We Argentineans like to indulge their sweet tooth every chance we get. Most people have something sweet for dessert on a daily basis. The more frugal among us are content with a piece of fresh fruit or fruit salad. Personally, I like to enhance my fruit salad with a scoop of ice cream.
I think that the most popular dessert is crème caramel, which we call flan. By itself, with a scoop of whipped cream (flan con crema), with a spoonful of dulce de leche or both (flan mixto), it definitely is a crowd pleaser. So much so that a group of friends go round restaurants in a quest to find the best flan and write their reviews in a blog called La ruta del flan mixto (website in Spanish)
Right up there in popularity is a very simple dessert called either postre del vigilante or queso y dulce. It is probably the least fancy piece of sweet goodness one can find in the whole country. It consists of a thick slice of cheese, preferably Pategrás (a local variety of Gouda), and an equally thick slice of either quince paste (dulce de membrillo) or sweet potato paste (dulce de batata). I prefer dulce de batata. For a more decadent experience, I buy sweet potato paste with chocolate. It doesn’t sound half so good as it tastes, I can assure you.
The origin of the postre del vigilante has become a sort or urban legend. It is said that in the twenties, some police officers known as vigilantes used to eat at a tavern in the Palermo neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. As they always ordered a slice of cheese and a slice of quince paste, people began to call that combination “postre del vigilante”, the policeman’s (or cop’s or bobbies’ dessert.)
A more traditional dessert is figs in syrup (higos en almíbar), probably introduced by Middle Eastern immigrants. We eat the figs with a dollop of whipped cream or on a slice of semi-hard cheese. Some time ago I ordered figs in a restaurant and they came with a dollop of mascarpone cheese, which was a delicious combination too.
Recently I tried dulce de cayote (or chayote) for the first time and enjoyed it very much. The cayote is the fruit of the Cucurbita ficifolia, a type of squash. Its stringy flesh is cooked in syrup and served with guess what? a dollop of whipped cream (or mascarpone cheese) or over a slice of semi-hard cheese!
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