July 08, 2015

San Antonio de Areco: On the Trail of the Gauchos


Gauchos Parade at El Ombu de Areco 
 San Antonio de Areco is one of the delightful towns closest to Buenos Aires that provides visitors a sense of gaucho tradition. San Antonio de Areco is nearly 70 miles northwest of the Argentine Pampas Region. It’s a great 1½-hour day trip by car from Buenos Aires—or the perfect jumping-off point for those who choose to visit at a nearby estancia, or a traditional large rural ranch and estate.

The town’s only real sights are a couple of museums, the most important of which is the Museo Gauchesco Ricardo Güiraldes. But what really makes Areco memorable is the harmonious architectural character of the town’s centre: all cobbled streets and faded Italianate and colonial facades punctuated by elaborate wrought-iron grilles and delicately arching lamps. There are also some excellent artisans working in the town in talleres (workshops). Weaving and leatherwork are well represented, but the silversmiths are the highlight.

The must-visit place is Centro Cultural y Taller Draghi, named for the famed silversmith Juan José Draghi, who called both President Bushes and Ronald Reagan clients. The museum is dedicated to the man who revived silversmithing in Argentina. You should see the historic collection of astonishingly detailed belt buckles, knives and containers for making yerba mate tea. It costs 50 pesos to get in to the museum and workshop areas; admission includes a short film on gaucho culture featuring an interview with Mr. Draghi himself (with English subtitles), and a look at the workers fulfilling custom orders that come in from around the world.
Of their work bench, silver pieces and gold are born; trails, knives and matés are used by neighbors of san Antonio de Areco, it glimpsed a personal, new and different style. This fact doesn't escape to visitors that arrive to the district of Areco: who begin to converge assiduously to their shop with special orders: candlesticks, marks, alhajeros, pitchers, cutleries, machetes ( gaucho knives) etc.

The machete (or gaucho knife) is a tool made by former gauchos , native to the pampas. Besides being a cutting element as a working tool , it is used to kill animals and remove the skin of the animals , make thongs and leather working , woodworking , etc. , used by the gaucho in their crafts. He has also developed as a weapon of self defense style for protection in such Pampan regions. Along with his poncho and his horse form the best alliance to fend off possible attacks , using it as their own very particular laws and philosophies as in some Western martial arts.
Gaucho Boots made with horse feet rawhide. 
San Antonio de Areco, the national capital of gaucho traditions, hosts the annual Fiesta de la Tradición, the country’s most important festival celebrating pampas culture.( This year will take place on November 7th and 8th). Despite its modest promotion as a tourist destination, playing on its appealing setting by the banks of the tranquil Río Areco, the town has retained a surprisingly genuine feel. You may not find Areco full of galloping gauchos outside festival week, but you still have a good chance of spotting estancia workers on horseback, sporting traditional berets and rakishly knotted scarves, or of coming across paisanos propping up the bar of a traditional boliche establishment.

Annual Tradition Day Festivities in Areco

The festival, during which gauchos who still actually work in the fields and those who have desk jobs but keep their skills (and knives) sharp in their spare time, participate in parades, giant cookouts and demonstrations of horse-riding skills.
Areco has a prestigious literary connection: the town was the setting for Ricardo Güiraldes’ Argentine classic Don Segundo Sombra (1926), a novel that was influential in changing the image of the gaucho from that of an undesirable outlaw to a symbol of national values.

Famous Gaucho: Don Segundo Sombra

Just behind Fierro in terms of recognition and fame is Don Segundo Sombra, a fictional character and protagonist of one of Ricardo Güiraldes’ novels written in 1929. Don Segundo has a mythical aura around him and represents in many ways the ideal gaucho as seen by those in search of symbols of Argentine national identity at the start of the 20th century. He is strong, elegant and honest but as his name indicates he has a sombre, lonesome side to him.

Don Segundo Sombra 

The gaucho is a legendary figure of Argentine society, a rebel reminiscent of ‘Che’. His elegance is supposedly inherited from the Spanish conquistadores and his freedom is intrinsically linked to the symbol of the country’s pampas.

Gauchos, the Argentine version of the cowboy, had their heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but much of the culture, from horseback riding to silversmithing to bringing your own knife to dinner, still survives and stirs national pride.  His elegance is supposedly inherited from the Spanish conquistadores and his freedom is intrinsically linked to the symbol of the country’s pampa.
In 1866, an English rancher by the name of Wilfred Latham wrote: “I cannot conceive of anything more exhilarating than a gallop across the plains.... a cloudless sky of deep azure, an atmosphere marvelously light and pure communicating a sense of indescribable buoyancy and pleasurable existence – a soft breeze flowing, as it were, over the vast plain, boundless as an ocean – contribute to engender an irresistible feeling of joy.”

Ricardo Guiraldes Museum in Areco Town.

Ricardo Guiraldes Museum

It takes the name of Ricardo Güiraldes to honor the novel Don Segundo Sombra, published in 1926. Definitely worth a visit - recommend a guided tour as it is very interesting to find out some of the stories behind the artefacts. Entry is free. Everything related to the life and work of this remarkable writer is on display there. Visitors will learn about the life, customs and routine of the countryside people from their origins until today.

The “pulperia” (grocery store) was until the early twentieth century the typical commercial establishment of the various regions of Latin finding widespread from Central America to the southern cone countries. Its origin dates back to the XVI century, and provided everything then was indispensable for everyday life: food, beverages, candles (candles or candles), coal, medicines, textiles and others.
It was also the social center of the humble and middle classes of the population, there characters typical of each region would gather to talk and see what’s new. The “pulperias” were places where you could drink alcohol, cockfights were held, were playing dice, card games, etc..
The main square has La Esquina de Merti on a corner and this is a pulperia (a former grocery and bar) that has been converted into a restaurant, but with all the old, genuine interior and items from its former function. There is seating outsdie and inside, but eat inside to appreciate the full experience. We highly recommend baked meat empanadas and a “picada”.

Preparing the "picada" - Salame - 

Picadas, which are consumed at home or in bars, cafés, "cafetines" and "bodegones" are also popular; they consist of an ensemble of plates containing cubes of cheese (typically from Mar del Plata or Chubut), pieces of salame, olives in brine, french fries, maníes (peanuts), etc.; picadas are eaten accompanied by an alcoholic beverage ("fernet", beer, wine with soda, to give some common examples).

In San Antonio de Areco we invite you to discover:

         Almacén Los Principios (Moreno y Mitre)
         Bar San Martin (Moreno y Alvear)
         Boliche de Bessonart (Segundo Sombra y Zapiola)
         El Mitre (Mitre y Alsina)
         La Vuelta de Gato (Camino R. Güiraldes, frente al museo)
         El Tokio (Mitre y Arellano)
         La Esquina de Merti (Arellano y Mitre)
         La Pulperia de Areco (Bolivar 66)

Areco’s traditional gaucho atmosphere extends to the surrounding area, where you will find some of Argentina’s most famous estancias, offering a luxurious accommodation alternative to staying in Areco itself.
Estancia La Bamba - near Areco Town.
If you don’t feel like planning your own itinerary, we will happily coordinate your visit to Areco and arrange your estancia stay. For further information, please contact us.

July 06, 2015

Best Argentine Chefs


Gonzalo Aramburu 

 Gonzalo Aramburu

Found behind a shabby unmarked door in San Telmo district, Aramburu is an ambitious tasting-menu-only restaurant that sees traditional Argentine dishes and ingredients reinterpreted using molecular gastronomy techniques. The protagonist is chef patron Gonzalo Aramburu, an alumnus of some of the best kitchens in Europe including Restaurante Martín Berasategui in Spain and Joël Robuchon’s erstwhile Jamin in Paris.

Dining here is imaginative and fun: guests are encouraged to sear their own shrimp on a hot stone, create edible watercolours and even garnish the plates. The kitchen is fully open and chefs regularly interact with the dining room, bringing out dishes and finishing plates tableside. Proceedings start with a selection of high-impact bites and small plates but Aramburu knows he will ultimately be judged on his skill with meat. He certainly impresses with his famed bife de chorizo (strip steak) and suckling pig with chocolate and pear puree.

Tuesdays through Saturdays; from 8:30 pm to 11:00 pm.
Aramburu: Salta 1050. http://www.arambururesto.com.ar/home.html

Smoky Forest - Aramburu - San Telmo 

Fernando Rivarola

At El Baqueano in San Telmo, Rivarola has created a menu that includes lots of things you don’t expect to find anywhere—carpaccio of llama, caiman dumplings, chinchilla, etc.—and omits one thing you expect to find everywhere—beef. By (mostly) limiting himself to indigenous products, each prepared and presented without gimmickry, Rivarola won a reputation as of the country’s most original chefs.

El Baqueano: Chile 499, San Telmo; www.elbaqueano.com

Appetizer - El Baqueano 

Leandro Cristóbal

With his skewed baseball cap, inked limbs, and skater drawl, Cristóbal looks and sounds like a 40-year-old Justin Bieber. At Café San Juan, he even has his mom working the till and pouring the wine. But there’s nothing casual about Cristóbal’s cooking. Start with his famous rabbit pâté, move on to the juicy rib-eye and leave room for chocolate mousse or lychee ice-cream. Reservations are essential.

Café San Juan: Avenida San Juan 450, San Telmo. Phone Lumber: 4300-1112.

Francis Mallmann

Argentine chef Francis Mallman combines his prestigious French culinary background with traditional Patagonian fire and earth cooking methods to create sensational dining experiences.
One part Oscar Wilde, one part Charlie Trotter and one part unique; Mallmann is probably Argentina’s best-known living chef. At Patagonia Sur, the Buenos Aires branch of his empire, you can try sophisticated versions of local comfort food: humita (creamed corn) with crispy ham, tenderloin with crushed potatoes, wobbly flan with dulce de leche...
Patagonia Sur: http://www.restaurantepatagoniasur.com; Rocha 801 esquina Pedro de Mendoza – La Boca.

Patagonia Sur - Francis Malmann's Restaurant in Buenos Aires 

Pablo Massey

As a disciple of Francis Mallmann, Pablo stands out for his versatile cuisine, combining elements both classical and modern, rustic and refined. After training internationally in the finest restaurants, as well as creating dining spaces and original products in the Buenos Aires culinary scene, Massey has returned to his childhood neighborhood, Palermo Chico.
In the intimate setting of Casa Cavia, he sets out to kindle the flames of what he calls, “the most ancient of human pleasures: satiating hunger and thirst.”
Casa Cavia: Cavia 2985, Palermo. www.casacavia.com

Dante Liporace

The renowned chef, Dante Liporace, of great international standing (Maskana, Las Margas Spain together with Pedro Subijana, elBulli on two occasions, chosen as Argentine representative before Girona and Mistura Gastronomic Forum, among others) inaugurated Tarquino restaurant.

One dish you’ll never forget is his “Provolone pizza,” in which the heaviest of Buenos Aires staples is transformed into something as light as dandelion petals. Ask ahead if you want to try Liporace’s brilliant “Sequence of the Cow,” a nine-course homage to the heifer that takes you from nose to tail.

Tarquino: http://www.tarquinorestaurante.com.ar/

Pizza Foam with Parmesano Reggiano by Dante Liporace 

Soledad Nardelli

Chila Restaurant - In our opinion, the best restaurant of Puerto Madero.

If one dish exemplifies New Argentine Cuisine’s approach to tradition, it’s Soledad Nardelli’s souffle de dulce de leche: the sweet brown gloop that fuels every Argentine childhood quite literally raised to a new level. At Chila, Nardelli’s smart restaurant in Puerto Madero, you can also try Patagonian scallops, trout, and lamb; Mendozan pears; quinoa from Jujuy and duck from the Pampas. The menu is a love letter to Argentina’s regions, and to their bounty.

Chila: Av. Alicia Moreau de Justo 1160, Phone: +54 11 4343-6067. www.chilaweb.com.ar

German Martitegui

Tegui, named after head chef Germán Martitegui, has been named one of Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants. According to a New York Times review in 2010, Mr. Martitegui wanted Tegui to be under the radar. “I think people need to be hidden. That was the idea with this place.” he said adding that he had not advertised, relying solely on word of mouth. Reservations are highly recommended.

Once inside, a plush bar complete with comfy sofas erases the somewhat gritty first impression. If seated toward the back of the main rectangular dining room, (the narrow space seats only 45) you may be able to see the impressive kitchen at work. The dining room decor is black and white lit by large lamp posts.

The service is timed very well, directed by the chief waiter, and all courses arrive at the right time. You can choose from the menu or order the wine tasting ten course menu.

 The minimalist menu (5 choices for starters and entrees) featured Mediterranean-style seafood dishes. Whatever you order, prepare for an excellent dining experience.

Tegui: www.tegui.com.ar; Costa Rica 5852.

Culinary Tours of Buenos Aires.

The intention of our tours is to show that real, Porteño cuisine is not only delicious, but quite approachable as well. The tours combine eating wonderful Argentine food and a walking tour of Buenos Aires best neighborhoods. We hope that you join us so that we can show you what makes this country and this city so special.

For booking your tour and further information, please contact us.