Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Moyano strike

What do you call a day off from work spent hanging out and drinking with coworkers, visiting the city and doing a little sightseeing and complaining about work? In Argentina, apparently you call it a strike. Today was the much anticipated drivers' strike, for truckers and other people who wanted to jump on the bandwagon. Turns out, it wasn't just for truckers; many unions and labor/interest/government opposition groups were participating, but because of last week's fuel transport strike the truckers got all the glory. 
The mixed industry crew was led by Moyano, who is secretary of two entities - the General Confederation of Labour (government position) and the Truck Drivers' Union (conflict of interests much?). This strike was in the name of raising the income tax threshold, increasing government handouts benefits for families and some weird deal that Moyano wouldn't run for his government position again if the demands were met.
Strikes are not a joke. They aren't as a break from work but a show of solidarity and seriousness relating to an issue, a time to discuss problems and a place to seek out solutions.
That being said let me report what I saw: numerous bottles of light colored Coke, take that as you may; several boxes of wine, though being passed around in the spirit of solidarity; a handful of lunch trays, cause hey if you’re gonna be camped out on the lawn of the Casa Rosada you might as well make a picnic of it; lots of picture taking, of tourist attractions that is not, for propaganda materials; 1 guy picking his nose despite being in the center of a group of friends; a lot of Che Guevara’s face plus other Communist and Marxist symbols; a path of litter trailing the parading protesters; and, a whole lot of worker men hollering at the poor Porteñas.
Well, sounds like another well done protest in Buenos Aires.
Blah, blah, blah… everyone wants more money. Guess what isn't a good way to show you deserve more, partying in the streets and abandoning your responsibilities!
Doesn't this make you want to give everyone a raise?!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Taste! 2012

Insanely delicious? Deliciously insane? I can't decided which word order more accurately describes last night's event better. The vast majority of the food was phenomenal, the tables were cute and festive and the venue was beautiful, but the hungry mob was disastrous.
There were literally hundreds of people crowded outside the door of the Buenos Aires Design auditorium more than half an hour before doors opened. When the doors did open it was cutthroat trying to get inside, and at one point organizers actually closed the doors so that the people already inside could register before more people tried to push through.
The idea of the event was flawless; they prepared little comment books to record your impressions of the food, distributed pens so you could fill them out and created little ticket books to exchange with the vendors for samples. But with the mayhem inside, that all went to shit. People were pushing from all directions to get their paws on the food and there was no free space to stand and eat when you did get your hands on some grub. However, all this chaos didn't deter anyone including me, so the tasting went on.
WARNING: There was no time for talking to the providers, so I don't have ingredient details on the dishes beyond delicious or not so delicious.
Due to said chaos, I wasn't able to try everything, but nearly everything that I did eat was superb. I forged my way to two Peruvian restaurants, both of which were delicious. I think Peruvian is my new food fetish.
The first restaurant we ate from was Nazca, and it set the bar high. As you can see from the photo, it had an impressive spread including several dishes and dessert shots. Nazca was so generous that with one ticket you could taste as much as you liked from their offerings of seasoned rice, potatoes, marinated chicken, chicken in spiced sauce and some type of awesome roll with chicken salad inside. They also had delicious sauces, and little dessert shots of caramely-goodness topped with whipped cream. I was in mow down mode so I didn't get to savor as much as I would have liked, but I'll be heading to Nazca ASAP.
The other Peruvian restaurant was perudeli, and if that 3 foot llama didn't draw you in than the big pot of delicious should have. This must be the quintessential Peruvian dish (or maybe just easy to transport) because it was offered at both of these stands. Aji de gallina is strips to shreds of chicken in a pepper cream sauce served with rice and greens for garnish. It is flavorful, rich and warm, and not too spicy for the pussy Argie palate.
Anyone who knows me me knows I'm a sucker for addict of sweets. Anyone who knew me when I was a kid also knows I have a thing for miniature stuff. So naturally blueberry pies topped with heart shaped crusts were like a custom godsend. When they did not disappoint, I was sure it was divine intervention (Just look at the heavenly glow in the photo!). These tiny blueberry tarts from KP Pastelera were incredible, with a flaky crust and sweet but still fruit-tasting filling. I had seconds, and literally went for thirds but they were already out! (I think it was the first table to sell out.) KP, is a North American pastry chef who has blessed Buenos Aires with her presence; her website is a food blog, recipe book and online order portal.
Even the places that I wasn't crazy about were all good enough to make me give them a second chance. After all, preparing food without a kitchen while pushy throngs wait in anticipation ain't easy. There was a deep dish pizza place called Roman's that has BBQ chicken pizza! But, I got a corner piece so I couldn't evaluate it to much. Atlanta Wing Company had good sauces but served cold wings, boo! And Top It frozen yogurt had a great set up with tons of toppings, but the yogurt was melting and seemed watery not creamy. I'll keep you posted on redemption reviews

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Taste!

**To see how it went, click here. ** 
The other day I was thinking that the vast majority of my favorite words start with "f": family, friends, food (with flavor, like french fries, fried stuff in general, fish, fruit and frosting), free, festival.... Coincidentally I've just been informed of one event that includes all of these "effers", except family and friends.
If you live in Buenos Aires and also like fucking free food festivals you should click on this link. This very well could be the best event I've ever heard of.
Details:
Name: Taste! Exposición Gastronómica
Hosted by: Guia Oleo and Buenos Aires Delivery
At: Buenos Aires Design in Recoleta 
On: June 21
At: 20 (8pm) -23 (11 pm)
Tickets: ARE BY RESERVATION ONLY AND YOU NEED TO RESERVE ON THEIR WEBSITE!
Here's the link again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to look like a Porteño

Like any huge city, Buenos Aires has an enormous breadth of style; on the daily you'll see everything from sweats at work to club wear during morning rush hour. However, with less disposable income and less consumerism than we have in North America, Argentina also has less fickle fashions. The predominant style now is the same as it was when I first came to Buenos Aires in 2010. Styles do change, but the classic Porteño look doesn't. Thus, one can always spot a foreigner in Bs.As. by a quick assessment of their style. 
Whether you're just curious about Argentine style, or you're trying to avoid looking like a fish food tourist, here's your head to toe guide for looking like a Porteño.
1. HEAD 
Ladies, make sure your hair is long, at least past your shoulders, but the longer the better. You should wear it down and usually straight. If you must put it up, the preferred style is a bun on top of your head secured with a clip or a scrunchie, never a hair elastic. Thick bangs are optional. Any other hair style is for old ladies or rebels. 
Men, you can blend in with any length longer than a crew cut  (because that's for the U.S. Army) including long flowing locks; it's best to just copy your favorite soccer player, though. Whatever style you choose, be sure to have a rattail underneath. 
Either sex could use dreadlocks, but you'll be judged for it.
The majority of Argentine girls and young women don't use makeup during the day, so if you want to blend in you shouldn't either. The majority of middle aged (and botoxed) and old women do, so if that's you then load up. For going out, standard going out makeup is ... standard.
Facial piercings are pretty big too, and are usually worn with a small colored ball. 
2. BODY
The work week looks very different from the weekend in terms of attire. Work style is rather traditional in most companies, so many people wear suits and ties everyday. Uniforms are also very common, so seeing a chef with a proper hat and white jacket, a bank teller with a skirt suit or a city maintenance employee in a reflective tape accented jumpsuit is very common. Of course, the fashionable elite just wear the same clothes they wear to the club to work; nothing drives success like a little seduction. 
If you don't have a prescribed dress code athletic gear is favored among both men and women. Adidas (haha) and Nike (haha) pants and jackets/sweatshirts are quite common, as is national soccer club athletic wear. Counter-intuitively American brands mainly Gap (haha), Abercrombie (haha), Hollister (haha) and Polo (haha), plus English graphic t's are also big here.
Weird pants are all rage. This mostly applies to girls and women who have harem, drop crotch, graphic print leggings plus more pants I don't know how to describe. However, (usually hippie) men sometimes join in on this trend with knit pants. Jeans are standard too, but that's not Argie specific.
*Most of these "imported brands" are knockoffs. Sorry rich luxury brands, no real business for you here!
3. FEET
Women have several distinct directions to go in the category of footwear. The most popular among the (street and subway clogging, can't walk on stairs or the crumbled sidewalks) fashionistas is the platform heel. The platform should be around 4 centimeters, and the heel should be another 6 to 10 on top of that. It's best if these shoes are also brightly colored suede and lace up, but that isn't mandatory. If you're a pussy fashionista you can go with a straight platform, which is particularly common a la Berkenstocks, clogs or saddle shoes. 
For the practical but still style conscious girls, the best bet is a low calf, leather, lace up boot. These can be in a classic brown or black, but colors like red and green are available if you want to make a lukewarm fashion statement. The really casual girls usually go for sneakers, generally converse high tops or Pony brand with velcro. 
An important note about both boots and hightop sneakers is that to appear truly authentic you should keep the top 2 holes of shoe unlaced, then wrap the laces around your ankle in the area of said holes once or twice and tie them in front. 
Businessmen wear leather dress shoes. The rest of the men wear sneakers, and the favorite brands are Nike, Adidas, Converse and for some reason Merrell. 
Of course men and women can also just use gaucho shoes. (That's not their official name. But guess what? Neither is Toms!)
4. ACCESSORIES
Yes, accessories make all the difference. 
First stop baggage claim. The vast majority of people carry their work documents and personal effects in an old paper shopping bag to work. I don't know why, but I think it could literally be the #1 most used piece of baggage. However, if your daily supplies weigh more than a sweater you might need to carry a backpack, on the front, like a faux pregnancy. You don't have to carry it that way if you think it looks weird (unless you want to make it to and from work with all your belongings, cause then you do have to carry it that way). And on that note of being robbed and/or pick pocketed, across-the-body-strap bags that zip close are usual.
As far as jewelry goes, see what's being sold on the streets outside of Alto Palermo, on Cabildo or in another upscale area and you'll see what's trending. Right now it's neon accents, but I think that's winding down.
During the winter, legwarmers are pretty common. Sometimes your weird pants aren't very warm. Scarves can also help with this, but lighter weight ones are huge all year round.
Men here accessorize too! So, if you're a norteamericana on vacay looking for a quick romance don't consider a bag carrying, jewelry wearing Argie as gay just yet. Usually, (thankfully) jewelry is something small and subtle like a carved wood ring, string bracelet or cross necklace. Argentinos are also big on murses (man purses if you aren't exposed to pop culture ever). It's not their fault though, most people don't have cars and go 10 or more hours without passing by home. 

Dress like this; don't say that you're American or that North America is a different continent, and you'll blend in just fine.

Monday, June 11, 2012

BA Underground Market

The Argentina Independent, an online/trying-to-get-printed English language newspaper, hosted an underground market/food festival this past Saturday, June 9th. Having seen the ad on Facebook, I kind of doubted the "undergroundness" of it. Once I got there though, it seemed pretty underground. As in held in an abandoned factory, a la Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The photos were taken with a flash, so imagine the scene with less light, creepy...
Luckily, three stories later the end result was less Hostel and more Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. The small space dedicated to the tasting and browsing was jam packed, with long lines to get in, buy event vouchers and actually get your hands on the grub. Stands were selling a variety of food including sauces, sweets, baked goods, prepared food, plus bevies like lemonade and beer. The crowd was mostly Americans seeking their native foods like hot sauce and beef jerky, though there were a sprinkling of locals and foreigners from other countries, both buying and selling. 
The best thing I tasted was a tres leches cake from One Day Cafe , which I may or may not have gotten two portions of. (The link above is to the cook's blog, where you can find the recipe for tres leches cake plus other Argie influenced food IN ENGLISH!) A couple other favorites were New Orleans rice and beans, spicy dark chocolate and pickles. 
Except for a minor power outage snafu, which probably really fucked things up for latecomers who didn't get a taste of the first batches, the event was a complete success. So here's a lesson for ex-pats: if you're lured into an abandoned factory with offers of food, follow your stomach and go ... (just kidding!)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Eggplants Escabeche Recipe

Escabeche is an originally Mediterranean marinade which has made it's way into cuisines of several countries all over the world, and has been altered in as many ways. The lowest common denominator is a meat or vegetable main ingredient plus vinegar, oil and spices. Several types of escabeches are popular in Argentina including chicken and fish, but since I'm not too big on preserved meats, I usually eat berejenas en escabeche. I have tried it in several in different restaurants, but this homemade recipe is the best I've had. The dish is served cold or room temperature, perfect for you northamericanos currently enjoying summer!

Berejenas en escabeche / Eggplant escabeche
This recipe is a transcription by me of the work of master chef Alejandro.
Ingredients:
2-4 medium eggplants
3 cups of white vinegar
1-2 cups of sunflower or vegetable oil
4 cloves of garlic
chile powder or shredded chile (approx. 1 1/2 teaspoons)
bay leaves (approx. a dozen)
freshly ground (or crushed/chopped with a knife if you don't have a grinder) black pepper, plus a few whole corns for aesthetics if you'd like
coarse salt (approx. 1/4 cup)
Tools:
knife
large bowl or strainer/colander
large pot
stove
glass jar (or bowl and plastic wrap)

1. Slice eggplants horizontally into half inch/two centimeter-ish slices. Place in a bowl (or better, a strain/colander), sprinkle heavily with course salt and leave to sit 3 - 6 hours.
*You could slice horizontally if you'd like, but it makes storage a little more difficult. You can also remove the skin if you like, but the pieces become soft while cooking, so I think keeping the skin on helps them stay together better. 
2. Rinse the salt off the eggplant (and the bowl because you will be using it again in step 4). In a large pot create a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water, around 1 cup of each for each eggplant you use, i.e. 3 eggplants = 3 cups of vinegar and 3 cups of water. The eggplants do not need to be entirely submerged. Add the eggplants to the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook approximately 8 minutes, until the white part starts looking brownish and the water is becoming purple.
*The amount of vinegar can be adapted to personal preference. If you don't have that much vinegar it's okay, the final product will just be less acidic. Conversely, you could make it up to 75% vinegar if you love vinegar, and the final product will be more acidic. 
3. While the eggplants are boiling, prepare the seasoning. Peel and slice the garlic and grind/crush the pepper. Season the bottom of your large bowl.
4. Strain or remove with a slotted spoon, the slices of eggplant from the vinegar/water. Place them in your bowl in layers. Season with all 4 spices between every layer or every 2 layers.
 
6. When you have used all of the eggplant and spices, pour in enough oil to just cover the eggplant. Sunflower or vegetable oil allows the flavors of the vinegar, eggplant and spices to take center stage, however you can also use olive oil (if that kind of thing is in your budget). Experiment with both and create your own custom recipe.
 5. Leave on the counter to cool until room temperature. When room temperature, cover with plastic (or a plate) and refrigerate 1 hour.
The eggplant escabeche can be served now, or transferred into a jar for storage. The eggplant can be eaten alone but is traditionally eaten atop crackers or bread. You can also try it on pasta, sandwiches and salads. If you want to store it, I recommend using a glass jar, putting the slices into the jar one by one so you don't break them and then pouring in the oil afterwards. An empty Nescafe jar is the perfect size.
 Buen provecho!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ciudad Emergente

Ahh, fond memories of my one of very first festivals in Buenos Aires back in 2010. Ciudad Emergente, another urban art festival at the Centro Cultural de Recoleta, is back again for it's fifth year. The event opens on Wednesday, June 6, and runs through June 12, with concerts on the terrace and other arts such as film, fashion, comedy and more exhibited in the galleries.
PLUS! Don't miss your chance to get free (usually A$R 90) tickets to Hombre Vertiente, a theatrical stage show which includes water, acrobatics and electronic music. You can pick up tickets same day at the CCR starting at 8 pm for the shows which starts at 9 pm (max of 2 tickets per person). And if you've never tried to get something free in BsAs before, the line will probably start forming around 7 pm.