The BuenosTours Blog
May 24, 2013 by Quincy Long
Visit the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA)
The MALBA is without a doubt one of Buenos Aires’s premier museums. Housed in a modern building designed to reflect the city blocks which flank it, this is one of those rare museums where you feel like the architecture is truly part of the show. High, geometric windows allow tons of natural light to illuminate a dazzling collection of modern and contemporary Latin American art.
The MALBA opened its doors to the public in 2001, with a mission to “collect, preserve, research, and promote Latin American art from the onset of the 20th century to the present.” Created by the Costantini foundation, this museum holds the spectacular collection of Latin American art amassed by Argentine real-estate developer, philanthropist, and patron of the arts Eduardo Costantini.
The building’s granite exterior belies the lightness inside: a limestone interior with cristal panes of glass spanning the entirety of one wall, the space was designed to allow optimal use of natural sunlight, while still perserving the artwork. In many ways, the white limestone and clean lines provide a perfect canvas on which pieces of modern and contemporary art pop and explode to the eye. While sleek and modern, the space always features some whimsical touches; for example, the curvy wooden panels hanging from various ledges and balconies finally conjoin into a lovely bench on the second floor. Next to the entrance, a panel that appears to be a giant stop-light is actually equiped with a microphone and reflects the level of ambient noise around the MALBA: this means the red-lights appear at rush hour!
Outstanding collection of Latin American art
The permenant collection is a spectacular homage to Latin American modern and contemporary art. With over 500 pieces in the archives, The MALBA displays around 150 works at a time. All artwork starts from the 20th century, and is arranged to highlight certain regional tendencies. Pieces by Frida Kahlo and David Alfaro Siquieros are immediately recognizable, but even aficionados of Latin American art may be surprised by a cubist Diego Rivera painting. Also noteworthy is a piece by the Colombian Fernando Botero (recognizable for his use of corpulent figures) called Los Viudos or The Widowers.
The museum features Argentine artisits, including several works by beloved watercolor master and esoteric thinker, Xul Solar. One of the most striking paintings on display, Manifestacion (Protest) by Argentine great Antonio Berni attracts much attention. A response to the Mexican muralists, Manifestacion recalls the magnitude and politics of the muralist tradition, portraying larger-than-life characters and transforming the masses into a union of distinct and intriguing individuals. This painting is, however, one of the most emblamatic of the Argentine tradition; the sign held by the people protesting reads “Pan y trabajo” or bread and work, perhaps a direct reference to Ernesto de Carcova’s Sin Pan y Sin Trabajo, on display in the National Museum of Fine Arts.
The collection also features interesting surrealisms by Chilean artist Roberto Matta and Cuban Wilfredo Lam. Also intriguing are a slew of fun optical works, and look out for a few pieces of living art like plants and some fish!
Provocative touring shows at the MALBA
Visiting exhibits at the MALBA tend to be jaw-dropping, moving, beautiful or outrageous. These contemporary shows, typically by Latin American artists, rotate almost monthly; you can check the schedule here. MALBA’s movie theatre plays some interesting, off-beat films, and as the Constantini Foundation is dedicated to education, MALBA hosts open workshops on Philosophy, Film, and the Arts and leads guided visits for the hearing, visual, and mentally impaired.
Be sure to bring some pesos with you! The museum store features some funky and truly original things including clothes, notebooks, jewelry, mates, and other do-dads that would make great gifts. Head downstairs and check out the ample collection of art books, magazines, and music. You can also grab a coffee or bite to eat at the lovely museum cafe, Cafe des Arts.
Location of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires
Avenida Figueroa Alcorta 3415, between San Martin de Tours and Jeronimo Salguero, Palermo
Telephone: 4808 6500
Thursday-Friday and Holidays: 12pm to 8pm
Wednesdays: 12pm to 9pm
Head to the MALBA on Wednesday for discounts!
April 18, 2013 by Quincy Long
A lovely wine tasting in Palermo, Buenos Aires
Anuva Wines offers wine tastings in Buenos Aires, for those who wish to sample some great boutique wines, but can’t necessarily make it to the wine producing regions of the country. Located in a luminous loft in the chic neighborhood of Palermo Soho, this wine club opened in 2007, and offers tastings with English speaking experts that are both educational and fun. All of their wines are boutique, which means you won’t find them in the grocery store, here or at home.
I recently attended a Friday afternoon tasting (lucky me!). Upon arrival, a delightful English woman named Cara showed me to my seat, and our table quickly filled up with a lively set of international travelers. I made small talk with the other guests and the staff of Anuva, who graciously answered questions about Buenos Aires and offered suggestions for dining and activities.
And then came the moment we’d all been anxiously awaiting: the tasting!
Surprising white wines
First came a sparkling wine from Hom Espumante. Poppy, who lead our wine tasting, gave us some general tasting advice and then explained the different processes by which wine makers convert whites into sparkling wines. This light and refreshing blend was deliciously drinkable. Once we’d sipped, everyone at the table agreed that Poppy’s explanations deepened our appreciation of the bubbly! Each wine was paired with an Argentine tapa specifically selected to accentuate certain flavors in each of the wines, and I found our blue cheese and pear hors d’oeuvre went perfectly with the espumante (sparkling in Spanish).
Next came a marvelous Las Perdices Torrontés. This white was floral on the nose but when paired with two yummy gelatos, the wine’s different fruit notes really stood out. Poppy spoke about the Torrontés grape, one of Argentina’s most important and lovingly nicknamed “la uva mentirosa” (the liar grape; can you guess why?). She also explained the wine growing regions of Argentina and how the characteristics of each influence the taste, acidity, and alcohol content. Tasting the Torrontés, I could tell that the terroir of Salta province has a direct effect on its flavor!
Red, red wine!
Our table discussed the wines we’d tasted so far and raved about Argentina’s ice creams as the Anuva staff filled our remaining glasses with three reds. We were all eager to begin and grateful when Poppy presented the first wine: one of Argentina’s famous Malbecs from Carinae vineyards, which was paired with an Argentine picada of cheeses and salamis.
The spectacular hostesses answered questions about wine production in Argentina as we enjoyed the malbec; each of these women is highly knowledgeable of the industry, and I recommend asking any question that occurs to you about the vino (wine in Spanish). Indeed, the tasting was professional but not at all pretentious, and unlike in other tastings I’ve been to that give you two drops of each varietal, Anuva gives generous servings and offers refills.
We moved on to what I found to be the stand-out wine of the afternoon: a San Gimignano Syrah! Wonderfully light and minerally, Poppy joked that this wine is a woman’s wine, because it’s so delicate on the palate. Here we sampled a traditional meat empanada, yum!
By the time we arrived at the last wine, a robust and velvety Bonarda from Mairena, our table had become best of friends. Anuva’s team (and their wines) creates a welcoming, convivial atmosphere, and I learned from my fellow wine tasters! For example, the Australian at the table was impressed that Argentine wines weren’t as heady as the Aussies are used to, and Poppy explained how growing conditions affect alcohol content; the pair from San Francisco compared Argentina’s dry, high altitude conditions with the more wet Napa Valley and Sonoma county, and considered how that affects sulfide content.
And oh yeah, the Bonarda was to die for, a perfect way to end a delightful tasting!
Here I am with my tasting buddies, happily smiling for the group photo! Once the tasting was through, the staff offered refills and let us know that all the wines sampled (and more) are available for purchase. Best of all, they even deliver to the US with free shipping!
To reserve, click here to book a tasting with Anuva Wines.
The price is US$52 per person. Exact location details are revealed by Anuva upon booking, but as mentioned, the wine tasting is held in a specialist tasting room in the Palermo Soho neighborhood. The tastings last for about 90 minutes to 2 hours, and are usually scheduled at 3pm or 6pm Mon-Thu, or 2pm or 5pm Fri-Sat (although other times may be available upon request).
April 5, 2013 by Quincy Long
Argentinian Rock: a national passion
Rock nacional (literally national rock) is the term used to refer to rock-and-roll music produced by Argentine bands and singers. Rock is not only popular, but also important to the cultural psyche of the people. Beloved across generations, the genre incorporates many musical styles, and any Argentine will tell you that theirs was the first rock sung in a language other than English to gain commercial success.
From Elvis to Sandro: Argentina’s early twists with Rock-n-roll
Like in many countries around the world, rock was born when Elvis began shaking his hips! The music hit Argentina at time of political instability: president Juan Peron had been overthrown, civilian governments were fragile and ever changing, and a military coup overtook the country in 1962. The Argentine students listening to rock were in the streets, protesting, with rock the soundtrack to youthful defiance.
Rock-n-roll gained popularity and Rock Nacional was really born with Sandro (pictured above). Considered the Argentine Elvis, Sandro grew up playing his family’s traditional Romani music, and emerged into the spotlight with his band Sandro y Los Del Fuego! Though originally considered rock, Sandro became a (cheesy/awesome) romantic pop and ballad singer.
Rock Nacional’s foundations: emergence of an Argentine sound
In Buenos Aires, underground bands played in a bohemian basement bar called La Cueva. After a long, porteño night of rocking, musicians would have breakfast in the nearby cafe La Perla del Once. One famous rock story is that musicians Tanguito and Lito Nebbia composed the first true Argentine rock song, La balsa, in the men’s room of La Perla! If you’re in the Once neighborhood, La Perla still stands, and is worth visiting.
Groups like Almendra (lead by Luis Alberto Spinetta, one of Argentina’s most important rockers), Los Gatos, and Manal experimented with sixties rock, and are considered the trilogy of Rock’s forefathers. These founders created a uniquely Argentine sound: an international rock sound, in Spanish, with Argentine musical influences. The genre branched from this base, and heavy rock bands like Pescado Rabioso (formed by Spinetta after Almendra broke up) and Pappo’s Blues (Pappo of Los Gatos) emerged. Pappo would later become Argentina’s most important blues musician; he played with BB King in New York, and in true Rock n’ Roll fashion, died in a motorcycle crash in 2005.
While these heavy groups were rocking out, acoustic bands like Sui Generis (an Argentine Simon and Garfunkel?) blended Argentine folk with dreamy lyrics. This hippie band was rock great Charly Garcia’s first group, and became hugely popular.
Argentina’s military dictatorship: suppression of rock
Progressive rock made in-ways as acoustic phased out, and the rock scene was just becoming mainstream when the country’s democratic government was toppled by a military junta in 1976. This dictatorship would become infamous for its violence and repression, known as the Dirty War. Rock musicians were considered subversive; facing increasing censorship and repression, rock returned underground. Groups like Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota played clandestine shows. Los Redondos wrote songs whose lyrics, while critical and dark, are vague and often rely on metaphor (making them a favorite of Argentine literature teachers).
By the early 1980′s, the conflict between the Argentine junta and the UK over the Malvinas /Falklands Islands was heating up, and the government banned all foreign music from the radio waves. This left a big void in airtime, and was an opportunity for bands like Los Redondos to explode onto the Argentine consciousness. Soda Stereo, led by rock great Gustavo Cerati, emerged. As opposed to the Redondos’s left-wing, working class lyrics, Soda Stereo played a new wave pop and sung happy and ironic songs. The first band to reach an audience across Latin America, Soda Stereo became beloved across the continent, inspiring an explosion of rock en español (rock in Spanish). Their hit De Musica Ligera still plays in bars from Mexico to Buenos Aires.
In the early 1980′s, Italian-born Luca Prodan moved to Argentina to escape the heroin addiction he’d acquired as a youth in the rock scene in England. He brought with him a post-punk, reggae sound literally unheard of in Argentina, and formed the band Sumo. For an introduction to Argentine rock, this might be the best place to start, not only because the lyrics are mostly in English, but also because their popularity increased after Luca’s death in 1987, and have a substantial influence on current rock. After Luca passed, the bland split into two: Divididos and Las Pelotas. Below is a photo of Sumo musicians Ricardo Mollo (who would later lead Divididos) and Luca Prodan.
Argentine Democracy: Rock music explodes!
In 1983, the dictatorship was finally over, and with the emergence of democracy came the true explosion of Rock Nacional. Songs which had been repressed were now freely played, and on cassette tapes! The iconic Argentine band Los Fabulosos Cadillac formed in 1983, and won over Latin American audiences until 2001. Lead singer Vicentico launched a solo career after the band broke up, and his distinctive vocals still grace the radio waves.
Across the continent, Argentine rock’s popularity took off. At home, Rock became synonymous with the freedom and celebration of democracy. Now playing in an open society, rock musicians were free to sing about things beyond repression, like beautiful women, parties, and other rock-n-roll stuff.
This environment lead to a grand proliferation in rock genres. The 1990′s meant grunge rock, heavy metal, stoner rock, reggae-rock and a whole new “Rollinga” style all gained separate audiences. (Though the Rolling Stones are beloved in Argentina, Rollingas are a distinct phenomenon. Rollinga fans dance like Jagger, have bangs like Ronnie Wood, and that’s about where the Stones comparison ends; the music is 100% Argentine.)
More contemporary Argentine Rock recommendations
No better way to get a feel for the contemporary rock scene in Argentina than listening to the flowing bands:
- Bersuit Vergarabat: chameleons of Argentine music, we mention them here because they seem to mesh rock with even the most unlikely genres: from cumbia, to music in Portuguese, and so on.
- Babasonicos: This iconic 1990′s band created a style of music which would be dubbed sonic rock in their honor. Big success across Latin America.
- Fito Paez: One of the most important solo artists, Rosarino Fito plays piano and sings.
- For punk fans, check out Attaque 77 here.
- There is a whole slew of reggae rock in Argentina. From chill Los Cafres, to upbeat Dancing Mood, the love-crooner Dread Mar I, and the more hardcore/ska band Todos tus Muertos, Argentina covers the reggae bases.
- Argentine rock history features a couple of great musicians, who changed bands throughout the years. Mentioned above, Charly Garcia, Spinetta, and Cerati and three of these powerhouses.
- I’m sure some of you are wondering WHERE ARE THE WOMEN OF ARGENTINE ROCK? Well, so are we. Let us know if you hear anyone good!
To show what rock fans are like, we’ll leave you with this clip by Argentine comedian Peter Capusotto whose character Pomelo (meaning grapefruit) is an Argentine rock star. The video is in Spanish, but really all he says is “rrrrock nena” or “rock baby!”
For more information, check out this post on Argentina’s best rock singers on the Expanish blog, which highlights the most important rock figures. On this Expose Argentina page, you can listen to some of the most famous bands. The author has done a great job identifying important bands from different genres.
March 25, 2013 by Quincy Long
The best part of living in Buenos Aires?
Here at BuenosTours, we feel that outstanding wine is one of the biggest perks of living in Buenos Aires! Vino (wine in Spanish) is a part of daily life in Argentina; often mixed with soda (sparkling water) or even Coke, it’s a staple at the Sunday family asado and the Friday night gathering alike. The country produces a variety of choices at affordable prices, and a sizable selection is always available at the “Chino”, aka the local grocery store (“Chino” meaning Chinese store, since most are run by Asian immigrants. Yes, Argentines can be pretty politically incorrect at times).
For a more professional opinion and better quality, boutique wines, we recommend that you try a wine tasting with our friends at Anuva Wines. But to find out what we here at BuenosTours are drinking, read on…
BuenosTours local wine recommendations
After an arduous sampling period, The BuenosTours Staff presents our picks of Vino from the Chino (drumroll please!). From Malbec to Torrontés, look for these bottles at your corner store and sip your way through Argentina’s lovely harvests!
Alan: Tour guide to the rich and famous, CEO of BuenosTours, and yet he still sometimes adds soda to his wine!
My chino wine faves are Santa Julia and Portillo, all in the mid-to-high twenties range. As a fan of the Pinot Noir varietal, I appreciate Almas Moras’s sense of humor: they call it “Pinot Negro” (negro meaning black in Spanish) rather than sticking to the French name. It’s not always easy to find Pinot Noir in Argentina, but the aforementioned by Finca Las Moras is affordable (about $28 pesos at my local chino), and in a slightly higher price range, Alamos offers a really nice version.
I do NOT recommend Romani’s Malbec – the worst bottle I’ve had in years! Beautiful label, but don’t be fooled by that. It was overly acidic and had a nasty aftertaste. Avoid.
Isabel: On-location neighborhood reporter, city cyclist and San Lorenzo die hard!
My favourites are:
- Gascón malbec (about $35 – $40 a bottle). Really tasty, good with an asado.
- Emilia (especially the Malbec/Bonarda mix, about $35 a bottle). Very light and nice to drink with snacks rather than a heavy meal.
I also like:
- Elementos - it is often on offer and it’s tasty, good mid-week wine. I remember it was $12 in the Chino on the corner in Boedo where I used to live. Now it would be more like $25… I like the Cabernet.
- Postales de Fin del Mundo - about $25 a bottle, maybe a bit more, well as we know the prices probably increased in the time it took to write this recommendation… This bodega has won all kinds of international awards.
- And if I am in a rush and strapped for cash, I would grab a Callia (Syrah/Malbec blend) or San Telmo is often on offer and a safe bet.
Quincy: Espresso connoisseur and Argentine lingo lover.
Probably my favorite, the Alma Mora malbec is an assertive, mid-range wine that literally means Blackberry Soul. It’s from San Juan – a region who often sends grapes to neighboring Mendoza to be blended into bigger wineries’ varietals. But Las Moras proudly produces San Juanino wine, and since my boyfriend’s family is from there, Alma Mora fills me with nostalgia.
Quara is an affordable fave. A llama graces the label in homage to that peaceful creature essential to the Incas. Torrontés, a white, grows exceptionally well in Cafayate, where Quara is from. While Argentina is most famous for its Malbecs, Torrontes is actually considered the only 100% Argentine wine. Also try the Cafayate bodega’s Torrontes.
On a forgiving budget? Try San Felipe’s Tempranillo. And when splurging for a special occasion, go for the fragrant San Felicien.
Oliver: Boisterous tour guide, comedian and BA actor!
I pick a wine at the ‘Chino’ the same way I do anywhere else in the world. I decide on a price range, for example around us$5, and look for wines in that range that other people have bought, by looking for wines where you have to reach back onto the shelf. I figure that random strangers are better at picking wines than I am!
***Oliver, a true man of the people. Looks like the rest of the team will be in charge when picking the wine at our next meeting!***
Pat: Red-meat correspondent and all-American sports fan!
My picks are…..
- Uxmal (Malbec): Has kind of a smoky finish, goes well with meat. Also about 32 pesos at my Chino.
- Latitud 33 (Malbec): Nice, smooth red. Again, in the low-30 peso range. Good for a night cap.
- Colón (Syrah or Malbec): Solid, peoples-wine, and good for 20 pesos. Good for a drink before you go out.
Jessica: In-demand tour guide and soulful San Telmo crooner!
Callia is always my cheap red go-to bottle, Malbec or Syrah.
A little nicer, Finca Flichman makes pretty good Malbec and Cabernet at good prices, and they’re aged in oak (roble) which most cheap wines aren’t. Way better with food than on its own.
Also, a wildcard, I like white wine, and I have found NO GOOD WHITE WINE IN CHINOS for under 40 pesos (any suggestions?). Except for of course my summer favorite – sweet white! Late harvest! It may be girly, but don’t underestimate the Norton Cosecha Tardia Dulce Natural. Ice cold. On a terraza (terrace). At sunset. Mmmmmm…
As far as things to avoid… if I have a dinner party, please do not bring Michel Torino or Valderrobles. It’s offensive. On second thought, it’s more offensive to come empty handed, so I guess if you do bring them, you’ll just have to drink them alone because I’d rather have a coca light.
Ahh, so many vinos, so little time! Keep the aforementioned in mind when in need of some thirst slakers. And let us know: what wine do you pick up when you head to the Chino?
For more information on Argentine wines, WineSur is a great resource, and features wine reviews by international critics. Or check out this article on the history of wine in Argentina at The Real Argentina.
March 13, 2013 by Pat Gillespie
Cutting your way through Argentine beef lingo
The Gran Bife at Las Cabras in Palermo Hollywood. The steak is a Bife de Chorizo. Yup, its awesome.
Meat. Carne. Mmmmm…
Argentina is renowned for its high-quality, juicy, gigantic and cheap steaks. Unlike the beef lexicon in the United States, which prescribes a name for the cut followed by “steak,” Argentine beef idioms have one name for most items. To the English eye, some names may appear to overlap, sound nothing alike, or generally confuse the non-bilingual.
Although I applaud the brave traveler whose willing to order anything on the parrilla, or steakhouse, menu – “Bring me meat!” – you may want to do some reading before making the blindfolded menu choice. It could be the difference between a rib-eye steak and a cow’s testicle – some places, like the famed parrilla La Brigada in San Telmo, serve the entire animal. Nothing goes to waste in Argentina! So take off the blindfold, put on the reading glasses and take notes.
Typical Meat Cuts in Argentina
A classic asado – BBQ with a group of friends, family – with lots of Bife de Lomo
Here is a list of the more common cuts of meat you’ll come across in the average Buenos Aires steakhouse:
- Chorizo – Sausage. Unlike the word in the US, chorizo here is not spicy. In fact, almost no Argentine food is spicy. Chorizo only means awesome, juicy sausage – when the word is by itself.
- Bife de Chorizo – Sirloin Steaks. Typical, mouth-watering Argentine steak. And confusingly, nothing to do with the sausage!
- Ojo de Bife – classic Ribeye steak, found in every parrilla in the city.
- Vacio – Flank Steak, but with more fat and flavor. It can be quite chewy.
- Bife Angosto – Porterhouse or Striploin Steak.
- Entraña – Skirt Steak. A favourite of the BuenosTours team. Ask your waiter to grill it “Jugoso” or juicy. Generally served in long strips.
- Cuadril- Rump Steak. Commonly used in sandwiches.
- Entraña gruesa – Hanger Steak, thicker than Skirt steak.
- Bife de Costilla – T-Bone/Porterhouse Steaks.
- Bife de lomo – Tenderloin. Less fat than bife de chorizo. Not so much about the flavor, but instead the tenderness. Some Buenos Aires parrillas make a show of cutting it with a spoon upon serving clients!
- Chinchulines – Small intestine. For more adventurous carnivores.
- Criadillas – Testicles. Good luck.
- Morcilla – Blood Sausage. Although not easy to find in many parts of the world, Morcilla is served at almost every parrilla in Buenos Aires.
Some typical Argentine meat sandwiches, often sold at food carts and “hole in the wall” joints:
- Choripan – Sausage served on a long bread roll.
- Vaciopan – A flank steak sandwich. A superb carnivorous lunch on the go.
- Milanesa – Usually a thin, breaded piece of beef fried and served on a roll with typical condiments.
- Milanesa de pollo – Same sandwich, but with fried, breaded chicken.
And what life would be worth living without a little salsa?:
- Salsa Provenzal - A garlic-parsley-olive oil mix that will leave you with happy taste buds and stinky breath. Works every time. You can cut to the chase and get the same salsa by just asking for Ajo (a-HO), which means garlic.
- Salsa Criolla – A colorful, South American condiment. It generally consists of onions, peppers, and tomatoes soaked in olive oil and vinegar or lemon/lime juice. There are a variety of ways to make it, but here is one good recipe.
- Chimichurri – An Argentine classic, staple condiment. A must! Whether eating chorizo, milanesa or bife de lomo, indulge in some chimichurri while in Buenos Aires. Here’s an interesting recipe for chimichurri.
Ordering Your Meat in Buenos Aires
At Argentine steakhouses and other restaurants/cafes, ordering food is said with direct language. For instance, it is not rude to say, “I want” (Yo quiero). Here are some examples on how to order a steak and to ask it to be cooked a certain way:
- Formal: I would like a Sirloin Steak medium rare – Yo quisiera un bife de lomo jugoso (hoo-GO-so).
- More common: I want a sirloin steak cooked well/medium well – Yo quiero un bife de lomo bien cocido.
- Other ways to have your steak cooked: a punto = medium (but most likely will come out medium-well, as in Argentina they tend to cook steak more than in the northern hemisphere); bien jugoso = rare; or for those who like their steak “blue”, just say vuelta y vuelta, which means very quickly cooked on each side.
When traveling to the Ecological Reserve in Puerto Madero, stop outside the reserve at one of the many parrilla stands for a choripan. They have plenty of condiments and for a small amount of cash, you will be stuffed.
If you’re craving more meat literature, here are some recommended reads. Saltshaker provides a list of meat cuts and the best places in Buenos Aires to find each one. Asado Argentina offers a more comprehensive table of meat cuts, and Idle Words has a simply hilarious take on Argentine steak!
Enjoy your beef on your next visit to Buenos Aires! Buen Provecho!