Eat This

The Fleeting Joy of Joyce and Gigi's Salteñas

It's been more than a year since I talked with Gigliola Aguilera about the salteñas she planned to cook occasionally in her tiny kitchen at Joyce and Gigi's. I called Aguilera out for not putting the stew-filled pastries on her menu, mostly because they're delicious but also because the delicacy hails from Bolivia, where Aguilera was raised.

To my surprise she told me she was actually working on them, but because her kitchen was the size of a business card she'd only be able to offer them as a special now and then. She told me to watch for news on her restaurant's Facebook feed. It's not as simple a task as it sounds.

I saw the salteñas announcement once, but I already had dinner plans. So when I saw them this week, and had dinner plans again, I couldn't take it anymore. I cancelled them, and showed up on her doorstep last night.

Salteñas offer a crisp, water-tight crust that keep a slightly sweet stew inside. Usually they're about the size of a baseball, and you can hold the pastry with one end pointed up, crack off the tip and eat the stew with a spoon. Good luck keeping your shirt clean.

The version served at Joyce and Gigi's is not traditional, though. They're smaller for starters, and the stew is much thicker. Aguilera said too many customers would cut them open as they lay on the serving board, unleashing a magma-hot salteña tsunami. Her smaller version you can pretty much eat out of hand, which takes away some of the fun, but is practical. Mechanics aside, when you bite into one they're traditional enough. Peas, olives and chunks of chicken absolutely explode with flavor.

Of course, you'll only get one if you go soon, tonight and maybe tomorrow, and that's if they haven't sold out again. When that happens you'll have to watch your Facebook stream for the next announcement. Aguilera says she offers them every three to four weeks or so. Maybe it's time to trim a few of your other "friends?"

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz