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Culture Watch: Hello, Buenos Aires

Argentina: home of gauchos, spectacular meat dishes, excellent wine and the elegant women of Buenos Aires. Who wouldn’t want to visit?

But the closest most of us will come is to close our eyes and listen to some passionate tango music on some well worn CD.

Or, we could go to the 4700 block of Magazine Street between 5:30 and 7:30 Tuesday or Wednesday night. That’s when two young chefs take over the kitchen at Dominique’s to strut their Latin culinary skills.

Brenda Constanza Howlin is 22 and from Buenos Aires. Augustin Echazarreta is 24 and from Bariloche in the south of Argentina. Both have been in New Orleans for all of nine months. Both love us.

“I came to learn about a different culture,” Brenda says in recently-learned English. “Now I really like this city and I feel that the restaurant is my home.”

Augustin, like Brenda, graduated from the Culinary Institute of Argentina. Chef Dominique Macquet met them while teaching there and invited both to New Orleans to work in his kitchen. Augustin, whose English, through diligent study and daily reading of cookbooks, is more fluent, began his adventures in the restaurant world while still in high school.

“I started working as a dishwasher,” he says, “and I found I liked all the emotion and the passion of the kitchens. It made me feel alive.”

So together, with Chef Dominique’s guidance, Brenda and Augustin have created a four-course traditional meal that highlights some of their personal favorites.

It starts with eggplant in an escabeche (a spicy marinade), moves on to a parrillada – that Sunday family mixed grill dish of spicy sausages, sweetbreads and salsa — to a choice between grilled steak with calabasa (squash) or fish on saffron and roasted vegetable pilaf. A vanilla flan with dulce de leche, that sinful caramel-based sauce, finishes out the meal.

They hope we like it, and they hope they can stay in New Orleans. They have applied for a continuation of their visas and, if all goes according to plan, the Crescent City will have two more hard-working young people bringing their talents and their energies to our welcoming, multi-cultural city.

Dominique’s. 4729 Magazine Street, 894-8881, is open Tuesday through Saturday 5:30-10:30 p.m. The Argentine prix-fixe menu is served 5:30-7:30 Tuesdays, June 21 and 28, and Wednesdays, June 22 and 29, for $38 per person.



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