11 Foodie Gifts & Non-Touristy Souvenirs You Can’t Leave Argentina Without
You have one day left in Buenos Aires and picking up a tango postcard for your friends and loved ones just isn’t going to cut it. Since the best gift you could ever give someone is something edible, we have come up with a list of the best foodie gifts you just can’t leave Argentine without.
You might have to pay extra baggage fees, but that big tub of dulce de leche will be totally worth it.
Okay, we are a bit biased on this one, but one of the best gifts you can bring back from Argentina is the special liquid gold that defines so much of the country. It’s important to choose your wine carefully; since it would be silly to bring back bottles that are available back at home. Instead, go to a great wine shop with excellent customer service and choose an obscure boutique wine. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a bottle of Argento Wines (shameless plug).
A few of the best vinotecas to for the ultimate wine browsing: Aldo’s Vinoteca, Lo de Joaquin Alberdi, Malambo, Tonel Privado, Pain et Vin, Soil, Vinotango San Telmo, M Salumería
Your steak would be naked without it. Bring back the Argentine tradition and season your meat with the national condiment: chimichurri sauce. Even though you intend to wow your friends at your next barbecue with your homemade chimichurri*, let’s get real, you probably won’t make it. But you have a few alternatives: every supermarket and neighborhood market will carry dried chimichurri pouches in the spice aisle. All you do is add vineyard and oil and VOILA – your very own chimichurri! The pre-bottled brands of chimichurri tend to be quite sad, so instead, bring a jar to your favorite steakhouse and plead the mozo to fill it with the sauce of the meat gods.
*Chimichurri is super easy to make. Just mix together fresh herbs like chopped parsley, garlic, oregano, dried peppers, vinegar and oil. Watch the video of an authentic recipe here.
DULCE DE LECHE
If you’ve spent any time eating in Argentina, I bet you’ve already figured out that a dessert isn’t really a dessert unless dulce de leche is involved. Never forget your creamy caramel dreams and buy a massive tub to bring home as a gift. And then in reality, keep it in your house, save it for yourself, and open the seal one lonely night where it’s just you, a spoon, and some sexy DDL.
The best brands to look out for: Las Quinas, Chimbote, Don Atilio, La Serenísima Estilo Colonial, Campo Quijano, Mayol, San Bernardo.
Any food lover would go crazy to add a batch of gleaming and glistening salt crystals from Patagonia’s magical Atlantic coast to their salt collection. Sal de Aquí is one of Argentina’s best (and only) sea salts, a small project started by a group of friends who surfed in an abandoned village in Chubut, and decided to harvest sea salt.
Looking for the perfect kitchen accessory? A badass gaucho or steak knife is the real deal. Get your Argie cowboy persona on at the Feria de Mataderos to get your very own handmade knife. Insider’s tip: Parrilla favorite Don Julio sells their monogrammed steak knives to the public.
It’s THE sweet of Argentina, a wonderful cookie sandwich filled with dulce de leche and covered in chocolate or coconut. While Havanna is the most popular brand, Cachafaz and La Recoleta could both win any alfajor competition.
Hot tip: Last minute shoppers are in luck: Havanna’s alfajores are available at the airport.
YERBA MATE GIN
Not many people associate gin with Argentina, but famed bartender and owner of the cult bar Florería Atlántico, Tato Giovannoni, had a go at a distinctive local version: Principe de los Apostoles. The botanical recipe contains yerba mate, pink grapefruit, mint, and eucalyptus that will change your Gin and Tonic forever. Distinctively Argentine, distinctively delicious.
Hot tip: You can also drink killer Apostoles G&Ts at La Carnicería in Palermo.
This is the gift I always bring back for family and friends. Back in the day, penguin pitchers were used as a makeshift decanter for table wine in working class homes. Fast forward a few years, the retro pitcher has made a comeback. Wine just tastes better coming out of a penguin’s mouth, especially when most pitchers can hold up to a liter of any liquid. Nowadays there’s all sorts of penguins available: from traditional white pitchers found the San Telmo antique market or Feria de Mataderos, to trendy hand made ceramics at cool house décor stores like Bartolomea or Bretaña Deco.
Mendoza is known for its Malbec, but the big underdog is the olive oil. The wine country is bursting with great projects and high quality olive oil producers, and most of the varietals available are Frantoio, Arbequina, Arauco and various blends. Some great Argentine olive oil brands to try: MidiTerra, Familia Zuccardi, La Acequia.
It’s true that you can get Fernet Branca pretty much anywhere in the world, but many people say the Argentine version tastes so much better – and it costs less than 10 USD per bottle, so there’s the cheap factor that’s involved too. In Argentina, where the locals mix Fernet with Coca Cola, there are many different brands beyond Branca of the Italian liqueur: Nero 53, 1882, and Ramazzoti.
MEAT & CHEESE
It’s not a proper trip to Argentina unless you smuggle some vacuum-sealed meat contraband* in your suitcase. The big supermarkets (Jumbo and Disco) carry good quality brands like Cabaña Las Lilas that come packaged for travel. Or, pick up cured meats like salami made in Tandil, or smoked pork loin from local producers like Las Dinas. As for cheese, nothing says Argentine food like the beloved disc of provoleta queso – slap it on the grill and relive your asado fantasies of oozy, fried cheese goodness.
*Check with your local regulations as some countries may not allow perishables to be brought in… although perhaps customs may accept your meat bribes.
BONUS Captain Obvious Souvenir: YERBA MATE. A complete mate kit should include the yerba mate, mate gourd and bombilla (straw). Give it to your mate-loving tea drinking friends but a word to the wise: every time I give the gift of mate, it sits on the shelf and collects non-yerba dust.