Thursday, September 4, 2014

Eating My Way Through B.A.


Despite picking up a stomach bug in Salvador, my Buenos Aires itinerary still managed to center around food. Maybe it was the rainy, winter chill that had me craving calories, or maybe being forced to take it easy for a few days gave me time to sit back and indulge. In any case, I savored each meal, coffee, or sweet treat I could get my hands on in B.A. Here are three experiences that stand out...

Café Tortoni, Avenida de Mayo 825


Café Tortoni is a great reminder of why Buenos Aires is sometimes called, "the Paris of the South." Listed in every guidebook or article, I'd expected the place to be super touristy, but most of the patrons seemed to be Argentine - small groups of friends with winter coats and shopping bags, and dignified-looking old men and women, with their newspapers and fur coats, respectively.


The waiters were dressed to fit the part - most wore black jackets and bowties. My waiter had grey pinstriped pants paired with a white apron. Awesome. I ordered a café con leche with a churro. (Yes, I probably should have ordered a hot chocolate to go with the churro instead, but I didn't think my stomach could deal.) I also requested a medialuna con jamón y queso, bringing back memories of middle school Spanish work books.


The coffee and churro were perfect for a chilly day. The medialuna was good, with a slightly lemony sweetness to offset the ham and cheese, but in retrospect, was a bit of overkill for an already grumbling stomach.

El Cuartito, Talcahuano 937


I'd read so many good things about El Cuartito, so when Natalia told me it was just around the corner from the apartment, I was thrilled. The first time I stopped by was at 11:30 in the morning - it was still closed. After checking the hours, I came back close to 1:00. The place was packed, with both tourists and locals. I'd read their Fugazzeta pizza (with onions and heaps of Mozzerella) was a must-order, so I got a slice of that and a slice of anchovy. Not knowing how to ask for carry-out, I ended up eating off a cute, painted plate at the counter.


On my last night in BA, I looked up the words for take-out in Castellano, bought a $4 bottle of wine at the supermarket down the street, and ordered two slices and an empanada "para llevar". The cashier asked if the bottle of wine was for him, but I told him it was "para llevar también". I took my white and blue box back to the apartment, triumphant.

Anuva Wines, Palermo Soho


In my trip planning, I'd run across two culinary experiences that piqued my interest. One was a wine tasting with food pairings. The other, Steaks by Luis, was a closed door dining experience that included wine. At only $20 more than the wine tasting, the latter sounded like a far better bargain.

Flash-forward to July 4th. I'm sitting in my Buenos Aires apartment and reconsidering my options while knocking back Cipro tablets. In the end, I knew I couldn't manage a full, multi-course meal in my current state, and so went with Anuva Wines instead. I booked the tasting and received a confirmation and address a short while later.

The closed-door thing didn't get off to a great start - it was a cold, rainy evening, and though I knew I was at the right place, it took about five minutes for someone to come down from the loft and let me in. Once inside, things started improving. I chose a seat at the less crowded table and chatted with an Australian couple while we waited for everyone else to arrive.

I kept super-detailed notes on each wine, and naturally, have misplaced them since.

Once everyone was seated, our host, Diego, introduced himself and told us a bit about the purpose of Anuva Wines. They cater to English-speaking tourists who are either unable to make it out to the wine regions of Argentina or for those who want a preview of things to come. (The Australian couple was headed out to Mendoza next and got some recommendations on wineries to visit.) Aside from descriptions and stories about the vineyards whose wines we would be tasting this evening, there was a large map of Argentina's wine regions, which was perfect for a visual person like me.

We started with Hom Espumante, a sparkling, Prosecco-like wine, paired with crackers, cheese, and a thin slice of apple and walnut. Next up was a Torrontes, a fruity white that reminded me a bit of a Vidal, but with an over-powering perfumey end. Diego said "honeysuckle" and he was right on - very floral. It was paired with two small scoops of fruit sorbet. The mango was a perfect pairing - it took away the harshness of the aftertaste. The strawberry took away the flavor, bringing out more mineral notes.


The last three wines were poured simultaneously, to allow for comparison. Two were Malbecs, the other a Malbec-Cabernet Franc blend. The first Malbec was light and fruity, and the blend was really nice and smooth. The final Malbec was full and meaty, almost gamey. I was excited about the blend, as Cab Franc is a popular grape in my home state of Virginia. The others at my table weren't familiar with it, and didn't seem very impressed by it. I loved it!


Meanwhile, our food pairings for the last three wines were brought to us one at a time. First was a plate of various cheese, meats, and spreads with bread. Next was a really nice empanada. To finish up, we were served two chocolate truffles, from... Bolivia and Colombia, I think? Delicious, in any case.

At the end of the tasting, we were told we could order any of the wines we'd tasted and have them sent home for us. However, Anuva only ships to the United States, so as the only American present, I was the only person out of about 15 who was handed an order form. Even so, there was no uncomfortable high-pressure sales pitch - I merely folded the form up and stuck it in my bag.


Overall, it was an enjoyable evening and the amount of food ended up being just right for my recovering stomach. The price tag was a bit on the high end by Argentina standards, at $54 total. I ended up having an amazing steak in Puerto Iguazu, but I'm still curious about Steaks by Luis. Next time?

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