La Peña

28 Apr 2004 7:38 pm

Last night I returned to La Casona del Molino. It’s a peña here in Salta (north western Argentina). A peña is a restaurant where local Argentinians sing and jam out folk music on guitar, sometimes accompanied by percussion or maybe a wooden flute. La Casona has great atmosphere. It’s a rustic place with simple dark wood furniture. Following the traditional style, there are a few rooms surrounding a central courtyard. La Casona serves food from northwestern Argentina. Of course this includes empanadas. Where would Argentina be without their empanadas? Other starters are tamals (very similar to Mexican tamales) and humitas (sweet tamals with fresh corn but without the meat center). For entrees there is of course asado (fantastic slow grilled meats). Around here they are also big on stews served in clay bowls. Locro is a stew of mixed meats, potatoes and beans. My favorite has been Casuela cabrilito, a stew of baby goat with potatos and vegetables.

So the scene is like this. You turn up around 11 or 11:30 p.m. and order local wine (Cafayate is the local wine region) and a meal. Sooner or more likely much later, the regulars turn up with their guitars and handwritten lyric books. Particularly cool are the guys wearing black felt sombreros or wool berets. After these guys have chewed quite enough coco leaves and put back plenty of cervesa and vino they break out the instruments and the song books and start jaming. It’s not a performance. They don’t get paid and they don’t play a set. Rather then drink and talk and hang out and occasionally sing and play their folk songs beautifully.

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