February 28, 2009

Eating and Drinking in Argentina

Bar El Federal in San Telmo was my very first and very last meal in Argentina - and both times it was picada for lunch. Picadas are plates of charcuterie, cheese, olives, and other snacks like peanuts and chips.

When we ordered picada, the waiter first brought just out a small platter of peanuts and chips and I thought, Oh god, this is it, this is all we're getting for lunch for 20 pesos. I guess sometimes picadas are really light snacks and Jesse and I feared for our hungry stomachs.

Until, a few minutes later, he also brought out a bowl of bread and another plate piled high with ham, salami, and other meats and cheeses. It was an amazing turnaround. By the time we had finished after lingering over this giant array of food, we delighted with how quality, filling, and cheap our lunch was!

The bar itself seems like a quintissential corner cafe-bar where people relax inside and outside all throughout the day and night, complete with beautiful wood architecture.

Meag and Guille took us to El Cuartito in Retiro, BA's downtown, for cheap, filling, delicious pizza. They have some other snacks too, like empanadas, and faina (chickpea fritters) that Argentians eat on top of their pizza for some reason (I tried it and still don't really get it). Apparently Anthony Bourdain ate there on an episode of No Reservations, it's that good.

In Rosario, our hosts took us to the "Vomiteria," so called not because the food is bad but because the portions are so large you'll feel so full you want to vomit later. It's true! I ordered pollo milanese, and it was the hugest plate-sized breaded and fried chicken I'd ever seen coated in provolone cheese and tomato sauce. There was no possible way I could finish it. Jesse and I also tried tongue (okay) and intestines (ugh) at that restaurant. Update: Meag has more about our dinner and other yummy places in Rosario here.

Quilmes is the ubiquitous national beer of choice, brewed in Argentina - in fact we passed the brewery on our drive between Rosario and BA. Crisp, refreshing lager - perfect for the height of summer.

After Quilmes, the most popular beers available were Budweiser and Heineken. Because it was so hot that a cool beer almost always sounded better than a glass of wine, I ended up drinking Bud and Heineken way more often than I normally do. Hence I didn't learn too much about the native wines, just that Malbec is the best red wine to drink in Argentina. And that they put ice cubes in their wine during the summer - not something I could come around to.

Milion in BA's ritzy Recoleta neighborhood. A gorgeous old mansion-turned bar with a backyard perfect for afternoon drinks. I hear it's quite hopping at night too.

Home Hotel has a bar with the loveliest backyard that feels like an oasis of green and quiet in bustling urban Buenos Aires. Located in the posh neighborhood Palermo, we were smitten with the looks of this modern boutique Swedish-style hotel, but unfortunately the bar service wasn't as good when we returned with Meag and Guille. Their staff speak English though, which is a plus.

Of course, we brought back some yerba mate (pronounced sherba mah-tay in Argentina), a kind of tea that perks you up with a non-caffeinated stimulant, that we've only drank once so far. The mate cup, which is made out of a hollowed gourd, looks pretty in our living room though.

Other notable metions from our trip:
La Brigada, for traditional parilla (grilled meats) - the best steak of the trip (order the Lomo, a tender medallion of sirloin steak), but also the most expensive by far to my chagrin. We wanted to try El Desnivel, a cheaper parilla nearby in San Telmo, but the electricity was out that night in that neighborhood, and La Brigada was the first open restaurant we came across.

Los Loros in Sal Telmo, for more modern, refined cuisine. And a bit of a romantic atmosphere, perfect for our Valentine's Day dinner. Los Loros has a lot of non-steak options, which I could appreciate, since I'm not the biggest fan of steak (I only like super tender steak; Jesse, however, ate steak four out of the six days we were in Argentina.)

And with that, my Argentina tales have come to an end.


liz said...

This sounds like an awesome trip, Julia. I think Argentina is officially on my list of places to visit!

Marie said...

Thank-you for sharing this all, I have been taking notes! Sounds amazing and is just making me more excited!!

Julia said...

Marie, glad this is helpful to you. I also recommend checking out my friend Meag's BA mini guide: http://adomesticdisturbance.blogspot.com/2009/03/buenos-aires-mini-guide.html
Let me know if you have any questions. Can't wait to hear about your trip! You obviously have much more time to plan than I did!

Marie said...

Oh thank-you, Meag's blog is lovely and has loads of useful links. Now to while away the next few months dreaming...