“Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but are famous because they are great. We come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety.”
– Daniel J. Boorstin, U.S. Social Historian, 1914
Buenos Aires – The only thing worse than finding yourself surrounded by paparazzi is finding yourself surrounded by the amateurs of the same genre. Not that I, personally, was surrounded, and I guess I have to cop to having taken a picture (more in a moment) myself. But there I was, enjoying the sun on the plaza, and the blond 40-something and her boyfriend were animatedly talking back and forth on two cellphones that were occasionally to be found at their table. Occasionally, I say, because most of the time, the two cellphones were in the possession of two large muscular men seated at another table twenty feet away, who would answer them, and then bring them over and hand them to one or the other of the two chatty folk. In between, there were intermittent shrieks from various teen to 20-something boys and girls who would come rushing across the plaza screaming “Cecilia, Cecilia!” at the top of their lungs. Each time, the goons were on their feet rushing to place their bulk in between, and each time, the blond waved them to step back, smiled grimly, and stood to have her photo taken with one and all. I didn’t have a clue who she was – so I snapped a subtle picture with the phone camera from the side, figuring Henry could enlighten me later. Which, of course he did, after a moment’s wracking his brain. Cecilia Bolocco, as it turns out. Not that that helped me, until he tried Cecilia Menem-Bolocco… ahh, the ex-wife of Argentine ex-president Menem, ex-Miss Universe (from Chile), ex-soap opera star, ex-movie actress… how, ex-citing. I was sitting in the outdoor dining plaza at Primafila, Pueyrredón 2501 – actually, the second floor terrace area of the Buenos Aires Design Center, in Recoleta.
I like Primafila quite a bit, and have been to it several times. It’s a bit on the pricey side, not surprising given its locale, but it’s still a delightful place to dine, to sit out in the sunshine in nice weather, and, virtually always, to celebrity spot. It can be slightly heavy on the tourist population as well, after having shopped in the stores below, it’s a nice place to come and relax. The low couches at the tables also have a tendency to attract the makeout crowd, and it’s not unusual to have a couple or two basically dry-humping in plain sight during a fair portion of your meal – something that can be a bit off-putting at times. In fact, this time, the two couples at the tables directly across from me spent most of half an hour on neighboring couches on top of each other. (You can also vaguely see the two bodyguards standing on the far side of them to the left.) But, I can manage to deal with it in exchange for the high quality of both service and food. The focus is Italian, in fact the menu is written in Italian with Castellano descriptions below each name. Wonderful pastas are their specialties, some really good pizzas, and a variety of other dishes as well. They’ve got an excellent wine list, with a wide ranging selection.
One of my favorite cheeses in the world is the burrata. I’m sure there’s some good technical cheese-person’s way of describing it, but from my view – imagine a pristinely fresh mozzarella, just made, from the freshest of milk, and not allowed to quite set. It’s wrapped up, traditionally, in some sort of leaves, I don’t recall the type, and what you end up with is a baseball sized ball of mozzarella with a liquid center that is a mix of whey and what is essentially butter… probably buttermilk, but you get the idea. Put that on a menu and I’m in heaven. Add to it a mound of smoked salmon, a mix of delicious salad greens, oven-roasted tomatoes, and garnish the whole thing with crispy bits of roasted black olives… Need I say more?
I’ve mentioned this dish before – mollejas crocantes – crispy fried sweetbreads atop fennel and yams, and surrounded by a thick honey sauce. The dish seems to have changed slightly since I first tried it – the honey is less a sauce than just plain honey, and I don’t recall from my last time trying it the mix of seeds in the honey. I recall it being heavier on black pepper – now it’s fairly light on that and there are a range of other flavors from whole coriander and fennel seeds. The sweetbreads aren’t quite as crispy either. It’s still a great dish, but I’ve got to say, my version of it, while perhaps created from a misremembered version, is better. Just one man’s opinion. Hey, it opens up the menu for going back to trying other things on it.
Overall it’s still one of my favorite restaurants in the city. At least in nice weather where I can sit out in the sun and play paparazzi.