Saturday, July 6, 2013

Buenos Aires by the Rockies


I rarely travel for “pleasure” – after spending five to six months every year driving around southernmost South America for work, when I get home to California I rarely go much farther than a neighborhood walk or hike with the dog, or a bicycle ride through the Oakland Hills. This past week, though, I spent in and around Denver, partly to visit my cousin and two fellow guidebook authors, Josh Berman and Ross Wehner (who both live in Boulder, nearer the front range of the Rocky Mountains).
From Tuesday through Thursday, though, I also took advantage of my excursion to see my first three baseball games at Denver’s Coors Field (pictured above), where my Los Angeles Dodgers were playing the Colorado Rockies. I hadn’t been to a game in Denver since 1994, when the Rockies played at the late Mile High Stadium, but the opening of Coors in 1995 has helped revitalize the Lower Downtown (LoDo) neighborhood with bars, restaurants and other businesses in what had been a seedy area of decrepit factories.
In the mid-1980s, while roaming around Amsterdam with my wife, we fortuitously came upon two parrillas (grill restaurants) across the street from each other – one of them Argentine and the other Uruguayan (the street might as well have been named Río de la Plata). Only in Denver, though, have I found a non-parrilla Argentine restaurant, the Buenos Aires Pizzeria, which has both a sit-down restaurant and a small takeaway less than two blocks from the ballpark.

On Wednesday evening, wishing to avoid overpriced ballpark food in any event, I ordered a slice of fugazzetta, the flavorful cheese-and-onion pizza that’s one of my favorite Argentine snacks. I followed it up with a serving of gelato-ish Argentine ice cream, including bittersweet chocolate and mocha, from a selection of more than 30 flavors. The following day, meeting some friends who had flown in for the game before taking a vacation in New Mexico, I ordered empanadas, including an unusual chicken-pesto variety that I have never seen in Argentina. Still that left me with another 25 varieties to go.
On top of that, BA Pizza offers a pretty good selection of Argentine wines, including a dozen by-the-glass options (that sort of diversity is still a little unusual in Argentina itself, especially at pizzerias). On the restaurant side, the décor is nostalgically tango-prone, reproducing logos of venues like Café Tortoni and El Viejo Almacén.
Personally, I wouldn’t put Buenos Aires Pizzeria in my top echelon of Argentine pizzerias or ice creameries, but I wouldn’t dismiss it either. If I were walking around the Argentine capital at midday, it’s the sort of place that would leave me contented and, if you’re in Denver’s LoDo, for a ballgame or otherwise, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. On my next Denver trip, I won't hesitate to go back.

Moon Handbooks Chile, in Los Altos
In less than two weeks – Wednesday, July 17, at 7 p.m., to be precise – I will offer a digital slide presentation on travel in Chile at Santa Clara County’s Los Altos Library (13 S. San Antonio Road, tel. 650/948-7683). Coverage will also include the Chilean Pacific Islands of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Juan Fernández (Robinson Crusoe), as well as southernmost Argentina (Tierra del Fuego and the vicinity of El Calafate) that appear in the book. I will also be prepared to answer questions about Argentina and Buenos Aires. The presentation is free of charge, but books will be available for purchase at a discount.

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