I didn't think I would be posting from Buenos Aires but I have been to so many restaurants here in just two days that I had to dish some out for the rest of the world. I arrived Thursday morning after an exceptionally long coach flight, with which the details of I shall not bore you. It was hot and sunny here in Argentina's gorgeous capital, and after resting at the pad in San Telmo (the ancient, bohemian neighborhood where tango was born and where the freelance food and fashion photographer I'm visiting lives) for a couple of hours we went just round the corner for goat cheese sandwiches.
My friend "Che" (the international nickname for all Argentineans, hence the moniker Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Argentineans are so named because they say, "che" like North Americans say "hey.") is vegetarian, even though his homeland is home to the best steaks on the planet, and as I was raised vegetarian for most of my life and only started eating meat once I became Restaurant Girl, it's nice to take a break from the heaviness San Franciscan restaurant food and find a different side of Argentinean cuisine. The sandwiches were excellent and it was lovely to sit outside in the sun and watch the street.
There aren't many great sidewalk cafes I can think of in San Francisco (and if you can think of any besides the Cafe du Soleil, where I already spend a LOT of time, please let me know!) so when I get to a city that's got a sidewalk-cafe culture, I happily plop my ass down in the sun and drink coffee or wine, or both, and watch the world go by.
Yesterday Che and I had lunch at an Asian-themed restaurant in Palermo, the ritzy neighborhood right on the river with beautiful ancient trees waving over the cobbled sidewalks. Palermo reminds me of Hayes Valley or downtown San Luis Obispo with the gorgeous weather, shady trees, and cute little boutiques--there was even a Kid Robot store with some great dresses that I refrained from buying (I'm too tall for most clothes here, unfortunately). The food was great, and what I love about restaurants here is that you can get a "Menu del Dia" for something like 15 pesos (or $5) with a main course, a dessert, and a beverage (wine, water, or coffee) and it's good.
The hip-factor of the restaurants here reminds me of the San Francisco dining scene but more relaxed (and everyone's speaking Spanish). For dinner last night, Che took me to Olson, a Northern-European-themed restaurant. He had a baked goat-cheese appetizer (I think vegetarians here must eat a lot of goat cheese) and I had some little fishes (I think it might have been pickled herring) with arugula, caviar, and blanched potatoes on brioche. We both had the pumpkin-Gruyere-mandarin-mushroom risotto for our main course and an apple bread-pudding for dessert.
The bottle of Malbec Che chose do accompany dinner was a little overwhelming but I have made it a policy to always drink Malbec while in South America and he remembered that. The waiter, who had an ueber-hip mini-mullets and a hot body packed into a tight brown-and-white t-shirts like all of the waiters, brought us each a shot of vodka as a present after dinner; Che knew the hostess at the restaurant, so we had a great table, and everyone made much of the fact that it was my birthday. One vodka was infused with chiles and the other with honey.
I love how the restaurants I've been to so far feature foods from different cultures but with a decidedly Argentinean flair. Also I dig how the waiters here wear leather fanny-packs (like some hairdressers do) with all of the tools of their trade in them; there's a pocket for a notebook, a wine-key, and pens. I'd get one here except impressionable me no longer wants to work as a San Francisco waiter--now I want to move to Buenos Aires and be a starving writer. All in all, it was a great birthday.