Moving to a new town doesn’t come without its initial annoyances, like finding a reputable dentist, a fabulous hair salon or a reliable auto shop that won’t rip you off on oil changes just because you have an extra X chromosome.
Today, I went in search of a good dry cleaner around my neighborhood, and found one that just happened to be two doors down from the Pan-American Bakery, an awesome little cafe that sells Bolivian salteñas, which are football-shaped empanada-style savory pastries. I had tried this place when Dr. J and I first moved into our house, which is just blocks away from Columbia Pike in Arlington.
For those who aren’t familiar with the area, Columbia Pike is also known as Arlington’s International Main Street because of its insanely diverse variety of grocery stores, restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints.
When I say “insanely diverse,” I mean you’ll find restaurants and grocery stores spanning all ethnicities, including, but not limited to, the following: Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian, Bolivian, Mexican, Chinese, Turkish, Indian, Filipino. And, let’s face it, I also mean that the Pike (which Dr. J. and I have lovingly nicknamed “the Clizzle Pizzle”) may as well have its own entry on Stuff White People Like.
But I digress. Back to the humble salteña. After dropping off my dry cleaning, I practically skipped over to the Pan-American bakery and picked up three beef salteñas for dinner. I was amazed that there were any left, as these puppies tend to sell out fast. Not surprising.
The crusty, egg-washed pocket is slightly sweet, which contrasts nicely with the savory filling. The filling usually contains a slice of hardboiled egg, chunks of tender meat and potatoes, green peas, raisins and olives, all swimming in a delectable broth spiced with cayenne, cumin and black pepper, and, before you take a bite, you dip it in some hot green chile dipping sauce.
You’d think that the salteña was so named because it’s a salty pastry, but according to my research (as in, a quick Wikipedia search) it was named after its creator, a 19th-century woman named Juana Manuela Gorriti, who hailed from Salta in Argentina but was exiled to Bolivia for political reasons. She and her family came up with the recipe as a way to make money and survive. Interesting that some of the best kinds of foods–such as Chicago-style hot dogs, kebabs and barbecue–were created during hard times by people with scarce resources, but that’s fodder for a future blog post.
Mmmm. Just writing about it is making my mouth water, but dammit, we ate all the salteñas. Oh well. I’ll just grab some more when I pick up the dry cleaning tomorrow.
I freakin’ love my new dry cleaner already.