Working at Renard makes it kind of hard to ignore the disparity between the legitimately special food I get to eat at work, and the shite that goes on in my fridge. While I would love to slow-cook vats of carefully peeled vegetation and braise beef cheeks and spin corn-griddled crepes from my pinky whilst wearing an apron and some shit-kickin’ kitchen boots to match, let’s face it,
Busy enough even, to let someone else work the miracles, albeit totally attainable ones and realistic ones too. What the heck is she talking about? Arepas, my friends. At least, ones at Arepera du Plateau, which has the resounding consensus of online-Venezuelan’s everywhere as having the kiss of authenticity. The crowd I witnessed this weekend doesn’t lie… it’s a colourful and busypants place, casting out aroma-tendrils of smoky beans and toasted corn, and populated by basically everyone from casual alterna-brunchers to the aforementioned down-home true arepa lovers who came, inhaled, and left in minutes.
Cloudy and me, well, we lingered, getting our fingers into everything and then licking them clean, giddy with housemade sauces – one red (spicy!) and one green (that tasted spookily like my poor man’s ripoff of Peruvian Huacatay sauce- ie, super yummy, slather-on-everything-type-fluid).
Keeping to it’s roots, the fried-to-order crunchy starter-thing on the menu at Arepera was NOT FRIES OR CHIPS BUT yes YUCA! (4$). heehee. Thicker cut, totally fresh, molar-threatening and delish, especially with that green sauce to dunk dunk away with on the side. A papelón con limón (sugar cane juice with lemon), and a Lolo (? – okay my ears cut out when our server described this one, but it tasted like guava and supposedly is traditional Venezuelan) juice kicked off the liquid side of things (3$ each). Both excellent, and not too sweet… but still really sweet. Fruitsplosion, and perfect foil for…………
Between us, we shared a straight-up arepa stuffed with boar chorizo, peppers and onions (7$), and a Pabellón criollo platter (11$) – pretty much the national dish of Venezuela, involving white rice, stewed black beans, (incredibly juicy) shredded beef, fried plantains and cheese. A perfect amount of food, a playground even (tear a bit from here, mix sauce, top+proteins, stuff in mouth, trade sauces, make spicy, EAT MASA GOODNESS HOLY HELL IT IS GOOD). I’m not going to bore you with too many adjectives, just go, and try this, and thank me later.
Oh, and the arepas (just the tortillas themselves) themselves are worth writing home about. Gee, have I even mentioned what these things are yet? I s’pose I haven’t, okay, here goes.
They’re made from a special kind of pre-cooked corn flour which is different from the more common nixtamal or hominy (a.k.a. regular tortilla flour). Instead of removing the inedible outer pericarp of the corn kernel with an alkali cooking process (nixtamalization), it’s removed by pounding that pericarp right off, manually, and incidentally this means it’s only nutritious by half. But dayyyum, if it isn’t tasty stuff. You heard it here. These puppies are serious, crazy tender insides and charred crispy crust-chewy outsides and madness with all these salty and fatty things they dare to stuff inside. Arepera du Plateau also offers a wide array of Vegan and Vegetarian options, which makes them super awesome and earns them big shiny star sticker from me.
Of course, the kicker is that they’re probably easy to make, but I wouldn’t make them anywhere near this good, so I’m just gonna continue to eat them on Duluth street and leave my fridge happy to contain leftover bottles of wine and 27 jars of jam. Life is too easy!