Finding good cheese in the city of Buenos Aires is a bit like finding waterfalls in the desert. Tourists probably won’t mind going without some familiar cheese varieties for a while when they can compensate their menu with steak and wine. But what if you have been in the city of Buenos Aires for a while already, and your body demands good cheese beyond queso crema and muzzarella? Some people give up and accept the options offered by the local supermarkets. Others may desperately search other parts of Argentina, like Tandil, where cheese is something of a specialty.
There is good news for those unwilling to compromise but without the time or inclination to travel so far: it is possible to find good cheese selections in the city of Buenos Aires. The first clue comes with the tablas de quesos, a huge gastronomic–and often artistic–construction of many cheese types on one wooden plate, commonly served in, or delivered from, restaurants. If it does exist on the tablas, surely it must be produced and sold nearby? Well it is, if you know where to look…
Mercado Verde (Caballito)
This little green spot just in front of the subte station Primera Junta doesn’t look like anything special. However, it offers over 1,000 types of cheese, according to its retailers. They have worked mainly with producers from Córdoba for over 25 years, and the store is always full of customers. Their specialties are queso de campo and parmesano. While the former might taste too simple for experienced cheese-lovers, parmesan gets maximum points for its sharp and strong flavour. The store’s retailers are especially proud of pategras, provolone and roquefort. The prices earn it even more points: most pieces cost between $62 and $120 per kilo, which is relatively inexpensive these days.
The store is open from 8am till 8.30 pm and is located on Av Rivadavia at junction with Rojas (Subte A Line Primera Junta).
Petit Queso (Recoleta)
Just like its name, the place is small, but as the Argentines say, it has a big heart. Angel, Julio and Ramón welcome me with big smiles and are at my disposal during my entire visit. They opened the store only four months ago, but have already earned some loyal customers. The team chooses artisanal producers from Córdoba, Santa Fe and Tandil, and their professional experience with cheese totals 20 years. Petite Queso is focused on middle-class customers, which is why their prices start at $130 per kilo for gouda or holanda and $160 per kilo for parmesano. Something more exotic like reblochen tastes incredible, but you will have to pay $195 per kilo.
The store on Pueyrredon 1955 is open from 10am to 9pm Monday-Saturday, and from 10am-3pm and 5pm-9pm on Sundays.
La Casa del Queso (Abasto)
This place could be a museum. The large space serves as a restaurant and shop at the same time. Huge slices of cheese hang all around, inviting visitors to try them right away. Carlos, the restaurant’s manager, guides me as if it were an exhibit. He calls himself ‘the oldest exponent of the place’ and patiently explains the differences between types and importance of balancing strong tastes with milder ones. Ffiteen-year-old La casa de los Quesos has two lines of cheese: local and European varieties produced in the Córdoba and Santa Fe provinces.
Carlos first offers strong gruyere and parmesano, with a strong, concentrated taste that strikes my tongue. Now Carlos decides to give me a break by cutting slices of local holanda and provolone that calm down my tastebuds with their smoothness. “Never eat more than two types of strong cheese in a row. Always mix them with weaker cheeses, otherwise you won´t be able to enjoy your cheese plate,” Carlos lectures.
The store and a restaurant is open from 8 am till midnight and is located on Av Corrientes 3587 (Subte B Line Carlos Gardel).
El Puente (various locations)
El Puente looks like a typical chinese supermarket from the outside. To my surprise, I discovered mountains of cheese among other the products. The store sells cheese made in Ordoñez, Córdoba province, near the border with Santa Fe. El Puente offers mostly high quality local cheese at a relatively low price: you can get holanda for $59 per kilo and provolone for $74 per kilo. They tell me, most people come to buy sardo (between $80 and $96 per kilo depending on a type), cremoso ($70 per kilo) or muzzarella ($70 per kilo). Foreign reggianito or parmesano start at $70 per kilo.
El Puente is a great option for tasting local cheese at a reasonable price. The store in Chacarita is open 7am-9pm and can be found in nine more places across the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires. To find out closer stores, you can visit their webpage: www.lacteoselpuente.com.ar
Las Cabrillas – Special Producer
Although not yet widely known, Las Cabrillas is a special producer that stands out from the others on this list. The first time I met its sellers at the Argentina Independent’s December Underground Market, I spent quite a while at their stand, trying cheddar and feta. Las Cabrillas is a special project run by FUNDAPAZ to enable rural economic development in northern Argentina.
Bob, a long-term volunteer at FUNDAPAZ, drives the project. “Many years ago people didn’t really value good cheese, but now tastes are changing and we are catching this trend,” he says. Las Cabrillas retailers sell the products and set the prices; however, it is also possible to order cheese online and have it delivered. Prices vary from $160 to $200 per kilo.
To know more about Las Cabrillas and its locations, please, visit their webpage: http://www.lascabrillas.com.ar/