Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Travel: Jose Ignacio

Just a little further down the road from Uruguay's Punta del Este is a low-key, primarily untouched stretch of beach punctuated by a lighthouse called Jose Ignacio. The NY Times likened this sleepy little town to what the Hamptons were in the '60's. And although we weren't around then we can't help but notice the similarities to Montauk in the off-season only with better beach weather. Don't be surprised if you happen to be waiting for a table at the ultra-chic La Huella (right on Playa Brava) along with Argentinian footballers and polo players, especially in January when Punta del Este is at its height of the Summer season. Or aim for late February after the craziness has died down, and stay at Casa Suaya for an air-conditioned suite facing the ocean across Ruta 10. Anywhere you go, the seafood is incredibly fresh- we haven't had better grilled octopus since. There's also something special about those ubiquitous clay wood-fired ovens, because the pizza there was a total pleasant surprise whether it was the pistachio and gruyere from La Huella, the tomato and grana padano from Restaurant Garzon in Pueblo Garzon, or Marismo's margherita cooked in a treehouse (see below picture). At Marismo you have your choice of digging your bare toes in the sand at one of the tables next to a bonfire or up in a treehouse where you smell the smoky goodness from sitting right next to the kitchen. You literally walk through the trees before you find your way along a candlelit path to this restaurant, where you may be greeted by the long-haired owner himself or his family. It's where we had our first taste of provoleta- a disk of provolone seasoned with oregano and olive oil then grilled in one of those infamous clay ovens. Warning: don't call it white wine sangria. It's clerico and we drank it like water. We're still dreaming of our return and hoping it remains just as low-key as it was then. Although they were building a Setai off Ruta 10 last year and there is now a new Fasano location in the works.

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