Every Monday night at the KONEX center a percussion samba group called La Bomba del Tiempo performs to a devoted group of fans. Almost every week the show is sold out and, although I was skeptical at first of how good they would be having just come from Brazil (the epicenter of everything samba) I must say I was really impressed.  For 22 pesos (depending on where you buy the ticket) you can see the main act along with an opener.  The group performs for more than an hour with no breaks in the constant rhythm, pretty amazing when you consider how much energy goes into beating a drum. It’s a indoor-outdoor combo space that is intimate enough to make you feel a part of the action.  Beers are sold by the liter and come in these enormous cups, making it inevitable that you will drink it down to the last drop.  Basically everyone is a bit shnockered by the time they leave and savvy vendors line up outside to sell empanadas and the like to a hungry and tipsy bunch.

The science of asado Argentina style

Traditional Argentine parilla - amongst the steak and chorizo, it typically includes morcilla (black sausage) and chinchulin (cow intestines)

Let’s just say the travel book was certainly on point when it said Buenos Aires is a carnivore’s dream. And it certainly has been for me. My friends at home like to make fun of me when we go out to eat because they claim to always know what I’m going to order if there is any mention of steak on the menu. What I like about Argentina is you don’t need to feel guilty or weird that you are eating red meat every other day since everyone else around you is doing the same! As my dad keeps saying, probably best that I have my cholesterol checked when I get home.  But I must say that the meat here is so different from ours in terms of level of preservatives and freshness so your body digests it much easier. That’s what I have been telling myself for now, because if I had to count how many steaks I have eaten between here and Brazil I think doctors in the U.S. would be ready to call me in for a triple bypass.

I could go on for pages about the different types of beef here and the traditional ways they like to serve it – Milanesa (pounded and breaded), Milanesa Napolitana (the same thing but covered by a slice of ham and melted cheese). Now that I think of it, if that isn’t a heart attack on a plate I don’t know what is. Of course it all comes accompanied by fries or mashed potatoes. In other words when I salad was a rarity here I meant it, as I have almost never seen anything green near my plate. Anyhow, I don’t think anyone needs an encyclopedia about cuts of meat, but one thing I did want to note is that they seem to like eating all parts of the cow – intestines, blood and the like. Which brings me to my next point – never go to a grocery store here and peruse the meat section when you already feel a bit nautious. The other day I wasn’t feeling so great but needed to get some groceries and had the unfortunate experience of seeing packaged brain and guts while searching for a simple chicken breast.

The best thing about eating meat here is that you can get really decent steak for 25 pesos at a random cafe or even at the food courts of shopping centers here. Since my Spanish school had a weekly parilla dinner every Tuesday, I was also able to try some of the more upscale restaurants. When my friend Jessica visited we went in a big group to a place called La Cabrera, which I had been hearing about for weeks from friends at my Spanish school as the most amazing place to eat steak here. And amazing it was. I only wish I had a picture that showed the size of meat we were served on a chopping block, accompanied by about 15 different sauces and acoutrement, paired with some wine and appetizers for a whopping US $25. The other day I asked a chef friend who teaches a cooking class on Argentine cuisine how to sum up the food here – and his answer was simply “meat.” I think most Italians would balk at the way the pasta and pizza is prepared here so I would have to agree. But the steak is of premium quality….and it certainly will make me think twice before I head to a big fancy New York steak house, where just the meat can cost almost double my whole meal in Argentina.