And then, there was cow.
If you walk into La Esquina Criolla and order a “parillada completa” (rough translation: complete grilled Argentine cow), you’ll receive cow–specifically, a salty, fennel-y beef sausage–as an appetizer. That’s the grill man’s version of a culinary warning shot.
Ten minutes after the beef-sausage warning shot, the grill man completely opens fire: three more types of cow sausage, accompanied by cow skirt steak, cow flank steak, cow kidneys, cow hearts, cow sweetbreads, cow intestines, and random pieces of cow gristle, all on a sizzling metal grill powered by a few hot coals.
It’s hard to go wrong with grilled cow, especially when the cow has been prepared by Argentines, who are arguably the world’s foremost experts in tasty cow preparation. Each part of the cow—even the unidentifiable gristly chunks—was marinated and grilled to perfection. The skirt steak was particularly delicious, and I became a fan of an unidentifiable organ meat—kidney, I think—which was whitish and ludicrously tender, and reminded me of non-rubbery, non-fishy grilled scallops.
(Wait, what’s that? You don’t want your grilled cow to remind you of grilled scallops? OK, fine. It reminded me of tender, flaky white-meat cow. How’s that? Better?)
For a mere $39.90, our massively delicious mountain o’cow was accompanied by roasted yellow potatoes, a salad (yeah, I know—why bother with salad when you have four kinds of beef sausage?) freshly grilled bread, and a spectacular Argentine chimichurri sauce, made with garlic, olive oil, and craploads of minced parsley. The meal is designed for two people, but we struggled to get through the last few chunks of sausage and innards; it was just too much food, despite the fact my dining companion is from Rochester, and regularly eats the legendary Rochester garbage plate (macaroni salad and fried potatoes, topped with two cheeseburgers or two hot dogs, then covered in a spicy meat sauce).
So yeah. Rochester dude can knock down something called a garbage plate, but can’t handle his half of the Argentine grilled cow. Good job, Argentina. Final score: Argentina 1, Rochester 0.
Since my Rochester pal was such a wuss, I didn’t invite him for ice cream afterward. As it turns out, there’s an Argentine ice cream shop called Cones, located on an expensive-looking street in the West Village.
Cones, like most ice cream shops in Argentina, features a creative array of flavors, including grapefruit sorbet (which tastes like beautifully bitter grapefruit), ginger sorbet, and Johnny Walker ice cream, made from a blend of scotch and macerated kumquats.
But I was particularly excited about the yerba mate ice cream. Yerba mate, in case you aren’t already a fan, is a fabulously strong green tea popular in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Apparently, it doesn’t actually contain caffeine, but instead contains a delicious, amphetamine-like stimulant, which is particularly appealing if you’re slightly drunk from scotch ice cream. I’ve always loved yerba mate, though it sometimes makes me act like this guy.
And yerba mate blended into ice cream? One mildly overpriced bowl ($6.95 for a large) kept me awake for three nights straight, and it gave me the energy to run the Indianapolis 500 without a vehicle. OK, so maybe I’m making that last part up. But it was a perfect antidote to a cow-induced food coma.