I am Karin, a Belgian woman having been living in Buenos Aires for the past 5 years. I first visited this amazing city with my then 4-year old daughter in 2007. Against all odds, it was love at first sight. Not for a man, I can see you thinking ! With the city, its markets, architecture, its people,
Its culinary scene!
I started coming here once a year, then twice, then three times. Bought a historical building, the day on the calendar was January 3rd 2011. A lot of water has gone to the sea since then. In 2016 I opened ‘
after three years of drastic renovation. From the beginning I had to overcome many hurdles, corruption, lazy workers, theft, bureaucracy….
Then came covid-19. It hit us all in Buenos Aires at the eve of the 2020 Autumn. I was lucky enough to host Belgian, French, an occasional Suisse, tourists, workers, families, world travelers … for the first weeks of quarantine. Then the exodus because of covid came to a sudden halt.
Hotels, bars, restaurants … have been closed since March 20th 2020. With this Peronist government this is unlikely going to change till way into next year. Those who have been unable to keep their heads above the water, have closed permanently or are about to do so. I just ‘lost’ my favorite Italian restaurant ‘I Amici Miei’ in San Telmo. The famous bar notable slash confitería ‘La Violetas’ called it quits two weeks ago, that is, early August.
Even though I can hardly afford spending on catered food, I ordered the ‘Aramburu’ limited edition box-for-two last weekend. It was worth every peso spent. I can barely wait to use my voucher at ‘I Latina’. During the month of April this top-10 gourmet restaurant in Villa Crespo issued vouchers. For every peso spent, they’d double the amount. Once they can reopen, it will remain valid for 6 months.
But many aren’t so fortunate to reinvent themselves. Being closed for 5 months, whilst still having to pay salaries, rent, expenses has brought an estimated 50% at the brink of bankruptcy.
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I have a zillion interests and passions. Tango is what brought me here in the first place. I love food, as a cook and as a diner & winer. I owe it to my dad who used to take our family out for dinner on an almost weekly basis. I learned to appreciate wine. I discovered the etiquette of the finest dining places in Belgium.
Early September 1988 I arrived in Bologna, Italy’s culinary capital, as an international relations post-graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University. I had a car and an above-average-student living budget. That way I was able to explore the country and try out Italy’s amazing food. It didn’t help I was sharing the apartment on Via Fondazza 9 with an American foodie. The result: In 10 months I gained 10 kilos !
Well, the following year in Washington D.C. I lost them all.
I am celiac, I have known only for the past 8 years. Yet, it does not stop me from doing what I like most : cooking & eating. If I add ‘drinking’ you’ll take me for an alcoholic. I can assure you, in spite of an excellent glass of Malbec wine every evening, I am not.
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With all this spare time ahead of me I figured it to be time for action ! A celebration of another passion of mine! Writing. What could motivate me more than covering the porteño culinary scene.
According to Wikipedia, ‘porteño’ stands for ‘ Porteños (feminine: Porteñas), an ethnic group primarily located in the southern cone of South America. They form the majority of Uruguay’s population, and are also notably prominent in Argentina’s Buenos Aires Province.’
What a shame ! I totally disagree with the description. Luckily, under the heading ‘History’ wiki continues:
“The term porteño literally means “port city person” in Spanish. As a result of great immigration waves from Europe peaking in the 1880s, the Río de la Plata area, and in particular Buenos Aires and Montevideo, became heavily populated with people of European descent, mainly Italian, Spanish and German. They called themselves Porteños to distinguish themselves from existing criollo (colonial Spanish) ancestry, mestizos, and indigenous people.”
Are we ethnic? I can’t say. We are such a mix of cultures, nationalities. The Italian roots by far & large dominate the culinary scene. Porteños, like the rest of the country, worship pizza’s, pasta, empanadas, medialunas … All wheat flour based. On top of that, chefs are overly generous topping with cheese.
I can’t have any of these. But there is a gluten free alternative for everything. Vegan choices here are mushrooming.
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Porteños, – now that you know who and what they are – , traditionally take mate ! For years the city was deprived of a gourmet coffee scene. Luckily for me and you, coffee addicts, that has changed.
The Argentine couple running Coffee Town is mainly responsible for that. They travelled the world to learn everything about coffee. Back home they set up shop at the San Telmo market. A small business run from a traditional kiosk has turned into an empire.
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Beer & Wine go hand in hand with Meat ! And of all of this comes in huge quantities & the finest quality ! Two years ago a New York guest at the Marcel came on a 10-day break from his hectic job as a state attorney.
He’d have steak each day at noon parilla-hopping. The evenings he reserved for life music at a jazz bar, a concert at the CCK or fine dining. I joined him to ‘Tegui’ because I had never been.
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I am a gourmet! That much is clear.
Buenos Aires is my culinary heaven ! It can be yours too !
That’s why I created “Buenos Aires Gourmet”
to share it with you. I thought Buenos Aires might do well with a comprehensive gourmet guide.
So here is my contribution. You readers, tourists, visitors, locals, can help too, by sending me suggestions. I’ll happily try them out & add them here.