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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Barrio Chino

It's true that there are lots of items from home that you cannot find in Argentina - our unbelievably full luggage on the way back from the US can attest to that - but there is one place that seems to have more variety than anywhere else in Capital: China Town.

If you're looking for something, and you have exhausted all other options, venture on over to Barrio Chino - you may just find what you're looking for.

Barrio Chino is located in Belgrano, a little area that is (at the most) 4 blocks of stores, restaurants and kiosks.  Most of the grocery stores smell pretty foul.  Most of the kiosks have cheap toys and little knick-knacks that you don't really need.  All in all, pretty much what I think of when I imagine a China Town in the US.

I will say that the prices are far better than anything I've come across in my neighborhood, and the fish quality is regarded as the best in the city.  So, when I need to stock up on seafood, Barrio Chino is worth the trip.  My favorite shop is Casa China, ArribeƱos 2173, which is one of the few places that is open 7 days a week (most shops are closed on Monday).  They have remodeled within the last year or so, so the place is a bit more spacious and organized than before.  I prefer it because it is one of the cleaner markets that I have seen in China Town, especially the seafood department.  Don't get me wrong, it still smells weird and there are always flies in the summer months, but the preparations areas are clean and the staff is more or less friendly.

In the seafood department, if you're buying fish, you can purchase whole fish or have them filet the fish for you.  Salmon can be ordered with or without skin, the price goes up the "cleaner" you want the fish.

Here is the guy filleting my salmon order today:

 There are also lots of other seafood options to choose from as well, many of them are things I don't recognize.  If you are an adventurous chef who cooks mussels, whole squid, clams and snails, look no further than the seafood section...

Looking for feta cheese?  They've got it.  Soy milk (sweetened or unsweetened).  They've got it.  The only place I've been able to consistently find jalapeƱos - Casa China.

This has also been the sole source of our supply of soy sauce, coconut milk, rice noodles, rice vinegar, sesame seed oil, brown sugar (when I'm not making it myself), bags of uncooked frozen shrimp, lots of herbs and filo dough.  They also stock items you wouldn't expect in Asian food like salsa, peanut butter, cream cheese (used in most sushi here - so this is considered an Asian dish ingredient) and nuts, that are significantly cheaper to purchase in this area of town versus closer to home.

There are a few catches, most places are cash only, the is no delivery so you can only purchase what you can carry, and items are generally imported from Asia so you need to know what you're looking for - you may not recognize the label.  It's a great place to go for some key items, or just to peruse the aisles and see what goodies you can find.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

La Granja Chocolatada

We have recently returned from a multi-week trip to the US, which I will write about soon, and we have been in mild withdrawal of the fun outdoor activities we had during our vacation.  With this in mind, we have been searching for a kid-friendly place to visit that has animals, outdoor space and is not too far from Capital.

Our first option, La Granja Loma Verde, regretfully told me that their lovely estancia is closed until further notice.

So we looked for another option, and with only one day to figure it out we stumbled upon La Granja Chocolatada.  Now, the emblem for the place is a frog drinking chocolate milk from a straw so we based our expectations accordingly, but this Granja fell a little short in my book.

La Granja Chocolatada is located in Pilar, about 45 minutes outside of Capital.  They open to the public  at 11:30am on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays and stay open until 5:00pm.  Entrance fee is AR$60 per person, kids under 3 are free if accompanied by an adult.  There was also a promotion on their website, 2 for 1 entrance fees, but we needed to print out some sort of coupon to capitalize on this deal - which I have yet to locate on their website.  The location is immediately off of the highway, so it's a little strange to get there, it seems as though you're pulling onto a highway onramp instead of into a parking lot.

The park lacks greenery, the ground is dirt and the animal pens are floored with brick.  Gretchen, and the other children there, didn't seem to mind.  When we arrived we were given a timeline of events during the day, where one of the employees would ring a bell, bring everyone together and talk about one of the animals.  This is a nice gesture, though it was really crowded where the talk was taking place, so we used that time to vist the other animals uninterrupted by the crowd.

Unafraid of the roaming goats
Gretchen was less interested in feeding the animals than just looking at them, though there were bags of feed available for purchase.  While we were watching other children feed the sheep, a pack of 5 or 6 goats got free and ran amuck around the children - not in a dangerous way, but scared the daylights out of a few kids.

There were lots of chickens and ducks running around the park as well, another source of joy for our little one.  She couldn't imagine why they wouldn't want her to pet them.

Many of the less fortunate ducks were confined to this cage area. It seemed a little extreme for ducks, the gate was 5 feet high, perhaps the gate is to keep the kids out of the water.

I found this sign particularly amusing, it is on the cage with peacocks inside.  Once again, the chocolate-milk-loving-frog and his buddy the peacock King Turkey.  The small print reads: Me Cuidan: You care of me, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me in either language.

The park also has these mini houses, which was Gretchen's favorite attraction of the day.  She loved having these little places her size, and loved the roaming chickens in the neighborhood.  After she tired of looking at the animals, these houses and the other playground-style equipment was where we spent the rest of our time.  

There were a few different places to purchase food, all of which were reasonably priced but basic fast-food style choices.  We brought some snacks, and only stayed a couple of hours so we didn't end up buying anything additional.  I think if you stay for the full program of presentations, there is a cup of chocolate milk given at some point - but we didn't make it that far.

La Granja Chocolatada was a fine way to spend the morning, but far from a must-do event.  I think we would need to be pretty dire to return, instead going to the Palermo Zoo or Temaiken instead.  Perhaps the Granja Lomo Verde will reopen sometime soon and we can give it a shot.  For now, Gretchen enjoyed her morning, and was exhausted and ready for a nap when we returned home.  Win-Win for all!