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Savory Pionono - The Summer Christmas Food in Buenos Aires

savory-christmas-food-in-buenos-aires-summer

To many, Christmas is associated with snow, white, winter, fireplace, hot apple cider etc., but to as many others, including us here in Buenos Aires, Christmas is heat, humidity, summer, pool, and cold drinks; thus, the type of dishes at our Christmas dinner table are different and are more suitable for a hot summer night.

One of the common dishes you will come across and also see being sold as ‘take-home ready’ at confiterías (bakeries/cafés) is pionono. Pionono in Argentina is a very versatile dish and it can be easily made at home. It’s basically a sponge cake roll stuffed with anything you like, can be sweet or savory. Usually as a traditional dessert, it’ll have a very generous layer of dulce de leche, get rolled up like a log and then get covered or decorated with confectioner’s sugar, chocolate or more dulce de leche and cherries. Like this:

traditional-easy-to-make-argentine-dessert

The savory pionono (top picture) is, however, the Summer dish you’ll see at Christmas dinner. Since they can and do come in many different combinations, more than 1 version is usually served to suit the taste buds of everyone. The most popular style is the Pionono Primavera which has mayonnaise, lettuce, hard boiled eggs, ham, tomatoes, red pepper, and olives. This version also comes in tuna instead of ham. Another version which is also very common is made with mayonnaise, ham and hearts of palm (a very typical ingredient in our summer dishes/salads).

As you can see, the most complicated part of this dish is the pionono, the actual sheet of sponge cake. In Buenos Aires, you can easily find it in any small or big supermarkets (just like the package shown in the picture above). Then, the sky is the limit of what you like to “roll” into it, just remember to keep the moisture in check. For those who have the skill and enjoy making food from scratch, check out this video which will walk you through the do’s and don’ts when baking the perfect pionono. (It’s from a local program, time to practice your Spanish!)

We also want to mention that we love to munch and drink throughout the night. Check out our favorite festive food items in Argentina, they will keep you busy from dinner time till the clock strikes 12 when it’s time for the fireworks!

Have a jolly celebration everyone! ¡Felices Fiestas y Feliz Navidad!

Vamos Spanish

Good Eats in Argentina: Gaucho-style Asado

food-tradition-in-buenos-aires-ArgentinaArgentina is famous for its tasty beef not just because of the quality of the meat itself but just as importantly, the method of cooking them. The Argentine asado (barbeque) uses sheer dry heat from the charcoals and then the key is slow cook the meat. Most of the parrillas (steakhouses) in the city offer the “a la parrilla” (on the grill) type of asado, but there is another style which actually has a more traditional root coming from the gaucho (Argentine cowboy) culture. This style is called “al asador“, where an entire piece of meat, usually it’s the rib cut called tira de asado, is secured on a spit with a crossbar and get slowly roasted on an open fire for hours (more specifically, no less than 4 hrs.). For many Argentines, that is the real deal of Argentine asado.

In the city of Buenos Aires, it is not that easy to find asado al asador due to limited space but when you head to el campo (countryside) at una estancia (ranch), or even to other provinces, like Patagonia, which are more wide open, they are a lot more common. Nevertheless, there are definitely restaurants in Buenos Aires that serve this gaucho-style of Argentine asado. (Some purists do not consider these establishments are offering the authentic asado, which is referred to as ‘asado a la estaca‘, because they are not cooked outside in an open space where the air and the wind play a big part in the cooking.)

As said before, since asado al asador requires a lot more space and much longer time to cook the meat, restaurants which offer it also serve asado a la parrilla, so when you find yourself at one of these places and want to try this specific type of asado, remember to tell the waiter that you want el asado al asador when you order.

So here, without further ado, is a list of Buenos Aires restaurants that serve this gaucho-style asado:

Estilo Campo Alicia M. de Justo 1840, Puerto Madero

Las Nazarenas Reconquista 1132, Retiro

La Chacra Av. Córdoba 941, Centro

La Estancia Lavalle 941, Centro

Lo de Rosendo Castro Barros 502, Almagro

La Tranquera Av. Figueroa Alcorta 6464, Belgrano

 

Vamospanish

Eclectic Activities on a Long Weekend in December Buenos Aires

things-to-do-while-studying-at-buenos-aires-spanish-school-palermoDecember is here. Temperature is rising. Tons of events are taking place on this long weekend in Buenos Aires:

Buenos Aires Market
This ever-growing and very popular healthy fresh food market is having its last one this year in 2014. Over 70 different food vendors, from producers to cooks, will set up shop this Saturday December 6 and Sunday December 7 from 10am – 7pm in Parque Rivadavia, Caballito. You will get to taste and buy prepared food as well as grocery shop fresh produce directly from those who farm them. The market is free entrance but remember to bring enough cash if you intend to make purchases.

La Gran Milonga Nacional
What more romantic than dancing tango with live music in the background under sparkling lights in a tree-lined street accompanied by historical french-style architecture? To us, that’s something pretty hard to beat and the best thing is that scenario is not from a movie at all, you can totally experience it first hand at this Saturday’s annual outdoor tango event, La Gran Milonga Nacional. Avenida de Mayo will be blocked off from Plaza de Mayo to Av. 9 de Julio, from 8pm to 3am and it’s FREE. Whether you dance or not, just go and soak up the passion and romance in the air!

Feria Internacional de Artesanías de Buenos Aires
This annual fair is hands down one of our favorites throughout the year in Buenos Aires, and we go to a lot! Read our account from last year’s event and you will understand why this fair is different from any other arts and crafts markets. If you need to buy presents to bring home for Christmas, then you definitely don’t want to miss out this event: December 3 – 8, 2014 from 3pm to 10pm at La Rural, Palermo. General admission: AR$45.

Christmas Fair at British Embassy
This family-friendly fundraising event is a Christmas tradition for the Argentine British Community Council. The Gardens of the British Embassy (Newton 2575, Recoleta) will open its doors this Saturday December 6 from 11am to 7pm. There will be an arts & crafts market and food stands, together with Santa Claus (at 4pm), carol singing, live band from Salvation Army, jumping castle, raffles and so on. Entrance fee is AR$30, free for children under 12 years old. Photo ID is required at entrance. It’s never too early to get in some Christmas spirit!

¡Qué tengan un buen fin de semana!

Vamospanish

How to Better Understand Local Spanish in Buenos Aires

PrintAmong many students who have come to learn Spanish in Buenos Aires, they all have one common comment and that is Argentines, especially porteños (those from the big city Buenos Aires), speak really fast and it’s hard to understand. When I first arrived in Buenos Aires many years ago with the little Spanish I had in my pocket, I didn’t get bothered too much by the speed because I just thought I wasn’t good enough. As I slowly increased my Spanish fluency over the years, I do realize that porteños seem to speak a lot faster than others but that isn’t just because of the speed, it has a lot to do with the words they use too. One thing obvious is that they love to shorten a lot of their frequently-used words.

Let me explain.

In order to get their ideas across faster, Argentines love to abbreviate words by shortening or combining them. One term you’d hear regularly when it comes to food is “chori” for chorizo (beef sausage)/choripan (beef sausage with bread) and “chimi” for chimichurri (THE sauce to go with the meat), as you know how much we love our choripan with chimi! Others like common objects: “compu” for computadora (computer), “pelu” for peluquería (hair salon), “zapa” for zapatillas (runners/sneakers. Don’t confuse with zapatos which mean shoes in general)… the list goes on.

Of course not every word will be/can be shortened, that’d just sound too ridiculous, but there’s definitely a pattern. Once you start paying attention, you’ll get to catch on quickly. To further demonstrate and with more examples, here is a typical conversation scenario between 2 friends run into each other:

JORGE – ¡Ey! ¡Hola Rami! ¿Cómo andás?
RAMIRO – ¡Hola Jorge! ¿Cómo estás? Hace mucho tiempo que no te veo en mi barrio. ¿Qué onda?
J-  Todo bien. Voy a buscar a mi novia para ir al cine. Tengo entradas para la nueva peli[cular] con Ricardo Darín. y ¿vos, qué vas a hacer?
R – Nada interesante. Tengo que comprar una mochi[la] (backpack) para my hijo porque este finde (fin de semana) me voy con mi familia para Mardel (Mar del Plata) a descansar un poco sin el celu[lar] y sin la compu[tadora].
J- Genial. Necesitabas unas vacaciones.
R- Sí, porque en el trabajo me volvieron loco este año. Estoy cansado de tanta tecnología. A mi mujer y a mi nos pareció que estaría bueno si les mostramos a los chicos una vida más tranqui[la]. Unos días juntos sin tanta tele[visión].
J- Claro, así ellos también van a poder descansar del cole[gio] (this refers to primary or secondary schools).
R- Sí, porque en esta época del año los profes[ores] se ponen muy estrictos con los examenes. ¿Viste? Che Rami, cambiando el tema, ¿Contame cómo vas con la facu[ltad] (university)?
J- Bárbaro. Aprobé todo los examenes y me queda sólo un cuatri[mestre] para recibirme.
R- Te felicito. ¡Me alegra! Uy, casí olvidé que tengo que pasar por el súper[mercado] también para comprar carne para esta noche. Si no, me va a matar mi mujer.
J- jaja. Dale. ¡Qué tengan un buen viaje! Mandame un mail después contándome como te fue, porfa (por favor).
R- Dale. ¡Cuidate amigo!

Now that you know this little tip, hope it’ll help you to ‘listen’ better and able to catch more words from a fast talking Argentine. You may realize you can understand more than you thought!

Isabel
Vamospanish

 

 

 

Museum Night 2014 in Buenos Aires

museum-night-buenos-airesTons of museums dotted all over the city of Buenos Aires, but who wants to be inside when it is so nice outside? Don’t sweat! This Saturday November 15, 2014 you will get to visit museums all night long. La Noche de los Museos is a yearly event organized by the city government where 200 participating museums will keep their doors open from 8pm to 3 am. (See map here)

Special cultural programs are also part of this Museum Night: Guided tours, unique exhibitions, art performances, live music, talks, milongas and so on are just some activities you can find taking place at different museums on the night’s program. Go to their official website La Noche de los Museos for schedule details.

What’s more? All entry and activities are free-of-charge, and there’s a Free Bus Pass which you can print out so you can move free-ly and easily to visit as many places as you like.

Vamospanish

Polo Tournaments in Buenos Aires

argentine-polo-book-by-Maria-Lia-and-Luis-GarrahanWhen it comes to hearing the word ‘Argentina’ in relation to sports, the reaction most likely will be football or more specifically Messi (Maradona if you’re of an older generation) popping into one’s mind. It could also be Del Potro “La Torre de Tandil” if one is a tennis fan. Or, Carlos Delfino/Manu Ginobli for NBA fans. Rarely it would be associated to polo. In fact, not only Argentina is one of the most recognized countries in the world of polo, Argentine players actually constantly dominate in the ranking. (See Current World Polo Ranking, 7 out of Top 10 are Argentines.)

Even to those who are from and living in Argentina, those players’ names on the board are not household names given polo still very much remains as an elitist sport despite it was introduced to this country centuries ago by the British colonists. Nevertheless, if you are interested in experiencing some polo, it is not that out of reach if you know where to look especially 3 of the most important world polo tournaments are held annually here in/near Buenos Aires. Thus, one of them is just around the corner!

Abierto Argentino de Polo (Argentine Open Polo Championship) is the most important polo tournament in the world and it takes place yearly right here in Buenos Aires at Catedral del Polo in Palermo. The championship has 7 game dates and this year’s will start on Saturday November 15 and the Final on Saturday December 6. You can get your tickets here in advance or at the gate on game day. For more information on dates and teams, please visit the Argentine Polo Association website (Spanish only).

Last but not least, before you head out to watch a game, give this polo basics guide a read, so you won’t be completely lost with what’s happening.

(Photo credit: it’s the cover of book “Argentine Open in Palermo” by Maria Lia and Luis Garrahan)

Vamospanish

 

Music Festivals in Buenos Aires

outdoor-music-event-summer-buenos-airesWe love this time of the year in Buenos Aires because it’s the beginning of warm weather before it gets steamy hot; everyone has fully come out of their hibernation and the energy in the city is amazing! What more exciting is that this is the season when major outdoor music festivals happen! Let’s get to it – the run down for 2014:

Personal Fest 2014, the usual suspect in the music festivals agenda. This year’s event will take place on Saturday November 8 and Sunday November 9. It’s unfortunate that it coincides with Creamfields (why?!!). This festival always brings in super fun bands from all over, this year’s headlines include Arctic Monkey, MGMT, The Hives, Morcheeba, Calle 13, just to name a few. Go to their official site to find out more.

If you don’t want to miss out the biggest and the best dance music party in Argentina (yes, not just Buenos Aires), then mark down Saturday Nov. 8 on your calendar. That’s the date for Creamfields 2014. 5 stages, begin at 4pm till 6am. You can dance till sunrise. More info at creamfieldsba.com.

A newcomer has joined the party this year and it is the Music Win! Festival. A 2-day event, Sunday November 23 and Monday November 24 (public holiday!), that brings in international musicians and bands of all genre. A true feast for all music fans. Check out their website for more info.

Like all the art cultures in Buenos Aires, there’s something for everyone. Prefer a more chill than rocking out music experience, we have that too. This year’s Buenos Aires International Jazz Festival will take place from Nov. 19 – 24, 2014. Since the organizer for this festival is the city government, that means other than ticketed events, there are also many free concerts for all to enjoy. At the time of publishing this blog, the 2014 edition website and program is not up yet, so keep checking the city’s general festival site for updates.

Last but not least, if the occasional music events aren’t enough to quench your thirst, then we have PM Open Air Music. Started a couple of summers ago in an alley in Palermo Soho, cool DJs and bands play live every Saturday under the BA sun. This weekly event has become so popular that now during this Summer season, you can find it every Saturday 3pm to10pm at Punta Carrasco (Av. Rafael Obligado 2221), a beautifully located venue space next to the river. Free entry till 4:30pm. Ticket at AR$80 afterwards. Go early if you want to make sure you can get in or buy advance tickets at INFINIT (an eye glasses shop at Thames 1602, Palermo Soho). More info at their FB page.
(Above photo from PM Open Air Music. By Julian Farina Ph)

Isabel
Vamospanish

Beyond Malbec - 2014 Wine Expo in Buenos Aires

wine-expo-buenos-aires-special-eventOther than juicy steak, Argentina is also known for our red wine, especially Malbec which is our signature wine, and Mendoza is our famous wine region; these are just the tip of the iceberg of the wine culture here. In fact, beautiful wines are also produced as north as Salta, Catamarca and Tucumán, the northern region specifically known as los Valles Calchaquíes. Taking advantage of their higher altitude and different cultivation conditions, on top of the usual suspects (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay), they also produce wines like Tannat and Torrontés, which are made especially well from these regions.

Some other examples of grapes that are less well-known for Argentine wines but you shouldn’t pass on the opportunity to try them out are Bonarda, Syrah, Tempranillo and Sauvignon Blanc. Moreover, do you know espumantes (sparkling wines) are also very popular among Argentines? Before dinner as an apéritif and/or end the dinner on a high note is a common scene. Chandon is the most sought after brand but many vineyards are also producing their own now, from extra brut to brut nature to sparkling Rosé. Varieties are evergrowing when you go to the supermarket.

With all these choices, what should one do you wonder? Wine tasting is always a good choice but what even better is the Wine Expo! This year’s Expo Vinos y Bodegas is going to take place over 3 days from Friday October 30 to Saturday November 1 at La Rural, Palermo. (Halloween is not a big thing here so wine show would very well be the better plan for the weekend!) There will be over 40 wineries offering tastings, gourmet food market and live music. Whether you are a wine lover or not, this will be a great opportunity for you to see why Argentine wine is a lot more than Malbec.

For more info, visit the Expo Vinos y Bodegas site here.

Drink responsibly. ¡Salud!

Vamospanish

50th Anniversary of Argentine Comic Icon Mafalda

mafalda-50th-anniversary-buenos-aires-exhibitionThe most famous Argentine comic “Mafalda” is celebrating its 50th Anniversary! If you already know a bit about ‘Mafalda’, then you won’t want to miss out “El Mundo Según Mafalda (The World According to Mafalda)” exhibition at Usina del Arte, which is currently going on till November 30.

If you don’t know who she is yet and have been walking around Buenos Aires, you may have probably seen her images in various public spaces and wondered why is she everywhere? To help you get to know HER better, and to understand why SHE is such an icon in Argentine culture, check out Who’s This Girl? PART 1 and PART 2.

Better yet, for those who can’t make it to the exhibition in person, here is a great video (the first part) about it:

Cultura Latina 11: Mafalda 50th Anniversary & MALBA Museum from Mauricio Izquierdo on Vimeo.

Vamospanish

Best Monday Night Out in Buenos Aires: La Bomba de Tiempo

bomba-de-tiempo-buenos-aires-music-nightlife8 years and counting, La Bomba de Tiempo drumming show is still the thing to do on Monday nights in Buenos Aires. La Bomba de Tiempo is a 16-piece drumming group whose performances are completely improvisational and communications between the conductor and the percussionists are all done through signs and gestures. Since the group was formed in 2006, they have developed a system that consists of more than 100 signaling motions using hands, fingers and the body. They started performing at Konex Cultural Center every Mondays and their shows became an instant hit among the young hip crowd. As word spread, soon enough not only around-the-block line-ups outside the cultural center every Monday, but their popularity also brought them outside of Buenos Aires, touring and jamming with famous musicians including Calle 13, Café Tacuba and the likes.

If you enjoy outdoor music show where you can dance to energetic yet hypnotizing beat in a very buena onda (good vibe) environment, then you definitely have to pencil in La Bomba de Tiempo on your Buenos Aires MUST-do list!

To get a glimpse of what all this hype is about, check out this video. And don’t forget to go to Konex website for show information and get your ticket ahead of time.

Vamospanish