Approaching Estancia Vik for the first time brings a sense of calm, the hacienda sits atop the highest point on an expanse of open land covered by miles of grass to the north and tidal inlet to the east. Greeted at the gate we were immediately put at ease, a suave, tanned guide shares 10 minutes of his time. We tour the building and learn that it was originally planned for the owners’ family personal use only. Later it was determined to be too large and instead then was transitioned to a lodge.
After settling into a grand stateroom on the southeastern corner of the second floor simply named Vik (each guest room in the lodge has a name), my family gathered poolside for a lunch of cheese and salad. Finishing with a small, memorable plate of chocolates, mini shortbread cookies along with steaming cafe con leche.
The Vik’s pool area served as our landing pad for the rest of the afternoon—cool water and hot sun. We read and napped in dappled shade for hours working through a faux hangover from our 24 hours of travel departing on Christmas afternoon.
With a siesta and more cafe con leche behind us, at 6:30 I wandered down to the polo field just north of the Vik with my daughters. We watched as 8 high goal players ran a squad of ponies through practice, changing ponies every 10 or 15 minutes, with a team of attractive, local women tending to the sweaty steeds post workout.
Dinner in Uruguay is served late, as it should be with an 8:15 sunset. Arriving at the fireside asado around 9pm, my youngest daughter Whittier enjoyed a Caipirinha while her sisters sipped Malbec. We settled in at a table among the rest of the guests at Estancia Vik in the court yard and enjoyed a 2 hour parade of meat and vegetables served from 2 asado grill stations manned by a team of chefs and gauchos. Our families favorite taste was unanimously the chorizo, followed by the beef they call asado (thinly sliced bone-in beef short ribs) and an egg filled red bell pepper, sliced in half and filled with brilliantly orange tinged farm fresh eggs and cheese. This dish, referred to as huevos rellenas was perfect when finished with a dash of the house chimi churi.
Mid way through our dinner experience, the general manager Tomas approached our table to greet us. A retired fly fishing guide, the man who directs guest programming for both Estancia Vik and Estancia Bahia—a separate lodge at the beach about 10 minutes away—was genteel and informative. He explained the design of the Vik’s asado grill which dominates most of the bar area as well as the weekly schedule that includes food service in several different areas throughout the hacienda on a daily and weekly basis across the high season when the Vik is fully occupied by guests from all corners of the planet.
Tomas also explained the heritage of a sauce or salsa that adorns every table to compliment the range of over 10 proteins ranging from pork belly, blood sausage, and filet of beef that comprise the courses served at a proper asado in Uruguay.
The term chimi churi translates roughly to “gimme curry” after a visiting Brit found Argentine beef presented to him on a visit to be to salty, the general manager at Vik explained. The gentleman was looking for a compliment to enhance the flavor of his hosts offering and asked the chef to bring curry, not knowing what curry was, the chef returned to his kitchen and chopped herbs, garlic, and chilis by hand then added olive oil and a touch of salt, returning to the table and presenting “chimi churi” his translation to “give me curry”.
Chimi churi isn’t an exact science Tomas assured us. It’s an expression of every chefs personality, some feature mint and parsley while others might not include herbs at all. We find life in Uruguay to be similar. Simple and calming. No reason to hurry. Use as much or as little as you please. Relax and enjoy. Life at the Vik is as good as it gets.