At 29, Stephanie quit her job to travel solo through Latin America in an attempt to live simpler, consume less and experience more. So far so good!
One of the highlights of a trip to Buenos Aires is eating. This is not because the food is especially gourmet. It is because eating is a major part of life in Buenos Aires. This is a city where you want to eat like a local (at least as long as your heart and waistline can handle it).
Bring your elastic waistband pants and follow these tips, and you will be on your way to eating like a Porteño in no time.
When to eat
Porteños have a meal schedule that is different than many other parts of the world. The difference is in both the lateness and the quantity of meals.
Porteños are not early risers, so don't plan to eat breakfast before 9am. Because of the late start, lunch happens between about 1pm and 4pm. The third meal in Buenos Aires is between lunch and dinner.
The merienda is a necessity to bridge the long gap between lunch and dinner, and it also a great excuse to socialise with friends and have a “happy hour” drink or two. The merienda usually occurs between about 5pm and 7pm.
Dinner in Buenos Aires is a late-night affair. Restaurants do not even open until 8pm and most Porteños go to dinner around 10pm.
How to eat
People often mistakenly think the restaurant service in Buenos Aires is bad because it takes so long to eat a meal. The Porteños simply enjoy a leisurely meal with their friends. There is no rush. Enjoy their company, eat your food, and linger at the table as long as you please.
When you get a table at a restaurant, it is understood that the table is yours for the entire night. It is common for meals to last up to four hours.
What to eat
If you are used to a healthy, filling start to your day, throw that idea out the window before you arrive in Buenos Aires. The typical Porteño breakfast consists of facturas and coffee. Facturas are pastries, and there are many different types. The most common and simple breakfast facturas aremedialunas, which are similar to croissants.
It is also common to see a merienda special including three medialunas and coffee and in the late afternoon.
Argentina is the land of beef and is known for exceptional quality and good prices. Dine at a parilla restaurant where meat is simple and naturally flavorful, cooked over a large charcoal or wood fired grill. Nearly all parts of the cow are available to eat, from kidney to tenderloin.
Many consider the lomo to be the best, most tender cut of beef. The ojo de bife and bife de chorizo are two flavorful favorites as well.
Empanadas and pizza
What do Porteños eat when they are looking for something cheap and fast? Empanadas and pizza are the fast food staples of Buenos Aires.
From empanadas filled with meat to empanadas filled with spinach, there is a wide variety to sample during your stay in Buenos Aires.
Most pizza in Buenos Aires has a thicker, doughy crust and lots of cheese. One can buy it by the slice for a fast and cheap meal. Fugazetta is an Argentine-style of pizza filled with cheese and topped with more cheese and perfectly-cooked onions.
Warning: Food coma is a side effect of eating fugazetta.
Dulce de leche
Moving from alcohol to sweets, it is impossible to talk about the eating habits of Porteños without mentioning dulce de leche, or caramel. Dulce de leche is used as a filling for facturas, cakes, pies, cookies, a breakfast spread, and the list goes on. It is nearly impossible to order a dessert that does not contain this super-sweet spread.
Many consider the ice cream of Buenos Aires to be the best in the world. It is made with a higher percentage of milk-fat, which gives it a rich taste and creamy consistency. Heladerias can be found on nearly every block in the main neighborhoods of Palermo, Recoleta, San Telmo, and Microcentro.
After you have eaten your way through Buenos Aires, you may need to loosen your belt a notch or two. However, it will have been worth it. Eat some green leafy vegetables and run a few laps around the track, and you will be healthy again in no time.
What was the best thing you ate in Buenos Aires? How does it compare to your favourite food in other countries? Leave a comment below, then head over to Twitter or Facebook to find out what the rest of the Gecko's community is saying.
Now is the perfect time to escape the rat-race and try some Argentinian food for yourself. Gecko's Get Me Out of Here sale offers 15% on all Gecko's tours departing by 31 December 2011*. But be quick, the sale finishes on 31 July 2011. http://www.geckosadventures.com/july-sale-2011Read more about the sale here.