Anuva Wine Tasting in Buenos Aires

April 18, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

*PLEASE NOTE: Anuva Wines unexpectedly closed down permanently on January 12th 2017. We are currently looking into alternative wine tasting options in the city to be able to update the below article – feel free to contact us in the meantime to ask for a wine tasting recommendation in Buenos Aires*

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.

Anuva wines

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

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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.

wine1

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!

Anuva wines 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).

 

Rock Music in Argentina

April 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Argentina rock Sandro mural

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.

Sumo Divididos Argentine rock

[Photo credit: cris.cros’s photostream / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

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.

Argentine Wine: Grocery Store Picks

March 25, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

The best part of living in Buenos Aires?

BsAs wine recommendations

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!

Buenos Aires sparkling wine

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 of the Buenos Tours team!

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.

Calia wine recommendations


Buying wine in Buenos AiresQuincy: 
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.White Wine Torrontes Argentina

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.

 

 

Buenos Tours team

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!***

 

 

 

Cheers wine buenos aires

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.

 

 

Drinking wine in Argentina

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.

Chino Viejo, our new favourite chino wine!

Carlos Gardel

March 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Carlos Gardel: Argentina’s beloved tango crooner

Carlos Gardel is by far Argentina’s most famous Tango singer and is a nationally adored figure. They say that if you’re itching to get into a fight with an Argentine, just insult any one of their holy trinity of heroes: Diego Maradona, Evita, or Carlos Gardel.

Carlos Gardel Argentina Icon tango

[Photo credit: Alfredo Davies’ Flickr/ /CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Carlos Gardel was born Charles Gardes to single mother Berthe Gardes in Toulouse, France in 1890.  To escape the social stigma of having a child out of wedlock, Berthe migrated to Argentina, claiming to be a widow.  While we take these facts for granted today, Gardel’s origins were something of a mystery for many years: speculators argued over whether he was born in Uruguay, France, or Argentina.  This uncertainty only added to the mystique of the tango legend; similarly foggy are details of his love life and of his death.

Ms. Gardes and son, nicknamed Carlos, settled into the barrio (neighborhood) of Abasto.  As as a child, Carlitos worked in opera houses (Buenos Aires had five at the time, of which the Teatro Colon is the surviving example) organizing props, lifting curtains, and even rousing audiences as a professional applauder.  Inspired by the most important singers of the time, Gardel built his name singing in bars, horse races, and for private parties across Buenos Aires.  He was ultimately launched to fame by the fates of tango when he performed one of the first tango songs known to have lyrics, Mi Noche Triste (My sad night) in 1917.  The recording exploded across the Americas and established Gardel as tango’s original singer.

Gardel toured the world, and began filming movies with Paramount Pictures in Paris.  Fellow Argentine Alfredo Le Pera wrote tango lyrics understandable to a diverse Spanish-speaking audience for the films, breaking with the tradition of writing tangos in lunfardo (the slang dialect of Buenos Aires).  This duo is memorialized in multiple recordings of some of Gardel’s most famous songs, such as Mi Buenos Aires Querido (My dear Buenos Aires). Listen below:

Gardel’s tragic death and memorial

Gardel grave Chacarita

In 1935, Gardel and Le Pera were promoting their newest film, El día que me quieras, when their plane crashed during take-off in Medellín, Colombia.  Neither artist survived.  Gardel’s body was carried across Colombia, by steamboat to New York, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, and back to Buenos Aires. Huge street processions met the coffin in each city to mourn the loss of “Carlitos”.

Gardel is buried with his mother, in the Cemetery of Chacarita.  His grave, declared a National Monument by the late President Néstor Kirchner, boasts plaques of memorial from admirers around the world.  Taxi drivers are known pull up next to his grave, play a tango at full blast, and light a cigarette.  When the song is over, the driver places what’s left of the cigarette in the statue’s hand.   Fans also tuck a rose into the statue’s lapel, so Gardel remains ever debonair.  Since his death, Gardel’s memory persists such that there’s even a common saying, “cada día canta mejor”: he sings better every day.  It must be true, since in 2003, UNESCO declared Gardel’s voice to be Patrimony of Mankind.

Abasto: Gardel’s neighborhood

Gardel lyrics Pasaje Zelaya

Carlos Gardel was a true man of the arrabal, meaning a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.  In his time, Abasto marked the edge of the city, populated mainly by Italian immigrants, and life revolved around a market fair which brought produce from the country to the city.  Eventually, the Mercado del Abasto, a beautiful Art Deco building, was built to house the fair.  Though the building now contains a shopping mall, it’s a stunning jewel in Buenos Aires’s architectural pantheon.  Today, almost everything here is named after Gardel, from streets to cafes, and even newspaper stands boast the name of “El morocho del Abasto” (“The dark one from Abasto”).

Tango fans will find this part of town worth visiting.  Take a stroll down the Pasaje de Zelaya, a short pedestrian walk full of images of Gardel, and song lyrics on the walls and sidewalks.  Two of Buenos Aire’s best alternative theatre spaces are also on this walk: El Cubo and Teatro Ciego, the blind theatre company!  While shows at either of these venues are entirely in Spanish, they sometimes show dance productions or musical (and other sensory) works.

Gardel Abasto Fileteado

Turn the corner onto Jean Juares and enjoy houses decked out in fileteado artwork, the popular decorative art found on shop windows, buses, and sign posts around BA.  After one block you’ll find the Carlos Gardel Museum, which was the singer’s (and his mother’s) home.  The museum shows relics of Carlos’s life, and often hold events and shows.  If you’re lucky, you may stumble upon a tango lesson or music performance!  Then check out the Carlos Gardel pedestrian street, where you’ll find a statue of Gardel, posing under the Abasto’s arches, plus a tourist shop called “Regionales del Abasto”, worth visiting if only for the extraordinary fileteado artwork on the walls, as pictured here.

Note that even the subway stop for this part of the city is named Carlos Gardel.  Luca Prodan, another late Argentine music legend,  also lived in Abasto, and in the song Mañana en el Abasto, he sings about waking up in this ‘hood, sleeping in the abandoned Abasto building in the late 1980’s, then taking the subway from the Carlos Gardel station.

For more information on Gardel, listen to this piece on NPR or read on Rhythm Planet about a chance meeting between Carlos and Frank Sinatra!

Location and hours of Gardel attractions

Chacarita Cemetery:
Avenida Guzman 680 (between Elcano and Federico Lacroze), Chacarita
Sunday – Sunday: 8am to 6pm

Pasaje Zalaya:
Zelaya between Aguero and Jean Juares, Abasto

Carlos Gardel House Museum:
Jean Jaurés 735, between Zelaya and Tucuman, Abasto
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 11am to 6om
Saturday, Sunday, Holidays: 10am to 7pm
Tuesdays: closed
Entrance fee: $1, Wednesday free

Carlos Gardel Pedestrian Street
Carlos Gardel between Jean Juares and Anchorena, Abasto

Abasto Shopping:
Corrientes 3247, between Aguero & Anchorena, Abasto
Open 10am to 10pm daily

Argentine Empanadas Unpacked

February 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Argentine Empanadas

Empanadas: flavorful pastry pockets

Empanadas (literally meaning wrapped in bread) are savory pastry pockets, filled with a variety of delicious stuffings.  As common as asadopizza, pasta, or alfajores, empanadas are a mainstay in the Argentine diet.  Oven baked (al horno) or deep fried (frito), they are served warm at parties and dinners alike and porteños frequently order empanadas via delivery, just as they might pizza.

Common Argentine empanadas and what to expect inside

In almost every restaurant that serves local fare, you can find at least three kinds of empanada on the menu.  Here are the most typical kinds,  typically named based on their fillings…

  • de carne = meat, baby! Consider this ground beef stuffing the number one seller in a country of carnivores.  Sometimes these even contain raisins, and go by the name “empanada de carne dulce”.  For a recipe, see below!
  • carne picada or carne cortada al cuchillo = also a meat pastry, but this time the beef is cut by knife.
  • carne suave vs carne picante = mild beef vs “spicy” beef (but not really all that hot – Argentine cuisine is not famed for its spicy food)
  • jamon y queso = ham and cheese.
  • caprese, or tomate y albaca = tomato, cheese (often Argentine mozzarella), and basil.
  • roquefort = blue cheese.
  • humita = the filling is based on a traditional dish from the north called humita.  Made of ground or shredded corn with a bit of milk, whole corn kernels, and sometimes onions or even bell pepper. Not to be confused with an empanada de choclo, which usually has whole sweetcorn kernels in a white sauce.
  • queso y cebolla = cheese and onion.
  • de pollo = very similar to the carne filling, but with chicken instead.
  • de verdura = literally “vegetables”, usually includes chard or spinach in a white sauce.
  • de champiñon = mushroom.
  • de atun = filled with tuna, sometimes onion, boiled egg, or celery (try them at Pizzeria El Cuartito on Talcahuano 937, and tell them Anthony Bourdain sent you!)
  • dulces = occasionally you’ll find a desert empanada, usually made with dulce de leche, but other popular fillings include fruits, nuts, and dulce de batata or dulce de membrillo, which are sweet potato or quince pastes.

These are most of the common empanadas, but chefs are known to create interesting combinations all the time.  Keep your eyes peeled for blue cheese, celery and walnut (roquefort, apio, y nuez); or pancetta and plum (panceta y ciruela).

Regional empanada differences

There are some regional differences in empanadas from various provinces of the country, from size to preparation to ingredients.

Empanadas salteñas from the Northern regions of Salta and Jujuy are filled with meat, potato, boiled egg, and chives.   Sometimes, they’re even made with llama meat!  They can be found farther north in Peru and Bolivia, known simply as Salteñas.  Many attribute their diffusion to Juana Manuela Gorriti, a woman writer from Salta who fled with her family to Bolivia during the Rosas regime in the mid-1800’s.

The story goes that she and her mother sold empanadas to survive in their early days of exile, though this is perhaps doubtful since she came from a family of high status, and went on to marry the President of Bolivia.  She eventually moved to Peru where she met with other important Latin American writers of her day and became an intellectual figure of her time.  The women of these nations still follow her culinary lead, but while the empanadas are universally called Salteñas, they are often quite different from the Argentine version.

Empanadas catamarqueñas or riojanas from the provinces of Catamarca and La Rioja are very garlicky, and usually made with goat meat.  From Córdoba, empanadas cordobesas are known to be sweet, since they come sprinkled with sugar and stuffed with raisins.  Empanadas sanjuaninas are probably so delectable because they’re prepared with lard; they also come with a whole olive in each empanada (watch out for the pit!) and are cooked in traditional wood ovens.  To try these out, El Sanjuanino on Sanchez de Bustamante and Santa Fe (and other locations) comes highly recommended.

In the subtropical regions of Corrientes and Misiones, empanada dough is made from cassava root flour, and it’s common to find exotic fillings like surubí or manduvé, two species of catfish; pacú, a relative of the pirana; or golden dorado.  In Entre Ríos, there is an empanada filled with arroz con leche, a rice pudding.  

In the provinces of Patagonia (Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz, and Tierra del Fuego), the empanadas are most commonly filled with lamb, guanaco or fish and shellfish, especially mussels or even Southern King Crab (known as centolla).  Empanadas from these regions are prepared with white wine, making for a juicy filling and a thicker dough.

The people of Tucumán love empanadas so much, that every September they hold the National Empanada Festival.  They are quite traditional, sticking to only three kinds of empanada: matambre (rolled flank steak), chicken, and tripe!

There’s an interesting Argentine saying, “todo bicho que camina va a parar al asador”, which means any creature that walks will end up on the grill.  Empanadas are no exception to this rule, and any meat available is fair game.  That means armadillo, vizcacha, yacare caiman, carpincho or capybara rodent, and rhea can all be found rolled up in a turnover, somewhere.  But don’t worry, they (probably) won’t be served in a restaurant!

Making Empanadas the Argentine way!

Making Empanadas

Making empanadas is fun and you can stuff them with whatever tempts your taste buds!  The easiest route is to pick up some of the pre-made dough at the supermarket, then make your own filling.  But if you’re feeling really up to the challenge, try this recipe!

Easy Empanada Recipe

Empanada Dough:

  • 4 cups /500 grams of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup /50 grams softened butter
  • 1/2 cup / 100cc of warm water
  • salt to taste
  • NOTE: If you wish to replace with whole-wheat flour, I recommend replacing half and adding a dash of lemon juice, plus extra water if the dough seems dry.

1.   Put all the flour into a big mixing bowl and form a crater in the center.  In a separate container, mix warm water with the butter and salt.  Pour the liquid mix into the center of the crater.

2.  Mix well, then knead until uniform.  Allow the dough to rest for at least 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator.  If you have the time, let it rest overnight.

3.  Flour your surface, then roll the dough a bit thicker than 1/4 inch.  Cut circles about the size of your hand from the dough.  Now you’re ready to fill the empanadas!

Beef Empanada Filling:

  • 1/2 kilo / 1 pound of ground beef
  • 2 big yellow onions
  •  7 grams / 1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 50 grams / 1/2 cup of olives

1. Finely dice the onions while allowing enough oil to cover the onions heat in a medium to large saucepan.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and allow to saute until they are clear in color.

2. Add the meat and spices, and cook, stirring frequently.  Once the meat is cooked, remove the mixture from the heat.

3. Hard-boil two eggs.   While these are boiling, slice the olives however you like: or just leave them whole, but remember to remind the guests to watch out for pits!

4. Once the eggs are ready, slice them and add to the meat mixture.  If you have diced the olives, add those too.

TIP: If you’re very hungry, just allow the filling to cool before you stuff your empanadas.  But most Argentines actually let this mixture sit in the refrigerator for a day (or two…) before baking.  This helps the mix become uniform.

Meat Empanada recipe

Procedure:

  • Pre-heat the oven to a medium temperature.  In the center of each disc, add a heaping spoonful of filling, being sure to leave a generous margin.  Then fold the circle in half.
  • The hardest part can be folding the empanadas; if the sides don’t stick together, wet your finger with a touch of water and fully seal the edges.  Then, pinch a piece of the rim and fold it in towards the center.  To see how this braided closure works, check out some youtube videos!  And don’t get discouraged: most of these cooks have been practicing the “repulgue” fold for years.  Even inexperienced Argentines can find the process frustrating; note the concentration, below:

Empanada recipe

That’s my boyfriend’s brother, Claudio.  He gave up on folding empanadas after one try.  Don’t be like Claudio!  If you can’t manage any folds, try closing the seams with a fork.  Just make sure everything is tightly sealed, that way no juices spill out while cooking!  Fortunately, his mom and neighbor whizzed through the empanada preparation, and here’s a good example of the fold, below:

Folding Empanadas

  • If you like, you can brush the empanadas with a mix of equal parts egg yolk and water, and sprinkling the tops with sugar or parmesan cheese.
  • Once the empanadas are all prepared, into the oven!  Let them cook until slightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Allow to cool for as long as you can keep your hands off them, and enjoy!

If you’d like to make a traditional, vegetarian, humita empanada, try this recipe on the Seashells and Sunflowers blog.  For recommendations about where to find regional empanadas in the city, try Saltshaker, and don’t miss our review of Cumana Empanadas. Happy pastry sampling!

 

National Museum of Fine Arts

February 8, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

A day of art and history at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

National Fine Arts Museum Argentina

The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA), or the National Museum of Fine Arts, should be a destination on the route of every traveler who comes to Buenos Aires (the only reason to miss it would be if you absolutely hate art, history, and free things!).

The building is as pink as the Casa Rosada, and houses an impressive collection of Argentine and international art.  On the ground floor, you’ll find pieces spanning from the Middle ages through the 20th Centrury.  Keep your eyes open for classic European artists like Rembrandt van Rijn and El Greco.  The Bellas Artes museum also hosts a breathtaking body of impressionist and post-impressionist artwork, with paintings and drawings from almost every one of this movement’s heavy hitters; you’ll find Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, Eduardo Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Berthe Morisot, and Camille Pissarro all represented in one wing, plus an additional room of drawings by Degas and Paul Cezanne.

Argentina’s history in brush strokes

The museum originally opened 1896 and was originally located in the Galerias Pacifico (now a shopping mall & cultural center). When you first enter through the main doors, you’ll see a lovely plaster sculpture of two lovers, titled Dulce Francia (Lancelot et Genevieve), by the Argentine artist Pablo Curatella Manes.  Behind this piece is a room dedicated to the art popular with Argentina’s aristocracy at the the time of the Museum’s opening: Pompier.  These sculptures and paintings depict idyllic nudes, most of which are mythological figures.  Also on display is a collection of French furniture of the 18th century popular with the porteña elite, as Paris was considered their “second home” up until World War one.

While all the aforementioned, European art gives an interesting back-story to Argentine life and culture, don’t miss the wing dedicated to Argentine artists!  Here you’ll find Republican artwork of the mid-1800’s, including imposing portraits of the caudillo Juan Manuel de Rosas and his daughter, as well as some wonderful portrayals of Gaucho life.  For those interested in military history, the museum contains a collection of meticulously detailed paintings by Cándido López.  These portray different battles in the War of the Triple Alliance, in which López himself fought and even lost his right arm (he later learned to paint with his left).  He was known to outline these works on the battle field, but their emotive colors are the result of painting later by memory.

Bellas Artes Indian Raid painting
[Photo credit: Sebastián-Dario’s Fickr account/ /CC BY-NC 2.0]

Tucked away behind the room with Lopez’s battle scenes, is a small room of Argentine art of the end of the 19th century.  Here you’ll find some striking  paintings and sculptures, which mark the beginning of a particular national artistic cannon.  One is Angel Della Valle’s provocative painting La Vuelta del Malón (The Return of the Raid), which displays a group of malevolent Indigenous men on horseback, complete with an unconscious, semi-naked white woman in tow.  This piece was painted after General Roca’s infamous Conquest of the Desert, a military campaign by the Argentine government which effectively wiped out most of the indigenous population in Patagonia and is reflective of the debate of “Civilization vs. Barbarism” which dominated Argentine culture of the 1800’s.  Another notable piece is Sin Pan  y Sin Trabajo (No Bread and No Work) by Ernesto de la Cárcova which depicts a young couple sitting at an empty table, the man’s ax lying idle, and the woman nursing a baby to her emaciated chest, a powerful critique of turn-of-‘the-century industrialization and modernization.

Finally, the first floor of the MNBA holds a wonderful collection of Argentine art of the 20th century.  Here the artistic canvas of Argentina’s history truly shines, as a unique cultural aesthetic emerges and artists struggle with themes of dictatorship, Peronism, civil unrest, progress, and finally, democracy.  Unfortunately, the first floor of the Bellas Artes museum is currently closed for construction as of mid 2012, with no scheduled date of completion.  Bellow is a detail from the painting Primeros Pasos by Argentine great Antonio Berni, just one of the many exciting pieces to check out once the first floor reopens.

Berni Bellas Artes woman sewing
[Photo credit: Sebastián-Dario’s Fickr account/ /CC BY-NC 2.0]

Location, location, location! High Culture in Recoleta

Recoleta Parque Esculturas

The Fine Arts Museum is located in an ideal area: the cultural epicenter of Recoleta.  To get the best out of this region of the city, we recommend you take our Recoleta Walking Tour, which highlights the rich and famous’s extravagant tombs in the Recoleta Cemetery, as well as the places they loved while living in BA’s upscale neighborhoods of Retiro and Recoleta.  

After touring and checking out the MNBA, have a drink at La Biela cafe, shop the ferias in San Martin de Tours plaza on weekends, then check out a free exhibit at the Recoleta Cultural Center.  After you’ve strolled through the latest in design in the Buenos Aires Design Mall, cross over the bridge covered with murals, which will lead you to the neoclassical building of University of Buenos Aires’s Law School. 

Continuing up Figeroa Alcorta, you’ll hit the wonderful Florais Mechanica mechanical flower sculpture, which opens all day, and “wilts” at nightfall.  Cross back across the Plaza Justo park, but watch out for the runners and people exercising on funky looking gym equipment!  This park also holds an interesting collection of sculptures and is an ideal spot to take a seat and reflect on artwork’s importance in Argentine culture.  Check out even more ideas of what to do in Recoleta on our Recoleta page.

For more information on the current exhibits and the history of the Bellas Artes museum, check out the MNBA website.  And read other travelers’ reviews of the Museum on TripAdvisor.

Location and hours of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

Avenida Del Libertador 1473, between Av. Pueyrredon and Dr. Luis Agote, Recoleta

Free Admission
Tuesday to Friday 12:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday 9:30 am to 8:30 pm
Closed Mondays

Website: http://www.mnba.org.ar/english.php

Learn Argentine Spanish Phrases

January 28, 2013 by · 8 Comments 

A General Overview of Basic Words and Phrases en Español

Basic Spanish Argentina

[Photo credit: Magalie L’Abbe’s Flickr/ /CC BY-NC 2.0]

…or better yet en castellano, as the Argentines call it, since the Spanish spoken today in Argentina could be traced back to Castilla, Spain.  Here are a few of the basics of communication to help facilitate interchange with the locals.   For ordering in cafes and restaurants, check out our Argentine Menu Reader.  And keep in mind that while English is spoken by many in Buenos Aires, saying hello and thank you in the local language is always appreciated.

Helpful words and phrases
Hello / Hi / Hey Hola
Good day / Good morning Buenos días or buen dí­a
Good afternoon Buenas tardes
Good evening Buenas noches
What's your name? ¿Cómo te llamás? / ¿Cómo es tu nombre?
My name is… Me llamo… / mi nombre es…
Nice to meet you. Mucho gusto.
Nice to meet you too. Igualmente.
How are you? ¿Cómo estás?
Fine thanks. Bien gracias.
And you? ¿Y vos?
What's up? ¿Qué tal?
It's all good / everything's good. Todo bien.
Thank you. Gracias.
You're welcome De nada.
Please Por favor
Yes
No No
Goodbye  "¡Chau!"
See you later  Hasta luego
Good luck! (Can be used with chau)  "¡Suerte!"

Note that Argentines, instead of asking you cómo estás, will often instead say cómo va (how’s it going), or todo bien? (everything good?).  The best response to both is, of course, todo bien (everything’s good, it’s all good).  Also, Argentines prefer to say goodbye to each other with their version the Italian salutation ciao (chau) instead of adiós, and the latter has a connotation of finality (as if you’ll never see the person again).  Fitting with their proud image, don’t be surprised if a porteño (someone from Buenos Aires) says no, no, por favor! (no, no, please!) after you’ve said gracias; they mean to say “it was nothing” or “my pleasure!”.

El Español

[Photo credit: powerplantop’s Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Pronunciation Guide

Unlike in English, each vowel in Spanish thankfully makes only one kind of sound!

Vowel Sounds
A ah
E eh
I ee
O oh
U oo
Y ee

Most consonants are pronounced as in English, although a bit softer.  The following are the exceptions, and special combinations:

Consonant Sounds
ll / y sh or soft jhe
rr  rolled r formed by lifting the tongue to top of the palate and making a "purring" sound
r  soft r / a d between two vowels
j  hard h
h  silent
qu  k
ñ  as in canyon
v  somewhere between a v and a b
z  s

Some notes on Rioplatense Spanish

ponetelaspilasRioplatense refers to the region around the Río de la Plata river, and is used by linguists to describe the particular, regional Spanish spoken by most people in Argentina and Uruguay.  Influenced heavily by European immigration, this dialect may initially come as a surprise to even a traveler who is somewhat familiar with Spanish.  Especially interesting is the slang dialect Lunfardo, originally developed by the lower classes (many of them immigrants) and now used by all Argentines.

The most noticeable difference of Rioplatense Spanish is the use of the ll and the y, which is here pronounced as in the English word measure.  Thus calle (street) is pronounced cah-sheh instead of cai-yeh.

The next difference you’ll notice in the local Spanish is the use of the second person pronoun.  While in many places you is , here the second person pronoun is vos, and the formation of the tense changes from llamas (accent on the first a) to llamás (accent on the second a).  To form the vos verb form, take the infinitive (let’s say tener) drop the r, accent the vowel and add an s (vos tenés).  If you have never spoken Spanish, don’t worry too much about this — just focus on learning some useful phrases.  If you have, however, we recommend you take a quick Spanish lesson here in BA, just to get up to speed on this difference.  Or try Speak Spanish BA’s grammar vos breakdown.

Argentine Spanish is pretty informal.  As a result, the formal second person usted is used infrequently (only with the elderly, professors, or someone very distinguished).  You may be taken aback by an Argentine’s abruptness.  For example, when ordering food, they will simply say yo quiero… (I want) and hardly ever me gustaría or yo quisiera (I would like…).  This is not because they are rude, but instead straight forward.  Note also that Argentines gesticulate wildly when speaking, another remnant of the Italian legacy.

The Rio de la Plata region, where Rioplatense Spanish was born

[Photo credit: eutrophication&hypoxia’s Flickr / CC BY 2.0]

More Useful Words and Phrases

Some common phrases you’ll hear out of the mouth of an Argentine:

Argentine Phrases
che hey/you/dude/mate/friend. Universal interjection (also helpful when you can't remember someone's name)
buena onda good vibes. Can describe a nice person or just mean cool
tal cual exactly / good point
dale ok / great/ sounds good / come on
¿de donde sos? where are you from?
escucháme hey / listen to me

 

More basic Spanish phrases:

Useful Phrases
¿Donde está…? Where is…?
¿Cuanto sale? How much does it cost?
Yo quiero… I want… (good for ordering in a restaurant)
La cuenta por favor. Check please.
Salud Cheers / bless you (when someone sneezes)
Me gusta / no me gusta I like / don't like
Permiso Excuse me (may I pass?)
Perdón Excuse me (sorry / didn't hear you / can I have your attention?)
¿Hablás inglés? Do you speak English?
No hablo castellano I don't speak Spanish
¿Donde está el baño? Where's the restroom?

To study and review some Spanish before traveling, try some exercises on StudySpanish.com. For more on Rioplatense Spanish, the Wikipedia is actually pretty extensive.  For an alternative experience, try attending a social event with Spanglish Exchange – you never know, you might even make some great Argentine friends this way!

For those serious about learning the language, please consider taking some Spanish Lessons in Buenos Aires, with our teacher friend Patricio.

Ordering Coffee in Buenos Aires

January 11, 2013 by · 5 Comments 

Enjoy a cup (or two) of the best café Buenos Aires has to offer

Cafe con Leche Buenos Aires

[Photo credit: WallyG’s Flickr Account/ /CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

True to Argentina’s celebrated Italian heritage, Buenos Aires boasts a rich cafe culture.  Meeting friends for coffee is an central part of social life, and it’s common to find porteños conversing for hours over one cup, in hip cafes and traditional bars alike.  You’ll be hard pressed to find drip coffee in BA (that’s right, forget bottomless refills!), but the espresso served here is strong enough to keep you buzzing all day long.

La Merienda: Argentine Tea Time

Ever wonder how Argentines manage to wait until 10 pm to eat dinner?  The secret may be in their fourth meal of the day: la merienda (mer-ee-end-ah).  Served between 4:30 and 8:30 pm, the merienda meal usually consists of toast (tostadas), cake (torta), or  croissants (medialunas) dipped in a coffee of choice.  Keep an eye out for special promotions, which often include two medialunas, cafe con leche, and fresh squeezed orange juice.

Coffee Ordering Guide

Though the coffee is delicious, it can be confusing to know which drink to order since the names may mean one thing in your country, something completely different in Buenos Aires.  Here’s a quick guide to ordering coffee like the locals: don’t forget to sit back, take your time, and relish every sip!

Merienda Time: A packed cafe in Buenos Aires

Coffee comes in three possible sizes: chico (chee-co) is usually one shot, un jarrito (har-reeto) about a shot and a half, and doble (doh-blay) the double shot size.  All drinks will come as chico unless otherwise noted, so be sure to add the size after ordering your drink. For example, if you want a medium espresso with just a touch of milk, order un cortado en jarrito.  If you want a big cup of black espresso, order un café doble.  For decalf version of any of the following, don’t forget to mention descafenado (dehs-cough-eh-nah-doh).

  • un café: (cah-fay) one shot of creamy espresso.  Plain and simple, a nice pick-me-up in the afternoon.
  • un café con crema: a shot of espresso with a spoonful of whipped cream.
  • un cortado: (core-tah-doh) espresso with a dash of steamed milk and foam. Cortado literally means cut, so the coffee is “cut” by the milk.
  • una lagrima: (la-greem-ah) steamed milk and foam with just a “tear-drop” (una lagrima) of coffee.
  • un macchiato: (mak-ee-ah-tow) an espresso with a dollop of foam, but no milk. This drink is less common than the rest.
  • un americano: (ah-mer-ee-cah-no) a fancy way of saying un café en jarrito. This is basically a shot and a half in a medium cup, in some cafes they will add a touch of water to make it liviano, or weak.
  • un café con leche: (cah-fey cone ley-che) a classic! Cafe con leche means coffee with milk, and is just that: half espresso, half milk with foam. This drink is similar to a cafe-au-lait or a latte, and automatically comes in a double cup.
  • un cappuccino: (cah-poo-cheen-oh) the cappuccino is the most visually stunning, as it comes in a tall thin glass, with clear layers of milk, coffee, and foam. It’s quite similar to a café-con-leche, but sometimes comes with cinnamon (canela) or chocolate. A cappuccino italiano will have whipped cream as well.
  • un submarino: (soob-mar-ee-no) not a coffee drink, but lots of fun! This is basically a deconstructed hot chocolate; the waiter will bring you a glass of warm milk and a chocolate bar, which you can plop into the milk and watch drop like a submarine.  Stir and enjoy!

Cafe con leche with crossants Buenos Aires

Order any of these delightful combinations at Cafe La Poesia in San Telmo, Cafe Margot in Boedo, or any of the thousands of intriguing cafes you find along your way.

For more information on Buenos Aires coffee culture, check out this Pocket Culture Guide, and for more on ordering coffee including some advanced hand gestures, check out Wander Argentine’s Cafe Culture — A Guide to Ordering.

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