Archive for the Salta Province Category

Salta – Places to Eat

Posted in Argentina, Salta, Salta Province with tags , , , , , , , on November 16, 2015 by gannet39

Please see the previous post for things to see and do in Salta. Here’s my Google map showing all the places mentioned. Please click on the place marks for more info.

Salta is famous for its empanadas and as I was under orders from my friend Anthea in BsAs to procure her some, I set out to find the best Empanadas Salteneos in town.

A good starting point according to my web searches was El Patio de la Empanada, on Avenida San Martin on the corner with Esteco.

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The patio is a collection of seven vendors, each with a numbered stall, grouped around a pleasant courtyard filled with sun umbrellas and tables covered in brightly coloured cloths.

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I managed to sample the wares of four of them, slaking my thirst on a very hot day with chilled bottles of Salta lager (B) at each stop. Here are the results:

At Vendor 7 I began with the classic Empanada de Carne (minced beef) and the also very common Empanada de Pollo (chicken), both of which were deep fried as opposed to being baked, the more delicious option in my opinion, especially doused with tomato salsa, flavoured with salt and aji chilli. They were the best I’d ever tasted (A+ and A respectively), which was a promising start. I wasn’t keen on the unsmiling lady who ran the place though as she tried to overcharge me, albeit just a few pesos.

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I liked the people at Vendor 5 much more and their Empanada Charqui (dried beef) and Empanada Picada a Cuchillo (diced beef as opposed to mince) were also excellent (A and A+).

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Next at Vendor 2 I sampled the Empanada de Arabes (a special spice mix) and the Empanada de Matambre (a specific beef cut), opting for the baked versions for a change (both A).

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Finally at Vendor 3 I had a fried Empanada de Carne and an Empanada de Queso (cheese) also very tasty (A- and A) if a bit hollow. The Arabes won it for me though and I came back on my last day for a half dozen (along with three Carnes and three Matambres) to take back to Anthea, to much acclaim.

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It was quite a pleasant way to spend a hot sunny afternoon, watching the funky vehicles passing on the street out of the door and fending off knife and baby guitar sellers. There were a few musicians amongst the clientele who seemed to be writing songs over lunch and would burst into song every now and then.

This place also came up in web searches and local recommendations as a good spot to eat Empanadas Salteneos:

La Criollita (Intermediate B), 306 Zuviria, Tel. 431 7342

I was first brought for lunch here by the local teacher I was working with. The restaurant specialises in local foods and we had the classic trio of baked Empanadas Carne, Pollo and Queso, all excellent again of course (A).

I came back one evening and tried a couple of the classics of Andean cuisine; Tamales (maize flour shells filled with Charqui dried meat) and Humitas (mashed maize), both of which are steamed in little parcels made of maize husks. They were fine but not something I’d go wild for (B).

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I also had Locro, the famous Andean stew which the menu said was made of sausage but in fact had chunks of beef and rings of intestine instead. Again it was ok but I wouldn’t have it here again (C+) although I’ve had other versions elsewhere that I’ve enjoyed.

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The local Nanni red wine was similarly unremarkable (C+) as was the well-known dessert Quesillos con Miel de Cana (thin slices of tasteless cheese in sugar syrup (not honey despite the name). This all came to a very cheap $259.

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I wanted to give Andean cuisine a proper try though, so I went to this more upmarket place on another evening:

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Restaurante Jose Balcarce (Advanced C), 912 Mitre, on the corner with Neochea

Things started well with the Llama Carpaccio, which involved wafer thin slices of the rich red meat piled high with curly lettuce leaves and an oil dressing. It was ok (B) but the taste of the meat didn’t really make it through the other flavours on the plate.

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Next I went for the Pejerrey, a sea fish used in Andean cuisine, battered and fried and served with a small maize and goat cheese ‘pie’, and a cauliflower puree. I sent it back though (D) as the fish was very dry, the pie was singed and the unpureed cauliflower just tasted horrible.

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My young Glaswegian waiter (!) was very apologetic though and asked that I wait while the owner (also a chef) taught the kitchen staff to make the dish again properly so that I could taste how it should be. The results were much better and I enjoyed it a lot more although I still found the fish quite dry and the sweetness of the corn wasn’t a good marriage with everything else on the plate (C+).

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The local white Piatelli Torrontes I drank with the food was ok (B) but not as good as others I’d had. Total cost $349, not too bad I suppose.

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After these disappointments I needed to eat well to restore my good humour and as usual it was a parrilla that did it:

La Monumental (Intermediate A), 202 Entre Rios

Don’t confuse it with the big restaurant with the same name that’s on the other side of the road.

I like this place so much that I came here three times in four days! I even got on first name terms with my friendly young waiter Fernando as we practised our rudimentary knowledge of each other’s languages on each other.

To start you always get a few little dishes of accompaniments; black beans, butter beans in a sauce, mayo flavoured with a local herb , stewed aubergine and coleslaw, which are all ok but nothing special (B for the beans, C for the rest). You won’t get Chimichurri or Provencal sauce in this region.

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I came hungering for meat in large amounts and asked for a parrillada for one, but the waiter flatly refused to accept my order as it was too much! (I’d confused the restaurant with Viejo Jack, another parrilla recommended by Lonely Planet where a parrillada for one is allowable but rejected by the local teacher who’d two bad experiences there). At Monumental the parrillada (only $202) is meant to be for two people so to assuage the waiter I enlisted the help of Martin, a passing German tourist from Munich.

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The parrillada involved chorizo, morcilla, butifarra (a Catalan sausage), mollejas (sweetbreads), chinchulines (small intestines), corazon (heart), ubre (udder) and indeterminate steak. Despite Martin’s assistance though there were still a few leftovers due to the enormity of the task.

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My favourite from the parrillada was the Chinchulines (intestines), so I had a whole plate of them to start on my second visit.

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They were still great but oversalted and too numerous to finish (B).

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To follow I had the huge Churassco de Filet (A-) which I asked them to butterfly as I wanted it rare.

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On another occasion I had the equally large Bife de Chorizo (sirloin) with chips and an Ensalada Tradicion (lettuce, tomato, white onion) (B+). Both these steaks were recommended by my teacher friend.

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In terms of wine, on the teacher’s recommendation, I tried the 2013 Don David Malbec (B) www.elesteco.com.ar , and the San Pedro de Yacochuya (A-) yacochuya.com.ar , the latter a bit pricey at $320.

My favourite wine here however was a fantastic 2007 Laborum Malbec (A) www.elporvenirdecafayate.com which was around $200 I think.

Acqui Me Quedo Yo (Intermediate A), 421 Santiago del Estero, Tel. 471 4901

This was a favourite lunch spot for me and my teacher colleague due to its healthful salads made with super fresh ingredients (B+). I also really enjoyed their corn pie (A) which was like a cottage pie but made with mashed maize rather than potato.

They are open all day 07.30 to 24:00 Monday to Thursday, 07:30 to 13:00 Friday, 09:00 to 13:00 Saturday and 11:30 to 15:30 on Sunday. It might potentially be a good spot for vegetarians.

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At the weekend the top end of Balcarce is the place to be, with all the restaurants opening up their pavement terraces, including…

Café del Tiempo (Intermediate B), 901 Balcarce, Tel. 432 0771

I quite like the old world ambience of this place, but not the small shot glass ($40) of very strange tasting ‘El Abuelo’ Limoncello (C). Not sure what the food is like although the teacher said it’s best for emapanadas.

La Estacion Bebidas, 983 Balcarce

The biggest wine shop in town, so in theory a good place to come to look for local wines. However they didn’t have the ones I wanted as they only carry recent years it seems. It’s the same business as the restaurant of the same name just down the street which is a LP recommend, although I didn’t like its impersonal feel and expensive wine list.

Well I hope I weeded out the bad places and dishes for you! There are lots of restaurants I didn’t try on my Google map above.

Salta – Things to See and Do

Posted in Argentina, Salta, Salta Province with tags , , , , , on November 16, 2015 by gannet39

Please see the next post for places to eat in Salta.

On November 10th 2014 I took a two hour flight from BsAs to Salta. It was my second time in this small north western city and I got a warm welcome.

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When I first came in 2004 I didn’t get to see much as I was trying to write up my MA thesis at the time and spent most evenings in the hotel. Unfortunately the same was true this time as I was working every day of the five days I was there, and rain stopped me doing very much on a couple of evenings. So, as ever, please don’t consider this an exhaustive guide, it’s just a brief sample.

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This time however I did manage to get to the Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montanas (MAAM), at 77 Mitre in the central square, Plaza 9 de Julio (open 11:00 to 19:30, closed Monday). Entry for foreigners was $40 in 2014.

The museum is the home of the famous mummies, the Children of Llullaillaco, three young children who were sacrificed to the Inca gods 500 hundred years ago. Although in an incredible state of preservation, only one mummy is shown at a time and they are swapped around once every 6 months. By displaying exhumed bodies of indigenous Indians the exhibition has generated a lot of controversy but it does bring in the tourist dollars for the city.

The glass of the display case was covered in fingerprints when I went and you actually get a better view by watching the video showing in the next room. Generally it’s quite a basic museum and once you’ve seen the mummy there’s not a lot else of interest, unless you’re interested in Inca sandal making. A lot of the displays have Spanish explanations only. It’s something to do for an hour or so though.

Just along from the museum is the Centro Cultural America. The French style building is quite nice (built in 1916 I think) and they had an exhibition of cartoons and some quirky artworks on the ground floor, although technically it’s not a museum or gallery.

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There are a few other quirky buildings with unusual features around Plaza 9 de Julio.

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The most striking though is the bright pink confection of the cathedral in the main square. It had recently been repainted when I was there and this was the original colour according to the renovators.

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Another gaudily painted church is Iglesia la Viña at 485 Alberdi, five blocks south of Plaza 9 de Junio.

There’s a few other bits of colonial architecture around.

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Just a block away from my hotel was the police headquarters at 750 General Guemes which looked like a small fort, perhaps for good reason.

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Opposite is a pleasant park, Plaza General Manuel Belgrano, with a broken ornamental fountain.

I only saw one bit of Art Deco, the San Juan shopping centre on Calle Alberdi.

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And then there was this purple oddity on Avenida San Martin.

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I also found it quite interesting to walk around the central market at Avenida San Martin. It’s a hive of activity in the mornings (08:00 to 14:00) but due to work I could only get to after the siesta at 17:30 (closes at 22:00) when it seemed much quieter. There are displays of unusual spices and herbs to see, including big sacks of coca leaves.

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I picked up a bottle of Miel de Cana Azucar from the market to take home. Despite the name it isn’t honey but sugar cane syrup, a local speciality. There are lots of other sweet things in bottles you could get like Dulce de Coyote, a local Andean fruit that is often eaten with walnuts for dessert.

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I was staying at the Ayres de Salta Hotel which is okay but nothing special. The view from the roof is great. The nearest supermarket to the hotel is at 459 Mitre.

If I’d had more time I would have liked to take the cable car up San Bernardo hill for a nice view of the city, or even better, take the ‘Tren a las Nubes’ (Train to the Clouds) to the Chilean border with spectacular views of the Andes along the way. The train leaves Salta every Saturday at 07.05 and gets back at 24.00. It takes 8 hours one way on the train so many people return by road.

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