Category Archives: Shopping

Mendoza, Argentina wine tasting with Anuva Wines

Last week I had the pleasure of attending an Anuva Wines tasting to sample some of Mendoza’s finest grapes. Dan Karlin, one of the personalities behind the previously blogged-about BA Cast, invited me to the event, which was held at the sweetly French Rendez-Vous Hotel in Palermo Hollywood.

Five other Americans traveling through Buenos Aires were also present for the tasting, and we were all seated together at a table, filled with Anuva wine glasses and large, triangular white plates holding tapas to accompany the wine. The number was perfect; everyone had a chance to converse with each other, chatting about their travels, impressions of Buenos Aires and just how much they loved the wines we were trying.

The tasting was relaxed and informative, and something I am sure any wine lover would enjoy, whether he or she were a budding connoisseur or didn’t know a word of wine vocabulary. We tried each of the wines, by smelling and discussing first, tasting it and sharing our feedback, then trying each accompanied with the food pairings. Our host Sarah offered explanations and guidance, and we learned about Argentine history and along the way. I have visited vineyards in Mendoza and picked up a bit about Argentina in my 11 months in Buenos Aires, and I still learned quite a bit of new information about the country and its wines. (For example: The devastating Argentine economic crisis in 2001 actually helped propel the country’s wines into the global market.)

I expected the wines to be excellent, as they were, but what really impressed me was the food pairings. I had not expected food other than palate-cleansing crackers, also which were provided, and I walked in to a full, beautifully plated spread of thoughtful food accompaniments. While tourists stopping in Buenos Aires and attending a tasting might find, for example, the Persicco sorbets served delicious, I appreciated knowing that it really was the best of Buenos Aires and Argentina we were consuming.

Below is a detailed list of the five wine and traditional tapas food pairings at the tasting I attended. If you notice, as far as Malbecs go, we only tried a blend. The reasoning? Many people already identify Argentina with excellent Malbecs, Sarah said, while people are less aware of the other quality wines the Mendoza region produces, and that is what Anuva Wines is focused on showcasing.

  1. Hom Espumante sparkling wine + a modified Waldorf salad on crackers
  2. Carinae Torrontés + two Persicco fruit sorbets, orange-peach and frutiera
  3. Mairena Bonarda + a traditional picada with a slice of Fontina, Romanito and salamin and longaniza meats
  4. San Gimignano Syrah Roble + a beef empanada, carne cortada a cuchillo from La Fidanzata
  5. Caluna Blend + two Aguila dark chocolates, one from Ecuador and the other from Costa de Marfil

Anuva Wines is not run by sommeliers, rather just individuals who love Argentina, Argentine wines and want to share that with others. In the end, I think it all works to their advantage and makes for a thoughtful, fun 1.5 hours of enjoying wines without any pretension. I highly recommend attending the Anuva Wines tasting, for those of you visiting Buenos Aires (especially if you do not have a chance to make it to Mendoza) as well as those staying long-term.

In addition to tastings, Anuva Wines also sells its select Argentine wines online, (available for purchase in the U.S. at very affordable prices) runs a wine club and stocks a number of establishments in the U.S. with top Argentine wines. Cheers to that!

Karina

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What to Bring When Moving Abroad

Packing for a trip is always an undertaking. Packing for a trip abroad, even more so, and packing for an extended trip—or even a move—just compounds the crazy.

Whenever people put me in touch with people they knew who had lived in Buenos Aires, I always asked them the same question: “What should I bring?” You have the basic necessities, of course, but what you really need to know is what you might not realize you need until you’re there. Here is the list I compiled based on advice from other expats, as well as learning by missing. Anything I forgot? Leave it in the comments to help others with their packing lists!

Moving to Buenos Aires: Five people, 10 suitcases, 500 pounds

Brita

You can drink tap water in Buenos Aires, it’s just not particularly good tasting (chlorine) or feeling (stomach aches). So what a lot of people do, and what my roommates and I were doing, is buy jugs of water. This sucks for a number of reasons, the most salient being that it’s a huge waste, both from monetary and environmental standpoints. I’m telling you, a Brita pitcher (and extra filters) should be the first thing you pack after your passport.

Work Visa Paperwork

Living abroad is all about opportunity. To be ready for any professional opportunities that might come along, get all of your paperwork in line and bring any forms required for a work visa, all signed, sealed and apostilled, with you when you move. A number of friends found jobs once moving down to Buenos Aires that are sponsoring them with a work visa, and they had to wait months for everything to pass through the necessary bureaucracy and get down here. Every country has specific requirements, so look for an expat forum in the country or city you’re moving to for more information or just search online. You’ll most likely need FBI apostilled fingerprints and a new version of your birth certificate (to align with laws stipulated at the Hague Conference) apostilled by the U.S. state where you were born. It might sound complicated, but it is doable. Just start the process some months before you move, because it does take a while.

Magic Jack

There’s a million ways to get and keep in touch with people these days, no matter where you are in the world. Despite all that, moving abroad can make you realize how necessary basic voice-to-voice, phone communication is. Being able to pick up the phone and call right then if something is urgent, is still super important. Look into getting a Magic Jack, for which you pretty much just pay $40 USD to purchase it, and then calling is free. You have a number assigned to your Jack, which is a USB port that plugs into your computer and the other end into a phone. You dial and call on the phone as you would regularly use it, and the Internet powers it all. Magic.

ATM Card with No (or Minimal) Fees, Plus an Extra Emergency Card

The U.S. is a country of credit cards; we swipe and charge for everything, even cabs. Many other countries aren’t so reliant on plastic, so expect to use cash a lot more. Even places that take credit cards, like clothing and shoe stores and many hotels, prefer cash and offer around 10 percent discounts. Look into getting an ATM card with the most minimal fees. Ask about conversion fees, ATM fees, ask if there are any random fees you might accrue for using your card abroad. If possible, open an account at a bank that will reimburse you for ATM fees, because they can get pretty steep in other countries. In Buenos Aires, most ATMs have a maximum withdrawal of $200-$250 USD and charge a $4 USD fee per transaction. If you need anything more than $250 you’ll have to withdraw more than once, and you’re looking at $8 USD lost right there.

On a related note, a wise idea is set up and take an additional checking card, just in case. Pickpocketing is common in Buenos Aires, and the ATM machines also hold your card throughout the entire withdrawal process and spew it back out only once you have received your money, receipt and pressed that you do not want to make another transaction. Almost every foreigner I know spending time down here in Buenos Aires has lost at least one card because of accidentally walking away from the machine still holding their card, myself included. Getting another card down can be difficult and time-consuming, and you can avoid it all by packing an extra.

Tip: If you’re on the East Coast, go for TD Bank! ATM fees reimbursed (if you keep a minimum) and everything.

Unlocked Cell Phone(s)

I wrote about this in my post about saving money in Buenos Aires, and I’ll repeat it here:

Of all those old cell phones you have stuffed in drawers at home in the U.S., I bet at least half of them can be unblocked and used in another country. One of the biggest money wasters that comes with setting up life in a new place is buying an overpriced cell phone in the country you are in that features technology rivaling only the Nokia you used to play Worm on. Bring an unblocked cell from home and you will save money and have a nicer phone. Just make sure it operates using a SIM card, and you can buy a new card in your country for super cheap and get it going.

Tip: This also goes for smartphones! Also, bring extras in case your phone gets stolen. It happened to me, it happened to friends.

Plugs and Cords

Why are ethernet cords that come with apartments always so short? Many friends of mine have been stuck sitting on floors or against walls to access the internet in their apartments. It’s easy to pack, but also easy to forget, so jot down to throw a long ethernet cord into your suitcase. Also in the plug genre, it’s easiest to come with a converter and plug adapters to avoid hassle and potentially blowing up hair styling tools.

Certain Cosmetics

Brands like Nivea, Pantene and Johnson & Johnson are sold in Buenos Aires, though the exact products offered vary slightly. Really, if you’re particular about anything, bring it. If you’re particular about anything like face wash, toothpaste, whatever it is, bring it! For example, I bought my favorite gum in bulk and packed it in my suitcases. Same goes for medicines. My mom does remind me, though, that part of living abroad is adapting to cultural differences, products included, and “I better find replacements here because she’s not bringing all this stuff all the time.” (Thanks, mom, for the recent haul!) Still, I’ll never be able to give up Trident Tropical Twist.

Peanut Butter

Nowhere else in the world are people as obsessed with peanut butter as we are in the United States. If it’s one of your dietary staples, bring along at least a jar or two to hold you over until you find the one of four places they sell it in your new city, that is if they do at all. Keep in mind what you’ll find abroad will most likely be the natural Trader Joe’s-style versions. Maybe you’ll take peanut butter scarcity as an opportunity to wean yourself from it like I did. Although I did essentially just trade one gooey regional substance for another, as dulce de leche is now a part of my life.

I tried to keep these recommendations general, but some are more pertinent to Buenos Aires than other places, just as other locales will have their particulars, too. For example, (and not to get graphic, but) tampons are surprisingly hard to come by in the city of Good Airs. Thanks to friends who studied abroad in Buenos Aires for the save on that one.

If you’re pining for something from your home country and the next trip a friend or family member has planned is too far away, check out The Mule Pool.

Karina

Mardi Gras 2011: Get More Swag!

Mardi Gras is all about sharing. When you want something your neighbor caught four of, you’ll believe me.

But there are some items you won’t give away, no matter how much little kids stare and adults drool. Ladies and gentlemen, TKGO picks the top throws from Mardi Gras 2011:

Mardi Gras throws 2011 bacchus rex endymion zulu musesSo how do you catch these awesome things? A few tips:

Beggars can’t be choosers. A sign that reads “Mini Hurricane Glasses, Please!” will only get you angry glares. But at the Muses parade, an all-women krewe where the coveted throw is a hand-decorated high heeled shoe, the more playful, less demanding signs (“Mama needs a new pair of shoes!”) got plenty of laughs from krewe members and a shoe for the spectator.

Make eye contact with one krewe member on the float. It doesn’t necessarily take words to form a friendship. Don’t forget your manners! Thank them afterward for what they throw you—they may toss something else your way!

Befriend spectators standing next to you. If they know you want something they already have, trade! (They also may know someone in the parade, which can’t hurt.)

Sing the Saints song or show some general spirit. Who from New Orleans doesn’t cheer for their teams? Krewe members do…

And if you’re really desperate, hang out at the parade origin to hear the announcements of which float each krewe member is assigned. Call their names as the float passes by and hope you look like someone they actually know.

Any helpful tips or favorite throws? Share them in the comments!

Tara for TKGO

Beers from El Bolsón

Patagonia’s Tastiest Products

part 3: beer

El Bolson beers

El Bolsón beers, by Karina for TKGO

In addition to jams, El Bolsón also boasts some seriously flavorful artisanal beers. The eponymous Cerveza El Bolsón wins for most inventive beers. Flavors include chocolate and strawberry, and all manage to retain their brew dignity while also tasting undeniably like chocolate, strawberry or whatever the flavor is.

Otto Tipp beer sampler

Otto Tipp sampler, by Karina for TKGO

Otto Tipp, which was started by a German immigrant of the same name, is the original, and serves up complimentary tastings. Araucana is another local favorite. You can purchase a big cup of Arraunca on tap at the famous artisan market in town, which takes place a few times a week.

 

Araucana Beers

Araucana Beers, by Karina for TKGO

 

 

Part 1: Chocolates from Bariloche

Part 2: Jam from El Bolsón

Karina for TKGO

Chocolates from Bariloche

Patagonia’s Tastiest Products

I spent the Christmas holiday in the Patagonia Lake District, about a 20-hour drive south of Buenos Aires. It was the perfect time to be in the area, as the relative cold and snow-capped surrounding mountains gave the place the wintry, festive feel I am used to around Christmas, though it was still early summer. Another major reason I was in my typical holiday spirit was thanks to the rich regional goodies, specifically chocolates.

Some of the country’s finest artesenal chocolates, beers and jams are produced in Patagonian Lake District towns, and many are available only there. I was sure to get my fill while in town, and also stock up on some to bring back home. Below is some of the edible best of Patagonia.

part 1: Chocolate

Bariloche, the “Argentine Swiss Alps” is heaven for a chocolate lover. Numerous factories in town churn out truffles, chocolate bars, and chocolate candies sell them at their own local stores, which, with the smell of fresh chocolate wafting out, I found impossible to pass without entering. All brands sell their version of chocolate en rama, a popular and Bariloche-unique form chocolate is crafted into that somewhat resembles a tree trunk or tight cluster of small branches.

Rapa Nui Chocolate en rama

Rapa Nui Chocolate en rama, by Karina for TKGO

My personal artesenal chocolate stores—and I took it upon myself to try the majority of them—were Rapa Nui, Chocolates del Turista (in my opinion it has the best “chocolate en rama”) and Mamuschka. Take a self-guided tour and pop in and out of chocolate stores for free samples.

Mamuschka

Mamuschka, by Karina for TKGO

How I wish I still had one piece of chocolate en rama, or rather the willpower to have saved one. Instead, I’ll divert my focus into putting together three more posts about Patagonia’s tastiest products.

Karina for TKGO

Saving Money in Buenos Aires

It is easy to live big on American dollars in Buenos Aires. My first weeks in the city I got continual thrills out of evaluating the prices of things in pesos and dividing by four, which is the current approximate conversion rate. But, a traveler’s mentality toward money is different from a resident’s, and I have finally begun evaluating prices pesos against pesos, rather than pesos to dollars. Now my thrills come from saving pesos while still enjoying all Buenos Aires has to offer, rather than thinking of how comparatively cheap a steak or taxi ride is here compared to in the U.S.

For all my fellow recent college graduates, and because I’m pretty positive saving money is a universal pleasure regardless of where one is in the world or how much he or she makes, I present my personal list of money-saving tips, based on my current life and experiences in Buenos Aires.

An Argentine 100-peso bill, worth about $25 U.S.

Food

Everyday

Shop often, but only for what you need. I was used to making big weekly or bi-weekly trips to the supermarket, but I have found I save more money, waste less food and eat more of what I want and need (than what’s simply around) when I shop day-to-day. I pass a small grocery store on my way home from work, and on my walk from the office I think about what I plan to eat for dinner that night and pack for lunch the next day. Then I buy what I need, and that’s that.

Break down your food shopping, and search out the cheapest produce stands and butcher shops. The general consensus is you will pay less for the same products in the smaller, individually owned grocery stores than in the big-box grocery stores. Investigate this and see what works best for you, though, because while I swear by the small places, my roommate sticks to the large Disco on our corner and often receives 15 or 20% coupons off entire grocery orders.

In Buenos Aires, produce stores and butcher shops populate every block, whereas large grocery stores are less frequen. As a rule, produce and meat in the smaller shops are cheaper, fresher and more local than what you’ll get at the larger grocery stores. Not all stands, though, sell for the same rates. I’ve located what I think is the cheapest (and tastiest) near my block. The other day I purchased a huge head of lettuce, two tomatoes, two avocados and a bunch of asparagus (about 10 stalks) for $11.50 pesos, or less than $3 USD. Also, since you’ll be buying it all ripe, it is best to follow the above advice of buying regularly.

Dining Out

Find coupons. Coupons are everywhere! I currently subscribe to Waku, Cuponica, Groupon Buenos Aires and Living Social Buenos Aires to receive their daily deals via e-mail. Some of the offers are for Pilates classes and teeth whitening, yes, but the many of them are food-related. Also — and this is particular to Buenos Aires — Guia Oleo, which is the Buenos Aires restaurant guide bible, issues a number of free restaurant coupons. You also will find food coupons in random places, like a 20% off sushi coupon with your grocery store receipt. (Note: Some Buenos Aires coupon sites, might not accept international credit cards.)

Similarly, look into what you already have going that comes with discounts. Prime example: Ironically enough, my gym membership gets me 15% off at a nearby helado (ice cream) place.

Go for local fast food. In Buenos Aires, empanadas, pizza and choripan (chorizo sausage on bread) are beloved local foods. They also come super cheap. Less than $4 pesos can get you a warm, stuffed empanada — baked here, not fried, so don’t feel too bad about it — and a piece of pizza or choripan with some chimichurri run around that price, too. Whenever I don’t feel like cooking but still want to feel “cultural” (as in not hit up Burger King or its ilk) I search out a new local empanada, pizza or choripan place.

And if you are craving sweets, visit the factura wall at your local bakery. Facturas are pastries that cost about $1.50 pesos each. Small enough to avoid guilt, big enough to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Also, choose between wine or water when dining out. I’m half kidding, but water is not complimentary here, you know.

Nightlife

Get on a list. You can find a list for anywhere if you try is a theory developed (and proved) while studying abroad in Barcelona. The same holds for Buenos Aires, where boliche (club) culture is especially strong. Club promoters do most of their work via Facebook, so a simple search for “____ lista” or “_____ invitados” (inserting the name of the club you want to go in the blank) will turn up groups and profiles with free admittance entry. Additionally, a Google search can turn up some legitimate Web sites for list information, such as this one for Buenos AIres. It doesn’t hurt to try to meet the promoters, too, because they might start to come to you with less-publicized events, such as free dinners. (Seriously!) Most of the time, finding a list also translates to skipping any silly bouncer business and lines at the door.

Investigate deals. Find a favorite bar, or many favorite bars, and look into any specials they have, like nights when girls drink free or beers are especially cheap. At many places, “happy hour” has been known to go until 2 a.m. America might be the land of deals and buying in bulk, but Argentines can’t say no to good drink specials, either.

Also, and this is probably another obvious one but I will say it anyway, cheap tickets can be found to pretty much any show or event. Just look for student deals or the cheapest day to go.

Avoid buying drinks out. This holds true whether you’re in Chicago or Buenos Aires, but drinks will always be cheaper when you make them yourself. If you plan on going to a boliche, too, you won’t be leaving until probably 1:30 a.m., so use the time beforehand to arrange a social little previa (pregame). Argentines embrace the concept of previas, so make some friends and make some plans!

Sightseeing & Events

Hold on to your student ID. That expiration date? Probably not noticeable to the woman working the ticket desk at a museum in Buenos Aires. I’ve used mine a number of times without a hitch, and it usually gets me a significant discount — often free — entry. Otherwise, look for free or discounted days.

Read local event calendars and culture sites. A good place to start would be the websites of local culture publications (the print versions work, too, but you’re more likely to find up-to-date details online), such as TimeOut. You’ll find the most interesting, in-the-know, and often free events.  Some popular ones in Buenos Aires are Vuenos Aires, the aforementioned TimeOut Buenos Aires, What’s Up Buenos Aires and (thanks to my Twitter friend @AustinWiebe), the official city agenda. In New York City I relied heavily on nymag.com for similar info. Expat forums also are especially informative in this aspect; see “ALSO:” below for my praise on that.

Talk to locals. Sure, you want to see the famous architecture and cruise through the notable museums, but when it comes down to it, sightseeing is about getting to know a place. Talk to locals to see how they spend their weekends, and that’s when you’ll do some real “sightseeing.” For example, park life is a huge part of the Buenos Aires lifestyle. People spend hours upon hours in parks on the weekends, drinking mate (read Tara’s explanation of Argentine’s mate drinking here) kicking around a ball, playing music and most importantly, just spending time with friends. And that costs nothing.

Communication

Bring a cell phone. Of all those old cell phones you have stuffed in drawers at home in the U.S., I bet at least half of them can be unblocked and used in another country. One of the biggest money wasters that comes with setting up life in a new place is buying an overpriced cell phone in the country you are in that features technology rivaling only the Nokia you used to play Worm on. Bring an unblocked cell from home and you will save money and have a nicer phone. Just make sure it operates using a SIM card, and you can buy a new card in your country for super cheap and get it going.

Get on Google Voice! And buy a Magic Jack. I do miss my family and friends in the U.S., sometimes too much. Thanks to the newly debuted Google Voice, though, I can call and text them, and anyone else in the U.S., for free (!) right from my computer. It is truly amazing. Google Voice is new, though, so it does not always work, and that is where the more reliable Magic Jack comes in. One of my friends in Buenos Aires is a flight attendant on leave; she travels often and swears by the Magic Jack. How it works is, you purchase the jack to plug into the USB port of your high speed internet-connected computer. You then plug a phone into the other end of the adaptor, and can use the phone to make or receive calls from the U.S. and Canada.

ALSO:

Use Twitter. Follow local journalists, bloggers, personalities and publications to get insight on what people are up to that sounds fun and cost-effective. People cannot help but broadcast a good deal or fun event, and I for one, do not mind! I have made a “Buenos Aires” list on my account so I can quickly check out what is going on in my current city.

Read Forums. The Buenos Aires Expat blog truly amazes me. It is a goldmine of advice, resources and tip-offs for everything related to Buenos Aires and expat life. I have posted looking for advice on buying polo tickets, best nearby beach getaways and finding Thanksgiving turkeys, and receive a slew of knowledgeable responses quickly. Additionally, because many expats are adventurous people looking to experience as much as possible, you hear about events and activities you might otherwise not have learned about. I have found CouchSurfing’s groups to be a good resource, too.

Don’t buy clothes — share. Or use cash. Living with two other girls = two additional closets, so I have not felt the need or desire to buy new clothes here, yet. If you do shop, pay in cash and ask for a discount! In many South American countries, the big secret is that the labeled price is for credit cards. Pay with cash and sales personnel will discount your purchase. Be sure to ask, though, because they will not always offer.

That’s my best advice so far, and I would love to hear any recommendations you have. Every peso saved is another peso toward travels during my time off around Christmas!

Karina for TKGO

What’s Next

A year has flown by since we started Tara and Karina Go Out! Thank you for reading, passing along our link and offering feedback. We appreciate it all immensely and have much planned for the future, including a redesign, city guide updates and, of course, plenty of excursions.

It’s about time we shared what’s going on in our post-college lives! You can expect plenty more from us on here, even though for now, we will be updating from separate hemispheres.

Tara

 

New York City skyline, by Karina for TKGO

 

It’s back to New York City for me! I’ll be exploring not only NYC, but also the world of social media consulting, from the helm (read: bottom of the totem pole) of an agency in Chelsea. Expect plenty of city guide updates while I’m here — the first round of which are already in the works — and frequent weekend jaunts toward fresh air. (I’m crossing my fingers for East Hampton, but I won’t turn down the beaches at Far Rockaway either. It’s getting cold too fast to be picky!) Drop me a line at Tara[at]TaraAndKarinaGoOut.com with recommendations and requests!

Karina

 

El Obelisco in La Plaza de la República, Buenos Aires, by Tara for TKGO

 

As of today, I am in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’ll be spending some time living here, attempting to make my way as a freelance journalist and learning the city Tara lived in and loved. I am lucky to be living with a couple other recent American college grad expats, as well as to have our own city guide to go off when exploring. I will be posting updates and insights on TKGO, as well as a blog in the Huffington Post Travel section. (I’ll share the link here as soon as my first post is up!) In the meantime, please send me any Buenos Aires recommendations not yet included in our city guide and I’d love to check them out: Karina[at]TaraAndKarinaGoOut.com.

Welcome to the next phase of TKGO, now reporting from two major world cities. Happy New Year, from both of us!

-Tara and Karina for TKGO