Cumana Empanadas

May 26, 2007 by · 7 Comments 

In search of the perfect empanada in Buenos Aires…

Crayon silliness at Cumana

It’s tough to try to find the ‘best’ empanadas in Buenos Aires (just ask Saltshaker). Primarily because there are so many different places to try them at, and of course many different types of empanada from across the different regions of Argentina, and even the rest of Latin America. At Cumana in Recoleta, the empanadas are very good, are of excellent value, and your empanada craving will be properly satiated.

Empanadas, vino tinto and… colorful crayons?

At Cumana, the empanadas are not the only fun to be had. As shown in the photo at the top of this post, colorful crayons are available for children and grown-up kids alike, to be used on the paper tablecloths. This of course inevitably leads to silliness such as chalking down your order on the table in front of you. Still, if your Spanish pronunciation is a little rusty, it definitely beats plain old pointing at the items on the menu that you want to order.

As well as creating this fun juvenile air with the crayons, the general atmosphere at Cumana is also buzzing, busy and brash. The tables and seats are fairly small and packed in tight, and the place always seems to be full at both lunch and dinner sittings, so it is not a place to go for a quiet, relaxed or intimate conversation. Instead, Cumana is there for traditional Argentine food in a traditional energetic, rustic Argentine setting.

Cumana Empanada Restaurant, Recoleta

OK, so the service is pretty slow, but this is something forgivable in Buenos Aires, because it really is the norm here. You just have to adjust to it, and change your expectations accordingly: i.e. let go and relax, there’s no rush.

But enough about the service and atmosphere, and on to the main reason you’re here. To sample…

Cumana’s Empanadas

Empanadas, delicious empanadas

As you can see, the empanadas at Cumana look pretty tasty. They should be properly browned in places on the outside, and even slightly burned here and there. It just adds to the flavor a little. So Cumana delivers on that front.

For an introducion to Cumana empanadas, below you will find a more detailed description of a few of the more popular fillings and flavors:

  • Lomo Picante – Chopped lomo (tenderloin) steak in a mildly spicy, meaty sauce. This is a great one to start with. It’s not as spicy as the name suggests, but the more subtle flavors of a frankly delicious sauce to come to the fore. And the chopped lomo steak easily beats the standard minced beef from your average empanada de carne.
  • Humita – Creamed corn. Cumana’s version outdoes most local attempts by using a lot of corn, and just the right amount of tasty white cream sauce, and so their Humita gets the thumbs up.
  • Jamon y Queso – Ham and cheese. Apart from beef, jamon y queso is the next most common empanada filling you see in Buenos Aires. It is a basic, rarely spectacular empanada filling, and to be honest, quite hard to mess up. Cumana does a respectable version, with a good amount of ham, which sometimes can be a problem.
  • Choclo, Calabaza y Queso – Corn, squash and cheese. A great combination of fillings that really work wonders together. Not a traditional mix, but one of Cumana’s creations that really make their selection a step above the rest.

So, all in all, above average empanada fillings with a couple of stand outs. And, although fairly small as compared to their counterparts at El Sanjuanino, they offer good value. Cumana’s empanadas are cooked in a traditional large wood-burning oven, as shown in this picture:

The Empanadas in Cumana are baked in a traditional stone oven

Other Traditional Argentine Dishes at Cumana

Cumana also offers up many other great regional dishes from around the rest of Argentina and Latin America. Their Locro, Mondongo and Tamales are all very tasty. In fact, in addition to enjoying the same empanada fillings at Cumana, Saltshaker also speaks very highly of their Locro.

Gnocchis at Cumana

Also very traditional in the city of Buenos Aires are noquis (gnocchi). Pictured above are noquis con crema de tomate y albahaca (gnocchi in a creamy tomato sauce with basil). They are cooked in a clay pot in the same oven as the empanadas, and with lots of cheese in the creamy tomato sauce, which produces a lovely crunchy top, and a delicious gooey creamy, cheesy mess underneath. Simply spectacular.

Share the goodness

Go with a few friends, order a bunch of different empanadas (especially the delicious lomo picante and choclo, calabaza y queso versions), maybe a few other different traditional Argentine dishes such as the Locro, and share the lot. You will eat extremely well for very few pesos. Wash it all down with the house vino tinto (red wine) and your Cumana experience is complete.

Location of Cumana Empanadas

Rodriguez Pena 1149, between Arenales & Santa Fe, Recoleta

Tel: 4813 9207

Five Buenos Aires 5 Star Hotels…

May 10, 2007 by · 22 Comments 

Four Season's La Mansion (and pool)…and how to experience them on the cheap!

Even if your cash flow doesn’t allow you a 5 star splurge while visiting Buenos Aires, it is still tempting to see what luxury, design, or boutique hotels the city has to offer.

To catch a glimpse over the other side of the fence, there is no need to have a room key. Below you will find a list of five different Buenos Aires hotels and opportunities to take advantage of what they offer, even if you aren’t staying there. This will give you a taste for the good stuff and even allow you to finish your trip under budget.

A Top Five List of Hotels in Buenos Aires

5. Caesar Park Hotel, Recoleta

A solid luxury hotel in Recoleta, with fantastic interior design, service and location (right across from the upmarket Patio Bullrich mall).

So, how to experience this hotel without paying a dime? Just walk in the lobby and do your most confident impression of a paying hotel guest. Take the elevator up to the 17th floor, and take in the wonderful view of the Rio de la Plata, seeing right the way over to Uruguay on a good day – a definite 5 star view. Exit soon after, before security come and give you the privilege of a personal escort out of the building.

4. Bo Bo Hotel, Palermo Soho

One of the most coveted boutique hotels in Palermo Soho, the sub-barrio where boutique hotels seem to be popping up every week. The design is cool, modern, fun and ever so slightly pretentious, as you would expect from a place where the name stands for bourgeois bohemian. They even have themed rooms, ranging from Pop to Techno to Art Deco. And if that isn’t enough, the staff and restaurant also both get rave reviews.

If you don’t want to shell out the cash for a room at the Bo Bo, make do with a trip to the restaurant and a quick scan around the stylish hotel interior. To experience their eclectic international cuisine shouldn’t set you back too far, and although the servings are fashionably small, they are still quite delicious, and you’ll get all of the bourgeois bohemian experience for a fraction of the price of a night in their hotel.

3. The Hotel Alvear, Recoleta

If you are a head of state, diplomat or just plain rolling in old money, this is the place to stay in Buenos Aires. Faultless old world style and service, the most desirable location on the most upscale avenue in the city (they even share the same name), and quite frankly, effortlessly the most classically beautiful hotel lobby, bar, cafe and restaurant in town.

For the rest of us, the Alvear offers an alternative – and something of an institution for in the know visitors to Buenos Aires. Well, at least those that are in to tea and cake. Indulge in an afternoon high tea at the Alvear’s beautifully appointed L’Orangerie cafe, and for a few sweet, sweet moments (accompanied by a few sweet, sweet cakes and pastries) you are a flesh-and-blood Alvear guest. Just make sure you dress the part.

Alvear Palace Hotel

2. The Faena Hotel + Universe, Puerto Madero

The most fantastical 5 star hotel in Buenos Aires, fresh from the warped mind of designer Phillipe Starck, and the straining ego of Argentine entrepreneur Alan Faena. A potent combination, heightened by your own personal ‘experience manager’, there to respond to your every whim, as you create your own mini-universe within the swish former docklands of Puerto Madero.

Though the cost may be high, fret not, for there is another way to experience this hotel. Cocktails at the Faena’s “Library Lounge” (down the corridor on the right, just after the outdoor pool), complete with film set surroundings and kitsch mounted deer heads on the walls is an excellent taste of this alternate ‘universe.’ Just make sure you check out the enchanting entrance corridor and toilets while you’re there (yes, even the toilets are out of this world at the Faena).

1. The Four Seasons ‘La Mansion’, Recoleta

This cute little mansion in the grounds of the Four Seasons hotel (see first picture at top) is so expensive that only world famous rock and pop stars like U2, the Rolling Stones and Madonna can afford to stay there. Even from the outside, its easy to see that the building certainly is a cut above most hotels – a wonderful turn of the 20th century French mansion house that looks plucked from the Loire valley.

Let’s not even mention a nightly price for this place, and go straight to the alternative 5 star option. Sunday brunch downstairs at the Four Season’s La Mansion is a great chance to take in the full mansion house experience, while gorging yourself on the best breakfast in BA. The brunch isn’t cheap, but you’ll feel like a rock star throughout, and for a good while afterwards.

Locations of these 5 Star Hotels in Buenos Aires:

Caesar Park Hotel
Posadas 1232, corner Libertad, Recoleta
Tel: 4819 1100

Bo Bo Hotel
Guatemala 4882, near Thames, Palermo Soho
Tel: 4774 0505

Alvear Palace Hotel
Avenida Alvear 1891, corner Ayacucho, Recolta
Tel: 4808 2100

Faena Hotel + Universe
Martha Salotti 445, near Juana Manso, Puerto Madero
Tel: 4010 9000

The Four Seasons Hotel
Posadas 1086/88, near Cerrito, Recoleta
Tel: 4321-1200

Buenos Aires Short Term Rentals

May 4, 2007 by · 6 Comments 

Renting a Tourist Apartment in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Short Term Apartment Rentals

When planning your trip to Buenos Aires and thinking about your accommodation options, a short term apartment rental could be the way to go.

Why? Well, if your choices are to pay top dollar per night at a luxury or design hotel, or the same price or less per week for a luxury apartment rental in Buenos Aires, with the same high levels of quality, comfort and design, suddenly the apartment option appears to be the most sensible.

Yes, hotels have much higher levels of service and convenience than apartment rentals cannot offer, but if that is not the most important factor for you when choosing accommodation, then a short-term apartment rental wins hands down on value.

AirBnB – a good starting point for Buenos Aires Apartment Rentals

You’ve probably all heard of AirBnB before, and in Buenos Aires it has now also become a great option for renting an apartment short-term, with the peace of mind and ease of reservation that renting through AirBnB gives you. Here is a link to the AirBnB page for Buenos Aires rentals.

Also, in our opinion, one of the best apartment options for 1 or 2 people in the desirable neighborhood of Palermo Soho (probably the most popular area to stay in the city, and with good reason), is this place owned by some friends of BuenosTours, Maya & Tom. It has the best interior decoration and use of space of any studio apartment that I’ve seen in Buenos Aires, a killer location, and the owners plus apartment manager are very pro-active and helpful. Highly recommended.

AirBnB Bonus – Free Money!

If you are new to AirBnB and sign-up for an account with them using this link – you’ll get US$25 credit to use against an AirBnB reservation.

Enjoy!

Other Buenos Aires Apartment Rental Companies

From personal experience, one of the most reliable apartment rental companies in Buenos Aires, with the biggest and most varied selection of apartments on offer (from cheap to expensive) is ByT Argentina.

For additional resources, you could also check the Craigslist Buenos Aires Vacation Rentals page, plus the following list of apartment rental companies:

Best of luck in your apartment search!

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