Sunday, March 4, 2012

Eats & Smiles: Argentina

Our recent trip to Argentina was abundant with wine and some pretty spectacular meals. While I typically do not offer up restaurant reviews per se, I thought that this collage would be a great way to share some great menus and some places that you should definitely consider visiting should you venture so far south. 

After 20+ hours of travel, we finally arrived in Buenos Aires for only long enough to eat some tacos, drink some cocktails, then ready for our journey to Mendoza that next morning. Our day started with coffees and enough dulce de leche pastries to remind us how fortunate we are to not be afflicted with diabetes. After another 12 hours of driving, a few adventures, and many salutes to the roadside cows and sheep, we arrived at Lujan de Cujo and, in particular, at B&B Lujan de Cujo. The hospitality here was wonderful, as were the simple breakfasts (of fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee, scones or pastries, alongside homemade jam and little packets of dulce de leche). 

We ventured out for a tour and tasting at PASRAI olive boutique... learning about how olive oil was made and sampling several different olive products (from body lotions and similar products to edibles). This boutique company does not even ship their products throughout Argentina. They are only available in Mendoza. 

There were many simple meals of pizzas or sandwiches that seem to be a mainstay in Argentina. Some were better than others but all were satisfying. Then there were simple moments at the B&B... sitting poolside with friends of the family, trying mate for the first time (more on that later), and eating a wonderful homemade apple cake. 

We were also fortunate to be invited to an asado at our B&B. A few of the other guests were hoping to have one while they visited Lujan de Cujo and the invitation was extended to include us. An asado is a traditional Argentine barbeque featuring many different cuts of meat (including the offal) that is slow cooked over coals in an outdoor barbeque or oven called a parilla. There were a few tomato salads but generally the meal focussed on the meat... and some great wine. It was truly an experience. 

There were also many bodegas (wineries) and meals at a few.

Our meal at Salentein was the first and also our celebration of Dean's birthday.
Appetizer - Country bread toast served with mushroom pesto and argula
Starter - Pink salmon salted served with a citrus and red onion cream sauce
Main course - Grilled goat with a malbec wine reduction served with
rustic mashed potatoes, bacon, herbs and crispy leeks

Pre-dessert - Peach sorbet served in pisco syrup
Dessert - Toffee caramel volcano cake served with caramel coated peanuts ice cream

Served with PRIMUS wines - Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Then there were roadside peaches while trying to navigate the Uco valley... road signs are seemingly optional in Argentina. I haven't been able to eat fresh pitted in fruit in so long that I was nervous about trying these but I couldn't resist... and I was alright! No allergies. I really hope that wasn't a flash in the pan but that I may be able to eat raw pitted fruits again. 

Our next fancy bodega meal was at Terrazas de los Andes. 

Starter - Crabs and avocado pear tian accompanied by
seafood brochette and watermelon and ginger soup
Accompanied by Terrazas Reserva Chardonnay 2010
Main course - Veal loin served with baby vegetables and wine syrup
Accompanied by Terrazas Reserva Malbec 2009

Dessert - Red fruit cake served with chocolate and pink pepper parfait
Accompanied by Baron B Brut Rose

Then there was our Valentine's Day dinner at Nadia OF.

Olive oil bread baked in a clay oven
Hearts of palm mousse with radish carpaccio and lemon smoked salt
Iberico cured ham "croquetas" on tomato reduction

Doug had the Corn in different textures (soup, salty scales and fried corn) while Dean and I had the Scrambled eggs with mushrooms in crunchy potato flower and truffle salt

Doug had the Fresh vegetables wok with ginger and curry while Dean and I had the Rib eye garnished with smashed potato and mojo rojo

Rice pudding foam with cinnamon

Blue cheese and red fruit caviar with melon and vodka cold soup

We also visited Andeluna (owned by the Lays potato chip family), O Fournier (after getting completely lost, taking roads that were not roads and reaching the winery after it had closed), Bodega Norton, Dominio del Plata | Susanna Balbo (where we actually got to meet Susanna Balbo herself!), Luigi Bosca and Carmello Patti (where Carmello himself toured us through the facility and shared his wine). We experienced the full range of production (from small boutiques like Carmello Patti where he just didn't make wine for two years because the grapes weren't good enough to the very hands on approach of Susanna Balbo whose home was actually connected to the winery and overlooked the stainless steel vats where her wine came to life). We drank new young wines and old well-aged vintages. We delighted in all that we learned, drinking it in like the wine itself. (Not to mention us painstakingly packing eight bottles of wine and one bottle of grappa in our suitcases, with a hope and a prayer that they would make it back to Canada in one piece, as we started our own wine cellar from this Argentine adventure.)

Then to bring it all back into perspective, there was a visit to McDonald's in Godoy Cruz... this Mendocino combo with fresh empanadas and a mini bottle of red wine was a hilarious and tasty interlude in our more fancier dining experiences.

There were also dulce de leche lattes (which I am drinking right now). Then the best choripan of my whole trip from a tiny hole in the wall in San Telmo in Buenos Aires. 

Our final dinner in Buenos Aires brought us to another friend's home. Marcie has embarked upon a tremendous challenge of cooking her way through the Cordon Bleu home collection menus. The whole project will probably take her a few years to complete, depending on how often she is able to dedicate the (sometimes) days that she said it takes bring a full menu to fruition. I'm impressed with her gumption. While Cordon Bleu attempts to ease you into their incredibly complex and intricate techniques, some of these recipes would be challenging for the most seasoned of chefs or home cooks. This is the precision of French cooking - part of its charm but also its challenge. My hope for her and her family is that the conclusion of this project is celebrated with someone else cooking a beautiful French meal for them!

Marcie's Cordon Bleu Night
Langostines au gratin
Volaille a la greque 
Pudding diplomatique

Somewhat translated into English (Marcie, feel free to jump in here), there were beautiful prawns baked in a seafood sabayon, roasted duck with raisins on a bed of rice pilaf, and lady fingers (also homemade) layered with creme anglaise, candied fruits and kirsch, topped with fresh raspberries.

While some meals were definitely more extravagant than others (comparing our lunch at Terrazas to our hamburguesas completas lunch at a roadside trailer), we definitely enjoyed many great Argentine eats... and many great Argentine wines. 

1 thought(s):

Laura said...

Oh Christine - it looks fabulous PS love the collages.

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