Saturday, May 26, 2012

Beefsteaks in Buenos Aires Argentina

Adorned with colorful plazas, belle époque palaces, and grand boulevards, Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America. Its hinterlands are lush alfalfa grasslands that roll out toward the Andes mountains, providing rich grazing for Argentina’s prized beef cattle. Steak has long been the succulent staple of the gaucho and the centerpiece of the asado, an Argentinian barbecue feast.

From its location at the mouth of the Plate River, Buenos Aires rose to prominence at the end of the 19th century, when it became an important commercial capital and one of the world’s richest cities. It embarked on a decadent Golden Age, modeling itself on Europe’s great capitals, erecting palaces and monuments that recalled the splendors of Paris. Today, Buenos Aires is synonymous with the passions of tango and a thrilling restaurant scene, led by the city’s fantastic steakhouses.
Echoes of Europe abound in Argentina’s great capital. Walking south from Plaza de Mayo, its central plaza, visitors soon reach the city’s romantic old quarters, where Spanish churches, sepia cafés, and colonial facades front cobbled lanes. North of the plaza, the glories of the belle époque unfold along broad, French-style avenues decorated with patriotic statuary and Parisian mansions adorned with cupolas and lavishly latticed balconies.
Visitors to Buenos Aires in the 21st century will discover these vintage architectural glories, but a new sense of style as well. The modern city buzzes with tourists and locals – Porteños – busily walking, talking, shopping, and café-hopping. At night, visitors to the city are in search of two things: the tango and the eating ritual known as the asado. An ongoing barbecue of incredible meats, it is said to have developed from the rough-and-ready eating habits of the legendary gaucho, the Argentinian cowboy, who first roamed the pampas in the 17th century and is said to have slaughtered landowners’ cows before roasting their carcasses over open fires.
In celebration of the gaucho, steakhouses today perform their own versions of this centuries-old ritual.
Great slabs of red meat are thrown onto charcoal grills or hung from cross-poles over glowing pits of burning embers on the restaurant floor. Juicy beef cuts – sirloin, rib-eye, tenderloin, and more – are left to sizzle and smoke for hours until, beautifully tender, they are carved by an asador using long, glistening knives.
A spectacle of dancing fires, bloody red meat, and razor-sharp blades, the Argentinian asado is a ritual steeped in masculinity and atavism. Delicious delicacies – tongue, sweetbreads, intestines, and blood sausages – wash the palate in rich, fatty flavors before the huge steaks arrive at table. The eating of every part of the animal is homage to the heroic gaucho, who left nothing of his kill for the vultures.

Tending the barbecue for an asado – an astonishing and seemingly never-ending array of tender grilled meats

A Day in Buenos Aires
This city’s historic central square, the Plaza de Mayo, is dominated by the Casa Rosada (Pink House), from whose balcony Eva Perón regaled the masses. This is the perfect place to start: belle époque wonders lie to the north, and colonial charms to the south.
MORNING : From the Plaza de Mayo, go down Avenida de Mayo and have coffee at glorious Café Tortoni, the city’s oldest café. Turn on to Avenida 9 de Julio, the city’s greatest, patriotic thoroughfare, and admire the Obelisco and the Teatro Colón opera house. Take a taxi to the Recoleta Cemetery, where Eva Perón lies buried.
AFTERNOON : Head back to Plaza de Mayo and walk south, into the old quarter.
Stroll cobbled streets with colonial facades in San Telmo; enjoy an alfresco lunch in cobbled Plaza Dorrego; and go to La Boca, the colorful port district. Visit La Bombonera, the iconic stadium of Boca Juniors, Argentina’s greatest soccer team.
EVENING : Return to San Telmo for sizzling beefsteaks and a tango show at El Viejo Almacén, one of the oldest buildings in the city.

Street dancers perform the tango in La Boca, the colorful port district that is the birthplace of the famous dance

Getting to Buenos Aires
International flights land at Ezeiza Airport, 35 miles (22 km) from downtown; use the official taxi service or a shuttle bus.
Where to stay in Buenos Aires
Abode Buenos Aires (inexpensive) is a modern B&B in Palermo.
Home Hotel (moderate) offers boutique rooms and apartments with spa, garden, and pool facilities.
Sofitel Buenos Aires (expensive) is pure luxury in a 1929 Art Deco building.

1 comment:

  1. It is so similar to Paris that there are as many French food restaurants as in France. Argentine cuisine is pretty sophisticated. I noticed that there are typical dishes in every province. It is not that there is one typical meal of Argentina, but depending where you are, typical food is different. In the north you have llama, in the south the "Patagonic Lamb" and in BA the steak. Last year I went to Argentina and rented buenos aires apartments that were all close to fine restaurants!