Day 41: River of Painted Birds

Uruguay, the second smallest country in South America, gets its name from the Uruguay River, which means river of painted birds.  Uruguay breaks a number of norms for South America: it is the most democratic, has the highest literacy rate in the world, and is one of the least religious countries in South America, with less than half of Uruguayans ascribing to any religion.  As such, they have renamed their many of their formerly religious holidays to secular names; Christmas is now family day and Easter is now tourism week.

Beef Done Right

Entraña is a classic Uruguayan recipe of skirt steak and chimichurri.

In a country where cows outnumber people, four to one, you would expect them to know a thing or two about cooking beef.  My usual experience in any kind of steak house leaves much to be desired.  The waiter asks how I want my steak.  I reply, "medium rare."  To which they explain to me what medium rare means--trust me, people who walk in and say medium rare knows what it means.  Then the steak comes out somewhere just north of medium and I think to myself that for the money, I could have made a better steak myself. 

The perfect combination: skirt steak seared over a hot fire and topped with chimichurri 

When we went Saldivia's, Houston's only restaurant to serve Uruguayan food, it was a different story.  The waiter asked how we wanted our entraña (South American style skirt steak).  He gave a knowing smile of approval when, unrehearsed, as a group we said, "medium rare."  His reply: "of course."  There are few times where how I imagined a food to be prepared is exactly how it was prepared.  It was as if the chef read my mind, and it was glorious.

Saldivia's also offers a wide selection of Uruguayan and Argentinian wines.  If you want to feel like a high roller, reserve their private dining room in the wine cellar.