Bebop Club dazzles the Buenos Aires jazz scene

September 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Luciana Morelli sings at Bebop Club

A BA newcomer with a New York twist

In the basement of the upscale Moreno Hotel, just two blocks from the historic Plaza De Mayo, couples cozy up and wait for the start of the nightly 9 o’clock show on a chilly August evening.

On the menu: expertly-crafted signature cocktails, picada plates overflowing with that famous porteño assortment of smoked meats and cheeses, and a quartet of world-class musicians headlined by the even smokier vocals of Luciana Morelli.

The newest venue to join the small but thriving jazz scene in BA, Bebop Club opened its doors in March 2014, just a few months after the death of the city’s first and most iconic jazz promoter, Jorge “Negro” González.  With his passing came the subsequent closure of his downtown institution “Jazz & Pop,” removing the oldest contender in the BA jazz club lineup.

It’s hard to ignore the feeling that it was a passing of the baton.

Bebop Club at street level in downtown Buenos Aires

Springing up not far from González’ pioneering joint, Bebop is now the only place where you can take in a serious night of jazz East of 9 de Julio.  This is very good news indeed for the many visitors to the city who will choose to stay in the downtown area, and not just because of the proximity— hotspots Notorious, Virasoro Bar, and reigning king Thelonius in the trendy Palermo district are quite a bit harder on the wallet.

Which is not to say that Bebop is a bargain.  A visit there will set you back about as much as an upscale dining experience— but one that leaves you full, happy, and convinced you got a good value for the money.  So the question remains: does this up-and-comer, which bears a Blue Note seal of approval outside its front door, live up to its self-stated mission to “simulate the experience of a NY jazz club”?

As a native New Yorker and someone who has taken in shows at both NYC’s Blue Note and New Orleans’ historic Preservation Hall, I would argue that it succeeds where it counts: in the caliber of the musicians, and the ability to leave an indelible imprint of the experience.

Bebop Club's lounge area

The small crowd size on this mid-week winter night didn’t befit the massive talent on display at the hands of Morelli and her crew.  If perfectly-controlled crooning backed by world class ivory-tickling in an impossibly elegant space is how Bebop celebrates a “slow night,” their bar for entry is high, indeed.

And not just for their musicians.  Bebop’s interior designer has painstakingly replicated the Blue Note’s detailing, and then surpassed it.  You’ll find the same signature half-moon, velvet-lined chairs, but adorning separate, circular tables rather than boxy, adjoined ones.  

The stage is kept low, but the floor is smartly raised toward the back for a better view.  The stage is exquisitely in proportion with the room such that the side-dwellers aren’t too far out in left or right field— something the cuddling couples on the plush couches lining the walls will appreciate, and the clubs of New York can’t quite replicate.

Taken together— the lush lounge seating, the shared picada plates designed to “accidentally” tangle up lover’s fingers, and the romance that only a carefully curated array of world-class musicians can muster— Bebop could easily claim to be the best jazz venue in the city for a date. Combined with a pre-show dinner at Aldo’s lavish wine bar and restaurant upstairs, this one-two punch is sure to impress.

Bebop jazz club stage

Embracing Buenos Aires jazz origins

As for the fidelity to the New York facsimile?  To echo and expand on what has already been stated, Bebop succeeds where it counts— and fails where it shouldn’t try.  By striving to provide the “NY experience,” Bebop, and all other BA hopefuls, misstep. Yes, every good artist must imitate before they find their own voice, but Buenos Aires has already crossed that threshold, and is now failing to claim its own artistic merit.

To wit, Argentina has produced international jazz icons like swing guitarist extraordinaire Oscar Alemán, master pianist Lalo Schifrin, and free jazz pioneer Leandro “Gato” Barbieri.  Their version of the genre has unique roots in the tango orchestras being the first purveyors of its sound, layering on a distinct flavor and giving birth to the important sub genre of Latin jazz.  

They even have the great underdog story of overcoming fierce repression, first from a public who decided it threatened their tango music heritage, and then from a dictatorship who banned it for being “imported” music.

Given that the scene only started to revive in the early 2000’s, it should be a mark of pride that Buenos Aires boasts a solid half dozen serious venues and no less than seven yearly jazz festivals. And, although Bebop won’t be a host venue this year in the largest of these— the Festival Internacional de Jazz, held each November— we have a feeling that will soon change.  Because regularly playing host to local legends like Art Zaldivar (see video below), Delfina Oliver, Luis Salinas, Jorge Navarro, and Manuel Fraga can’t keep them off the radar forever.

So go enjoy a trago (drink) and the buena onda (good vibes) of an unforgettable evening of jazz, perhaps after a lazy Sunday stroll through the nearby San Telmo Feria— and tell them this Yankee sent you.

Plan Your Bebop Club Visit

Address: Moreno 364 (part of the Moreno Hotel), between Defensa and Balcarce

Phone: 4331-3409 / 4343-0823 / 4334-2380

Email: info@bebopclub.com.ar

Website: http://bebopclub.com.ar/

Schedule: (Almost) daily 9:00 pm shows, with 2-3 shows per night on Fri-Sat-Sun. Closed Mondays.

Tickets: Purchase online to reserve specific tables, at the venue between 3:00 and 8:00 pm on show day, or directly before the show for best available.

Arrivals: 30 minutes before show start is recommended with no reservation

Ña Serapia

May 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Legendary Locro for the May Revolution

Ña Serapia Pulperia in Alto Palermo

In the heart of Alto Palermo, just in front of where the 41 & 59 buses let off behind the sprawling Parque Las Heras, you will find a curious little hole-in-the-wall with a BIG reputation for serving up authentic regional Northern Argentine cuisine.

A pulperia as its fading, weather-worn storefront sign proudly displays, is the name given to a restaurant that serves the “food of the gauchos” – a classification that is strongly reinforced by the many framed images of this classic Argentine cowboy hanging slightly askew from its walls.

Clearly, this place isn’t going for any interior design awards, but that hasn’t stopped its famed owner Hector from winning the awards that count: the culinary kind.  One look at his front window emblazoned with effusive praise from Guía Oleo (Buenos Aires’ version of Yelp) and TripAdvisor says it all.

Sign outside of Ña Serapia

The May Revolution / Locro Connection

The BuenosTours team came here in search of a piping hot bowl of Hector’s lavishly lauded locro – Argentina’s national dish – to celebrate the Día de la Patria, or the anniversary of the May Revolution.  What we found was the faithful reproduction of an indigenous dish that warmed our bellies and spirits on what turned out to be a cold and rainy day in Buenos Aires.  Apropos, since the weather on that fateful day back in 1810 was similarly sopping, but saw a sudden break to sunshine the moment Argentina’s independence was declared from the balcony of the Cabildo.  Legend says that this is why the sun appears on the Argentine flag to this day!

Crowd waiting in line for locro at Ña Serapia

After waiting for 2 hrs+ in a line that spilled out 30 people deep in two directions on the sidewalk (one for eat-in and one for take-out), our crew enjoyed an assortment of not only the luscious locro, but a pile of crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside empanadas, topped off with the traditional May Revolution dessert of membrillo (quince paste) over a slab of soft white cheese (our sources tell us membrillo was served in little pockets of fried dough by street vendors shortly after independence was declared, which seems as dubious as the sun/flag story, but equally as fun).

Locro at Ña Serapia, with homemade chimichurri on the side Delicious empanadas at Ña Serapia in Palermo, Buenos Aires

In case you’re wondering how locro came to be forever associated with this national holiday, remember that the transition from Spanish colonial power to the first Argentine self-government (the so-called Primera Junta) was desirous of a symbol of something distinctly local and Latin in origin.  And what better symbol than a tasty dish from the indigenous Cuyo tribe of the Northern Andes?  There are few things more appreciated here than food, and few things more “local” than honoring our South American mainland ancestors.

Membrillo with soft white cheese, a typical Argentine dessert, at Ña Serapia

In Hector’s Words

Hector was kind enough to step away from his duties as both primary server and Man of the Hour to grant us a quick interview so we could find out what all the fuss was about.

BT: What province does your menu represent?

Hector: All of the food comes from Salta, in the North.

BT: How did you learn how to cook this regional cuisine?

Hector: I learned from my father in Salta, who always had regional food in the house.  It was nothing more than wanting to continue the culinary traditions that existed in my house when I was growing up.

BT: And what are the typical foods of that region?

Hector: Locro, tamales, and guisos, among others

BT: What is your favorite flavor of empanada that you offer?

Hector: I like the Salteña, which contains spicy beef and potatoes.

BT: How was this restaurant born?

Hector: This restuarant was founded in the year 1963, when I was still just a boy.  I came to work here in 1973, and in the year 2000, the owner of this place didn’t want to keep going, so I took it over with 3 others.  We have continued all the same traditions; we haven’t changed a thing.

BT: And one more… what is the origin of the name “Ña Serapia“?

Hector: The word Ña is short for doña, which means woman in the local dialect, and Serapia was my mother’s first name.

Hector, the owner of Ña Serapia, and something of a local cult hero

So there you have it, folks.  A hearty thank you to Hector for keeping the delicious culinary traditions of Salta alive, and for gracing us with an unforgettable bowl of chorizo and hominy stew to celebrate this momentous occasion in Argentine history. Best locro in the city?  It’s hard to say without sampling them all, but we’ll let the local patrons – one of whom told us that he has been coming here for over 30 years every May 25th for the locro alone – be the judge!

For more information, check out the Inside Buenos Aires and My Beautiful Air blogs, which both mention our main man above.

Address: 3357 Avenida La Heras

Barrio: Palermo

Phone Number: +54 11 4801-5307

Taking a taxi in Buenos Aires

April 24, 2014 by · 16 Comments 

Hail a cab in Argentina’s capital

taxibuenosaires

[Photo credit: Kyle Lease’s photostream/ /CC BY-BY-SA 2.0]

With hundreds of bus lines and several subway trains, Buenos Aires is an easy city to manage on public transport. But when you don’t feel like packing into a steamy subway car, or figuring out which of the hundreds of buses takes to take, hailing a cab is an excellent option. With over 40,000 taxis in the city (about one for every 70 inhabitants), you can easily flag down a black and yellow vehicle on almost any street corner. (With the exception of course, of three situations: when there is a subway or bus strike, when Buenos Aires’s torrential rains flood the city, or weekends between 4-6am in Palermo Soho and Hollywood as people leave the boliches [clubs] en masse.)

How to take (or call) a taxi in Buenos Aires

Hailing a taxi is easy! Just to stand on the passenger’s side of the street, look for a taxi with the red and white libre (free) light lit up in the upper left-hand corner of the windshield, then stick out your arm. While most taxis are just fine, it’s best to look for a Radio Taxi, which you can identify by the “Radio Taxi” logo on top or side of the car. Though odds are you’ll be ok in any taxi, Radio Taxi registers all of its drivers and every ride, therefore reducing the chance that your driver will try to scam you (for more safety advice, see below).

Another option is to call a remis, which is a private, unmarked car. If you are heading to the airport, your hotel will likely call a remis for you, as they often specialize in set journeys at a fixed rate.

hailing a cab in Buenos Aires

[Photo credit: Gisela Giardino’s photostream/ /CC BY-BY-SA 2.0]

Avoid taxi scams

Once you’ve waved down your cab, hop in and confidently tell your driver where you’re going. It helps to give them the cross streets rather than the exact address, and to have some idea of where you are headed. If you’re worried about your Spanish, write the address and/or cross streets on a slip of paper and show your driver. Then, buckle up as taxi rides can be notoriously wild!

As mentioned above, avoid unsavory experiences by taking a Radio Taxi or booking a remis ahead of time. For the most part, cab drivers (chofers) are friendly characters who will be thrilled to help you practice your Spanish. However, a few are always on the look out to make an extra peso. Here’s some of the common scams you should try to avoid:

  1. The Fake Bill: Drivers have been known to accept tourists’ bills, then switch them out for a counterfeit and tell the passenger that they can’t accept a fake. Try to pay your driver in exact change, and if you have to give him a 100 peso note, ostensibly hold the bill up to the light before handing it over, then watch his hands as he gives you change. The only counterfeit bills you need to look out for are 100 and 50 peso notes, and if you think your taxista has given you one for change, ask for a different bill.
  1. The Gringo Tour: Detecting a strong accent, some drivers will take you on a round-about route in order to milk the fare. Avoid this situation by waving a taxi heading in the direction of where you are going, and try to be more or less familiar with the route. If the prospect of figuring out where you are in this enormous city seems daunting, fake it! Show that you are paying attention by reading street signs and watching where the driver goes. Confidence is key.
  1. The Speedy Meter: Though uncommon, there are rigged meters in some taxis. Make sure the driver has turned on the meter once you tell him where you’re going, and watch to make sure it’s only going up every 200 meters, or 40 seconds in traffic. If you think the meter is going too quickly, you can ask by pointing at the meter, but you should probably get out and hail a new cab to avoid a ridiculous price.

These are the most common things to look out for, but if you want to read more about taxi opportunists, check out this article on Landing Pad BA.

Pricing of taxis

If you ask an Argentine or someone who’s been living in BA for a while, taxis are exorbitantly expensive; don’t worry, that’s just inflation talking! Traveling by taxi is quite affordable. The drop rate (as of March 2015) is 14.30 pesos during the day and 17.10 pesos at night, between 10pm and 6am (so about $1.20 to $1.40 US Dollars), and goes up 1.43 pesos (or 1.71 pesos at night) per 200 meters. If you’d like to get an estimate about how much your journey should cost ahead of time, check out the website Viajo en Taxi. You can type in your location and destination and the site will give you an estimate of how much it should cost. Keep in mind, all depends on traffic!

Try to carry small bills, especially for shorter journeys, as change is often difficult to come by in Buenos Aires.

Suggested taxi companies and drivers

Easy Taxi is an app for the iPhone and Android which allows you to call a cab. The application locates the taxi nearest your location (as determined by GPS), then sends you information about your driver including their name, a photo, phone number, and car model. You can follow the taxi’s location on a map, all of which helps assure you get a safe taxi.

Application to call a taxi in BA

[Photo credit: Easy Taxi’s Facebook]

We recently interviewed Buenos Aires chauffer Dario Wigodzky. Read our interview here, and e-mail Dario to request an airport transfer at dariowigodzky@hotmail.com.

Call a normal Radio Taxi with Taxi Premium at (54-11) 5238-0000. The operator may perhaps speak English, but it is unlikely. Make sure to tell them the address where you need the taxi, and when. Expect also to be asked for a phone number.

For a luxury car service with a native English speaker, we recommend Silver Star Transport.

Taking a taxi from Ezeiza International Airport

When you arrive at the Ezeiza International Airport, make sure to avoid any problems by booking a cab with an official taxi company like Taxi Ezeiza. The Taxi Ezeiza booth is inside the airport, directly opposite arrivals, and your cab is booked and paid for before leaving the terminal building. Do not say yes to anyone offering a cab who is not at an official booth – Ezeiza airport is the one place where even the black and yellow city cabs shouldn’t be trusted. Approach the booth and give them the address where you are staying, then you can either choose to pay ahead of time or at the end of your journey, but the rate will definitely be a fixed price. With Taxi Ezeiza, a cab should cost AR$400 as of February 2015 (between US$30 and USD$48, depending on which exchange rate you use). You can pay in dollars or euros if necessary.

taking a Taxi from Ezeiza airport

For more advice about safety in Buenos Aires, check out our Safety Tips, or read about taking taxis on Wander Argentina. And safe journeys!

Getting the best exchange rate for your dollars in Buenos Aires

February 14, 2014 by · 50 Comments 

*Thanks for visiting BuenosTours! If you find this article useful and it will help save you money for your trip to Buenos Aires, then please consider splashing some of that cash on one of our award-winning private walking tours of Buenos Aires, to get even more great advice and start off your stay in BA in the best way possible!*

*DECEMBER 2015 UPDATE – PLEASE NOTE: US Dollar exchange restrictions are being removed in Argentina following the election of new President Mauricio Macri. As a result it is getting easier to buy and sell USD in the country, and although it still exists, the difference between the official rate and the unofficial “blue” rate is now a lot smaller (13 vs 13.6, approximately, at the time of writing this update). We will re-write the below article soon to reflect this change – in the meantime feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments section below*

Be Savvy with Foreign Money in Argentina

Changing dollars and euros to Argentine pesos

[Photo credit: Thaigo Martins’s photostream//CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

Imagine: your plane finally touches down after a ten hour, cross-continental journey, you wind your way through customs and immigration showing proof you’ve paid the reciprocity fee, and you finally step onto Argentine soil at Ezeiza International Airport. While your initial instinct may be to exchange all of your dollars or euros right then and there, your money will go a lot (and we mean A LOT!) further if you don’t.

What currency should I bring to Argentina?

When traveling to Argentina, bring cash, especially US dollars. It is most cost effective to bring all the money you think you will spend on your trip in US Dollars cash (if possible mainly 50 & 100 dollar bills, as lower denominations often get a worse exchange rate in Argentina). That might sound a little different to the advice you get in general for traveling, but read this article and you could have a better (or at least, cheaper) trip.

In an attempt to inspire confidence in the peso and reduce inflation, the government has almost completely barred Argentine residents (or anyone else) from officially purchasing dollars (this policy has since been relaxed in theory for Argentine residents, though many suggest not really in practice).

Since Argentines rely heavily on dollars, a parallel, unofficial dollar market has emerged with a separate rate called the “blue dollar”. To give you an idea of the difference, the official exchange rate at the time of the last edit this article was 8.47 pesos to the dollar, while the blue rate was 12.75 pesos to one dollar.

Since the blue dollar rate is significantly higher (a 50%+ difference at the time of the last edit, but at times it has even been close to double), your money will go much further if you trade it wisely. You can compare current rates by checking the official and “blue” dollar and euro rates here (that link is to La Nacion, a Spanish-language newspaper, but even for a non-Spanish speaker it is still fairly easy to see the rates, and they are updated daily)..

dollar rates Argentina

[Photo credit: J’s photostream//CC BY-NC 2.0]

How to get the best rate for your dollars in Argentina?

So now that you’ve made it from the airport into the city (hint: you can pay for your transfer in US Dollars or with a credit card, so you won’t need pesos at that stage), what should you do with those dollar bills? The following are a few ways that people in Argentina get pesos at a better rate than the official rate:

  • Pay for hotels and restaurants in dollars: Hotels and restaurants often accept dollars, and will usually charge at a more favorable rate than the official rate. Many tourists keep some dollars on hand in case restaurants, services, and the like accept foreign currency. Bring along pesos, too, when eating out to avoid being stuck with a bill at a joint where dollars are not accepted.
  • Trade with an Argentine: Since demand for foreign bills is so high, many people choose to trade dollars for pesos with an Argentine they trust, at a favorable rate to both parties. This is not to say that tourists trade with random citizens, but instead with friends or trusted acquaintances (you could ask around, or at your hotel).
  • Visit a cuevacueva is basically a local slang term for an underground casa de cambio, or money exchange house. These are often close to streets with heavy foot traffic, like Calle Florida in the City Center. As you walk down Florida, keep your ears open! You will hear lots of guys saying “cambio, cambio, cambio” (cam-bee-oh).  This man is a blue-dollar-trader, and takes those interested in selling  their currency to an unmarked office where he offers one of the best rates available. However, tourists should be very cautious if they choose this option, and should not be asked to exchange their cash on the street. If you choose to visit a cueva, you might want to ask around for the location of a reliable one, perhaps in your hotel or maybe to your tour guide.

Dollars to pesos in Buenos Aires

[Photo credit: Sebastian J.’s photostream//CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

  • Xoom is a money transfer service which allows users to wire money to Argentina from a US bank account and receive the money in pesos at a better rate than the official rate (they offered a rate of 11 pesos to the dollar at time of writing). This is a great option if you find that you need more money once you are in the country and don’t have cash on hand, but want to avoid bank fees and an unfavorable exchange rate. They charge a fee depending on the amount transferred, but overall it is still more advantageous than the official rate. Find out more on the Xoom website. A similar service for residents of some other countries, including the UK, is Azimo. For either service, you don’t want to be in a rush to get the money, as the online sign-up and account authorization process can take a few days.
  • Banks, ATMS, and official money houses are your other options for getting money while in Argentina, and all of these will give you the official exchange rate. You may also be charged high fees every time you use an ATM or pay with a card, so if you choose to go this route, your best bet is to take out a large chunk of pesos and pay for each thing in cash instead of putting it all on your card. But better to avoid the problem entirely and bring enough US Dollars in the first place.

(DISCLAIMER: BuenosTours does not suggest not condone trading money on the unofficial market, but instead this writer is describing how many people in Argentina currently obtain pesos at a more favorable exchange rate.)

Don’t buy more pesos than you need

Be careful to only exchange or take out the amount of money that you definitely think you will spend, and keep some dollars on hand to use in restaurants and shops. Although there is no official information about whether foreigners may repurchase dollars or euros before leaving the country, anecdotal evidence we have seen suggests that it is not possible. If you do have a receipt from exchanging money at the official rate, hold on to it as you might be able to exchange money back into your currency with a valid receipt at the Banco de la Nacion in Ezeiza Airport. But probably better just to spend whatever pesos you have left on having a great time in Argentina while you’re still here.

To read more about getting the best exchange rate in Buenos Aires, check out Gringo in Buenos Aires’s article here. And, make sure you know how to check for fake bills by following this guide on San Telmo Loft.

Broeders Craft Beer

November 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Francisco and Marcelo Terren share their beer-brewing secrets

Francisco Terren of Broeders Beer

While Buenos Aires has a well-established reputation as a city of fine wines, the typical Argentinian lager will leave any beer lover disappointed. Few bars have beer on tap and while the ubiquitous litre bottles of the local lager Quilmes score points for being cheap and invariably served cold, they get few for taste.

But beer-guzzlers need not panic. The good news is high-quality artesanal beer can be found in Buenos Aires. Following a growing trend in microbreweries in the city led by the likes of Antares and Buller, Bröeders produces some of the best cerveza artesenal (craft beer) around. Being beer enthusiasts, the BuenosTours team jumped at the chance to join Francisco and Marcelo Terren of Bröeders one Tuesday evening to watch them in action and learn about the beer-making process.

Craft Beer in Buenos Aires: Starting out

For just over a year, brothers Francisco and Marcelo Terren have been brewing Bröeders at their home brewery at their mother’s Palermo home, when they were inspired to make their own beer after taking a beer-making course. While on holiday in New York, wine-loving Francisco hoped to bring back a beer-making kit he had read about as a birthday present for Marcelo, who had always been keener on beer. But when he was unable to find the kit, back in Buenos Aires the present became signing-up for a beer-making course instead.

Soon they were hooked on brewing. After starting out in the kitchen, brewing in a 20 liter pot on their mother’s hob, the brothers later converted the roof top shed into a compact micro-brewery, a well-organised space from which they currently produce 320 liters a month of various beers including Indian Pale Ale, Scottish Ale, Porter, Honey Beer and Barley Wine. All that was missing was the name. Marcelo and Francisco chose the name Bröeders before finding out that broeder means brother in dutch, which served to confirm their choice.

Marcelo put his background in graphic design into use in developing a logo and brand and the brothers started a weekly beer night with NOLAchef. Bröeders Beer Night is every Thursday night at the puertas cerradas (closed door) restaurant, where a selection of 4 different Bröeders beers is teamed with Cajun and Creole food.

Beer brewing equipment at Broeders in Buenos Aires

Beer brewing process

Working from their expanding folder of beer recipes compiled by experimenting with classic recipes, tweaking and adapting them and taking tips from the network local brew-masters until they are happy with the taste, Marcelo and Francisco get together to ‘cook’ every Tuesday night. For a beer-lover, peeking inside their impeccably organized micro brewery is akin to Charlie’s first glimpse of the inner workings of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

In front of me I saw shelves with labelled containers of various hops and malts, neatly stacked brown bottles of beer, barrels, kegs and a large gas burner with a 20 liter pot brewing. There was a tempting aroma that smelt like a sweet, malty porridge; we could hear the liquid bubbling and the hiss of the gas burner, and there was an intense heat emitted from the burner.

Brewing Broedsers beer in Buenos Aires

“Jesse, we have to cook!”

With a glass of Bröeders IPA in my hand (pulled from a keg on the terrace), I tried to pay attention and fight-off drunkenness as Francisco talked me through the brewing schedule. Each week they begin at about 5pm with the maceration process. After selecting the malts according to the recipe they are using (the flavor of the malts depends on how long they have been toasted, and at what temperature), the next step is to heat the malt and brew it into a big ‘tea’ for about an hour and half, during which time the bulk of the grain is removed and discarded.

The Terren brothers brewing Broeders beer in Argentina

At around 7pm Marcelo and Francisco begin “boiling and hopping” – the hops are added and the  wort (unfermented beer) is boiled for an hour and gently stirred. The brothers use local hops in their ales; cascade hops from El Bosón.

After one hour of boiling, the next stage is to separate the remains of the grains and hops. “This is the whirlpool stage, a key part of the process,” Marcelo explained. “What you do is stir the mosto (wort) for a long time so that the centrifugal force draws the trub (brewing term from the German for sediment, the unwanted remains of the hops and the grains) into the middle, where they form a kind of cake. This way we make sure the beer is not astringent.”

Brewing Broeders in Buenos Aires

With the trub gathered into a cake in the center of the pot, the wort is drained and rapidly cooled on its way from the pot to the barrel by passing it through a hose with a second hose containing cold running water adjoined (see photo above).

Brewing beer in Buenos Aires: yeast comes to the party

Let the fermentation begin!

The next step was to add the yeast. There was an air of excitement as Marcelo went downstairs to fetch it from the fridge. “Wait and see how it foams up when you add the yeast, it’s like a big party in there,” he said. The brothers explained that the type of yeast used is key to the flavor of the beer and they experimented with several types before finding Nottingham Dry Yeast. As promised, as soon as the yeast was added the liquid frothed up dramatically. And with that the barrel was sealed and left to ferment for two weeks.

The Terren brothers of Broeders artesanal beer in Argentina

Keep it clean

By now the fine details of the beer making process were becoming hazy, as I helped myself to another drink from the Bröeders keg. But for Marcelo and Francisco the work wasn’t over yet – there was cleaning to do. As soon as the wort was being cooled the brothers took a great deal of care to ensure all the equipment was clean and sterile, spraying taps and nozzles with alcohol and working in a methodical and organized way. This level of meticulousness about cleanliness had come from experience, after they initially had to throw out several barrels that had become ‘contaminated’.

With the brewery clean and tidy there was just time to finish the night with a taste of Porter on the terrace. A drink well earned by the Terrens.

More info on Bröeders Beer Night and how to book

To read more about the Bröeders Beer night at Nola see these write-ups on Pick up the Fork, the Argentina Independent, Anuva Wines and Gringo in Buenos Aires.

To make a reservation for Bröeders Beer Night (location in Palermo Viejo provided upon booking), please check:

http://www.nolabuenosaires.com/craft-beer-night-buenos-aires/
OR
http://broedersartesanal.com/

You can also buy pints of Bröeders on tap at a decent price, at the Fukuro Noodle Bar in Palermo Hollywood (Costa Rica 5514, corner with Humboldt).

Cheers!

Estancia Day Trip to San Antonio de Areco

October 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Step into a world of riding boots and leather chaps

San Antonio de Areco

San Antonio de Areco is a historic town that gives visitors a taste of the life of an Argentine Gaucho, or cowboy. Located about an hour and a half northwest of Buenos Aires, San Antonio de Areco also offers a peek into a unique facet of Argentina’s immigration history.

Despite being in a country of mostly Spanish and Italian immigrants, San Antonio de Areco has a strong Irish heritage. At the center of the town’s beautiful square is a statue dedicated to Hipólito Vieytes, who was born in San Antonio de Areco and played a prominent role in the May Revolution of 1810 and the first independent government of Argentina. Below the statue is a plaque commemorating the visit of then Irish president Mary Robinson in 1995 and inside Areco’s main church, next to the square, there is a long list of O’Reillys, Malleys and Maguires who helped build the church and the town’s identity.

San Antonio de Areco

Pull up a stool and drink with the locals in Argentina’s oldest pulperia

Surrounded by flat wetlands that constitute some of the country’s richest soil, San Antonio boasts a picturesque town center, where modern life mingles with Argentine traditions. A few blocks from the town square, the oldest gaucho bar in Argentina stands as a historical monument and a community’s commitment to its past. When the bar’s foundation, originally made of clay, was deemed hazardous, the citizens of Areco cobbled together the money for a new, concrete foundation that would support the building and not alter its facade or interior. They succeeded.

San Antonio de Areco

Guillermo Guereño provides a short tour of San Antonio de Areco. A longtime citizen of Areco, Guillermo knows the historical roots of the town, as well as the little quirks. The town’s first library was founded by women, who held the power to choose which literature everyone could read. In addition to knowing the people at each stop on tour, many passers-by greet Guillermo warmly. After the hour long tour of Areco, Guillermo escorts his guests to an elegant estancia, or ranch.

A taste of the high life at the grand estancia El Ombu

El Ombu Estancia

Located about 10 minutes from the town of San Antonio de Areco, El Ombu de Areco is a magnificent, family-owned estancia. Originally built in 1880, the mansion is the centerpiece of the property, serving as a Bed & Breakfast that’s maintained its gaucho character. Enrique Boelcke purchased El Ombu in 1931, and his granddaughter, Eva, is the estancia owner and manager today. In 1993, she expanded the property’s services to include a B&B.

The brick architecture is laced with ivy and dotted with a variety of flowers. After driving down a dirt road for a few kilometers, the tree-lined entrance prefaces the rustic yet well-manicured property.

El Ombu Estancia

Upon arrival, visitors walk onto a beautiful lawn with wooden tables and benches under a large oak tree. The classic setting is further enhanced when wine and beverages are brought out to start your estancia experience. After the welcome drink, the gauchos invite their patrons on a horse ride around the estancia. With very tame horses, the ride is enjoyable and leisurely. The gauchos have exceptional command of the horses and also know enough English to offer riders instructions on how to guide the horse. El Ombu’s expansive beauty becomes clear to visitors on the horse ride.

Argentine Asado

El Ombu Estancia

Once back at the mansion, the asado, or Argentine BBQ, begins. Served with several delicious side dishes – salad, tomatoes and onions in a vinaigrette dressing and rice with vegetables – the asado at El Ombu offers the best cuts of meat, from cattle raised either on El Ombu’s property, or the adjacent farm. The asado includes chorizo (sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), bife de chorizo (sirloin steak), costillas (ribs) and lomo (tenderloin).

El Ombu Estancia

Horses roam freely to the sound of strumming guitars

The gauchos not only serve the asado, they also provide the entertainment, displaying first their guitar skills, and then their intimate bond with their horses.

El Ombu Estancia

The gauchos put on a unique display of tricks with the horses, ranging from slowly kneeling the horse down, to doing a handstand on the horse (above) to putting the horses rear foot up against the gaucho’s chest – a daring tactic that garners much applause. Another impressive gaucho feat performed on some occasions is when one gaucho, leading a horse with a cowbell around it’s neck, has about a dozen horses in unison following him. The horses come right up to everyone’s table and “mingle” with patrons. It’s a fascinating sight. A dozen horses – completely free – roaming peacefully around a group of people.

El Ombu Estancia

Camino Pampa Tours and El Ombu

Click here to book a private estancia day trip with Camino Pampa Tours

Guillermo, who runs Camino Pampa tours, or one of his expert bilingual guides accompanies his clients from their accommodation in Buenos Aires to San Antonio de Areco and El Ombu de Areco. Guillermo’s driver, who speaks English well, brings all clients back to their accommodation in the city. Tour pick up is at 9am and return time is approximately 6pm.

What to pack for a trip to Buenos Aires

September 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A Packing List to cover you in Buenos Aires

what to pack buenos aires

[Photo credit: Salihan Laugesen’s photostream//CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

After ruminating over all the exciting destinations around the planet, you’ve finally decided to travel to Buenos Aires. Great, we know you’ll love it here as much as we do. And though you’ve tossed and turned over your decision, figuring out what to pack can be even more stressful. Start your trip the Argentine way: tranquilo, relax, we’ve got you covered.

Pack light and in season

If you’re coming from the Northern Hemisphere, don’t forget that seasons switch when you cross the equator. Argentina’s summer is from December to March, autumn is March to May, winter spans June through August, and spring blossoms from September into November. While summer can be insufferably humid, and winter bitter cold, the weather is overall quite temperate and these extremes usually last only about a week. Your best bet is to bring layers and peel off or pile on as necessary.

Regarding style, people in Buenos Aires are quite fashionable and trends change every season. Europeans will find the styles quite aligned to their own, but US Americans may want to leave some of their most casual t-shirts and flip-flops at home. Your best bet will be to pack light and buy a few things once you’re in town, if necessary. When in doubt, bring classic, flattering basics and lean toward dressy instead of casual.

These boots were made for walking!

Argentine packing list

[Photo credit: David Avalos’s photostream//CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

Buenos Aires is an incredibly walk-able city, and we recommend taking a private walking tour to best get to know the place. Without a doubt, the most important thing you can bring to BA is a comfortable pair of shoes.

Having said that, if you are planning to do some trekking in one of the more rugged regions of Argentina, know that hiking boots will definitely stand out in the fashionable capital. Also, if interested in dancing some Tango, you will want comfortable shoes to learn in before whipping out those ravishing heels to show off your moves. Try some simple flats or pick up some alpargatas once you get here.

A quick reference list of what to pack

Of course, what you pack depends completely on your style, gender, travel tastes, length of stay, and itinerary. But here we’ve compiled a list of essentials to get you started.

Clothing Checklist
Item Description
Comfy walking shoes Absolutely essential
Another pair of nice shoes or sandals Comfortable but more dressy
Plenty of socks and under garments
3 pairs of pants or jeans Good for day and night
A few shirts For every-day wear
2-4 nice blouses or dress shirts For fine dining and tango shows
2 sweaters/sweatshirts One lighter; fleece or wool work great
1 light coat
Pajamas and comfortable clothes For hotel and travel
Sunglasses
A hat or scarf
A raincoat or shell For sudden torrential showers

If this seems like little to you, remember you can shop in the city. Below we’ve listed items for the female traveler. Ladies keep in mind that while BA is very cosmopolitan, you are still traveling in a Latin American, mostly Catholic country and should avoid low cut tops or short skirts if you don’t want to attract uncomfortable attention. Showing some skin is not a no-no here, especially in summer, just try to do so tastefully. Women who wear sizes larger than a US dress size 8 will have a challenge finding clothes that fit in BA, as clothes run quite small.

Ladies Clothing
Item Description
2 dresses and/or long skirts keep weather in mind
A couple of tanks for layering
A scarf or two depending on your style
Nice boots/sandals/low heels avoid uncomfortably high heels
Pair of leggins Great for the plane and totally in style
A long shirt To wear over your leggings
1 pair of nice shorts avoid short-shorts and jean shorts

Those who rely on hair dryer should note that the voltage is different in Argentina than in the US, and hair dryers may blow-out (it’s happened to me!). Your hotel should provide a dryer, and if not bring a voltage converter. Buenos Aires uses 220 volts. Your computer, however, is likely dual-voltage and will be fine. Here’s some more information on voltage.

Other items
Item Description
Sunsreen  The sun is strong here
Medicines  Bring any perscriptions you need
Toiletries  Ladies bring feminine products as options are limited
An adapter for electronics  See photo below. Can be purchased here.
A camera  Lots of film and memory!
A good book For the plane and long bus rides
Passport Up to date
Printed receipt of paid entry fee Details here
Reusable waterbottle Try one with a built in filter
Credit/debit card and cash US dollars get a great rate here

Plugs and voltage in Argentina

What not to bring to Argentina

A tip when packing: pack everything you’re planning on taking into your bag. Now reduce that by 20%. You want to leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs. You should also leave valuables at home; flashy jewelry will attract attention on the street in Buenos Aires, and while theft is not out of control here, you wouldn’t want your memory of your travels tainted by a lost heirloom.

Lastly, don’t bring too many gadgets. LandingPadBA has written quite a lot about checking electronics before you travel here, but we think that apart from your computer and camera, you really won’t need anything else. Besides, you’re on vacation — take a break from the screen and engage with the amazing city all around you.

For more information on what to pack, read LandingPadBA’s article What Not to Wear, and check out what people are wearing on the streets of Buenos Aires on On The Corner. Enjoy your trip!

MASA Club de Tacos – Private Taco Dinner

September 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Inventive Mexican food in an intimate setting

review of Mexican food Argentina

[Photo courtesy MASA Club de Tacos Facebook Page]

When I tell Argentines that what I miss most about the US (other than family) is the Mexican food, they don’t get it.  You see while famous for its beef and wines, Argentina is not known for its food diversity – and forget about spicy foods.  Growing up in Arizona, Mexican food formed the nucleus of my diet, and continued to do so when I moved to California and basically survived on burritos.

So when I heard about a new Mexican-inspired puertas cerradas restaurant in Buenos Aires, I knew I had to check it out. I’ve scoured Palermo for good Mexican food joints, but I usually end up disappointed and nostalgic. Somehow spending 300 pesos on mediocre tacos and leaving without flaming lips, having doused my food in the “extra spicy” sauce, feels traitorous to my roots. I figured a fellow West Coast yanqui would get it.

Simple, tasty, and creative Mexican-inspired cuisine

Kevin, the creator of MASA Club de Tacos, gets it. MASA is named after the heart of Mexican cuisine, the masa or dough used to make tortillas. In Argentine Spanish, however, masa while still meaning dough, is also a slang term for a cool person. Dinners are hosted every Thursday night in a residential home alternating between Belgrano and Almagro. Guests typically reserve in small groups, and the mixed company provides a perfect opportunity to meet new people — especially Argentines! The experience feels more like a warm dinner among friends than a private restaurant, and the price scheme adds to that feeling: each guest pays what they deem to be the value of the meal, and brings their own beverages.

cooks MASA taco club

I arrived with my Argentine partner last Thursday at the Almagro MASA location, and was immediately made welcome by Kevin, a laid-back and friendly California native. He lead us to the kitchen where his quirky and fabulous right-hand-lady Evy was busy with prep work. We chatted about Mexican food in BA and the US as the cooks prepared appetizers. When the rest of the guests arrived, a family from Bahia Blanca and a few young Argentines who work in the tech sector, we settled into the living room, discussing the emerging kite surfing scene on Argentina’s Atlantic coast.

Dinner is served!

While we chatted with our fellow guests, Kevin and Evy served us baskets of fried avocados and a creamy jalapeño salsa. To my delight, the salsa sent steam zipping through my nasal cavities! The Argentines seemed a little overwhelmed by the spice, and warned me against dousing the palta slices, but I just couldn’t get enough. The avocado was warm and creamy, without being over fried. Delicious.

Buenos Aires Mexican food

To avoid gobbling up all the slices on the table, I ventured to the kitchen to find the Negra Modelo I brought with me. With the new Daft Punk album and some classic Outkast tracks pumping in the background, the cooks were preparing the first dish. I asked about the concept of restaurant, and Kevin explained it as an elevated spin on Mexican street tacos. He founded the project after working on a local website with a cultural agenda, with the ideal that going out in Buenos Aires shouldn’t have to be exclusive to those who can afford a pricey meal. That’s how he came up with the unique, pay-what-you-can price: it makes the hip closed-door phenomenon accessible.

I scuttled back to the table as they plated the salad, an absolutely divine grilled cabbage salad with mango, tomato and a creamy vinaigrette. The cabbage was perfectly grilled to eliminate bitterness but still be crunchy, and my boyfriend has been begging for grilled cabbage since. Peppered with mango slices, the salad was mildly sweet but still light and refreshing.

Grilled cabbage Mexican salad

“Don’t judge your taco by its price” -Hunter S. Thompson

As we awaited the main dish, our fellow guests told us about an application they invented called Cook App which allows you to search puertas cerradas restaurants in Buenos Aires. It’s like a go-to spot to find different venues on the lively underground restaurant scene.

MASA club tacos closed doors restaurant

And then came the main event: two tacos filled with pork carnitas with onion and cilantro, and chicken slow cooked in honey, jalapeño salsa, and blueberry juice, both served on homemade corn tortillas. The tortillas were the best I’ve eaten in Argentina; they were light and not overwhelmingly corn-y (as corn tortillas often can be), with a perfect touch of griddled flavor. Both meat fillings were delectable, and the pollo (chicken) was particularly juicy. The tacos were served with another salsa, this time made with the Peruvian Locoto chili, and I doused my tacos with the two spicy spreads to the horror of the Argentines. Once again, the tacos delightfully blended sweet and savory flavours.

Swooning in a taco-induced reverie, we cleaned the juice off our hands and discussed the spectacular tortilla masa. The strawberry cupcakes came right at the perfect time and perfect closure for the pallate. Again, these were not too sweet, and the cake itself was spongy and exuded fresh strawberry goodness.

Strawberry cupcake desert

While the family had to leave early, we stayed and talked with Evy and Kevin. We laughed about Argentine and US American cultural differences, and Kevin even admitted that he made corn tortillas since he knew I was coming. Argentines, apparently, are much easier to serve Mexican food. “They pretty much love anything we serve them,” noted Evy, while those of us from the US, on the other hand, have lots of expectations about Mexican food. True enough. Overall, I felt the dinner combined traditional Mexican ingredients into fun, and unique dishes.

Our hosts regaled us late into the night with stories about demanding clients, the joys of menu planning, and what it was like serving the rock group The Black Keys.  The MASA Club de Tacos is a unique, friendly experience.

If you’d like to reserve a spot at the next MASA Taco dinner, find further details on the MASA Club del Taco website, or visit their Facebook page. Vegetarians and those with diet restrictions, never fear! The MASA team is willing to accommodate to your requests. Read  more reviews of the restaurant on My Beautiful Air or The Argentine Independent, and happy eating!

Shoot Outside the Postcard

September 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Buenos Aires-based photographer Jerry Nelson shares his top tips for better snaps

metropolitan cathedral interior

Metropolitan Cathedral Interior

Welcome to Buenos Aires.  Home of the Casa Rosada, Plaza de Mayo, Metropolitan Cathedral and a bunch of other potentially iconic photographs.

How many times have you stood in front of a world famous landmark and realized that every possible shot that could be taken has already been taken by one of the thousands of tourists that have stood in that spot before you? You are on a once-in-a-lifetime trip and your goal should not be to bring back images that look like the postcards at the hotel or – worse yet – the pictures that are goofy and don’t do anything but scream, “An amateur took me!”

So when you visit the Casa Rosada don’t try to capture the palm tree to frame the photo with and for Pete’s sake, do NOT have someone pose with the Obelisk as if they’re holding it up.

Here’s some things to keep in mind when you’re photographing a famous landmark in Buenos Aires.  Relax, you can use the tips when you return home to keep taking better images than your friends.

1.  Get the cliche shot out of the way.

Title Test

The May Pyramid in Plaza de Mayo

Go ahead take the shot of the Casa Rosada with the palm tree.  You won’t feel right unless you do, so go ahead and take the picture.  Got the shot?  Okay, now think of some different ways you could capture the image and add your OWN iconic slant to the same subject. Look for the buildings reflection in windows or a puddle if it just rained. Include the local architecture, shoot it as a silhouette.  There is really no limiit to what you can do when you are looking for different ways to see.

2.  Practice at home.

Every town and city has its own iconic landmarks. While it may not be a art deco building, it doesn’t matter. Maybe there’s a statue, a church steeple heck, even a grain elevator.  Get your camera and to out to see it for the first time again. Work the scene and find a creative way to frame it.

3.  Don’t forget people.

Be sure to include people in your frame. They can add interest and movement to otherwise stale postcard type shots. People work especially well by adding a sense of scale when you’re shooting large buildings.

Plaza de Mayo is the epicenter for protests and demonstrations in Buenos Aires

Plaza de Mayo is the epicenter for protests and demonstrations in Buenos Aires

4.  Practice.

The more you practice the quicker your eye will become at spotting those interesting shots when you visit a new place. Your images will never be boring again!

 

 

Galerías Pacífico Shopping Mall

September 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Historic Shopping Center in Buenos Aires

Housed in a lovely Beaux Arts building in downtown Buenos Aires, the Galerías Pacífico Shopping Mall is a great place to visit for much more than just shopping. Originally constructed in the 1890’s as the BA headquarters for the Parisian department store, Le Bon Marche, this prime spot on the Florida pedestrian street has changed through the years, but retains a nostalgic elegance, making it a dazzling place to shop.

beautiful shopping malls in buenos aires
[Photo credit: Wally G’s photostream/ /CC BY-BY-SA 2.0]

Modeled after the great Italian arcade Gallerias Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, the building was commissioned exclusively for Le Bon Marche. The department store never occupied the entire building however, as it struggled to compete with the English store Harrods just down the block. (The Harrods building now lays empty, after closing over fourteen years ago.) As a result, other companies and stores occupied parts of the Galerías. It was the first home of the National Museum of Fine Arts, a hotel moved into one corner (now the luxurious Esplendor Buenos Aires), and the Buenos Aires and Pacific Railway converted some of the building into offices, thus the Galerías Florida were renamed Galerías Pacífico, since the rail line reached from Buenos Aires, through Chile, to the Pacific Ocean (el pacifico).

Beautiful ceilings and dark basements

mural in mall Buenos Aires
[Photo credit: Barcex’s photostream/ /CC BY-BY-SA 2.0]

At the nexus of the galleries you’ll find impressive murals painted on the interior dome. Commissioned in 1947, these murals were painted by five of Argentina’s greatest artists at the time: Antonio Berni, Juan Carlos Castagnino, Manuel Colmeiro Guimaraes, Lino Enea Spilimbergo, and Demetrio Urruchua. The murals reflect universal themes like brotherhood and man’s relationship to nature, and it’s an interesting study in the unique styles of each artist within the same medium. Keep an eye out as you stroll through the rest of the mall for some more contemporary murals, as well.

Like many other beautiful sites in Buenos Aires, the history of the Galerias is tainted with the stain of the last military dictatorship. In the late 1980’s, a film crew ventured into the basements of the mall, and one of the cameramen recognized the the space as the site where he was held and tortured as an ex-desaparecido in 1976.  The basement still bore ghastly evidence of torture, such as markings made by the imprisoned, including dates and pleas for help. The building was declared a National Historic Monument in 1989.

High-end brand shopping in downtown BA

After lying abandoned for a while, the galleries were converted into a shopping mall in the 1990’s, while Argentina was experiencing an economic boom. Today, the stores in Galerias Pacifico are basically the same ones you can find in other malls throughout the city, or walking down Santa Fe avenue, and around Palermo. Foreign brands like Chanel, Tommy Hilfiger, Estee Lauder, and Swarovski have shops among the many Argentine brands, and you can stop for cafe or lunch in the cafes and restaurants both on the bottom floor, and up high under the glass ceiling. Here’s a full listing of stores.

Galerias Buenos Aires shopping

[Photo credit: Miguel Cesar’s photostream/ /CC BY-BY-NC-SA 2.0]

While you’re there, don’t miss the Centro Cultural Borges (Borges Cultural Center), which features many wonderful exhibits. Also stroll down the pedestrian Calle Florida for more shopping and lots of interesting people watching (rushed business people, street vendors, travelers, money traders, and buskers all converge here).

For a preview of the Galerias, check out this video, and read more on Wander Argentina.

Location and hours of the Galerias Pacifico

Av. Cordoba and Florida, City Center
Website:  www.galeriaspacifico.com.ar/eng/index.php
Phone: 5555-5110
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10am – 9pm
Sunday – 12pm – 9pm

Centro Cultural Jorge Luis Borges:
Located on the corner of Viamonte and San Martin, City Center

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