Jet lag is partly to blame. During my first few hours walking around the Recoleta barrio (neighborhood) of Buenos Aires, I kept thinking I was in Europe. Along Avenida Alvear, I may as well have been. The Recoleta is at the heart of the French Heritage district where much of the architecture was modeled after European design. My travel companions and I were happy to call this barrio our home for the next few days.
We traveled to Buenos Aires in mid-February, summertime in the Southern Hemisphere. While we were warned that daytime temperatures would be a sweltering 90°F+, Fair Winds (meaning of Buenos Aires) prevailed, allowing us to see the city at a comfortable 80+ degrees. No humidity. The elegant streets were quieter than usual, many Porteños (Buenos Aires citizens) having escaped to cooler oceanside retreats in Uruguay or Mar de la Plata.
With 48 barrios in Buenos Aires the few days my travel companions and I dedicated to getting to know the city would have made quality sightseeing near impossible. Instead, we engaged the services of a tour guide for a couple of days and managed to see, experience and taste the best that Buenos Aires had to offer from the eyes of a true Porteño.
Sylvie arrived at our hotel with a driver and a van to accommodate six eager tourists. She is a lifelong Buenos Aires resident, ultra-sophisticated, well-traveled and most importantly, has encyclopedic knowledge of her city. Sylvie tailored our two-day tour with our interests in mind and I have regretted not recording her during our tour for Buenos Aires truly came alive in her descriptions, stories and accounts of the city’s history. All I can do is show you some pictures to give you a taste of the beauty we encountered during our few days in Buenos Aires (and might I add…there’s no need to compare it to Europe. This beautiful city can hold its own).
There was no shortage of excellent dining options either. Often dubious of restaurant recommendations by hotel staff or some locals, I was very pleased to discover that Sylvie was spot on with all of hers. She appreciates food the way I do and directed us to her favorite dining spots.
We visited Cabaña Las Lillas on our first night. Beef was the order of the day though other offerings were abundant. Various breads and small plates quickly filled our table and that was before we even opened our menus. Eyes hungrier than our stomachs prompted orders for sausages, empanadas, even more bread, other appetizers and wine, with steaks still to follow.
By the time my steak was placed in front of me, I was almost at my limit. However, being the true food-lover that I am (or do I mean to say glutton?) I found more room to enjoy my giant steak, perfectly seared outside and gloriously pink inside. Porteños prefer very little accompaniment to their meats, allowing the latter to shine, according to Sylvie. I see her point. However, I can’t deny that the elegantly-served chimichurri sauce made my piece of meat just that much better. It inspired me to recreate it once I returned home (and also to find a similar copper serving piece to use). I took some liberties with my chimichurri recipe by adding mint but you can leave it out. I had also practically given up on finding my little copper pieces but as luck would have it, I found French serving ware in a charming shop towards the end of our trip in Santiago, Chile. Perfect!
** I have been considering another series for some time. I think that after Taste of South America, I will occasionally highlight some of my favorite places in the San Francisco Bay Area. Local Spotlight. **
- 6 lamb chops
- 2 Tablespoons chopped rosemary
- 1 cup fresh Italian parsley
- 3 Tablespoons fresh oregano
- 1 – 2 sprigs of fresh mint
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- To prepare the chimichurri sauce, combine the parsley, oregano, mint and garlic and process in a food processor until just roughly chopped. You don’t want to purée this.
- Stir in the crushed red peppers and add the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in the olive oil and set aside to let the flavors meld.
- To prepare the lamb, season with salt, pepper and chopped rosemary. Preheat your grill to 400 degrees. Since my lamb chops were small, I seared each side for only 1 – 1½ minutes to leave the inside rare to medium-rare. Serve with chimichurri sauce.