Argentina Feature


Quintessential Argentina

It's easy to partake of Argentina's daily rituals. Among other things, you can enjoy some fancy footwork—on the field or in the ballroom—or savor the rich flavors (and conversation) of a leisurely meal.


Argentina is cow country. The beef is so good that some Argentineans see little reason to eat anything else, though chicken and Patagonian lamb are tasty alternatives, as is chivito (kid). Carne asado (roasted cuts of beef) might be done on a grill over hot coals (a la parrilla), baked in an oven (al horno), or slowly roasted on a metal spit stuck in the ground aslant on a bed of hot coals (al asador). A family asado (barbecue), where men show off their barbecuing skills, is the classic way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The nearest restaurant experience is to order a parrillada mixta (mixed grill). Expect different cuts of beef—both on and off the bone and usually roasted in huge pieces—as well as chorizo sausage, roasted sweetbreads, and less bloodthirsty optional accompaniments like provolone cheese and bell peppers.


Given their high consumption of beef, Argentineans understandably drink a lot of vino tinto (red wine). Although much of the wine consumed here is nondescript table wine, in recent years the industry has boomed and Argentine vineyards (especially so-called boutique vineyards) are firmly on the map. The most popular grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Shiraz (known locally as Syrah), but Tempranillo, Tannat, and Merlot are also on the rise. If you prefer vino blanco (white wine), try a sauvignon blanc or chardonnay from Mendoza, or lesser-known wineries from farther north, such as La Rioja and Salta, where the Torrontés grape thrives. This varietal produces a dry white with a lovely floral bouquet.


In a country where Diego Maradona is revered as a god, nothing unites and divides Argentineans as much as their passion for soccer. Local teams are the subject of fiery dispute and serious rivalry; the national team brings the country together for displays of unrivaled passion and suicidal despair, especially during the World Cup. Argentina's blue-and-white-stripe jerseys have flashed across TV screens since it won the 1978 and 1986 World Cups, and nothing can lift—or crush—the spirits of the nation like the result of a soccer match. Every weekend, stadiums across the country fill to bursting with screaming fans toting drums and banners and filling the air with confetti and flares in their team's colors, which—together with the play on the field—make for a sporting spectacle second to none.


There's no question as to what the sound track of Buenos Aires is: the city and the tango are inseparable. From its beginnings in portside brothels at the turn of the 19th century, tango has marked and reflected the character of Buenos Aires and its inhabitants. Although visitors associate tango with dance, for locals it's more about the music and the lyrics, and you can't help but cross paths with both forms. You may hear strains of tango on the radio while sipping coffee in a boulevard café or see high-kicking sequined dancers in a glitzy dinner show or listen to musicians in a cabaret. Regardless, you'll experience the best of this broody, melancholic, but impassioned, art form.

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