Tuna Sashimi Recipe!

Fresh Tuna Sashimi. Not an easy thing to find in BA. And after several years of not finding it you have to make a choice. Either stop moaning or do something about it. So I did. Turns out it’s pretty easy if you put your mind to it. Here is how to make it perfectly.

Simply rent one of these, somewhere like this.

Fish1Make sure you are well hydrated for the ensuing battle.

Fish2

Choose a lurid, psychedelic squid lure that you know tuna will just love!

Fish3

Now its time to put in the hard work. Actual fishing (and reeling) and yes these things are heavier than they look! Scoop out a few.

FishYou don’t get fresher than that!

Fish5Of course you need to make sure your lawyer (La Doctora) documents the whole thing so no one can accuse you of cheating.

Fish6

And then you just cut it up.
Fish11

Of course you need a highly trained, elegantly dressed, traditional japanese waiter with a barrel of sake.

Fish8And once you’ve drunk that, a little siesta might be in order. After all that was a lot of hard work!

Fish9Who’s making the Old Fashioneds when I awake?

Advertisements

I Got 99 Problems But A Café Ain’t One: The Best Coffee in Buenos Aires

A useful resource for our guests. Coffee toting immigrants are radically improving the quality of our favourite pick me up and educating the locals about its delights!

Pick Up The Fork

coffeee

For a city with such a vibrant café-going culture, overall Buenos Aires certainly does serve quite a shitty cup of coffee. Burnt beans, sugar roasted, poor quality, all probably made in a machine that hasn’t been cleaned since 1998, coffee snobs aficionados that long for a cup of the good stuff may no longer have to drown in watered down and milked out poor tasting coffee. We can now join Argentina’s cafetero revolution and stick a caffeine IV in our arms to check out some of the best spots to drink coffee in Buenos Aires.

View original post 846 more words

Independent Thought

Well we have been open four weeks and the expected things are breaking, mainly the new air conditioning units, several of which have been badly installed and are now having to run overtime due to the Christmas heatwave. But this is Argentina, it’s to be expected and so far we have avoided upsetting our guests by making sure there is a room (normally a bigger, better one) that we can move them to, if the aircon decides it prefers to be a shower unit.

In fact the guests seem to be liking our kind of personalised service and our theory that want they want is the time to sit and chat about their plans and get the relevant pointers, seems to be true. And then we had our first journalist from a large British newspaper to stay. Did she like it? See below:

Independent Article

or cut and paste this: http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/americas/bb-and-beyond-the-5th-floor-buenos-aires-9019960.html

Still Got the Blues? My hairdresser has!

I like my entertainment random, so Buenos Aires is the place to be. Impersonal stadium venues, booked 9 months in advance, are not for me. Nor are premiers and openings filled with celebrities I don’t recognise. Hell, I’ve never had a better time because I’ve had to dress up for an event, so I don’t understand why anyone bothers? No, my natural home is bohemian before that meant more expensive than establishment. Luckily for me and due to the lightness of regulation, combined with the Argentine attitude that having a good time is an inalienable right, there is still a plethora of bars, cafes, restaurants, bookshops and closed door venues of varying degrees of illegality, to indulge my interest in the arts without inflicting the discomforts of face-checking bouncers, high entry fees, coolness (I’m decidedly not cool) and the need for celebrity recognition flashcards.

(That being said, I am buying the latter for La Doctora, given that on introduction to the very talented Gonzalo Aloras (a man who is a “capo” of Rock Nacional and even looks like a proper rock star), and on hearing he played a bit of guitar, she managed to ask him whether he played in a band! Luckily he likes a bit of home cooking and is prepared to play for his supper, so I still expect him round at the 5th Floor.)

But I digress. The important thing is that everyone you know is doing something here, and while usually it is not their main career it is their passion, the thing that defines their life far more than a job could. Every week brings multiple invitations to gallery openings, concerts of every size and variety, after-office drinks with dj’s, dance exhibitions or theatre shows. Often you just go to be supportive and mingle with friends, though you are regularly surprised by the quality. Whether it’s the lawyer whose passion is tango (this combined with his black belt in jujitsu makes him the perfect escort to the more rustic milongas) or the election officer who dj’s and knows the club scene intimately, or my sous chef whose band used to be quite famous or my classical pianist journalist friend or, well I could go on and on. The result is that you never know when someone may burst into song.

As another aside, the above makes the common western conversational opener, “so what do you do?” somewhat problematic here. At worst it will be taken as a being very rude. Argentines make a separation between their jobs and their personas. Few see social events as primarily a business networking activity. The wage range between manual and professional is generally much smaller, so they don’t dedicate so much time to “getting ahead”. My porter earns more than most doctors, due to years in the job. A more sensitive and broader question is “a que te dedicas?” leaving the opportunity for them to skip quickly over the fact that they are a cosmetic surgeon and onto the important revelation that they spend every night writing  short stories.

So back to my hairdresser. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. He’s got long peroxide streaks in his own barnet fair, but then which hairdressers doesn’t. He looks like a 70’s rock star, again not uncommon for a hairdresser. His fingers move at lightening speed, he can cut your hair, excellently, in ten minutes.

He is obviously not rich. He owns his own shop and has embedded Hollywood stars in the pavement outside but is the only guy that works there. He live above it. He has however embraced customer service and technology. The first time you go he asks a lot of questions, takes great care to get it right and once you are happy, takes a digital photo and as I later found out writes a lot of notes. As you leave he reminds you that you get an interim tidy up of his styling whenever you fancy, for free, in between cuts. The next time you go there he just reads his description of what you previously wanted and asks whether you want the same again, which of course you do if you are me and have only ever had one hairstyle.

Of course he is a hairdresser so he talks a lot. But about things you are interested in! The notes? Does he do research? Last week it was all about the origins of Lunfardo (the peculiar BA phraseology that is too imbedded in common parlance to be called slang). Interesting stories. And then he frightened me a little.

“You are a blues guy aren’t you?”

Must have been in his notes? I couldn’t deny it.

“I’m working with Moris (one of the first legends of blues here) at the moment, would you like to hear what I’ve been doing?”

In England I would assume that he would have been cutting Moris’s hair. Maybe they had made a syncopated scissor-snipping sound track. Here you can’t be sure but I still have a healthy mistrust of hairdressers that want to play me music. I checked my options. It’s not like being at the dentist. Once you’re in the chair there and they have the weapons of war embedded in your north and south, you have no options. Blink once for yes, twice for no. And the f**ckers talk as much as hairdressers. But here I could escape, make a break for it while the shampoo was being rinsed off. Before anything sharp came into play!

“We recorded a version of Garry Moore’s Still Got the Blues last night,” he continued.

Ok, he was definitely on the right track musically. At the very least I could grin and bear it. But it wasn’t half bad, in fact it was good. I’d post it here but the file isn’t available yet. However, I can say that I genuinely enjoyed it, I asked for more. The guy can play guitar, and lots of other things. He can sing as well. Moris brought a maturity to the whole project. It was good. No, it was excellent.

So, 15 minutes of fun. A haircut that cost 6 English pounds but was as good as Richard Ward in London (where I only used to go ‘cos he gave me a big discount – I know a lot about his past). A bit of banter and exit cheek kissing (you have to kiss any man here that you have known for more than 2 and a half minutes and enjoyed their company). Invitations to bring my old Fender round and record a few tracks in his studio upstairs. I’ll probably take him upon that.

So I looked him up on youtube. Lots of covers and the good stuff with Moris not yet available. But I found this, Garry Moore’s Still Got The Blues played as an accompaniment to his daughter’s roller skating display. Poor quality but sweet. Have a look at it:

I bet your hairdresser isn’t as cool as mine!

 

 

 

A Perfect Day Out – Puerto Madero on the weekend.

When I first arrived in Buenos Aires 18 years ago, Puerto Madero was a dockside, wasteland whose sole point of interest was a huge nightclub in the shape of the Sydney Opera House. You could disco in the smoked filled interiors or salsa outside on the huge decks till breakfast, with no risk of disturbing any neighbours. There weren’t any. The port was too small to accommodate commercial shipping and no one knew what to do with it.

Shortly after the revival started. Ambitious, privately financed plans turned the area into a well planned, secure, shiny-towered facility for rich Argentines and foreign buyers. Residential developments with pools, gyms and tennis courts surrounded by quiet roads, public gardens and benefitting from a high visibility and uncorrupted police force (the Naval police retain the contract), conspired to drive the prices to the highest per square meter in BA. I was lucky enough to be lent the 43rd floor of one such tower for a year and (even on an overcast day) the view over the city was impressive.

DSC00061

If high flying dockside development is your thing, Puerto Madero with its eye catching bridge (La Puente de la Mujer) and waterside promenades, long row of restaurants (ranging from tourist rip-off to top quality) and its five star hotels, can measure up to the best in the world. And that is the problem. It could be anywhere in the world. And while improving, the lack of local charm and the sterility that accompanies all this clean lined urban regeneration, combined with low owner-occupation rates, make it frankly rather dull.  At least until the weekend starts, the sun comes out and hoardes of porteños invade the area on foot, bike, blades and skateboards to reclaim it as their own. Then the historic walkway of the Coastanera Sur, which divides this island enclave from the flanking nature reserve, turns into a scruffy chaotic festival of music, dance and cheap food.

There are some places you go to in BA to see planned for entertainment. There are others you go to when you don’t feel like planning but wish to be entertained. For the latter Puerto Madero offers a perfect day out and here are a few of my suggestions;

For a cultural start, make a pre-lunch visit to one of the finest private collections of Argentine art, that of recently deceased Amalita, “La dama del cemento,” (the woman of cement – she owned the Lomo Negra cement business). Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat’s excellent museum space was constructed specifically to house her art and the particular architecture is designed to make best use of natural light. It opens at midday and costs 35 pesos.

DSC00018

Hungry? If you are feeling “cheto” (a somewhat derogatory term for BA’s new moneyed class) or simply in need of an illusive fish dish, start with lunch at Marcelo. A big family style Italian, its efficient, bow-tied waiters serve up pricey pastas (to share), wood fired pizzas and a range of traditional specialities. I’ve eaten here a hundred times and never been disappointed, but for a light lunch ask for this;

DSC00012

A warm seafood salad, freshly dressed on a bed of crisp endives, heavy on the pulpo please! And with a good chardonnay by the glass to match.

If you are not flush with cash or simply feel in the mood to eat “como la gente”, walk down to the end of Azucenar Villaflor (one of PM’s principal streets), until you get to this;

DSC00062

My friends Jorge and Aidé have literally built La Doña from scratch and it is undoubtedly cobbled together (“atado con alambre” as they say here) from bits of scrap. However, in amongst the numerous puestos selling choripan (chorizo sausage sandwhich) or bondiola (grilled pork butt), their offering is unique. In fact, the plate-sized, charcoal-grilled, wheat tortillas that they cut laterally and stuff with a variety of fillings, are so good that they have recently been invited to Milan to attend the first Streetfood Expo and attend the screening of the related documentary in which they feature, all expenses paid. See the trailer here;

(http://www.streetfoodglobalnetwork.net/pages/multimedia). I always could spot culinary talent!!

While food hygiene worries may have the more sensitive amongst you already on edge, their product is always fresh and perfectly cooked. I’ve eaten there at least 50 times with never a twinge. Of course getting the perfect balance of filling may be a challenge especially if your Spanish isn’t up to scratch. One option is to ask for a tortilla “como come Emilio, el ingles” (a tortilla like Miles, the English guy eats). They will know. You will be presented with a crisp disk filled with creamy cheese, griddled chicken, salami, marinated aubergines and pickled chillies. Don’t let them add a fried egg! And one tortilla (at around 25 pesos) easily feeds two people.

Replete, it is time to move on to the entertainment. By mid afternoon this riverside strip is fully alive and every 200 yards there is something new to see or do. All activities are free, other than the passing round of the occasional hat (“la gorra”). The following is the photographic record of just one afternoon;DSC00027

Maybe you could work off a few calories dancing salsa as the local dance school takes it to the street?

DSC00032

Or get down to a Colombian Band?

DSC00037

Relax to the jazz?

DSC00045

Get complicated with Zouk!

DSC00049

Though some of these guys are seriously good (the guy in the mask is a well known dancer who suffered serious burns).

2013-01-19 18.56.43And don’t forget the Rock and Roll!!

2013-01-19 18.57.05

Did I hear you say ROCK AND ROLL????

DSC00043

Peckish? Get Coco to make you some fresh churros.

DSC00064

With beer in mind you could take a tour of the famous Cerviceria Munich, now a museum but apparently the first building in BA that had draught beer piped from its cellars to all its various rooms and a fine example of the many beer houses that used to line this stretch of the Costanera, where the locals used to come to bathe. Or maybe partake of the real thing outside one of the recently restored ones! However, If you feel like going more upmarket, treat yourself to an early evening drink at the poolside bar of the wonderfully kitsch Faena Hotel and Universe (Alan Faena clearly knows what he wants to be the master of) and play guess the nationality to see if your Latam peoplewatching skills are fine tuned. Don’t make the mistake of eating there though, the quality is phenomenally variable. Do however check if the have any bands playing in the Library Bar later in the week, as you can still catch full-on Rock and Roll in an intimate setting here. If Pablo Bañares or the dreadfully named but very good “Oh Baby” are scheduled, pencil in that date!

So, not an exhaustive review of the delights of Puerto Madero. The sporty amongst you could hire a bike to peddle round the nature reserve. The arty may wish to peek into the Faena Arts Center (amazing restored port building, relentlessly modern exhibitions). The lucky may catch one of the big free evening concerts in the amphitheatre.  Some may even wish to shop, but here I am not qualified to advise.

What I do know is if you want to have fun with real porteños of every class and type, get yourself down there on a sunny weekend and you will find something for everyone!