Day 20: The River of Silver

Argentina gets its name from the early Spanish and Portuguese conquerors.  It comes from the Latin for silver, argentum.  Physically, Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world.  Argentina has undergone cataclysmic changes since its inception: it was the tenth wealthiest country in the world in 1913, survived a 70- year civil war, had five presidents in ten days in 2001, and had 30,000 people go missing (at the hands of the military) in the 1970's.  In spite all of this tumult, Argentina has given birth to many greats such as Eva Péron, Messi, Che Guevara, Maradona, Pope Francis, and the Tango. 

From Picasso to Ravi Shankar (Nora Jones' Father and world famous Sitar player), Marini's has it going on in the art department.

Marini's, a Family Tradition.

Like many of the South American countries, Argentina is a culinary delight and is deserving of more than one article, which we will certainly produce in due time.  In the mean time, when one speaks of empanadas with any Latin American, one name rises to the top of the list: Argentina.  We turn there this week to experience Houston's premiere empanada house, The Original Marini's Empanada House.  This family run business sports a pop art vibe (be sure you step inside the rotunda!) and a selection of traditional, innovative, and dessert empanadas.  

Beef Gaucho and Chicken Diablo are traditional Empanadas.  The Ham and Cheese is just comfort food.

Empanadas: the good, the better, the best

Empanadas are small-sized, meat-filled (usually), pockets that fried to crispy perfection.  If you want to go traditional try the "Beef Gaucho" or "Chicken Diablo."  If you are looking for some comfort food, try the "Ham and Cheese," its like sunshine on a cold day.  If you are interested in something a little more off the beaten path, try the "Eggplant Parmesan."  

Each empanada is hand made.  Marini's makes thousands of empanadas every day and it is a sight to see how they stuff, wrap, fold, and cook each one all while keeping everyone's orders straight.  

The fun thing about empanadas is that they are one of those foods that require little commitment.  Mix and match them, experiment and go wild and you will not find yourself over committed to having picked the wrong dish.

Yerba Mate 

If you have heard of yerba mate, chances are you might have heard about it from your hipster friend who has above average quantities of facial hair, and likely pushes essential oils and other products from natures bounty.  The reason for this is that yerba mate contains 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and the hipsters white whale, antioxidants.  Before hipsters appropriated yerba mate, this traditional drink has been served for centuries in Argentina.

Yerba Mate is a tea-like drink made from holly and, traditionally, is served in a gourd.  The gourd is packed full of the shredded leaves to the point that when they soak up the water, the filtered spoon can barely move.  It is drunk with a pot of hot water to refill and reuses the leaves.  It has the flavor of a really strong green tea with holiday spices mixed in.