Breakfast of Champions: Argentine Edition

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  Previously I wrote about my breakfast routines in Spain, India, and in Mexico, but in Argentina where breakfast isn’t really eaten, there isn’t very much to cover.  So I decided to make this post about medialunas (with a bit of brunch stuff thrown in), and dedicate it to my friends Paula and Michelle.

Last week I got a chance to spend some quality time with one of my best friends, Paula, in California.  She’s a foodie who isn’t afraid to douse her tacos with the hottest of all salsas (without testing the hotness first), who will scour the street of London for the best scones (the Great Scone Hunt of 2010), who will prepare an Excel spreadsheet with her research on where to eat in Paris (I have shared that spreadsheet with many others after our trip), who will always split a bottle (or two and occasionally three) of wine with me on a school night, and traveled to Spanish Harlem to get the most delicious pernil (and transport it via NYC subway) to serve at her own birthday party.  What can I say?  Like me, she loves to eat.  But unlike me, she loves pastries and desserts.

Every time I walked by a bakery or a pastry shop in Argentina I thought of Paula.  I would think, “God, she would have such a blast here trying out all the sweet desserts, dulce de leche, ice cream, and the medialunas!”  I’m not really a pastry person but then again, I thought I wasn’t an ice cream person either and look what happened there (heladería de la semana: my “ice cream shop of the week” initiative).  Just as it did with ice cream, empanadas, and steak, it took me a few months to start eating medialunas in Argentina, but when I got started, there was no stopping me.  Below is a re-cap of my mission to hunt down some the the best medialunas in Buenos Aires that I think Paula would have approved.

This search was aided by a spirited American named Michelle, who is also a fan of yummy sweet things and had been living in BA for a few months when I met her.  We hit it off right away but bonded over our love of Jauja.  And soon I was taking careful mental notes about her favorite cream shops, pizza places (see post on el cuartito ), and tracking down the bakeries she recommended.  She’s just left BA for Florence, where I’m sure she’s already had delicious things to eat and drink, and is now soaking in all the beauty that surrounds her…  I really hope we can meet up this summer in Europe.  Maybe in Berlin, right Michelle?

Medialunas are everywhere in Argentina because they’re eaten for breakfast and also as snack in the afternoon.  There are two different kinds of medialunasde grasa (made from lard, thinner/crunchier) and de manteca (made from butter, fluffier/softer).  But as a non-pastry eater, I had no desire to eat these little half moon, cousin to French croissants at all.  No medialunas and definitely no facturas (pastries with cream, jam, dulce de leche, etc) for me, I thought.  That all changed about two months into my living in Argentina when I went to Chacarita to go to the organic market and combined that long walk with a trip to a bakery I’d wanted to check out.

Croissants at L’épi

I had really high expectations for L’épi, a French boulangerie in Chacarita that was started by two French guys.  This place was absolutely adorable and when I asked if I could take a few photos, the nice lady behind the counter said if I wanted to go see the oven and meet the bakers.  Um, yes?!

It turns out this wood burning oven celebrated its centennial last year and when I was there, it was burning red hot.  I was told that it’s 6 meters in diameter; it was quite large.  It was so sweet of them to let me look around like that.  But sadly, I didn’t love the croissants at L’épi.  I was looking for crispy buttery outer layers that led to soft chewy middle, and I didn’t get any of that.  I bought a few of them and shared with Michelle and Georgia less than an hour later, and they thought the same.  I walked by their store in Recoleta a few times after that and their breads looked beautiful… but, I never went back for another visit.

The next medialunas I tried were at Tienda de Café, which is a chain store all found over Buenos Aires.  I happened to be at the one in Las Cañitas meeting some friends before an aerial silk class, and had a few bites of their medialunas.  It was pretty good; nice and soft in the middle, and slightly sweet.

Then came the fabulously delicious medialunas at BardePán in Colegiales.  It became my regular stop (three or four Wednesdays in a row as part of my weekly routine, coupled with my visit to el Galpón) and they were pretty darn tasty.  It helps tremendously that they are served in the most amazing little bakery-café-restaurant, and Roberto is the nicest and the friendliest waiter in town (there is a photo of him making a silly face at me below).

Even before I did my research on the best bakeries in Buenos Aires Michelle had already discovered this little gem and told me I had to try the medialunas at BardePán.  I can wholeheartedly agree, without any hesitation, that BardePán‘s medialunas win over all the other golden delicious medialunas in this fair city.  They are flaky and crispy on the outside with a bit of sweet glaze, and soft and chewy inside.  I used to try to make sure I get there early enough in the morning to get them while they’re hot and toasty straight out of the oven.  There isn’t an endless supply!  If they’re sold out, you’re out of luck.

What I also love about BardePán were their breads.  Each week I would leave with a loaf of their integralissimo, which is made with whole grains and five different types of seeds, including flax and sunflower seeds.  It’s simply AMAZING…

Moving on!  After a not-so-delicious afternoon snack at Malvón during a 72 hour whirlwind with N, I was hesitant to return to this bakery/café in Villa Crespo, but I thought of the cute decor and the inviting back garden and I had to give it another try.  I made a return trip there one Saturday morning for American style brunch and I was sold!  There are several good brunch spots in BA (Sirop Folie, Hernan Gipponi, Magdalena’s Party, etc) and I would put Malvón on that list without reservation.  I found it sweet that the menu had an explanation of what “brunch” was, to educate the locals who may not be familiar with this American/British weekend ritual.  While I found a few items on the menu a bit puzzling (shrimp salad, Louisiana Ribs, side of guacamole or chicken wings), they serve a great deal of food for a good price.  For less than $20 USD I got a “popover norueco” (“Norwegian” popover with scrabbled eggs, smoked salmon, and arugula), a welcome cocktail, a glass of champagne, cornbread muffin, fruit with granola, and a side dish.

By this point I was a regular at BardePán and thought I was done trying out any more medialunas.  Then Michelle told me I had to try Voulez Bar…  I’d walked by this busy corner café and bakery numerous times, but I had never stopped for merienda or breakfast there.  Michelle, of course loves the medialunas at BardePán but when her good friend of hers who lived in that neighborhood told her he thought Voulez Bar had the best medialunas in Buenos Aires, we had to take up the challenge.  Michelle went with her friends and made her decision, and I went there a few weeks later for my taste test.  Voulez Bar‘s medialunas are bigger than all the medialunas I’d had in this city, but I found the crust too sticky sweet and missing that light crispiness I was looking for.  Doesn’t it look dense?  It was.

March saw the arrival of my girlfriend Rita from New York and I kicked the medialuna taste test up a notch; together we tried several local bakeries that have been around for decades and some new kids on the block.  We hit Oui Oui, a popular hangout in Palermo Hollywood but that proved to be a total disappointment.  Neither their croissant nor their medialuna made it to my top 5 list, not even close.

Undaunted, we forged ahead with a few neighborhood go-to bakeries.  We went to Los Molinos on Las Heras to bring home a few medialuna and facturas to enjoy with mate.  They were good but not great.

One day we even did a side by side, head to head blind-testing of medialunas between Santa Paula (on Scalabrini Ortiz) and La Flor (such a cute storefront but not worth going back).  There was really no competition between the two, as Santa Paula was the clear winner.  Actually Santa Paula for me was the runner-up in the overall medialuna hunt in BA after BardePán.  Their medialunas had a delicate lemony flavor that set them a part and I quite liked the lightness of the dough.

While Rita was still in BA we enjoyed a lovely snack break at Patisserie Prospero Velazco on Arévalo where we had a delightful pain au chocolat.  I know it’s a significant deviation from medialunas, but we both thought it was delicious and the place is so tiny and adorable (and a lot quieter than Oui Oui a few blocks away) that I think it deserves a mention.  Their pastries and croissants looked good as well and I hope they can stay in business…

The very last place I visited was the bakery closest to where I lived, Las Familias.  This corner bakery in Palermo Soho has been in business since 1979 and the friendly staff really makes the place feel like a neighborhood hangout.  Their medialunas are small and inexpensive, and I really meant to get some of their homemade alfajores before I left the city but never made it back.  There is nothing fancy or trendy about the bakery, which seems like an oddity in that part of town but I think that’s why I like the place so much…

Goodness me, this was a long post.  But I’m glad that I got it done!  I sure ate enough medialunas to last me a long while.  BardePán rules the medialuna kingdom in my book, at least in Buenos Aires.  As for THE BEST medialuna in Argentina?  That, I found in Cafayate but that’s for my Salta posts and for another day…  Writing this put a big smile on my face, thinking about Michelle and Rita, and for Paula, I hope my next medialuna is with you in Argentina!


List of Bakeries Visited: my top 3 in bold

Almacén Oui Oui and Oui Oui: both on Nicaragua in Palermo Hollywood

BardePán: Virrey Arredondo 3486 Esq. Delgado, Colegiales

L’épi: Roseti 1769 in Chacarita and Montevideo 1567 in Recoleta

Las Familias: Honduras 4801, Palermo Soho

Malvón: Serrano off of Aguirre in Villa Crespo

Los Molinos: Las Heras 3014, Barrio Norte

Prospero Velazco: Arévalo 1947, Palermo Hollywood

Santa Paula: Scalabrini Ortiz 3154, Palermo Chico

Voulez Bar and Bakery: Cerviño 3802 at Republica Arabe Siria in Palermo Chico. 

Other bakeries on my list I didn’t get to:

Tentepie: Chile 626 in San Telmo; only open three days a week, Friday-Sunday, 9am-2:30pm/4:30pm-10:30pm

Florencio: Francisco de Vittoria 2363, ; closed on Sundays

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One Response to Breakfast of Champions: Argentine Edition

  1. lunasealife says:

    I agree, Bardepan takes the cake, er, medialuna. I ate 5.5 of them on my last morning in BA…

    See you in Berlin! (Or Spain, or France, or Italy…). xoxo

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