Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Fan of Big Smiles

Guillermo and I have finally decided on which real estate agent is to sell our apartment. We went to their office, in the heart of Recoleta, to sign the authorisation.

Their office is a loft in a smart apartment block close to the Village Recoleta complex. As far as we could see, all the employees were girls. They were nicely dressed, all in discreet smart casuals. I liked the atmosphere; the energy was up beat, the girls smiled a lot.

My rather naughty husband, however, winked at me and told me they were speaking in "San Isidran" (a certain accent and manner of speech adopted by some habitants of the northern suburbs and gated communities) and smiling "ballroom dancers' " smiles. With incomprehension on my face, he smiled like he was a contestant on Come Dancing (Dancing with The Stars in the U.S.) while saying "I consider that a dialect". Sometimes, this otherwise good man is incorrigible.

Anyway, it was pleasant doing business with these girls. I recall having the same good feeling when we met the previous owner of our apartment, a dapper Argentine gentleman and an economist with the UN, based in Vienna. He also had a big smile. I kind of miss all that - when doing business, people look you in the eye, smile and give you a firm handshake.

There are already many blogs telling would-be expats how to buy/ rent real estate in this city so I'm not going to bore you with that. However, after seeing many expat friends around us buy and sell or listening to Guillermo's parents and his eldest brother "talk shop" (they dabble in property development), I would like to add my own take on the subject. After all, we are all in the real estate market as an owner, a tenant or someone looking to buy or sell.

Buy and don't rent, and buy as much as you can afford – The logic is simple enough; it is even more so in a rising market. We bought within our first couple of months here, with as much cash as we could spare, and were fortunate enough to jump on the recovery bandwagon. Encouragingly, current momentum of the market has gone beyond recovery and is based on rapid economic growth. Yes, the same growth that may lead us to an energy crisis this summer...well, we have to take the good with the bad.

Choose your property well – Many expats look for properties in Recoleta and Palermo Hollywood. Others seek out well preserved buildings with period architectural features. The fortunate few combine both in one.

Buying in Recoleta is like buying blue-chip stock, it is going to cost you but it is low risk. Contrary to some out-dated reporting, especially in the U.S. media, one would find Recoleta costs almost US$2,000 or above per sqm these days. Palermo Hollywood is following hot on Recoleta's heels in popularity and price, however, its risk proof potential is yet to be tested.

Guillermo and I fall into the latter group. We deliberately seek out edificios antiguos (mostly French-style buildings). Since we have needs for a sizeable apartment with "double circulation" (local term for independent entrances to an apartment; ideal for home/ consultation room) plus a seminar room for at least 20 persons, Recoleta is out of our budget. We looked at other areas which are centrally located with a high concentration of period buildings.

Our apartment is close to the Congress and Av. 25 Mayo where the eyes can feast on numerous architectural delights. It is about 15 min's walk along Av. Callao to plush Recoleta, less than 15 min's taxi ride to hip San Telmo and Puerto Madero. It is also within easy walking distance to theatres and famous tango dance halls such as Ideal, Tortoni and Club Español. Buses to most parts of the city and Subte (underground) are both at our doorsteps yet it is very quiet and more importantly, safe, in the evenings and on weekends.

Know thy neighbour – I know this is hard to figure out especially before you buy but there can be telltale signs if you observe closely. This, I can only illustrate from personal experience. When we came to view the apartment we eventually bought, we noticed the common areas were very well maintained by a friendly portero (doorman). We came across people of the building who were nicely dressed and well mannered. When we were waiting for the elevator, we could hear a neighbour playing classical music on a pianoforte. We had some idea what types of neighbour we would have.

Our hunch has been proven right; the retired judge across the hall was a lovely man and his widow and son are equally friendly. The pianist turns out to be another retired judge (we are also within walking distance to Tribunales, the courts). Since we have moved in, an architect with passion for period features has bought and renovated an apartment so has another 30-something professional couple. The "noise" we ever hear if we could call it that at all, and only when we are standing in the common hall, is our neighbour's piano practice.

Are we sad to go? We both love our apartment but we are not emotionally attached to it; we'll have very fond memories of the place but we are looking forward to moving on in life. Our plan is to sell and look for a smaller place, maybe a PH (Planta Horizontal, low density housing) closer to Guillermo's parents.

If we leave, it'll be an investment. If we stay, we anticipate Guillermo would focus increasingly on projects with corporations and one-on-one consultations so we won't need a big seminar room which is underutilised.

So with my signature on the dotted line, it is all happening and we are excited. Now we just have to sit back and watch the market works...I'd like to think it is like watching a cake rise.

My lovely food blogger friend Bonnie has sent me some Matcha powder! She is a goddess! I've also received it without a hitch so I'm doubly pleased. This high grade Japanese green tea powder, excellent for baking, is not available in Buenos Aires and now that I've my own stash secured, I'm going to look into more Japanese recipes.

Japanese baked cheesecake has a much lighter texture than what we are used to, it is almost like a denser sponge cake with a hint of creamy soft cheese.

Here is a plain version but adding green tea powder to the batter as flavouring is very popular in Japan. Try it with 1/2 tsp first and see if you like the taste to be stronger.

80g Philly cream cheese
1/4 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup white sugar, divided
2 egg whites
1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 1/2 tablespoons corn flour

Preheat the oven to 175 C. Line the bottom of a 18-20cm round cake pan cake pan with parchment paper.

Warm the cream cheese and milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cream cheese is melted. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and half of the sugar until light and fluffy using an electric mixer. Fold the cream cheese mixture into the yolks. Sift in the flour and corn flour, and stir until blended.

In a separate bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites with cream of tartar until they can hold a soft peak. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining sugar and continue whipping to stiff peaks. Fold egg whites into the cream cheese mixture. Pour into the prepared cake pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet with sides.

Place the baking sheet with the cheesecake into the oven, and pour water into the baking sheet until it is half way full. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the heat to 150 degrees C. Continue to bake for 15 more minutes. Let the cake cool before removing from the pan.

Run a knife around the outer edge of the cake pan, and invert onto a plate to remove the cake. Peel off the parchment paper and invert onto a serving plate so the top of the cake is on top again.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home