What the Manolo Is…

Manolo says, it is Tuesday, time to see what the Manolo is…

Watching…

Reading…

The Manolo cannot believe that he has not seen the Sideways movie before this. Truly, this was the significant gap in his cinematic education, now rectified by the Argentine cable channels’ mania for showing movies in their entirety, uncensored, in the original language with the subtitles.

The movie was enjoyable and well-made, and rang mostly true, if annoying in places. However, what made most enjoyable for the Manolo was how well it shows one of the Manolo’s favorite places in California, the Santa Ynez valley in the northern part of Santa Barbara County, where the Manolo has been many times since the early 1980s, and where he has many friends.

Prominently featured was the justifiably famous Hitching Post in Buellton, where the Manolo has eaten many times (although not nearly as many, it should be noted, as he has eaten in the remoter original Hitching Post in the tiny hamlet of Casmalia).

Until the Manolo’s recent removal to Buenos Aires, the Manolo considered the Santa Ynez and Santa Maria Valleys to be the place where one could obtain the best steaks in the world, and ranked three of the steakhouses in that region: The original Hitching Post, F. McClintocks, and the Far Western Tavern to be among the top four steak restaurants anywhere, the lone outsider being Peter Luger in Brooklyn. (Other contenders for the throne, drawn chiefly from among the over-priced and masculinely kitschy New York and Chicago steak houses, whom the Manolo declines to name, are more for the show than the actual go, being more for taking the clients to impress them than otherwise. And do not get the Manolo started on that entire Ruth’s Chris nonsense.)

These past few weeks in Buenos Aires are forcing the Manolo to reevaluate his opinions regarding beef and how it is to be eaten. And he has not even tried those three our four restaurants which are considered the best parrillas in the city! Still, seeing this movie the other night has invited this comparison, one which the Manolo is still weighing.

10 Responses to “What the Manolo Is…”

  1. L. October 28, 2008 at 12:03 pm #

    Will the Manolo please expound further on Buenos Aires and beef? I am very curious about how the Argentines do things differently.

  2. deja pseu October 28, 2008 at 12:59 pm #

    Ah, the Deja spent many happy years living in close proximity to both the McClintock’s and the Far Western. Good times, good steaks.

  3. deja pseu October 28, 2008 at 1:03 pm #

    The Deja would also highly recommend the “Santa Maria style BBQ” at McClintock’s. (Slow cooked Tri-tip, beans, pico de gallo…yum!)

  4. Manolo the Shoeblogger October 28, 2008 at 2:25 pm #

    To L: What distinguishes Argentine beef is that it is entirely grass fed, marvelously lean, and as flavorful as any the Manolo has ever tasted. Also, the Argentine method of cookery (on the grill – the parrilla – over hot wood coals) would seem to be simple, but the method allows for more time on the grill at the lower temperature. Also the cuts are different, bife de lomo and bife de chorizo are only roughly analogous to American cuts of beef.

    Also, and this is what is causing the Manolo reevaluate the most, is that Argentines value flavor more then tenderness, which means that Argentine beef is frequently tougher than American corn-fed beef, and yet, one does necessarily care about tenderness.

    To the Deja Pesu: True Santa Maria style BBQ deserves the entire lengthy article to be written about it. It is the only authentic style of California cookery to have survived from the days of the Missions, and it is magnificent.

    You may keep your mesquite and hickory, the best steak grilling wood is either the Argentine quebracho blanco, or the Santa Maria coastal red oak, which is what makes the Santa Maria Valley steaks, and Santa Maria BBQ (simply good beef slow grilled over red oak, with the side dishes of lettuce salad, garlic bread, and the indigenous pinquito beans) so superior.

    This comment will soon be expanded into the post, perhaps at Manolos’ Food Blog.

  5. gloria October 28, 2008 at 9:39 pm #

    Go to La Estancia near the Obelisk….order bife chorizo.

  6. Belle October 29, 2008 at 1:14 am #

    Ahhh, to know that the Manolo himself has tread in my native stomping grounds… and that perhaps I have seen him myself, although unawares. :)

  7. angelhair October 29, 2008 at 11:39 am #

    I just read an article about The Hitching Post and other practicioners of the Santa Maria style barbeque. I think it was in the October issue of Gourmet magazine.

    I had never heard of Santa Maria barbeque but it made me want to visit the area and eat lots of steak and beans. Although a visit to Buenos Aires to eat Argentine style steak would be good too.

  8. The Charlotte Allen October 29, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    As a native Southern Californian, I say kudos to the Manolo for writing up the wonderful Santa Ynez/Santa Maria/Paso Robles midstate region, where not only is the best food and wine in the state to be found, but true ur-California scenery: arid, wheat-colored hills dotted with black-green live-oak trees and cattle on the hoof so numerous that I get hungry just driving through. Once nearly all of California looked like that; now, sadly, little does.

    And, mmm, the Hitching Post! Best food in the world, all served most unpretentiously.

  9. Manolo the Shoeblogger October 29, 2008 at 11:43 am #

    Santa Maria BBQ in Gourmet? Ayyyy! What the Manolo has missed by leaving the country.

  10. Fred the Fourth October 29, 2008 at 6:16 pm #

    While appreciating the nicer points of the movie, especially the scene where Sandra Oh’s character breaks the nose of the Christian Hayden character with her helmet, I cannot forgive the movie for causing a huge spike in the price of the particular Santa Barbara Pinot Noir that used to be my house red. I fling curses in the movie’s direction every time I need to get more.