When I was a few months old, my mother, father and I moved to Buenos, Aires, Argentina, from Manhattan. My mother, who didn’t speak a word of Spanish, gave up her career, friendships, and the life she knew to travel with my father to a foreign country. As I’m nearing her age at the time, I’ve begun to appreciate how brave—and fun—that time must have been for her.
Hyper social, she worried that she wouldn’t make friends, she worried about learning the language, she worried about the health of her first child, she worried about safety in a foreign country.
Six years later, when we moved away, there were plenty of tears from both my father’s girls—we didn’t want to leave. My mother had learned Spanish fluently. She had a gaggle of sexy, cigarette-smoking, beautiful Argentine girlfriends. She had perfected her empanada recipe. She had made her life there, in Buenos Aires.
Her memories of that time are of late dinners at parillas drinking red wine and eating steak—and not gaining a pound. Of ‘80s costume parties with her amigas. Of breakfasts of media lunas and dulce de leche. Of polo clubs and trips to the campo where we rode ponies with the gauchos.
We all miss Argentina deeply, though I am fortunate to return somewhat regularly. Some of our Argentine traditions remain—we speak Spanish at home, love Latin American music, make empanadas on holidays, and the like.
I didn’t really think twice when I booked a reservation at Rural Society, the new Argentine steakhouse, for my mother’s birthday brunch. But it was such a lovely morning—particularly for my parents, who miss city life—that it ended up being more special that that.
We sat outside on the patio at Rural Society, in the newly revamped Loews Madison Hotel. It was a beautiful, sunny and breezy fall morning—we were shaded under the covered patio. In the corner sat an Argentine guitarist playing lovely music. And, on his breaks, Sergio Mendes played over the speakers. Our server was incredibly friendly, kind, and attentive.
We began with a Bloody Mary for Cindy Sue, an IPA for Dad, and a coffee for me, as is the Morris protocol. The Bloody Mary—as I knew from my recent judging days—was light and flavorful, with a morcilla-stuffed sausage as a garnish.
From the menu, we were pleased to discover the restaurant was truly an authentic churrascaria. We began with a plate of chorizos: regular chorizo, Provolone-filled chorizo, morcilla and sweetbreads—my father’s favorite. Choripan—chorizo with bread—was my favorite snack as a child so I really enjoyed the chorizo. Morcilla (blood sausage) is a personal preference, but I would say the regular chorizo was far better than the Provolone-stuffed chorizo. Though, kudos to Rural Society for using the appropriate Argentine cheese.
The bread basket, served with all meals at Rural Society, comes with warm slices of white bread and a Malbec butter—a unique homage to the motherland.
The brunch menu at Rural Society offers a prix fixe of a starter, an entrée, a complimentary bread basket, and orange juice, coffee, or tea for $25 total. It’s a pretty good deal for a high-quality meal, but alas there is no bottomless option and the cocktails run $10-12 a piece. (Rural Society treated us to this brunch).
Then came our favorite food, the empanadas. My mother spent six years eating and then recreating empanadas across Argentina to determine the perfect recipe—and she still makes them the same way 20 years later. While hers are fried, those at Rural Society are baked—and we decided they’re the second best we’ve had in the states. There are two options: a spinach and cheese or a shredded Waygu beef belly empanada; they were both utterly delicious.
My father ordered the bistec and huevos—steak and eggs—served, of course, with chimichurri and potatoes. The potatoes were just so-so, but the steak and eggs were prepared perfectly to our liking.
My mother ordered the omelet, which sounded boring but was anything but. The omelet was covered in Serrano ham and topped with fried potato sticks. It was definitely the most excited I’ve ever been by an omelet—and I write about brunch.
There’s nothing in this world I love more than dulce de leche, so I ordered a waffle that was covered in the stuff, as well as whipped cream, strawberries, and syrup. It as intense—but the waffle was a titch dry. The strawberries were fresh and the whipped cream delicious. It was perfect for a splurge.
Though we were full, we also received the breakfast bread basket. There were several pastries, but we most enjoyed the cranberry pistachio cookies. Enjoyed so much, that my mother asked for several cookies to go—and then proceeded to complain the rest of the weekend when she (literally) lost her cookies at the Penthouse Pool.
The Bitches say: A-. Maybe we’re biased, but we love a good Argentine steakhouse. This over-looked, upscale spot downtown has improved from its previous ownership and it’s a great place to go for a celebratory brunch, if you love a good steakhouse, or you want to get a seat. The space is enormous, so you won’t have to wait for a table.
1177 15th St. N.W.
The Loews Madison Hotel
Rural Society serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.