Day 29, 29JAN2017
Josh and I slipped into our walking shoes and slathered the sunscreen on before setting out on this very warm Sunday to the San Telmo street markets.
It happened to be the perfect time of day for the sun, immediately in the center of the sky, to beat down on us walking along the narrow streets between skyscrapers. But we were determined! To be honest neither of us had the intention to buy anything, but the market with its plethora of handmade and Chinese-imported trinkets was both entertaining and endearing. The problem was we couldn’t really tell the difference between what was authentic and what was outsourced making us rather picky.
Ultimately we walked away from the market having only bought a hat – however the experience was fantastic!
After the initial two hours of walking and eying the stalls we hadn’t even made it one third of the way into the markets, but we needed a respite from the incessant heat. So we opted for a set meal advertising steak and French fries (or salad) for 90 pesos. That’s $5.60 US or $6.40 AUD! We polished off a few cervesas along side our steak lunch. Much to our chagrin the price we paid was reflected in the quality of the steak. As we’d been warned, Argentinians often order their steak well done – we probably should have clarified with the waitress we definitely wanted medium or medium rare, because the steak was resolutely cooked all the way through!
Never to fear, we punched on through the markets satiated nonetheless and found a tiny bar touting artisanal beer. This was a first for us since having arrived in Argentina so we jumped at the opportunity to try something besides the status quo Quilmes, Brahma or Andes.
We sat with the lone bartender for over an hour sharing perfectly crisp summer ale and stories about his native Chile. Gus provided us with several recommendations for places to check out in our next destination and with popcorn and beer consumed we parted ways.
A few blocks down we happened upon a park packed with bystanders. Beyond the sound of clapping and phones snapping photos was the hypnotic and rhythmic Tango music. In the central square a couple, dressed in a billowing dress and a black three piece suit were twirling, leaning, lifting, kicking and staring each other down with their sultry looks.
The art form that is tango is absorbing. As a bystander I found the dancing and the cadence mesmerizing. In the shade of trees towering the square Josh and I plopped down and watched the native Argentinian dance for an hour.
After a few iterations, we decided to proceed back through the market. We were drawn to one of the choripan outlets Barbera recommended a few days before. The place was an absolute hole in the wall, cut into the preexisting masonry and lined on one side with a massive BBQ larger than me! On the grill were various forms of carne all giving off an exceptionally intoxicating scent, beckoning us to enjoy the offerings. We shared a choripan, the meat was absolutely delicious, and drenched in the house-made chimichurri we were basking in food glory.
But the choripan, arguably the best food we’d eaten in Argentina up until then was quickly superseded. Per Gus’s recommendations we found a gorgeous old-world looking parilla near the market. We allowed our stomachs to enjoy the choripan for as long as we could before committing to a full-fledged steak dinner. Lucky for us between the steak restaurant and the hole in the wall choripan place there was an Afrocentric bar hosting musical talents. We took in the crowd as the singers drew them into dance and swayed a bit ourselves before admitting it was getting dark and we wanted to eat.
Plate was its name and Steak was its game. This corner restaurant was designed around a central bar and a smoke-emitting grill in the kitchen. This may sound basic, but the décor was anything but. White tablecloths and wine sold by the bottle, this place was a departure from the street food and empanadas Josh and I had consumed up until recently.
We were treated first to a bread service, fresh baked soft baguettes with a peppery white bean dip. Then paired with my Malbec and Josh’s adventure into fernet (an Argentinian hard liquor served on ice with coke) we shared our first adventure into proveleta.
Wow, proveleta, Malbec and Argentinian steak are completely on the same page for the best food in this country. The dish is a slab of provolone cheese grilled until melty and covered in a chimichurri or finely chopped salsa of onions and tomatoes. I nearly ate this dish entirely on my own it was so delicious!
After the entre we were treated to a still sizzling metallic platter of ribeye. The beautiful steak was cooked to absolute perfection. The waiter here made sure we received the medium rare that we wanted. The steak with cheese and bread was the best meal I’d had in a while.
Very content, and admittedly busting at the seams, we made our way home thankful we had at least an hour of walking to try and settle our stomachs before Netflix.