Parting is such sweet sorrow, and leaving BA today is especially sad because the city is all about eating really good food. And drinking great wine. It has been a food party since we arrived and I really have to get better about documenting these things as we go. But that means spending more time on the laptop instead of in the restaurants or at the bar, and I don’t see it happening — so instead you’re getting the comida rundown now, in full, since we are at the airport three hours early for our flight to Patagonia (I’ll let you guess whose work that was — hint: when left to my own devices, I am always late).
We arrived BA on Sunday, went to the San Telmo neighborhood to watch tango — milonga outside under the stars every Sunday night — then wandered around, stumbling across a flamenco party in the courtyard of an old abandoned building that is now used for “art events,” as one person told us. The grill there smelled amazing but it was crowded, so we continued our wandering until we found Don Ernesto, a parilla. Parilla just means grill in Spanish, and these restaurants are where one goes to find steak, steak and steak, which is what the city is known for (and makes my heart melt). What I didn’t know before this trip is how huge the Italian influence is here – more than half of its original wave of immigrants came from Italy. So every menu has a ton of pasta, neighborhoods like Palermo and La Boca are packed with Italian restaurants and it’s an integral part of the Argentinian culture. Anywhere I could find meat, Anthony could find pasta, and really good pasta at that. This first night I ordered a chorizo de bife (referred to the cut of the steak), A got a frutti di mare (pasta with seafood) and we shared a huge arugula salad (the other standard on every menu: big basic green salads. Can I just live here already.) Dessert and drinks afterward at a bar on San Telmo square: flan (disclaimer: it was really good, but my mom’s is still better) and dulce de leche pancakes, which were basically crepes filled with dulce de leche, which is a caramel-sugar-milk concoction with the consistency of Nutella. Mmmmmm. And Amarula for me to drink, cafe por Anthony. Monday we found a cute little salad place by us for lunch (salmon with creme de avocado on a baguette, I am still dreaming about you), walked around Palermo then stopped for drinks in the early evening. Here we tried provoleta, which is fried cheese seasoned with salt and pepper. My dad has been making something similar for years. This is thicker, and can be made with ham or vegetables inside. We opted for the straight cheese and it was great, but really how could it be bad? Cheese, good. Fried, good. For dinner that night we went straight Italian — still stuffed from the provoleta, we shared a tagliatelle with a tomato and cream sauce (can’t stop thinking about it) and a salad. Tuesday we had my favorite lunch — pizza at a place called Guerrin. Argentinian pizza is heavy on the cheese (we heard about one with 2 lbs of the lovely substance), so of course we ordered two pies (they were small) to make sure we covered our bases. The first is called fugazza and is topped with cheese, so much cheese, and sautéed onions and ham. The second was napolitana, with fresh tomatoes and cheese, ordered with a side of faina, a chickpea crust that people inexplicably eat on top of this pizza. IT WAS MAGIC. It was even amazing when I ate the leftovers cold a few hours later (traveling makes me hungry). We took a tour of the city after. Visited the unbelievable Recoleta cemetery, where Eva Peron is buried; it’s just row after row of ornate mausoleums. Like a really upscale neighborhood for the dead. Later that night, went to the tango class and milonga that I wrote about earlier this week and ended up drinking our dinner (for courage on the dance floor). Wednesday, lunch at another parilla, Don Julio (no, it just seems like they’re all named Don something). A ribeye for me (holy mother of all things good, this was the best steak I’ve had in forever), a gnocchi with diavolo sauce for A (I think I ate half of his) and an arugula salad. I take it back – this was actually my favorite meal in BA. So simple, so perfect, so take me back to that restaurant now please and thank you. We shopped around Palermo afterwards and that night, back to San Telmo for dinner, this time at Hierba Buena, aka vegetarian food or bust. It was good. The people were the sweetest we’ve met — maybe not eating meat takes away all the aggression and/or anger — and the drinks were great. I could take or leave the food, and no not because it was lacking meat. More that it was lacking a bit of taste. Finally Thursday, our final day, lunch at our little salad place (oh salmon on baguette, still thinking about you), day in the park (wrote about it yesterday) then dinner at a puerta cerrada. The closed door dinners are a big thing in BA, and I found a great one called Casa Saltshaker. The chef who runs it used to work in restaurants in New York, then moved to BA on a whim 10 years ago and never looked back. I was dying to take food pics but didn’t want to be that girl (I have some standards), so photos I can’t provide. There were 9 of us at the dinner, a mix of Americans and Canadians. We started off with get-to-know-you conversation over an orange-ginger-pisco drink, then the meal began. I can’t remember exactly what type of fish and greens and spices and reductions and whatnot were used — but the food was incredible. A mountain of marinated ceviche-like whitefish was first, over tomatoes and I think some kind of polenta. A minestrone soup next with Asian noodles, followed by peas, pea sprouts and a soft-boiled egg over risotto with shaved Manchego cheese. Fish was the main course, again with some sort of potato or grain purée (I was too busy eating to be bothered with remembering details) and dessert was a white chocolate and homemade cream cheese cheesecake topped with fruit marinated in a sherry reduction. Wines from Mendoza accompanied every course. It was fan-effing-tastic. We struggled to go to a milonga after dinner — wanted to put our new tango skills to use — but it was a disaster. We had a drink and watched for a bit, too full to move, then we got up to dance, embarrassed ourselves thoroughly (WE KNOW ONE STEP and everyone around us was Fred and freaking Ginger) (also we couldn’t stop laughing) and as soon as the song ended, we went straight for the door, told the doorman Buenas Noches and took the beautiful walk home. Now we are at the airport waiting to board our 10am flight to El Calafate in southern Argentina for a few days in Patagonia, where I suspect the food will be limited to granola bars and maybe a ham sandwich from the looks of the sea of backpacks around me. Seriously do these people bathe or just dive into their bags for an endless supply of tank tops and waterproof pants. I saw two girls in the bathroom digging thru the same backpack and I swear one fell in. Even when I backpacked in college I don’t think I was this backpack-y.
BTW yes I am trying to check out and I am. But that dress is BLACK AND BLUE.
Pics from Buenos Aires to come.
Where we stayed in Buenos Aires:
Sheraton Libertador Hotel, en Avenida Cordoba
Where we ate & liked:
Casa Saltshaker, a puerta cerrada
Don Julio, a parrilla
Guerrin, for pizza