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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Food Porn Friday

It’s that time again, everyone. Friday morning and the weekend is upon us. Now that the sunshine has returned to our lives, I can tell that spring is just around the corner and I’m getting excited for lingering weekend brunches on sunny rooftops. Naturally I’m hungry for a nice hearty plate of Eggs Benedict. Preferably with a big Bloody Mary on the side. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Happy weekend!

Photo Credit: Food Porn Daily

Eats & Treats in the US of A

As you can probably assume, my trips (regardless of destination) are always closely linked to food and what I’ll be eating – and where – upon my arrival. So I thought I’d cook up a little shortlist of my favorites (new and not so new) from both the Washington, DC area (my hometown) and San Francisco (as P’Trique would say, ob-sessed). It’s not as complete as it should be, but perhaps I’ll do a second installment if you so desire. *Photos posted below are not mine – rather than take snapshots of each meal I decided to leave the DSLR at home. Bad blogger! Sorry ’bout that folks.

 

Washington, DC
For those that think DC is just tourist buses and politicians in brown suits, you are nuts. Over the past several years the culinary scene has basically exploded and new spots are reminding us of the old classics that perhaps didn’t get the attention they deserved in the past. I love heading home for a visit, knowing I’ll be eating well no matter where I am in town.

Rasika – Indian with a gourmet, modern twist. Great cocktails, amazing atmosphere.
Zaytinya – One of the many gems of Chef José Andrés. Incredible Mediterranean dishes.
Nora – America’s 1st certified organic restaurant. Cozy, romantic, creative.
Patisserie Poupon – My go-to Upper Georgetown spot for an almond croissant.
Oyamel – José Andrés goes Mexican with this Penn Quarter hot spot.
Cork – Effortlessly hip wine bar and small plates restaurant on 14th street.
Crisp & Juicy – Arlington, VA’s favorite Peruvian chicken spot.
Baked & Wired – My favorite place for a huge cupcake and a cup of coffee.
Brasserie Beck – Stuff your face with mussels and other Belgian goodies.
Eastern Market – Farmer’s market heaven. Head inside to the breakfast counter.
*Special mention to the no-name taco truck that parks in the grocery store parking lot in South Arlington that literally has blown my mind with how amazing its food is.

Pictured above: Restaurant Nora, Oyamel, Cork, Baked & Wired

San Francisco / Sausalito / Sonoma
I was only in SF for 4 days, but every bite I ate was better than the last. Seriously I’d move out there just for the food if I could. So much variety! So many local market offerings! Farmer’s Markets! Organic things! It was like food porn heaven on crack, times infinity. I pine to return with empty suitcases so I can fill them with food and goodies.

Ferry Building – Anything and everything available here.
Out the Door – Chic Vietnamese bites in a sleek setting.
Dosa – Indian food that will blow your mind.
Bi-Rite – Obligatory ice cream stop, do it now.
Bar Bocce – Perfect for a sunny Sausalito lunch on the marina.
The Girl & the Fig – French classics with a country twist.
Blue Bottle Coffee – Erases my memories of burnt BA coffee nightmares.
Tartine – Buttery pastries, hello there.
Ft. Mason Farmer’s Market – Free samples + food stands (tacos, German sausages)

Pictured above: Ferry Building Marketplace, Dosa, Bar Bocce, the Girl & the Fig

Father’s Day in Buenos Aires

Just a quick reminder – Father’s Day is tomorrow! If any of you have fathers/stepfathers/fathers-in-law/baby daddies/etc in Buenos Aires, there are lots of places that will be hosting special lunches & dinners -many of them fancy pants – to honor those men in your lives.

The Park Tower will be serving up a badass buffet from 1-5PM tomorrow that will serve up everything from caviar to creme brulee. The price – AR$320/person, which includes all beverages (wines from St. Felicien). For reservations, call 4318-9211. Av. Libertador and San Martín – Retiro.

L’Orangerie at the Alvear Palace in Recoleta is puttin’ on the ritz with a huge buffet lunch celebration that will include live music, entertainment for the kiddos, and more. It’ll cost you AR$530/person (AR$360 for kids – hurry, start trying to look like you’re in pre-school) and is sure to be a Sunday to remember, if only for the damage it will do to your credit card. For reservations call 4808-2949 / 2100. Av. Alvear 1891, Recoleta.

The Hotel Madero – in Puerto Madero, por supuesto – will also be serving up a brunch (I sense a theme here), with oysters, antipasti, seafood, pastas, measts, and more – all served up with wines by Luigi Bosca. Adults will pay AR$310, chillin will pay AR$160. For reservations call 5776-7676. Rosario Vera Peñaloza 360, Puerto Madero.

La Panadería de Pablo in San Telmo is a perfect spot for the laid-back dude who wants some good lunchtime eats in a hip environment. Sunday brunch is great – a good mix of sweet and savory offerings – and it’s very kid-friendly so families won’t feel like they’re getting the death stare if they show up with their brood. Service is a bit slow, so you’ll have plenty of time to talk about how much dad means to you. Defensa 269, reservations 4331-6728.

Ok, so the bruch theme might be a little worn out – no biggie. Sanbenito in Belgrano is classic enough for a traditional dude, but with a twist to make it cool and fun at the same time. The menu offers a wide variety of dishes, all tasty and homemade with a gourmet touch. The service is up to snuff and it’s a great place to go in a group.  Check it out at Av. Federico Lacroze 2136. Reservations 4771-1859.

Photo Credit: Ebay with the glorious Morty Seinfeld