Today, please enjoy a post by special guest bloggers Sue and Howie Meltzer as they recount what was surely the best week of their lives.
So excited for the food!
Oh, and to see Jesse and Dave, too.
After 5 days of R and R following the Meshkov’s visit, Jesse and Dave were refreshed, relaxed and ready to take on the next set of parents. Having heard what great tour guides they were, we decided to hire them by the day and not the hour, so we managed to squeeze out many, many hours of sightseeing, eating, shopping, eating and steeping ourselves in Argentinean arts, recreation, culture… and food.
Our first destination immediately on arrival was a parilla (grill) for lunch under the supervision of our personal food critic, David Meshkov. Being the professional food critic he is, he had tested this particular parilla out (La Cabrera), not once, but twice, before we arrived, just to make sure it was up to our standards. For our first meal, we had, not one, but three kinds of streak and a dozen side dishes + wine. It was a standard that we were to repeat many times in the coming days.
With kilos of steak per person one needs a big knife.
Highlights of the next day were 3 hours of a guided historic/architectural walking tour of downtown and Ricoleta, which was so interesting, we signed onto another 3 hours that afternoon through Ricoleta cemetery. The tour consisted of Jesse and Sue, each at the tour guides elbow, asking intelligent questions, while Howie and Dave were usually found half a block away, taking pictures and trying to catch up. The tour guide offered up a very interesting assessment of the Argentines found in Buenos Aires. They are Italians (because of their passion for life), who speak Spanish (duh), who are living in Paris (most of the architecture and automobiles in BA are French) and think they are English (I missed this explanation because I was taking a picture). Before dinner, we stopped at one of Dave’s favorite empanada shops where we taste tested several varieties, sharing in his quest to find the best empanada in Argentina.
Serious taste testing ensued.
Thursday we headed to Uruguay by ferry across the Rio Plata to a 17th century Portueguese settlement/fort, Colonia. It was a beautiful, sleepy town with tree-lined cobblestone streets and we moseyed around all afternoon. To Dave’s (and Howie’s) relief, the seven little museums in the town were closed for the day, seemingly due to a work action, although our Spanish was not advanced enough to get all the details. Fortunately, Sue’s Spanish wasn’t good enough to convince the local police to open the museums for us (though she tried). However, all of the stores were open allowing Sue and Jesse to help bolster the Uruguayan economy. For our Thanksgiving dinner, we ate at La Florida, a cute old home run by a very friendly couple who shared their recipe for the best onion soup any of us had ever eaten.
Colonia was gorgeous.
Back to BA the next morning and right to another parrilla for lunch. Spent the next afternoon checking off some more must-sees on our list including an obligatory coffee at one of the oldest café’s in BA, Tortoni, and a quick trip on the 100 year-old subway line. Yes, I know NYC’s subway is over 100 years old too but BA’s still is using the original wooden cars! Dinner at the Puerto Cerrado Jesse’s described; Howie had his Asian food fix.
Original wooden subway car
Saturday, after BA’s traditional coffee and medialuna (little croissants with and without a sweet glaze) breakfast, we headed to the Polo stadium for the Argentinean finals. Being huge Polo fans, we were all set to root for the team that had the nicest uniforms. Just to be sure Jesse and Dave could actually say they got some cultural stimulation (and to makeup for their disappointment of missing the 7 museums of Colonia), we took a short detour to the Eva Peron museum followed by the Malba, a modern Latin-American art museum. They came out much enlightened.
Bench/sculpture at MALBA
Then Polo. The Polo experience is nothing like a Yankee stadium experience (besides not having hot dogs). Well-heeled patrons sip champagne under tents and shop at (what else) the Ralph Lauren Polo Store as well as various other high end polo shops set up in little tents around the field. We are happy to report that we attended, according to the newspaper, the match of the decade, with an intensely exciting finish. We are not so happy to report that we missed the intensely exciting finish because Howie and Dave wanted to get a sausage sandwich from one of the small carts outside of the stadium. [Dave's account is here]. Hours later, a Saturday night dinner at Bobo, our “hip” hotel (per Fodor’s), and a milonga evening to learn Tango. Learning to tango was a lot of fun (even though everyone seemed to be dancing the wrong way on the dance floor). But, even though it was our first time, everyone seemed to be complimenting us as we tangoed by, smiling and saying things like, “Ellos parece para tener dos izquierda pies” or “Bailan como trocones de arboles”. (It was only afterwards that we realized they were saying, “They seem to have two left feet” and “They dance like tree stumps”).
Put me in, coach!
Sunday, Jesse and Dave took us to San Telmo (It was their third time going - they definitely deserve a medal for that), and from our point of view, the largest garage sale of OPJ (other people’s junk) we’ve ever seen (even eclipsing Marty Streit’s). Among old silverware, dishes, toys and seltzer bottles, were modern and vintage jewelry and leather jackets. Dave bought his from a vendor who, not only didn’t have a table, but displayed his jackets on hooks in the stairwell of a seedy apartment house. For lunch, steak at famed La Brigada, another traditional, historic, wood-paneled steak house.
Our La Brigada waiter really wanted to be in this photo.
Monday and Tuesday were reserved for shopping and Palermo had fabulous stores, equivalent to NY or LA boutiques, at 1/3 the price. Jesse purchased her leather jacket there (Sue liked it so much she bought the same one in a different color) as well as several pocketbooks, shoes and scarves… Howie and Dave were not standing idly by as the professionals were shopping. They were doing cardio workouts by running to the nearest ATM machine after each purchase. Late afternoon snack of ice cream (Argentina definitely has the best we’ve ever had, and that’s saying a lot. We were also on an helado-thon all week.) to tide us over until dinner - Japanese-Peruvian fusion with Howie’s BA friend Juan and his wife.
Enjoying a late-afternoon milkshake
Tuesday afternoon we left BA as we started, at La Cabrera for lunch. After eating Argentine beef for a week, it will be tough to order steak at an American restaurant, especially since we won’t have Dave to order for us.
Fabulous guides and a great week. We can’t wait to meet up with Jesse and Dave at another destination.