Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mendoza: The best chorizo is not a sausage!


Next stop going south was Mendoza, where it felt like being in the middle of the countryside having some tasty meat accompanied with red wine, but the city is actually one of the biggest in the country.


Its rigid structure of calles and carreteras is only interrupted by parks and squares, with an European feeling of modernity in its architecture.

The summer days are hot and dry, and the best way to enjoy it is in the shadow having an ice-cream, or reading a book under a tree in the park. Since it was holiday time for most Argentinians, after lunch and around siesta time the city felt strangely inhabited, in contrast with the evenings where most streets around Plaza de Independencia would  gain a new life, with music and magic shows.

We enjoyed ourselves in a slow pace through the city and enjoyed also the regional gastronomy, which involves meat and wine. I ate, probably, the biggest, thickest, juiciest, tastiest chunk of meat in my life, the famous Argentinian 'bife de chorizo' and although at the end of the meal I promised I wouldn't need to eat more meat for the rest of my life, a few days later there we were again.
Since a piece of meat that size doesnt go down on its own, as a side dish there were fries and a bottle of malbec to share by two. We were very satisfied at the end.


Since we had been stuffing our bellies with food, we decided to do some sports, and what better way to do some sports than riding a bike through some of the famous vineyards and doing some wine tasting?
So, next day, it was time to put our legs to work, but that doesn't mean that our stomachs were sleeping, no, we went went wine tasting, empanada tasting, beer tasting, olive oil tasting, dulce de leche tasting, and absinthe tasting.

Ufff, I feel full only by thinking of it right now, but we learned a lot, the different grapes, the different vineyards, the different methods to produce wine, and of course the different tastes.

The highlight was maybe the beautiful Trapiche cave, which feels more like a mansion, where everything is clean, organized and with purpose.

Or maybe the highlight was before having the absinthe, where instead of toasting 'cheers', the owners of the place wished us 'good luck', so that we would survive our tiny glass of almost pure alcohol.
So we were happy in the end, of course, ready for another good meal in the city.
But it was not only us, gastronomic tourists, that were stuffing ourselves to death, in one of our strolls around the city,  we discovered a very interesting place where we were the only ones apart from the locals. Through a  small gate in a building we entered something that looked like a local market, but instead of fresh vegetables, fruits and other goodies, there were tables with people having dinner.

There was also a stage with a solo singer and guitar player. Although we didn't know any of the songs, the locals did and they were clapping, singing and cheering like if it was the best concert ever, soon after we found our selves clapping too, as it would be impolite not to participate.

I have to say that the food here was not very healthy, most of it was fried, and even an innocent sandwich was accompanied by fries and the bread was toasted in a pan.

Next to us a family was having an interesting meal, a 'pizza burger'. Imagine a pizza cut in half and placed like a sandwich, stuffed inside with some meat, pieces of ham, fried eggs, sausage and a few vegetables, as a side dish: french fries. That was their meal.

But not everyone in Mendonza was doing these bizzarrities, and sometimes we give too much attention to what we find uncommon, but that was very curious. I think portuguese lovers of 'francesinhas' still have a lot to learn.

In Mendoza and in general in Argentina people are fit, and like to do sports and take advantage of the spaces available in their cities.

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