A weekend in Buenos Aires

Saturday

We flew to Buenos Aires via Miami, which gave us a long overnight flight. Virginia was able to secure us seats in business class, which was vital for us to get off the plane and be more or less functional immediately. Equally importantly, both flights were on time and ran without incident.

We were greeted at the airport by a driver arranged by our host, Alex. We’ve been purchasing Argentine wine from Alex for several years but haven’t seen him since first meeting him in 2013. The driver got us to the 1828 Smart Hotel, a boutique hotel in Palermo and our home base for the next few days.

The main reason for our visit was the Cow Do, an annual meetup for FlyerTalk folks. Alex hosts the event, which includes two charity wine tastings and a couple of meals. We found Alex setting up for the first wine tasting and checked in. We then started introducing ourselves to the other participants, several of whom were regulars at the Cow Do.

The first wine tasting was an excellent way to start the trip. We began with the Las Perdices Extra Brut Sparkling wine, followed by three red blends:

  • Escorihuela Gascon Malbec/Cabernet 2015
  • Jorge Catena Ricominciare Malbec/Cabernet Franc 2015
  • Los Chocos P79 Malbec/Cabernet Franc 2015

The wine was accompanied by an impressive spread of charcuterie, which served as our lunch. After the tasting, we decided to retire to our room and rest. (Business class helped us sleep enough to get through the tasting, but we weren’t going to make it through the long Argentine evening without a nap.)

This haunted us during the walk to dinner.

The evening event was dinner at La Cabrera Norte, a nearby restaurant. Most of the Cow Do participants showed up. We all shared appetizers of grilled sausage, baked provoleta, sweetbreads, and braided chinchulin. Virginia and I then split the ojo de bife Napolitana and flan. It’s worth noting that almost every steak dish in Argentina ranges from sizable to immense, so I advise sharing whenever possible. Everything was very good, including the Malbec one of the other participants chose.

Sunday

Coffee and medialunas.

Alex organized the event to give everyone Sunday off. So we slept in to get closer to a Buenos Aires schedule. Eventually we got up and headed out for the day. Our first priority was breakfast. Palermo is home to a number of coffee shops, and we made a point of sampling them during the trip. Our first shop was Lattente, where we had wonderful medialunas and coffee.

After breakfast, we just started walking. There was a large series of parks nearby, and we managed to walk through or around most of them. We also visited the botanic garden and waved at the planetarium at the far edge of the parks. After a few hours, we were ready for a substantial lunch.

We decided to return to Don Julio, a parrilla we had stumbled on during our first trip five years ago. We had since learned it was a renowned restaurant, so we crossed our fingers and went inside at 1:45pm (aka the busy time for lunch). We were offered a 90-minute wait or seats at the bar. We chose the bar, which might have been the best decision we made all weekend. The bar was not were the alcohol was, but where the grill was. We sat back and watched a master manage 12+ feet of grill, cooking a wide variety of cuts and widths to perfection. As we watched, we shared lamb sausage, beef tenderloin, and sautéed chard with a bottle of O. Fournier Alfa Crux Malbec 2012, followed by coffee, chocolate mousse, and flan.

We walked around the neighborhood before going to the hotel to relax, having covered a lot of ground that day. In the evening, we went to the Post Street Bar for dinner. The bar was an awesome dive, so we leaned into a bottle of inexpensive Malbec, pizza, and a hamburger with ham and cheese. About twenty minutes in, two young men went up to the small stage and it turned out they were screening a short film they’d made. “La Oportunidad” is a comedy about a romance that goes awry due to toxic masculinity and its insecurities. Despite the language barrier, we were able to follow along and enjoy it. Virginia thanked the filmmakers and we headed back to the hotel for a desert of coffee and chocolate to end an outstanding day.

Monday

The Cow Do resumed on Monday. We started the day by visiting an ATM. Cash is still king in Argentina, both Argentine pesos and U.S. dollars. Five years ago we had brought a lot of U.S. cash because we could save upwards of 30% vs. using credit cards. Since then, the peso’s official exchange rate is very close to the “blue dollar” rate, which makes using credit cards much more feasible.

After picking up cash, we went to Full City Coffee House and had a full breakfast. While very good, it might have been a mistake in that it left us quite full before the second wine tasting of the trip. Speaking of which, we all regrouped for another sparkling wine and three Malbecs, all of which were good. I neglected to write them down, but remember we had the Escorihuela Gascon Pequeñas Producciones Malbec, a perennial favorite of ours.

After the tasting, we went directly to lunch at Somos Asado, a new restaurant in the Villa Crespo neighborhood. We continued our gluttony with a four course meal, including an amazing sausage dish and (of course) steak. We basically shut it down with a handful of the Flyertalk folks before returning to the hotel.

Alex’s selections.

We had intended to spend some time with Alex tasting wine to bring back home. However, Alex let us know he had to take care of some personal business and instead gave us three bottles of wine to try before talking that evening. Three bottles is a lot for two people so we invited three of the Cow Do folks to try them with us. That led to a very relaxing (and tasty) afternoon and evening drinking the three bottles, plus a fourth contributed by one of our new acquaintances. We talked with Alex to place our provisional order and scheduled a call for the following morning before returning to the small party for the rest of the evening. We didn’t bother with dinner — lunch, followed by all that wine, had been more than enough.

Tuesday

Unlike the previous two days, we roused ourselves early-ish to finalize everything with Alex. He called from his warehouse, where we figured out the order so it could be immediately packed and sent over to our hotel. After that, I joined everyone from the previous evening downstairs for a light breakfast.

She is not amused.

We all parted ways after breakfast for our various travel plans. Virginia and I went window shopping in Palermo while we waited for the wine to show up. The light breakfast we’d had earlier gave way to a substantial lunch at La Baita, an Italian restaurant. We stopped in a little past noon, very early for Argentina, and enjoyed lasagna and tagliatelle with tomatoes, followed by strip steak with salad and tenderloin in a red wine sauce with bacon salad, along with a bottle of Malbec.

The early lunch worked out perfectly, as we could then meet with Alex back at the hotel. We were finally able to talk wine, though Alex had to head out after a little while. We thanked him for the event and the wine before he left. We tried one more coffee shop, Felix Felicis, before getting in the arranged car and going back to the airport.

After checking our boxes as luggage, we spent a few hours in an unfortunately crowded and small lounge waiting for our flight. Thankfully, that was balanced by an easy boarding process and overnight flight back to Miami.

Wednesday

We landed in Miami around 4am, earlier than expected. We then went to baggage claim and found that Customs and Border Protection in Miami doesn’t mess around. We were guided to a blocked-off area to wait for them to bring us our boxes. We then had to run them through an X-ray machine and open a box to prove it was just wine. Then we had to explain it was all for personal consumption (we bring it back with us because shipping wine is extremely expensive).

Fortunately, the early landing meant we had time for a shower in the lounge before our flight home. Once we arrived in Chicago, I helped get Virginia and the boxes into a car before taking the train to work, ending the trip in fast and furious fashion.

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