Thursday, November 22, 2007

EVERYTHING'S COMING UP BARBIE - An Homage to an American Icon on this Thanksgiving Day 2007

I have this doohickie thingie (I'm such a moron when it comes to techie toys) on Gmail that gathers daily all the information on the web that has to do with Buenos Aires and sends it to me in my in-box. Today, the most interesting piece of news was the grand opening of the Barbie Store in Palermo. I live in Palermo, but I haven't seen it yet. Looks like I'm going to have to do a little touring around my own neighborhood this weekend.

The store, the first of its kind in the world, is the brain-child of 39-year-old Tito Loizeau who, taking a clue from Field of Dreams, thought (and I'm paraphrasing liberally...check out the Chicago Tribune for correct quote), "If I build a shrine to a doll with unrealistic proportions in one of the plastic surgery capitals of the world, impressionable 3 to 12-year-old girls and their wealthy parents will come." And so they droves, apparently. It boasts a store with Barbie-inspired clothing for girls, a funcioning beauty salon, and a tea house, and the place is available for rental for about 600 US smackers. How's that for a tango venue???? See Milonguera Barbie and Milonguera Skipper in a catfight over Milonguero Ken! See Milonguera Skipper dropkick Milonguera Barbie on la pista! See Milonguero Ken screw both of them over for the cute "mozo" (waiter)!

Now, I was more of a Matchbox (trademark symbol thingie here) kid. I liked little race cars, building blocks, puzzles, and games like Perfection and Superfection. I finally got a Barbie (another trademark thingie here) when I was around 8 years old, not because I really wanted one; I just though it was time to get one to see what all the fuss was about. After about a week, I was bored with her, but I played with her out of obligation. Since my aunt took the trouble of shelling out the 20 bucks for her that I might as well play with her. So, I spent afternoons trying to curl her blond nylon hair with my hot curling iron, which left brown crusty stains on my iron...I don't recommend trying this at home...and bending her legs forward at her kneecaps. I loved the snapping sounds her joints made. Though it seems I may have been manifesting inklings of sociopathy--torturing and destroying playthings--she was rather pretty pointless (which, um...I guess is how sociopaths regard their victims. It's been a while since I've been in analysis...). I couldn't see her doing much, though she later transformed herself into Doctor Barbie or Barbie, M.D., and I wasn't going to ask my parents to pay for her pink corvette, her playhouse, or her beefy boyfriend/friendboy, Ken.

No, puhleeeze don't tell me they have an Islamic Barbie complete with hijab and red carpet on which to pray, and puhhhhhleeeze don't mention that now they've spraypainted her different colors and have increased her ass size to better represent POCs (People of Color). Barbie is annoying, and in no way can, as mentioned by a Mattel executive, "maintain [her] relevance by extending her into other parts of a little girl's life." How about making a Boobjob Barbie, complete with surgury scars? Or what about Eating Disorder Barbie? Girls are asking for surgery and are succumbing to EDs earlier in life, the least they can do is make her REALLY relevant. For a funny essay on a more relevant Barbie, check out and look up Hypothyroid Barbie.

And poor, neglected Ken. Will someone please unlock the closet door for him?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A MILONGUERA'S CHOW GUIDE: November 14, 2007

I Due Ladroni-Ristorante Italiano
Fitz Roy 1951, Palermo Hollywood

I had a mad craving for sashimi last night, so we headed out to Dashi, a Japanese joint in Palermo. The usual smiling (and totally fake) hostess greeted us at the door at 8:30, and began to walk us over to a table that was smack in the middle of the still-empty restaurant, which did nothing but irritate the heck out of the BF. He thinks many restaurants conspire to punish early eaters by giving them the worst table imaginable. So, after the BF asked the hostess for some other options, which were as bad as the first, we walked out and headed to his newest culinary discovery: I Due Ladroni.

"No, it's not that I want to eat Italian food. Really!" Whatever. Never come in between a hormonal, PMS-ing woman and her cravings. It can get ugly. But I had just read an article by an Indian guru earlier that day about managing one's expectations, so I wasn't going to get upset, but I did reserve the right to pout.

Anyhoo, talk about opposites. We were greeted by an exuberant and affable Roman, who let us choose our table, and proceeded to talk in Italian to the BF who hails proudly from Southern Italy (and may your foist child be a masculine child). I have to say that I get completely turned on hearing Italian, sort of like Jamie Lee Curtis in a Fish Called Wanda, so things were definitely looking up.

This establishment is relatively new, having just opened about 2 months ago, but I see a very bright future for Francesco and his business partner, Philip, the more sedate, serious, and considerably shorter of the two owners. Not only is the food outstanding (Frankly, I'll put my already-tainted-rep. on the line to say that it's the best Italian restaurant we have tried in Palermo, maybe in Buenos Aires, with the exception of Marcelo's in Puerto Madero), but the service is wonderful, a rare find in restaurants here. Cheerful owners who listen to you? Fantastic! Waitstaff who are cordial, attentive, AND genuine? Amazing! My experience here was so positive that I made a reservation for 4 for later this week! These guys are the real deal, and they've stolen our tastebuds and our hearts. Get it? Ladroni? Thieves? Stealing? Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!

***A word about customer service in Buenos Aires...OK, two words: IT. SUCKS. In general, restaurant staff (especially) are way the hell too busy talking to each other, goofing off, and not paying attention to the people who pay their bills: the customers. Hello?!?! People come to eat at restaurants. How about coming to the table within 2 minutes of our arrival to take their orders instead of making us flag you down? It really BUGS me. Bad service in restaurants or shops (I DETEST salespeople who hover and watch me as if I were going to steal something in their store full of poorly made products) will make us walk out the door, as we did in Dashi.***

Francesco is like the archetyal Italian mamma, only taller, skinnier, and hairier, bounding from kitchen to tables in 3 or 4 large steps with his incredibly long legs, and doting on us, stopping short of darning our socks and tucking us in. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious, which gives a fun and homey vibe to this medium-sized restaurant adorned with copies of colorful vintage Italian ads, black and whites of famous actors, and red-checked tablecloths. But on to the food.

The meal started off with two scrumptious little pizzas and a basket of bread made in the restaurant, coupled with little condiment bowls of sundried tomatoes, black and green olives, and marinated red and green peppers. We were checking out the Parma ham and bufala mozzarella combo for our entrada, but Francesco informed us that they didn't have Parma ham right now. He could have easily substituted Parma for Serrano, and we probably wouldn't have known the difference, but he scored some serious points by being honest and not trying to pull a slick "viveza criolla" on us. We opted instead for the caprese, an Italian classic of tomatos and bufala mozzarella, which was perfect. I mean, it's so simple, how can a restaurant screw it up? No, this one was so perfectly condimented that it didn't need anything extra, though I added just a touch of balsamic vinegar. What can I say? I have a Filipino palate that likes sour.

Next, the BF chose the risotto con hongos. I chose the salmon, though, I was also tempted by the pasta bolognese, risotto, and pumpkin-stuffed ravioli, stuffed by Francesco himself. It's always a good sign when no one talks during a meal. It means the food is good. BF's risotto was perfectly al dente, and the hongos were real porcini mushrooms, again, REAL porcini mushrooms, not regular funghi slipped in there to unsuspecting customers. I had a couple of forkfuls, and the taste was rich, earthy, and comforting, with just the right amount of...everything. In fact, I'm going to order it the next time we're here...or maybe it'll be the pasta with bolognese sauce, or maybe... But I loved my salmon, fresh and cooked perfectly, with a side of cooked vegetables and yummy puffed pastry with I-can't-remember-and-I-didn't-write-it-down-but-it's-a-veggie inside.

I decided not to get dessert, but if I had gotten one, I would've have gotten the tartufo or the tiramisu. So many to choose from!

On Tuesdays, then have an addition to the regular menu. This week included such main courses as suvlaki de cordero, pollo tandoori, and bouillabaise, all of which would have suited me just fine if I hadn't wanted a slab o' fish.

This restaurant was instant love, and will be a regular stop on our weekly dining circuit.

Ambiance: Homey for a decent-sized restaurant. I can see families and couples coming here.

Service: Impeccable and down-to-earth. A RARITY!!! PLUS, Francesco speaks English pretty well.

Price: I didn't look at the bill, so I can't tell you what I paid, and I hate math. BUT here are the price ranges in pesos. Aren't I a benevolent goddess? Entradas: between 16-22; Salads: 22; First Plate: 27-35; Second Plate: 31-36; Dessert: 9-16. This is not an inexpensive place, but they use quality Italian ingredients (De Cecco) which shows in their food. So completely worth it.

Overall: Fantastic find! Get on a plane, and try this now!

To all my (3) readers out there: A hearty "hola" and "que tal" to all!

I decided to take an unannounced hiatus from pretty much everything for 2 months. Call it laziness, call it my thyroid wreaking havoc on my hormones, call it leaving BA for a month to visit the Philippines and China. But volvĂ­, y voy a quedarme aca (sorta, except for little jaunts to freeze-my-So. Californian-ass-off Ushuaia and the Chilean fjords) until May, when I leave for the States again. So, you're stuck with me again for awhile.

First things first: Women in their mid-30's need to have their thyroids checked! If you've been feeling exhausted, irritable, and depressed, are gaining weight though you haven't stopped watching what you eat or exercising, are not finding pleasure in things that usually interest you, like tango dancing--sort of like PMS has invited itself for an unwelcomed extended stay--get yourself over to your nearest endocrinologist to get your hormone levels checked PRONTO!

Second: Get yourself second or third opinions. I didn't want to be put on any Levoxythorine or any other hormone just yet, so, before I left for Asia, I went to a homeopath in Los Angeles who is also an MD. I wanted to do a treatment that would be as "suave" and as natural to my system as possible. I'm not a completely new-agey person, but I hate taking medicine. I take baby aspirin, for chrissake, when I have a headache. I like my body to be able to work its kinks out the way it thinks it needs to. (Of course, this doesn't apply to those who are suffering from really serious disorders that really need allopathic meds.)

Although the medical care is pretty good in BA, and there are very good homeopaths here, there's nothing like being able to talk about your feelings and health in depth and in your own language without having to fumble for words. There are just some subtleties that you feel in your own language that you can't quite capture in a foreign least for me, that is. The good news is that I'm feeling back to my old self again, and my TSH level has decreased. I'm going to keep tracking my levels YOU HAVE OTHER OPTIONS!

Third: Since thyroid problems may kick in when you're stressed out to the when you move to another country, start a new relationship with someone who doesn't speak your language, and are in the middle of writing a need to take care of yourself! Take a yoga or pilates class; watch what you put into your body; take a hot bath; get a massage! In short, spoil yourself! I've taken advantage of the decent exchange rate in Argentina, and have started getting massages. Cintia at Petit Pilates, where I also take my pilates classes, is wonderful for a gentle lymphatic drainage massage (in Palermo: 4777-1042), but there are other massages available like Chinese or Thai massage. Check them out! (I get no kick-back for this or any of my recommendations. I wish! I just like supporting people I think give good service.)

Enough, I say! Enough of all this serious business! Let's get back to some tango and food related fun!

Some updates:

I. A reader asked me for an update on my friend who hooked up with a milonguero. Well, as expected, they didn't last beyond 3 or 4 boinks, but I like to think that they enjoyed their moments together. He called her a few weeks back just to say, "Hello," and he greets her at the milonga if they manage to pass by each other, but he doesn't look at her to dance.

Now, this could be taken two ways: He's an ass. Or he just doesn't want to lead her on. Like he told me and my BF, he dances with people he likes dancing with or "para cojer" (to fuck). Um, I appreciate and respect his honesty. At least he makes things clear. I suppose if this were an ideal world, and if we all acted like grown ups all the time, we could take things casually and be friendly with our ex-flings without having expectations, but, let's face it, as Barbra warbled, "we're children...needing other children...and yet letting our grown up priiiide...hide all the neeeeed insiiiide...acting mooooore like children (sniff) than children." Damn. Baby, it's cold outside, but, hey, there were no guarantees to begin with and no promises made.

PLUS, she isn't exactly free either, since she was still seeing her ex once a week and seeing her the milonguero unduh-covuh. How much of a committment could she have made, even socially? Which makes me want to ask her (if I had the balls...which I don't): What do you want? I don't think she knows. So, until she knows, how is she going to get it? Maybe she got what she needed for a few weeks, and maybe she just needs to be satisfied with that. I dunno. Not exactly a romantic way of looking at this, which is disappointing for romantics like moi, but then again, they're waaaaaaayyyyyy the hell past the rose-colored glasses stage.

II. Our friend Nestor La Vitola, the now-former teacher and dancer, has lost to date a whopping 11 kilos!!!!!!!! My BF badgered him to death until he relented to starting a diet that consisted of reducing portion size and replacing sugar with sweeteners (which I, personally, don't like... I mean, really, how good for your body is aspertame? Pero's a start.). Let me tell you, the man dances better, if that was at all possible. Without all that weight to schlep around on the dance floor, he's dancing is "mas liviano" (lighter), he's able to move better, and he doesn't wheeze as he's dancing like he used to. He noted the same changes himself, and he's much happier now.

One more little note about Nestor: He decided to resign as Monica Paz's co-instructor a few weeks ago due to non-tango work committments, but Monica is still teaching and is currently on the East Coast (US) on a teaching tour.

All the best, and happy dancing! TG