were out, so croissants it was. The hot cocoa and milk were brought to me separately. I was able to decide how much milk to add to the extremely rich chocolate.

The second time we stopped at the cafe, mis amigos enjoyed coffee with cream. However, the cream came in a cup and was the consistency of warm butter. So, of course, we each tried a spoonful, and it tasted like caramelized vanilla butter. For dessert we ordered chocolate espeso (dense chocolate). It tasted like liquid hot fudge without the extra sugar. It came with a side of hot milk. We also splurged on a chocolate mousse cake, which we poured some of the dense liquid cocoa on. At the end of the meal, we could feel the chocolate racing through our veins. 

Here are some of my instagram photos from this overload in chocolate and dairy: