Tuesday, October 27, 2009

'Invitations' is not a big enough word to describe this

Wow, this was something. I mean, it's just a card, but it wasn't so easy. First, the vision in my head when I think 'wedding invitation' was nowhere to be found. Apparently, letterpress doesn't exist in Argentina for invitations. Also, your only choices, really, are ink jet or laser printing - forget DIY gocco - you're not gonna find an affordable gocco set on MercardoLibre (Argentine eBay). And good luck trying to explain any 'fancy' printing styles in Spanish.

We decided, then, that we needed to get involved in designing something that we liked and could produce. We ended up taking a picture of the gates of our reception venue and having our sister-in-law in Spain turning it into a printable design. I love the effect she used to give it a retro feel.

Fortunately, Guille's brother offered to take over the invitations and gifted them to us, buenisimo!

We ended up with 2 designs - I chose a chandelier as the inside graphic for the ones I sent (as is hanging when you walk through the gate), and Guille's mom came up with a cute Spanish phrase for a music stave that went on all of the ones distributed to Spanish speakers. My favorite detail is the shadow of the gates that is on the reverse of the front flaps - so cool!

We ended up writing separate texts for each language instead of translating it directly - there's a different tone here - I get that, but luckily I got to write what I liked in English. They printed the invites on a kind of sparkly, off-white paper and rounded the top - a sweet detail - and then Guille's mom brought them over from Spain. We went out in search of envelopes, with no idea of what color we wanted but found a nice sand color with a little sparkle to match at Papel Plus.

We printed them ourselves and then hand addressed the outside envelopes for the international invites.

For the ones that we delivered here, we added a wax seal, which turned out to be pretty fun. We don't have wedding colors so we just picked some fun ones for the wax.

For the lighter colors, we found that it was easier to melt a chunk of the wax in a tiny spoon instead of putting it directly on the flame, which could sometimes turn it black.

Lovely! Thanks to L & I for such amazing work :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Vegetarian Rosario

I've briefly mentioned these vegetarian restaurants but they're worthy of their own post - it's not easy being green in an extreme meat-loving country, but I hope these spots will stick around.

Verde Te Quiero Verde
(Palace Garden Shopping, top floor)
Verde has become my go-to place for Saturday lunch. Freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, natural flavor infused water and teas, and healthy eats, like spinach mashed potatoes. I'm a big fan of the woks and tartas, but there is still a lot on the menu that I haven't tried - like the pizzas and salads. I also haven't tried the 35 peso brunch buffet as seen here:
LinkIt just seems that there's something new to try each time. Here's the tapas sampler that included cheesey baked tofu, olive tapenade, roasted tomatoes, herbed cheese, another spread (carrot and butternut squash?), seeds and nuts, and toasts. It was plenty for both of us.

Oh, and the homemade bread...yum.

Sana Sana
(Alvear y Brown)A healthy way to go out to eat. The lunchtime specials here are fulfilling and more budget-friendly than dinner. Their lentil-loaf (inspiration for lentil burgers) came on an overflowing plate and was only 15 pesos with drink. Last week, this veggie wok with rice noodles was 17 pesos with drink (orange or lemon juice). Lunch also includes tasty rolls.

So thanks, veggie places, for daring to be different. :)

**2012 Update: For veggie take-out options see this post and visit La Casa De Nicolas on Santa Fe between Italia and España. Also, the prices listed above are much higher now.**

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Atlanta love...

An Argentine friend of mine is visiting Atlanta for a conference and asked me for some tips about my university town. So I thought I would share them with all (and write them down before I forget...it's been 5 years since I've been there now). Here are some spots that I recommend:Link
For southern food:
The Varsity (for greasy, fast-food brought to your car - honestly though, don't eat too much, but do get a peach pie)
Silver Skillet (diner - for pancakes, of course!, or pie, or both)
The Flying Biscuit (for brunch)
Mary Mac's Tea Room (traditional southern food)
Thelma's Kitchen (for Sweet Potato Pie and traditional souther food-good luck if you're a veggie)
Sweet Auburn Bread Co. (for Sweet Potato Cheesecake)

By neighborhood:
Atlanta can be surprisingly quiet for a city. It's really the best of both worlds-you can have a yard and all the conveniences of city life. It's not as great as NYC with public transportation, though - you can get around but it's really a driving town.

Sweet Auburn
Seems a little rough around the edges but this is an historic part of town-visit Sweet Auburn Curb Market (grab an Italian sandwich from DiRienzo's) and soak up the history of the neighborhood.

This is where Georgia State University is squished into the city. Yes, there are homeless people occasionally hanging out in the library but that's part of the charm. ;) Wander around the Fairlie Poplar District - plenty of spots for a quick bite - Try Ali Baba for falafel or Rosa's Pizza.

Check out First Thursdays, which is an open house art walk - artist studios and galleries open up their doors on the first Thursday of every month and give you free wine and cheese - perfect for the starving student.

The World of Coca-Cola
I haven't been to the new location, but as a kid I went to the World of Coke for field trips nearly every year - Georgia public schools really want you to know the history of coke, apparently. It's basically a museum but the fun part is trying all of the coke brands sold around the world. The worst part is the tummy ache that follows.

I don't really have sports loyalties and I'm no baseball aficionado, but I still wear a Braves hat. If you have the chance to eat boiled peanuts while watching a game, do it. There are plenty of cheap ticket options, but the cheapest are skyline tickets for $1 - available for non-sold out games, 2 1/2 hours before the game - and you have to go directly into the ballpark. You could go to your seat, or go to the Top of the Chop party zone for beer and ballpark food with a view (take your glasses). Look under Tickets on the A-Z guide for more info.

The best way to see Atlanta is from the Sun Dial Restaurant and Bar on top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza (closed through the end of the year for tornado repairs). The restaurant is expensive but if you're on a budget, the view is worth the price of a martini from the bar.

Virginia Highlands

The most adorable part of town, full of shops and restaurants. It's like Park Slope with more greenery and real houses.

Walk N. Highland Ave and grab a pint at Limerick Pub or a noddle bowl at Doc Chey's. Blind Willie's is a great blues bar (Good times listening to Lotsa Poppa singing about killing the ice cream man...classic). Harry & Sons is an affordable Thai restaurant and Ben & Jerry's is, well, some of the best American ice cream around.

Little 5 Points
Fun, hipster neighborhood. Best place to find vintage clothes (at places like Junkman's Daughter). Here's a map.
The Vortex is a burger joint with attitude representative of the area, but there are plenty of restaurants and cafes.

Park Tavern in Piedmont Park. While you're in the area, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens is one of my favorite spots in town. And during the summer, there are free movies in the park - check Screen on the Green.
Apres Diem Cafe Bistro - perfect for dinner, after dinner coffee or drinks. Nightly DJs and Wednesday night Jazz.
The Old Spaghetti Factory (budget lunch specials)

The Fox Theatre is worth a visit - the ceiling looks like the night sky. Mom used to take me to the summer movie series (probably more for the air conditioning than the old films - looks like they're not so old anymore).

Cafe Intermezzo European coffehouse - amazing spiked coffee menu and cakes of all sorts!

This part of town is about upscale shopping at Lenox Mall and Phipps Plaza. Plenty of upscale restaurants too, like Atlanta Fish Market and The Capitol Grill. Though I usually just stuck with Fado Irish Pub. If I were visiting, I would try this cheesey place with live jazz and fondue, but I haven't been. It seems like there's a lot of Atlanta that I still need to experience!

Sweet Water Brewing Co. use to have a happy hour during which you bought a pint glass for $5 or $7 (I don't remember) and filled it up as many times as you could before closing - a cheap but inebriating way of trying all of their brews. It was held outside but it seems that they have an indoor bar space these days. And now they have tours with a sampling on Wed, Thurs, Fri, which is still only $8, but I hear that it's gotten a little too yuppie frat party-ish on Fridays.

It's really a nice town...enjoy!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ice Cream Sandwiches

I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it has been to meet other expats in this city. And I'm surprised that it took me so long! It's great to share experiences and pass on tips (not to mention receive them!). In recent weeks, for the first time since I left New York over a year ago, I've stayed up talking with friends into the morning hours...and I actually understand all of the conversations. It feels good to laugh at jokes again instead of asking for the translation.

When K invited us over for a super delish cornbread salad this weekend, I thought it would be totally fun to take individually wrapped ice cream sandwiches. I tried to wrap the sandwiches in wax paper (and also tried parchment paper) and wanted to tie a string around each but it just turned out to be impossible to wrap a melting sandwich like a Christmas present. No matter, I stacked them up in tupperwear with wax paper in between each layer - fancy, I know.

Ice Cream Sandwiches or Alfajores Helados
Chocolate Wafers from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 c. + 2 T. sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 196 g. (14 T.) slightly softened butter
  • 3 T. whole milk (I just used the 2% that was in my fridge)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
Combine all dry ingredients in food processor and pulse until mixed. Add butter, cut into chunks, and pulse several times. Combine milk and vanilla, add to the other ingredients with the processor running and continue to process until the dough clumps around the blade. Knead a few times then form into a log 14 inches long and 1 3/4 inches. Wrap tightly in wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour. (Note: I only made half of this recipe so my log is smaller. hehehe)

Slice 1/4 inch thick or smaller. Some of the commenters had problems making small slices (due to the crumbly nature of the dough) and suggested using a very sharp knife and applying pressure to both ends. I didn't have big problems but the slices are delicate and I carefully transfered each to a parchment lined baking sheet - leaving an inch of space between them, as they spread when baking. I ended up with nearly 30 slices, though I may have eaten some uncooked.

The baking process is pretty specific. Place oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat to 180C (350F) and bake on top rack for 6 minutes then rotate the sheet and finish on the bottom for another 6 minutes. (This is the time that mine took but total cooking time could be 12-15 minutes). Cool completely before assembling sandwiches with ice cream, then freeze immediately, do not allow cookies to touch. If you leave them in the freezer in an air-tight container for a few hours or overnight, the cookies will soften just enough to bite through, but still have a wafer crunch.

This is the perfect place to make these. When you have amazing helado available to you in a multitude of delicious flavors, there's just no reason to hold back. I decided on cookies & cream, mascarpone with berries, and dulce de leche split - a half kilo was more than enough for 12 sandwiches.

After I had already finished the assembly, Guille suggested adding coconut around the ice cream rim - perhaps next time. This is going to be the summer of the alfajor helado.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Turning a Side Dish into Dinner

To turn green beans with almonds into a main course, I tossed in a couple handfuls of wheat pasta - it goes well with these flavors.

Warning: if you like your beans crunchy, then you know how to alter.
  • 3 c. fresh green beans, ends snapped off
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 T. e.v. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 handfuls of corkscrew wheat pasta (about 1 c.)
  • 1/2 c. chopped almonds, toasted
Drop beans in well-salted boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can steam the beans). In the meantime, saute onion in oil, seasoning with salt, pepper, and additional seasonings such as Seasoned Salt (copycat recipe) or even a little veggie powder, until the onion begins to soften. Add pasta to boiling beans (or steaming water) and continue to cook until al dente. Add beans, pasta, and 1/4-1/2 c. bean/pasta cooking water to the onion and saute together for a few minutes, giving the flavors a chance to come together. Add more salt as needed, or choose to garnish it with parmesan cheese. Once most of liquid has evaporated, sprinkle almonds on top and serve.

If you're not a vegetarian, you would probably be interested in adding bacon or using bacon grease in this recipe!