Monday, June 29, 2009

Aquaknox

Frank's birthday is tomorrow, so last night we headed to Aquaknox at the Westin on the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Aquaknox only has three locations; Tampa, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. We had appetizers and drinks when we were in Vegas, so we wanted to try the full spread here. The restaurant opened early this year.

Well, what a treat it was. This is first class dining, albeit pricey, but it was a special occasion. It is decorated with modern furnishings in tones of blues, greens, and chocolate browns, with blue and green accent lighting. Best to check the link in the first paragraph to get a proper feel for the setting.

With a tag line of Global Water Cuisine, the menu leans heavily to seafood. For the appetizer we shared the HAWAIIAN BIGEYE TUNA “TORO”, raw tuna with ruby red grapefruit slices and micro greens in a very nice dressing.

Frank selected the Grilled Jumbo Prawns service with warm diced yellow tomatoes and large-grain couscous. I selected SEARED DAY BOAT SCALLOPS, served with sweet potato puree and a mushroom pancetta fricassee. While the prawns were very good, I think I won with the scallops. The flavors of the accompaniments were a perfect match for the seared scallops.

Frank, as usual, picked a nice wine to pair with our meals; a Charles Krug Savignon Blanc. Our excellent server rightly suggested that we let it sit for a little while as it was overly chilled coming directly from the cellar.

For dessert Frank ordered a Napoleon with vanilla panna cotta and raspberry sorbet. I had the Aquaknox version of a S'Mor made with chocolate mousse, a layer of banana cake, on top of a graham cracker base and covered with a wonderful chocolate ganache. It was served with vanilla ice cream. Both desserts were excellent.

This was another wonderful dining experience and Aquaknox is a great addition to the local restaurant scene.

That's my story, and I am sticking to it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

El Querandi Tango Show

Here is a short video from the tango show at El Querandi

video

Eso Es Todo

The journey has ended. We had a wonderful time, in case you couldn't tell from the earlier posts. So it is time for some final thoughts on Buenos Aires.

1. Buenos Aires is made up of many very distinct neighborhoods, each with their own vibe. You cannot understand the city without understanding the neighborhoods. We probably only touched the surface, but we managed to visit the major barrios spending time walking the streets, visiting the parks, seeing the sights, and stopping in local cafes for a sampling of the culture of each area.
2. The Porteños were very friendly and gracious. The only negative experience we had was the attempted pick-pockets on the Subte (Subway). The Porteños we encountered in the service industry were exceptional, especially in the restaurants, where the servers are professionals and they take a lot of pride in what they do.
3. If you like good food and wine, this is the place. For the carnivores out there, in my opinion, the beef is superior to ours. And the prices are very reasonable considering the quality of the food/wine, and the level of service. The Malbec wines we had were softer than many we have enjoyed here. We also enjoyed a Bonardo, which we only learned about at the Argentine wine dinner at Toasted Pheasant the week before we departed. While Argentina is know for their reds, they also make a very nice Sauvignon Blanc.
4. Many of the sidewalks need to be repaired, but who cares; we were south of the Equator having a great time. Although as Frank pointed out, a personal injury lawyer would do very well there.
5. The Porteños dress comfortably, but stylishly. And, surprising to us, there seemed to be an equal number of nice mens clothing stores are there were womens.
6. Tango is everywhere !

So it is time to say, "Adios Buenos Aires": Eso Es Todo (That is all)

Chau

Monday, June 22, 2009

Adios Buenos Aires

The time has come to return home. We are waiting at the hotel for the car to the airport. I have a short amount of time to wrap up this very enjoyable trip. I may have some closing thoughts later in the week, but for now a recap of last night and today.

Tango Argentino: We went to one of the many tango shows in town. Our first choice was closed for the month, so option #2 it was - El Querandi. The food was better than expected as, in general, the tango shows are not known for their food. While not Cabana las Lilas, it was good, and my steak was nice and tender. The highlight was the show, with a small four piece band putting out an enormous amount to Tango music, and a group of dancers and singers who were great to watch. The show exceeded our expectations.

Today, our last day, and a long one, since our flight to Miami doesn´t leave until 10:40PM tonight, was our shopping day and a last chance to walk the streets. We stopped at two of the historic cafes in town, Cafe Tortoni and Richmond. Cafe Tortoni is the more elaborate of the two. We finished our shopping day at the wine store across from the hotel picking up a couple bottles to bring home. OOPS, we just realized this means we have to check our luggage, not what we wanted to do, but it is either that or leave the wine in BA.

Bags are packed, and we are ready for the next (return) leg of the journey. The trip has been wonderful and even more than I expected. The Porteños were very friendly, the food was great, the hotel was a good choice, and we loved waling the neighborhoods of this fine city.

Adios Buenos Aires... Chau for now.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday in Buenos Aires

The streets were much quieter today, especially in the business district, with most businesses and many stores closed. After breakfast at the hotel we headed to Plaza de Mayo for a few more photographs, and another view of Casa Rosada. We then headed to San Telmo´s Plaza Dorrego for the Sunday open air market. Actually the market starts just south of Plaza de Mayo and runs ten or more blocks to Plaza Dorrego. Most of the vendors are selling a variety of clothing and knick-knacks; a linear flea market of sorts. The plaza is filled with antique dealers (San Telmo is filled with antique stores) and some local artists. It was fun just wandering down the street with the locals. No purchases were made (by us).

Next stop, lunch; food is never far away. We dined at another lovely restaurant in Puerto Madero called Sorrento. The complementary glass of champagne and basket of breads was followed by our Caprese salad which had wonderfully soft, creamy mozzarella; yummy. I ordered a trout stuffed with crab and served in a saffron cream sauce. Frank ordered a local fish, corvina, in a tomato and onion sauce. Both were very good. The one down side I have noticed about the local cusine is that they frequently overcook the vegetables, as my broccoli was today.

Tonight is dinner and a tango show... details later.

Unfortunately tonight is our last night in Buenos Aires. But we must return to our homes and start paying for the trip. (grin)

Adios for now

Photo Op. - Puenta de La Mujer

The Bridge of Woman in Puerto Madero.

Sent from my phone.

Dick

Walk, Eat, Drink, Walk, Eat, Drink, Walk...

You get the picture. I will cover yesterday as briefly as I can, but it may not be less than 5000 words. Anyway, first I must thank all those who sent good wishes for my special day yesterday. And to my family for the great voice mail I received, although singing isn´t one of their strong points.The day was all that I was hoping it would be and more.

We started the day with a Subte ride to Palermo and a visit to MALBA, the Museo de Arte Latinamericano Buenos Aires to view their modern art collection including some works by Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo. We had a lovely lunch at the museum cafe. I had a curry chicken sandwich on the flat bread that is similar to pita and seems to be so popular here. Frank had a Croque Madam, which was artfully presented with a round section of one half of the sandwich cut out to hold the fried egg.

From MALBA, we walked around Palermo, an upscale barrio north of the center, ending up with a visit to the Jardin Japones, a small but nice Japanese Gardens. Then it was on to the Jardin Botanica or Botanical Gardens. It was a nice break from a lot of walking, and we got to pet a lot of stray cats that are well cared for by a number of local women.

The highlight of the day was my birthday dinner at Cabana las Lilas in Puerto Madero. It is one of the top steakhouses, if not the top in BA. We had a wonderful experience from the moment we were seated at our table and a large plate of antipasti was delivered, along with an assortment of breads and dips/spreads. At our request, the host recommended a Malbec that was the best I have ever had. It was Riglos Gran Malbec 2006. Each of us ordered the filet mignon, and a mixed green salad. The steak had to be 10 oz or more, and was perfectly cooked medium rare. It is a very close second to the steak we had in Prague. We opted for no sauces, just the great flavor of the grill and coarse salt. It was perfect, beyond that I don´t know what to say. For dessert I had a Tarte Tatin, apple tart with vanilla ice cream. The tart and the ice cream both hit a high mark and rank as best ever in my book. Frank ordered a coffee express (espresso) which arrived with an assortment of petit fours. The meal ended with complementary limoncello and grappa, not just a glass, but a bottle of each, were place on the table for our enjoyment. What a nice way to end the evening. As usual, the service was exceptional. Oh, and have I mentioned that this meal came to a grand total of US$130... a steal, and amazing. After the 2 hour food extravaganza, it was time for a walk back to the hotel to call it a day.

I hate to mention the lowlight of the day, but mention it I must. On the return subway ride from Palermo were were ALMOST pick-pocketed. The sharp eyes of a local on the subway alerted us to the people gathering too close around us and started yelling at them. We quickly moved away, and were save from a loss of wallets. Neither of us felt comfortable from the time we got on the subway, but didn´t act on the threat until alerted by the good people on the subway. This is the only bad experience we had here, and is not unusual to BA, but can happen in any big city.

That´s all I´m saying!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Photo Op - MALBA

The Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires.

Another good day.

Sent from my phone.

Dick

Friday, June 19, 2009

How do you say,¨¨Roll me out the door¨ in French or Spanish

Wow, another wonderful meal, and I am so full. It is a good thing we like to walk a lot since it helps burn all the calories we are consuming. After the day in Colonia, we tried to go to a Tango show, but the one we selected was closed. So, option #2 was dinner at Brasserie Petanque, a highly rated French restaurant in San Telmo. Dining is late here, and we had to wait for the 8:30 PM opening. (Well we were only 20 minutes early). As usual, we had exceptional service from a young waiter who seemed to be working the entire restaurant. The restaurant was one of the top five rated by the New York Times. We shared a pate and terrine appetizer which was wonderful. I have trouble finding enough words to describe the food experience. My entree of Chauteaubriand was a half-pound of great Argentinian beef, grilled to perfection and served with a garlic and chive butter. The side dish was the best gratin I have ever had. It was made with zucchini, onion, and mushrooms. Very very tasty. Frank had a duck breast in mushroom sauce which was very tender and tasty. We were both too full to order dessert, so it was ¨roll me out the door¨ time to walk to the hotel.
Dinner tonight, including a bottle of Saurus Pinot Noir 2006 from Patagonia, came to a whopping total of $237 AR Pesos or $US 63 for two. Buenos Aires is the place to come for great food at a great price. Last nights dinner at the Hotel Intercontinental was $US 60. Amazing in my book considering the guality of food and service.
Sidebar: The streets are covered with a flood of yellow and black. Every taxi in BA is painted the same colors; yellow tops and black bodies. There are 40,000 taxis in this city, so most of the vehicles on the street at taxis.

That´s my story and I am sticking to it.

Oh, Paul, can you translate the post subject for me; I may need it again before we leave.

Another Country

Here we are, at the Buqueus terminal waiting on our return rapido boat back to Buenos Areas. Colonia is a World Heritage site, from the Portugese colonial period. It is a quaint town with a number of small museums. Colonia is worth at most three hours for the historic section. We had about six hours available due to the boat schedule and the understanding that Uruguay was in a different time zone. Not so, as we learned. We managed to use up 1.5 hours having a nice lunch at Lobo. I had a very good ravioli filled with bacon, leeks, and ricotta in a tomato sauce. Frank had tarrigon chicken also in a tomato sauce , which was also good.
We enjoyed our day, and the weather continues to be very nice, although more cloud cover today.
So, we added a second country south of the Equator. Very cool,. i say

Dick

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dos Flaneurs

Whew, what a day. We had a great day, but it is late and we have an early wake-up call for the fast boat to Colonia, UR. So, this may be brief, well, as brief as I can be, which ususally isn´t very brief. See, I am rambling on already. Let´s get to the important details of the day.
We added three more barrios to our Buenos Aires experience: Barrio Norte, Recoleta, and Retiro. We took the subte to Recoleta and walked to the Recoleta Cemetery to pay our respects to Evita Peron. There are a number of living creatures sharing the cemetery with Evita; some 30 or more very cute and relatively friendly cats. A group of women stop in twice a day to feed them and to provide any needed medical assistance. Cute, I say.
From there we walked, walked and walked some more, as we explored this very upscale barrio. We stopped at the Floralis Generica (see earlier photograph), and walked down Avenida Alvear, with all of the usual collection of high end shops, including Cartier, Hermes, Zegna, and more.
Many of the buildings in this area remind one of Paris, including the lovely French Embassy.
After a cafe lunch of steak, ham and cheese on flatbread similar to a pita, we headed out for more walking.
We really enjoyed the sites of the city. We stopped at a cafe for coffee mid-afternoon, then walked some more, ending up for our usual late afternoon rest at the hotel.
Dinner tonight was at the Hotel Intercontinental. We both had grilled Patagonian lamb chops with grilled sweet potato (white sweet potato). We then shared a cheese cake with figs for dessert. The meal was very good, the lamb was excellent, with a great grilled flavor. The service was excellent, which has become our expectation after many experiences in everything from small cafes to first rate restaurants. The Porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) are friendly and helpful. We stand out as Americans, once we try our limited Spanish, but it is never a problem communicating even when the Porteño doesn´t speak English - somehow we work it out.
Today we covered a lot of territory, mostly on foot, but that is what a Flaneur does. It is great fun, and a great experience.
Tomorrow, another country, just for the day, then back to BA; so stay tuned.
That´s all I´m saying!

Picture for the day

Cell phone Picture quality is not good.

Large sculpture Floralis Generica, opens in the morning and closes at dusk.
Sent from my phone.

Dick

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Broccolino Ristoranti

Yes, Pat, we ate at a wonderful Italian restaurant tonight, Broccolino. Remember, 50% of the population is of Italian heritage. So it is only appropriate that we give it a try. Broccolino did not disappoint. I had fusilli with pesto crema; Frank had ravoli in a tomato cream sauce. Both were very good. We started with a shared baked eggplant - cooked perfectly and very tasty. The waiter spoke perfect English, and when we mentioned how good his English was, he responded, ¨Jersey¨ with a Jersey accent. He live in NJ for eight years before returning to Buenos Aires.
Last night was Argentinian beef, lunch today was Spanish, and dinner tonight was Italian. It might be French tomorrow.
That´s all I´m saying.

The Saga Continues

After a relaxing morning in the hotel, recovering from a long journey, and maybe a little too much wine at dinner, we ventured out to buy our tickets for the rapido boat ride to Colonia, Uruguay on Friday.
It is now 5PM and we have just returned to the hotel after a busy day of flaneuring through Microcentro, Congresso, and San Telmo. We had a late lunch (by our standards) at Museo del Jamon, yep, you guessed it, the Museum of Ham. First it is not a museum, although they do have a lot of hams hanging in exhibition. Check the link. I had a tortilla con gambas (like a fritatta with shrimp) which was very good. Frank had Fabada (white beans, and sausage in a tomato sauce). Lunch took 1 1/2 hours - oh so very civilized!
We took our first ride on the Subte, or subway, riding is one of the remaining old wooden trains. Very interesting, and a fast way to travel any distance.
We have found all the people very friendly and helpful. The restaurant staff is very professional, but friendly at the same time. And they help us along with our limited Spanish.
We both enjoy walking the streets, taking in the sights and sounds of a city, and trying to absorbe some of the local atmosphere and culture. So far, we have been successful.
Now for a low-light, the opposite of highlights. We walked past a Hooters and TGI Fridays in the port area today; an area of old warehouses now occupied by many fine restaurants. These two were so out of place. And as most of you know, when I am traveling in a foreign country, I dislike the ¨Americanization¨ of any country. That is my soapbox for the day.
Otherwise, we are having a great time. It is hard to realize that we are in South America, south of the equator for the first time. It is winter here, but the weather has been great with clear skies, and temps in the mid 40s to mid 60s. Perfecto I say!

Chau for now

Congresso

Picture for today. Il Congresso.
Just finishing a nice lunch at Museo del Jamon.
Details later.
Dick

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

BA Day One

It is 21:00 hours in Buenos Aires (9PM) and I am at the hotel´s FREE Internet terminal. It has been a long 24 hours, and I cannot get use to a different keyboard layout, but I will try. In brief:

1. The Late Flight 1716: 25 hours ago we were sitting at TIA waiting on a delayed departure to Miami. We finally boarded 1.5 hours late, but had no trouble making our connection to Buenos Aires.
2. Two Masked Men de-plane in Buenos Aires: Well actually the entire plane had to wear masks as we de-planed and were routed past a guy in a white lab jacket to make sure we were not arriving with flu-like symptoms. It was a cursory review and if we could walk and did not appear on the verge of death, we were allowed to enter the country.
3. NH Jousten Hotel: We arrive at our hotel, which is in the business district. We unpacked, and headed out to walk the streets (a little flaneuring). The city is VERY crowded, and the sidewalks were packed with people. We had a nice lunch at a corner cafe near Plaza de Mayo. We both had the ¨white¨ salmon (yep, white, the meat was white, not the usual pinkish color) special which was good but not great. It was an opportunity to refuel and head out for more wandering.
4. Have I mentioned the keyboard?. The other issue is the spell check is in Spanish, so forgive me for any typos.
5. Don´t Cry for Me Argentina: We saw the Casa Rosada from which Eva Peron made her speaches to the masses on the Plaza de Mayo. I could hear Madonna singing in the background. (OK; that´s a lie, but you knew that)
5, Dinner tonight was at La Chacra, a typical Argentinian Parillo, or steakhouse. The Argentinians are primo grill masters. We each had a tenderloin, but we selected different sauces. The steaks were great, although, it did not beat out our steaks in Prague which is still #1 in our experience. The sides were a non-event. My mixed vegetables were overcooked and boring. The wine, on the other hand was supurb - a Luigi Bosca Malbec.
6. Funny item: Almost every drugstore advertises as being open 25 hours (that is not a typo). Now if we could just figure out how they get an extra hour out of each day, we would have more time to enjoy the city.
7. Initial impressions: The area we surveyed today was very busy, and primarily a business district. The city is a little gritty, but not unsafe. Much of the architecture reminds us of Europe, and I feel like we are in a European city. More exploring is on tap for tomorrow.
That´s all I´m saying

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Packing

I don't know why packing is so stressful for me. Maybe it is because I try to pack light and I agonize over what to leave out. Or is it the last major accomplishment before leaving on a long anticipated journey. Whatever packing is, it is almost done. That is a good feeling. I have accomplished my goal of one carry-on, and a small messenger bag. My biggest dilemma has been which camera to take, and whether or not to take my Netbook. I can update my blog from my smartphone or from a hotel computer, so it seems like an unnecessary addition. My decision on the camera is to take both, the small point and shoot, AND the DSLR. Oh, the angst of travel. ;-)
Frank mentioned, and I agree, that packing for cool weather travel is actually easier, although a little bulkier.
25 hours from now, we will be on the flight from Tampa to Miami; and after a few hour layover, on the long (8.5 hour) flight to Buenos Aires.
So, finish packing, get some rest, a full day at the office, then it is on to BA. Let the travel begin !

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bistro 523

Bistro 523 is back. Tonight I prepared Flat Iron steak (medium rare) with a red wine, caper, and Dijon mustard sauce. It was served with Potatoes Gratin made with goat cheese. Both came out great. The meal was paired with St. Supery Malbec, (while a California winery, Malbec is the predominant grape in Argentina, so it was another evening of preparation for the trip).

And just in case anyone is counting, we leave in 2 days. 

Friday, June 12, 2009

Prelude to Buenos Aires

Last evening, one of our favorite Tampa restaurants, Toasted Pheasant, had an Argentinean wine dinner. The timing could not have been more appropriate with less that a week to go before we depart to Buenos Aires. We sampled six different wines over four courses of very nice food. 

The menu:

ARUGULA ~ AVOCADO ~ SHRIMP SALAD
arugula and avocado with garlic shrimp, tossed with parmesan and cilantro dressing
Mairena ~ Sauvignon Blanc

DEEP WATER SEA BASS
served on paella rice with chorizo sausage
Romance ~ Chardonnay ~ Torrontes

CHURRASCO STEAK
marinated flank steak served with mild chili corn polenta
Mairena ~ Bonarda  and  Mairena ~ Malbec
(two wines with this course)

TRES LECHE
a light gateau layered with papaya and chocolate served with cappuccino sauce
Domaine de Coyeux ~ Muscat de Beaumes de Venise

My favorite was the sea bass, simply steamed with a tomato salsa and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic. Exquisite I say! Surprisingly, for me, the steak was my least favorite, although the chimichurri sauce was a great addition. I will try to replicate this sauce. (OK, there are probably as many recipies for this as there are gauchos in Argentina)

My favorite wine was the Bonarda, a varietal which was new to both of us. Apparently it is an Italian grape that was brought over by the Italian immigrants. I put it in the same easy-to-drink, category as Pinot Nior.

With a full house of sixty guests at a single seating, service was at times slow. But then again we were their to dine, not just to eat.

That's my story and I am sticking to it !

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

8-7-6

Yep, down to six days before departure. And I cannot wait. But there are things to be done before I can go. The packing list is ready, the to-do list is being checked off as the excitement builds. Wow, Buenos Aires, who would have thunk it! We are both practicing our Spanish, but I must say a little Italian slips in occasionally. We are looking forward to enjoying the life of the big city, eating Argentinian beef, a glass or two of Malbec, and watching the tango (No, not me on that dance floor). We have also planned a day trip to Uruguay, a one-hour fast boat ride from BA. So, I can check off two new countries on this trip. This will be my first trip south of the Equator, how cool is that! Well, yes it will be cool, since it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. But BA weather is expected to be pleasant, between mid to low 40s and mid 60s (Fahrenheit that is). 
I will make occasional post to this blog and hopefully include a photo or two along the way. 

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Less Than Ten

Nine days to go before we leave for Buenos Aires. Let the preparation begin.
Passport - Check
AR Pesos - Check - Arrived yesterday
Guidebooks - Check
Camera - Check
Clothing - some in the washer as I type
OK, you get the picture. I am not a last minute planner. I have my lists to make sure I don't forget anything important. And anything of less importance, can be purchased there. Yes, foreign countries do have stores just like here, and shopping in them is quite fun. Hmmm, what is toothpaste in Spanish?

Stay tuned.