Top It Frozen Yogurt

February 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Buenos Aires: Is Fro Yo the new gelato?

Top-it-frozen-yoghurt
[Photo credit: from the Top It Facebook page]

At its hottest and most humid Buenos Aires can feel like a sauna and even a gentle stroll can leave you in serious need of a cooling pit-stop. But another ice cream? Really? Sometimes it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and if all those steaks and empanadas are making your waistband feel tight you might want to consider opting for a frozen yogurt from Top It in Palermo Soho. It’s fat and additive free and contains only 100 calories per portion.

top-it-cute-dog-buenos-aires
[Photo credit: from the Top It Facebook page]

You can’t top this

But a trip to Top It is not just for the pious. Not only is the frozen yogurt guilt free, it’s also delicious. There are only two flavors – original and a seasonal fruit flavor (e.g. peach or passion fruit) – but, as the name Top It suggests, the variety comes from the choice of toppings. Choose three or four revelations or the yogurt churning machine and then decide what you want on top. There are more than 20 different options, including fresh mango, kiwi, strawberry and chopped nuts.

Top-it-Palermo-Buenos-Aires
[Photo credit: from the Top It Facebook page]

Frozen Yoghurt delivery

You can order your frozen yogurt to take-away, enjoy the air conditioned coolness and eat inside the air conditioned shop in Palermo Soho with its bright seating area and shiny perspex covered walls, or bask in the sun on one of the pavement deckchairs. For those days when leaving the house is unappealing, there is also a delivery service. Top It has proved so popular since it opened in October 2010 that it is now available in two branches of sandwich joint Open Kitchen on Reconquista 620 and 1054 in the city center and there is talk of further branches. It seems like frozen yogurt is fast becoming the city’s newest (and fairly virtuous) addiction.

For more about Top It take a look at this post on the BSAS ARGENTINA blog.

Location of Top It in Palermo Soho

Top It Frozen Yogurt, Gorriti 4721 (near corner with Malabia), Palermo Soho

Telephone: 4833 2260,  Website: http://topit.com.ar/

Arkakao Gelato, Buenos Aires

February 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Classy ice-cream for discerning customers

arkakao-recoleta-icecream

[Photo credit: Arkakaó Facebook page]

Arkakao is the smartest ice-cream joint in town. Here your gelato (Italian ice cream) will be delivered to your table by an elegantly dressed waiter complete with white starched shirt and waistcoat, who afterwards will present you with a tiny towel that expands when wet with which to wipe your sticky hands. Chandeliers complete the ice-cream boutique experience. This is a place for people who take gelato eating and afternoon tea drinking seriously. Somewhere to keep in mind for a treat for most of us, but possibly an ordinary afternoon outing for certain well-heeled Recoleta residents.

arkakao-italian-gelato-buenos-aires

[Photo credit: Arkakaó Facebook page]

Authentic Italian gelato in Buenos Aires

Arkakao is the Argentinean version of Kakao, a luxury ice cream parlor, chocolateria and tea salon in Aosta, northern Italy. The Italian owners of Kakao decided to open a branch in Rosario, the home of Argentina’s largest Italian community and now they have a third store, the Buenos Aires branch on Quintana 188, in the heart of Recoleta.

The ice cream is additive and preservative free and made fresh everyday, so you’ll never be served yesterday’s leftovers (which begs the question, what happens to the leftovers? Could this be the best place to work in the city?).  Aside from the dairy products used, many of the ingredients are imported from Italy, which, according to Arkakao is the country where the best hazelnuts (Piemonte), pistachios (Sicily) and chocolate (Torino) are produced.

arkakao-gelato-buenos-aires

[Photo credit: Arkakaó Facebook page]

Recoleta Flavor conundrum

Just when you thought you were finally getting the hang of the names of all those flavors in Spanish, in Arkakao the gelato is labelled in Italian. If you get really confused, use it as an excuse to taste your way around the different flavours on offer. As well as cups and cones, you can order Banana Split, fruit cup, coffee, hot chocolate and ice cream frappe made with any flavor you like. But if the choice on offer overwhelms you, take our advice and go for chocolate orange – sublime.

Arkakao Gelato, Quintana 188 (near corner with Montevideo), Recoleta

Website: www.arkakao.com.ar, Telephone: 4813-7585

Cafe La Poesia

December 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A writer’s cafe in San Telmo

La Poesia sign

After you attend the San Telmo market – a rite of passage for any traveler in Buenos Aires – you and your tired feet might wonder, “Where can I relax in a quiet place around here?” Surprisingly, you only need to walk one more block.

Although it has received some attention in travel books, La Poesia has maintained its character, bohemian environment and simple, great tastes. Located on the corner of Chile and Bolivar, one block off from the feria on Defensa street, La Poesia (“the poetry”) charms its patrons with old, wooden tables, exposed brick ceilings, walls covered with pictures, signs and quotations, and a nice balance between bar and café.

Opened in 1982, closed in the late ‘80s and reopened four years ago, La Poesia has plenty of history. If Jorge Luis Borges didn’t sip coffee here, his admirers did. His quotations adorn the walls, invoking Argentina’s literary past.

At the risk of sounding cliché, I think La Poesia is a classic, romantic Argentine café. It’s open till 4am Fridays and Saturdays, and is often filled with friends chatting for hours and readers combing through novels. Furthermore, a local, Porteño crowd offers an authentic atmosphere. There isn’t an English menu. The place seems destined for a scene in a Woody Allen film.

If the downstairs is bustling with the feria crowd, a staircase to the left of the counter leads to the high-ceiling upstairs, which I’ve always found quiet with nice views of the street corner (sometimes the upstairs is closed early in the week).

La Poesia inside

Micro-brewed beer in Buenos Aires!

Argentina has excellent wines. Great Malbecs are available here for very affordable prices. When it comes to wine’s brother – beer – the quality is not the same across the board. Simply put, good beer can be hard to find in Buenos Aires.

La Poesia brews its own beer – I recommend the Colorado, a red-tinted lager with a smooth flavor served in a cold mug. They also have a stout and blonde ale. Judging by the surrounding tables last night, people came for the beer.

Coffee drinkers look no further too. One of your trip’s best deals in Buenos Aires is at La Poesia. Order the “café con leche, pan casero con dulce de leche y manteca.” Coffee with hot milk, a loaf of toasted homemade bread and ample portions of butter and dulce de leche make this a simple pleasure you might order twice. I have.

Poesia’s Irish coffee is also well done, large and comes with a small side of cornbread.

The menu at La Poesia can be dizzying. Pages of sandwiches and tapas initially made me feel like I was at a Greek diner in the U.S. where they serve everything under the sun. Like its beer and coffee though, a keep-it-simple mindset will lead you in the right direction. I recommend their meat and cheese plates, or an antipasto plate, chuck full of olives.

Whether in San Telmo for the feria or perusing the streets of Buenos Aires like Borges, take a break at La Poesia. Sip your café con leche, nurse your beer and let life and its worries fade away.

La Poesia bread

Finding Cafe La Poesia

Getting there: The address is Chile 502 in San Telmo. From Recoleta or Palermo, take the D Line subway to Catedral station and walk six blocks from Plaza de Mayo down Bolivar Street. Bus lines 29 and 45 also stop nearby.

When to go: Monday – Thursday, and Sundays: 8am – 2am; Friday and Saturdays 8am – 4am. I prefer going at night, but the daytime offers more people watching.

Cafe Margot, Boedo

October 17, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

Soak in the atmosphere of San Juan y Boedo Antiguo

Esquina-Homero-Manzi-Boedo

[Photo credit: Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires Flickr account/ /CC BY 2.0]

The corner of San Juan and Boedo, made famous by the tango singer Homero Manzi in the opening lines of his song Sur (‘San Juan y Boedo antiguo, y todo el cielo‘ – ‘Old San Juan and Boedo, and all the sky’) is the site of a café (now a tango show by night) that was a gathering place for local left-leaning writers and intellectuals in the 1920s. Close to the corner are a number of cafes and restaurants well worth the 20 minute trip from downtown or 30 minutes from Palermo, including Pan y Arte, Cossab and Cafe Margot.

Boedo: Barrio on the rise

You might hear Boedo touted as Buenos Aires’ most up-and-coming neighbourhood, with its burgeoning arts scene, old school milongas (Tango dance halls) and claims to be the bona fide birthplace of the Tango. Although the idea that this traditional barrio is on the road to Palermo Soho style development might strike fear into the hearts of those who love it, for now at least it has retained an authentic, residential feel.

cafe-margot-boedo

[Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jglsongs/2227925169/ /CC BY 2.0]

Mingle with the locals at Café Margot

Café Margot was first opened in 1904 and recently completed renovation work has restored the café’s exterior to its former glory. Inside, Café Margot is enchanting, with whole hams hanging from the ceiling, exhibitions by local artists on the walls and waiters in waistcoats swerving around closely packed wooden tables, balancing trays of coffees and medialunas (croissants) or bottles of beer and baskets of monkey nuts.

But forget the inside. On a warm summer’s evening in the city there are few better places to be than sitting at a pavement table outside Margot drinking a cold beer and eating picadas (a shared plate of food to pick on such as olives, salami, ham and olives). Also recommended are the sandwiches de pavita (turkey, the house special) and, when they have them, the empanadas de parrilla (empanadas filled with slices of steak).

For more reviews of Cafe Margot, check out this blog post by Foodie in BsAs and Dan at Saltshaker’s turkey-tastic review.

Location of  Café Margot in Boedo, Buenos Aires

Café Margot, Avenida Boedo 857 (corner with San Ignacio), Boedo

Telephone: 4957-0001

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Un Altra Volta Ice Cream

July 16, 2007 by · 11 Comments 

The best Helado / Gelato / Ice Cream in Buenos Aires?

Cuarto Kilo of Gelato from Un Altra Volta in Recoleta

Out of all the ice cream parlors in Buenos Aires, Un Altra Volta in Recoleta is certainly up there in the cream of the crop. And this is in a city where the ice cream is some of the best in the world, due to the heavy Italian influence here. If the picture above does not convince you, read on for more information on Buenos Aires’ grand ice cream tradition.

Buenos Aires and the Italian Connection

The entrance to Un Altra Volta, RecoletaIn related articles reviewing Banchero Pizzeria and Caminito street, both in the ‘Italian’ barrio of La Boca, you can read more in depth history regarding the huge amounts of Italian immigration into Argentina around the turn of the 20th century. Of course, they brought with them Pizza and Pasta, two staples of both the diets of Italy and Buenos Aires, but also Ice Cream, or gelato (the version more common in Italy), the third prong of the proud Italian food triumvirate.

It has been dared to say that Un Altra Volta (known by most simply as Volta) boasts better ice cream than anywhere in Italy… though that is a bold statement. At this point, it must be clarified that Volta serves gelato, and there is a slight difference between this Italian concoction and your common ice cream or helado.

Ice Cream v. Gelato

So what is gelato anyway? Here, Buenos Aires foodie Saltshaker clears things up in his own review of Un Altra Volta:

“…the nutshell difference between gelato and ice cream…? Gelato has no air whipped into it, even top of the line premium ice creams have some, and lower quality ones have lots. Gelato does not generally contain cream, it uses whole milk, and contains more eggs. This results in a treat that is lower in fat (generally 3-6% versus ice cream’s 11-15%) but denser in texture, more intensity of flavor, and it’s served at a slightly warmer temperature to make it soft enough to scoop, yet, because of the egg versus cream thing, it doesn’t tend to drip all over as quickly.”

For the ice cream fanatic, Saltshaker also has an excellent page dedicated to an overview of Ice Cream Parlors in Buenos Aires.

Counter at Un Altra Volta, Recoleta

Another well-known Buenos Aires foodie, La Otra Dimension, adds the following about the difference of gelato

“…gelato flavours are often wonderfully intense thanks two factors. First of all, gelato has a lower fat content than ice cream; and fat, by nature, coats our tastebuds and dulls our perception of flavour. More importantly, gelato is made with a much higher proportion of fresh and natural flavouring agents such as ripe fruits or nuts.”

Note that the lower fat content in gelato makes it less filling, so you can eat a lot more, and make up for the fact that it is less fattening than regular ice cream.

Gelato from the gods

Dulce de Leche flavors at Un Altra VoltaWhatever your choice of flavors, Volta does not disappoint. If you’re looking for a real taste of Buenos Aires, try the extreme sweetness of dulce de leche flavored gelato. Mix in contrasting strong flavor like chocolate amargo (dark chocolate) to balance the flavors. Both of these choices are just heavenly at Un Altra Volta.

Futuristic ice cream at Un Altra Volta

The ice cream parlor is also a fantastic place to slowly enjoy your gelato, with a very white, futuristic, clean-looking interior that makes you feel like you have been transported into the future where the secret of 100% perfect ice cream has finally been cracked.

It is also a great place for a coffee with friends, especially on a nice spring or summer day when you can sit out in the lovely shaded patio at the back. There is always a nice mix of people there, always quite busy, with a chatty atmosphere, typical of the cafes in Recoleta. Plus, the staff are extremely courteous and attentive. And if you don’t feel like ice cream, then a nice alternative is coffee with a few of their finely crafted chocolates, which although they don’t quite reach the heights of the gelato, are certainly very tasty.

Coffee and chocolates in the outdoor patio at Un Altra Volta

Location of Un Altra Volta

Avenida Santa Fe 1826, between Av. Callao & Riobamba, Recoleta
[see website for other locations]

Delivery Tel: 0810-88-VOLTA,  Website: http://www.unaltravolta.com.ar/

Tour del Gelato

Tour del Gelato – discovering the world’s best gelato.

Cafe El Gato Negro

July 15, 2007 by · 4 Comments 

This black cat in Buenos Aires might not be so unlucky…

El Gato Negro Cafe and Spice shop

On a chilly fall or winter day in Buenos Aires, there is nothing more likely to give you warmth and a big smile than having a delicious spiced tea or coffee in El Gato Negro, one of the city’s most historical establishments. The cafe was originally a spice store founded by a Spanish settler in 1929 who spent years traveling in Asia and Siberia, collecting exotic spices and flavors. He brought them to Buenos Aires and named this cafe El Gato Negro after another famous cafe back in Madrid.

Now El Gato Negro is a reminder of the city’s European roots, and a wonderful place to read a newspaper or the book you recently bought at one of Avenida Corrientes’ many bookstores, or even to enjoy a gourmet dinner in its elegant upstairs dining room.

Teas and spices on the shelves of El Gato Negro

Heady aromas of teas, coffees and spices

As you walk into the cafe, you are instantly overcome by the mixtures of aromas. Freshly ground coffee, cardamom, black and green teas, and ginger swirl together in the air, hovering over the people sitting at tables or buying bags of spices at the counter. You almost have the sensation of being in an Arab market in the middle of Buenos Aires. Grab a seat and be prepared to relax for an hour or two in the company of a hot drink.

The truth is that El Gato Negro does have rather daunting prices for its offerings, partly due to the fact that it is a fairly touristy environment these days (as with most historical locations), but also because its coffees and teas are mostly imported and of high quality. A delicious delight like the cafe al jengibre, with freshly ground coffee, cream, ginger, honey and cinnamon, may cost more than a cafe con leche across the street, however,  El Gato Negro is worth a visit if only to experience its lovely old world atmosphere.

El Gato Negro, Buenos Aires City Center
[Photo Credit: adapar]

Try delicious treats like Irish coffees or vanilla-cinnamon infused teas

Other treats to try here are their Irish coffees, which offer a bit of alcohol to warm you up on a chilly day, and their loose leaf teas and infusions, such as vanilla-cinnamon, green tea-orange, green tea-ginger, and mint. Don’t miss specialties such as the cafe cardamomo with fresh cardamom seeds or their delightful cappucino. To accompany your bevarage, El Gato Negro has some tempting desserts and pastries, such as brownies, medialunas, and alfajores.

If you come to El Gato Negro for a light lunch, you could order a sandwich with ham and cheese,  some picadas (ham and cheese platters), or one of their gourmet sandwiches with steak, chicken, or cheese .

El Gato Negro is an acclaimed cafe notable, recognized for its historical importance in Buenos Aires. Most of the original wooden furniture has been preserved, and its a fabulous place to sit and watch people come in to relax after an afternoon of dizzying shopping on bustling Avenida Corrientes in the city center of Buenos Aires.

Inside El Gato Negro Cafe

An interesting range of food, but at a price

El Gato Negro also has a restaurant area upstairs that serves full-course dinners at rather lofty prices, not pleasing to travelers on a budget. Here you will find unique bistro-style dishes and a full wine-list that should please any palate. Among their starters, El Gato Negro has caesar salads with shrimp, regular salads, and a spiced mushroom tart. Main dishes range from the scalloped pork with curried corn pudding, to fish in almond sauce over herbed couscous.

For desserts, try the parfait de Cassis or the chocolate mousse with walnuts. All in all, El Gato Negro is a place for fine-dining in a unique setting, and it’s worth the prices if you really need to eat something besides bife de chorizo con pure de papas for a change. The wine list has good Argentine favorites like Benjamin Nieto and Santa Julia, or opt for a more economical glass of house wine.

Take a little of El Gato Negro away with you

If you are souvenir-shopping, El Gato Negro has lovely little spice tins and boxes with their signature black cat over a lush red background. Or, if you are staying long-term in Buenos Aires, this is a good spot to find things that can be difficult to obtain elsewhere in the city, such as exotic spices, soy sauces, couscous, dried mushrooms, fresh and dried spices from all over the world, spice mix for making asado, or dried candied fruits such as kiwis, pears, and pineapples.

Spices for sale at El Gato Negro
[Photo Credit: aardvark]

Location of El Gato Negro

Avenida Corrientes 1669, between Rodriguez Pena & Montevideo, City Center

Tel: 4374-1730

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