Top Picks – Buenos Aires Street Fairs

With over 40 ferias (street fairs, flea markets) in Buenos Aires, how do you decide where to focus your time?  While I have not visited all of them, I have done extensive research and enlisted the help of my Buenos Aires correspondents (aka my cousins Isa, Pilar and Carol) to point out the best ferias.  Aside from this post, check out my Quick Guide  on ferias for a comprehensive list, including hours, addresses and available links.
For Fashionistas

Check out the vibrant fashion scene at the FERIA DE DISEÑO in Plaza Serrano (Serrano 1557) in Palermo Hollywood.  It features clothing from up and coming Argentinean designers, as well as shoes, accessories, and crafts.  The vibe is fun, young and trendy.  Take a break in one of the numerous neighboring bars and restaurants.  Carol recommends Oro y Candido, a combination food market and restaurant. Walk over to the feria in the PLAZA CORTAZAR, for crafts, jewelry and leather goods.  Later in the day, Isa advises a visit to the nearby Las Cañitas neighborhood.  It’s currently the hottest place for trendy Argentineans.        Hours: Wednesday thru Friday 2pm to 8pm Saturday, Sunday and holidays 3pm to 9pm

For Bookworms

Head over to the Caballito neighborhood to the PARQUE RIVADAVIA (aka PARQUE LEZICA, Av. Rivadavia and Rosario) to browse through books and magazines.  You’ll also find used albums and CDs.  There’s also a section for stamp and coin collectors.
Hours: Every day from 10am to 7pm

For Hard Core Folklore

In Mataderos, PASEO ALBERDI (Av. Lisandro de la Torre and Av.Directorio) features 400 stalls specializing in traditional Argentinean folkloric art – think gaucho belts, mates, knives, silver pieces, and leather goods.  The vibe is rustic and authentic. Traditional foods, music, and performances (dance, horse riding shows, concerts) also figure prominently.
Check their website for hours – usually it’s afternoons and evenings on Sunday.  The site provides updates on special events and shows.  The season begins April 5, 2009.    

For Antiquing

The world renowned feria in PLAZA DORREGO at the Feria de SAN Telmo (Humberto I and Defensa) has been featured as one of the “Top 10 Markets” by Travel and Leisure.  Vendors offer antiques as well as crafts, and performers put on tango shows.  With 270 stalls, the varied performances and nearby restaurants and bars, you’ll spend a wonderful Sunday afternoon in this one-of-a–kind market.
Hours: Sundays, 10am to 5pm.

For Bargains, Waterviews and A Break From The City

Want to get away for the day?  Take a cab or remis and head over to the river delta in Tigre and check out the PUERTO DE FRUTOS (Sarmiento and Córdoba).  It’s about a 40 minute drive but you’ll feel like you’re a world away.  The Puerto de Frutos feria features jewelry, leather goods, crafts and furniture, with a special emphasis on wicker goods.  There are numerous food stands, and bars and restaurants close by.  Make a day of it and take a river cruise, visit the amusement park and try your luck at the casino
Hours: Weekdays from 10am to 6pm, Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 10am to 7pm.  Not all stands are open on weekdays.

 

Quick Tips for Shopping at the Ferias:

  • Wear shoes made for all day walking.  Some of these ferias are vast, and some are next to other ferias in adjoining parks, so you want to have energy and be pain free to stroll comfortably for extended periods.
  •  Dress comfortably.  If you visit in the summer, it can get hot, so dress for the weather. This is not an excuse, however, to dress like a slob. Daisy Duke shorts, shoddy sweat suits, wife beater tanks, sloppy t-shirts and droopy pants will make you stick out like an unsophisticated outsider in cosmopolitan Buenos Aires. Yikes, I sound like my mother!  Good advice, though.
  • Cash is king (and usually the only option for feria shopping), but be careful of pickpockets and purse snatchers.  They are looking for distracted tourists.  Put your bills in a money belt if possible, and leave the purse, along with your good jewelry in a safe in the hotel room.

In the rare case of problems with vendors, or any difficulty you may experience as a tourist, call the tourist office of the government of Buenos Aires, at 0800 999 2838 (toll free from anywhere in Argentina).

Note:  Most of the web sites I’ve included are in Spanish.  If you don’t know the language but are an enthusiastic shopper, I encourage you to take some time to navigate the sites anyway, because often there are photos and descriptions of the products, websites and even contact information for each individual artist/vendor.

More Dining Picks in Buenos Aires

My new Twitter pals at Buenos Aires Life know a thing or two about what’s going on in the city and where to dine.  Here’s what’s at the top of their list:

  • La Cabrera  Reasonably priced traditional Argentinean parilla/steakhouse. Cabrera 5099,  Palermo Soho  Tel: 4831-7002
  • Osaka  Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant getting rave reviews. Soler 5608, Palermo  Tel: 4775-6964
  • Cabaña Las Lilas  Superior steakhouse with an impressive wine list. Av. Alicia Moreau de Justo 516,  Puerto Madero.   Tel: 4313-1336
  • Green Bamboo – Authentic Vietnamese cuisine in a seductive setting.  Costa Rica 5802, Palermo  Tel: 4775-7050
  • Sucre  A modern take on Argentinean and South American gastronomy. Sucre 676,  Belgrano Tel: 4782-9082
  • Sudestada Southeast Asian fare, a welcome option for those seeking spicy food in BA Guatemala 5602,  Palermo Hollywood  Tel: 4776-3777
  • Dashi Arguably the best Sushi restaurant in Buenos Aires Fitz Roy 1613 and Gorriti,  Palermo Hollywood  Tel: 4776-3500
  • Mama Racha  Great restaurant and outdoor café for a lunch or snack any time of day. Costa Rica and Armenia, Palermo  Tel: 4833-4950

Great Deal on Travel to Rio and Buenos Aires

Kayak periodically sends me some unbelievable travel deals.  This week, they highlighted an 8 day trip to Rio, Iguazu and Buenos Aires for $1499.   This includes airfare from JFK (other departure cities also available), connections and hotel.  This package is just one of the many offered  by Latin DestinationsTheir web site is very well designed and easy to navigate.  Customizing your trip and viewing alternatives is a cinch – just click on Design Your Own Trip. 

Dulce de Leche – A Delicious National Obsession

If beef is the national dish of Argentina, dulce de leche is undeniably the country’s sweet treat — the average Argentinean eats 6 pounds each year.  Dulce de leche is a creamy, silky dessert made from sweetened milk.  It tastes something like caramel, without the syrupy aftertaste.  The texture is smoother and fuller than caramel but not grainy or dry like peanut butter.

Describing the taste does not do it justice, of course.  You’ll just have to try it.  And in Argentina, it’s hard not to be exposed to dulce de leche – it is almost literally everywhere.  The dessert menu of just about any restaurant will feature it prominently.  Every confiteria (café) will offer pastries with dulce de leche and every ice cream shop includes dulce de leche as a basic flavor.  I recommend the ‘dulce de leche granizado’ ice cream – dulce de leche with tiny chocolate chips.

 

The appeal of dulce de leche is not just in its sweet deliciousness.  DDL (as our household has nicknamed it) is versatile and can accompany almost every bread, cookie, pastry and dessert. My father used to say “there’s no dessert that can’t be improved with dulce de leche”.  I think that’s a bit extreme (candy corn, jello, watermelon?) but he was not too far off.  In the US, dulce de leche is known as an ice cream topping, but it can add spectacular taste levels to:

 

  • Crepes:  spread a tablespoon or two of dulce de leche on the center of a crepe, roll it up like a cigar and place it in a baking dish.  Continue until you have about a dozen filled crepes, place the dish in the oven and broil for 5-10 minutes.  Serve warm and, for extra decadence, with real whipped cream.
  • Waffles: top with dulce de leche.  If you insist on extra calories, use whipped cream on them also.
  • Cake:  use dulce de leche as cake filling and or frosting.  It’s great with vanilla, chocolate and mocha flavors.  Brownies with dulce de leche frosting are incredible.
  • Flan:  to me, most flan tastes bland.  But pair it with dulce de leche and it’s a hit.
  • Shortbread:  the perfect compliment to a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth piece of shortbread is creamy dulce de leche spread on top.
  • Fruit:  cut an apple into slices and serve with dulce de leche for dipping.  Especially good with a tart Granny Smith – yum.  You can do the same with bananas, or you can smoosh a banana together with a heaping tablespoon of DDL.  It looks like a gooey mess, but it’s delicious.  If you have kids that are fussy about eating fruit, you may win them over with this dulce de leche strategy.
  • Toast:  spread dulce de leche instead of butter while the toast is still warm
  • Yogurt:  take plain or vanilla yogurt and stir in some dulce de leche.  The blend of sour with sweet makes this a healthy indulgence.  Just don’t go overboard with the dulce de leche or you’ll hit your daily calorie count by lunch time!

Every Argentinean is a dulce de leche connoisseur, and is often stubbornly loyal to his/her brand.  If you want to try dulce de leche for the first time, it is best to stick with a well-known brand, for consistency of flavor.  The best sellers are San Ignacio, La Serenísima, Gándara, Chascomús and La Salamandra.  I can sometimes find La Salamandra at Williams-Sonoma but I can always count on Amigo Foods, my reliable, convenient online resource, whenever we run out of our precious jar of San Ignacio.

 

Have you tried dulce de leche?  Are you turned off by the sweetness?  Or are you a fan? An addict?

Hotel Correntoso On Top 10 List for “World’s Sexiest Winter Lodges”

Travel writer Jason H. Harper from Concierge.com loved the scenery, the amenities and the choice of activities at the Hotel Correntoso in Villa La Angostura, Patagonia.  Fly fishing, full spa treatments or taking a scenic drive along the Seven Lakes, it’s all fabulous.  Read his review and then check out even more stunning views on the Hotel Correntoso web site.    If you can be tempted to leave the hotel, there are tons of things to do and see in and around Villa La Angostura. 

Hotel Correntoso, Villa La Angostura

Map of the Area (see the Map of Argentina as a reference point)

 

Chaitén Volcano Erupts…Again

This volcano is located in Chile, on the border with Argentina in Patagonia (see the map below with volcano, not to scale and enhanced for dramatic effect). The volcano erupted last May and although there was no loss of human life, the town of Chaitén was completely covered in ash and residents were evacuated.

 

The volcano has once again increased its activity, recently spewing a 6 mile column of ash and causing earthquakes.  The Volcanism Blog is posting ongoing reports and photos.  El Cordillerano, a newspaper based in Bariloche, also has up to date reports (Spanish only).

 

The town of Chaitén has been evacuated, although there are some inhabitants who are refusing to leave.  Other communities are not in direct danger, although the dust and ash is currently affecting towns 60 miles away.  Governmental organizations are distributing drinking water, eye wash and headscarves to disrupted areas.

 

The volcano could have more far-reaching effects as continued ash eruption and wind patterns could spread dust all the way to Buenos Aires.  This dust activity was mild in the city last year and did not stick around very long.  The most important consequence for visitors to Argentina is the possible disruption of air traffic for domestic flights if the dust clouds spread and encompass flight paths.  Check progress with your travel agent or airline and have a back up plan (options: bus or car rental) in case your flight is cancelled.

Photo from El Cordillerano

Reference map

Best Dining Options in Buenos Aires

Chances are you will have a positive dining experience in any restaurant you visit in Buenos Aires.  But if your priority is to go to the best restaurants the city has to offer, let me point you to some authoritative sources: 

Arguably the most respected restaurant guide is Vidal Buzzi (in Spanish).  Their top ranked restaurants include:

  • Le Mistral  – Contemporary Mediterranean, including tapas, at the Four Seasons Hotel.
    Posadas 1086, Barrio Norte Tel: 4321-1730
  • Tomo 1 – Contemporary Argentine, with excellent wine list, at the Panamericano Hotel
    Carlos Pellegrini 521,  San Nicolas  Tel: 4326-6695
    (It’s also my mom’s favorite restaurant in Buenos Aires)
  • Oviedo – Award winning Spanish cuisine,  Beruti 2602, Recoleta Teléfono: 4821-3741

Guia Oleo (in Spanish) offers a very complete restaurant guide.  Some restaurants at the top of their rating lists are:

  • Casa Coupage – Wine tastings, individual attention and New Argentine cuisine in an intimate setting.  Reservations required.
    Güemes 4382 1st floor, Palermo  Tel: 4833-6354
  • Nectarine – Superior French restaurant
    Vicente López 1661, Recoleta Tel: 4813-6993
  • La Bourgogne –  French cuisine in the beautiful Alvear Palace Hotel
    Ayacucho 2027, Recoleta  Tel: 4808-2100/4805-3857
  • El Baqueano – Exotic Argentinean meats and fish, including llama, boar and cayman
    Chile 495 and Bolivar, San Telmo  Tel: 4342-0802

Metropolis recommends that you try:

  • La Mas Querida – Pizzas with a modern twist
    Echeverría y Montañeses, Belgrano  Tel: 4788-1455
  • Hippopotamus – New Argentine cuisine
    Junin 1789, Recoleta Tel:  4802-0500
  • Fernet Bistrot – Spanish/Argentine in a romantic setting
    Juan Bautista de Lasalle 447  San Isidro  Tel:  4732-0539

My recommendation:

I had a delicious, memorable meal at Patagonia Sur, established by Argentina’s most famous chef, Francis Mallman. Steakhouse and northern and southern Argentinean cuisine.   Rocha 803 and Pedro de Mendoza, La Boca  Tel: 4303 5917
What’s Hot:

Peruvian food and Peruvian/Fusion cuisine are currently all the rage.  The Argentine Post has more details and recommendations, including the popular and highly rated Astrid Y Gaston – Lafinur 3222,  Palermo Tel: 4802-2991
Good deals and great eats:

The Taxi Gourmet hops in a cab and asks the driver to take her to his/her favorite restaurant which she then reviews.  On her top 10 list for 2008 :

  • Marta Corsico’s Former Gas Station Café – Argentinean comfort food. Viamonte 1363 and Talcahuano, Retiro
  • La Tranquerita – traditional stews, fare – Boyacá 996 – Flores, Tel: 4584 1441
  • El Litoral – steakhouse  Moreno 2201 and Pasco, Balvanera, Tel. 4953 2438
        

Other resources:

 

Carnivore Heaven… All You Can Eat Asado Under $20!

On my next trip to Argentina, I will definitely go back to Siga La Vaca, an excellent, inexpensive all-you-can-eat restaurant with several locations in central Buenos Aires and the suburbs (see map).  For US$20 per person you can indulge in appetizers, excellent beef, chicken, and/or pork, salad bar fare, sides and dessert.  Your first drink (wine, beer or soft drink) is also included.  Stop by for lunch on a weekday, and you pay less than US$15.  Incredible!

I visited their location in Pilar, a suburb of Buenos Aires.  The restaurant was spacious, warmly lit and had a fun, informal ambience.  It’s family-friendly and can get a bit noisy.  The food was great – fresh, high quality meat grilled to your taste.  My favorite part of the meal was going up to the counter for seconds.  The asadores (grill cooks) display the meat, fresh off the grill, and you just point to what you like.  You’ll see familiar food like steak, beef kebabs, chorizo (sausage) and chicken breast, along with some cuts and parts that may be new to you such as morcilla (black pudding), mollejas (sweet breads) and chinchulines (small intestine).  I really recommend that you try anything new.  “Just take a small bite,” as your mom used to insist.  If you don’t like it, you didn’t waste your money and you can move on to something else you might like.  When else are you going to get such a great opportunity to discover new foods?  I’ll bet that you become a fan of at least one of these adventurous foods andthat you find yourself back at that counter.  

The other nice thing about SLV is that you’ll dine among regular Argentinean families. This may be the closest you get to a traditional family asado – the food, the laughter, the easy-going mood, the amped-up protein levels.  This is less true of the Puerto Madero location where half the clients are tourists, but on the other hand, this particular restaurant is open continuously from noon until 2am, accommodating both American and Argentinean dining schedules.  The restaurants are popular, and although they can take in over 400 diners in some locations, there may be a wait during peak times. 

SLV locations in Central Buenos Aires.  They also have a take out place in Belgrano and restaurants in Pilar and San Isidro


View Larger Map

 

When you think of all-you-can-eat, the term “wine choices” doesn’t immediately leap to mind.  Unless you are in Argentina!

Patagonia Lakes Region on T&L’s List of World’s Cleanest Air

Although the name of Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires (Good Airs) would imply that it belongs on Travel + Leisure’s top 10 list, Patagonia deserves the honor.  Visitors confirm that the air is clear and feels purer as you breathe it in.  And at night the lack of smog and light pollution brings out every little star.