Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On the Road - Buenos Aires

Although this blog normally concerns itself with Brazilian food and Brazilian cuisine, I thought it might be interesting to post a few comments about Flavors of Brazil's recent visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina. This won't be a series of posts like other "On the Road" articles, just a few impressions and recollections of the nearby yet very different cuisines of Argentina.

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!

Argentinians are doing their best to uphold their reputation as being the world's most beef-crazed nation. They have recently lost their World Crown in tems of per capita consumption to neighboring Uruguay, but only by a small amount. Even so, they eat two times as much beef as Americans do, per capita, and three times what Canadians do. The beef is abundant and delicious in Buenos Aires - Argentinian beef is normally grilled, seasoned only with salt, and has a beautiful flavor profile, as it's all grass-fed.

Buenos Aires continues to look to mother-country Spain for guidance on proper meal times, and not to Brazil, North America or Northern Europe. In the evening, most restaurants are closed until about 9 pm, empty until about 11pm, and hopping from midnight on. It takes some adjusting to be able to dine, heartily, at that late hour. It certainly has an effect on bedtime, as it's impossible to sleep after such a large, late meal. However, bars are open to dawn, and clubs don't even open until after midnight, there's no shortage of things to occupy one's time in the wee small hours of the morning.

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.


  1. Interesting comments and right on. I love the meat in Argentina and for sure the prices seem cheaper than Brazil and the US. I feel almost that restaurant and grocery prices in Brazil are the same or even higher than the US say other than a few things like mangoes and bananas. As Brazil is my destination of choice now, I do miss the style of meat cooking as found in Argentina. But give me a well cooked moqueca with fresh seafood and it is hard to beat.
    Having experienced a few dinners at Casa Saltshaker, it is a real dining treat while in Buenos Aires and Dan does a super job both with the variety of food and its presentation in a great setting for social interaction.

    Jim, you do a fantastic job on this most informative blog and I hope your are planning or thinking of a book on the food of Brazil.

    Jim in cool northern Minnesota where it is minus 8 degrees F, but with the sun out and no wind, it almost feels like a day at the beach.

    Maplelag Resort

  2. Jim - nice to hear from you again, and thanks for the kind words. It sounds like we agree on most everything about food in Buenos Aires, including the quality of Dan's work at Casa Saltshaker. Keep warm up there in the North Country - spring isn't far off!

  3. Bạn đang cần chuyển hàng đi đà nẵngchuyển hàng đi hà nội. Bạn đang cần tìm nhà cung cấp dịch vụ.
    Nếu có cung cấp các dịch vụ giao hàng thu tiền hộ, cho thuê kho bãi, bốc xếp hàng hóa, giao hàng nhanh, nhận giao hàng cho shop online thì càng tốt. Vậy hãy đến với Proship chúng tôi. Chúng tôi cam đoan giá chúng tôi sẽ đáp ứng yêu cầu của bạn. Hãy xem qua bảng giá giao hàng nhanh của chúng tôi để so sánh giá.