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

Thelonious Jazz Club

July 11, 2007 by · 2 Comments 

Jazz in Buenos Aires

Thelonious Club Jazz Cocktails - Keyword stuffers are alive and well in Buenos Aires!

If you are looking to spend a night in a setting of utmost Buenos Aires cool, check out the famed Palermo jazz club, Thelonious. This bar features live jazz bands Wednesday through Sunday nights, starting at 9:30 pm. On Friday and Saturday nights there are two bands in the line-up. Thelonious, named after the legendary American jazz pianist, is not a place to hear second-rate jazz. The performance on any given night will enrapture you with the energy, talent, and improvisational skills of the musicians.

Cover fees vary depending on the night: you can check their website, call for more information about that night’s particular show (see below for contact info), or stop by Thelonious to pick up the current month’s schedule.

Jazz performance at Thelonious Club

Reserve a table for a night of elegance and spectacular jazz

In order to make sure you have a space to sit and view the musicians, you should call ahead and reserve a table. They will hold it for you until 9:30pm, when the music is supposed to start (but remember, this is Argentina and nothing starts exactly on time).

If you come with a date, you’ll get a cozy table for two; bigger groups get couches and coffee tables; otherwise you can pull up a stool at the bar or even hang out on the stairs leading to the upper level. The place is small, so get there early if you don’t have a reservation. Your experience will be much more enjoyable if you have a seat, as the jazz sets are often quite long (an hour and a half on average).

Sip on a cool cocktail in the color of your choice

Located in a fairly posh part of Palermo, near Plaza Guemes and its lovely Our Lady of Guadalupe church, Thelonious club is usually packed with smartly-dressed Buenos Aires hipsters, old-school jazz fans, and foreigners visiting the city. It’s okay to be casual, but if you are looking for somewhere to show off your trendy new Palermo boutique finds, this is the place.

Everybody checks each other out, wondering who is going to be having drinks with the band after the show. So make sure you order a fashionable drink, like the local-standard Fernet and coke, or one of Thelonious’ colorful cocktails, such as a daquiri, or a frozen mojito.

Daquiri cocktails at Thelonious Jazz club

Thelonious offers a very complete list of cocktails, and some creative ones, like the Keith Richards: vodka, lemon, and sugar. Of course, if you are on a budget, be glad that you are in Argentina and you can share a bottle of Malbec with some friends for a reasonable price. And if you’re just a regular beer guy, grab a bottle of Heineken or Guinness.

Thelonious, a recycled building decorated with a special touch

The atmosphere alone at Thelonious is reason enough to stop by. As with many modern restaurants and bars in Buenos Aires, Thelonious is a “recycled” rendition of an old house. One special feature of Palermo architecture that you will see at this club is the bare brick ceilings. Above the stage hangs a light fixture consisting of subdued yellow light bulbs twisted every which way like an unruly nest of wires.

The place is designed to be a live music venue, with low-wattage spot lighting placed strategically around the premises. The sturdy bar seems to be made of adobe, and it has built-in lights that cast a glow on the face of your date as he or she absorbs the frenetic bleeps and bloops of the trumpet or the whirring drum rhythms.

Enjoying Jazz from the bar of Club Thelonius

Whatever act is on at Thelonious, you can be assured that it’s a respected, nationally or even internationally acclaimed group of artists who dedicate themselves to their instruments. Depending on the artist, the songs may be original compositions with influences from classical jazz, modern rock, and Latin American musical genres, or they might be renditions of standards from the likes of John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie. The late-night bands on Fridays and Saturdays are more the dance-and-groove types, while the weekday night bands are better for listening and watching attentively.

Worth an after-dinner visit, for an evening of musical bliss

Even if you aren’t a jazz aficionado, Thelonious Club is pretty much sure to guarantee a unique and interesting evening. The service is not especially warm but it is certainly professional and efficient. It’s best to eat before the show (or after, at the café on the corner of Salguero, which is open late), but if you come hungry, you can order simple pizzeta (personal pizza) or a tabla de quesos (cheese plate).

Thelonious also offers desserts, making it a great place to bring your date after an early dinner. Try their gooey chocolate brownie with walnuts and vanilla ice cream, or simply a coffee or tea. Possibly one of the best after-dinner drink choices on the menu is the Irish coffee, which is deliciously sweet with a kick of liquor. Or for an even more elegant dessert, cozy up to a bottle of Chandon champagne to enjoy the jazz in true style.

Jazz in Palermo, Buenos Aires at the Thelonious Club

A place like Club Thelonious could exist in any fashionable international city: New York, London, or Paris. But in the tastefully decorated upstairs space of Thelonious, surrounded by eclectic people from all over the world, sipping Malbec with good company, you will be glad you are watching a jazz show in Buenos Aires.

Location of Thelonious Jazz Club

Jeronimo Salguero 1884, corner Guemes, Palermo

Tel: 4829-1562   Website: www.thelonious.com.ar

Club Boutique (ex Club Museum)

July 8, 2007 by · 5 Comments 

Buenos Aires After-Office

All the shiny disco balls you could ever need - Club Museum, Buenos Aires

(Note: Museum has now been renamed “Club Boutique”)

(But most people still refer to it as Club Museum, so it’ll stay that way for most of this article!)

[Article written by Alan Epstein]

In a late-night city like Buenos Aires it isn’t hard to find a club that stays open until the crack of dawn, or an “after hours” party that will keep you dancing until 10am the next day. This is what makes Club Museum / Boutique in San Telmo so special: on Wednesdays, the people come pouring into this massive three-story club early, at around 7pm, for their “After Office” party.

Wednesday has traditionally been the midweek choice for “After-Office” parties, when the businessmen of downtown Buenos Aires loosen their ties and down a few cocktails. You don’t have to have a suit, tie and briefcase to attend Museum’s Wednesday night affair, but do come dressed the part. Shorts and sandals are frowned upon at the door.

Party revellers having a good time at Club Museum

Club Museum – Two-for-one happy “hour”

Happy hour begins at 7pm, and then until 10pm selected drinks are 2-for-1, with the food reasonably priced as well. Unusual for Buenos Aires nightclubs, there is no charge for entry at Museum until happy hour is over.

A wide variety of dining options… and sushi!

The variety of food is decent – you can have picadas, pizzas, capresse salad, or of course sushi, as this is Buenos Aires’ trendiest option. The sushi here is about as good as it is anywhere else in Buenos Aires. It’s the same-old-same with sushi in Argentina, everything is salmon and cream cheese, salmon and cream cheese… or you might get their version of a tuna roll, where they actually stick tuna from a can inside the sushi rice. It’s actually not that bad, but it’s a shocker to see if you are a real sushi connoisseur.

For a more typically Argentine choice, there is the Tabla de Quesos y Fiambres, which is a platter of meats and cheeses, including jamon crudo (cured ham) – unbelievably tasty and large enough for two to pick on, and a good amount to eat to not get bogged down for dancing.

Eating and drinking at Club Museum's after office party

What do Club Museum and the Eiffel Tower have in common?

The building is quite striking, and it really stands out from the rest in this part of San Telmo. The sheer size of Club Museum is  nothing short of overwhelming, having been designed by Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame! This old style French influence is apparent outside and in.

There is a huge cluster of giant disco balls hanging from the ceiling and large projection screens playing a mixture of liquor and fashion commercials, and also street scenes from across Europe. The floor is wide open in the middle with tables in the front and in the back. There are also tables to sit on at the perimeters of the second and third floors, which you need reservations to get.

Club Museum's big projection screen

Live Bands – first sit down and enjoy the show…

Club Museum puts on live bands most Wednesdays from around 9pm to 10pm. During this time it is probably more comfortatble to sit either on the second or third floor balconies so you can enjoy your food and the music simultaneously without losing your voice attempting to talk to your friends over the speakers. To ensure that you have a decent seat you can reserve a table in advance (see below for details), though to do so you should have at least 6 or 7 people in your party.

…then get on the dance floor

Once 10pm rolls around make your way down to the dance floor where the DJ will surely play every song Madonna has ever recorded. It may be true that Madonna sings about 15% of the songs played in Buenos Aires nightclubs, and Museum is no different. The mix at Museum is mostly 80s music and electronic, with some latin favorites thrown in.

When you are downstairs, remember that the Argentines require less personal space in general than in the United States (and perhaps in Europe too). Everybody is bumping into each other and amazingly nobody gets upset about it. It’s just the way it is in Buenos Aires. Restrain from getting angry and pushing back – this is just a cultural difference to get used to.

Museum is definitely the place to be on a Wednesday. Start at 7pm, leave before 3am (closing time), and still get up for work the next morning!

Dancing through the evening in Buenos Aires

Club Museum: Reservations

For advance reservations, you can contact Club Museum using the following details:

Online contact: Click here to inquire about the club online
Phone: 4611-5657 or 4632-9381 (between 10am and 6pm, Mondays to Fridays)

Location of Club Museum

Peru 535, between Venezuela & Mexico, San Telmo

Boutique del Libro – Bookstore and Cafe

July 7, 2007 by · 4 Comments 

Buenos Aires, a city of book lovers

Boutique del Libro Bookshop - Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires

As one of the most literate cities on the planet, Buenos Aires will not disappoint a book lover. You can spend hours just browsing through the stacks and shelves of novels, academic theses, art and photography collections, and poetry anthologies in shops across the city here. Of course Buenos Aires is best for book-shopping if you read Spanish, or don’t mind captions in Spanish, but most places do also have an English-language selection.

One very attractive and alluring bookstore in Buenos Aires is the Boutique del Libro, a combined bookshop and café tucked away in the streets of Palermo Soho.

Boutique del Libro: Unsurprisingly, full of books

Indulge the bookworm inside you at Boutique del Libro

Boutique del Libro is the kind of bookstore that makes you hold your breath in awe as you walk past the shelves full of enough books to satisfy any intellectual thirst. If you want to find art, photography, or design collections, especially ones that are specific to Argentina, this is a great place to look. Boutique del Libro also boasts a pretty decent collection of English-language classics and new novels, which are located by the front window. They also have a small collection of CDs by Argentine and international musicians.

The bookstore staff are friendly and happy to point you in the right direction to help you find a book. Everything is well-labeled by section, so you can always just go straight to a specific category and peruse. The bookstore is usually filled with foreigners and locals alike, enjoying the atmosphere and lounging around in the café.

Look smart with a novel by Borges or Isabel Allende

The café is an ideal spot for quiet reflection with a recently-purchased book, or if you need to get some studying done. There is free wireless internet so you can read your emails in this high-ceilinged, spacious area. The décor is tasteful: large white-and-beige modern style paintings adorn the muted walls, and the furniture is a mix of antique low-slung patio chairs and sturdy wooden seats. Each table is creatively topped by a miniature cactus plant. You’ll find yourself among people happily lost in a novel, or in thought, or in their studies.

Lounging around in the Boutique del Libro cafe / bookshop

Maybe just a coffee or tea in the café: it’s better for mood than food

If you’re on a budget, it’s probably best not to come to Palermo Soho hungry, because by Argentine standards places like Boutique del Libro are overcharging for their food and drinks. The Boutique offers standard fare such as steak sandwiches, salads, baked chicken, hamburgers, and tostadas, which are grilled-cheese sandwiches (usually jamon y queso – ham and cheese). It’s got an espresso bar and alcoholic drinks.

Boutique del Libro is actually a chain in Argentina, but the Palermo location has a special air of sophistication that is worth checking out. If you are a book lover you will understand the aura that radiates from a really good bookstore. Come here just to see the place and admire the simple decoration in the café, or to get some reading material in either Spanish or English. And while you’re in the area, across the way you’ll also find a very cool store called Objetos Encontrados, full of interesting antiques, toys and other random stuff.

So, in an afternoon of strolling or shopping in Palermo Soho, it’s definitely worth your time to visit Boutique del Libro, even if just for a look or a quick coffee with some cookies. And if you are actually in the market for books, you’ll almost certainly enjoy the variety of their selection.

Cafe and bookstore life come together

Location of Boutique del Libro Bookstore and Cafe

Thames 1762, between Costa Rica & El Salvador, Palermo Soho

Bar El Federal

July 3, 2007 by · 7 Comments 

El Federal: People watch, relax, socialize, or dine

Bar El Federal filete sign
[Photo Credit: Villamota]

Grab a buddy and head to El Federal, one of Buenos Aires’ most beautiful and classic cafes (in operation since 1864), for a relaxing afternoon coffee, lunch, or dinner. It’s a pleasure to sit in this café and admire the vintage ads decorating the walls, under a glow of soft lights. Bar El Federal is a perfect example of how the city has made an effort to preserve its cultural patrimony by maintaining old establishments in good condition.

El Federal also has a beautiful lowered bar (giving you the strange perspective of looking down on the bar staff) with an amazing carved wood and stained glass arching mantel above (see photos later in this post), an open kitchen which you can sneak a glance into if you sit in the back, two rooms full of sturdy wooden tables, and even a quaint little bookstore hidden within. The crowd is a mix of porteños relaxing with friends and family, tourists with their heads buried in Lonely Planet guide books, and eclectic San Telmo ‘locals’ from all over the world.

A classic café with cuisine that suits all tastes

Sit down at one of the tables and eventually a waiter in a crisp white shirt and black pants will bring you a menu longer and denser than a Borges novel. Whatever your appetite is calling for, Bar El Federal has it, and it will be prepared with fresh, simple ingredients. In general, their offerings fall into the category of cocina porteña: Italian favorites such as fresh homemade agnolottis, spaghettis and raviolis topped with tomato, pesto, or cream sauces; pizzetas with any imaginable toppings, milanesas, hamburgers, omelettes, and sandwiches.

Beautiful bar at El Federal
[Photo Credit: Paula Moya]

Elaborating on the topic of sandwiches, this cafe tops the charts in the vast quantity and variety of sandwiches you can choose from. There’s even an entire half-page in the menu dedicated to turkey sandwiches, which is not really common in Buenos Aires, as it is rare and very expensive. Then there are the medialunas rellenas, which are croissant sandwiches filled with cheese, ham, and other ingredients. They have traviatas, a sandwich made with crackers instead of bread, for a lighter option. You can choose from classic sandwich ingredients such as ham, cheese, salami, steak, sausage, hearts of palm, and more.

Worth mentioning are the picadas, large plates of finger foods that are served with bread baskets and make a wonderful light but satisfying dinner with some wine. El Federal offers some especially creative selections, such as sautéed eggplant, fried raviolis, peanuts, walnuts, olives, ham, cheese cubes, and goat cheese. The picadas are a great choice if you aren’t in the mood for a hot meal, and they are ideal for eating slowly during great conversation or romantic whispers with your date.

El Federal serves fresh homemade Spanish tortillas, and their salads are also notable, which range from specialties such as apples, carrots, walnuts and cheeses to traditional favorites with a lettuce and tomato foundation. The main theme here is fresh and simple, so don’t expect fancy bistro salads, but you will not be disappointed with the quality.

Food at Bar El Federal

Have a coffee, bottle of wine, cocktail, or milkshake

As for quenching your thirst, El Federal is like a bottomless well. You can sip on unique cocktails like a pisco sour, caipirinha, or the classic Negroni – a mix of gin, Campari and vermouth, with a slice of lemon – guzzle handcrafted Argentine beers by the bottle, partake in pitchers of draught beer or cider, or just linger over carafes of Argentine wine. Order like a local by asking for a chopp de sidra (a mug of traditional Argentine cider, on draught). Or you could even go all out and order a bottle of champagne, which is surprisingly affordable at El Federal.

Most of the alcoholic beverages are modestly priced, and as always in Argentina, wine is the best deal you can get if you don’t want to spend a lot. El Federal offers trusty, economic wines such as Traful, Lopez, and Concha y Toro.

Busy Bar El Federal in Buenos Aires

If you are looking for something that won’t get you tipsy, try a classic espresso-based drink such as café con crema, or a tea. And El Federal features licuados, the Argentine version of smoothies and milkshakes, which are made with either water or milk, according to your taste, and consist of any combination of fruits.

If you want a real dessert, Bar El Federal will not disappoint: it also has an extensive list of sweet concoctions, including strudels, pastries, and European-inspired creations of chocolate and fruits. Especially mouth-watering is the apple, pear, and cinnamon strudel, which is baked nearby and brought in fresh daily.

The service at El Federal is relatively slow, but it’s not the kind of place where you’ll want to rush through a meal or drinks. Enjoy the old-fashioned setting and the background noise of the kitchen sizzling meats and forks clinking on plates, while you experience the laid back lifestyle that Buenos Aires is so famous for.

Bar El Federal, San Telmo
[Photo Credit: Paula Moya]

Location of El Federal

Peru, corner of Carlos Calvo, San Telmo

Tel: 4300-4313

Bar Seddon

July 1, 2007 by · 2 Comments 

A Notable San Telmo Bar

Inside Bar Seddon, Buenos Aires

A Buenos Aires afternoon is not complete without having coffee, drinks, or a meal in one of the city’s famous “notable cafes and bars”. A few years ago, a city government commission drew up a fairly comprehensive list of 53 notable bars and cafes and awarded them this special status due to either their historical, cultural or architectural importance to the city of Buenos Aires. Many of these establishments have been in operation since the nineteenth century, and upon entering one of them you are quickly transported back to the city’s aristocratic roots.

One picturesque member of this exclusive club of bars and cafes is Bar Seddon, a San Telmo hang-out that was converted into a bar from a nineteenth-century pharmacy.

A bar that takes you into the elegant past of Buenos Aires

If you stand still for a moment in Bar Seddon, you can almost pretend that you are in a salon among intellectuals, philosophers, and young lovers from a Buenos Aires of many years ago. The musty yellow lighting casts an antique glow over the mahogany wooden bar, which shines with the additional luster of candles distributed throughout the bar. Bar Seddon is impressive in its décor, which consists of statues of Roman goddess-like figures, big windows for gazing out into the street, and an original old black-and-white checkered tile floor.

The bar has two stories with plenty of wooden tables and comfortable seats where you can share a bottle of wine and spend hours talking, listening to the bar’s music selection, or enjoy a live musical performance on certain nights of the week.

Bar Seddon in San Telmo
[Photo Credit: Paula Moya]

Wet your whistle or appease your appetite

During the day the bar is open for lunch, and it’s a great place to relax with a coffee and pick up a magazine or a diario (newspaper) at the bar. On any night of the week at Bar Seddon you can find an eclectic mix of clientèle, ranging from grungy European backpackers to students from all over the world to porteños seeking a little bit of the laid-back San Telmo attitude.

On Wednesday nights the bar features live bossa nova acoustic guitar and vocals, and on Saturday nights you may find a rock/funk band that transports you from Buenos Aires to New York City. Also, if you are looking for a place to hold a meeting of any kind, you might want to come to Bar Seddon during the late afternoon to enjoy the warmth, good coffee, and relaxed atmosphere. If you like a drink or two, Seddon has a great 2-for-1 happy hour in the late afternoons.

Bar Seddon: Fancy a drink or ten?

If your belly is rumbling, the chef at Bar Seddon whips up traditional dishes such as costillitas de cerdo (pork ribs), bife de chorizo con pure de zapallo y hojas verdes (beef strip steak with pumpkin puree and fresh greens), homemade pizzas, soups, pastas, and minutas (usually milanesa sandwiches made from either meat, soy, or eggplant).

Bar Seddon – a second home in San Telmo

Seddon is one of those bars where you come once and you just keep coming, whether it’s the music, the food, the atmosphere, or the people that traps you. As for the service, it’s pleasant and personal. The family who owns Bar Seddon works hard to keep the place clean, friendly, and enjoyable for everyone.

They are promising new deals in the future for backpackers who are staying at hostels to get a free drink with their meals. Also, they are looking into having ‘world’ specialty nights, such as German or French night, to vary up their cooking and give Bar Seddon a more international appeal.

One of Buenos Aires' Notable Cafes/Bars

So grab your date for a candlelit dinner, bring your friends to see a beautiful renovation of a historic building, or simply cozy up to the bar with a magazine and a glass of wine and chat with the smiling bartender while you listen to some Latin tunes. Whatever mood you are in, whoever you are with, Bar Seddon is always a good place to feel the rhythm of San Telmo and imagine the Buenos Aires of a hundred years ago: all with a good bottle of Malbec red wine to liven up the conversation, of course.

Location of Bar Seddon

Defensa 695, on corner of Chile, San Telmo

Tel: 4342-3700

Sugar and Spice Cookies

June 29, 2007 by · 19 Comments 

A great sweet snack in Buenos Aires

Sugar and Spice and everything nice

Sugar and Spice makes some fantastically delicious cookies and cakes. In a cafe-happy city like Buenos Aires, coffee and pastries may begin to become monotonous, but not at Sugar and Spice. This Palermo shop has left the coffee behind and instead focused on perfecting their pastries to be some of the finest quality in the city.

It may be difficult to sample them all, but those the ones you will try are extremely tasty, and a perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee. Don’t miss their “passion for chocolate” cookies and “super chocolate” budin (cake), if you are a chocolate lover. Also a good pick are the raisin and oatmeal cookies and, from their savory range of biscuits, the copetin fugazza (a biscuit flavored like fugazza, an Italian/Argentine pizza with no cheese or sauce – just the dough with onions, olive oil and oregano). Great stuff!

Buenos Aires bloggers meet at Sugar and Spice HQ

Cookies and the Buenos Aires blog scene

Sugar and Spice has graciously hosted a Buenos Aires bloggers at the event, and as is the trend, most of them have already written about it: Nathan, Diva, Dalila and Marce, for starters. Check their posts for more descriptions of these delectable treats.

 

If you are in Buenos Aires and want to be part of the cookie inner circle, you can find these delicious treats all over the city. Sugar and Spice biscuits and cookies are available in the following fine Buenos Aires establishments (among others):

Shops

  • Sugar and Spice, Guatemala 5415, Palermo Hollywood
  • Falabella (two outlets along Florida shopping street in the city center)
  • Al queso, queso (outlets all over the city)

Cafes and Ice Cream Parlors (each with outlets all over the city)

  • Aroma cafe
  • McDonald’s McCafe
  • The Coffee Store
  • Freddo
  • Munchis

Direct Orders: Sugar and Spice Contact details

Location of Sugar and Spice

Guatemala 5415, corner Av. Juan B Justo, Palermo Hollywood

Tel: 4777 5423,  Website: http://www.sugarandspice.com.ar

Cochabamba 444 Tango Milonga

June 22, 2007 by · 7 Comments 

An authentic milonga in San Telmo

Red Hot (Leggings) on the Tango Milonga Dance Floor

*If you want to check out some authentic tango salons in Buenos Aires, the easiest and most fun way to do so is on a private tango nightlife tour, where your personal guide will show you the local scene and explain everything that is going on to you, taking you to the best places on the night of your choice. For more information, click here.*

For an authentic tango experience in Buenos Aires, there are many options beyond the professional Argentine Tango Shows. For a different side of Tango, head to Cochabamba 444, the San Telmo milonga where the city’s best tango dancers come to strut across the dance floor with people of all ages, walks of life, and nationalities. The bar is dimly lit by chandeliers with yellow bulbs, giving an aura of antiquity that takes you back to Buenos Aires in its Golden Age of high-society and sizzling tango bars. It’s located on a quiet street just three blocks from Plaza Dorrego, where the Sunday antiques fair is held.

Tango dancers at the Cochabamba 444 milonga in San Telmo

Buenos Aires tango lessons

If you’d like to try out your dancing shoes, tango lessons are offered Thursday and Friday nights at 8pm at Cochabamba 444 (arrive a little late and there’ll be no problem – this is Argentina, after all). The teacher gives the class in Spanish, but if your Spanish isn’t great have no fear, because there is bound to be some English-speaking expat or even an Argentine who will happily translate for you as you whirl around the floor (or trip over your own feet, as the case may be). There may be better places in Buenos Aires for instruction on dancing tango than Cochabamba 444, but this milonga is really known for is its atmosphere and music.

Dance the night away, or just watch and enjoy

If you just want to come to watch the dancers and enjoy the music, you can show up around 10pm or 10:30pm and grab a table near the modest bar in the back. The bar serves bottles of cheap wine and things to munch on like empanadas, and picadas (plates of meats, cheese, olives etc), all at very low prices, even by Buenos Aires standards. Overall, the bar is populated by Argentines who are serious about tango, but there are certainly some foreigners on the scene too.

Once the music starts, even the most unassuming of patrons will whisk out on the dance floor and dazzle you with their grace, covert sensuality, and intensity. There’s a method to the madness, though: the culture of tango is outlined in strict rules that you can only learn from being a part of it. For example, the men always ask the women for a dance, and sometimes it’s done subtly with just a raised eyebrow. And once a couple is dancing tango, they will continue as partners for an entire song set.

A traditional Tango band belts out some classic tunes

Cochabamba 444: a performance worth coming for

Toward the end of the night, Cochabamba 444 will typically offer some sort of performance. It’s usually a traditional live tango band, who will bang out classic tunes with style on a stand-up bass, bandoneon (the type of accordion used in tango), and piano. Sometimes, however, you might get lucky and see a hilarious puppet show or a singer belting out some soul tunes.

Make note that Thursday night is arguably the best night to go, although you will probably also see some spectacular dancing and live music on Fridays too.

Make note, dress is casual but it’s best not to wear jeans and sneakers, as tango culture is somewhat more refined and traditional. You may not easily meet other travelers or Argentines at Cochabamba, but you will certainly observe a beautiful dance, authentic tango culture, and stirring musical performances.

[Article written by Rachel Singer]

Location of Cochabamba 444

Cochabamba 444, between Defensa & Bolivar, San Telmo

La Cabrera Restaurant

June 5, 2007 by · 22 Comments 

Buenos Aires steak at its finest

Goat's Cheese Provolone at La Cabrera Bife de Lomo al Tomillo Steak at La Cabrera

Ojo de Bife Napolitano Steak at La Cabrera Sorbeto de Limon con Champagne at La Cabrera

When it comes to recounting an experience at La Cabrera, words just can’t describe the ecstasy of enjoying one of their huge steaks or many other specialties. Take in the pictures or simply head over now to taste some of the finest steak in Buenos Aires, a city famous for its flavorsome beef.

Bife de Chorizo at La Cabrera

[Image credit: aprillynn77 at Flickr]

La Cabrera  – Beef is the word

As you can see from the two nicely sized cuts of bife de chorizo (sirloin strip steak) shown directly above, La Cabrera is extremely generous with the size of their steaks. Yet it is not only the meat which arrives in large quantities here – every main course order is accompanied with their trademark array of many small, varied side dishes, as can also be viewed in the photo above and another photo further down this post. These side dishes range from complimentary sauces (depending on what you have ordered), to couscous, mashed potato with mustard, tomatoes in sauce, calabaza (squash) puree, sweet pickled garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, guacamole, and so on, and on, and on

Steak, carne, meat and more at La Cabrera, Buenos Aires

In fact, the choices presented to you on the table at this parrilla (steakhouse) can be almost paralyzing. There is so much to look at, so many different flavors and options to go for, it may become overwhelming. If this happens, a word of advice: focus on the steak.

The Ojo de Bife Napolitano (rib eye steak with plenty of ham, cheese and sun-dried tomatoes on top) pictured above, is a fine specimen. It would be way more than enough for one person, forgetting the side dishes. So just try a few of the flavors on offer from those cute little sideshows whenever this occurs to you, but don’t let that detract from the main event, which is always going to be the huge steak.

The flavor of the beef at La Cabrera is delicious, succulent, perfectly cooked (if you ask for a punto – medium – you really do get it medium and not overcooked) and very, very juicy. And all this seems to be true whatever steak you order there, be it bife de chorizo, ojo de bife or bife de lomo – the three most popular cuts to order at La Cabrera.

La Cabrera – A House of Gluttony

And yet, despite the steak alone being more than enough to fill you up before you even think about the variety of side dishes, sometimes you have to go even further into the dark realms of over-eating and La Cabrera will probably tempt you to do so. Starters are completely unnecessary, but absolutely delicious. If you must, try the chorizo sausage (pictured below) or the goat’s cheese provolone (a type of cheese grilled on the Argentine parrilla) with sun-dried tomatoes.

Chorizo sausage at La Cabrera

If you are having starters, then a main course each would be WAY too much at La Cabrera. In fact, if you are just eating the main course and nothing else, two dishes between three people should probably fill you all to satisfaction. And if you are a couple, one main course between two will probably do, although a side of their fantastic wedge fries would do the steak justice.

Finish off the meal with a fantastic Sorbeto de Limon con Champagne (lemon sorbet with champagne). At this stage of the over-eating proceedings, having a dessert that you can drink through a straw is a very sensible idea (this dessert is also pictured in the group of pictures at the top of the post).

La Cabrera Restaurant - Great Steak House / Parrilla in Palermo Viejo, Buenos Aires

Final words of advice? Stay well away from this place if you are on a diet.

If you’re hungry for more, check out delicious steak photos from La Cabrera that were posted/linked to by Asado Argentina (scroll down on that page for the links).

Location of La Cabrera

J.A. Cabrera 5099, corner of Thames, Palermo Soho
[Other Branches: La Cabrera Norte, down a block at J.A. Cabrera 5127, Palermo Soho
La Cabrera Boutique, down the street at J.A. Cabrera 5065, Palermo Soho 
]

Tel: 4831-7002,  Website: http://www.lacabrera.com.ar

Cumana Empanadas

May 26, 2007 by · 7 Comments 

In search of the perfect empanada in Buenos Aires…

Crayon silliness at Cumana

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

Empanadas, vino tinto and… colorful crayons?

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

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

Cumana Empanada Restaurant, Recoleta

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

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

Cumana’s Empanadas

Empanadas, delicious empanadas

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

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

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

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

The Empanadas in Cumana are baked in a traditional stone oven

Other Traditional Argentine Dishes at Cumana

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

Gnocchis at Cumana

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

Share the goodness

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

Location of Cumana Empanadas

Rodriguez Pena 1149, between Arenales & Santa Fe, Recoleta

Tel: 4813 9207

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