DESTINATION IDEAL FOOD DAY: JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY
Anya Fernald is master when it comes to all things meat and sustainability. Founder and CEO of Belcampo Inc. and Food Craft Institute, Fernald consistently works to bring farmers, food producers and consumers together in settings around the world. Belcampo owns and manages farms in Uruguay, Belize and Calfiornia, providing us foodies with true and authentic farm to table experiences. A judge on Food Network’s Iron Chef America, Fernald undoubtedly has impeccable taste when it comes to cuisines from around the world. She’s somehow made pickling, canning, farming and sustainability cool – and we can’t get enough. Fernald redefines the jet set, and today she’ll be launching our first Destination Ideal Food Day at Belcampo’s farm in Jose Ignacio Uruguay. Fernald takes us through breakfast lunch and dinner with piping hot empanadas, biodynamic veggies and of course the perfect steak – something she won’t go a day in Uruguay without.
“My day starts out with Yerba mate and kind of earthy wholemeal bread next to the fireplace in Jose Ignacio. There’s always a fire going somewhere in every house here, especially now in the wintertime. The yerba is smoked too – that’s the traditional way to prepare it – so everything to me seems infused with smoke when it comes to my food sensations in Uruguay. The bread was made by Santiago Garat, our chef for Mercado Belcampo. He bought wheat in bulk directly from a farm and has been grinding it to make flours for our bread. In Uruguay, almost all the bread sold in the grocery stores and served is parbaked (bought frozen and just finished in the hot oven on site). In general, that bread is terrible, so it’s a relief to get my hands on some of Santiago’s loaves for my breakfast. I met Santiago through a mutual friend in New York when I was looking to hire our chef for Belcampo. I went to his restaurant in Buenos Aires and as soon as I saw the little paper-lined baskets filled with hot empanadas and fresh bread on my table, I knew we had our guy. Ever since then, I have had a special affection for his baked goods.
Lunch is a baked sweet potato and some boiled eggs, all from our farm. Our veggies are all grown biodynamically and our laying hens are raised on pasture. So between these two ingredients I get a massive amount of carotene (as well as some carbon offsets for my flight down here). Alfredo Villegas, our Farm Manager, has trained in the US on pasture management with the same philosophy that we use for the farm in California – Holistic Management. He was a huge find for our team. Our farm is one of the first in Uruguay to use multispecies grazing as a farm management tool, so Alfredo is really breaking the mold. All of our neighbors are just raising beef and olive trees, so our chickens, pigs, fruit trees, veggie gardens and more are truly unprecedented.
Dinner is at the Mercado Belcampo (I guess I stay pretty close to home when I travel). I have thin-sliced potatoes baked on the fire and a big fat rib eye. I try to eat at least one steak a day when I am in Uruguay, usually flank steaks and rib eyes. The meat is all grass fed – juicy yet really lean. It’s never aged, which takes some getting used to in terms of tenderness if you’re used to the fork-tender American steakhouse cuts. I love it though. I put chimichurri on the side that’s made with our neighbor’s Colinas de Garzon oil, which gives me a taste of what our oil will be like when our trees become productive in a few years. I forgo the floating island dessert – although it’s tempting – and munch on a Salgado chocolate bar picked up in Argentina earlier in the week. To drink: Tannat, the local red produced by just about every winery in Uruguay. My favorite Tannat’s are clean and have very little wood. Tonight I’m drinking Bouza but I also like Pisano’s version.”
-As told by Anya Fernald