I’ve made a pact with my economy desk colleague to start putting our bylines on stories we may endeavour to write about inflation. This may seem a fairly mundane stance to be taking, given that we are, of course, journalists of the economic variety and have the right to slap our names on articles.
But the reason I suggested a pact is because it seems I’ve got a slightly masochist and curious urge to find out what might happen to us at the hands of Judge Alejandro Catania.
In September, the Judge subpoenaed six newspapers for the details of those reporters and editors who have been covering Argentina’s economy over the past five years, so they can be called as witnesses against their sources.
In obvious cahoots with Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno, who has been fining private consultancies up to (read as “most of the time”) 500,000 pesos for publishing misleading inflationary statistics in a bid to silence them.
But no matter how hard the government tries to hide them, the outside world wants to know what the correct consumer prices figures are: the IMF said in its world economic outlook report recently that it would be further relying on private data as a more accurate source.
Inflation is the word that the government rarely utters, however, in the Herald newsroom it crops up in every other conversation. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but just on Thursday we were discussing how much change you get out of a 100-pesos bill these days. Not a lot, it seems.
So here begins a new and sporadic series on getting change from 100 pesos at a dinner for two. Given the soaring costs of pretty much everything, I’ve taken the decision of not including service charge or a tip in this new inflation-busting test — so expect to add on another 20 pesos to the total. Soft drinks, but not wine, shall be included in the overall price, and the main idea is to leave the eaterie with a full stomach and a happy wallet.
Never mind inflation, I’ve had a global financial crisis of my own this past week. Unable to access the few quid I have rattling around in a British piggy bank, and unable to access the few pesos I have because the lovely bank lady cut up my card in front of me without asking, I’ve had to depend on the kindness of strangers of late in order to sustain some kind of social life and fulfill my eating needs. Well, the kindness of colleagues and friends.
On the level?
A few years ago, Desnivel was all the rage for cheap and cheerful Argentine dining, specializing in budget steaks and minutas. But as costs have gone up, portions have gone down in size and every other diner speaks a northern European language, so keen they are to make their euros go further, it’s fallen rather out of favour with me.
But for an inflation-busting meal — think ribs and a simple salad, or a bowl of steaming pasta — served up speedily and fairly cheerfully, it still hits the spot.
Ádrian and I unadventurously each chose milanesa and chips. The breaded beef was large enough to share, although I polished the lot off, meaning taste buds could also tuck into a starter or a dessert.
The chips ran the gamut of appalling through to great — from soggy which is how I love them to teeth-breaking and almost frozen inside — which makes me wonder what the hell was going on in the kitchen.
However, Ádrian had to return to work and as service was sharp, he wasn’t late back to work and we left full, Ádri happily with 20 pesos tucked into his pocket.
An aside. Plastered on the wall was a story about the restaurant published in a national daily. The intrepid journalist had collared Johnny Foreigner and mates for an interview but it was Johnny and co who had the last laugh. Check out the framed article behind the first pillar as you walk in, and you’ll see a story featuring one Derek Zoolander…
Wednesday night meant dining out with Sharyn. Brunch partner in crime, bloody Mary partner in crime, this New Yorker knows her pizza — and it’s not that thick gooey stuff loaded down with cheese that might never have come close to a buffalo.
Siamo nel Forno makes the thinnest of bases, and while I’m not a crust Nazi by any means, going to this Palermo pizzeria which is based on the genuine Neapolitan experience, is a true pleasure. Néstor’s kitchen only uses the finest ingredients, and so we devoured, literally without pausing for breath, a cured ham and mushroom doughy delight (see photo), again with 20 pesos left over.
Open to suggestions, garlic mushrooms could have added a new depth of flavour to the pizza, so watch this space, Néstor may be whipping that some time soon.
It seems logical to get change from 100 pesos for eating pizza, but even the classic El Cuartito doesn’t give you much back, according to my centavo-counting economy desk colleague. The difference between Siamo nel Forno and El Cuartito is the former gives you a lot of taste for your cash, something most pizza houses simply can’t offer.
Pizza and milanesa. I know these are obvious bargain dinner choices. But rest assured, I shall be checking out what else is out there. A girl can’t live on pizza and milanesa alone. And for how much longer 100 pesos can feed two people dining out…
Desnivel, Defensa 855
Siamo nel Forno, Costa Rica 5886
Photo by Sharyn Rosenblum Evron