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Argentina's Winter Kitchen

One of the great pleasures of a South American ski holiday is absolute gastronomic decadence. Cold, adrenaline, and plenty of fresh air forcing its way into your lungs at high speeds builds up an appetite like little else. Bariloche, as well as the other well-known Argentine ski centers, Las Leñas, St. Martin de Los Andes, Villa Angostura, and Ushuaia, each have their own charm and appeal, but you can assured, there's always a feast!

Though the really good dish comes at dinnertime, only a fool heads for the slopes in the morning on an empty belly. Start off right with a boost of vitamin C for the immune system from fresh fruit and orange juice, but since I promised decadence, we won't stop there. For an extra burst of energy spread generous spoonfuls of dulce de leche on your banana or toast. Dulce de leche is one of Argentina’s greatest treats. It is caramel gone to heaven, smooth and spreadable; this sweet delicacy is a standard in every Argentine household.

Also for breakfast, opt for Argentina's take on the croissant: the medialuna. A heavy pastry, commonly coated with a slightly sweet glaze, a couple of these—halved and filled with requisite ham and cheese—make every Argentine’s favorite breakfast just a little bit better. Grill for extra happiness.

Out on the slopes, you want to keep it light. I suggest an alfajor, dulce de leche sandwiched between spongy biscuits and dipped in chocolate, tucked into the pocket of your parka. Available for purchase at every ski kiosk, the varieties are seemingly endless, but with plenty of time and an especially sweet tooth, it is possible to snack through the packaged selections to find your favorite. If you're completely confused on where to start your sampling, look for the bright yellow box of classic Havanna alfajores, Argentina's most famous brand.

At midday, something warm and hearty is recommended, so try one of Argentina’s classic stews. Locro is a pre-colonial Quechua dish, popular throughout Argentina’s Andean region, and a standard on May 25, the country’s Independence Day. Based with corn, beans and pumpkin, it is livened up with chunks of chorizo (pork sausage) and osso buco, and slow-cooked in a clay pot. Equally soul warming is a guiso de lentejas, a lentil stew with spicy chorizo and smoked pancetta.

The end of the day brings that special moment of bliss when you kick off your boots, drape your gloves over the fireplace, wrap your stiff fingers around a chocolaty broth and liberally send it down to your frozen, aching innards. What you want at this moment is a submarino (pictured above). For the ultimate hot drink, drop a couple of blocks of chocolate into a mug of foamy milk, watch them plunge into the white depths, slowly melting along the way. A good stir with the traditional long-handled teaspoon produces a most spectacular cacao confection.

Dinner is always going to deliver in a country famous for superb meat and a passion for open fires. Before giving yourself up to the asado (barbecue), order a picada, a charcuterie board brimming with salamis, jamon crudo (prosciutto), a range of local cheeses and excellent Patagonian smoked meats like trout, wild boar and venison.

Finally, grill time! The parrillas (steakhouses) of Argentina offer an overwhelming selection of meat for one mere human to contemplate. The only real solution that I can offer is trial and pleasure. The tira de asado (short ribs), ojo de bife (rib-eye) and lomo (fillet) are essentials, but don’t hesitate to try the mollejas (sweetbreads) with a good squeeze of lemon, and the morcilla (blood sausages), which are sweet and spicy. A great alternative to beef is Patagonian lamb, grilled whole on an asador, a rack which leans meat over a slow fire to cook for four to six hours or more.

Malbec, Argentina’s marquee grape varietal, is the perfect pairing for beef in any form. The range and variety of modern Malbecs will pleasantly surprise, but choosing a keeper can be tricky. Here are a couple of great mid-range choices which local sommeliers list as customer favorites: Durigutti Reserva Malbec 2008 (Bodega Lamadrid), Clos de los Andes Reserva Malbec 2006 (Bodega Poesía), Familia Gascón Reserva Malbec 2009 (Bodega Escorihuela Gascón) and an excellent blend, Vistalba Corte B 2009 (Bodega Vistalba).

Oh, the joys of a ski holiday in Argentina!

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