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Monday, April 29, 2013

Un Hermanito para Gretchen

In case you haven't noticed the additional photo album on the righthand side of this blog - the word is out - we're adding another Gill to the mix!

We are now 19 weeks into a second pregnancy in Argentina and so far, things have progressed smoothly and without incident.  Just like with our pregnancy with Gretchen, we had our first 3D ultrasound appointment right at 12 weeks.  Unlike our pregnancy with Gretchen, we were told that this baby is, in fact, a BOY!

We have since had a second 3D ultrasound that confirms the baby's sex, so... we are preparing to be the parents of big sister Gretchen and a-yet-unnamed-little baby brother.  It is, indeed, a very exciting time in our household.

Gretchen seems to be on board with the whole situation, she pats my belly (or smacks, depending on her energy level) and says "baby", though she has also been very attached to her mama these last few months.  She is a great helper, reinforced by her favorite phrase lately: "I help!"  We're crossing our fingers that this phase continues through to when the baby arrives.

Of course, being that she is such a sweetheart, we're excited about making her a big sister.

Doesn't she just scream adorableness? These raised eyebrows and earnest face just make my heart melt!

We can't wait for our family to grow - and for all of those reading in Argentina, we'll keep you posted on how the processes have changed over the last 2 years.  As with most things in this country, the birth and paperwork process is sure to have changed dramatically!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

New York, New York Resto Bar Gourmet

We celebrated another birthday here in Buenos Aires, Jon turned 32!  As I searched for candles for this year's cake, it amazed me that we had the "29" candles from the first year we lived here.  That means we've been in Buenos Aires for FOUR birthdays, incredible.

Anyways, after our family party at home, we spent last weekend at dinner with friends at a new place called New York, New York Resto Bar Gourmet in Palermo (Fitz Roy 2192, Palermo, 4776-6118).  We heard about this place from the SaltShaker blog, which gave the place a favorable recommendation.

Our reservation was at 9:30pm, and we sat down to a completely empty restaurant.  There are only 10 - 12 tables in the place, though it feels smaller than it should due to all of the decorating "noise"; Christmas lights, sparkly red, white and blue garland, large patriotic flower arrangements and Marilyn Monroe fabrics everywhere.

The menu was all over the place, which we knew going in.  There is KFC-style chicken alongside macaroni and cheese, tacos, Thai salad and BBQ pork, so when the waiter suggested a 5-course tasting menu, we jumped on board.  The waiter gave us the option of 5 courses chosen by the chef, or choose whichever 5 courses we wanted off of the menu.  In a stranger turn, each of our 7-person party could choose their own 5 courses.  This seemed an unlikely situation for a restaurant of this size, there were at most, two people in the kitchen working, we were no expecting these two people to make up to 35 different dishes for our table.  I'm still convinced that the waiter was unsure of the options and was making it up as he went.  Either way, we asked for the chef's selections for the entire table.

We started with the Thai salad, which was very good and presented in a really pretty bowl.  It was the best Thai-style salad that I've had in Buenos Aires.  Tasty, light, and full of a variety of vegetables.  Good going, course 1.

Course 2 was a squash soup.  Also tasty, nicely presented, and served with a delicious toasted bread slice with basil oil drizzled on top.  Another win, though the time between courses was a disturbing 45 minutes.  It seemed excessive considering that at this point, there were only 4 other people in the restaurant outside of our table.

Moving to course 3, the taco.  It was a tasting menu, so we only received one taco, but it was served with a large flower holder candle holder filled with salsa.  The taco was great, filled with pulled chicken and a little bit of spice.  Again, the only complaint was the time that it took to get to this point in the meal. It was a solid 45 minute wait for this little taco, and at this point it is getting late in the evening...

The meal continued with a sushi course, which did not live up to the quality expectations we had from the rest of the food.  The rice was undercooked and the sushi was pretty tasteless.  Admittedly, I am pregnant, so we asked for all cooked items so the sushi was a bit limited.  That being said, the chef was able to choose any items off of the menu, why he chose this course is unknown.

The main dish was a BBQ pork rib that was outstanding.  The pork fell off of the bone, it was smoky and delicious, and the sauce could have been eaten with a spoon.  It was the highlight of the evening!

At this point, it was 12:30am.  One of our friends had to leave and relieve their babysitter so they missed the delicious BBQ.  The waiter came to the table now and asked if we wanted the next course - which he claimed was part of our tasting menu.  By my count, we are already at 5 courses, so we turned the next dish down - which was salmon - but I'm still perplexed as to why we were even given the option.  Since it was a birthday dinner, we stayed for dessert - which took another 45 minutes and had the option of a cupcake, banana split or brownie.  I was the only one who ordered the cupcake, which was just ask well, and as it was delivered the entire dish was dropped in front of me, flipped over and went all over the table.  No worries, everything was cleaned up and a new cupcake was served.  Or the same one with some new sprinkles on top....  The cupcake was dry, my search for a good cupcake in Buenos Aires continues.

So at the end of the day, it was a four hour dinner.  We left at 1:30am.  The food was good, but with the competition in the area, one block from Osaka, Sudestada next door, I'm not sure that this place will survive.  Between the confusion of the staff and the time it took to eat a meal, I'm certain that no one in our group will return.  The menu prices are right, we had 2 bottles of wine and the food mentioned above for AR$200 per person - but we just about fell asleep at the table waiting for the next dish to arrive.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


After years of enjoying Tegui on special occasions, we finally visited Olsen, the original restaurant opened by Germán Martitegui.  Olsen (Gorriti 5870, Palermo; 4776-7677) is a Scandinavian restaurant that has been highly recommended since the day we arrived, it was due time to give it a try.  The front wall of the restaurant was completely open and spilled onto an outdoor covered terrace, which is where we sat.  The waiter greeted us in Spanish, but then switched to English for the remainder of the meal.  This is something that doesn't bother me as it does some people, I'm fully aware of my appearances as a foreigner, but it was funny that we were fully capable of communicating in Spanish and yet he tried desperately to struggle through in English anyway.

The first item given to us was the vodka list, then the drink list, then the wine list....followed by the food menu - so you know where their priorities lie.  I know virtually nothing about vodka, but our friends were impressed with a specific traditional style of vodka and the way it is served, ice cold in shot glass which is then kept on ice at the table.  It looked very chic, though my pregnant belly prohibited me from doing anything but look.  The inevitable bread course, a staple in Buenos Aires, was a spindle of bagels - interesting and fun, though they were quite dry.

The menu had just undergone a change, and the night we visited Olsen was the first night of a few of their menu items.  The items were so new that after 20 minutes of sitting at our table a hostess said that the English versions had just been delivered to the restaurant if we wanted an English menu.  We did quite alright with the Spanish version - though I appreciate the offer.

Between the four of us at the table, we tried all three new dishes:

I had a grilled chicken with goat cheese potato cakes.  This was outstanding.  The chicken was moist and flavorful and nicely accompanied by a non-cream based dill sauce.  I will take this opportunity to say that there have been very few times I come across dill on any menu in Argentina, Olsen was an exception.  Dill was present in the majority of menu items, in interesting ways that I completely appreciate.  Hats off to dill.
The goat cheese potato cakes were also quite tasty, though there was so much cheese that they were almost overpowering.  I ended up eating them separate from the chicken - they were almost a meal in their own right.  Goat cheese, another rarity in BA, though I will say this version was for the extreme salt-lover.

Jon ordered the lomo, I think.  At this point the dinner was a few weeks ago and we are both a bit sleep deprived so neither of us can remember.  This is not a poor reflection on the restaurant, I do remember his plate being clean when he was done...

Our friends went for the seafood items on the menu.  The first was also a new addition to the menu, the mussels, strangely enough served with large-cut french fries (shown in the background).  The only suggestion here was that the sauce is so good, there should have been some bread to help make the most of the dish.
The second item was a salmon pizza, made without flour.  I'm still trying to figure out how this works.  I believe it was a polenta-based crust, covered with salmon, arugula and pancetta.  I would make a terrible food critic, all I remember was that this was also very good.  Salmon pizza, who knew??

The dessert was, unfortunately, the lamest of the courses.  We ordered the "Giant Oreo Cookie" with high hopes, and though it was a fine dessert that we all finished, there was no comparison to the other dishes.  The cookie itself was a bit dry, the filling was a strange middle-ground between cream and icing.

The moral of the story is: Don't save room for dessert.  The meals are so packed with flavor, interesting combinations and quality ingredients that there is no need to stop yourself during the primary food courses.  I didn't even get a picture of the appetizer, we ordered a 3-part smoked fish plate (this had a much nicer name on the menu, though the menu is not posted on their bare-bones webpage and I cannot remember the name to save my life...).  The dish consisted of smoked salmon, trout and caviar - the salmon and trout were delicious, I wasn't brave enough for the caviar.

Olsen lived up to it's numerous recommendations, the food was outstanding and the atmosphere was great on a summer night. The interior of the restaurant is a modern, angular warehouse feel, so I will reserve this spot for terrace-friendly evenings.  Preferably when I can enjoy one of their numerous cocktails the next time around....

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bar Sur Tango Show

"Have you and Jon started tango lessons?" is one of the most asked questions we get - especially from visitors.  The answer is that we have not, and really don't intend to - it's just not our scene.

It is absolutely a scene here though, if you want to tango, you can pretty much choose when, where and with whom you would like to go.  There are private and formal lessons, shows, clubs, shoes, clothes, books and everything in between.  I know people who claim to go tango dancing 6 nights a week.  And I believe them.  And I'm simultaneously impressed and confused by this obsession.

We waited until we had a group of visitors that were interested in attending a tango show, and finally, 3.5 years into us living in the world of tango, we visited a show.  We took a recommendation from a co-worker of Jon's to avoid the "tourist-y" tango shows and go to a local place that offer a more intimate experience.

Let me just say right now: Tango Show = Touristy Tango Show.  There is no other show.

Don't get me wrong, there are a zillion shows to choose from, some of the most popular being Tango Porteño, Madero Tango and Los Angelitos, but they are all aimed at tourists, no matter what anyone (including TripAdvisor) says.  Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It's funny how people visiting another country or culture seem to want to steer clear of being a tourist.  But, you are a tourist when you visit somewhere new - it cannot be helped.  Sometimes, the things that make something touristy is the exact reason you want to do it, some other person who visited told you how great it was.  They were also tourists!  Moving on.

Bar Sur was the recommended show we made the reservation for both dinner and the show and took the trip out to San Telmo.  Now, I will say that the day we had available for attending a tango show was during the week, which played into our decision to attend Bar Sur.  They have a "rolling" show that starts at 9pm and you can leave whenever you're ready.  Most of the other shows have a start and finish time, and we were worried that we wouldn't get home until early the next morning if we went somewhere else.  And Jon has this pesky job that he has to get up for.

Bar Sur is located in San Telmo (Estados Unidos 299 & Balcarce), at a corner place that looks really cool from the outside.  Before even walking in, the waiter (who wore many different hats, he was the only employee I saw interacting with customers) advised us that for a group our size (7 people) we would want to sit in the "balcony". Now, this place is tiny.  The balcony was nothing more than a 3-step-up platform where the owners were storing extra tables.  There were only 5 normal chairs in said balcony, and the 2 lucky extra folks got to sit at high top chairs and tables - each at their own since there was so much extra storage around us we couldn't even get them at one table.  The 5 of us that had normal-height chairs sat around 2 tiny round cocktail tables.  It was less than comfortable.

But that's alright, we weren't there to have a conversation  we were there to watch tango.  There were two options when it came to food/drinks/show: the dinner and show option (according to the menu and website includes a 5-course meal and the show) or just pay for the show and buy food and drink a la carte.  I will add that the menu price was 20% more than the price listed on their website (not super-surprising, considering the 30% inflation rate here), but that both options were, let's say, not cheap. The waiter came to take our drink order and informed me that the dinner & show option was a rip off and we should go a la carte.  This was good advice - and he rattled it off in speedy Spanish, thank goodness for language lessons.  Even with the a la carte option, the food, drinks and prices were laughably expensive.  Jon ordered a soda, which was AR$40 (even at the more expensive restaurants in the city, this would be $25 or $30) and only got one small glass of non-refillable Coke.  I'm pretty sure the staff was enjoying the rest of the Coke bottle (there is little to no fountain beverages seen in restaurants here).  Wine was easily four times the amount we've paid elsewhere.  The price for an order of pizza (which was one of the 5 courses included in the dinner price) was three times the normal price and only included 3 slices of a personal sized pizza.  It was ridiculous.  I will say that the prices - in conjunction with the horribly presented and possibly microwaved food - ruined the experience for me.  Luckily, we have very tolerant guests, and they were able to completely enjoy the show.

As I mentioned above, I don't have a point of comparison, but the show seemed good. There were 2 sets of dancers, a singer, and this 3-man-band that was great to watch.  Especially the accordion player. Talk about a dying breed! This guy was great - his expressions, the feeling in the music and the cool velvet blanket that goes with his instrument - very cool.  He was who we were all talking about on the ride home.

The dancers were great, two different couples that had very different styles.  They made the most out of the very small space available to dance.  The women's legs seemed to be on hinges with the way they could swing them around, very cool to watch.

There was also a singer, who did an introduction to the bar and welcomed everyone.  She was good, though the most striking feature about her was her height - she must have been six feet tall.  She had a nice voice, though the way she stood in the middle of a restaurant and sang bleeding heart tango songs had a slight awkward sense to it.  I give her credit - I couldn't do it.

We stayed until 11:00pm or so, then decided to head home.  Our bill was absurd considering the product, but we consoled ourselves with hoping that the entertainers got a cut.  I'll also point out that the doors behind all of the entertainers in these photos were the single bathroom doors - so be sure to make a bathroom stop before heading out for Bar Sur - unless you want a whole restaurant of people to see you walking in under the spotlight. Not a place we will go again - or recommend to friends. We may decide to try another tango show at some point, but it will take a while to get the sour taste of this place out of my mouth.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bed Head Baby!

We waited so long for Gretchen to have enough hair to style and play with - not realizing that it came with the added benefit of seeing her fantastic bed head each day.

I'm sure she will soon tire of me waking her up with a camera in her face, lucky for me she is always quick with a smile...

She has somewhere between wavy and curly hair - so after a good night's sleep, it goes in all kinds of amazing directions.

And in the incredibly rare occasion when she keeps her colitas (pigtails) in through her nap, they also create great photo opportunities.

Gretchen is so happy when she wakes up and is happy to smile for the camera as long as she's able to see the picture afterward.

These are the kinds of details that I want to be sure to remember.  Getting Gretchen up for the day - or from a nap - is one of the best times of the day.  She's so happy and playful, AND you get to see amazing hair.