Wednesday, February 2, 2011
We found that while food generally is cheaper in Brazil than it is in North America or Europe, it is cheaper still in Argentina - both in supermarkets and in restaurants. In the mid-1990s when Brazil and Argentina reformed their currencies the Brazilian Read and the Argentinian Peso were valued as USD $1.00. Today, Brazil's very strong Real is worth about USD $0.60 and the Peso is worth USD $0.25. The variation in the amount these two currencies have devalued in the past 15 years shows on every supermarket receipt and restaurant tab. For Brazilians, food in Argentina is good value, for North Americans and Europeans it is even better value. For example, one evening in a typically meat-driven restaurant four of us each had a large steak, of excellent quality, a number of side dishes, no dessert, and a good bottle of wine for a total of AEP $50.00 - or about USD $12.50 per person. At the neighborhood greengrocers, we paid about USD $0.10 per pound for bananas, and $0.15 per pound for excellent apples. Cherries, which are exorbitantly expensive in Brazil when you can find them, were a bargain $1.00 per pound.
What's true about the cost of food in Argentina also applies, happily, to Argentinian wines. Although Argentina's reputation internationally as a producer of top-quality South American wines still tails that of Chile, the quality of Argentinian wines has improved enormously in the past decade or so, as has the variety of available wines. A bottle of Trumpeter Reserve 2007 (a blend of Tempranillo, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon), which sells in Brazil for the equivalent of USD $35.00, cost us USD $16.00 in a Buenos Aires wine shop. At it drank more like a thirty-five dollar wine than a sixteen dollar one, you can believe!
he city, though still very much a traditional food city (meat, Italian food, etc.) has become quite sophisticated and the contemporary food scene is flourishing. One recent trend which has caught on big in Buenos Aires is that of the closed-door restaurant - that is, a restaurant in a private home, somewhat clandestine, served family style for a small number of diners. Until one reserves, the location is not disclosed. We were lucky enough to dine one night at Casa Saltshaker, run by an expat American and fellow blogger, and had a marvelous meal. On the night we were there, the menu saluted the 70th anniversary of the end of the Franco-Thai war. Twelve guests, of whom half were Canadians surprisingly, spent the evening happily working their way through five courses with paired wines. Good food was eaten, excellent wines were sampled and new friends were made - an excellent way to spend a Saturday night, in Buenos Aires or anywhere else for that matter.
For more interesting blog articles on food and dining in Buenos Aires, Casa Saltshaker has an excellent blog, which you can visit by clicking here. As for Flavors of Brazil, we'll now move back to the subject at hand, Brazilian food.