Translate

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year 2010-2011

This is for all of you whom I have not been able to talk to or write to. I am grateful to you for reading my posts and following me.

I will do my best to share as much as I can regarding my "new" life in Argentina as an expat, as an entrepreneur and as a father and fellow porteño.

Have a great night, be merry and safe.

Is Argentina Too Efficient?

Seriously, I am not laughing as I type this.

Let me explain...

You go to a cervecería and you sit down and you order a beer, quite literally that is what you ask for and that is what you get.

This is an example:

mozo: Sí?

me: una cerveza por favor

mozo: chopp?

me: dale
(mozo is what you call waiters here in Argentina)


I could just say "un chopp" instead of asking for a beer and that would cut the conversation down by half!

And what is a chopp you might ask? It's a mug, or a glass. It's how you order beer on tap.

When I first came to Argentina I saw these "cervecerías" and I thought, great, they have beer joints!

I am going to be able to go in and find some varieties of beer that I have not yet discovered since I am from a different hemisphere away.

I wonder how many types of beer I am going to find....

One is the usual number of beer brand you would find at these places.

Fernando of BA Cast has a different point of view. Here is a recent conversation we had on the topic of "variety", his new pet peeve.

Fer: The thing's when you go to the supermarket and ask "where's the bitter?" and instead of pointing you to the alley, they ask you "what bitter do you want? Bitter sweet, bitter sour, bitter sour with a dash of sweet...decaf sweet bitter?"

Me: But, when you go to a "cervecería" here and ask for beer, it reminds me of repo man. There is only "beer", no asking what kind or anything.

Fer: Isn't that great?! Aren't you guys all about "getting to the point"? There you go...
Me: It's too efficient it's scary, it's almost anti Argentine the way it is so efficient. I mean you just sit and say beer and that's it, end of conversation.
At the very most the waiter would ask you if you want head on the beer or not when he serves it.

Also, it's not wine, serve the whole damned thing!
And so it goes. That conversation is still taking place by the way. Who knows where it will end up, but at the very least, we should continue it over beer, but at a real cervecería like Antares for example. 

Your move Fer...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Happy Threesome



Last night I went out to the new Antares in Las Cañitas.Yeah, it was part business visit part socializing which made it an incredibly fun way to work.

Weather or not Antares decides to give Sugar & Spice or El Tejano a try we at least had fun pitching ideas to them over some ice cold beer.

Our copetines (cheese based cookies) just go hand in hand with El Tejano´s home made, and now very spicy Nº4 salsa.

Our cookies have a lot of taste to them and if you pair them with something you better bring something that can stand up to them. In this case, the salsa was fantastic and we had the added benefit of washing it all down with very good artisan beer from Antares.

Amanda Robert Jones wrote about our last trip to Antares and you can read her write up here , and watch the birth of a new expat Blogger writing from Argentina. I highly recommend her blog.

My new favorite beers at Antares are the new Pilsner, Cream Stout, Honey Beer and the Kolsh.

I will eventually make it to the other beers they have. I want to go back and try something different each time.

And if they add either the copetines or El Tejano´s salsa they might as well reserve a permanent spot for me and start calling me Norm.

"What's the story, Norm?"
"Boy meets beer. Boy drinks beer. Boy meets another beer."


Antares Las Cañitas
Arevalo 2876
Happy Hour from 7pm to 9pm
They have a very cool upstairs deck and a fashionable main room (with A/C) downstairs.

The pictures are courtesy of El Tejano and Antares.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

YoQueVos Likes Sugar & Spice too

And we also like them right back!

I am really liking all of these Top 10 lists that we are being included into!

This holiday season we were published in La Nación, Clarin, Elle, Viva, Joy Magazine, The Urban Grocer, BAFoodies, The Landing Pad, and we even made it to a hard cover book by Narda Lepes.


Now we made it to YoQueVos, which by the way I really, really love how they manage to find so many unique stores, gifts, foods, entertainment, etc.

Amongst all of their unique finds they included us in their list of the best gifts of 2010!


And to top it off, there newsletters normally come with discounts.

Do yourself a favor and sign up. You won´t regret it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

BA Cast vs Me?

I seemed to have touched a nerve on my appearance on a fairly new podcast that has popped up in Buenos Aires. But, before I get to that maybe I should introduce you to this show.

Above all, it is entertaining, funny, witty, and they manage to do this even when they touch on serious topics. It never gets pedantic.

The hosts are Daniel Karlin (The American) and Fernando Farias (The Argentine).

Listening to them is like looking at the actual clash of cultures. It's like watching the melting pot get maid; a little of this, a little of that, mix in a dose of how things have always been with some "variety" (which happens to be Fernando's new favorite pet peeve thanks to yours truly and a little help from Daniel) and you get this show.

Some of the things you get to learn about would be the local´s courting ritual from the perspective of an expat woman in Baires on show 1, as well as how many alfajores are eaten on any given day in Argentina.

The number will shock you. Keep in mind the population is 40 million when you listen in on this one.

On episode three you have Maria Carra of Buenos Aires Foodies and Larry of El Tejano (my favorite salsa!) as guests talking about steak sandwiches.

For episode four Maria Carra comes back to give her top 5 DDL's and Yanqui Mike joins the conversation on socialism, unions, leftists, and the profit motive.

There is Ian Mount from Goodairs; a Canadian expat woman foils a bicycle robbery; they chime in on the culture of children; what do people do on the beach when they find a lost child and so many more little tidbits of life in Argentina.

Speaking of tidbits of life in Argentina they want to hear directly from you. On Tuesday, the 21st of December (yeah that´s tomorrow!) they are going to be at Sugar.

Go with your best story depicting a cultural or linguistic misunderstanding. The winner will get to be on their show. Daniel called his date "un gato" for example and not only did he live to tell the tale, he married her. That is one serious chamuyero.

Take my word for it. It´s a lot of fun taping with them. Which, leads me to my visit with them.

When I visited with them I took Diva, the sassy and mysterious beauty behind Bitch Tours, and she gave her top 5 questions that tourist ask her.

We had a blast chamuyando over wine, mate, cookies and brownies.

I was asked for my top 5 list and I could not think of one on the spot. Mine literally took days. Should I turn it in? Will I insult anyone with this?

I seemed to have touched a nerve with Fernando. Listen to him introducing the segment and you can´t help but see that I cut deep.

Here are my Top 5 mehs. These are things that Argentines think are fantastic, but I just shrug my shoulders and go meh.

You could also hear delight in Daniel reading them on the program.

Drumroll.......................

5. Quilmes - Yep, it´s Argentine´s Budweiser and that is not a compliment.

4. Churros - Just across the river in Uruguay you have great fresh churros. Why can´t they make them here like that? They have to put this awful fake chocolate covering on the churros and totally ruin it. Isn´t there a Spaniard among the population to help out? I can even get a better churro in the streets of Chicago with even more variety of fillings to boot.

3. Chimichurri - I was expecting a little heat, a blast of flavor that would bring out a party in my mouth when combined with steak. All it does is get in the way of a fabulous steak. Meh! Even they try to pass the blame on to the English (read the wikipedia entry).

2. Kiosco Alfajores - Not the premium variety, but those other ubiquitous hockey pucks of dulce de leche and cheap sandwich cookie covered in fake chocolate. Thankfully there are some great quality ones, but the massive consumption of the cheap variety makes them an Argentine staple and to me they are just meh.

1. Sandwiches de Miga - To me they are basically a wonder-bread sandwich with the crusts cut off. Yeah, I used to have those, when I was 5 years old.

So what do you think?

If you have not listened to the show you should fix that and give them a listen. The shows are very short. They run about 20 minutes short, just long enough to listen on a bus ride to and from work, date, doctor´s appointment, whatever. And if you hit un corte de calle, you can listen to two, three, four of them.

I have linked to the show all over this post. If you have iTunes you can also subscribe to the podcast.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Narda Lepes Likes Sugar & Spice (and we like her right back)


I have always had a weakness for beautiful, strong, independent, proactive, intelligent women and when they can cook, well that is just the icing on the cake.

These are all traits that Narda and my wife share (they also both studied in Paris).

Yes, I am a very lucky guy.

The other one they share is that they both like Sugar and Spice products. Sure, one of them makes them and the other recognizes the quality, dedication and love that goes into making them.

Narda is a celebrated chef in Argentina. She began her TV career around the same time that Sugar & Spice started.

However, she seems to have just catapulted into the limelight, dropped from the sky to teach us about food, wine, and how to enjoy them.

And she just came out with a book titled "Qué, Cómo, Dónde".

After responding to so many people's questions every time she would go out to do her shopping, she realized that she could put together a guide that would help us find all those little gems that a seasoned pro like herself would get to know.

I started leafing through it and I was so excited to see that she actually made a couple of references to Sugar & Spice.

She also included us in her top 8 Pan Dulces.

This is not a collection of detailed reviews of different stores, bakeries, deli's, wine shops, café's, fairs, book stores, music stores, organic shops, fresh pasta shops, etc.

No, this is set up as a no nonsense guide. She briefly states what makes the place stand out and gives you the address, web site, phone number and hours.

It even comes with a little notebook so you can take notes and take it with you without having to take the whole book along.

I have already found out where I can score some authentic maple syrup from a Canadian expat. For that alone, this book has already paid for itself.

Just in time for the holidays, this would be a great present for those foodies on your gift list.

And from Sugar and Spice we are flattered that she has included us in her book.

Narda, if you see this... Te mando un beso grande y de parte de todos nosotros en Sugar, agradezco tu generosidad y buena onda que has tenido con nosotros.

In Search of the Other America

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This Time It´s a Top Five List of the Best Teas in Buenos Aires



The Landing Pad has come out with an article on the Top 5 Teas in Buenos Aires and Sugar & Spice was fortunate enough to make the cut.

I have also heard that we were mentioned in a new book by a local celebrity chef.

I have to go out and buy it and will let you all know shortly what that is about.

After so many years of people not knowing who we are it´s nice to get some public recognition.

By the way, check out the new diggs of The Landing Pad. Great new layout guys!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Los 10 Pan Dulces Más Ricos / Top Ten Pan Dulces Buenos Aires





We made another Pan Dulce list again! This time Carolina Aguirre of Planeta Joy gave us some Top Ten List love and La Nación also published the article.

This is not the first time we have shown up on a Top 10 list.

Just last night I stayed up 'till 5am working at the Dot Shopping mall.

We were there actually supervising more than anything else.

We hired a window dresser to help out our new shop at the Dot Shopping mall. It came out fantastic! It was like opening a new store only one month into having a new store already.

I so wanted to take pictures, but the shopping mall turns the lights off and the pictures would not come out nice at all.

This would be my round about way of saying that you could also get our frequently Top Ten mentioned Pan Dulce there as well.

Now, I just need to take a nap.

2007 - Bacanal Top 8 Pan Dulces
2009 - Oh La Lá Top 5 Pan Dulces
2009 - Joy Top 10 Pan Dulces


********************

Este año volvimos a las listas de los mejores Pan Dulces! Este año fue de la mano de Carolina Aguirre de la revista Joy. Nos incluyó entre los 10 mejores pan dulces!

Esto no fue la primera vez que nos han incluido en este tipo de listas.

Justo anoche estuvimos trabajando sobre nuestro nuevo local en el Dot hasta las 5 horas de la mañana. El local quedó muy lindo y no lo pude creer, pero fue como recibir un local nuevo, solamente un mes después de haber abierto un local nuevo.

Me hubiera gustado tomar fotos, pero el shopping apaga la mayoría de las luces y las fotos no salían bien con tan poca luz.

Básicamente estoy tratando de avivarlos de que los pan dulces también se pueden conseguir en el Dot.

Ahora necesito dormir un poco.

Muchas gracias Carolina!  Thank you Carolina!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bueno Entonces...

I most likely would have used this if I had to learn Spanish. I am pretty much done with that since after 10 years in Argentina I am pretty fluent. However, this sounds fantastic for anyone who still needs to learn.

A fellow blogger called this "a mix between Rosetta Stone and Southpark".

Actually it is a serious Spanish language class that follows a linear story.

In it´s most basic it follows an English chap who just moved to Argentina to learn Spanish. Once here he gets a job making language videos; he is the student and Jimena is his very hot teacher. Obviously he tries to hit on her and she diplomatically skirts his advances.

Watching this was an exercise in DejaVu.



Apparently Ian Mount of GoodAirs and I shared the same infatuation/admiration for the always bra-less Valérie Allain in "French in Action". I tried not to miss a show.

Click here for Ian´s more complete account of what I am talking about.

Anyway, back to today. This is just a great product, convenient as hell since you can access it through your iPhone as well.

It´s funny, smart, focuses on Argentine Spanish and it has a beautiful teacher, what more can you ask for?

Nature Crops Gets Awarded!

Our friends over at Nature Crops get an award! Congratulations guys!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One Big Bad Spud

One potato, two potato, three potato, four...

I just realized that it has been years since I have had a stuffed potato.



Thanks for the heads up I got from reading the very entertaining Pick Up The Fork, I found out about a new food chain in Buenos Aires and it´s not a Yanqui chain for once, but from Spain.

Sr. Patata
Reconquista 856 & Tres Sargentos

I have not been yet, but it´s on my list. As well as the new frozen yogurt place in my own neighborhood.

Top It
Gorriti 4721
4833-2260



Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cookies, Tea and More

“If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited, it will calm you.”

--William E. Gladstone 


We opened up our very first franchise store a little over a month ago at the Dot Shopping Mall. We did not want to be another little shop that served coffee.

Everyone serves coffee!

We noticed that very few places served tea. Tea has started to grow in Argentina, but it´s still a novelty. Under the same spirit that drove me to start a gourmet cookie business (because it just did not exist here) we decided to give tea a try.

We picked out the blends we liked most and it came down to 7 blends and 2 rooibos blends.

  • Ceylon and Earl Grey - These are the two classic black tea blends that we chose for those that know what they want and nothing else matters. If you are set in your ways, we have your classic black teas.
  • Festivo - This is a green and black tea blend that also has flower petals. This pairs nicely with our Budín Ingles.
  • Very Berry - Another black tea blend that incorporates patagonia berries and blueberries. The aroma from this one will lead you to agree with its name. This one goes great with our almond biscotti.
  • Dulce de Leche - Yep, we mixed dulce de leche into this tea blend and it actually has little cubes of dulce de leche. It´s an instant classic paired with our very moist banana pound cake!
  • Imperial Berry  (Pu-Erh)- In China this tea is actually known or called as a red tea. It is a special type of tea that begs to have its own classification. It is a postfermented tea and ours comes from the Yunnan province in China and it includes strawberries, orange and vanilla.
  • Chai - Our last black tea on the list. This is a classic black tea from India with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. This one you can make directly in milk! This one can be paired with any of our chocolate cookies, chocolate pound cake, and banana pound cake.
  • Lemon Flower - This rooibos is one of our most popular and it pairs naturally with our lemon poppyseed pound cake. Both actually complement and bring out the citrus quality in each.
  • Madagascar - Another favorite rooibos blend that mixes coconut, cocoa and vanilla. Anything with chocolate goes well with this.

Apart from the tea we wanted to create something unique at the store. We obviously have all of our gourmet cookies, cakes, biscotti and savory cookies, but we also have gifts that are unique to our stores as well as many tea accessories.


Each day we feature two teas that you could buy as take out at the mall. So come on by and say hello and I promise that you will always be greeted with a sampling of our delicacies as well as some tea to go.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cookie Enthusiast



There is also a Face Book fan page to try to help Cookie Monster out, so click here if you would like to see Cookie Monster host SNL.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tea and Cookie Event for Bloggers/Press

After our very first Cookie Day, I never did another one, but that is about to change.

This time it´s Tea and Cookies and it´s at the Dot Shopping Mall. Yes, Argentina now has a Sugar & Spice store at a shopping mall.

I have only 3 simple rules. 

Only the first 15 responses can make it. If I get many more responses, then I would be open to a second event at a later date. In any case, you will get a response from me.

You can bring a guest (and no they don´t count towards the 15 response limit. That´s why I called it a response limit and not a person limit).

  1. write to cookiesandtea@sugarandspice.com.ar
  2. please include your name, your blog/magazine/newspaper/etc you represent, and if you are bringing a guest, please let me know.
  3. you will get a response with an invite.

Please don´t worry. I will not spam you. I am not a large faceless corporation with the resources to fill up your e-mail in-box on a consistent basis.

I can´t even consistently write on my own blog much less have time to spam anybody.

Anyway, I want to make sure that the people who do show up get my undivided attention and I get the chance to present our line of teas and cookies at the shopping mall.

These days it would be the only chance I get to eat and drink anything during the day!

The last time (and only time really) I did this it was a lot of fun.

The only thing I ask of you is if you have it in your heart to write about the event and about the store and the great time, or even not so great time if that´s the case.

That´s it!

So please consider coming out for Tea and Cookies!


Tuesday 23rd of November
5pm or 17:00 hours
We are located on the first floor right in front of Zara

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bilingual Kids and Argentine Schools

A while back I was interviewed by an expat regarding what I thought about the schools and my own experience in this matter. Since I have a couple of kids in the school system here I went ahead and participated.

She is not a reporter. In fact, she did this to try to learn a bit more about the education system here and specifically what other expat parents did regarding their own children's schooling.

She has since shared her findings with us and I asked her if I could go ahead and post it for anyone out there who might be interested:



Expat Parents, Bilingual Kids and Argentine Schools

            Expats face an array of daily challenges ranging from societal values to language, food and eating habits, gender dynamics, bureaucracy, driving, shopping, etc. And for those of us who are parents, raising and educating our kids would likely top this list as the biggest challenges of all, because they touch the core of what makes us who we are: Like it or not, we raise our children in terms of our own childhood experiences, which ultimately laid the groundwork for the people we are as adults. Whether to undo, improve on or maintain the lessons learned while growing up, how we approach bringing up our own kids is a reflection of that experience and therefore heavily loaded culturally and personally. Doing so in a foreign context is therefore fraught with difficulties, because the cultural parameters may be vastly different; and when it comes to school itself, everything from the supply list, to parent attitudes, to education policy in general can serve to complicate our decisions, baffle, frighten or, just maybe, if we’re lucky, free us from old, ingrained ideas and assumptions. After all, the fact that we are expats in the first place likely means that we are people who do not necessarily settle for the standard operating procedure in the places we came from. So what happens when we immerse ourselves in another, albeit foreign, version of “mainstream” when it comes to educating our children?

            Having muddled through the Argentine system with my own kids over the past five years, I decided to do a survey of other foreign parents to gain some perspective on the experience. I chose to focus only on expats from English-speaking countries (the UK, US and Australia), given the significant role English plays in most school curricula here and the subsequent effect this has on kids for whom English is a first language. The questions parents answered covered topics related to the process of choosing a school; degree of satisfaction with that choice; school choice as a reflection of their own schooling; Argentine cultural values; and English classes, among others.  Parents addressed several concerns about their children’s education, both universal and specific to Argentina. Their answers also reveal some surprising discoveries that may be useful to others facing the difficult task of finding a school for their children here.

            The crisis in education is a phenomenon that knows no borders; however, what that crisis entails and the reasons associated with it from one country to the next are undeniably shaped by the history, society and education policies implemented in each place. In the case of Argentina in particular, the last dictatorship left an imprint on Argentine society that plays out in myriad ways, just one of which is the effect on education both public and private and the attitudes and expectations of modern Argentine parents, many of whom were students during the repressive dictatorship of the 1970s. This is no small matter when it comes to understanding schools in Argentina. The dictatorship that came to power in Argentina in 1976 considered schools to be fertile ground for subversion, and therefore in need of a return to traditional values achievable only through order and repression. During that time, high school and university students were blacklisted and reported by teachers to military authorities, detained and often never seen again.  It is therefore not surprising that the generation of parents who grew up during those years of repression would expect the very ethos of school to be radically different for their children.

            As a result, many schools here now fortunately take a very child-centered approach to learning, often highlighting group dynamics, democracy in the classroom and a sense of belonging. Particularly for parents of younger children, these features may be all the more appealing in the absence of other education jargon such as testing, standards, accountability, etc. However, the premium placed on learning through play and group projects may have parents wondering about things like academic excellence and individual achievement once their children are older; what seemed ideal in first grade often turns into noisy classrooms, general lack of discipline, no apparent study habits and disregard for authority in sixth. Could it be that what began in the 1980s as a genuine move in favor of kinder, more democratic schools with a critical eye toward authoritarianism may have swung too far in the direction of ‘no room for order at all’ in many Argentine classrooms? 

            Private, non-religious bilingual schools were the target of parents’ most critical views. Schools like Arco Iris, Jacarandá, N.E.A., Escuela del Árbol, Aletheia, Mundo Nuevo, Amapola to mention a few have a broad appeal among professional, middle-class, well-educated and often progressive-minded Argentines. And since many expats living here fit this same description, many of them also initially find these schools appealing. They are more affordable as far as private schools go, tend to have constructivist-based curricula, focus on creativity, foster a sense of community and learning through experience. Despite the draw of such features, however, the educational experience often turns sour for many parents once their children are enrolled. The disparity between the ever-rising cost of these schools (tuitions have roughly tripled over the past 4 years) and the overall quality of education that they provide is no doubt a factor in parent dissatisfaction. Everything from noisy, chaotic classrooms to overt Argentine nationalism (lots of flag-waving and exaggerated reverence for Argentine heroes, yet scarce attention to the rest of the world) and xenophobia are mentioned in association with these schools. Several parents also pointed to the prioritization of group interests over individual achievement. This is a particularly touchy issue in that it gives pause for reflection on the standard allegation by many Argentines that Anglo culture (particularly the US variety) is so individualistic. It highlights the different spin on the term as often used here (i.e., egocentric, single-minded) compared to its true meaning (one that asserts individuality through independence of thought and action). This factor is also echoed in children’s report cards, which parents say do not convey any individual feedback for the most part, focusing mainly on the child’s role in group work. Another overriding concern for many parents from English-speaking countries with a common tradition of reading and love of books is the apparent absence of any similar sentiment in many schools here.
           
            Wasted time in English classes that cannot address the needs of native English-speakers is also a major issue for parents with children in these Spanish/English bilingual schools. Initially welcomed as assets to the class, parents claim there is no follow-up effort made to find suitable materials, books, or give these kids any type of role in English class that would make for meaningful learning for both them and their classmates; again, they are expected to “go along” with the group. This is an aspect of schooling that foreign parents from English-speaking countries should be particularly aware of, and deserves special mention here. 

            Argentine parents want their children to be proficient in English in order to be globally competitive in the future; and schools likewise take the importance of English seriously. This has resulted in a plethora of private bilingual schools here that cater to local parent demands for more English. What is interesting to note is the number of hours devoted to English in comparison to other subjects in these schools. As pointed out, Argentine society understandably gives high priority to English, but is it more important than Spanish, math or science? According to the number of class hours, yes it is. Bilingual schools in Buenos Aires (both primary and secondary) devote an average of 6 class hours (horas cátedras) per week to English some considerably more in comparison to Spanish, math, science or social studies, which often get only 3 or 4 hours of class time per week. Curiously, this has as much to do with the traditional Argentine school day, which the Ministry of Education sets at 4 hours minimum, as it does with the high premium placed on English. So in the case of most schools that now offer doble turno, all those extra hours are being poured into English instead of an increase in core academics. Not to diminish the importance of English in the world today, but it is perplexing, even if one could make an argument for this many hours per day devoted to a foreign language, why some of those hours couldn’t be used to teach other subjects (science, history, creative writing) in English (or Spanish, for that matter)? Only a very few of the higher-priced private schools take this approach. Perhaps the better question to ask would be: Why are the core subjects of math, language/literature, social studies and science kept at so few hours? As expats who come from countries with 6, 7 or 8-hour school days, it is difficult not to wonder. 

            Given the value placed on English, there is then a certain irony in the fact that children who are already bilingual are actually at a disadvantage when it comes to Argentine bilingual schools. The reality is that all those English hours in the dozens of “bilingual” schools have very little to offer a child whose first language is English; they are about intensive English-learning for Spanish-speakers, and are not designed to address the needs of English natives. It would stand to reason then, as a parent of a bilingual child, to choose a monolingual school and not waste hours on English for learners; however, as already mentioned, the standard academic day is only 4 hours long here. Therefore, if you want your child to have a full day of school in Buenos Aires, you must either pay a very high price or resign yourself to the fact that roughly half of their day will be wasted hours in English class in most cases. Other than the array of mid-priced private bilingual schools, one is left with basically three alternatives: half-day public school; the very expensive American or British schools (price-prohibitive for many); or bypassing English altogether at the German, Italian or French schools. It is this last option that generated some of the broadest support from parents. This is what one US parent had to say about the Lycée Jean Mermoz:
           
“There were two factors that led us to discard the English/Spanish bilingual option. One is that we did not think that many of them are as good overall academically as the French school and even their English programs are not great; non-native English teachers, for example. So we thought it would be easier to supplement English language skills at home than to have to compensate for a lower quality overall education. And in terms of the very good English/Spanish schools (San Andres, Northlands, etc.), they have a socio-economic profile that seemed elitist for our taste. The French school has a more heterogeneous public, which we love, and the idea of having a bilingual/bicultural family exists there. They have excellent academics and also incorporate a great deal of culture, art and literature into the general education. It is an institution where the cultural values of France, such as equality, respect for rules and authority, are very much present. This is extremely important for me as they are values that I feel are part of my culture as a US citizen, but that are not valued in Argentine culture.”

The diversity mentioned with regard to the French school is also highlighted by parents of kids who attend Lincoln, the American school. As part of an international system that offers consistency as well as a diverse student population, it is an appealing option for diplomatic families and those who work for large corporations and move often; its price-tag, however, offsets these advantages for many families.

            As regards the overall state of public education in Argentina, the lack of available resources and teacher strikes are a big deterrent for a majority of parents in the case of public schools. Even if one comes from a public school background with committed ideals to public education, it is difficult to stick to one’s convictions in the face of public school reality in Argentina. Fewer resources means kids are exposed to fewer valuable experiences, such as gaining computer skills, access to quality art and music classes or a proper school library, not to mention the limited class hours. And the likelihood that your child may be deprived of many days of school due to teacher strikes makes this a tough choice indeed.  Nevertheless, some of the most satisfied parents interviewed were those whose children attend public primary school No. 13 in the Colegiales neighborhood. They pointed to the integrity of the school climate forged by its long-time director, and the importance of the school’s cooperadora in pushing new initiatives. Good teachers who know their students well on an individual basis, a strong emphasis on reading, the director’s open-door policy and responsiveness to parent requests, and the enthusiasm for learning observed by parents of expat kids in this school make it stand out not only among public schools, but among all primary schools included in the survey. Unfortunately, this was the only public school mentioned by parents in the survey; as a general rule, foreign parents do not often choose public school for the same reasons many Argentines do not.

            As a parent of 8-yr-old twins when I came here, I was quite happy to forgo such things as regular standardized testing, heavy loads of homework and long school hours common in the US, in favor of an Argentine version that seemed kinder and more respectful of childhood. Later in elementary school, however, that conviction began to wane in the face of concern for academics and readiness for serious study. To my surprise, however, on the verge of entering high school, my kids have stepped up to the proverbial plate and proven that, even though they may not have been academically challenged in elementary school, they are nevertheless more capable of putting in long study hours and doing well on difficult high school entrance exams than I probably was at their age. I cannot help but wonder if this is not the result of an academic maturity that was allowed to take its due course, along with the advantages of growing up “between” places, which by default makes changing gears easier for them. And one more surprise that I discovered as a result of the “disadvantage” of already being bilingual in school: Using that to our kids’ advantage by taking them out of English altogether at school and hiring a native tutor to use those hours wisely and keep them reading, writing and covering other subjects in English has put them ahead of grade level. 

            Despite all the issues mentioned here, which have caused me many sleepless nights, I also share the sentiment expressed by everyone in their answers to the last survey question, “What is the most important aspect of your child’s education for you?” Without fail, everyone mentioned the importance of the examples set at home in terms of love of learning, critical thinking, awareness of the broader world and curiosity. As expats, we are privileged in being able to provide our children with this type of education in addition to (or in spite of) any school

Friday, October 15, 2010

Arkakaó Buenos Aires


I took my daughters to the grand opening, even though I had an opening of my own earlier in the day, which will deserve it's own blog post, and I had to go to a school rehearsal (school play we are putting together for the kids).

It was a very long day.

But, since I frequently turn down invitations for evening events I wanted to try to revert that trend and I told the wife that tonight we would go out for ice cream no matter what.

I rushed home from the rehearsal, wolfed down some food, and we packed the kiddies into the car.

We made it to Arkakao by about 9:00pm

I had written about them before from when I visited Rosario. I was just as impressed this time around.

My kids normally don't venture outside of their favorite flavors, but tonight they ventured into uncharted territory and they tried gianduja, pistachio, coconut, chocolate with cinnamon and some fruit flavored one that I can't even remember the name (all the names are in Italian).

My eldest told me, after I asked her if she liked her ice cream: "Yours tasted like Nutella!"

She loves Nutella so I guess that would be her highest compliment. She was talking about the gianduja gelato.

In case you are wondering what the difference is between ice cream and gelato I Wiki'd it for you.

What did not show up in Wikipedia is that Arkakao promises to make their gelato on a daily basis and never serve you yesterday's batch.

They also serve chocolates; they have a lunch menu; a bar for cocktails; and they serve breakfast. Now all they need are Argentina's yummiest cookies to be excellent all the way around, hint, hint!

Arkakaó Recoleta
Quintana 188 (y Montevideo)
4813-7585
www.arkakao.com.ar

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Voting Day Wednesday the 13th

The US embassy will have a ballot box on Wednesday for any American expats who miss the experience of going to a polling station (or, most likely, have never been to one, but would like to know what it's like). Oh, I kid my fellow Americans.

You can drop off your absentee ballot from 2pm to 4pm on Wednesday the 13th.

Yep, that's tomorrow!

The Embassy is at 4300 Av. Colombia, Palermo.

If you just want to drop off your ballot (in postage paid envelopes) without going through security go to window 1 (street entrance), from 2:30 to 4:30 (Mon-Fri, excluding Oct 11 and 27). 

Happy Voting Day America!


Remember:

"We will accept ballots up to and including November 2, 2010 (REMEMBER – some states will accept ballots postmarked by November 2, while others have an earlier deadline--check your state’s requirements on www.fvap.gov.)  For additional details, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program or the Overseas Vote Foundation.  The Embassy's Voting Assistance Officer will also be happy to answer your questions about absentee voting; simply send us your question at VoteBuenosAires@state.gov. "

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Expedition Science in Patagonia


A while back I got an e-mail titled "Expedition Science - Science camp in English in Patagonia" and I starred and saved it to look at it later.

I am just getting around to looking at it now. Wow, what a great idea!

First of all it involves Science and it happens to take place in an area that is so beautiful I can't think of a better place for it to be.

If you have kids between the ages of 14 and 17 you might want to consider visiting one of the most beautiful places on earth.

While they are studying, you can be enjoying the sights.

Here is a link to the web page where you can read up on the details. Maybe they can have a class for adults who want to revisit their teenage science class years?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Part 2 of the Tourist 2 Townie Interview of the Cookie King

A couple of days ago Tourist 2 Townie posted part 1 of an interview with yours truly. Here is part 2.

In this one we talk about school for the little ones; literacy initiatives; John Cusack; Vin Diesel; having milk and cookies with President Obama and some of my hidden gems and pet peeves of Buenos Aires.

If you are curious I can expand on the things that I like about Argentina.

And yes, those ears are natural!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Forest by the Beach: Carilo

http://www.aguacalma.com.ar/

One of the places that always seemed to come up as a natural for us to be in has been Carilo. This is a vacation spot that is very popular and a bit exclusive.

I remember going for a weekend when my wife was pregnant with our first daughter.



The roads were not paved (on purpose within the town) and it had rained so it was a very bumpy ride. So it was cold, rainy and windy, and very few people around.

All the peace and quite was actually quite welcoming, not like the weekend reflected in these pictures.



Now you have larger hotels and it was in danger of just growing out of control. There is still a lot of demand for this place, but they are slowing it down.

Apart from the large complexes you have some very impressive homes nestled nicely among the trees of the forest of Carilo.


And you also get pretty close to nature...


Now we managed to have two clients in Carilo after years of trying. One is the AguaCalma mentioned at the top of this post. Quite honestly, it sounds like a perfect match. This location is trying to offer the very best to their guests and they have our products as welcome gifts.

This place gets it! Just from reading their website I am tempted to go back for a long weekend.

The other place that has some of our products is La Proveeduria. Here is a picture I found of it on Flickr:


Cariló La Proveeduría

Carilo is about 300km from Buenos Aires and it is a peaceful beautiful forest town with a beach. If you are visiting Buenos Aires and you would like a quick escape to relax then you can't really go wrong with this town.

And to add to the enjoyment of this place now you can also have access to your favorite Sugar and Spice cookies, pound cakes, and brownies!

It just can't get much better than that.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tourist 2 Townie Interviews The Cookie King

I honestly really dislike watching myself on T.V.

I apologize beforehand for all the "ums" and "ands". I have to work on that especially if I am on one of The Best Latin American Travel Blogs for crying out loud!

I know I can get it right and I have done an Interview on T.V. before that came out really well with very few of those nervous ticks.

Gareth, if you ever interview me again, I promise to be better.

Here is Part 1 of Gareth´s interview.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Secrets of Home Beer Brewing

Guest Post by James Mowery

There's nothing quite like enjoying a glass of home brewed beer, especially when it's made the right way using handed down secrets that only you and grand pa know.

Of course, any great home brewer knows that the best beers are brewed using quality supplies, because what you brew your beer in and the ingredients that you use, all lend to the flavor and crispness of your beer.

Now this doesn't mean you have to run out and buy the most expensive brewing supplies and ingredients. What you should do is go to a reputable brewing supply shop and find out what's available for the type of beer you wish to create.

Some true beer aficionados like to experiment with different shops to compare which they like most. But most go the easy route and pick up a micro brewery kit.

The most challenging part of home brewing is having the right fermenter. It should be capable of brewing up to six gallons of beer with enough room to allow for foam.

You'll also need a hydrometer to measure the alcohol content in your beer. Always stir with a plastic spoon, a tap with sediment reducer to prevent sludge in your bottles, an airlock and grommet, a thermometer to keep control of the all important brewing temperature and plastic bottles for your beer.

Some like glass bottles, but they are more likely to explode.

Beer is made by boiling malt and water and adding hops. This becomes unfermented beer, which is then cooled and yeast is added to bring on fermentation.

There are also other ingredients that make 'your secret
recipe' truly yours, and they can include spices, gains, fruit, sugar,
honey, etc.

Perhaps the biggest secret brewing the best beer is proper hygiene. You have to start with impeccably clean equipment, or you'll run the risk of poor beer fermentation. Any residual sugar left in a bottle will ruin a good beer.

About the author: James Mowery is a computer geek that writes about beer brewing and related topics. To read more blog posts by him, go to led tv.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Anuva Wine Tastings


This is one of those things that have been going on under my nose, in my own neighborhood, and I am just realizing of its existence.

I have known Daniel Karlin of Anuva Wines for some time now. We have shared some beer and some laughs till the wee hours of the morning actually. And, just last week he asked me if I would like to attend one of his wine tastings.

I know, I know, he has invited me to lots of events and he could probably be the first to tell you that it's not easy to get me out of the house. When I get home I am exhausted most nights.

But, I am glad I went out this night. Daniel ran a great wine tasting. The set up is in a very nice new hotel in Palermo Hollywood called Rendez-vouz. It's very stylish and would probably be even better if they pampered their guests with Sugar & Spice cookies (hint, hint Rendez-vouz).

But, this is Dan's gig so back to the wine. The tables had 7 glasses per person waiting to receive the different wines.

We started with Hom Sparkling that was paired with a modified waldorf salad. The wine itself had a light lemon/lime aroma and green apple tart in the mouth with a nice crisp acidity.

I could only imagine this going really well with my own lemon poppy-seed pound cake.

Each wine was paired with a specific food that ranged from cheeses, to sausages, to chocolates.

What was great about this wine tasting is that it was not boring or technical in nature. We got to sample all of the wines right next to each other and they were paired with food. Daniel kept moving it along, but it was not rushed. In fact, I got to meet and talk to the people that were seated at my table. We were able to listen to Daniel talk a little bit about the wine, and we were also able to talk amongst ourselves as well.

I met a woman from Australia who was touring South America and this was the last leg of her tour. I also met a couple who are living here for 5 months. He is a US history professor that has been to Argentina before and this time he wanted to come back with his family so they could experience just how cool this place really is.

For those people who were vacationing from the States they had the added bonus that they could also join Daniel's wine club and be able to purchase wines to be delivered to their home. I don't know about you, but I hate lugging around bottles through airports.

The wines he carries are small boutique wines that are not available at large retailers so that is also another big plus.

He finished the night with one of my new favorite wines from Durigutti.

If you are reading this in the States and you want to try to recreate our wine tasting experience you can go to Anuva Wine Club's site where you can order any of these wines and have them delivered to your home.

Wines Tasted:
Hom Sparkling
Coiron Torrontes by Palo Alto
Mairena Bonarda
San Gimignano Syrah
Callejon del Crimen Sangiovese by Finca La Luz
Durigutti Reserva Malbec

I had a previous wine tasting paired with my cookies. This got me to thinking about the possibility of doing this sort of thing again.


Trip Advisor Reviews of Anuva Wine Tastings
Anuva Blog

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Travesti Mii

My 5 year old: Pa, quieres ver el travesti Mii que hice?
(translation: Dad, do you want to see the transvestite Mii that I made?)

Oh, the joys of urban living. I knew I was going to have to talk about the birds and the bees, but about the bees who think they are birds?

Me: Sure, sweetpea. I see your classmates are all here.

I couldn't resist. I had to look it up to see if something like this existed and sure enough someone has already thought of it.

You can find how to make transvestite Mii's here like the one you see below.


Of course you can make other types of Miis in case your kids are not up to transvestites. I found a Winnie the Pooh, Chicken Little, etc.

My 5 year old is going to be a handful.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Un Techo Para Mi País

This multinational non profit started in Chile back in 1997. Today they operate in 18 countries building homes for those least fortunate.

They approached us last year asking for food donations for the holiday season. They recently reached out to us again and we sent them some cookies for a "Día del Niño" event they were holding.

This time they sent us pictures as a thank you and I was touched.


Tumblr link with more pictures.
www.untechoparamipais.org

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Alejandro Carosella


Live music; wine from Bodega Salentein; Argentina´s yummiest Chocolate Chip cookies; Passion for Chocolate cookies; and Pan de Pizza savory cookies while you take in some culture. What could be better than that?

Mark your calenders for the 11th of August at 7pm.

The culture is supplied by Alejandro Carosella.

By the way, here is a Texan´s point of view of Bodega Salentein.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sugar & Spice by Manifesto

We have outsourced our store window display to Manifesto. They are a leader in decoration and design for companies as well as for individuals.

Some of the clients that they work with are Google, Sony, Motorola, and Techint just to name a few. Now, we can add Sugar & Spice to that list.

Come by and tell us what you think.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Welcome Café Martinez


We have another new client that has deposited their trust in us and has decided to be really nice to their customers by offering Argentina's yummiest cookies.

So if you are a fan of Cafe Martinez now you can have an authentic Chocolate Chip Cookie or a Pasion for Chocolate Cookie to go with that cup of joe. You could also ask for a bag of Café Mocha Biscotti as well.

With approximately 60 locations (plus Chile and Uruguay coming soon) you are bound to always be near a cup of coffee and a cookie or two.

***********

Bienvenidos a nuestro nuevo cliente Café Martinez! Con aproximadamente 60 locales siempre vas a estar cerca de tu favorito café y una cookie o dos.

Ahora vas a poder acompañar tu café con una deliciosa cookie de Choco Chip o Pasión por Chocolate.

Me contaron que están por abrir locales en Chile y en Uruguay también.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Can Girls Play Soccer?

The obvious answer to that question would be "Hell Yes!", but it's not so obvious an answer to some people.

In Argentina, and in particular the slums of Argentina, it is not such an easy question to answer.

I have been supporting Fundación Leer to help reach under-served children and promote a love of reading in them. One of our last events took place in Villa 31.

Recently another project aimed at helping young people in that community has come to my attention.

A fellow expat and her Argentine husband are filming a documentary about a group of girls who fight to play a sport they love, but is off limits to women in Argentina: Soccer.

This might sound crazy to most people, but in Argentina soccer is strictly a man's sport. I know this first hand, since I have tried to get my own kids interested in kicking the ball around only to be met by disinterest that has been soaked up by their surroundings.

When the filmakers started following the girls in 2008, only a dozen or so ventured onto the field. Now, there are more than 25!

The documentary shows how playing soccer has transformed their lives, as well as how difficult this transformation can be-girls have to battle parents and a society that see them only as future maids, criminals or teenage mothers.

For example, Chechu was one of the team's most promising players when she became pregnant at 15. However, her family was happy for her to become a mom, as in the Villa, it is considered a rite of passage for many girls.

She now lives outside of the slum with her boyfriend and his family, who do not approve of her playing soccer.

Will she make her own path, or end up becoming a statistic?

Will any of the other girls be able to fight the odds?

This documentary is not only about them, but by them as well. The experiences of these "slum soccer girls" will not only be documented by filmmakers, but the girls themselves will contribute through a video workshop where they will learn how to interview and do basic camera work.

You will get an uncensored view into their world and the girls will begin to take back the narrative of their own lives.

Below is a short 60 second clip on the movie.



So, can girls play soccer? Left to themselves they might not be able to. If you would like to help them click here.

Meanwhile, wouldn't it be nice if any of them could eventually end up being the next Mia Hamm? I mean, Pelé, Maradona, and Carlitos Tevez and quite a few others have come from slums....




Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

video


Video courtesy of David Willbanks.

Germany Dominates Argentina

Vier Cheers!

What can I say? The better team won.



Now I am going to cheer for Uruguay and I hope that no one else pops up promising to run naked if Uruguay wins.

The day before the game I had a conversation with my five year old:

me: Hey, do you know who plays tomorrow?

munchkin: no papi

me: Los Argentinos juegan con los Alemanes

munchkin: LOS ANIMALES?!?!?

How right she was, how right she was.
(I mean it in a positive sense of the word as in animals on the field)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Argentian vs Germany Has Already Started



This is a commercial for a sports channel. When I first saw this one of the comments left by an Argentine went something along the lines of: "If you analyze this in detail we are great at soccer, but as a people, we are complete shit".

One piece of advice though; if you are in Argentina and you see kids playing with a rolled up sock, you better run because you are about to be robbed, mugged or raped.

Kidding aside, this should give you an idea as to just how much this game means to people.

When the national team plays, schools either start earlier, close earlier, or just show the game depending on the timing of the game.

While the team plays it's impossible to find a cab or any public transportation for that matter.

Many businesses have televisions at work so the employees can watch. We set one up at our business for example.

Here is another commercial and this one is from Quilmes. The subtitles are not so great, but you should still be able to get the gist of it.




And in this upcoming game you have the personal insults being traded back and forth.

This one is going to be personal for these players. There is no doubt about it, at all.

You had the infamous Paul the octopus predicting correctly all of Germany's games so far.

In fact, the injured ex-captain Micheal Ballack didn't want to play second fiddle to an octopus and gave a prediction of his own.

You had Germany insulting Argentine players, fans and coach with Schweinsteiger mentioning what "Argentines are like in general".

Since the coach happens to be Diego Maradona, a prompt response was delivered and a local celebrity chef was called to the task of showing what exactly we can do with an octopus...(see video immediately below)

video


But, it's not all arrows and clubs. The New York Times wrote a very nice apology letter to Diego, and the German coach is taking the high road as well.

It's a good thing since he is susceptible to an attack of the munchies during the game, and let's just say that his diet on the pitch has not exactly been high brow.

I don't know what the outcome will be on Saturday. I do know that I expect a fantastic game.

Germany has a very young and talented team. Both Germany and Argentina love to attack and I am sure we will be seeing plenty of that especially since they have started attacking each other before the game has even started.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What does Argentina vs Mexico mean to you?



Mexico vs Argentina is not just a highly charged game between the current favorite team and one that is inconsistent, at times playing great and falling flat the next.

To me this game is wrapped up in feelings that are polar opposites.

Argentina is my new home, my kids were born here, my wife and her family are from here; I have friends who are Argentine.

I also have family that lives in Mexico and I actually lived there as a little boy.

I was asked, who I would cheer for. I don't even know that response.

I can't plan who I am going to cheer the loudest for because that is asking me who I am planning on not cheering for.

My list of football countries is pretty short and in first place has been, and will most likely always be, the United States. After that, it has been Mexico,  Colombia and now I add Argentina.

10 years ago I would not even have hesitated. I would cheer for Mexico. Now that I eat, live, and breath Argentina, I am not so sure.

Something similar happened during the '94 World Cup when on the 22nd of June the USA faced what was then the pre-tournament favorite to win that year, Colombia. After 5 minutes I realized that this was going to be a great game and I had to leave the room and watch it by myself.

My dad is from Colombia and I just could not stand to sit there and yell out the USA goals in front of him.

The US turned out winning that game 2 to 1 and it was the game that would lead to Andres Escobar's tragic death.

It's going to be a little awkward. My head is with Argentina and my heart is with Mexico.

Whatever the outcome I will be glad for the team that passes through and saddened for the one that gets to go home.

To all my Argentine friends and family I wish you luck.

To all my Mexican friends and family I also wish you luck.

I will be somewhere in the middle enjoying and suffering at the same time.