Review: La Alacena

Photo courtesy La Alacena

Photo courtesy La Alacena

For those of you that are either from Buenos Aires or have been here long enough to remember the glory days (pre-inflation with that solid 3 to 1 exchange rate), you might reminisce about a time when Palermo wasn’t overrun with pastel-pink cookie cutter shops, cafés peddling mint lemonade, or French bulldogs wearing leather jackets. A simpler, more wholesome time indeed.

Well, you can stop living in the past. Enter La Alacena, the newest gem in a Palermo that harkens back to the quieter days with a real barrio feel. After dominating at BASA (and before that, Le Blé, Bar Uriarte, and beyond), Juli has spread her pastry-making wings and opened up shop on the wide, sunny corner of Gascón and Honduras.

Juli’s cooking stands out for its complex simplicity. Here you’ll eat real food, with a focus on high quality, market-fresh ingredients. Fresh-baked, crusty breads form the bases of inventive prensatti sandwiches, bright roasted vegetables top off hearty salads, and pretty much every dessert available will knock your socks off. Daily specials rotate through pasta, fish, and other delights.

Her style is effortless, unpretentious, making you feel that you could almost replicate these flavors at home (if only you were half as talented as she).

The space is simple but homey, with big glass windows facing the street and shelves of ceramic dishes for sale lining the walls. The open kitchen lets you peek in on the culinary action, and overall a feeling of artisanal warmth is transmitted throughout. Service is efficient and friendly (and thank God they accept credit cards).

Salad at La AlacenaSeriously, everything is delicious. How is that even possible? You’ll want to visit every day just so you can eat everything on the menu. Saturday brunch is the perfect cure for a previous night of excess, and nothing can top the now famous chocolate and sea salt tartaleta (featured recently in La Nación). Wash it down with a glass of red wine and you’ll be set for the day.

La Alacena is also open some evenings for dinner, with a menu of small plates meant to be shared. Feast on antipasti like veal carpaccio with arugula, lemon and parmesan, grilled baby squid with fresh herbs and aioli, and roasted mushrooms with almonds and parsley.

Well-deserved positive press means that it’s harder and harder to walk in for a table on the weekends, so call ahead and reserve just to be certain. During the week things are a little more tranquilo, but don’t expect it to stay that way for long. We can only hope that this little corner stays true to its down to earth roots, but with Juli at the helm, we’re in good hands.

La Alacena

La Alacena
Gascón 1401, esq. Honduras – Palermo
Monday – Friday 9am-7pm; Saturday 10am-7pm
4867-2549

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
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Review: Basavilbaso Grand Café

Despite its pitfalls, I am fiercely loyal to my beloved barrio of Retiro. I am close to work, enjoy a view of Uruguay across the river on a daily basis, and overall love its quirks like the sassy grannies and gossipy porteros. So, despite the Palermo-centric streak of gastronomic explosion that has been happening over the past several years, I have maintained firm in my devotion to Retiro and to my conviction that sooner or later, we’d have a windfall of our own. Well, ladies and gents, the Retiro Renaissance is well underway, starting off with a great little coffee shop just steps from my house.

DSC_0065Located in the Quartier building, Basavilbaso Grand Café serves up coffee (duh), homemade pastries and sweet treats, fresh juices and smoothies, and even has quite the extensive lunch menu. We visited just days after it opened and were happy to see it already buzzing with local neighbors and tourists alike.

DSC_0060Run by the same team behind the wildly successful Gran Bar Danzón and Sucre, Basavilbaso Grand Café offers a sort of industrial chic ambiance (much like Danzón, it has cement brick walls, as well as exposed beams and steel light fixtures) with cozy touches like blooming flowerpots and big cozy couches up in the front windows.

Grand Cafe FlowersOur breakfast was simple yet delicious, though the cappuccino wasn’t nearly as frothy and foamy as it should have been. Medialunas were a lot like croissants (I see this as a postive) and everything had that nice homemade feel. I look forward to picking up one of their tasty sandwiches on the go, or having an afternoon stop for tea and cake in the near future.

Grand Cafe Breakfast Insider tip: Plans are in the works to open up a bistro-type restaurant next door, meaning I’ll have even fewer reasons to cross Av. 9 de Julio in the coming months.

If you find yourself in Retiro, or even are just passing through the area while going from Point A to Point B, making a stop at Basavilbaso Grand Café is definitely something to mark on your to-do list.

Basavilbaso Grand Café
Basavilbaso 1340, Retiro
4893-9333

Food Porn Friday

Hi there friends. Nice little Friday, huh? It’s been a monumental week to say the least – US Presidential Elections, a city-wide blackout that left millions of Porteños in the lurch, the massive cacerolazo that filled not only Buenos Aires but dozens of cities in the rest of the country (and the world) … and today’s insane downpour that left us all under water before we knew what hit us. So let’s stay in, get cozy, and curl up with some comfort food after all that action, shall we? How does a duo of delicious breakfast sandwiches* sound? Great, meet you on the couch.

Photo Credit: Food Porn Daily

*Said delicious breakfast sandwiches can also be purchased at Baking BA (weekdays) downtown at Suipacha 747 (esq. Córdoba). Mmmmmmmm…..

Yo, Cocinero: Cooking at Home with I Latina

Sometimes the stars align and out of the blue a perfect night happens upon you. This was my experience last week when I was invited to participate in a cooking/wine-tasting at I Latina under the title “Yo, Cocinero.” To me there is nothing more fabulous than hovering over a boiling pot in a kitchen rich with aromas, fueled by good wine and even better conversation. And to have such an experience at one of BA’s hottest restaurants was just the icing on the cake. Continue reading