Buenos Aires and Beef!

September 2010

This past year I went down to Buenos Aires for Labor Day weekend. What, just the weekend? Yes, it was just the weekend where I spent nearly 62 hours enjoying the city, beef and Malbec wines.

Because I was just looking for a quick inexpensive get away, I cashed in some Marriott points and stayed at the Marriott Plaza Hotel Buenos Aires located in theRetiro district just off the Plaza San Martin.

One thing that made the weekend rather short is that many international arrivals land rather early and the departures are late in the evening allowing you to squeeze a lot of experiences into just a few days.

My plane touched down at 7 am Saturday morning and after grabbing a cab into the city I was at my hotel by 9 am. Often you’ll need to reserve a room for the night before if you plan on using your room the morning you arrive. I was pleasantly surprised that a room was available for me so after a nap and shower I was ready to begin exploring by noon.

Armed with my Fodor’s Buenos Aires book I headed down Florida (which was right next to my hotel) toward Plaza de Mayo. Florida is lined with all the tourist oriented shopping you can imagine. Every other store selling leather goods and in the evenings the center of this pedestrian shopping streets is lined with vendors –  purses, scarves, paintings and other goods displayed on blankets just waiting to be haggled over.

After twenty minutes or so of walking I ended up in Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada of Evita fame. It was a bit of a windy, blustery day so there weren’t too many tourists out. After admiring the Plaza I ventured over toward the waterfront to try to find a late lunch and my first bit of steak at a parrilla!

I had read a lot of Cabana Las Lilas but decided to dine at the restaurant next door called El Potrillo. I was immediately escorted to a lovely table near the back of the restaurant that provided nice views of the Dique 4 (guess it’s a bit of a channel?).

Having done some research ahead of time I knew that I wanted to try the Bife de Costilla. It also turns out that in this part of Argentina the locals tend to eat their meat more well done. So, I learned how to order medium to medium rare and with my very rough Spanish managed to place my order. I went all out with local specialities and also ordered the Milanesa de Provoleta (grilled provolone cheese with herbs) and a half bottle of Malbec. I was not going to worry about fat, carbs or calories for this weekend!

When the steak arrived I was quite simply in a bit of awe. The cuts in Argentina don’t exactly line up to American cuts and are much more marbled than what we may be familiar. The steak was huge, thick and gorgeous (if that can be applied to a piece of meat!) It was served on a wooden board with a hot cast iron plate in the center to keep your steak nice and warm. Within moments the cheese was placed on the table and it was time to dive in.

The beef is extremely flavorful, perfectly cooked and extremely tender. I wasn’t as thrilled with the cheese as I would have thought so only ate a little so I could focus on the steak, which paired perfectly with my La Lida Malbec.

After devouring as much beef as possible I wandered toward Recoleta and the cemetery. Didn’t spend much time here but did see Evita’s tomb and wandered through a local market. My impression of the city is a bit mixed so far. There’s a definite European feel to the city but it appears a bit rough around the edges.

Another short nap at my hotel helped me then face the evening. I started my night by visiting the Gran BarDanzon which had reviews as being a somewhat trendy wine bar/restaurant. I went on the early side as I didn’t want to deal with an incredibly crowded room. I sat at the dining bar and gave the Torrontes white wine a try.

Torrontes is a white wine that I quickly discovered I loved! To accompany my wine I ordered a goat cheese tart which while tasty struck me as more of a dessert than a savory appetizer. Decided that Gran Bar wasn’t going to be for me so after enjoying my Torrontes I headed back out and wandered toward Recoleta and theDahau Restaurante & Vinoteca.

The main reason I was heading toward Dahau is they boast the Cheese Room with over 45 different cheese from an Argentine dairy. There are few things I enjoy as much as perfectly paired wines and cheese. TheDahau Cheese Room delivers.

The tasting menu I selected included three wines and three cheeses.

  • Mendel Malbec 2007
  • Andeluna Reserve Malbec 2008
  • Don Salvador – Torrentos Reserva 2008

They were paired with

  • Manchego
  • Buche de Chevre
  • Reblochon ( a very strong French style which I didn’t care for)
  • Camembert/Blue blend (don’t recall the exact name)

After enjoying the wine tasting I was then allowed to select one wine for a full glass to enjoy with the rest of my cheese. The room wasn’t crowded  so the waiter, cheese sommelier and wine sommelier would spend time with me sharing information about their wines, cheeses and other favorite places in the city (not to mention then sampling some additional fabulous wines).

The evening was wonderful and after a quick taxi ride back to my hotel I was in bed by midnight – a time when the city is still thriving!

 

On Sunday there’s a large street festival/market that takes place in San Telmo starting off the Plaza de Mayo. Tons of vendors line the streets, musicians, puppeteers and street performers entertain on every corner. If you’re there on a Sunday it’s definitely worth a visit.

After wandering the market I ducked into a corner restaurant for a lovely cheese & meat platter and glass of wine. The platter consisted of different cheeses, hams, olives, sauteed vegetables, bread and other interesting snacks. Along with a platter of garlic and parsley french fries I was a happy girl (thank goodness for all the walking!)

I had met a group of guys in the Dallas airport who were also heading down to Buenos Aires. Surprisingly, we ran into each other while wandering San Telmo.  They were looking for a place for lunch so we headed over to El Brigada (a well known steakhouse). I had just recently eaten so I joined them for a glass of wine.

Several hours spent laughing in great company and El Brigada was a thoroughly enjoyable restaurant. After a very late lunch we headed back north toward our respective hotels and we parted ways. I continued up Florida, purchasing several scarves along the way from the street vendors.

The evening brought about another steak experience. This time I took a cab over to Palermo to the La Cabrera steakhouse.  I arrived at about 10:30 pm to quite a crowd of people waiting for tables. After submitting my name, I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a table in their outside dining room within minutes. It was chilly but the room is completely covered and heat lamps provide lots of warmth.

La Cabrera has several much smaller cuts of meat on the menu so you’re not faced with a family sized piece of beef. However in addition to the meat they also bring you salad, bread and about a dozen small plates of little side dishes.

Dinner was an incredibly enjoyable affair as there was some lively conversation with both tables on either side (you sit quite close to the other tables). It was a wonderful evening. 

Monday was my last day in Buenos Aires. I enjoyed it revisiting some of my favorite sites of the city including the cemetery in Recoleta, shopping on Florida and having yet another and final steak meal before grabbing a cab and heading back to the airport for my 9 pm flight home.

All in all I enjoyed Buenos Aires. It was certainly a weekend full of lots of activity, beef and wine!

 

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