01 July 2008

Primera Noche

After a long and much-needed nap, we set out to find dinner. Our innkeeper, Lucila, advised us that we could go anywhere for an early dinner (which means 8PM in Buenos Aires) on a Tuesday night without a reservation. Anywhere, that is, except La Cabrera. La Cabrera is one of the best parillas in Buenos Aires, and it's a ten minute walk from our hotel.

I was intrigued.

We set out to claim a table at La Cabrera, and learned our first lesson about the streets of Buenos Aires: there's dog doo everywhere. When I was a kid in Brooklyn, back before people walked around with little plastic bags to scoop up canine caca, the grassy areas near trees were major danger zones. In Buenos Aires, everywhere is a danger zone. There are steaming heaps, literally, in the middle of the sidewalk. The corollary to lesson number one is lesson number two: porteños walk their dogs off-leash. Most of the dogs here are extremely well socialized and stay close to their owners, but we saw one rambunctious and enormous young sheepdog barrel through an outdoor café. The diners didn't mind at all; they cooed at the happy fella and egged him on.

I like it here.

We found La Cabrera, and learned lesson number three: it's a dog eat dog city. We were the first customers to arrive at the restaurant without reservations, and simply expected to get seated first. Three very unapologetic couples pushed past us in line and got tables; we got the first spot on the restaurant's waiting list. We sulked for a little, but then we snapped out of it and enjoyed free glasses of Argentine sparkling wine. We had an outside table on the heated patio by 8:45.

The Argentines butcher their cows differently than we do, and the cuts have different names. We planned to try two of the most popular cuts, Lomo and Bife de Chorizo, but when we saw the sizes of the steaks, we decided to share one. We went with the Lomo, which was a mistake. Lomo is tenderloin; it's tender, but even in Argentina, it's relatively mild in flavor. It was an excellent piece of meat, but as Steve remarked, it didn't transport me. We'll go for the bife de chorizo next time, or maybe the ojo de bife. We washed it down with a bold Argentine Malbec

Margaret-the-Penguinlady advised us before we left to try the hearts of palm. I've never liked hearts of palm; the stuff in the cans is kind of gross. Here, they're incredible. They're like little towers of heavy cream with the faintest vegetal flavor. Mild, tender, lush... you can slice them from top to bottom with the dull edge of an old fork. Steve momentarily worried that it was wasteful to slaughter a palm tree for its decadent heart, but then he remembered that palm trees grow like weeds. He ate the rest of our salad without remorse.

Street crime is a problem in Buenos Aires. At La Cabrera, the hostess came by and strapped a female diner's purse to her chair when she left it on the ground. We were concerned enough from what we've read that we planned to take a taxi back to our hotel, but we were so stuffed that we needed the fresh air. A couple of people approached us for money, but we just ignored them. We never felt threatened.

Tomorrow will be our first day to explore the city! We'll start in Palermo, and work our way out from day to day.

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