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A tour in Buenos Aires quickly becomes a gastronomic tour of a country that among its other descriptors must include the word ‘delicious’. Argentina is positively stuffed with opportunities to enjoy very high quality food and drink that go well beyond the stereotypical steak and malbec. This article endeavors to provide a compass with which to chart one’s experiences. For more specific and exhaustive information about venues within the city, go to Say Hueque’s travel guide section to find out more.
Argentina is a cultural mix of largely European influences. It should come as no surprise then that the country’s food reflects that diversity of taste, usually with a twist. Although predominantly Spanish and Italian in its staples, Argentina benefits from a large amount of German and Eastern European influence as well.
Starting with breakfast, expect a strong, ‘short’ coffee (one can extend the experience with milk, or leche) and a croissant-like pastry known descriptively as a medialuna (half moon). There are a variety of breads, jams and other pastries to diversify an Argentine desayuno (breakfast), but don’t expect much in the way of quantity.
Lunch (almuerzo) can vary in size, but tends to be big. One may expect every type of Argentine food on offer, from the grilled meats off the parrilla to stew (locro) to the many types of Argentine ‘fast’ food. These usually take the form of a sandwich (and these are exceptional!) with every kind of filling, empanadas (a kind of pasty for those familiar with British food), or a kind of hot-dog known as a pancho (as decent as these may be, opt if at all possible for a choripan, or chorizo sausage in bread).
Dinner is typically later in the evening, so be prepared to wait until 9 pm or even later by visiting a café in the afternoon. An Argentine dinner will inevitably feature some kind of meat, accompanied by lots of salad and bread (pan—bread—comes with every meal, so one needn’t even ask for it). Since Argentine beef is known the world over, have some thought to enjoying a full parrilla or asado (barbequed variety of cuts), though these may also feature very good pork, lamb, and chicken. These often come to the table in a family style, table grill. Beyond the beef, Argentina features Italian food that rivals its roots. Try the many types of pizza and pasta. Expect thick cheeses, quality sauces, and an exceptional quality in the noodles or crust. What makes the experience all the richer is the authentically Italian ambience of many venues in Buenos Aires . This goes the same for many of Buenos Aires’ ethnic restaurants, from the Peruvian and Brasilian establishment to Polish, Russian, and even African options.
Inflation has really had an impact on dining and wine prices. Two and a half years ago, a very good meal could be had for US$10 to $12. Now it seems to be around $20. Wine prices in stores and restaurants seem to have increased by the same magnitude. Meals are not terribly expensive by US standards, but the days of bargain dining and "wining" seem to be gone.
A catchy truism nowadays is that Argentine wine is about a lot more than malbec. That said, nothing seems to accompany an asado de lomo better than an earthy red glass of Mendoza’s finest. Try, for instance, a Cabernet from Neuquen, or a Chardonnay from Salta. For those eager to test the more sophisticated variations in Argentina’s fruit of the vine, nothing suits better than a wine tasting tour in Buenos Aires. Here, one may enjoy a reasonably priced, unbiased representation of all the country’s wine growing areas, as well as the expertise that comes from being in a world capital. As wine tastings tend to be, it is also a good deal of fun.
Argentine sweets and deserts begin (and usually end) in the world of Dulce de Leche. It is indeed somewhat difficult to believe that such a flavor might come from nothing more than combination of milk and sugar. Dulce de Leche can be found in many great cakes, pastries, and cookies. It can even be suitably consumed by itself on bread or a cracker, and lastly as a rather popular flavor of ice cream. Helado (as it is called in Spanish) deserves pride of place here, it rivals the best gelato in Italy, and Buenos Aires is popping with establishments serving it.