Monday, September 10, 2007

624 hours in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is doing well these days. For all the economic turmoil Argentina has gone through, residents are finally spending again, and the prices reflect this. It's no longer possible to buy a pair of shoes for 10 American dollars as I did on my last trip four years ago, but at least it is still possible for three people to eat out at a nice restaurant with a show for about $10 each.

Lunch: Any confiteria in Buenos Aires is a good place for breakfast or lunch (I never really woke up early enough for breakfast). A confiteria is similar to a cafe or tea house and I've never been to a bad one. I usually opt for tostadas, sort of like grilled cheese but thinner than the American version. For meat eaters, tostadas with cheese and jamon crudo (prosciutto) is supposed to be quite good. Sandwiches de miga are another typical lunch food. It's also made with thin bread and no crust. Mr. Miga, which has various stores around the city, has options ranging from pineapple to corn to roquefort cheese.

Merienda: Tea time is known as merienda, and is usually around 5 p.m. The options for my favorite meal of the day are overwhelming. Tostadas are also an option for merienda and any confiteria will have a good selection of coffee. If you're more into chocolate, submarinos are available everywhere and can also be prepared at home. Made with hot milk and melted chocolate, submarinos get their name because the chocolate bars are long and slender and look like a submarine when placed inside the milk. Submarinos are usually made with Chocolate Aguila, available at any grocery store or kiosko. The best place to get a submarino, if you feel like spending a little extra, is Park Hyatt hotel (located at Avenida Alvear 1661), which offers specialty submarinos using truffles instead of chocolate bars. I really enjoyed the dark chocolate, which was not too sweet. Other options include white chocolate, whiskey, or mocha.

Pastries known as factura go well with coffee or submarinos or mate (an herbal drink made with yerba). There are different types of factura and anything with dulce de leche is a good option, but the most typical are the media lunas, which look like a small croissant, but taste sweeter. Any bakery will have a good assortment and I've never had a bad batch of factura anywhere in Buenos Aires.

Alfajores, another Argentina delicacy, are like big cookies filled with dulce de leche and usually covered in chocolate (there are variations on the fillings and coatings). They are available at every kiosco, but the best place for an alfajor is Havannah. You can sit down and have a coffee and alfajor at the store (you won't have trouble finding one as they are almost as prominent as Starbucks in the United States) or take a box home.

If you don't feel like going out for merienda, just go to the nearest kiosco, buy as much candy and chocolate as you feel like eating and take it up to wherever you are staying. I recommend Tita (chocolate with a wafer inside) and Bananita Dolca (chocolate with banana flavored filling).

If it's Monday, go to Freddo for buy one get one free ice cream and then take home a few kilos for dessert for the rest of the week. The dulce de leche ice cream tastes like pure dulce de leche instead of the caramel stuff that they try to pass for dulce de leche in the United States. The consistency of the ice cream is also smoother than anything I've found at home. The other two ice cream shops in the same league as Freddo are Persicco and Volta. Persicco has chocuquina ice cream with pieces of Chocolina cookies and Volta offers Bananita Volta (which tastes like Bananita Dolca). But if you just want a simple dulce de leche granizado, Freddo is still the best.

Dinner- Dinner is never earlier than 9 p.m. and can be as late as 1 a.m. Fabricas de pasta (places that make fresh pasta) are just as common as confiterias. My favorite place for fresh pasta to make at home is San Jose de Flores. They really pack the filling into the raviolis for exquisite flavor.

Nightlife- Like any big city, Buenos Aires has enough theatre, bars, clubs, and restaurants to never be bored. The best thing is with the new non-smoking laws, you can have a night out and come home without smelling like smoke. Paseo La Plaza (Av. Corrientes 1660) is a good place to start. It is an area with tons of little theatres, bars, restaurants, and shops. It is also the home of The Cavern, an imitation of the Cavern in Liverpool. We saw a talented George Harrison tribute band called Dark Horse.

There is no shortage of options of tango in the city, but a good choice that is not too touristy is La Viruta. It's kind of hard to find because it's located under the Armenian cultural center. The cover price gets you in for tango lessons, dancing, and a tango show. Make reservations if you want a table. Three-course meal specials are only 20 pesos each. The food is decent, but not spectacular, so you can always go for the dancing and eat either before or after.

Haircut- I always like to get my haircut whenever I go to Buenos Aires because I can go to a trendy place for about $10. This time I tried De La Cabeza (Mario Bravo 1136) on a recommendation. Kim cut both my hair and my sister's. We both have very different hair types and we both left very happy. He thinned and layered my hair so it wouldn't be quite so frizzy and poofy and he gave my sister long bangs.

Shopping- There are tons of shopping malls in Buenos Aires and they all have the same stores. El Solar de la Abadia is a little different. Although you'll find Kosioku and Cheeky and every other major store, the architecture adds something extra to the shopping experience. It used to be a factory, and the floors and walls were kept pretty much intact.

On the weekends, the bars in Palermo Hollywood have stands set up for shopping. The prices are reasonable and the merchandise is original. I bought a purse made out of paper for 39 pesos (about $12).

1 comment:

Manashi Mukherjee said...

What a great travel piece, Linda! You should think about pitching something on Buenos Aires to an in-flight mag for one of the airlines that flies there.