This Thursday through Sunday, on the river Paraná, is the most delicious Expo a food lover could dream of. Expo-Apic it is called here in Corrientes and rural artisans, business men and mate growers head from all over Argentina to this little corner of Corrientes to show their wears.
I paid my 4 pesos entrance fee and maneuvered my way around the muddy ponds left by the morning rain, and waltzed into the awakening grounds. Not every booth had been set up, so my man and I decided to take a tour before doing any heavy buying.
The first few booths were made up of fabric softeners, a display on breast milk that would have made my midwife friend back in Seattle very proud, and ponchos brought up from Patagonia made of un-dyed wool and spun into some amazing patterns. We walked around elaborate silver mate cups, leather hats and jackets and a pen full of nursing piglets, before stumbling upon a sight that would make any respectable food bloggers eyes pop: dried meats.
The man who owned the booth hailed from Cordoba, a city about 7 hours south of Corrientes. He sold everything from dried fruits to cheeses, all hand made and all unbelievably appetizing. His assistant handed me a little yellow flyer which read out the specials, an assortment of salamis, a pound of jamon crudo (prosciutto), a loaf of country bread, a mild flavored cheese specked with dried herbs, 4 dried figs, and a bottle of wine, 30ish pesos. He gave us a sample of one of the salamis, a small fat one loaded with flecks of white fat, it was thick and smoky in flavor and aged to the perfect texture, not to tough to chew but not so squishy it made you squeamish. For 2 extra pesos he upgraded the wine to the sweetest red I have ever tried in my life, a wine called Patero bottled in Catamarca by a fellow named Luis Antonio Cuello as the bottle proclaimed, and all made of course artesanalmente.
And then there was the sandwich: 3 pesos for a nice round country roll loaded down with jamon crudo.
And as they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words so I will allow this photo documentary of the full bliss of this sandwich as sampled by Santiago explain the full joys which I unfortunately cannot.
The point is fresh food from the farm cannot be beat, especially when it comes in the shape of dried cured ham, in case anyone was wondering, jamon crudo is also fabulous with Eggs Benedict.
After the vendor loaded our by then bulging and overladen bags we went off in search of more goodies.
The south of Argentina is loaded with German immigrants, mainly after World War Two, and as my fiance likes to remind me, also (in a very general, sweeping kind of way) escaping Nazis. But this means lots of European cooking styles, which have been transformed a la Argentine, and made to suit local tastes. You can see this in the pastries and crops of the south, but no way so ridiculously delicious as in the case of sweets.
These chocolates are also all made in small shops throughout Southern Argentina, they come mixed with shredded coconut, encasing liquors or dulce de leche, full of fluffy mousse and stamped into any number of intricate shapes and patterns. My personal favorites were the chocolate en rama, a stick of crumbly chocolate with much the same shape as the Cadbury flake, and the chocolate covered orange peel, which unlike many of the varieties I have tried in the states, surprisingly tangy rather than jam-y sweet.
Needless to say, we left with our bags full of chocolates and our wallets considerably lighter. The chocolate is all but gone already, and the more I think about it, the more I am becoming decided on heading back over there this afternoon for a bit more. So much for diet, I will have to up the dose of daily pilates I suppose.
Oh well, time for a sandwich!