As a teenager I had a brief fling with socialism. It had less to do with politics and everything to do with meeting attractive members of the opposite sex. Left wing women believed in sex, drugs and rock and roll; my principle motivations for attending college in America. Right wing women believed in Jesus, which was not quite as much fun.
Although deficient in modern depilitory practises, most left wing women appear to have aged well. Tree hugging and a diet of sustainably sourced, free-trade organic seeds seems to have worked for them. Their biggest problem today, is a lack of socialist role models to revere. The few surviving socialist nations are broke and their “democratically selected” dictators are a nasty lot. For a while Hugo Chavez of Venezuela flew the flag for lefties. Fortunately for his legacy, he died before his policies bankrupted his long suffering nation. In the case of Chavez, death was definitely a good career move. Click here for my obituary Death Becomes Chavez.
I was at Orinoco, a Venezuelan restaurant in Boston. The staff were all refugees from Chavez’s promised land. I was with Cost Centre #1 and the Mayflower Refugee – her ancestors arrived in America on one of those refugee boats although I’m told that conditions on board weren’t that bad..
Boston’s restaurant scene is staid – think traditional steak and seafood restaurants plus a bunch of cheap student hangouts. We went looking for culinary inspiration in the formerly dangerous and now trendy South End, which has a string of hip, no reservation restaurants. Orinoco occupies a long narrow space decorated with artifacts from the home country – sepia tinted photographs, hand woven baskets, a display of packaged Venezuelan dry goods and colourful masks to drive out evil spirits. It managed to look ethic without being twee. An open kitchen and friendly, enthusiastic waiters made for a buzzy, fun restaurant experience.
Orinoco has a small list of pre-mixed cocktails – margaritas, caipirinhas and mojitos. They were passable. Their mostly Americas sourced wine list was much better. We had an excellent 2012 MontGras CarmenÃ¨re – a rare grape varietal thought extinct until it’s rediscovery in Chile in the 1990’s. It is deep crimson in colour (hence the name), and is a soft, low tannin red with tones of green pepper and ripe berries. It is closest in style to a Merlot or Cabernet Franc, but with a long powerful finish.
The food is the main event here. Arepas, a Venezuelan speciality, were succulent – a small pita like corn bread sandwich with either stewed, shredded beef or mojo marinated pork, served with a Venezuelan cheese. The heart of palm salad was excellent and the accompanying bacon wrapped dates stuffed with almonds were to die for.
There were other combinations of sweet and savoury on the menu – not all of them successful. A lovely piece of salmon was let down by a sweet cinnamon based seasoning that was frankly weird.
The special consisted of vegetables baked with pork, shredded spiced chicken and a ham roll with raisins. It was tasty and filling. Fried yuca chips and deep fried sweet plantain were the perfect accompaniments to one of the more interesting meals I’ve had recently.
I escaped my youthful flirtation with socialism without catching anything communicable. Sadly, Venezuela’s socialist experience wasn’t quite as painless. Thankfully their cuisine survives and is celebrated at Orinoco.