Ah, Buenos Aires. The Paris of South America. A city after my own heart.
This city is so full of life and culture. Today is the first day of my second sojourn in Buenos Aires, and let me just say, it does not dissapoint. To get a local’s perspective of the city, I am staying in a temporary apartment rental in Palermo Soho. There are many apartment rental companies to choose from; after a lengthy search I ultimately decided to choose www.internationalnest.com for price, quality and service. Check out this awesome apartment: www.internationalnest.com/details.php?id=31 for only $550 for my full 7 day stay, much much less than the cost of an above average hotel ($~$200USD+ per day). Unlike other apartment rental companies, they don’t require a cash deposit and they arent charging me for early arrival or late departure. Overall, they’ve been extremely easy to deal with and very efficient. I was greeted at the apartment by my own personal concierge, Alfonso, who spent 30+ minutes with me showing me everything from the nearest grocery to his top 5 choices for memorable dining in BA. Four of the places he mentioned are also listed as Top 10 in the Hedonist Guide to BA, so they must be good, right?
Top 5 must-try restaurants according to Alfonso, my concierge:
- 1. Guido’s – Italian food in Palermo. Sit down and let the chef bring out whatever he wants until you are full. A gastronomic adventure.
- 2. La Cabrera. My personal favorite parilla. A must try.
- 3. Desde el Alma.
- 4. Dominga.
- 5. Thymus.
All of these restaurants can easily be found at the www.guiaoleo.com, BA’s very own Zagat. I will try most of them and report my experiences later.
Most flights to BA from the US are overnight flights. From Houston, there is a 10 hr direct flight that got me into BA at 10am. Cab ride was uneventful. I took Taxi Ezeiza from the airport for $70 pesos. Anyways, by the time I got settled in, it was well past 1pm, and since it’s Sunday, I decided to head out for brunch and some shopping in San Telmo.
For brunch, I took my husband’s advice and booked a table on the patio at the Park Hyatt hotel, a five star establishment, in the barrio Recoleta. Now, let me just tell you that Sunday brunch at the Park Hyatt is a very hoity-toity affair. The brunch costs $170 pesos. You all you can drink quality white wine, red wine, sparkling wine, coffee, tea; all-you-can eat antipasto, fruits de mer (antipasto style); a choice of entree (meat, fish, pasta, or eggs); and all-you-can-eat dessert from the buffet bar. Belt busting? You bet. Worth it? For $56USD, definitely. A little over the top? Uh, understatement.
This is not going to be a quick brunch, it is going to be a savor every morsel and moment affair. So here I am, sitting by myself in this palacial square formerly owned by the Duhau family. The weather is perfect, breezeless, 72 degrees, sunny, did I say perfect?
I make my way to the buffet bar, where every dish is introduced to me in spanish-accented English by a white-clad sous-chef. I focused on the fruits de mer – fresh oysters on the halfshell, pesto stuffed calamari, octopus and chickpeas, half-cooked fish with wine marinated raisins, scallops on the half shell… I try a bit of everything, and my favorite is the half-cooked fish concoction, a bit sweet and unexpected. Another highlight is the red wine and honey marinated/roasted red onions. Delectable. But wait, there is the cheese bar and the antipasto bar!! I don’t totally make my way through everything. By the time I am finished with the cold dishes, I’m not sure if I can eat my entree, seared tenderloin with truffle marinated polenta and red wine reduction sauce. I somehow manage to eat half of this incredibly wonderful (but simple looking) dish, tenderloin slightly crisped on the outside…so good. I’m in heaven. I lean back in my comfy leather couch, and up at the trees, trying to let my stomach catch up with the pace of my food extravaganza. BTW, forgot to mention that the antipasto was paired with a white Chardonnay from Terrazas de los andes, very nice, very refreshing. The red wine, likewise complemented the meal and went down smoothly. I was so busy enjoying everything I didn’t notice that they never even brought me a glass of water!
Then came the best part (for me, at least), postres, or desserts. I started with the flan caramel and the isla flotante, my favorite. I tried several other desserts including the cheesecake, the chocolate mousee, and the panna cotta, but the isla flotante stole the show. A fluffy light meringue floating in the most perfectly created vanilla sauce accented with sugar icicles. It melts in your mouth. Mmm-mmm….
Lunch started at 2:30 and ended sometime after 4:30. I have less than 1 hour in San Telmo, which is a good 15 minutes away from the Recoleta by cab. I don’t know if it’s because I’m travelling alone, or because I’m trying valiantly to learn Spanish, but the cabbies have been really sweet and chatty and have helped me with my Catalan. Courtesy of the airport cabbie, I can count 10, 20, up to 100, and I know how to say my address perfeclty: “mille-ocho-ciento-trentay-dos” (1832). He also taught me that 1 block is 100 meters “una quadra es cien mietres.” Calle is pronounced “cahjshay”, and on Sunday everything is closed – “Domingo, todo es serrado” – except for San Telmo and Calle Florida. The cabbie to San Telmo reminded me that “muy lindo” means very nice and “muy rico” means that food tastes good. And the funniest thing is, 3 out of 5 cabbies have complimented me on my Spanish even though I can barely say anything!!
San Telmo is just as I remembered. Cobblestone roads, people crowding the streets. Street performers everywhere. It’s a bit like Paris’ famous Montmartre area. Crowded with tourists. Sunday is the famous antique market, and everything is here – arts, crafts, antique stores, performers, people…i love the tango vibe that this barrio exudes. The first set of street performers were using the traditional accordion-like instruments, called bandoneons in a lively crowd-pleasing, hand-clapping rhythm…
I slowly make my way down the crowded streets, enjoying the late afternoon. The main part of the San Telmo fair is at the Plaza D’Orrego.
But if you continue along the cobblestoned path and follow the crowd, you will find that the streets are lined with vendors selling all kinds of leather goods and crafts, jewelry, some just junk but some worth noting. I found cute earrings for as little as $5 pesos (less than $2) but buyer beware, my first set of earrings was quoted at around $20 pesos in the heart of Plaza Dorrego, and I found the prices slowly declining as I continued farther from the fair center. Notice the streets get less crowded as you pass from one block to the next.l
It’s almost 7:00 by the time I am finished so I hop in a cab to take me back to Palermo Soho. On the way, I see the Paseo Alcorta and ask the cabbie to stop. Paseo Alcorta is an indoor mall that houses the largest Carrefour (French-based supermercado) in the city. I pick up some Salamandra dulce de leche, made less than a month ago, and my favorite yogurt bibida, or drink, called “Yog’s, yogur bebible” to stock up the fridge. I head home and take a nice hot bath and cannot drag myself out the apartment for my dinner reservation at La Cabrera. It doesn’t really matter if I skip dinner, I am still full from lunch!!
Ah well, La Cabrera will have to wait until later in the week. I still need to find my favorite sandwich de miga and try the best empanadas in the city at La Cupertina, an 8 block walk from my apartment.
Tune in for more food and travel tidbits from Buenos Aires, Argentina. There will definitely be more to tell!!
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