The Streets of San Telmo

San Telmo

Everything I had read about San Telmo Market in Buenos Aires was positive, but everything I’d read also said it was a great FLEA market, and I associate flea markets with second-hand clothes and bric-a-brac, which meant I nearly didn’t bother going.

San Telmo

It was fortunate I found myself in the area on market day because San Telmo Market is up there with one of the best markets I’ve ever been to, and it’s not full of white elephant knickknacks and old clothes.  Sure, there is a little of that, but by in large you’re presented with a massive range of options, from mate (tea) mugs, to leather goods, to Fileteado style artwork, as well as the general market expectations of jewellery, clothes, performers and all things artsy and bohemian.

San Telmo

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As you meander along the street Defensa, with what feels like every other person in Buenos Aires, there is something else you notice as well.  This market never seems to end… The street just keeps going and going and going.  It’s about 2k’s long and you can easily spend half the day browsing and shopping and calling in at the local bars and restaurants for refreshment and nourishment to keep you going.   And that sounds like a pretty good way to spend a Sunday to me!

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Bless those Brazilians!

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Generally I’m not one for a beach holiday.  I’m not the right size for a beach holiday.  Swimming laps in a pool for exercise is fine, but parade along a beach in my togs… I don’t think so!  I don’t think it’s just me either.  In New Zealand where I’m from and in Australia, where I live, it’s almost an unwritten rule that you have to be under a certain size to hang out at the beach in a bikini, and if you’re not under that size and you’re strolling along in your bathers, you can bet you’re being talked about.

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So with that as background information, you can imagine I had some trepidation about a spending a few days at Copacabana Beach in Rio.  I’d heard that everyone hangs out on the beach in string bikinis, but I wasn’t quite prepared for what that meant.  You see, when they said ‘everyone’ I thought they meant ‘everyone one small enough’… but in fact what they meant was EVERYONE.  All shapes, all sizes, all ages… all in varying sizes of skimpy swimwear.  It’s like the rule in Rio is, when you go to the beach you must wear very little.

Copacobana Beach

You have to imagine the sights I saw, because I purposely did not take photos of people.  At the beginning I was looking with my Kiwi skewed eyes and marveling at how little some people wore.  I had these ‘Oh my goodness, I could NEVER do that’ moments, but then I started to look around, and when I did that I saw that no one else was judging like I was.  No one was self-conscious about what they looked like in swimwear, and no one was looking at people with those judge-y eyes while thinking, you shouldn’t really be wearing that.  Instead people just wear what they wear, it’s like the uniform of the beach is very little.

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Everyone is confident in a bikini, and no one else cares about what you’re wearing.  No strutting, no ‘look at me’s’, no primping or preening, just a beach load of people so ok with what they look like that they don’t even think about it.  It’s an amazing attitude and I wish I had more of it.

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The Taste of South America

As I was walking down a strange back street of residential Buenos Aires on a cold dark night, towards the address of Colombian brothers, who I’d never met or heard of, on the recommendation of someone I’d never met, or heard of, it did cross my mind that if things went  awry, I could be in trouble…. But I’d seen the menu for this Puerto Cerrado, and it was worth the risk.

It turns out ilatina is a different kind of Puerto Cerrado.  (Closed Door Restaurant)  It’s not in the home of the chef, but in a beautifully decorated high ceilinged villa, and the ‘closed door’ part is that you must book beforehand and it’s always a set menu.  A DELICIOUS set menu.

It started with a white corn arepa with anise and Colombian hogao.  They say the enjoyment comes with the taste and the presentation and the environment you’re in.  From the first bite, all boxes were ticked.

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Next was bread.  I tell myself not to eat the bread because I’ll get full before the ‘good stuff’ comes… but this wasn’t your average run of the mill roll.  The bread basket had banana bread, chipá, coconut bread, focaccia with olives and mixed seeds, and lime and pepper flavoured butter.

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Chef Santiago previously had a restaurant in Bariloche, an Argentinian holiday spot in the foothills of the Andes.  I don’t know why he and brother Camilo sold up there and moved to Buenos Aires, but my taste buds are thankful.

My first official course was confit duck and quinoa tabbouleh in a rice paper roll, served with orange, lavender and ají panka sauce.  The ají panka is a Peruvian pepper and I only wish I’d known about it before I left Peru.  It’s a magical ingredient that makes you want to take photos of your food and tell everyone about it.

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Next up was caramelised prawns with spicy pineapple and fennel.  Living in Australia, I thought I’d tried prawns every which way you could, but these little beauties popped deliciousness in my mouth.

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Colombian ceviche was next on the menu.  Barú style ceviche with seasonal fish, mango biche, coconut and lychee.  I didn’t want this to end, and I wanted to drink the leftover coconut milky goodness.  It took all my resolve to resist.

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With pretty much every morsel of flavour came another glass of wine, served with the perfect amount of knowledge about the particular drop from Camilo, the other owner and wine connoisseur.  I’d describe them to you, but I confess I forgot the details.  It was all very tasty though.

Next on the table was grilled octopus on pearl barley, basil, pumpkin cream and lemon grass. This may have had a dash of the magical Peruvian pepper as well.  I wonder where I can buy that.

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Course number five was braised pork in coffee and sugar cane reduction.  I swear I only looked at it and it fell apart in front of my eyes.  So impressed was I with this, that I forgot to take a photo, (must not have had Peruvian pepper) so you’ll just have to take my word that it looked and tasted as good as everything else.

Dessert started with an Ecuadorian cacao truffle with sea salt and olive oil.  It looks small but packs a punch of chocolately wonderful.

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The Passion fruit and hibiscus flower panacota, was citrusy, fresh and light, and it looked so pretty.

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And then came the Colombian coffee, infused with cinnamon and cardamom and served with petits fours.  A delicious end to an incredibly appetising night.

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Should you find yourself in Buenos Aires, I highly recommend you dine with Santiago and Camilo at ilatina.  My meal with wine matching was around $120 Australian, an absolute bargain for the deliciousness served.  Find them at ilatinabuenosaires.com

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