Christmas BA style

20130117-152037.jpgWell, just like every year, and just like back home, Christmas soon came around. The great thing here was, I wasn’t sick of it by the time it arrived. Maybe it helped that I didn’t have nearly as much preparation to do, or nearly as many Christmas related events to attend. Though there was still plenty to keep me busy, it didn’t necessarily focus on Christmas. It certainly helped that the city Christmas trees and decorations didn’t go up until the 1st December! Just enough time to start getting a little excited and make an effort to check out the Christmas markets.

20130117-152417.jpgMy Christmas celebrations started on Friday, 22nd December with the Fuudis lunch tour – a fun group of people from different parts of the world, three different restaurants, three different courses, and a couple of nice wines. A fun day out, that a group of us backed up in the evening with Happy Hour cocktails at Fierro Hotel with a few friends who hadn’t been at lunch. I enjoyed time with friends I’d already made here, and met some great new people, including some fellow Aussies who had some great new BA tips for me. In fact, there seemed to be more Aussies in that beer garden that night than I have met so far on this trip.

Plans are not made very far in advance in BA, probably Argentina for that matter. Although each of us had plans for Noche Buena (the more celebrated Christmas Eve event in South America), and invitations from kind friends, there were a few of us foreigners who still wanted to celebrate on Christmas Day, so we finished the evening with some sketchy plans for the day.

On Christmas Eve, the temperature was soaring, hitting the high 30s but with such high humidity that people were quoting the “sensación térmica” or “feels like factor” in the mid-40s. It was oppressive. Nonetheless, fellow Aussie Cheryl and I, troopers that we are, braved the heat to head out in the early afternoon and share a bottle of refreshing Chandon in honour of Christmas. We both had respective family events planned that night and it was fun to compare our preparations.

20130117-152302.jpgI had been invited to spend Noche Buena with Veronica, her partner Nacho, and her family, and I was excited and honoured to be spending it with them. With my goodies in tow, I set off on the bus to get to Vero’s parents’ place, aiming to arrive by 9pm. The heat had really shown no sign of abating and, as I got close to the house, I noticed that power was out along Rivadavia, a fairly main road. Arriving at Vero’s parents, they luckily had electricity and, hence, cooling, but informed me that we weren’t staying there but were continuing on to an Uncle’s house. We loaded up a people-seater with all the food and goodies, and drove – two blocks – to the Uncle’s house! Uncle’s house was huge, and I mean HUGE, and very nice. Unfortunately, they were in the part of the block that had no electricity! Luckily, most of the food had been precooked, and for the time being, the house remained cool from the air conditioning during the day but the heat outside was still oppressive and we were all praying that the power would kick back in.

We set about getting ready for dinner, setting tables, plating up dishes, serving wine and beer, etc. I was given a tour of the cellar which, besides being the coolest place in the house at the time, contained an amazing amount of wine and also a jamon drying room housing numerous jamons destined for Uncle’s many restaurants. With the table ready, some emergency lighting, and all guests present, we sat down outside to eat a little before 11pm. It was still incredibly hot but, just as we started to eat, hooray, the power came back on and the cooling, inside and outside, got cranked up, much to our relief.

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Dinner contained some very traditional dishes, including the Italian influenced “vitel tone” (vitello tonnato), tartaletta de palmito and palta (a kind of mousse of avocado and palmhearts) topped with langostinos, and tongue cured in vinegar, all lovingly prepared by Vero’s mum. There was also an arrollado (a type of savoury roll filled with sandwich type fillings), lots of salads, and a “lechon” – whole baby pig cooked by one of Uncle’s many restaurants. The food was incredible and, like many an Australian Christmas, plentiful.

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As we finished eating the main course, now with the temperature considerably more manageable, Uncle started to serve the champagne. Before we knew it, it was approaching midnight and the count down began to ring in Christmas. There were “saluds”, besos, and “feliz navidad” all round, and the local fireworks began. Vero’s twin nephews got excited and convinced their Dad to let them buy some fireworks which, with the help of the adults, were set off from the backyard.

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We then cleared away the main course and out came dessert, also with many traditional dishes like pan dulce (panettone), turron (nougat), a layered dulce de leche cake with meringue, lots of lollies and sweets, fruit salad and, of course, a little taste of Aussie Christmas (no, not Pav, that would have been far to ambitious in my ill-equipped kitchen and in that heat!), rumballs, which were a hit with the kids.

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At some stage shortly after, the wind picked up and it was almost a Melbourne cool change. OK, not quite, that would be silly. But the temperature certainly dropped and the long awaited rain started. We remained under the cover of the outside patio, enjoying our champagne and merriment. The music was fired up, and Vero´s Dad even showed us his impression of Gangnam style!

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The rain, fortunately, didn’t last long but enough to cool things off, and the roads were safe and dry when Vero and Nacho dropped me off at home, I don’t know, around 4am?

It was a really pleasant night, with really lovely, open and friendly people and I felt truly honoured that they shared their Noche Buena with me. Thanks Vero, Nacho and family xx

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The next day was Christmas and my present to myself was a nice sleep in before getting up and getting ready for the famous Hernan Gipponi brunch at Hotel Fierro. I had heard great things about this brunch since I arrived in BA. Usually only available on Saturdays and Sundays, when they put it on for Christmas, without hiking the price up, it was an easy choice for our Christmas Day celebration.

20130117-152055.jpgThe streets were dead quiet, with everybody either still sleeping, or enjoying leftovers and quiet family time. Gil was waiting when I arrived, and it was to be his first “Christmas” lunch (not because he’s a newborn). Despite not celebrating Christmas, he celebrates good food, and he jumped at the opportunity to join us. Cheryl arrived shortly after and we were welcomed with a lovely glass of champagne, a fitting way to start, and I presented Gil and Cheryl with a little gift pack of rumballs that I’d prepared for them. (I also gave some to my very chuffed door men at the apartment building, who were pleasantly surprised.)

20130117-152320.jpg The flow of courses commenced, with a delicious 62-degree egg dish first, followed by a plate of little tastes, then veal for me and fish for the others, followed by beautiful slow cooked and deliciously tender lamb, an absolute hit with the Aussie girls! My hurried descriptions don’t do the dishes justice, but hopefully the pictures speak a thousand words. For those with sharp eyes, or a really good zoom on their screen, a photo of the menu is attached, or you can read another blogger’s previous comprehensive review here. The dessert was a right-sized piece of hot panettone with rich vanilla icecream. Perfect!

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20130117-152401.jpgIt was such an enjoyable meal, and nice company, and just a beautiful way to pass the time. We were all so excited about taking photos of the food though, that none of us took any people photos! A lesson for next time.

We each rolled off in our own respective directions, and my second gift to myself for the day was a long siesta on the couch.

Later in the evening, I got word from Anne, an Aussie living here and co-founder of the aforementioned Fuudis. She was having an asado (BBQ) at her rooftop apartment and invited me around. Armed with more rumballs and a bottle of champagne, I headed around. Anne’s friend and business partner, Marina was there, and the Columbian crew from restaurant iLatina who had their parents in town from Bogota, and their brother from Barcelona. Santi, head chef at iLatina, manned the parrilla but insisted it didn’t feel like his usually cooking duties in the restaurant. Despite earlier feeling that I wouldn’t eat again for the rest of the year, the meat was delicious and, unlike the heat of the day before, the night was beautiful. I had a wonderful, relaxing time and enjoyed speaking about Columbia with their parents. I think it is nearing the top of the list for next place to visit!

So, although I certainly missed my usual Christmas fun with friends, and our manic and enjoyable family time together back home, I really had an absolutely lovely Christmas in BA, thanks to many lovely new friends.


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