The “Argentine Experience” Dinner was listed as part of our itinerary in Buenos Aires and the description is as follows:
This evening’s highlight is the Argentine Experience: A unique blend of food, wine and interacting with the locals. Learn how to make traditional empanadas, dine on grilled provolet cheese with sliced chorizo sausage, warm bread and homemade chimichurri. Order steak (reputedly the best in Argentina!) in Spanish and make your own traditional mate. A convivial atmosphere and great food! Your guides throughout the evening will answer questions on Argentine cuisine and culture.
This seemed interesting and I looked forward to it all day. But it didn’t start until 7pm so I had all day to explore and to create my own Argentine experience.
I have read about a fascinating bookstore called El Ateneo Grand Splendid that was just recently named as the world’s most beautiful bookstore by the National Geographic. The building, in 1919, was originally a theater, then it became a cinema, and eventually became a bookstore in 2000. The stage, the balconies, the amazing architectural details, and even the red curtain were all retained from the original.
The bookstore also has a cafe located at the back and it is on a raised platform (as this was originally a theater). I was tempted to eat lunch there but I was still full from our breakfast this morning.
Each of the floor had a balcony where you can look down and take amazing photos. I searched for English books but didn’t find any. I found out later they only sold books written in Spanish. I was disappointed that I couldn’t buy a book from there but I ended up buying a stationary as a souvenir.
From the bookstore, we explored more on foot and found local boutiques (not the usual Zaras and H&Ms you’d find all over the world). I heard that once Argentina was famous for its really high platform shoes but no longer in fashion today (or I would’ve bought one!). By this time, I was ready for some food and Cafe Tortoni came to mind.
Café Tortoni is the oldest cafe in Argentina and was originally owned by a French immigrant named Touan. It was named Tortoni after the Parisian cafe in Boulevard des Italiens in Paris (thanks Wikipedia). The coffee shop has been visited by high profile names such as Albert Einstein, the King of Spain, and Hillary Clinton to name a few.
I wanted empanadas but they ran out so I ordered hot cocoa and churros only because everyone on TripAdvisor was also raving about the cafe’s hot chocolate drink. I’m not sure about those people but the hot cocoa was not great at all. I was picturing thick hot chocolate like the one at Angelina’s in Paris. The churros was cold and a bit chewy. I don’t really eat churros so I’m not sure if that was the right texture.
After a long day of walking and shopping, we were ready for tonight’s activity. The Argentine Experience dinner was in an unassuming building that looked more residential than commercial. We walked to the second floor and went into a room where two long wooden tables were set up. We introduced ourselves to a British couple who were sitting across us. The husband is a professor who is currently on sabbatical and brought his family to live in Argentina for a few months. They both seem to speak quite a bit of Spanish so l suppose living there paid off. Other tourists started arriving and when both tables were filled, the staff began the Argentine Experience presentation. First, we had wine and cocktails then tapas kept coming that I seriously can no longer remember the order they came. All I could think of was this was the kind of experience I’ve been looking for— anything to do with food and alcohol lol!
They showed us how to wrap an empanada and told us there’s going to be a competition on who gets to present the most artistically prepared empanada. I’m not very artistic and I knew I won’t win but I was fine as long as I get to eat good tonight. I made a heart empanada (see above photo) with an arrow across it but it really didn’t look that pretty so don’t judge me! My friend thought the arrow looked more like a man’s private part hahaha!
We made more empanadas, choosing between meat and veggies or both. I stuffed mine with both and gave them to the staff to bake. More food came and each one was super delish. Then came the main entree, the most famous food from Argentina—beef! Based on last night’s dinner from the tango show, I was very disappointed with the steak I had so I was hoping tonight’s steak is going to be way better.
The steak was juicy and tender. This is the quality of beef I expected from Argentina. I really have not had a mind blowing experience yet when it came to food while in Buenos Aires. I had researched where to get the best steaks in the city but my friend wasn’t interested in going so I didn’t go. Looking back, I should’ve just gone on my own.
They showed us the country’s national drink called mate (pronounced mah-tay). It’s similar to tea but more complex and contains more caffeine. The desserts were amazing as well. Towards the end of the evening, they announced the winner for the empanada contest and surprise…..I didn’t win haha!
I’m so thankful for this experience. It was absolutely the best way to end, not only the evening, but my South American trip! There are definitely things I would change (in this trip) to make it much more enjoyable but overall, I had the best time.
On the day of our departure, we had the morning free to explore before heading to the airport. We didn’t go far from our hotel (Palermo area) but we were able to do last minute shopping at the flea market. But the highlight of the day was this mural I saw of Donald Trump portrayed as the joker. It’s too good not to share.
**I’m so glad I finally posted all of my blogs on my South American vacation. It’s been a struggle to write lately, with all my life’s ups and downs. I also had distractions this past year but I’m thankful for everything that’s happened in my life. It’s definitely the only way to grow, learn more about myself and really know what I want out of life!
I’m ready for my next adventure!!!!!!
We ate at Cafe Tortoni for the first time and the food was just as awful as you say! But the tango show was wonderful. We brought my mom and my sister to see it.
At this point, I know Buenos Aires really well but I have to read your Patagonia posts. That’s my next stop.
Hello Aixa! Ohh I hope you didn’t have a meal there because just based on their hot cocoa and churros, I wasn’t impressed! I do wish we did our tango experience there though.
My Patagonia experience was focused mainly at the park. Oh and the yurts! It was awesome. Hope you get to have a great experience.
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Fortunately we just had coffee and a snack, all awful! I’m looking forward to Patagonia. I’m not sure how we’ll be seeing it yet. We have a flight and a hotel but we haven’t planned anything else yet. We’re wondering if we should rent a car or take some tours. Like you, I don’t love hiking, either. I enjoyed it in Costa Rica, but the hikes weren’t very long.
Hi Boots, I feel full looking at all this food. We spent four months in BA in 1999. I am pretty sure the bookshop didn’t exist then in that stunning venue. Looks amazing. We did get to visit the Tortoni Café while we there. What did you think of the mate? Louise
I thought mate was okay. I’m sure I can definitely get into it if I am more exposed to it. We just don’t have it readily available here in Texas! 😁
Yeah I didn’t like it they certainly do.
Hi Boots I bet you are very strong woman with all your ups and down. I am glad that you are taking time enjoying life and traveling. The foods looked delish! Nice place.
Thank you Vinneve! Keep blogging even if you are going home!
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You’re such a skilled photographer! Beautiful photos
Aww thanks Seun!! You’re the second one to tell me that this week! And I thought he was just pulling my leg. 😀. Hope all is well with you!