Despite this being my 11th Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere, I am still not used to celebrating the holiday on Christmas Eve in 40 degree weather, but I still want you to buy me all these gifts.
Food & Drink
If I were Oprah these are all the delicious things I’d give you.
There are so many great roasters working right now ─ Puerto Blest, Indigo, Motofeca ─ but when I am in the mood for a really special cup of coffee I go to Café Z. Like all great coffee roasters, owner and head roaster Charlie Zavalia is obsessed with the quality of every single bean and understanding the entire supply chain, which he sources personally from a fair trade coffee cooperative in Capucas, Honduras.
My first taste of Nommi Brew Bar was total happenstance, when baristas Panze Castaño and Yoled Hernández teamed up for a brunch pop-up earlier this year with Trashumantes. Lucky me. The duo specializes in cold brew, but their mission to go zero waste also means soap made with leftover coffee grounds and coffee cherry tea.
Yerba & Mate
I doubt I am alone in understanding the time of the day based on what I’m drinking: black coffee, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, wine. Yerba is so mundane that it might seem like a cheap gift, but there is a lot more variety to discover than most of us realize. It is also so universal that most people don’t know it is almost exclusively grown in Misiones (and a little bit in Corrientes) where yerba production dominates and wipes out a lot of the region’s biodiversity, so it is important to drink responsibly. I could go on and on about great organic yerbas ─ Jesper, Anna Park, Roápipa ─ but want to point out Kalena not only for their yerba ahumada, but also because they are one of few agroecological yerba plantations. You should be able to find all of those at any half-decent dietetica. This section is also mostly an excuse to let anyone who wants to buy me a gift know that I have major eyes on Mate Sur’s gorgeous leather and silver plated mates and ornate bombillas, especially this one.
Being stuck inside my apartment and the confines of my own existential dread has created long-lasting friendships with a lot of bottles of wine that I know will continue to grow and flourish long after the world has completed its final crumble. Step away from the wine aisle at your local grocery and hit up a wine bar or neighborhood vinoteca. My favorites this year (all of which I bought at Naranjo) were Rosado Subversivo by Pintom, Canela and Criollaje by Las Payas, Clarete by Paso a Paso and Sauvignon Punk by Sante Vins.
The best thing to come out of 2020 is the sudden emergence of locally made hot sauces which, depending on where you live, are delivered right to your door. We’ve tried a lot this year, but my favorites come down to two. Daniela López Camino, also known as La Fermentadora, was already well-known for her sauerkraut before she added a growing line of hot sauces. Her traditional fire red roasted jalapeño is a one-size-fits-all chunky salsa that I happily throw on my morning toast and eggs, or my afternoon sandwich, or mix into my dinnertime stir fries. And I’m always quick to grab her limited edition experiments, like a recent tangy pineapple and green pepper salsa. Jaime Paolini’s Alto Pico has also built out a small line of regulars since launching in mid-August. His spicy ketchup and green onion and jalapeño hot sauces have become infallible fixtures on my dining room table.
A Venezuelan Christmas
Do you really want to celebrate Christmas with a pionono? No, no. I’ll gladly be cancelled for proclaiming that Venezuelans do Christmas dinner way better than we do here. If you want the side by side comparison, Trashumantes will be making an Argentine – Venezuelan Christmas box where Argentine chef Damian Blanco will be in charge of the picada and other traditional dishes like vitel tone and Venezuelan chef Gloria del Fogón will be on hallacas duty. And to complete the Christmas banquet, Juan Olivares of Centinela de la Luna will be making his annual pan de jamón.
Here are some of the books that I have enjoyed reading this year.
El colapso ecológico ya llegó (available in Spanish)
The book is as fun as it sounds. We’re in grim times, people! For anyone interested in learning more about the climate crisis, investigator Maristella Svampa and environmental attorney Enrique Viale have written this incredible, accessible book that contextualizes the crisis and the social movements that have been birthed from it from the perspective of Argentina and Latin America.
La Argentina transgénica (available in Spanish)
Did you know that Argentina is one of the largest users of agrochemicals on the globe? Or that we are all eating venom to fuel the magnanimous profits of a handful of transnational biotech companies? Let Pablo Lapegna tell you all about it and convince you that it is time to sign up for your local agroecological bolsón.
Besides depressing books about our world erupting into flames, I read a lot of great fiction. And although Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby was one of my first quarantine books, it’s also one that still plays out in my mind. Although not a food-specific novel, there are a handful of cooking scenes, including one about a Black supermodel who only buys one egg at a time that I can’t stop thinking about. Get it for your favorite Kindle lover.
I longingly looked at this book about porteño pizza by restaurateur Martín Auzmendi and journalist Joaquín Hidalgo (who are also the founders of the Muza5k) every time I got depressed about living in a city that I suddenly wasn’t allowed to enjoy. The book retells the history of pizza in Buenos Aires with some really beautiful portraiture and pizza porn by photographer Sebastián Pani. And once everything returns to normal, it is an excellent guide to the city’s old-school pizza shops and all their idiosyncrasies.
Although my wife likes to remind me that stockings are ‘so yanqui,’ here are some little gifts for your little friends.
Facón is one of my favorite shops in the city. Owner Martin Bustamante has filled it with handmade art like rugs, ceramics, cutlery, satchels, sculptures and knitwear from artisans all over Argentina and particularly the Northwest. My favorites are the hand-carved wooden bottle stoppers in the shapes of different animal busts for the lightweight in your life that can’t finish a bottle of wine (or they can top whatever kind of bottle you like).
If you know an aspiring Miss Frizzle, Grana makes earrings shaped like lemons, avocados, sushi rolls and ice cream cones stacked with seven, YES SEVEN, scoops of ice cream.
Hand-painted tote bags
Since there are no stockings, buy a tote bag and stuff it with gifts! Flora Francola is a sommelier and artist who started making tote bags that she paints with fish, wine glasses and coffee makers.
Pasta making supplies
If you don’t have 20,000 pesos to shell out for a pasta roller, the official Pastalinda shop has a lot of great accessories. Despite being a minimalist myself, I won’t turn down a ravioli press and I would love to have something in my kitchen cabinet called a ñoquera.
Serendipia Ceramica has a great line of glasses and coffee mugs, each and every one shaped, sanded and painted by hand by the entire Macchi family. I own a pair of pastel painted glasses that I use for my morning coffee and water throughout the day (natural minerals of ceramics can make your water taste better!), and also a spoon rest for leaving saucy spatulas while dinner is cooking. That’s something I never knew I needed and now don’t want to live without. I also have my eye on their water jugs and a juicer!
V-60 Coffee Maker
For a serious-ish coffee drinker that is also an incredibly drowsy, don’t-even-think-about-speaking-to-me-first-thing-in-the-morning kinda person, my Hario V-60 has changed my café routine. It’s fancy looking enough that I can still pretend to be a connoisseur without being annoyingly high maintenance. I think that the V-60 makes smoother cups of coffee than a percolator and isn’t ever going to fall apart on you after a year of use (I’m looking at you, French press). I bought mine from Tienda de Barista.
Spoons and Spatulas
Editor Jorge asked me for advice on purchasing spoons and spatulas. Always buy wooden cooking spoons and spatulas, Jorge. If you need a spatula for flipping sandwiches and other flippy things, always metal. Never plastic ─ they break easy, forgetful cooks will probably melt them and they are bad for the environment. Wooden kitchenware lasts so long that I bought my set 15 years ago and still have them, good as new. If I did need to buy some, I liked the sets I saw at Mamohe.
Artists Frank Trejo and Yarinés Suárez of Casa Museo have teamed up with cooks Gloria del Fogón, Ivanova Hidalgo and José Eizaga to cook 200 hallacas for workers of food delivery platforms, most of which are Venezuelans and all of which are overworked and underpaid. Each hallaca costs roughly $300 to make. If you would like to gift one, you can send some money over via MercadoPago ([email protected]) or PayPal ([email protected]).