Parilla and Picadas and Pastries, oh my!

Parillada Mixta

You may have thought I traveled to Argentina for the adventure or maybe the cultural experience but let’s get real – it was always about the food.

Meat is King and all other ingredients just serve to highlight this exalted protein.  Argentines take their food very seriously and dinner is a time to gather with family and spend time together.  With things like grass-fed beef, creamy morcilla, chorizo sausage and dulce de leche it doesn’t seem too hard to bring people to the table.

Argentine cuisine is naturally influenced by its surrounding countries and you can find typical South American fare such as empanadas and dulce de leche but there is so much more.  The food people eat here is more related to European cuisine, especially Italian food.  Italian restaurants are on every corner and the execution of continental dishes is superb.  Handmade pastas, crispy pizzas, and tapas are eaten as much as the more typical South American fare.

Nepolitana Pizza in Palermo, Buenos Aires

After working through a large parillada mixta which included grilled fresh cheese, butterflied chicken, two kinds of sausages, short ribs and bife de chroizo the last thing you are considering is dessert.  But take a deep breath, loosen your belt and take a slug of your excellent Malbec.  Eating in Argentina is not for the weak.

The ubiquitous bow tied waiter will finally respond to your not-so-subtle overtures to see a dessert menu.  With decadent items like tiramisu, dulche de leche flan, and gelado it is difficult to make a poor choice.  I also recommend trying a expertly house made limoncello to finish off what’s sure to be one of your favorite meals abroad.

Picadas

If you can’t seem to wait for the typical porteno dining hour at 11pm then its best to grab some picadas at a bar or cafe to satiate your hunger.  Picadas are the reminiscent of antipasta platters and include several types of cheeses, pieces of salami and other cured meats, briny olives, nuts, ect. Paired with a glass of superb malbec or microbrewed beer these plates will hold you over until the extravagantly late dinner hour observed in Buenos Aires.

Also worth mentioning is the swoon worthy bakeries that dot every corner in this gastronomic paradise.  I’ve mentioned dulce de leche but its hard to fully understand the country’s national obsession with the thick caramel spread without talking to an Argentinean.  While you might not understand the rapid fire stream of Spanish directed at you by the mere mention of dulce de leche, the eye roll, fingertip kiss and general enthusiasm knows no language barrier.

Photo : djmikeryan.com

Buenos Aires bakeries have beautiful pastries, elaborate cakes and decadent cookies.  The pastries are referred to as facturas and my favorite are the medialuna and the churro.  The medialuna is similar to a croissant but is smaller in size and covered in a simple sugar syrup.  The churros are filled with dulce de leche and rolled in sugar.  The national cookie is called a Alajores and generally consists of dulche de leche sandwiched between two crumbly sugar cookies.  That is generally the starting point for most and after that the possibilities are endless including rolled in coconut, dipped in chocolate, dusted in powdered sugar.

It is difficult to find a bad meal in Buenos Aires if you do your research and chat up the locals.  The best restaurants here are usually the ones that are bursting with portenos talking, laughing and spending time together while sharing a meal.  And if all else fails just follow your nose until your find the origin of that heavenly smell whether it be sizzling meat or freshly baked cookies.

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Filed under Buenos Aires, Food, Lifestyle

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