In my estimation, nearly everything that’s charming about Buenos Aires is on display at a singular destination: the bar notable, or historic café. The city has 73 of them, largely populated by older gentlemen reading the paper at rustic wooden tables, old-fashioned waiters serving cortados and medialunas, a little tango music on the radio, towering shelves stacked with bottles of wine and jars of olives.
When you think of ethnic food in Santiago, you might think of food from other Latin American nations. We have our share of Peruvian restaurants, and a few Brazilian and Colombian places, including some new eateries serving arepas and tropical juices. And of course, there are also a couple of well-reviewed Argentine steakhouses.
But what might surprise you is that in recent years, as the face of immigration to this sizeable city changes, and the Chilean palate opens to new experiences, we’re also seeing a large culinary expansion into Asian food.
There are plenty of places in Buenos Aires where you can get a good steak. There are not, however, plenty of places in Buenos Aires where you can get a good steak and also learn how to properly fold an empanada, serve mate, and communicate with your taxi driver using only hand gestures.
To acquire this particular skill set, you’ll need some porteño friends – or you can just sign up to spend an evening at the Argentine Experience. Despite its gleaming storefront in Palermo Hollywood, it’s not exactly a restaurant; regardless of the checkered aprons and empanada diagrams, it’s not a cooking class, either. It’s a ‘culinary experience’ run by an enthusiastic multinational team – Argentine, English, Brazilian – dedicated to introducing tourists to national traditions with a gourmet twist. I heard they happen to serve one of the finest steaks in town, so this past weekend, I went to check it out for myself.
Photo: Diego Escalante Urrelo
Revelers around the world celebrating the Chinese New Year recently rang in the Year of the Horse and among them were Peruvians, many of whom have ties to the Asian nation. One might not think of the Chinese having an influence on a culture half a world away, but in Peru, Chinese traditions touch many parts of everyday life, with perhaps the most popular being food.
Photo: Jack Zalium
Colombia is famous the world over for its high-quality Arabica coffee, but for years a strange paradox has dictated the reality of coffee culture within the country itself. With most of the best quality beans tagged for export to other latte-loving countries, Colombians themselves have often been left sipping the dregs of the harvest, or relying on a few local chains for their caffeine fix. Fortunately, this has begun to change, as more serious café owners and baristas have worked to create a discerning domestic coffee culture. Nowhere is this more apparent than the capital of Bogotá, where excellent brews are available to all – as long as you know where to look. There are many locations now meeting a high standard of coffee preparation, but these five are some of the ones that truly stand out from the crowd.
Photo: Fogo de Chao
Almost every carnivore who visits Brazil finds themselves – probably on the first day or two – in a showdown with a Brazilian churrascaria. These all-you-can-eat meat restaurants, where waiters dance around the room carrying long spits of fresh-off-the-rotisserie meats of dozens of varieties which are carved onto your plate until you cry, “Uncle!,” is one of the most typical experiences you can have in the country. If you’re a novice, though, this whole beef bonanza can be more overwhelming than a ménage à dix!
Let’s get one thing straight: I’ll always be devoted to the old-fashioned bares notables of Buenos Aires, the staid waiters in tuxedoes, the grand piano in the corner. I’m a romantic at heart – but I’m also becoming something of a coffee snob. And the ancient espresso machines in this town just aren’t getting the job done. So this isn’t a post about my favorite cafés in Buenos Aires, it’s a post about three places in Palermo where I’ve recently had outstanding coffee.
Photo: Natalie Southwick
Let’s cut to the chase here – this is not an unbiased post. I have repeatedly and publicly stated, to pretty much anyone within earshot, that Villa de Leyva is one of my favorite places in Colombia. However, I’m hardly alone in this opinion – in fact, I don’t know a single person that has visited Villa and failed to fall in love with it. Cartagena may be Colombia’s most romantic city, but Villa de Leyva seems designed to capture the heart of any visitor, as long as they don’t mind a few cobblestones underfoot!
Photo: Eileen Smith
It’s hard to know what to expect at Boragó, one of the world’s best restaurants, ranked 8th in Latin America, and first place in Chile. Chef Rodolfo Guzmán dishes out innovative small-plate creations into a several-course tasting menu, featuring harvested products from all over Chile, much of it from close to Santiago.
Photo: Ana Carina Lauriano
It’s no short order to escape the tourists in Rio de Janeiro. The city easily finds itself near the top of almost everyone’s to-visit list. And as one of the most beautiful and exotic urban landscapes on the planet, rightfully so. According to figures from Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism, over 9.2 million tourists disembarked in Brazil in 2012 – and almost every single one planted their toes into Rio’s remarkable city sands.
The allure of the Cidade Maravilhosa is, in fact, too powerful to ignore for some, who find themselves back on their favorite air travel search site a few months down the line, frantically playing with dates and routes to find the most economic way in which they can return to lap up even more sun, sand and samba. Those folks have already visited Rio’s 5-star attractions – Christ the Redeemer, Pão de Açúcar, Copacobana, Ipanema, Santa Teresa etc. – and are looking to escape fellow nomads and go a little more local. The good news is it’s not an impossible wish, but you’ll need to be committed to the effort. Here are a few places in Brazil’s most visited city where you can (maybe!) escape most fellow foreigners …
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