Review: Cafe Crespin

Cafe Crespin - Vicente LopezIs there anything better than waking up on a sunny Saturday and meeting your friends for a delicious breakfast? Perhaps, if you add a nice leisurely bike ride along the river to the mix, topped off with a gooey cinnamon bun and a fresh licuado de maracuyá. Pedaling outside of BA’s city limits and into nearby Vicente López, you’ll be rewarded with the goodies of Cafe Crespin, without the long lines and insanity of its Villa Crespo HQ.

Cafe Crespin - V Lopez Tucked away, unassuming, just half a block from a new-ish promenade along the river (overflowing with rollerbladers in spandex, whoa), Cafe Crespin in Zona Norte is truly a gem. Tables dot the sidewalk and the inside is just as welcoming and cozy. After you’ve spent the past hour or so whizzing past the Lagos de Palermo, the Estadio Monumental, and Parque de los Niños, you will spend a few thrilling moments along the highway (don’t tell mom) before ducking into the green oasis that is the “costanera” of Vicente López.

Pedal on for just a few more minutes, keeping your eyes on the prize – a big rewarding breakfast that will help you reponer energías and lull you toward a nap in the sunshine.

We ordered a mix of everything – muffins, French toast, cinnamon roll, bagel with lox and cream cheese – you know, because we had just done a lot of exercise. Of course. Sipping our respective licuados while we waited was an ideal way to cool down; the flavors were bright and fresh, nothing artificial, just … yum.

French Toast at Cafe Crespin Since I’m a glutton for carbs, I ordered both the bagel and the cinnamon roll. Hello, heaven/obesity. Both were amazing – as we know, good bagels are hard to come by in this town – but I think the cinnamon roll took home first prize. Gooey and flaky, with the perfect icing on top and just enough crunch … I could have eaten several more of these and am planning to in the not so distant future.

Cinnamon Roll at Cafe Crespin The French toast was also surprisingly good – just one bite and I was brought back to childhood mornings with my mom at the stove. Served alongside scrambled eggs and bacon, this dish is not for the faint of heart.

Service is friendly and attentive without being too overbearing, which is what you want when you’re lounging in the sun, chatting with friends and in absolutely no rush at all.

Sunshine at Cafe Crespin The verdict? If you’ve been to the original Crespin, or have heard raves about it but have serious fiaca when it comes to waiting for ages to get a table, or are just looking for a new breakfast / cafe spot beyond your typical “bubble” – you’d be missing out big time if you didn’t cross the border and visit CCVL (that is the new abbrev, obvi. Don’t worry, I’ll show myself out).

Cafe Crespin
Hipólito Yrigoyen 477 – Vicente López, Zona Norte
4796-0119
Tuesday – Friday, 8am-8pm / Saturdays 9am-8pm / Sundays 12pm-7pm
Facebook

Review: Coffee Avenue – Hot Drinks on Wheels

If I could buy stock in my neighborhood, I would (is that even a thing?). As I’ve been blabbing on about for the past several weeks, Retiro is on the up and up in many ways this year, and a new food-related addition is just another jewel in our barrio-fabulous crown.

Coffee Avenue Buenos Aires Coffee Avenue is the first real food truck of Buenos Aires. Yes, indeed, ladies and gents. Let’s just take a moment to celebrate this momentous occasion! Though the truck is obviously mobile (unlike its bondiola counterparts on the Costaneras Norte y Sur), Coffee Avenue has been staked out near Plaza San Martín for the past couple of weeks, brightening everyone’s workday with a warm cup of joe that blows any old corner cafe – or dare I say it, Starbucks (blergh) – out of the water.

Coffee Avenue Truck The truck itself is fun – a giant owl greets you as you pull up to place your order – and customers can see how their lattes are made in the moment, as if there were any other way. Friendly owner Carlos – “Carli, el Méxicano” – is more than eager to chat up his clientele, and when you finally get your hands on your morning beverage, all seems right with the world. No, I am not exaggerating in any way, shape or form. Let’s blame it on my caffeine buzz.

Coffee Town CarlosCustomers can order up a cafe latte, cappuccino, latte (hazelnut or caramel), mocha, herbal tea or hot chocolate (for the man child who still lives with mom and dad? or a real child) in either Regular (Avenida) or Large (Boulevard) sizes. Carlos takes pride in their individual roasting process for the different types of coffee beans, resulting in a cup that is never burnt or bitter.

My cafe lattes have always been nice and foamy on top, with smooth and rich coffee that you really can’t find at many places in this city, despite the overwhelming cafe culture that abounds. Add to all of this that the truck is just a block away from both my home and my office, and I am sold.

You can follow Coffee Avenue on Twitter – @thecoffeeavenue – for up-to-date information on the truck’s whereabouts, but they usually tend to hang around Retiro and some parts of Downtown most days. Yes, this means you Palermitanos and Belgrano denizens are going to have to wake up early and brave the elements to get your paws on this liquid ambrosia. Trust me, it’s worth it – and then some. Let’s just hope that this is the first of many food truck endeavors that BA sees this year. If Coffee Avenue is any indication, things are headed on the up and up.

Coffee Avenue
Monday – Friday, 8-11am
Av. Maipú 1200 – Retiro (*for now)
Twitter
hola@coffeeavenue.com

Review: Pagano Club Social

One of my favorite Buenos Aires hobbies is strolling down the grand avenues, chusmeando the incredible apartments and homes, dreaming of the day I’ll have one to call my own (sigh). Imagine my excitement, then, when I finally made it to Pagano Club Social for one of its legendary dinners after hoping to go for months.

Pagano Club Social Tucked away on a small street just beyond the expansive green parks of Recoleta, the restaurant is actually set up in Patricia and her family’s home, complete with cocker spaniel Tango running around and barking on the balcony. Pagano combines both the supper club and “a la gorra” concepts, meaning that diners are only charged for drinks/wine; the amount they choose to leave for dinner is entirely up to them.

Pagano Club Social 2Upon arrival, you feel as if you’ve just walked into Royal Tenenbaum’s Buenos Aires abode: it’s rife with mismatched antiques, kitschy trinkets, and has a well-worn feeling that emanates a kind of easy joy that lets you know that your night there will be nothing short of wonderful.

The service is friendly and laid back – again, you feel as if you’re at a friend’s home settling in for a private dinner party. And in essence, that’s exactly what you’re doing. You can BYOB, though Pagano does have a good (but short) wine list with great bodegas – when we went, they were featuring Lagarde. As for the menu, you’ll have a choice of appetizer – we chose between a salmon tiradito and a vegetarian salad – which is followed by the main course (beef with nice scalloped potatoes and marscapone) and dessert (warm apple crumble).

Pagano Club Social 3The food filled our bellies and warmed our hearts.

But let’s be honest here. You don’t go to Pagano for the food. Yes, it’s good, and it’s sure that you won’t be let down. However, the real draw of the place is the atmosphere that lets you escape from the city for a night; curling up in one of the big antique sofas with your glass of wine, you enjoy genuine conversation while you soak up the beautiful house and its myriad of objects. If you need a bit of air (or a post prandial smoke), you can pop out onto the balcony – Tango the dog is sure to join you.

Pagano Club Social is one of those special places that makes Buenos Aires what it is – unpretentious, quirky, inviting and ever so interesting. Sign the guestbook as you leave and promise Patricia that you’ll be back soon – this time you know you aren’t just being polite. Pagano could be the perfect setting for a small birthday celebration, an intimate goodbye party, or just a night out with friends.

Pagano Club Social 
Address provided upon reservation – Recoleta
Open Wednesday, Thursday & Friday for dinner
15-6688-1919 / paganoclubsocial@hotmail.com
Cash only

Review: Ocho Once Maison du Chef

Restaurants in Palermo Viejo / Hollywood seem to fall into one of two categories: In-your-face, occupying a full street corner with big windows and a bigger propuesta loaded with hooplah; or something more tucked away, unassuming, with no need to rely on the gimmicks that have taken over the area in the past few years. As much as I love to slap on some stilettos and prance around town (who am I kidding? I don’t really do that, ever. But you get my drift), of late I have been much more drawn to these mellow, hidden gems that elude some serious buena onda with a heavy dose of gourmet goodness.

Ocho Once Enter Ocho Once, founded less than a year ago and making waves (albeit quiet ones) with its intimate, homey setting and unpretentiously delicious food. Situated on a nearly-ignored block of Palermo Hollywood but steps from the hustle and bustle we’ve all grown to love/hate – depending on traffic – the restaurant itself is actually the Chef’s home. The interior channels granny chic in the best way, with dark woods and marble countertops, vintage bar carts and antique light fixtures. Music in the background is well-curated but doesn’t drown out the conversation. Stepping over the threshold, everything seems to just slow down a bit. It’s a welcome change from what awaits us outside after we’re done eating.

DSC_0054The five-course menu we were served was creative, delicious and spot-on in terms of portion sizes. There is a focus on organic and natural ingredients – also reflected in the wine list – but don’t worry, you won’t be munching on kale or tempeh all night. First up was a tiradito de salmón rosado marinated in soy sauce and passion fruit – high-quality fish with amazing texture and a dynamic marinade that had me licking my plate.

Ocho Once - Tiradito de Salmon Next up was a chilled spinach soup with roasted pear and cashews. I am not usually crazy about chilled soups – they can be hard to pull off – but this was nice as the pear added some weight and depth to the dish. A blob of homemade sour cream was an interesting surprise but a bit too acidic for my liking. I did use the awesome homemade bread to soak up the rest of the soup, so all was well.

DSC_0043Our third course competed with the first for being the table’s favorite: Prawn ravioli with coconut lemongrass sauce. This little bite of heaven was just incredible. A bit of heat in the broth added some complexity and the pasta was light and perfectly cooked. I could have eaten an entire bowl of these, they were that good. In fact, adding another ravioli (raviole?) would have helped balance things out, given that the previous course was a soup and this was pretty soupy itself.

DSC_0047The fourth course was a big hunk of bondiola served with some humita and chutney. Though the meat was a bit fattier than I tend to prefer, it was so tender and fall off the fork juicy that it was just delightful. The humita wasn’t as bright as I would have liked; overall this dish is best served on a chilly autumn night since it’s pretty potent.

Ocho Once - Braised Bondiola Dessert was a lime-melon soup with mango panna cotta. I was ready for something that wasn’t soup-based, but the dessert was fresh, light, and flavorful. The panna cotta was my favorite bit. It would have been nice to even just have some fresh sorbet or even a bit of cake to offset the whole … liquidity of it all. But still, a fine way to end the meal on a light note.

Ocho Once - Panna Cotta Service was friendly and warm but not invasive, and the Chef introduces each dish at your table as they are brought out. There is a modest corkage fee, definitely a nice choice if you want to take one of your nicer bottles out for a night on the town. If you’re planning to head there in a group, ask about the table in the back – a very intimate and unique spot to have a meal, indeed.

Ocho Once - Buenos AiresI was impressed with what Ocho Once offered and would love to go back and see what other delights will be flying out of the kitchen over the coming weeks. If you’ve grown weary of the loud, brash Palermo “scene” but don’t want to compromise quality, make a note in your datebook to head over to this spot for a truly solid experience.

DSC_0035

Ocho Once Maison du Chef
Exact address given upon reservation – Palermo Hollywood
15-3614-5719
Open Wednesday – Saturday for dinner

Sign the guestbook at Ocho Once

Review: Farinelli

Keeping on trend with the huge crush I have on my own neighborhood, let’s visit another Palermitano transplant in Retiro: Farinelli.        Farinelli Interior Situated on a sunny corner of gallery-lined calle Arroyo, Farinelli serves up fresh-baked pastries and delicious savory bites like sandwiches and salads, all in a space that makes you want to cozy up in a corner seat and just watch the world pass by.

Farinelli After Argie fashion designer Benito Fernández closed his shop in the same space, I was hoping/praying/wishing that someone would swoop in and capitalize on the chance to bring a little bit of onda to the barrio. Welp, it finally happened. With another spot in Palermo – on Bulnes and Cerviño – Farinelli brings the promise of croissants and fresh fruit juices in an area overrun with stale medialunas and burnt coffee (even though the resident abuelos love that kind of thing).

Croissants Banana Bread Breakfast is always a treat – fresh muffins (banana and dulce de leche, blueberry, chocolate chip), scones, lemon cake, and croissants that are so buttery and delicious you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven. I always take advantage of the fresh fruit piled up on the display counter and usually order a giant glass of watermelon juice to wash it all down, though pretty much any fruity combination is possible (bonus: they don’t add sugar or anything unless you want them to).

Smoothies and pastriesAs the morning wears on, the pastries are swapped out for platters of sandwiches and heaping bowls of that day’s specials. Though there is plenty of room to sit and eat, Farinelli is hoping to teach the porteños the magic of take-away: its tag line is “Para sentarse, para llevar,” after all. Sandwiches run a bit on the small side but are tasty nonetheless – definitely taken up a notch from the regular lunchtime offerings. The cured salmon with wasabi mayonnaise was a real treat and I only wished it had been a big bigger so I could have scarfed it down even faster. A variety of inventive salads (think feta cheese, roasted veg, homemade dressings) and mains (ceviche, smoked eggplant and goat cheese croquettes, etc) are available and will definitely make your mouth water.

Beautiful flowers from Florería AtlánticoThe space itself is bright and happy, with high ceilings and white subway tiles lining the walls. Huge picture windows face the leafy sidewalk of Arroyo and let in tons of natural light. Smooth wooden chairs and a nice big communal table right in the middle definitely make it a good place to catch up on some emails, that new book you’re reading, or to spend a couple of hours chatting with an old friend. The amazing floral arrangements are provided by Florería Atlántico, which is just a few steps down the road.

Bright spaceService is friendly if not a bit slow; since you can either order at the caja or wait to be greeted at your table, confusion often ensues. Be prepared to either wait, or don’t be afraid to speak up and tell them your order directly. Otherwise, expect service with a smile. Also, if you’re an early bird like me, bear in mind that those flaky pastries might not actually be ready at 8:30am – on my last trip I was told I’d have to wait until 10:30 to get my paws on one. Not practical for those of us that have to make it to the office at a reasonable hour.

More fresh bloomsAll in all, it’s an ideal spot that Retiro desperately needed. My only complaint is that it’s not open on Sundays, though that’s probably a good thing. Double dose of croissant on a weekly basis – not the best for my ever-expanding waistline.

You can check out Farinelli on Facebook, where the menu is posted daily, and Twitter.

Farinelli on ArroyoFarinelli
Arroyo 900 – Retiro
4328-7998
Monday – Saturday, 8am-8pm