Wednesday, January 30, 2013

10 more things you may not know about Argentina...

1. It's a tradition to eat gnocchi on the 29th of every month. Sometimes restaurants have A$R 29 specials.
2. Bachelor parties are called despedidas, the same word for going away parties.
3. In Buenos Aires, water bills are determined by the square meterage of a property, not the amount of water used.
4. Graduations are celebrated by throwing paint, eggs and flour onto students.
5. Getting a DUI doesn't necessarily cause you to have your license suspended. (They use a point system. In summary: you have 20 points to start and then various amounts of points are subtracted for different offenses. If you reach 0, you lose your license. A DUI/OUI will only cost you 10 points,  though at 20 racing could get it suspended. Read more (in Spanish) here.)
6. Everyone (due to a recent update, age 14 and older) has to carry a national ID card with their fingerprint on it.
7. Argentina has more national holidays (feriadios) than any other country.
8. You can call a local cafe and get coffee delivered in glassware on a silver tray from your local cafeteria. 
9. If you require a blood transfusion you are expected to later pay back the same amount of blood that you used. If you can't personally, you should recruit family or friends (or strangers if it comes to that) to donate on your behalf. 
10. The traffic lights change from green to yellow to red, but also from red to yellow to green. 

Friday, January 11, 2013


Gifts. Souvenirs. Argentine art. I can't get enough of it. Here's the best of what I found to bring home with me.
alpaca and leather bracelet :: Puerto de Frutos, Tigre
knit finger puppet :: street vendor @ Cabildo y Juramento
printed tote bag :: Muaa stores
Christmas ornament :: San Isidro feria
silver heart ring :: Feria de Artesanias
copper and lapis lazuli earrings :: Chile  
fur belt :: Puerto de Frutos, Tigre
 leather and embroidered belt :: Puerto de Frutos, Tigre
 alpaca wool hat :: Chile
 mini alpaca statue :: Chile
 olive serving dish :: Feria de Artesanias
 Mapuche woven rug :: Feria de Artesanias
 tapestry :: Puerto de Frutos, Tigre
 backpack :: Puerto de Frutos, Tigre
 fur jacket :: Puerto de Frutos, Tigre
 skull tank :: La Roperia @ Cabildo y Echeverria
print leggings :: Velo @ Juramento (2910) y Cramer
 silver, stone and wood earrings :: feria at Plaza Palermo Viejo
two tone leggings :: La Roperia @ Cabildo y Echeverria

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.