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I ATE • South America

October 21, 2010 by Joan Nova in Restaurant Reviews, Travel Retrospectives | 21 Comments

South America has changed. I was happy to find plenty of wonderful roasted vegetables and beautiful fruits and salads in both Argentina and Brazil. This was not the case when I visited South America other times. I think it’s us…food bloggers…continually touting farm-to-table, healthy choices and balanced eating. So, a round of applause to all the foodies out there!

Oh, yes, I had meat too. Infinitely more in 1 week than I generally consume in months! Various cuts of beef, pork, chicken, lamb, ham and chorizo passed these lips. And I had fried appetizers, the occasional dessert and lots of bread. But I also had fresh local fish several times and lots of vegetables and fruit. Sounds like a lot of eating, doesn’t it? Come see…

In case you don’t know, while both Argentina and Brazil are known for their BBQ-ed meats, there is a large Italian influence in both countries so you also find wonderful pizzas, pastas and gelato.

This was my third visit to Buenos Aires but, like the others, it was just for a few quick days. We stayed in the micro center for convenience, but there certainly are more beautiful areas. Buenos Aires is a huge  and diverse city with many green areas, especially in Palermo, and historic ‘old world grand’ areas like Recoleta. We were, however, in walking distance to the Puerto Madero, a great complex on the water which houses a lot of restaurants, and to Florida Street (shoppers mecca).
[FYI: Argentina boasts the widest avenue in the world “9 de Julio” in Buenos Aires and the widest waterfall in Iguazu.]

Vamos a comer (let’s eat!)
After flying all night and the usual rigmarole before boarding and after deplaning, we were ready to eat. Since our rooms weren’t ready, we asked where we could go for a quick lunch and the food court at the Galleria Pacifico was recommended. A food court would not be our first choice (ever) but we were tired and hungry. And it was close by.

Let me tell you…this is one great food court! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful tortas can be found all over the place as well as beautiful salads and all kinds of other choices. (They even have a bar and specialty coffee shops.) But I could not get past the array of tortas, most of which were vegetable-based, many layered with pureed pumpkin.

For dinner I suggested Cabaña Las Lilas in Puerto Madero (a popular restaurant noted for raising its own meat) but there was a long wait so we went to Happening about a block or two away. I’d read in NY Magazine that this was Gael Greene’s favorite restaurant in Buenos Aires — and I couldn’t argue with that. It was quite nice, comfortable, service great — and we loved their communal antipasto table!

Here’s my group the night we went to the elegant La Esquina de Carlos Gardel for a lovely dinner and tango show.

I loved my appetizer of avocado, salmon and citrus sauces (crappy photo but I can’t wait to try to make it at home).

Other recommendations: Las Cholas in Las Canitas specializes in parilladas (grilled variety of Argentine meats presented together) — we also had a parillada of grilled vegetables. Available everywhere: great appetizers of empanadas and proveleta (baked provolone cheese).

This was my second visit to Iguazu Falls. The first time I stayed on the Brazilian side of the Falls. This time, the Argentine side, which afforded us the wonderful experience of riding the rapids and going under the falls for a thorough (and cold) dousing.

We stayed at the Grand Iguazu Resort Spa + Casino and had a lovely dinner in their restaurant our first night. Here’s my gazpacho appetizer and lamb 2-way entree.

The second night we had dinner in a wonderful restaurant in town called Aqua which specializes in local fish and Italian dishes. This was the appetizer platter for 2. The curly white stuff under the avocado is edible palm flowers.

And then…on to Rio de Janeiro. The first time I was there I stayed in Ipanema, this time Copacabana. Ipanema is preferred.

After visiting Corcovado and Sugarloaf,

we stopped for ‘rodizio’ (BBQ that is carried to your table on skewers until you beg for mercy) at Estrela do Sol Churrascaria. All kinds of beef, pork, chicken and even fish – not to mention a huge salad bar.

Feijoada is the national dish of Brazil. It is only served on Saturdays — and only in the afternoon. (You need the remainder of the day to digest!) Perfect timing for us as we were leaving that evening so we had a wonder farewell brunch at the Caesar Park Hotel in Ipanema. It started with a caiprinha bar, appetizers (all things fried like this) and live bossa nova music by a trio.

Then the big reveal. Feijoada! Nice touch that it was broken out by individual cauldrons of the various meats that had been cooked with black beans so that you could avoid pig trotters if you chose to. Feijoada is generally accompanied by white rice, collard greens, farofa (toasted manioc flour) and orange slices to cut the richness. Of course, there was the ubiquitous salad bar and other specialties like roast suckling pig and chicken.

Here’s the farofa.

A sample plate (I won’t say whose) showing a variety of meats, orange, pumpkin, cassava, collard greens, black beans, rice and farofa.

Yes, we were satiated. And, yes, we had dessert anyway. They were really tiny. Really. :)

Another recommendation in Rio: Stravaganza in Ipanema for delicious pizzas and salads in a trendy setting. For a non-alcoholic drink, try Guarana Zero, a carbonated soft drink.

Home again, home again, jiggity jog. I’m trying to keep my lips zipped since my return. I have less than 2 weeks before I have to pack the suitcase and head out to San Francisco for the FoodBuzz Festival…another eating/drinking orgy. And I don’t want to think about Thanksgiving and the year-end holidays being right around the corner. Oink-oink.

NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for. A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!


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  1. foodiechic says:

    Great Pics. The food there is really wonderful. Thanks for sharing your photo’s

  2. Arlene says:

    Wow! What a great trip. Those desserts made a grand finale.

  3. Fran says:

    What a great write-up! I lived in Buenos Aires for a year and a half and miss it very much. I love that you found the food court at Galleria Pacifico so good. It’s easy to get incredible food in Argentina, including in a mall. Although this is no ordinary mall, eh? I’d be hard pressed to think of a bad meal in Argentina.

    Well, ok … the Riñon al Horno (roast kidney) that I thought was roast beef waiting on the kitchen counter when I got home from work one night was not my favorite. :)

    I didn’t make it to Brazil, other than to look at it from the Argentine side of Iguazu, but your photos and write up make me want to hop a plane and head down this weekend!

  4. Katie says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip to my adopted country. I haven’t made it to Brazil yet, but a visit to Rio is in the works.

    I am a big fan of tartas, too. The one in your photo looks like a tarta de acelga (swiss chard), which is one of my faves! I have never eaten at the food court at Galerías Pacífico – thanks for the tip!

    The Brazilian food all looks amazing, especially those big, steaming dutch ovens filled with feijoada.

    Thanks for the great write-up and the recommendations. :)

    Greetings from Argentina,

  5. Lori Lynn says:

    Wonderful post Joan! So many great ideas in those photos. I can’t wait to see you make that avocado/salmon appetizer. Love the gazpacho service too. Sorry I’ll miss you at the FF this year, I have to be in Vegas that weekend. Can’t wait to read all about that too!

  6. I’ve never been and your post makes me want to pack my bags to Buenos Aires! WOW – suckling pig…everything looks simply delightful. Eating your way through the country. Enjoy!

  7. bellini says:

    Look at all that wonderful food. How could we ever eat again!Argentina even has a day set aside just for Gnocchi!!!!! Looks like you had a wonderful holiday!!!!!

  8. connie says:

    Great trip Joan, Mary and girls. How wonderful for all to have the benefit of your culinary critiques and appreciatioh.

  9. Liz says:

    The commentary and the pictures – truly wonderful. Thanks.

  10. norma says:

    What a trip and great shots. The brazilian restaurant really got me….wish I had been there…

  11. elra says:

    Sounds like you have a blissful time in South America. I never been to any of these country. Food sounds delightful as well.

  12. Damaris says:

    awesome pictures. come visit me next year when I move to Bahia!

  13. A great write up Joan…I have always enjoyed BA and Rio for their wonderful foods…it’s hard trying to stop at the rodizios!!!! I can totally sympathise. Glad you had a wonderful trip!

  14. Mariko says:

    This looks like a food vacation. I totally love that. Damaris and I try to focus our vacations totally on food– I’m definitely going to Brazil next year.

  15. The Feijoada was truly my highlight of your trip. HOLY FLIPPIN’ COW! I cannot imagine being at a feast with cauldrons brewing and a suckling pig, too!
    I have never travelled to South America. Peru is on the top of our list, but there are more European places I want to hit before Brazil. I wish I could live forever ,and do it all.

  16. Wow !!! I loved your pics !! Nostalgia for me (but I’m going to BA in February) When I lived in Argentina, I worked teaching English to professionals in the offices in Retiro (next to the sheraton) and Puerto Madero…and had lunch in Galerias Pacifico, almost every day !! Thanks for this post!!

  17. What a GREAT trip Joan and it is so nice to see you take this with your girlfriends. How lovely!

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  18. Ben says:

    Amazing post Joan! I’d love to travel more to write about the food of the countries south of my border. Those pictures have made me hungry. What a great trip.

  19. What a fantastic trip. Your third one too! Lucky. I’d love to visit one day. The food looks amazing and what a fun time you had! Looking forward to meeting you at the festival!

  20. Erica says:

    I miss home! I love all that food,Joan!!!!What a fantastic trip!

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