Confiteria San Blas: the Inflation Stumper Bakery (for now)

We just moved offices. We used to be on a nice, although too residential building on the corner of Malabia and Charcas. Its a nice neighborhood, close to other places I guess. But I wont miss it too much. In the immediate area there wasn’t much to write home about. But if there is one thing that I will miss about that neighborhood it would be Confiteria San Blas. 

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The neighborhood was residential enough, with a couple of panaderias, some small supermarkets, a rotisserie or two and a dietetica. Prices were generally in the mid range–neither cheap nor too expensive. Now that we are in the beautiful Palermo Botanico, I know just what expensive smells like: AR 32 for a small coffee and two bad medialunas at Pick Market. Disgraceful.

Confiteria San Blas had always piqued my interested when I walked by it on my way to the subte. It was very unassuming and looked quite old. I went in once to buy an empanada after working straight through lunch one day. I remember thinking that it was surprisingly good, but would be better warm.

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But what really got me and my work mates hooked on it was when prices started shooting up in January due to inflation. Our favorite panaderia raised their prices for tartas from 14 pesos to 17 pesos. That might not sound like a lot, but with our salary staying steady with no raise in sight, we started searching out other options. Remembering my initial interest in San Blas, I finally took the plunge. It should have been my first stop. 

My favorite tarta has been “tarta de calabaza”, or butternut squash quiche. I have a serious love affair with the stuff. I eat butternut squash in ALL forms and have been cautioned more than once that my hands could turn orange if I don’t limit my intake.

That didn’t stop me from trying all the neighborhood options, settling on my three favorites, one of them being from Anita Bakery. But since trying the calabaza creation (better described as a pastel) from San Blas I have been hooked. My freezer is even full of them.

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The pastel de calabaza y pollo has a magically addictive quality that, when I asked the baker, turned out to be the fault of butter. She said good quality chicken breast–I still say butter. The pastry isn’t anything special but the filling is hearty, filling and comfort-food quality. At AR 16 with two rolls (brown or white bread), I see few deals in the city having the potential to trump this one.

Since this discovery, everyone in my office began to get their cheap lunches at my favorite place down the street. We discovered that, although sometimes a little burnt on the bottom, the facturas were tasty and cheap at the frozen-in-time price of AR 2/each. The cookie and homemade cracker selection was also quite nice and I was able to get about 16 pretty cookies (special shout-out to the mini alfajores de maicena) for around 18 pesos. The other tartas (carrot and eggplant; jam and cheese; corn, tomato and swiss chard; butternut squash and carrot etc) were just as cheap and came with bread, but varied in quality; it was really the butternut squash and chicken tart that stole my heart.

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And then we moved. I think I’ll still be making the trek to get my favorite tarta for lunch. Or maybe just to bring them home and stick them in the fridge. I just want to say, thank you San Blas for keeping my belly full and helping me fight inflation when no one else will. I’ll be back very soon. 

Confiteria San Blas, Malabia, between Santa Fe and Guemes
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Being a Creative Cheapskate: Making Butter and Jam

Sounds neurotic, right? Why would I make two things I could so easily buy? I do have a history of this though (i.e. peanut butter and nutella!).

I have to be honest, it was really just laziness and some plums that were going to go bad, coupled with, of course, a desire to get good food without paying for it. Those were the circumstances that drove me to buckle down and make some homemade goodies. And no, I am not already training to be a grandmother.

So it was my roommates birthday and I promised to make her a cake for the party. She initially fought it (why, I still don’t get) but we settled on a rainbow/tie-dye cake as the special dessert we would shove in her face eat at the party! If you haven’t seen it before, its awesome–reminds me of the t-shirts I made at summer camp, but edible!

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While shopping for ingredients I realized that it was going to take some extra effort to find unsalted butter. I could have just left the salt out if I had wanted to be super lazy, but I also needed buttermilk. So I had a brilliant idea: I would make more work for myself and make my own butter and use the left over liquid–the buttermilk–in the cake as well! Genius.

And you know what? It wasn’t even close to difficult. I describe this method of making butter as “messing up whipped cream”, because you literally over whip whipped cream. And the product is damn good. I know, it surprised me too.

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The cake turned out great, although the colors could have been a bit more artfully placed.  But at least I could say I made the butter in it!!

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And then I turned to my overly soft plums. They were really some office leftovers that I couldn’t bare to see thrown out. There are so many ways to use old-ish fruit and veg there is really no excuse! Except laziness of course…But no one was going to fight me for them anyway, so I took them home and began to google.

Turns out jam is easy to make and doesn’t necessarily require pectin. I also wasn’t about to try and search for pectin because a) I don’t know what its called in the Spanish/Argentine language (pectina, maybe?) and b) why spend more if the internet says it can be left out? I didn’t even buy the plums in the first place so it was a great excuse to test out the method and possibly screw it up.

After a good hour and a half to two hours my mission was complete. Results were stellar and now I have homemade jam in the fridge! Practically free, I may add.

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Best bet to replicate the free part is to ask your fruit/veg people if they have any overly soft fruit. In my experience they are more than happy to get rid of these things, especially in the bulk needed for a nice sized batch of jam. Worst case scenario they say no, but most likely they will at least sell fruit to you at a heavily discounted price. You might have to spend a bit of time paring the brown bits off, but its worth it in the end!

The best part? Eating homemade butter and homemade jam together on my overly whole-wheat toast. Sweet success.

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Homemade Unsalted Butter (and buttermilk)

Ingredients:

4 cups cream*
1/8-1/4 teaspoon fine salt (optional)

Directions:

Beat the heavy cream with a mixer in a bowl on high until it looks like whipped cream. Continue beating until the cream separates. Pour of some of the liquid and reserve, taking care to not let the butter go with it. Beat until as much liquid as possible is extracted and then until smooth.**

*note: when I made it four cups (about 1 L) of cream made about 3-3.5 cups (about 500g) butter and 1.5 cups (375 ml) buttermilk

**note: some recipes say to use a sieve to “dry” the butter, i.e. get as much buttermilk out as possible. I didn’t do this and it came out just fine. 

No-Pectin Plum Jam

adapted from Savory Sweet Life recipe

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups chopped plums, most peels removed, but some left on for color
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:

Cook plums and lemon juice on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add sugar and stir until everything is well combined. Cook for an additional 25 minutes until the thickness of the jam has been reduced to the consistency of thick honey, stirring occasionally. The jam should not be too juicy, but thickened (it will also get thicker as it cools).  Skim off the foam, remove from heat, and allow to cool.

So splatter that baby on anything and everything toast or scone-like. With the homemade butter of course!

Happy Munching!

Nail Me BAires: MALBA on my Nails!

I’ve never been visually artistic. I can’t draw or paint and I sure as hell can’t make any sort of sculptures. Doodling has always  been a source of shame because my doodles are just straight up ugly. Despite having two artists for grandfathers, none of the visual art genes were passed on to me. Don’t they say that the younger siblings are  the more artistic ones? We’ll that’s 100% the case in my family. Lil’ sissy got it all and I’m only a little bitter. I do get the advantage of some of the paintings, drawings and clothes she designs. And she also has to set the table on special occasions. I’ll take that as a win.

But just because I can’t make art myself doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it. Which is why when I saw the write up of NailMe Buenos Aires on BA expat blog MyBeautifulAir I couldn’t help myself. I was just about to embark on an incredible week of travel in Colombia (hence the post hiatus!!) with a group of friends from high school (not nearly as weird as it may sound) and crazy nails seemed like the perfect send off, like my version of dying my hair. I am a major nail color wuss and always tend to get basic colors.The big reason I like the bold OPI polish Cajun Shrimp is the name. 

But NailMe’s website was exciting in its inspired take on the basic manicure. So I made my reservation with Kristin G.

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Getting a manicure is often a spur of the moment decision with some sort of element of pampering and relaxation in mind, right? This is a little bit different.

First of all Kristin works in a “studio”. Its obvious that the art comes first (as it so should, just wait and see); just like any artist she needs her own space. She mentioned that the small extra room in her new Las Cañitas apartment was an added bonus when looking around for a new home base.

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I got comfortable on my side of the table while she went off to grab her computer so we could listen to music. Everything was free and easy, as if I had cajoled a friend into painting my nails for me. We chatted about some people we knew in common (BA is so tiny) and our common love of and longing for spicy. Turns out Kristin knows how to make a mean Thai curry! I’ll definitely see about making my own coconut milk in my food-processor now…

We turned to nails and she asked me what color I wanted. I chose purple because, well, why not. She asked what kind of design I was looking for. I hadn’t come particularly prepared, but I blurted out Mexican art. My friend and I had been talking about Mexican skull tattoos recently and it seemed like a solid choice. Her most used color scheme in photos I had seen matched nicely anyway. She seemed relieved that I had chosen a theme, remarking that she had been doing a lot of Andes region fabric inspired nails.

We started off with a full clipping, shaping and beautifying of my nails–salon worthy results I can never achieve myself. Then after googling for a second she painted three nails purple and two yellow on each hand, pulled out her incredible array of nail painting tools and paints and went in for the kill. I asked her how many nail polishes she has because they were practically spilling out of the boxes. She said she didn’t even know! I’d call that a healthy addiction. 

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Kristin does everything free hand. No decals or stencils at all. She makes things up as she goes along, following color palates in a way that a category F artist like myself could never dream of accomplishing. She said she started painting her own nails, then nails of friends just because she enjoyed it. Eventually she realized she could sell it as a skill here in BA. She even had a stint painting faces at Kika’s Hype on Tuesday nights and custom paints sunglasses in cool neon colors. 

We chatted on and on as the paint slowly spread over each one of my nails. Shes been an English teacher for a while, although she is now in a graduate school getting a masters as well. Talking comes easy to her and her studies and experiences colored our conversation, making the hour and a half nail session fly by. At one point she mentioned that a group of girls had contracted her to do a wine and nail night–they provided the wine. Is that not the perfect addition to any grown-up slumber party? 

Finally my nails were done and dried. So naturally we took a little photo shoot. 

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 Is that not just INCREDIBLE? 

Throughout the next two weeks I got compliments all over the place. My roommate (who has been toying with the idea of a skull tattoo and lived in Mexico) almost died on the spot. Two hostesses on the airplane to Colombia couldn’t stop talking about and touching my hands. My friends from high school wanted them for themselves. A vendor in Cartagena stopped me to ask questions about the “artist” who had painted my nails. I even got multiple compliments from male friends. I couldn’t help but be a walking talking advertisement!

Also, this manicure held up! After accidentally melting the design on a nail or two a bit when cooking right when I got home (I take full responsibility for my stupidity…) the paint stayed put. Keep in mind that I was traveling in Colombia for a full week. Almost two weeks later there were only minor chips and my nails stilled looked like a miniature exhibit out of MOMA. Its blurry, but you get the gist more or less…

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And then comes the price tag. All things considered, its a freaking steal for the work done. A full paint job like mine will set you back AR 70, about double the price of a simple color in a salon. It might not be something you get every week, but on special occasions it can and should definitely be justified. Rarely are you going to find something so unique and cool!

If you don’t feel like you can splurge for the full job, Kristen charges only AR 30 to get designs on two nails. That means you can get jazzy nails (mixed mani, whatever you want to call it!) for less than a boring manicure would cost you at a salon. Now you have no excuses. 

Kristin is also running a promo for 2×1 manicures (either with a friend or on your second visit) if you mention the MyBeautifulAir post! Take advantage while you can!

Here’s the full price list from NailMe’s website:

  • 25ARS – MACHO – Plain manicure, no colors
  • 30ARS – SIMPLE – Manicure, 1 color, 2 nail designs (Or add 5ARS per each detailed nail design)
  • 50ARS – SUPER – Simple designs, shatter, glitter, 2-3 colors (Includes all nails)
  • 70ARS – DELUXE –  The works; every nail detailed with full colors and designs, all glitter and gems included

So go head, get your MOMA nails. It will make you feel like an artist for a day.

NailMe Baires

Contact for appointments: nailmeglowme@gmail.com

Mercado de las Pulgas: the non-San Telmo Antique Market

Antiques are cool. They may smell a little like moth bolls and need a little cleaning, but they make you feel unique without trying–kind of like a hipster (see “hipster fashion and furniture“).

Buenos Aires in itself, you might say, is kind of like an antique market. Traditional buildings look old, some times even decrepit, but almost always unique. I often look up and think, “that building is beautiful, but damn could it use a steam clean”. So many buildings look like they could have been an iconic hotel or restaurant that was preserved for historical purposes, the pity being they don’t seem to be as preserved here as they should. 

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Antiques themselves hold a special place in this city. The combination of European roots, European architecture, European imports and multiple major economic crisis (the most recent being in 2001) make for an astounding number of antique fur coats on the market. Although I could never know this for sure, it seems that people may have sold their belongs during these down periods, which now contribute to a rich array of antiques at the markets. If I am right, it would be a sad truth, but an interesting outcome.

Which is where the Mercado de las Pulgas comes in; translation: literally, Flea Market. Which is maybe why I know someone who has picked up a stray cat here…? Ha, bad joke.

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Located in Colegiales, at the top of what is now Palermo Hollywood, the market is an absolute gold mine for finding used furniture and other antique thangs to decorate your cheap-o digs. Its been around since 1988 (with a brief hiatus and re-opening in 2011) and although it supposedly has things from as recently as the 1970s, some of those mirrors definitely look newer. If you just moved here or just moved out of your parents’ place you might want to consider this a first stop for book cases, picture frames, wardrobes, cool hanging lamps, mirrors and beyond.

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Look at that junk! Just waiting to be re purposed. But please leave the mannequin behind.

The massive rectangular mirror my boyfriend spent AR 1600 on for a friends wedding? Yeah, we saw it for AR 800. And old wardrobes that have more character than Ikea style Easy pieces had price tags of 500ish (no disrespect here, though!). I am guessing this is where the “shabby chic” (ugh I hate myself for using that phrase) shop owners go to find their pieces. So skip the middle-man, man! Not everything is cheap, but bargaining should be used freely. As cool as it was, the old milk crate was just not worth 300 pesos.

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So I’m sure my verdict is pretty clear: this is a great place to do some cheaper decorating. Like any antique shop, flea market or yard sale, you will need to do some serious digging and bargaining. But it will make your find even sweeter.

Stop by and take a look!

Conde and Dorrego, Colegiales
Open 10 AM to 7 PM, Tuesday to Sunday
map pulgas
 

Homemade Peanut Butter and Nutella

Last week I went a little overboard on the purchases when I was shopping at one of my favorite cheap health food stores, Dietetica Tony. Thankfully the place is so cheap that the damge was minimal; double thankfully, I was inspired by the 600 grams of unsalted, untoasted peanuts that I impulse-bought.

And that is how I decided for the first time in my life to make my own peanut butter.

At university in Burlington, Vermont freshly ground peanut butter was a mainstay in my fridge due to the local Co-Op, Citymarket’s nut-butter grinder (almonds included !!). I never once had to think about the possibility of a) expensive and b) uncommon peanut butter supplies. And even if I couldn’t get the fresh stuff, Jiff was at every gas station in the country.

Argentina has a completely different relationship with peanuts. They don’t come with bananas and sliced bread, in milkshakes, on pancakes or covered in chocolate and wrapped in orange plastic –they come salted and with beer, cheese, and chorizo.

And that is 100%+ ok.

I swear I am not complaining. Its just that sometimes I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, hold the meat. You know?

But I didn’t stop there. I decided to try my hand at making nutella too. I could have probably found it in some specialty shop surrounded by 50 peso bags of dried italian pasta (I think I’ll buy the 8-15 peso variety instead, thanks), but I was inspired by the prospect of making peanut butter. So I decided that my Oscars night snacks didn’t have to be quite so expensive (banana nutella emapandas 4lyfe).

So I bought some hazelnuts, powdered sugar and cocoa powder too.

And you know what? It was shamefully easy.

That being said, you need a food processor. So find a friend who has one and take full advantage. Don’t forget to reward them with a little bit of nut butter too!

Homemade Peanut Butter

Ingredients:

400 grams ra, un-salted peanuts

3-5 Tbsp. oil (not olive oil)

Salt, sugar, or honey to taste

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to around 350F/180C

Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and bake until golden. Watch them closely so they don’t burn.

Let the nuts cool completely (and display in a lovely jar until ready to use, for my fellow procrastinators).

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Place nuts in a food processor and process continuously.

First it will look just like chunky nuts. Then it will look a little less chunky, but still dry…

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And thats where you add in the first 3 Tbsp. of oil in a continuous stream. It will start to get creamy…

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Keep processing until you get your favorite texture. I doubt it will every be 100% smooth, but there is definitely some variation possible. This is also a good time to add in salt and/or sugar or honey !!

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Homemade Nutella

This is very similiar to the peanut butter. The only difference really is that the ingredients are added in sooner.

Ingredients:

1 cup (around 150 grams) peeled hazelnuts; if unpeeled, see below

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa power

1/2 cup powdered sugar

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

4 Tbsp oil (again, not olive oil)

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to around 350F/180C

Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and bake until golden. Watch them closely so they don’t burn (which is what happened to me). If you could only find hazelnuts with the skins on them, place them in a dish towel and roll around vigourously. The skins should start to come off on their own. Its a pain though, so try to get them without skins in the first place.

Let the nuts cool completely.

Place the nuts in the food processor and process until they are as smooth as possible, around 3 minutes. They will be dry, so don’t worry if its still pretty chunky.

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Add the dry ingredients remaining ingredients and blend until combined.

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Add half of the first 2 Tbsp of the oil in, poured in a continuous stream. Process until smooth. If the nutella is too dry, add in another Tbsp and continue to process.

Note: I added too much oil in at once and the result was a very liquid-y nutella. Delicious–but not quite the right consistency. It does firm up in the fridge a tiny bit, though, so don’t worry too much.

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Then enjoy the hell out of your homemade and cheap versions of these nut butters. I have been eating my peanut butter with bananas and made some banana-nutella empanadas for the oscar festivities.

I still have a lot left! Any ideas?

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Feature of the Week-er: Gettin’ Nuts at Dietetica Tony

If its not obvious already, I love to cook. It has to also be obvious that I try to work on a smaller budget. Cooking for yourself is always cheaper than eating out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that making muffins and cakes and starting your day with nuts, yogurt and fruit is the cheapest way to live. To offset those frivolous buys I go to this one little health food store in Palermo. Its taken me a while to get this one out in the blogosphere because I wanted to be completely sure about quality and prices before I divulged the secret of my cheap dietetica. Its not often you find one.

First off: A dietetica is not a diet food store; its more of a health food store.

Just like what you would expect, its the best place to get organic honey, whole wheat flour, dried fruit and nuts and bulk spices that are otherwise impossible to find in the average supermarket (good curry powder does exsist, and in surprisingly healthy quanties in the dietetica world). Truly, most things you need for cooking indian/thai/middle easter/beyond dinners can be found in the better shops.

If I had figured this out before I imported my own tahini I could have forgetten about Sarkis’s “hummus” made with peanuts a long time ago!

All this is to say that knowing a couple of good dieteticas is key to not getting sick of steak  blowing your budget on the high quality, gourmet-eating in the city. I love the idea of going to closed-door resto’s and up-scale eateries, but who am I kidding? I would have to eat lentils and eggs for the rest of the month if I did that on the regular. Reading food blogs will have to cover that department while I try to cover the other side of things–until I magically land that $$$ paying job…

Which brings me to Dietetica Tony, my most recent Feature of the Week-er.

I’m giving it the GET YA NUTZ prize.

Dietetica Tony

Dietetica Tony may not have the most varied selection in all of Buenos Aires, and its definitely not the largest. But what it does have (following the theme here, you see) is that its cheap. See what it says underneath the name on its sign?

“Precios Mayoristas Al Alcance del Consumidor”

Translation: wholesale prices available to the public. 

And truly, they are.

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bread and nuts

See the price on those nuts ?! Excuse my over-the-top enthusiasm, but broken walnuts (nuez partida) go for closer to 13 pesos/100g rather than 7.90 pesos. Same thing goes for the almonds, which are usually around 15 pesos. WOOOO.

The selection of dried fruit and nuts is actually pretty impressive and, of course, on the more accessible side. I regularly take advantage and buy myself some goodies when I make a trip…

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…check out those chocolate covered beauties.

Another steal is the price on quinoa–4  pesos/100 g, often 9 pesos! Same thing goes for chia seeds, flax seeds and other seedy (hah) things you’d find at such stores. If you are trying to get in touch with your inner health nut be cheap in BA a good way to get some of your protein without investing too much is buy eating chia seeds– they have absurdly high protein levels (shout out to the lil’ sis for her food enlightenment). They were supposedly an Aztec superfood, which of course could only become popular as a health food after the chia pet business was no longer profitable. Whatever; cheaper here!

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Whole wheat flour, also a steal. Again, this is a health food store, so no judging me.

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Want a sample shop?

250g whole wheat flour

250g powdered sugar

300g unsalted peanuts (making that peanut butter!)

100g walnuts

100g quinoa

100g chocolate covered raisins

Total: AR 32.50 = USD 4.25 (at non-official exchange rate, duh)

Not too shabby.

Dietetica Tony, Thames 2481, Palermo Soho

My Bookmarks: Top 10 Best/Useful Buenos Aires Websites

Top 10 Best/Useful Buenos Aires Websites

What better way to be a cheap bastard than to use free resources to do it? Over the past couple of years I have bookmarked a fair few Buenos Aires websites, but there are only a few that I really come back to again and again. When looking for suggestions, clear, honest advice suits me best and keeps me on my toes. If you have a dollar sign system I am happy; tell me the prices to expect and you’re on my most trusted, no BS list. When shopping, I just want to know how to avoid ridiculous prices. Sometimes I feel so lost without yelp or a vibrant craigslist community! You know what I mean?

Like so many here in BA, I have high expectations and a low budget. I literally can’t afford to fool around on this stuff.

So what have I done? I’ve amassed a lot of random BA info. But it’s been with the help of more than one voice. If anything were a BA bible it would be the combined wisdom of these guys.

Here are my top websites that consistently give me my dose of needed information, helping me to maintain my budget and still live BA life like I want to:

1)   Pick Up the Fork

An amazing burnch at Malvón, at PUtF's suggestion.

An amazing burnch at Malvón, at PUtF’s suggestion.

This chick Allie knows her food. Like really. If you haven’t heard of her yet, she reviews restos, cafes, bars, etc. all with that humor and no BS attitude that I crave. Her suggestions and advice are some of the first I look for (really, I should probably go to more places rather than just salivate in my desk chair) and PUtF (can I do that?) has become one of the best English language food blogs in the city—by a long shot. Allie rides the rollercoaster that is the BA food scene, maybe not gracefully, but with attitude and honesty that is way better anyway. I can’t always afford her picks, but at least its free food porn along with lower budget finds!

2)   Agenda Cultural

Buenos Aires is incredible for the student, intern, low earner, or frugal traveler. Every night there is some event, festival, concert, or party that is free (or very cheap) to any soul that stumbles upon it. The BA City Gov’s Agenda Cultural catalogs them all. There is even a whole section for free events that welcomes tourists along with natives. If you are a twitter person, this is also a great way to get quick updates of what’s happening in the city every day.

3)   Planeta Joy            

Picada at Bar Perón Perón, from a list of Perón themed bars/restos

Picada at Bar Perón Perón, from a list of Perón themed bars/restos

This is my Spanish-language everything food-and-drink-related Bible. Not necessarily thorough reviews (although some stories do a very good job of being more specific), this is my favorite place to go for “Top…” lists. From a list of the top 10 best picadas in the city  to the best and largest food in ba (for my fellow yanquis who still can’t get over the size of “burritos” here), Planeta Joy will tell you whats up. I always type a google search, like “bares para grupos grandes planeta joy” to get directly to the page. Great selection and suggestions, with creative themed lists. PJ knows the city.

4)   Guia Oleo

Guia Oleo is the closest thing we’ve got to Yelp.com in BA for food reviews. As THE restaurant review site in the city, it’s the first and last place you should go when looking for a restaurant. Complete with tools to narrow your resto search and ample reviews, you can at least trust that if it got a very high or a very low rating that it’s probably close to right. Another amazing thing for budget eating is the Cuponera which provides between 20-50 percent off restaurants by printing out coupons from their website (see cupon star  for a more limited but equally accessible selection as well…for movie discounts too!).

5)   Daily Secret Buenos Aires   

A pretty recent edition to my repertoire, Daily Secret has become a good resource for a mixed bag of BA ideas. The scouts do a good job of reporting on places that tend to be a little more off the beaten path and in a variety of neighborhoods—not just Palermo. Although their site isn’t necessarily focused on the cheaper side of Buenos Aires, the site is really good at separating its mini-reports into categories: things to do, food, restaurants, bars, shops, services, and outside the city. Daily Secret is also available in other world capitals, like Lima, Santiago and beyond.

6)   Wifi Gratis

Map of wifi spots! Address on website.

Map of wifi spots! Address on website.

The city government website listing all the places in the city, like parks and plazas, which have free wifi. Perfect for when you need to choose a place to write your latest blog post and get your tan on next to the guy in the zunga.

7)   Baexpats

I wouldn’t really trust all the advice you get (it’s a hot bed for people at both ends of the spectrum like any online forum tends to be) but the classifieds have been pretty damn handy. Because it’s mostly travelers and expats, moving sale items are usually pretty new and cheap as owners try to shed their crap as quickly as possible. I recently helped my boyfriend purchase a king size bed for only AR 3,500.

8)   Facebook

Terrazas del Este...at 6 AM

Terrazas del Este…at 6 AM

Weird, right? You would be surprised just how many tips and tricks are on company facebook pages. A good rule of thumb, always check the fb page of a club earlier in the night before you go. Often times there is a list you can get your name on so entrance is free or cheaper. For example, I have never and will never EVER pay to get into Terrazas. And I’ve gotten free drinks for being on the list too.

9)   Mapa.buenosaires.gob.ar

Having a tool to demystify your transportation route can really help avoid paying taxi fares. You can carry around the good, old Guia T or you can consult Mapabeforehand online. If you’re more of an in the moment kind of person you can still use it on your smartphone, or download the Como Viajo app (also integrated into Mapa), which gives you transportation directions from point A to B.

10)   Craigslist Buenos Aires

The BA version may not have nearly as big of a selection as in other cities, but it has definitely worked for me. I found my (relatively well paid) job on there. And it was just about as easy as finding my boyfriend in a bar…which at least in my case means it was surprisingly easy. Also really good for moving sales finds.

Anyone have another useful site? 

The Good and the Bad: Sushi in Buenos Aires

sushi

I am still in the process of finding my favorite budget sushi in BA.

So this is Gastronomy Research Project numero 1 !! This list will get longer as I get fatter more knowledgeable about the BA sushi scene.

If you like Japanese food and have spent any extended period of time in Buenos Aires you may have noticed that it’s not often authentic. More often than not you will be faced with a very serious decision: whether or not to risk your tuna being a tuna fish roll (not even the cat would eat it…). Oh and did I mention the hunks of cream cheese?

I have gotten used to the sushi in Buenos Aires, despite the tendency for it to be smothered in cream cheese. Side story: the first time I ate sushi in Buenos Aires I ordered Sushi Pop with a friend and was so shocked and dissapointed that I didn’t order from anywhere for at least 5 months. Two and a half years later, after becoming friendly with BA sushi, my lovely boyfriend convinced me to try it again. I don’t know if the sushi has gotten better or if my palate has become a little more forgiving, but I LIKED IT. And I ate it all. However I still maintain that there is a rude amount of rice-to-fish ratio.

Barrio Chino Supermarket Sushi

Not good. I guess it sort of somewhat killed my craving, but not really. Way too much rice, way too little fish, and didn’t seem particularly fresh (also been sitting in a refrigerator for who knows how long…). I only tried the sushi at Casa China, but I really didn’t give me any desire to go back. On the upside (yup, there is one) it was incredibly cheap. Around 25-35 per roll but they are massive (again, because of the quantity of rice). I’d say this is only for the really desperate and broke.

Sushi Pop

The classic delivery. Pretty good, not great. It kills  the craving, but the rice-to-fish (RTF) ration is pretty terrible (see the picture above? that extra ring of rice makes me sad). Alaska (all salmon, AR 110 for 36 pieces) menu was good but I suggest chopping up the nigiri (the piece of fish lying on top of rice) and distributing among the other rolls. The Barcelona (salman and fresh tuna) is something I definitely want to try, but so far they have been “out of tuna”. Id rather them tell me that then give me tuna fish instead—which has happened. Gag. Huge, non-traditional selection with something for everyone. Rolls prices are a little higher, around 36-39, but they have 12 pieces. Combos start at 115 for 40 pieces.

Gako Sushi

Definitely better than Sushi Pop in terms of RTF, with interesting flavor combinations too. Particularly enjoyed the rolls with smoked salmon. The spicy mango roll was a nice idea, but lacked mango (??). First time delivery orders get four free pieces of sushi! It’s more expensive than sushi pop, but probably worth it.

Juncal 2819

Haru

Don’t ask, just go. That’s right, don’t order—GO. Very nice place with a varied menu and really well done food. Half of the parties were Japanese, too ! Oh and cheap. Fried tofu with teriyaki served as a complimentary starter. Vegetable tempura is well done. Chicken teriyaki appetizer was delicious and smelled even better (opposite, I know). Rolls were very good: RTF ratio great (although they are smaller than your average argentine goliath sushi rolls) and fish and wasabi were very fresh. My only two complaints would be that the spicy sauce on one of our sushi rolls (probably just a poor choice anyway) covered up the flavor of the fish and that there could have been more of a variety available (no red tuna!). For the price, however, this place is hard to beat. For three people, AR 320 with wine for two and tip included. Oh, and we got a free dessert (I am going to say for being 3 beautiful women) which means that this place wins onda points.

Av. Rivadavia 3324, near corner of Aguero
sushiharu tempura

Benihana Buenos Aires

OK so I understand while you might scoff at this one. But pleaseee hear me out. This yanquilandia chain is, yes, a chain but it has a pretty great happy hour deal. From 4 PM to 8 PM everyday you can get half priced drinks (a list of some 10 fruity cocktails) for AR 25, which are good enough for the price. The sushi, although nothing stellar, is also dirt cheap at rolls for AR 25 with 10 pieces or a tamaki for AR 16 and is arguably the best sushi in the city at the happy hour price. They also have a pretty complete food menu including jalapeno poppers (??) if you feel like a TGIFridays special with your sushi…Perfect people watching outdoor seating too, but it fills up fast. The verdict? Totally worth it for the price.

Alto Palermo Mall, on the corner near Colonel Diaz and Arenales; or just look between TGIFridays and Starbucks
sushiben

Sushi Colors

Sushi 3

I recently decided to throw caution to the wind and try out Sushi Colors. These guys deliver fresh, well-portioned rolls to much of Buenos Aires (although they very inconveniently stop right before my neighborhood, las Cañitas). Combos are surprisingly plentiful and the RTF ratio was impressive. I didn’t even have to divvy up the fish from the nigiri to compensate for less than impressive filling, like I always do with Sushi Pop. Was it more expensive than its cheaper competitor? Yeah, a little. The AR 164 price tag on the 40 piece box cost us 38 more pesos than the all salmon Alaska box at Sushi Pop, but I would pay more for more fish any day.

Sushi 2 Sushi 1

Since we were two ladies and two gents, we sprung for three more rolls: the Tiger Roll, the Tino roll and the Boston roll. The Tiger and the Tino were fried sushi, which were unsurprisingly ordered by the Argentine gents. I can’t say I liked them that much, but that’s a personal preference against cooked (and fried) sushi. The smoked salmon Boston roll was good, although I think I preferred the basic sushi and avocado roll. All in all, GREAT price for quality. Our total price tag was about AR 320 with tip, split between 4 people. We also got a 10% discount because we ordered between 7 and 8 pm on a Friday. But we didn’t eat that early; we just asked them to bring it at 10 and it was EARLY. They do a 15% discount ordering between 7-8 Tuesday-Thursday.

Where do you get your affordable sushi in Buenos Aires?

Saving $$ With Your Iphone in Buenos Aires

photo

Use your Iphone in Buenos Aires. Seriously.

What  kind of cell phone are you using here? Is it that little Argentine brick that looks like the first Nokias (nicknamed the indestructible nokia for all of those who didn’t drown it in coke accidently…), the one with the nifty flash light at the top? If so, then you can say goodbye to the hand cramp that texting on that baby gives you because I may have a solution. Did you also bring your smartphone?  Because if you have recently arrived to Buenos Aires or are staying for some time you may want to consider using it.

Why? I use my iphone in Argentina, so let me make your pro/con list for you.

.Pro #1: you already have it (or another smartphone), so why buy another?

Pro #2: it will probably cost you close to the same amount to use a smartphone as it would to use the brick. You live your life texting here to avoid expensive calls. But when you have a smartphone, you have the added benefit of having whatsap, which has exploded here between people with smartphones and blackberrys. You get to join that club and just pay for internet (1 peso per day on pre-paid plans).

Pro #3: like with regular phones here, you pay as you go, so you control how much you use. You also get 1 free number to call !

Pro #4: you get to have internet at 1 peso per day. Which means you always have your 1) subte map, 2) app to find the bus you need, 3) camera, 4) spanish-english dictionary, and 5) skype if you are in a pickle.

Pro #5: you can stay in contact with people in your home country/town!

And now for the con list:

Con #1: you may get it stolen. We all know pick-pocketers can be pretty genius here (did you hear about the time that Barbara Bush, daughter of the ex-Prez, had her purse stolen in San Telmo when surrounded by secret service?). So if you tend to get things stole maybe this isn’t the advice for you. 

Con #2: 3g network isn’t thaaat good, but at 1 peso a day who really cares? I turn my phone off and on again and it works just fine.

Con #3: this scheme only works with phones that have sim chips, so if yours doesn’t (sorry to some of you Verizon users in the U.S.), you’ll have to think of something else.

Con #4:  you have to go through the process of unlocking your phone if you haven’t done it already. For ATT users its easy (this page lets you send in a request to unlock your iphone and it was eaaasy), for others I’m not sure. In the past I called and they unlocked it for me, but I have heard of some carriers making you pay.

So yeah. There are some cons, but mostly it’s just the getting it stolen one that’s of real concern as long as you have the other elements in order (sim chip, unlock).

On the Argentina side, getting a sim chip/plan is just as easy as getting a sim chip for any phone. In Personal mine cost AR 30 and worked almost immediately. I put on about 30 pesos every 12-15 days and it lasts. I definitely use less credit this way; totally frugal approved.

So if you are looking for a way to use your iphone/smartphone in Buenos Aires, it’s actually much simpler than you thought. Or as our Argie friends would say, es un boludez !

Feature of the Week-er: Dreams of Real French Pastries in Buenos Aires

NOTE: there is some serious food porn in here. If you are offended…go read a cookbook with out pictures. 

I found something akin to a real French bakery in Buenos Aires.

SO PUT DOWN THE MEDIALUNA. I am sure its delicious with its almibar coating and strangely yellow-ish tint, but that is not what I am here to discuss so please clear your mind of such thoughts (and your plate) !

We are here to talk french pastries. Flaky, buttery, fresh and ideally recently taken out of the oven. That is exactly what I found on a recent morning while walking to work. You know in movies when people literally stop in their tracks after being hit by the smell of fresh-baked whatever wafting out of a bakery? I did that lurch-to-a-halt move before deciding that I couldn’t take another step without a very important taste test.

That morning I was lucky enough to stumble onto La Patisserie Francaise.

And after being faced with this…

.

.

I bought this…(for ARS 3.50)

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And I died. And dubbed this place the “Next Best Thing to a Ticket to Paris” (at least until I own my own airline…ha ha).

I, the queen of shovelling food into my mouth at a steady stream, actually ate this slowly. It was perfect–at least as far as my standards go. My French experience is relatively basic (a total of three weeks) but I made sure to make my French collegue try it. She said it was up to par. I say it goddamn SURPASSED it.

And so I went back and ate this…

At ARS 3.50 its a full peso more than the average factura (Argentine version) so I don’t know if you can spare it.

I AM SO KIDDING. You would be missing out on a daily weekly trip to France by not trying these babies. Did I mention that the French Embassy apparently orders from here? And anyway, lets SAY that the ARS 6.27 pesos per euro was accurate (hem, inflation makes it more like ARS 7.75), then your French style pastry here would be at least half the price than the real thing. Now thats my kind of deal.

Oh, and this is what I saw when I finally turned away from the pastries…

For more details check out 2XTango’s review.

La Pâtisserie Française

Malabia 2355, between Charcas and Guemes (Palermo Soho)
Update: The croissant is good, but its not great. Definitely less medialuna (none of the sweetness, in fact) but not all the way buttery croissant. I still have high hopes for the one with pastry cream in it…and the caracol with raisins is 100% worth it.