Thursday, December 13, 2012

Banana and Dulce de Leche flavored Oreos

They're awesome. I had doubts. I risked it. They're awesome. Today was the first I saw of them on a candy store on Echeverria. I don't know if that's the only place they are. If it is, they're worth the trip. Mmm mmm mmm.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Buenos Aires Feria de Artesanías 2012

The Feria Internacional de Artesanías started this past Tuesday (December 4) and is going on through Sunday (December 9) at La Rural in Palermo. This is an event that I have literally been looking forward to since I walked out the door last year. The huge exposition showcases Argentine artists from all over the country, as well as artists from other South American countries. The entrance ticket cost A$R 25, well worth it whether you're shopping or simply admiring the art. 
I recommend you bring your whole month's salary or whatever you're willing to spend, you'll use it all and wish you'd brought more. Hundreds of stands are organized according to basic craft types including metal, glass, leather, clothing and wood among others; you can find nearly every handcrafted product under the sun from knives to jewelry and home decor to musical instruments. In the back of the hall they also have a section where each province of Argentina is represented (although you may find artisans from those provinces among the main stands as well), and also the food and drink sellers. 
I can't recommend this event enough. For ex-pats and tourists it's a great place to buy holiday gifts for friends and families, souvenirs for yourself and see the styles of the Argentina provinces you might not get to visit. But I think even Argentines will be impressed with the quality and variety of products showcased.
I accidently went overboard with the food buys. I can't resist. But those cookies on right are from Salta and they are amazing. They're shortbread cookies topped with dulce de leche and then covered with a solid (but not crunchy) sugar coating. They are truly divine. And if you give a mouse a Salteño cookie, he'll want some dulce de leche liquer to wash it down with. 
I also want to give a special shoutout to Celicias. I first discovered them at Caminos y Sabores and was thrilled to see them again. They have an excellent honey mustard dressing (very possibly the best sauce I've found in BA) as a salad dressing, dipping sauce or marinade, and I wanted more. After a chat with the guy manning the booth, I discovered they are part of the Fundacion Cedemil and are a great organization that employs, for paid wages, mentally handicapped adults in food production. Their newest product (to me at least) is cheese crackers, reminiscent of Cheez-Its. I would love them a bit crunchier but they're still addictive. As in, I already finished off the whole pack in less than 24 hours. Make sure to check them out along with so many other great places. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Buenos Aires Rain Storms aka Concrete Jungle Monsoons

Como se dice "waded" en espanol, because I just waded home from work. Buenos Aires has incredibly heavy rain storms that last for hours on end. This of course leads to flooding, especially is the lowlands of Belgrano where I happen to live.
Thus, my afternoon looked like this: Walked to and from the bus in the rain to get to work and ended up with wet-front pants and sloshy shoes. (That was the pleasant part.)
After work, waited for the bus in a small river. (That bright white square is the bus stop.)
Got off the bus because it was taking a detour due to the streets on the route being closed. (That's Cabildo, the main road.)
Tried other routes home, discovering all options led to a waist high river crossing. 
Waited and watched some people being rescued. 
Finally crossed crossed in some thigh high water. (My best option? The place pictured above, albeit following closely behind someone else.) 
Got home and took a quick shower. (This storm happened just a few hours after a chemical container explosion released a smog cloud over the city. I think my extra toe is already starting to sprout...)
But every black rain cloud has a silver lining, there'll probably be wet clothes sales by the end of the day.

Personal Fest 2012

Personal Fest is known and loved not only for its international lineup of musicians but also the whimsical carnival theme, and this year was no exception. Although the lineup may have been a little more domestic than usual (the day 2 headliner was Argentine band, Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas), the scene was as outlandish as ever with light up porter potties sporting male and female signs that danced to show when the toilet was occupied and massage chairs sprouting a hand to hold out of one armrest. (Sorry the video is sideways, but I think it's funny enough to warrant a head tilt.) There were also photo-op scenes with props like roller skates, giant lollipops and a foam machine.
After a well planned previa, we arrived to discover no beer. There's beer at Ultra but not this event, c'mon guys! The only recourse? They had good food. It never ceases to amaze that here the cost of food at an event is the same as it is in the restaurant. Hallelujah. You can almost get a buzz from a shwarma (Medio Oriente) and arepa (Caracas) mix. Add Soja to the mix and I was bien satisfecha, nonetheless.
Mexican group, Molotov was the pleasant surprise of the night. They're well known in Latin American circles, but it was the first time I heard (and heard of them). What do you think?

2012 hasn't been a easy year for Argentina, and this event was certainly not exempt from its wrath. It lacked a superstar headliner, perhaps due to all the restrictions on money, and beer for no possible good reason. Overall though it was a good show, just not up to par with last year's
P.S. Personal, you kind of discriminate against foreign people. I mean, if I have your service, I deserve to join the club!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Foods to try in Argentina

Despite it's multitude of food fails, Argentina does in fact have some must-eats. As my year and a half stay winds down, I've started to ponder what I'll miss. Sure, people who haven't been here see a medialuna and think "it's the same as a croissant," but it's not. Anyone who's had a luna understands. That being said, here is a list of foods which visitors must try, foreigners can only dream of and I will be gorging myself on from here on out.

The best foods in Argentina:

#1. MEDIALUNAS - No question. This pastry is like offspring of a croissant and a Pillsbury crescent roll. When properly made, they have a thin crispy outer crust covered in a sweet shiny coating, full of air pockets and able to be unrolled and eaten, or wolfed down in two fell swoops. They are everywhere you look, but they aren't always amazing, in fact they can be downright disgusting not worth the calories.
Best spot: Waaaay to many to choose one. It can also vary batch to batch. (Atalaya pictured)
#2. EMPANADAS: I like to think of them as homemade Hot Pockets, sans need for a microonda. (That's microwave in Spanish.) The best part is the variety of options. Now that I think of it, it's probably the food with the most variations in the country, legit. My favorites are carne de cuchillo (chopped beef), caprese, humita (corn with white sauce) and cebolla y queso (cheese and onion). They are prepared baked (al horno) or fried (frita); the fried are obviously awesome, but you gotta pace yourself on that. Also, I recently discovered that a meat empanada with raisins in it, is the ideal combo of sweet and savory.
Best spot: La Cocina @ Pueyrredón 1508, Fortin Salteno (pictured) @Cabildo 4702, or your kitchen with this recipe
#3. MILANESA: The name milanesa refers to the style of preparation- breading and then either baking or frying, a thin filet. The traditional Argentine milanesa is a thin piece of bread-crumbed beef, but you can find many varieties including chicken, fish, soy and vegetable. Milanesas are eaten as a sandwich, or as a meal topped like pizzas with everything from cheese and ham to fried eggs and heart of palm.
Best spot: El Club de la Milanesa (pictured)
#4. ASADO: Don't tell me. You're thinking, four? Shouldn't this be numero uno. Yes, when you throw down money and break the language barrier finally achieving a thick, tender, medium rare steak it vies for number one. This utopic situation though, is not always how it goes down. You'll see more choripans and parillas than you can imagine, but make sure you splurge at least once.
Best spot: La Cabrera (Cabana las Lilas pictured)
#5. FLAN: I was a flan hater when I came. It was baseless, I admit. I held the texture and consistency against it, while loving pudding, jello and Sublime behind it's back. Well, like all smart and stubborn people I came around. This Argie classic (like everything else in life) is best topped with a dollop of DDL.
Best spot: Taking recommendations.

#6. BEREJENAS ESCABCHE: Escabeche is a style of preparation similar to pickling, but with a larger variety of spices. My favorite oil-and-vinegar-soaked dish is eggplant, but you can get chicken, rabbit and a variety of other vegetables escabeche style as well.
Best spot: Your kitchen with this recipe

#7. LOCRO: Locro is a hearty stew made from a corn base that is particularly popular on patriotic holidays during the winter, like the 25th of May and 9th of July. There's no standard recipe, but common elements include lentils, pork or beef, potato, butternut squash, red pepper and other veggies.
Best spot: Sorry, no experience in restaurants.

#8.  FACTURAS: More than just medialunas, facturas in general come in a huge variety. Chocolate covered and dulce de leche filled churros are an excellent breakfast food in my opinion. Variety will depend shop to shop. It's best to get them early-ish on a weekend (or everyday) morning when they're fresh out of the oven. 
Best spot: Many, but La Argentina and La Capital (pictured) in Belgrano are good ones.

Monday, November 26, 2012

BA Thanksgiving

I'm sitting here wanting to take a shower, but inexplicably have no hot water. I think this is unfair, mostly because I have been conscientiously thankful for showers several times recently. I don't deserve this! You see, this experience has made me think a lot about life, lifestyles and what's important. A big one of these things has been how thankful I am for my life, in general and specifically the one I have (past, present and future) in the States. These are the things I've realized I'm super thankful for since I've come to BA. You won't find family and friends here (I already knew that); these are things that I've only realized I'm thankful for since I've come.
Seeing as I'm not feeling a cold shower, I'll use the time to compile a list.
1. Running water - even better if it's hot
2. Dishwashers!
3. Pepper grinders
4. Can openers
5. My mind (This is thanks to the book January First, which I read here. Reinforced by sitting next to a schizophrenic person on the Subte the next day).
6. 3G
7. Skim milk
8. Traveling - even domestically
9. Safety - mine and the general feeling
10. Mattresses
11. Heat
12. Dental care, especially in my youth
13. Medicine
Happy belated Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fería Masticar

Fería Masticar. Stylish. Expensive. Delicious. Feast your eyes on this.

Tegui. Pressed rabbit with pickled peaches, goat cheese and mustard sprouts. A$R 20.

Tegui. Buffalo steak with mashed potatoes, poached egg and greaves. A$R 35. Favorite.
Gajo. Lamb stuffed potato with sour scream and onion. A$R 30.
Austria. Apple strudel with whipped cream. A$R 20. 
No photo. Worth Mentioning. Italpast lasagna. Gajo langostinos salteados. Sugar and Spice arandano y chocolate blanco cookie. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Buenos Aires Spring 2012 Events

Spring is the best time in BA. There's so much going on before the holiday exodus, and the weather is (usually) warm and pleasant before the city begins boiling, burning and then bursting into flames around January.
My days are numbered and I'm trying to make the most of them by scouring the event scene. This is what's going on in BA for the rest of 2012.

November 16-18 --> Fería Masticar: This food festival will boast a fresh market along with classes and demonstrations on how to eat healthy. Local celeb chefs, nutritionists and other healthy foodies will try their hand at steering porteños away from DDL and queso. Good luck to them.

November 28- Dec 2 --> Espacio Mujer: Toted as "the whole world of women in one place," this exposition at La Rural will offer products and activities related to different elements of a (stereotypical Argentine) woman's life including health and beauty, family, fashion, art and home decor. 


December 1 and 2 --> Personal Fest: This annual concert showcases musicians from abroad and provides national artists a great chance for exposure, in a carnival-like setting. The main artists (Kings of Leon, Illya Kuryaki and Fiona Apple) are split between the two days. In the past the event has hosted huge names in music like Snoop Dogg in 2007 and Damian Marley last year. For some reason the biggest names in music don't want to earn Argie pesos this year. Weird. 


December 4 - 9 --> Fería Internaciónal de Artesanías: One of my all time favorites, this event also held at La Rural is like an aggregate, indoor, civilized version of all the ferías throughout the country. Artists from throughout the region offer a huge range of artisan products, sometimes at prices even lower than the regular ferías. Christmas shopping at it's finest.

December 8 --> The Argentina Independent Underground Market: An expat food haven, this event has quickly becoming a classic since the first one this winter. Hosted by the English language newspaper, the event specializes in prepared food for on the spot chow and makes a day of it with music. This "Christmas edition" will also have crafts for sale. For all the expats who won't be traveling this year, this is as close to home sweet home it's going to get. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

USA complaints vs. life in Argentina

It's election day in the USA! Unfortunately that means a lot less patriotism and pride than one would expect. In the entitled and self centered world we live in, people don't consider what's best for them might not be best for the society at large, or that regardless of who is elected we [will continue to] enjoy numerous great freedoms and a quality of life much better than the majority of the world.
Of course, angst and emotions run high is any society when the government is changing. But so many entitled Americans, who have never lived the hard life in the States, or who have never lived and worked abroad don't realize that even when things are bad they are relatively good. Living in Argentina has given me a new perspective and appreciation for the United States, but also left me frustrated with people who don't know how good they have it.
Americans complain about the rising prices of gas, but Argentine's struggle with the rising prices of food -staples like milk and vegetables. Inflation averages 2-3% each month, though published figures are widely known to be low-balled. The past few years have been especially alarming in that the inflation has been especially high somewhat mimicking the years leading up to the 2001 crisis. Read more about that issue here, or here, or here! (The second link has a great chart comparing prices then and now.)
(This graph from tradingeconomics.com shows inflation for the past two years.)
Americans complain about federal funding being cut from Planned Parenthood. In traditionally Catholic Argentina, abortion was just legalized this year, and only for victims of rape or if the mother's life is in danger. This kidnapped sex slave had her abortion protested.
Americans complain about waiting in line to vote, even with the introduction of early voting. In Argentina, voting is required by law, one day only and citizens are assigned one specific voting location. You better believe in a country infamous for lines everywhere polls are no exception, and with 16 and 17 year olds now able to vote that will only get worse. 
Americans complain that the government is corrupt. But in Argentina, in the last six months alone, two former military leaders were convicted of baby stealing, a former president was on trial for corruption, and a Youtube video of police torturing prisoners was released. Not to mention that the same couple has been ruling the country for 12 years, and President Cristina tried to make a constitutional amendment to make it 16
Americans complain about insecurity. Actually, they don't really. The issue generally only come up in the wake of an occasional tragedy. In Argentina violent crime is daily issue for people, especially in Buenos Aires. Two stories from this week (and you hear these stories every week) that come from people I know include a friend being robbed at gunpoint on the same block as her home, and a student fighting off a thief who tried to yank a gold chain off his neck through a subway window. I also know firsthand: someone who was kidnapped and robbed though later released, someone else who received an extortion call to throw money from his balcony or else his allegedly kidnapped mother would be killed, and many people who were victim to a myriad of other lesser offenses. 
Americans complain when some people Occupy Wall Street and other cities. In Argentina, everyone is used to everyone else occupying whatever street they want -- skateboarderspolice, middle class people, truck drivers, miscellaneous unions, students, air traffic controllers... There's no messing with a protest. 
Americans complain that the US is becoming socialist and the government controls everything. In Argentina citizens who want to travel abroad and exchange pesos for dollars need to apply to and be approved by the national tax agency. If approved, Argentine travelers are only allotted between U$S 70 and U$D 100 per day of travel. And if you try to use a credit/debit card or shop online there is an additional 15% charge. Also, the national identity card which all citizens must carry requires you to give up your fingerprint
Don't get me wrong, Argentina also has some policies that are better, and in my opinion more progressive, than those of the US. For one, gay marriage is legal (since 2010) throughout the country and children are recognized as the child of both parents. Another example are labor laws that favor employees - giving more time off for holidays and maternity leave, making it harder to fire people and requiring a biannual bonus. Every country has its good and bad. Overall though, life in Argentina (and many other countries) is harder than life in the USA.
The attitude of constant progress, innovation and improvement is one thing that makes the US great. But in pursuing those things Americans should realize that even as is, and as things will be with the next president whether it be next year or in 2017, life is pretty good. 
...Am I starting to love Argentina?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wet clothes sale

I recently caught a headline about backlash due to a Hurricane Sandy sale. Being in Argentina has made me realize how utterly ridiculous Americans are about being offended. Gone are the days of good humor or just plain ignoring things you don't like; the USA has become the land of the official apology demand, and it's making everyone look dumb. Argentina can't be bothered by the political correctness.
Capital was hit with a big storm the same Monday as Sandy hit the Carolinas. (But I didn't write this post until now because my inbred political correctness didn't think I should publish a lighthearted article in the wake of a disaster.) It was no hurricane, but it did close down subway and train networks, flood millions of acres of agricultural fields, force some people to be evacuated from their homes and destroy this shelter for hundreds of dogs.
Just like their capitalist frenemies to the north, BA stores took advantage of the sales opportunity with what they call "wet clothes sales." With a rhyming tagline of liquidacion por inundacion, many stores had bouncers to control the dozens of people waiting in line for their piece of the discount action. (This speaks to how rare discounts are in BA.)
Oh one last thing though, it wasn't just a sales gimmick with a catchy tagline. The stores were literally selling wet clothes. Stores flooded and they were trying to get rid of the soggy merch before the musty smell set in. That's what I call a LIQUIDation. (The potential for bad puns here is infinite...)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lujan Zoo

A trip into the campo is more or less an adventure in and of itself, especially for a foreigner. Today's most noteworthy sightings include: A. Buses driving on the highway, full of soccer fans hanging out the open doors and windows, on their way to the country's most intense match, B. Casual encounters with lions and tigers, and C. A criminal fleeing the police by running down the center of the highway. My guess is that if you let the numbers do the talking, option B is the safest.
Lujan Zoo, located in Buenos Aires province, has been toted as "bizarre," "controversial," and "the world's most dangerous zoo." The (semi legit) reason behind these titles is that it's allegedly the only zoo in the world where guests are allowed to get in the cage with and pet a variety of exotic creatures including full grown and baby lions and tigers, monkeys, elephants and a range of other more common animals like camels and farm animals.
That reason, of course, is exactly why I've been dying to go for months. Yesterday, I finally made it. Since the timing of the visit coincided with the Boca/River Plate Superclásico, lines were short or nonexistent. (Touching lions and tigers just doesn't complete with the thrill of a soccer match to most Argies.) Though, some lion and tiger handlers listening to the game on a handheld radio were less than enthusiastic about answering our (distracting) questions while we pet the animals, but I digress. 
(The scene of the indifference. Check those tiger-handler flip flops and that radio)
Some info about the zoo: It's quite old and basic; they don't seem to focus on landscaping, updating or general atmosphere. It's not in bad condition per se, in fact it's exactly what I expected, but if you don't get out of Capital much you might be suprised. It's also designed to be a recreational park along with a zoo. Thus, they have some playground type activities for kids, food stands and picnic tables, and fields for playing soccer and the like. There is also an old tractor/old vehicles "museum" a la Jeeper's Creepers complete with a gas masked army scarecrow, and a small train. I doubt throngs of people are trekking into the campo for these attractions alone, but it helps make a full day of the trip.
The cost of entrance is A$R 70 for Argies and A$R 130 for foreigners. This includes free parking and all the animal touching you can handle. They have professional photographers throughout the park but you are also welcome to take your own pictures everywhere, except the tropical bird and reptile area. I'm not entirely sure why that is. The handlers also happily help with group pictures or solo travelers, in fact they're quite skilled as photographers. (The lion shot above is an example of this!) You are also free to bring your own food and drink. So, that totals out to about U$D 30 for the experience of a lifetime. 
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the zoo is the casualness of it all. There's no waivers or training session. You just wait in line, go into the cage when they call you, and stand where they tell you. Dogs and tigers share cages, so the human-friendly behavior of the dog rubs off on the tigers. Plus, the staff who I doubt were trained zoologists, were cracking me up all day with their candid comments. According to one handler, the tigers don't mind being pet, but if you do it too lightly you tickle and thereby irritate them. When asked about the rumored drugging of the animals, the staff told us that they aren't medicated, just heavily fed. But, if they were to leave the animals two weeks without eating, no one could get near them. 
In this video, my friend and I are inside the cage of two white Bengal tigers. The handler tells us, "it's like raising a dog. People come and touch them and then they get used to it. Well, but these are new, we just got them a few days ago, so we're getting used to them." Meanwhile, outside the cage another worker tells my boyfriend that the animals are new, and the staff don't really know how they will act so they don't let just anyone into this cage. Only trained professionals like us?
All in all the trip was amazing. The zoo was impressive, and though I had doubts about the condition of the animals the vast majority looked and acted healthy and content. I think that for the animals to be so docile around humans they must have the love and trust that comes from years of good treatment. To me, the controversy is all drama. Guests brave enough to get close won't regret it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

DVD Madero Market

Working in Puerto Madero has its ups and downs. The commute is a little inconvenient, and the tourists can get on one's nerves, but it's worth it. The scenery is beautiful, the air is clean and quite, these turtles, but most of I'm in love with this kiosko.
It's officially called DVD Madero Market (Olga Cossettini 1150), though I'm not sure exactly where the kiosko/market line is drawn. Regardless, this tiny shop has more items I like per square meter than any other (food) store in BA.
I discovered it after many frustrated weeks of dodging A$R 70 menu ejecutivo lunches. I wasn't looking for lunch just a place to grab a snack, a really good snack though, between San Telmo and the office. I saw Jack Skellington (from Nightmare Before Christmas) and I had a feeling I'd found something special.
This place has got everything awesome. In way of imported goods they have a really legit selection because it spans all types of grocery items. For example, just in the sauce department they have Heinz ketchup, mustard and relish, A-1 Sauce, Bull's-Eye BBQ sauce, Kikkoman soy sauce and both Mayo and Hellman's brand mayonnaise. In the Italian food department alone they have Prego, Filippo Berio and Barilla brand sauce and pastas. There is also a lot of Asian imports included canned fruit drinks, sauces, ramen type noodles and snacks, but I don't know if they are the good brands or not. They also have this entire Mexican food section.
There's a vast selection of imported snack foods like Planters peanut butter (smooth AND crunchy), a variety of Pepperidge Farm cookies (Piroutte, Brussels and Nantucket Chocolate today but the variety seems to rotate), pretzel sticks, plus lots of other imported candy (Starburst, Skittles, Twix, etc.), cookies (chocolate covered Oreos by the 2 piece pack) and snacks (Lay's, Pringles, etc.).
They even have Cheerwine! I never even saw this in the U.S. until I moved to North Carolina, but they got it.
Imported obsession aside they also have lots of other things you might want. They get mini baguettes delivered everyday around 11. They have fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen berries and other frozen foods too, imported and domestic alcohol (including nips/airplane bottles), deli meats and cheeses and a small stock of various librería and tech goods. They also have scaning and copying, and I don't know if printing is an official service but I had a USB and they did that for me too!
Oh yeah, and I guess they are a DVD place; like half the store is full of DVDs. You can see more about that here on their website.

Olga Cossettini and Azucena Maizani
Monday - Friday: 8 am to midnight
Saturday: 9 am to 1 am
Sunday: 11 am to midnight
Tele: 5775.2080

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cabaña Las Lilas

Cabaña Las Lilas is one of those Puerto Madero parillas that locals never go to and ex-pats only visit if they get paid in dollars or when their friends and family come to BA. Well, I didn't make it when my family visited, so I pretty much wrote it off. That was until my mom, true believer and amazing orchestrator of special occasions, hooked me up with a "whatever I want" birthday dinner. 
Here's how it went down:
The location is macho elegant - hardwood floors, brick walls, lots of metal and an expansive outdoor patio for cigar smoking (don't worry if you forgot yours, they have), whiskey drinking and other other manly things. Though beautiful, it's not the most authentic environment, but neither is paying $100 USD for parilla for two. 
The complimentary entrada is definitely the best I've had in the city. (But, maybe that happens everywhere the food is overpriced by 100% or more...) It included roasted red pepper, salmon, eggplant escabeche and tomatoes and mozzarella. The variety of breads were also excellent and included my favorite- chipa plus a classic white bread which was delicious and quite aesthetically pleasing in it's vertical display.  
Unfortunately, the big moment was anticlimactic. The meat was by no means bad, it just wasn't what it was built up to be - better than what I've gotten in other less exclusive and less expensive parillas. In fact, the only thing that set it apart from the others was a cute little cow decal with toothpick legs stuck in the steak, happily declaring "I'm juicy." (Being that since childhood I've been a fan of small things and animals, this wasn't as disappointing as it sounds.)
As this was my birthday celebration, I was pleasantly surprised when after the meal they brought out a tray of digestivos. All you can drink! I don't know if they meant it in a physical challenge (to quote the great Double Dare) kind of way, but they didn't just pour one and take it away... One option was similar to lemoncello and the other was a simple white liquor. 
If you enjoy the finer things in life, this is definitely the place for you. The experience is the in the details. However, if you are looking for a blow your mind piece of beef and an authentic Argentine experience skip it- you can get a whole lot more elsewhere for what you'll spend here.