More than meats the eye

By | Category: Travel destinations
Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego

Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego

“Would you care for some beaver, madam?” Now there’s a question I don’t usually get asked in a restaurant, but this was Ushuaia, in southern Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego. The city has a scenic location, overlooking the Beagle Channel, and for a confusing second I thought my waiter was offering me some “Beagle” for starters – surely even less ethical and more unappetizing than his actual suggestion? Had I not known I’d be doing poor southern Patagonia a huge favour, I might have passed on that beaver as well.

Back in the 1940s, some fifty beavers were imported to the region from Canada. At the time, beaver fur was popular and selling well, so the Argentineans were aiming to jump on the beaver fur wagon. Little did they know that what made the Canadian beaver fur so glossy, was a stress hormone excreted by the beavers when threatened by predators. In Argentina, however, the beavers had no natural predators, which not only led to non-glossy fur, but also allowed these toothy rodents to multiply in their thousands – hence beaver on the menu.

beaver carpaccio

beaver carpaccio

My starter of beaver carpaccio, arrived in wafer-thin slices, with a sprinkling of capers, a dusting of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. It was…salty, is possibly the best description, and very faintly gamey, without being all that interesting – that I was helping Argentina out with its beaver control programme was a small consolation. The real reason I’d stepped into restaurant Volver (“Return”), however, was to try their other signature dish, king crab, known here as centolla. These, quite frankly enormous, crustaceans are only found in cold waters, either in the far south or the far north and can only be caught at certain times of year. My centolla stew arrived in a large, steaming bowl, filled to the brim with delicious, succulent crab meat in a clear vegetable broth. With the exception of a few vegetables, this stew was all crab and exceedingly tasty it was too. The crisp, dry but fruity, Patagonian white was the perfect accompaniment.

Patagonia, of which Tierra del Fuego forms the southernmost part, is home to some interesting cuisine. Just like in the rest of Argentina, you will undoubtedly find steaks, red wine, those tasty turnovers known as empanadas and an abundance of pizzas and other Italian-inspired dishes, but you will also find a food culture different from the rest of the nation. The seafood is excellent, tasty and varied – there are prawns, scallops and of course centolla, the king of the lot. Beef might reign supreme on the Pampas, but in Patagonia they love their lamb and mutton, and many huge sheep estancias cover the often inhospitable land, supplying Ushuaia’s restaurants with prime meat.

King Crab

a freshly caught King Crab

Ushuaia, despite rapid growth in recent years, retains a certain pioneering outpost vibe. Although the population has now passed 50,000, most of the action and consequently also the restaurants, are still centred along the main street, Avenida San Martín, a block away from the waterfront. This is where I found a nice café to while away my time, awaiting my dinner date, Eduardo, to whisk me off to taste some Patagonian lamb. Only trouble was, Eduardo was a friend of a friend and I had no idea what he looked like, something that led to a few awkward moments. Eduardo being such a common name actually meant I found one or two during the course of my hour spent in the café. Since neither was the right one, however, I gave up and trundled off to find some tasty lamb all by myself.

The aptly named La Estancia, on a small side street off San Martín, is well-known for its parrilla (grilled) lamb and, unlike Eduardo, it did not disappoint. I went for the tenedor libre, or “free fork” – a lovely phrase for “eat as much as you like” – perhaps a mistake, given there were ample options aside from the lamb. The blow-out meal included many types of grilled meat, sausages, chips galore, even the odd salad, and more Patagonian wine, a robust red this time. Ushuaia is quite a haunt for the hardy, outdoorsy hiker type and dressing for dinner is quite unnecessary. So inspired was I by the hardy lot’s food intake that I foolhardily tried to compete, swiftly forgetting that I wasn’t doing any hiking myself and would need to fit into my trousers for the duration of my journey.  Still, at the end of the meal there was room for a small Patagonian tipple, the calafate berry liqueur, a sweet, dark reddy-purple concoction, perfect to round off a meal (or add to cocktails).

Te gales in Gaimon

Gaiman – I’ve found a Welsh tearoom

Leaving Ushuaia with a few more calories under my belt and elsewhere, I headed further north for a stay in Welsh Patagonia, where Welsh settlers first set foot in 1865. Given the hardships and depravations these brave pioneers suffered during their first few years of endless toil, I figured I’d stand a fair chance of losing some of said calories here, but no such luck. The Welsh colony grew and prospered, establishing a number of settlements, first in and around Puerto Madryn, on the Atlantic coast, then further inland at Trelew, Gaiman and Dolavon (as well as near the Andes), all thriving communities to this day, albeit with less Welsh influence in the larger towns. Many of the descendants of these first enterprising pioneers have, perhaps surprisingly, taken calorie-intake to new and dizzying heights.

I arrived in tiny Gaiman, with less than 6,000 souls to its name, with one purpose firmly in mind – to enjoy a true Welsh tea of epic proportions. Gaiman is the most traditional of the original Welsh settlements and well-known for its tearooms, as well as a fine museum depicting the history of the early settlers (with info in Spanish and Welsh), and an annual Eisteddfod, held every October.  My tearoom of choice, Ty Gwyn (“White House”), treated me to a traditional afternoon tea fit for a king, making me exceedingly grateful I had skipped lunch beforehand.

Ty Gwyn - White House.

Ty Gwyn – White House.

First came thin slices of buttered brown and white breads with a selection of homemade jams, then there were delicate cheese sandwiches, scones and seven (yes, seven!) different types of cake. It was very hard to choose a favourite among them – chocolate and banana, quince, coconut with dulce de leche (the Welsh have picked up some Argentine traditions too) were all excellent, but the pear cake was so divine it would easily entice me back to Gaiman regularly had it not been quite so far away. There was of course an endless pot of tea to accompany this Welsh feast and for the first time in many years I was able to speak some Welsh and some Spanish in the same room. Luckily for my waistband, my amazing grazing was almost at an end. There were just the steaks, pizzas, empanadas and red wines left to try and then I’d be able to call it a day.

 

For more information about Ushuaia, click here.  For more information about Patagonia, click here

Getting there:

Ushuaia is just over three hours flight from Buenos Aires and can be reached by Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN Chile .Atlantic Welsh Patagonia has airports at Puerto Madryn and Trelew and can also be reached by Aerolineas Argentinas.  Buses from Buenos Aires takes about 16 hours.

Images © Anna Maria Espsäter

First UK Rights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Would you care for some beaver, madam?” Now there’s a question I don’t usually get asked in a restaurant, but this was Ushuaia, in southern Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego. The city has a scenic location, overlooking the Beagle Channel, and for a confusing second I thought my waiter was offering me some “Beagle” for starters – surely even less ethical and more unappetizing than his actual suggestion? Had I not known I’d be doing poor southern Patagonia a huge favour, I might have passed on that beaver as well.

 

Back in the 1940s, some fifty beavers were imported to the region from Canada. At the time, beaver fur was popular and selling well, so the Argentineans were aiming to jump on the beaver fur wagon. Little did they know that what made the Canadian beaver fur so glossy, was a stress hormone excreted by the beavers when threatened by predators. In Argentina, however, the beavers had no natural predators, which not only led to non-glossy fur, but also allowed these toothy rodents to multiply in their thousands – hence beaver on the menu.

 

My starter of beaver carpaccio, arrived in wafer-thin slices, with a sprinkling of capers, a dusting of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. It was…salty, is possibly the best description, and very faintly gamey, without being all that interesting – that I was helping Argentina out with its beaver control programme was a small consolation. The real reason I’d stepped into restaurant Volver (“Return”), however, was to try their other signature dish, king crab, known here as centolla. These, quite frankly enormous, crustaceans are only found in cold waters, either in the far south or the far north and can only be caught at certain times of year. My centolla stew arrived in a large, steaming bowl, filled to the brim with delicious, succulent crab meat in a clear vegetable broth. With the exception of a few vegetables, this stew was all crab and exceedingly tasty it was too. The crisp, dry but fruity, Patagonian white was the perfect accompaniment.

 

Patagonia, of which Tierra del Fuego forms the southernmost part, is home to some interesting cuisine. Just like in the rest of Argentina, you will undoubtedly find steaks, red wine, those tasty turnovers known as empanadas and an abundance of pizzas and other Italian-inspired dishes, but you will also find a food culture different from the rest of the nation. The seafood is excellent, tasty and varied – there are prawns, scallops and of course centolla, the king of the lot. Beef might reign supreme on the Pampas, but in Patagonia they love their lamb and mutton, and many huge sheep estancias cover the often inhospitable land, supplying Ushuaia’s restaurants with prime meat.

 

Ushuaia, despite rapid growth in recent years, retains a certain pioneering outpost vibe. Although the population has now passed 50,000, most of the action and consequently also the restaurants, are still centred along the main street, Avenida San Martín, a block away from the waterfront. This is where I found a nice café to while away my time, awaiting my dinner date, Eduardo, to whisk me off to taste some Patagonian lamb. Only trouble was, Eduardo was a friend of a friend and I had no idea what he looked like, something that led to a few awkward moments. Eduardo being such a common name actually meant I found one or two during the course of my hour spent in the café. Since neither was the right one, however, I gave up and trundled off to find some tasty lamb all by myself.

 

The aptly named La Estancia, on a small side street off San Martín, is well-known for its parrilla (grilled) lamb and, unlike Eduardo, it did not disappoint. I went for the tenedor libre, or “free fork” – a lovely phrase for “eat as much as you like” – perhaps a mistake, given there were ample options aside from the lamb. The blow-out meal included many types of grilled meat, sausages, chips galore, even the odd salad, and more Patagonian wine, a robust red this time. Ushuaia is quite a haunt for the hardy, outdoorsy hiker type and dressing for dinner is quite unnecessary. So inspired was I by the hardy lot’s food intake that I foolhardily tried to compete, swiftly forgetting that I wasn’t doing any hiking myself and would need to fit into my trousers for the duration of my journey.  Still, at the end of the meal there was room for a small Patagonian tipple, the calafate berry liqueur, a sweet, dark reddy-purple concoction, perfect to round off a meal (or add to cocktails).

 

Leaving Ushuaia with a few more calories under my belt and elsewhere, I headed further north for a stay in Welsh Patagonia, where Welsh settlers first set foot in 1865. Given the hardships and depravations these brave pioneers suffered during their first few years of endless toil, I figured I’d stand a fair chance of losing some of said calories here, but no such luck. The Welsh colony grew and prospered, establishing a number of settlements, first in and around Puerto Madryn, on the Atlantic coast, then further inland at Trelew, Gaiman and Dolavon (as well as near the Andes), all thriving communities to this day, albeit with less Welsh influence in the larger towns. Many of the descendants of these first enterprising pioneers have, perhaps surprisingly, taken calorie-intake to new and dizzying heights.

 

I arrived in tiny Gaiman, with less than 6,000 souls to its name, with one purpose firmly in mind – to enjoy a true Welsh tea of epic proportions. Gaiman is the most traditional of the original Welsh settlements and well-known for its tearooms, as well as a fine museum depicting the history of the early settlers (with info in Spanish and Welsh), and an annual Eisteddfod, held every October.  My tearoom of choice, Ty Gwyn (“White House”), treated me to a traditional afternoon tea fit for a king, making me exceedingly grateful I had skipped lunch beforehand. First came thin slices of buttered brown and white breads with a selection of homemade jams, then there were delicate cheese sandwiches, scones and seven (yes, seven!) different types of cake. It was very hard to choose a favourite among them – chocolate and banana, quince, coconut with dulce de leche (the Welsh have picked up some Argentine traditions too) were all excellent, but the pear cake was so divine it would easily entice me back to Gaiman regularly had it not been quite so far away. There was of course an endless pot of tea to accompany this Welsh feast and for the first time in many years I was able to speak some Welsh and some Spanish in the same room. Luckily for my waistband, my amazing grazing was almost at an end. There were just the steaks, pizzas, empanadas and red wines left to try and then I’d be able to call it a day.

 

Further information:

www.turismoushuaia.com

www.patagonia.com.ar

www.argentina.travel

 

Getting there:

Ushuaia is just over three hours flight from Buenos Aires and can be reached by Aerolineas Argentinas (www.aerolineas.com.ar) and LAN Chile (www.lan.com).

Atlantic Welsh Patagonia has airports at Puerto Madryn and Trelew and can also be reached by Aerolineas Argentinas (www.aerolineas.com.ar). Bus from Buenos Aires takes about 16 hours.

 

By Anna Maria Espsäter

First UK Rights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Tags: , , ,