I just got back from leading a group of high school students in Argentina for a month. There wasn't too much time for eating on my own or even choosing the restaurants we ate at, but we had a great trip and tried lots of great stuff, especially local specialties in Salta.
Food in Buenos Aires for the most part was very good. To make things easy, we ate at several all-you-can-eat places, including Siga La Vaca which was my favorite and Grant's in Palermo which had an Asian influence. I wrote more about Siga La Vaca in my other post.
We also ate at a great pasta place called Campo di Fiori (see other post) and had a final dinner at another pasta/meat/everything place called Proscuito (same street as Campo de Fiori in San Telmo). Good, solid inexpensive meal at Proscuito though nothing too fabulous. I DID order my steak medium rare (al punto) and the waiter thought this was totally normal (there had been discussion about this a few weeks ago on this board about whether this is acceptable or not). It is not rude or bad to order meat a certain way, although I did find that if I didn't specify, most meat in Argentina was served "bien cocido" (well done).
Most of the trip was spent in the province of Salta, both in the city, in the town of Cafayate and in even smaller towns. Tried lots of foods that are worth mentioning, although I don't remember too many specific places I tried.
In Salta, we had a big meal at Casona de Molino, which is on the outskirts of town. It was a quiet night when we went, but apparantly this peña is very popular on weekends and in the summer, with live folk music and traditional foods. I had very good empanadas there. Empanadas in Salta are traditionally small and stuffed with beef, bits of potato, green onion and spices, sometimes a little bit spicy. I also tried humitas here, which are corn meal stuffed with cheese, wrapped in corn husk and steamed. I ate mine with sugar (as was suggested) and it was delicious. These are different from Argentinian tamales (which I also had) which have meat inside of the corn meal/corn husk.
In Salta we also ate at La Casa Moderna, which is worth a visit. It's one of the oldest restaurants in Salta (98 years old I think) and is filled with wines and liqours from around the world. We ate empanadas here too (the cheese ones were great) and plates of beef sausages, pepperroni and cheese. Even if you don't eat there this place is worth seeing just for the decor.
Rosmari was the favorite ice cream place of the group, dulce de leche ice cream was very good here as were the dozens of other flavors. There are a few locations in the city of Salta.
I tried locro at a restaurant near the main plaza, I forget the name of the place, but it's on Av. España between Dean Funes and Zuviria. Locro is a stew made with corn, beans, beef and pork. It is very thick and was great on some of the colder days. For dessert I had dulce de cayote (which is a type of squash) with nuts. I am not a squash fan, but July was the season for cayote and we saw it all over place. We also ate lots of dulce de batata (sweet potato?) which I liked a bit better. Finally, we ate everything with dulce de leche.
Common foods that we ate a lot were milanesa (breaded and fried beef or chicken), carne asado, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage, which was not as popular with the kids or with me) and potatoes in various forms.
In Cafayate, we visited Etchart Vineyard for a tour of the winery, tasted some Shiraz and some Torrontes wine. I bought two bottles there to bring home. In the town of Cafayate, I also made my way to Miranda ice cream parlor, where they have wine flavored ice cream. I only tried the Torrontes (they also have Cabarnet) and it was quite good, more like a wine sorbet than ice cream, it left a tickle on the tongue. It was definitely worth trying.
Fruit and vegetables in Salta were not fantastic in July. Bananas were very good and fresh (they grow closeby in lowland areas and neighboring provinces) and citrus was also in season (lots of good tangerines and clementines). Strawberry season was just starting, but I barely ate any. Other than that, selection was slim.
Salta was a beautiful place to visit and much of the best food I had was homemade in very humble settings. In my opinion, Salta should not be a food-lovers top destination, but if you are there for other reasons (like the amazing mountains, deserts, people, culture, etc.) then there is plenty of good food to be had. I would also suspect that in the summer the selection of fruits and vegetables is better which would make food as a whole a bit better.
I'll post again once I realize what I forgot to write, I hope to read more posts about Argentina soon (since everyone has been asking about it), I would love to hear where people eat both in BA and in other destinations. Chau,
p.s. to any Boston board readers: can you guess where I ate my first meal back in the US after landing at Logan Airport on Friday? HINTS: third floor and def. NOT argentinian food