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. 

photo (4)

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.

photo (3)

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.

panaderia2

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.

photo (2)

panaderia1

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
Untitled

Green BA: Mish-Mash of Events in March 2013

Green Film Festival, Green Market and Green St. Paddy’s Day

This  weekend and upcoming week is probably one of the greenest we will all see in BA for a while–and I am pretty sure someone must have planned this.

I grew up with environmental parents which means I love to stare a rocks and trees have a natural draw to green things. Thats why I was very excited to hear about all three green events this next week.

This post may be semi-misleading, however. I bet you are thinking that I will be talking about thre environmental events next week. That is two-thirds true. First, next week is the beginning of a BA Environmental Film Festival (though small, kids; nothing to get too worked up about). Second, its the return of the Buenos Aires Market, which shows off some of the city’s best organic, environmentally conscience and/or just healthy thangs in the beautiful setting of the Bosque de Palermo parking lot.

The third, is a bit of a different case: ITS SAINT PATRICKS DAY.

Admittedly, I am not Irish (but my friends do tell me I may as well be for my skin tone). But I have found that living away from the US of A has made me increasingly homesick on these certain, over the top, tradition-stealing holidays (see Cinco de Mayo for another example). That is exactly why I had an Oscars Party and expected some effort from the man on Valentines Day. I know its cheesy, but now its what reminds me of home.

Which is all to say one of the technically greenist holidays ever is upon us so it gets included here.

Check it:

Environmental Film Festivalcineambiental

When: March Wednesday 12 (oops!), Friday 14 (oops!), Thuesday 19, Thursday 21; films start at 7:30 PM, talks before hand starting at 6:30 PM

Where: Jardin Botanico de Palermo

What: Outdoor screening of five films

Why: Raise awareness of environmental issues via film. Enjoy some movies in ze nature.

Buenos Aires Market

When: Saturday 16 and Sunday 17bamarket

Where: Bosque de Palermo, parking lot in front of the Rosedale

What: a pseudo farmers market/healthy food  market/veggie burger market (check Planeta Joy’s facebook page for more photos and info).

Why:  lots of interesting free workshops like free yoga class at noon both days! Also a workshop on the wonders of wheatgrass and healthy baking…mmmm. Foods to munch, sammies with which to lunch…and I am desperate to understand exactly what is black garlic and how I can put it in my food.

BA Style St. Patrick’s (Paddy’s) Day

When: March 17

Where: All over the city. For a little more wholesome fun, check out the parade put on by the City of BA and the Irish embassy. It will start at Arroyo and Suipacha at 7 PM and end in the Plaza San Martin with an Irish dance show. Everyone cross your fingers that its the Irish dancing phenom River Dance (JAZZ HANDS).

There will also be a Celtic Fair in Belgrano with dancing and food, if you’d rather keep it tranqui without traveling downtown for the parade.

The traditional drinking fest (as traditional as you can get at least) is on Reconquista, where they block the streets and pen you in like wild, green animals. Woooo!! Any and all Irish pub will be, of course, capitalizing too. Check this list for bars with events/promotions, emphasis being on promotions. And don’t forget to wear green so you don’t get pinched! 

What: I think its pretty clear, right?

Why: why else!? To celebrate this wonderful, green holiday. If I were home I would be eating corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread (which apparently is just not called that in Ireland…oops) and a guinness chocolate cake. Since I can’t do that (makes a girl miss her mommy!), I’ll just have to drown my tears in pure guinness and pat myself on the back.

Verdict? Anybody who is anybody will be getting green this week. Join in!

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.

nuts

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…

goodies

raisins

…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!

Chia

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

dried goods

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

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)

.

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.

Feria Masticar: Massive BA Food Party

feriamasticar

Not that you needed an excuse, but here is one to get out this weekend…to eat. And maybe shop for lovely produce and artisanal products (I’ve still never really been able to figure that word out) blah blah blah. But really its the eating that should always be center stage.

Which brings me to Feria Masticar, the new Buenos Aires festival dedicated to food and cooking and organized by the Argentine gastronomy elite. Its happening this weekend !

.

Members of the group ACELGA (Asociación de Cocineros y Empresarios ligados a la Gastronomía Argentina and paradoxically sharing a name with a relatively unappetizing vegetable)  have joined forces to create a weekend of heaven on earth gastronomic delight including a market, food stands, cooking classes, and wine and possibly beer tastings. Even Narda Lepes (think young, hip Rachel Ray/Martha Stewart with an amazing BA grocery shopping guide) is going to be there teaching cooking classes.

The details that make me want to go NOW:

1. Narda Lepes, Francis Mallman, and Maru Bottana

2. One Stop Shopping: So many amazing products in one place at one time (L’epi bread, national sea salt, olive oil, micro greens…!!!)

3. A cocktail stand among the food stands brought to you by Bar 878!

4. Variety and reasonable prices at food stands, somewhere between $20-35 for meals (although who knows about sizes)

5. Wine tasting “tunnel” (anyone heard of Club Amerika’s touch tunnel? *shudder*)

6. Cooking classes and talks

At ARS $30 pesos this Feria is bound to be cheaper than a lunch out and, of course, is your activity for the day. Tack on a $25-35 peso sandwich and you’re still doing pretty well. Oh hell, how often to you get to go to a food festival for less than USD 6-4.50 (depending on exchange rate you work in) anyway? And if you were planning on paying that USD 60+ for the class to make empanadas and drink a glass of wine, please spare yourself. ITS NARDA LEPES FOR fu… FOODS SAKE.

So be there. Period.

Feria Masticar, “El Dorrego” at Zapiola 50, Colegiales (see google map here)

November 16, 17, 18

Friday & Saturday: 12 PM to 11 PM

Sunday: 12 PM to 10 PM

Pill Poppin’: A Cheaper Pharmacy in BA

For two months I have been searching now for a way to get my meds cheaper. Argentina already has a fairly open over the counter policy which suits me just fine. However, prices tend to still be high even with my lovely dolar blue exchange rate. If you have obra social or pre-pago (i.e. health insurance that gives you discounts on medication by showing your card) you are looking at a 30% + discount. For poor little old me thats worthless.

I have a solution:
o
A farmacy that offers a perpetual 20% discount !!
o
I’m not exactly sure why but I assume it has something to do with a subsidy. Whatever it is, I am glad for it and for the adorable older pharmacist man behind the counter that doesn’t glower at me like the poor, over-worked Farmacity peeps. Supporting the neighborhood and saving almost 20 pesos which can be used on more important things like my eating-out-at-delicious-restaurants fund? I’m in. 
o
Farmacia Avalon, Guemes 4028 (in between Scalabrini and Malabia)
UPDATE: I may have found another couple of pharmacies with a similar (and better) deal, one on the corner of Santa Fe and Darregueyra (Palermo) and the other at Santa Fe 3089 (Barrio Norte). They seem to both offer 25%+. Confirmation pending!

Buns of Steel…for FREE?

Looking for free, creative ways to exercise in Buenos Aires?

I always do! Gyms are expensive and, considering they are closed on Sundays, not always convenient for us professionals. My thinking is that if you can work out outside, you should. Anyway, it’s probably better for our lungs AND our self esteem (any one see those gorgeous leggy Argentine girls in Saturday evening tops, leggings and their hair down? ugh). I also downloaded the GymPact app that literally takes money from your bank account (with your permission of course) everytime you miss your weekly workout goal. Harsh, but useful. Sort of like my mom charging my sister for leaving things on the floor when she was younger, its definitely using the stick rather than the carrot. But hey, if it works…

So don’t think this is about to be an infomercial pill that will whip you in to shape. I expect you to actually work for those glorious glutes. But I’ll at least give you a hint as to where you can exercise without having to drop the cash that gyms in the city ask for.

Estaciones Saludables:

This new city initiative to get porteños fit provides some wonderful exercise opportunities that anyone can take advantage of. The stations offer a variety of services and activities including basic health information, yoga and aerobics classes, and access to bikes. The stations are all over the city, located in different parks. On a recent Sunday in the Rosedale in Palermo I was lucky enough to get there just in time for the dance aerobics class. Oh yeah. I shook by bum like the rest of the ladies and was informed that the class had actually started at 930 AM with a jog/walk around the lakes and that dancing would be followed by yoga/stretching. Not too bad for free.

 
Days and time vary from station to station and activities I believe, change frequently. It seems like the only way to really know whats going on is to go, so pull on your running shoes and run hop the subte over to your closest park to check out whats going on!
o

Mejor en Bici:

This free city bike service lets you pick up a bike from a bunch of stations around the city and use it for a full hour without paying a cent. Sounds like the perfect excuse to see the sites and work up a mighty sweat at the same time. Register here.

NOTE: You have to have some sort of proof of residency to do this. So if you pay a bill you might be able to take advantage. I, of course, cannot. Snap.

o

Outdoor Gym:

hate the idea of working out in side but love the way those gym machines make your muscles bulge? Get the best of both worlds with one of the free outdoor gyms provided by the city. Thank Israel in Palermo Park’s Plaza Israel by using the machines the country donated (cute, but still wondering who came up with that one). Or have a view of that massive silver flower to keep you motivated (why, I don’t know). Add in the biking/running lanes right in front of both areas and these open-air gyms become the cheapest way to get in shape. (Plaza Justo Jose de Urquiza, in between Ave. Libertador and Ave. Figuero Alcorta and next to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes OR Plaza Israel inbetween Av. Figueroa Alcorta y Los Ombúes, in Parque Tres de Febrero).

Classes at your Neighborhood Centro Cultural:

Just about every neighborhood in the city has a cultural center that provides free or super low cost classes. In terms of exercise, centers have everything from yoga to tango classes. Do a little of your own research and check our your best bet using this list . Many centers have their own webpage with listings too so here is a more general list of what some centers offer.

Blogilates:

And if its raining or just gross outside, google your free personal trainer Cassey Ho. She may be over bubbly for someone doing squats, but Cassey will make you sweat and curse her at the same time. Do 3 videos and call it a day. (Another similiar (but not quiiite as fun) website is FitSugar.)

o
Best butt wins a prize!  A ‘frugal’ prize of course…and what that means not even I know.

Country Olive Oil in the Big City

If you have ever once wondered why BA supermarket olive oil is so expensive and, uh, bad unsatisfying to the pallet, I’m with you. But when I found Quetec I knew the days of oddly perfumed food were over. Located in three different areas of Capital Federal, this shrine to all things Mendoza is so so so worth the trip. The quality of their products is wonderful, but the best part is their prices. Or maybe its the olive oil and olive tastings. You can decide for yourself when you get there.

1 liter of olive oil (really good and what I use for cooking and drizzling alike) is something like $35 pesos. A WHOLE liter! Aside from olive oil they have green and black olives, a huge wine selection, jars of jam and other preserved treats and even a cold area where they can serve you up a part of a whole leg of jamon crudo and dried chorizo. They also have massive jugs of table wine which I haven’t been brave enough to ask about (or carry) but which look like they could be a fun party additive.

If you are mesmerized by the wine selection and can’t seem to choose there was one that I thought was delicious, especially for its price: La Íride, Cabernet Savignon. At $33 pesos I felt it was just what my asado needed.

Last time I went to the store on Riobomba they had these deals:

1 bottle of wine + 1 liter of olive oil (mixed olives) = $70 pesos

1 Liter of olive oil (mixed olives) + 1/4 liter of olive oil (single olive) + 1/4 kilo of olives = $55 pesos

So next time you think about buying Cocinero olive oil for $40+ pesos in your local Carrefour, think again.

Quetec

Riobamba 448, Congreso/Balvanera area
Gallo 1640, Barrio Norte/Palermo area
Av. Cabildo 196, Palermo Hollywood/Las Canitas area

La Cabrera Happy Hour: The Steak you Came for at the Price you Hoped For

This is a big one. If you haven’t heard of La Cabrera you haven’t done your research.  In fact, you haven’t done ANY research because it is one of the most popular tourist steakhouses in the city. The New York Times has written about it, its all over Tripadvisor.com and I am sure there are hostel shuttles that take you directly to the door. Thats not to say that Argentines don’t fall under its charms too–in fact they seem to be fairly jealous that mostly tourists tend to know about it. And I’ll tell you why in one word:

Steak.
Yes yes the city is full of parillas with full animals roasting over coals in the window. And sure, you could probably find one cheaper. But I’m not sure why you would especially after what I am about to tell you.
o
But wait let me first explain the carnal sin (heh, carne is meat in Spanish) that is a meal at La Cabrera.
o
You sit,
they bring you a wonderful bread basket with three dips,
you order,
they bring you mini plates (about 6) of mashed potato and butternut squash, pearl onions, zucchini fritatta, and more that you didn’t order,
you feast,
they bring you what could only be an up-cycled antique ski carrying little plates of salad with a poached egg, mini caprese, etc. all for the taking,
the meat arrives and you wonder if they are fattening you for a similar fate because the meat is probably HUGE,
you enjoy some of the best steak you have ever had,
if you decline death dessert they bring a lollipop tree to seal the deal,
waddle home,
Scene.
o
OK so now that you know how it works let me tell you the best part about this place. They have half price Happy Hour on weekdays from 7-8 PM. You say, “but you didn’t even mention the drinks so why should I care?”. And I chuckle, pat you on the hand and say, “but that includes the dinner menu too”. Yes, ladies and gents, I mean to say that you can eat at this carnival of BBQ (I am sorry but these puns are just coming so EASILY) for half of what they want to charge you at peak hours. You generally have to be in and out within the hour, but who cares? Coupled with the generosity of portions and included side dishes, one cut of meat is more than enough for two peple meaning you could get away with an amazing steak dinner for two with wine for less than 200 pesos. And I would even venture to say easily.
o
o
And yes, I accept thank you gifts.
o
o

La Cabrera

Cabrera 5099
4832-5754

Anita Bakery: My Neighborhood Bakery Away from Home

When lunch hour strikes and I want something filling but not heavy, reasonably priced but not empanadas or veg from the stand next door, and free of the block of melted cheese that often accompanies lunch, I go to Anita Bakery. This doll house of a sweet shop has become my go to take-out spot for delicious tartas (quiche) with a side of salad with homemade dressing or oven-roasted potatoes. At $28 pesos this is a great option when last nights dinner just didn’t make it to the tupperware. They also do sandwiches on homemade bread for $30 and salads for $35, making this place one of my favorites in BA.  If you want to splurge for a key lime pie, Anna also has you covered.

Take-away if you want or sit in one of the three stools to chat with a friend while you eat, but know that this place is mini. Located right near the corner of Charcas and Armenia on the edge of Palermo Soho

UPDATE: four months later and I am still going back, even if its just for a chat (SHE IS SO NICE). Lunch continues to be delicious and reasonable and I have to absolutely give a shout out to Ana’s holiday pan dulce. Even a day later and after being squished in every direction on an overnight flight, it was perfect.

pan dulce