Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thanksgiving with the gringos

Summer is just around the corner and in many ways, it feels like it's already here. It's about 90* outside lately, and even though it's a "dry heat" , it's still hot. Not really feeling like the holiday season. But it is. And it's weird.

Thanksgiving was just a few weeks ago, and to answer your questions: Yes! We had a Thanksgiving! With turkey. In fact, we had 2 Thanksgivings: 1 on Thursday and the other on Sunday afternoon. Here, we had a long weekend as well, but it was because Monday was a national holiday; not Thursday or Friday.

I consumed parts of 6 different turkeys cooked at least 4 different ways. It was glorious. Of course, when you're in Argentina, you're bound to drink a ton of wine. One of my personal favorites is the Azul Reserva blend, which is also the favorite of one of our hosts. We also brought with us to the first gringo feast a bottle of Melipal Rose, which, according to one of my friends who is also a wine expert, is one of Argentina's finest roses.  I would like to put the accent on the "e"  right here, but I'm not using my regular laptop, so forgive me. We didn't get to open the bottle (everyone brings wine everywhere here, so we had enough) - but I am hoping to find an occasion for it soon.

Dinners were great and it really has begun to feel like "home"  here, even though it may not really be our home after May. The friends that we've made here are fantastic, and there's a real sense of community among the expats, anyway. If I couldn't be home with my family, I still enjoyed my new "family" here in Mendoza.

Last Monday (the holiday), we went to Anna Bistro (which I've written about before) and drank a few bottles of Lurton's Pinot Gris... a refreshing, light white, while having lunch with friends of ours on their outdoor patio. It was really nice.

If it's not going to feel like the holiday season, I might as well enjoy the fact that they're during the Spring and Summer here, right?

Bring on the whites and roses!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The gato outside my window.

My neighbor/friend and I want to murder this cat that hangs out between our apartments.
It's actually kind of cute. But its cuteness is far overshadowed by its amazing ability to make a noise that pisses me off to the core. It's almost a baby crying mixed with dying animals and a touch of Ke$ha.

Naturally, its favorite time to make such noise is on the weekend when I'm hungover in bed from a night out at Por Acá when I get home at 6:30am and want to sleep all day.
It also has a knack for hanging out directly outside my window and meowing/bitching right when I get home from work.

Did I mention that there's a very similar, equally-evil cat at work that does the same exact thing every day after 5pm?

Between the cat and the birds that have some sort of obnoxious song that's like a broken record player looping all day... I need a BB gun. Or perhaps something with a bit more firepower.

Those pesky acequias.

I believe I have blogged before about the water irrigation ditches found on the side of nearly every Mendocino street (other than Arístedes and Colón, I've noticed - but there are ton more, I'm sure.). They are about 3-4 feet deep , or so. They carry running water around the city to water the plants that they planted here way back when, because we're smack in the middle of a desert.

They built the acequias to injure people.

Not really. But, I know a lot of people who have fallen in one, drunk or sober. I'm now a lucky member of this not-so-exclusive club.

I don't know how it happened, but I ate sh*t yesterday on my way home from my massage. Maybe it was the fact that I was so relaxed after a stressful day. Maybe it was the spiderweb I was mesmerized by, so much so that I took an ill-placed step and ended up waist-deep in my concrete ditch. Luckily for me, there was no water in this one on this day.  However, concrete ledges, when one scrapes one's both legs on them, hurt like a b*tch.

Adding insult to injury, no Mendocino passerby offered to help me or ask if I was okay. I dusted off my now-dust-covered jeans and wiped my bloody, scraped palms together. Embarrassed, and used to falling in such a manner, I grinned. But I died a little bit inside.

I called my mother soon thereafter to recount the story, and her reaction? "That nevah woulda happened in New YAWK. People think we're all rude, but I'll tell ya - New Yawkas woulda stopped and helped ya."

Maybe.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Restaurant Review - Aramburu


L and I went to two of the best meals we've ever had, within 3 days in Buenos Aires during our trip.
Thanks to recommendations from friends, we checked out both Astrid & Gastón and Aramburu.

We ate at Aramburu second but I want to write about it first, because I'm lazy and who knows if I'll ever get around to writing about Astrid & Gastón?

First off, it's on a little street in San Telmo with no sign on the outside, with shutters or blinds concealing most of the windows, and very low lighting. Our cab drove right past it on the way to the place. We then proceeded to back up down the one-way street and find it.

The interior is beautiful. Exposed brick walls, funky, minimalist chandeliers, a different centerpiece on every table. The dining room is quite small, but intimate and there is plenty of room between the tables. There was not an empty table in the restaurant when we were eating, but it was still quiet and peaceful. We were seated next to the open kitchen, which was really neat to see the chefs preparing all the food before it came out.

I should back up and say that the deal is there's a 10-11 course tasting menu available and nothing else. They ask about any food allergies upon reservation, and the style of food is molecular gastronomy wolrd cuisine. There's a great wine list with not just wines from Argentina, but Europe as well. We chose a red blend from Spain after glasses of champagne to start.

The food was incredible. The first course was a deconstructed soup and salad. Tomato soup. It's impossible to describe, but it was great. Then there were fish courses, shrimp, rabbit, poached eggs, filet mignon, and two dessert courses. To see the menu, you can visit their website at : http://www.arambururesto.com.ar/

The service was amazing, very attentive but unobtrusive.

Yum!

The man with the bird.

Last week, we were driving home from work in my coworker's car and a fat man on a bicycle rode by. He was bald, and looked pretty mean. He completely enveloped the bicycle on which he sat. Then, as he passed, we kept looking, and there was a small black bird with a bright orange beak, just perched on his back. Riding along as his pet.

Fat man with a little bird.

I wish my iPhone wasn't dead so I could have taken a photo.

This is garbage.

I removed this post, because it was mean. Also, because I apparently misunderstood the man. He was selling garbage bags. Still annoying, and shouldn't have been ringing my doorbell trying to sell me plastic bags to throw my garbage away in, but still. Not as ridiculous as before.

However, the garbage men here DO ask for tips. So, I wasn't completely out of line, either.
Hmph.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Buenos Aires: Wandering La Boca

Ok, I promised I'd write a little bit about my second trip to BA. Here it is. See? I deliver.

Part of why I was excited to go back to BA was that I never got to see the Boca stadium, or La Boca in general.
Boca Juniors play here. They took their colors from the Swedish Flag.

This time I took Kim's advice (who commented on a prior post) and checked out Caminito in La Boca. I have to say, it was a pretty cool place. And funny. And super obnoxious. Every two feet, someone would approach us and ask us to eat in their cafe, or go to their tango show, or buy something. It got old, real fast.
Ah, Caminito. And Havanna, which is basically the Starbucks of Argentina. And possibly as obnoxious.
 
However, the highlight was a 20-something dreadlocked rasta who came right up and said, "Hey guys, want to get really f*cking drunk in my awesome restaurant?"  I couldn't have asked it better myself.

We declined, however. We were on the search for some good knockoff Argentina jerseys and scarves. And trying to take photos of the streets, because, well, they are pretty amazing.
Creepy mannequins are watching you.


Other highlights were the fat Argentine man who takes photo ops as Maradona, the famous (?) Maradona graffiti, and the tango dancers in the streets. And the restaurant hustler who kept trying to guess where I was from. When I told him "Texas, USA", after he guessed Australia, Canada, Russia (?), and then things like Iowa (!) ...he replied, "But you are so white!"

Thanks, dude.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Deep in the heart of Texas

I got to Texas early last week and it has been amazing. I didn't know how much I missed it really until I got back.
That being said, I'm heading back to MDZ in early September. I think I'll be ready to head back then.
Went to BA before I left, and had an amazing time. There will be blog posts about various things there.
But until then, I'm going to go to brunch with some of my best friends and enjoy my life.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Restaurant Review - Molokai



I went to Molokai with a friend about a month ago, and I wanted to rave a little bit about it because it was such a nice surprise here in Mendoza. And I have a blog, so rave I will. I've been eating at some great places lately, so there are going to be a few posts like this in quick succession. Be prepared.

The food at Molokai is really, really good - and not traditional Argentine either. It's molecular gastronomy without getting a little too weird about it, if that makes sense. Everything has a foam on top of it, but it's not overdone or too bold.

The place itself is cool; trendy but not uncomfortable, and a unique setting compared to the same old yellow-tablecloth cafeteria-lighting restaurants they have here in spades.

I think it's a pretty great deal for the money because the portions are huge and for dinner for 2, it was about $350 pesos including 2 appetizers, 2 entrees and a bottle of wine.

We tried the salmon foccaccia and the pear and roquefort salads for appetizers. They were both huge and really tasty. My friend and I both commented that we'd be happy with just those dishes as our whole meal, if not at least for a lunch.
For entrees, I got the Hungarian goulash, which was pretty awesome considering the spaetzle was perfect and the beef was Argentine beef. My friend had the bife de chorizo with croquettes.

Basically, the food was awesome and the place is really cool, so I'm excited to go back again soon. It's located at Belgrano 1169, between Espejo and Sarmiento (I think???) in the city center. Open Monday to Saturday from 8pm to 1:30am.

Copa America Semifinals - aka ZZZZZZZZ

Oh My God - I never would have believed you if you told me a soccer game in one of the most important tournaments would be boring as sh*t. But, alas, it happened.

I paid $250 pesos for a ticket to go see the Copa America semi-final game here in Mendoza at the stadium in the Parque General San Martin. If all went the way it should have gone, it was going to be between Brazil & Chile. Awesome. I'd love to see Brazil play. But, somehow everyone in the whole tournament choked except Uruguay, so Brazil & Chile were knocked out and sent home before the semifinal round. I'm not even gonna go into Argentina's heartbreaking loss against Uruguay.

What did this mean?
That I got to go see Paraguay and Venezuela play each other. Wow..the excitement was palpable even to Helen Keller.

Look at all those fans!


It. Was. BORING.

The highlights of the game were the ref getting pegged by the ball (hilarious, actually), the Chileans who were still in Mendoza singing Chile chants and the Argentines singing back anti-Chilean chants, and the stray dog that just came up the stairs and into the stands, like it was just normal for a stray dog to be at a soccer game here, crawling underneath the seats and scrounging around for food.

I still can't wait for the World Cup in Brazil, though. Even if it's crappy teams, I'm sure at least the crowd will be good and the atmosphere will be great.

Jumbo - A supermarket in a mall.

I was treated to one of the weirdest experiences here yesterday, when I went shopping at Jumbo with a friend to get some home stuff/imported foods.

Jumbo's in a mall. So when you check out, and you're wanting to go get a remise or cab or whatever, you have to take your shopping cart full of food and parade it through the mall, past the clothing stores and kiosks.

It was really just strange.


A few comments on my Jumbo experience:

It is the worst of Argentina all in one place. The hair, the rudeness, the people with no clue running into you with their shopping cart, overpriced electronics, and it took forever to do anything.

We waited in line after we got all our stuff picked out for FORTY FIVE MINUTES.

All this, while the a**holes in front of us had TWO carts and the miserable-looking wife kept running off and coming back with more sh*t to put in their carts. Diapers, milk, and oh yeah, 18 bottles of 2-liter Cokes, 4 bottles of Fernet, a case of Talca orange soda, about 10 lbs of meat, and random other crap. Did I mention she went back and forth for milk 3 times? No, I didn't. But I just did.

It got so bad, we decided to pick up a storybook and entertain ourselves reading about Blancanieves and the 7 dwarves.
Note the quantity of soda. not pictured: even more soda, diapers, milk, and angry-looking wife


I did manage to score some pretty sweet American foods. Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, broccoli & cheese soup, for example. They also had Pepperidge Farms super chunk cookies, but they weren't scanning correctly, and I was so ready to leave the store I told the checkout girl to ignore them and put them away - I was not about to wait for some lackadaisical manager to mosey over and find a barcode.

Also purchased: flour tortillas (no corn there, grrr), imported Italian pasta, aaand, that's it.  They bother to import ramen noodles, but they can't bring in a thing of jalapeños? Tragic.

You're next, Walmart.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Te Amo, Mendoza

It's about time where I quit my bitching and write a post about what I love about Mendoza. Because it's seriously a great place. Homesickness seems to tweak my reality at times, and I'm not always as appreciative as I should be that I live in a wine-lover's paradise and I'm surrounded by the great outdoors.

So here goes:
  • The wine. Period. I could write essay upon essay about how much I love it, and it still wouldn't do it justice. Some of my favorite bodegas from right here in Mendoza are O'Fournier (see previous blog post), Pulenta Estate, Doña Silvina, Gimenez-Riili, Sangre de los Andes, Vistalba, Enrique Foster, Mil Vientos, Atamisque, Mauricio Lorca, Azul, Qaramy, Renacer, and Las Perdices.
  • The Andes. Walking around centro, you don't see them all too often, but they're right there, looming to the west of the city. It's an amazing sight, and I don't think I'll ever tire of it. When I'm feeling homesick, going to the park or plaza to see the mountains in the distance is one of the best cures.
  • The piétonal and Plaza Independencia - there are always street performers and artisans selling hand-made goods lining the plaza and the pedestrianized shopping street known as the piétonal.
  • Just now, the little man on a bicycle who goes around sharpening people's knives rode by. How do I know that, without even looking out the window? Because he plays this signature tune on his pan flute as he rides. It's pretty freakin' cute.
  • Did I mention that I live in wine country? And any given weekend, I can go winetasting in any one of the three valleys here (Maipú, Lujan de Cuyo, Tunuyán).
  • Sometimes I hate her because I can hear it in the early morning and I get grumpy, but there's a sweet little old lady who lives in my building that sweeps in front of the building every single day, getting all the leaves and dirt off the sidewalk. Every morning. Without fail. And she's a sweetheart. I just wish I could understand more of what she says.
  • The little mom and pop vegetable stores (verdulerias) and kioscos, where the ladies on my street know me. Also if you don't have a peso or five, and they don't have change, they'll let you pay them the next time you see them. I'm not sure this would ever happen at home.
Did I mention how cheap the wine is? You can buy an amazing bottle of wine for about $25. A great mid-level bottle can run between 30-70 pesos, which is less than you probably have paid for a crappy Chilean wine in the past month.

Oh, Mendoza. I'm glad we'll get to hang out a little longer.

What's in a name?

As Shakespeare said "That which we call a rose; by any other name would smell as sweet...". Except when your name is ridiculous and the Argentine government wants to protect children from lifelong ridicule because of stupid parents.

That's right. There's a baby name registry here in Argentina, and if your chosen baby name is not on there - too bad. Little Guava Queso Inspección better be born somewhere else.

This list is published by province. To consult the list for BA to see if your name is too ridiculous for the porteños, click here.

Personally, I don't think this is such a bad thing. The government makes exceptions for names that are passed down through families, and you can appeal to the authorities if your name is rejected. But, the general rules are: it can't be ridiculous, it can't be sexually ambiguous, the same name as a living sibling, something too foreign, or have more than three first names. So, George Foreman would be totally screwed.

An interesting anecdote told to me by a friend: Frustrated parents who couldn't name their daughter an unapproved name finally got their way years later, when they named their vineyard that name instead. And the wine is pretty great, too. Well done.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunset in the Uco Valley


Sunset over the Andes from our finca in the Valle de Uco
I don't know about you, but I've never seen skies like this.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Being followed like thieves.

So, shopping in Mendoza is kind of like being a teenager in a record store again. The second you go in, the staff follows you around, making sure you're not going to steal something and run out of the store on a moment's notice. Because, goddammit, you need those fake snakeskin leggings, and you're not going to pay for them!

At first it's kind of funny or amusing. And then you realize that they really think you might steal something. I don't understand how this is the case when they hear me or my friends speaking English and see that our style isn't exactly like the 1990's floral prints are our "thing". Or that maybe we don't want a cropped t-shirt with a random chick printed on it.  Or pants that I couldn't even fit my arm into.

We're dressed nicely and are barely even touching the clothes as we browse the racks.  But somehow, we're there to steal. Either that, or we're there for them to stare at and give dirty looks to, because we're the only people in the store, and how dare we interrupt them from loafing around doing nothing and they MAY have to work?

Needless to say, on principle I refused to buy anything at any shop where I was treated this way. I'm not a criminal. I'm actually a lawyer in my late twenties with fashion sense (as in I know that the 90's belong in the 90's, not 2011) and no criminal history. I'm not a Mendocino teen with a mullet and a drug habit. So thanks, I'll go buy a studded pleather vest someplace else.

Jerks.  Ah, the perks of living someplace where petty crime is all the rage.

Antares... mmm.


Ah, Antares.  It's a brew-pub here in Mendoza, Argentina (one of the only) that has happy hour from 7-9pm. Two-fers on microbrews? Yes, please. My favorites of theirs are Imperial Stout and the current seasonal beer  "Wee Heavy". The Cream Stout is pretty great, too. And they have a barley wine with over 10% alcohol. Not too shabby.  Other offerings are Scotch Ale, Kolsch, Honey Beer, and Porter.  My first move when I first went was to get the sampler, which features all of the staple beers plus the seasonal selection.

I went to check out an Irish band here last week, that played traditional Irish music. They were actually really good. But I think I may have enjoyed them the most out of the entire room. Although, I'm pretty sure they were a general hit. The place generally has live music going on, but I'm not quite sure of the schedule.

The music is good and there's a big screen in the back playing either random music videos to accompany the audio, or a big futbol game if there is one that day.

The other perk of this place is that the food is surprisingly good. The Papas Antares (big pile of fries covered in 4-cheese sauce (like an alfredo), pancetta and scallions, i.e. a heart attack) are good, the pizzetas are very decent - get the Especial, and I hear the cazuelas (stews) made with their in-house beers are pretty great.  I once ordered the kids meal of chicken nuggets & fries (because I'm 5 years old) and it was perfect.

Service is fast and pretty friendly, and I've never had a bad experience here. My only complaint is that I once went with some friends and the place was short on degustación (tasting sampler) glasses, and there was allegedly a waiting list for who could get the next sampler.

Kato Cafe, submarinos, shopping and fun

I met up with a friend yesterday at Kato Cafe on Civit and had a lovely afternoon of lounging around on their couches, drinking tea (Patagonia Bee by Inti Zen (Click here for more info)- which is a delicious vanilla, honey, and cacao blend), eating snacks and finishing with my first submarino.  A submarino is an Argentine hot chocolate; it's made with hot milk and a chocolate bar that slowly melts into the milk and makes this not-too-sweet-but-oh-so-delectable hot cocoa that is perfect for the current onset of winter here in Mendoza.  With reasonable prices and a great ambience, I think Kato will be a new favorite haunt of mine.

We then embarked on a journey to buy clothes/scarves/boots/coats in the boutiques that line Avenida Arístedes Villanueva (or, simply, Arístedes). Found a great little boutique with a French flair called Cosset, which is attached to another really cute cafe called Clementine. The shopgirl was sweet and attentive, and very helpful. I ended up buying a sweater-dress and my friend bought a few other things. From there, we continued down the street hitting other boutiques along the way. I'll do a post about this experience in a separate entry, for the sake of brevity here.

After working up a thirst buying things we didn't need, we ended up at Antares, which I'll post about in a separate post as well.

Last, but not least, I ended up going to see a friend's band play at the Liverpool Pub in centro. It was great, but there were some problems with logistics and other things, and I ended up going alone and nobody met up with me there. Woe is me. At least they played some Oasis and U2 covers, and I was pleased. 

All in all, a good day.

Taking a taxi in Mendoza

Since I am retarded and afraid of taking the bus here, I either walk, bum rides from friends or take taxis. Here is a brief summary of what I've experienced in taking taxis pretty regularly around Mendoza. The good, the bad, and the ugly... on 4 wheels.

Taxis here are cheap. The base fare is about 4 pesos (maybe $4.50) during the day and about 5 and change after midnight. Basically, most of my taxi rides around centro have been $10-15 pesos (or $2.50 to $3.75). 

On the whole, most of my taxi-cab experiences have been quite good here.  Some of the drivers are pretty young and hip, and try to speak English to me even if I'm speaking to them in Spanish, asking where I'm from, telling me they know someone in Texas, etc.  And nearly every single male driver I've had that drops me off at my apartment after dark waits for me to get in the door before they drive off. It's something I'm grateful for, and it's them going out of their way to make sure this gringa is safe on their watch.

The drivers are sometimes crusty men in their 40s who talk very little, drive a little too fast, and rebuff any attempts at friendly conversation. But they don't normally overcharge or try to screw me over because I'm a gringa.  Me gusta mucho.

The worst experiences I've had here are very few and far between. One was last week, when taking a cab back to my apartment, I got in and gave the driver my address. He nodded, and we were off. We got to my neighborhood, and he missed a turn. I was going to say something, when he pulled over a few blocks later next to another cab driver to ask where my address was. He never asked ME where it was, and took me five minutes out of the way. I told him I knew where I lived and could direct him. Then, finally, when we arrived at my apartment, he made me pay the full fare. Dickhead.

Then I had a woman driver last night. Now, I'm a girl. I am a girl who can drive. Usually, I don't find many women to be good drivers. Sorry, it's true. This woman was no exception. She was rude, abrupt, and drove erratically. She also didn't tell me she didn't know exactly where I lived until we turned down a street near my apartment (that was a wrong turn, since the streets are mostly one-ways and she turned too soon, and would have to loop around to get in front of my apartment) and I made her let me out on the corner. No sooner had I paid her and shut the door did she speed off in search of other customers to be a bitch to. She wasn't about to wait around to make sure I didn't get raped or anything walking by the abandoned, dark construction site. Gracias.

There are also taxis you can order, called a remise. They come in handy on Sundays when there are less people around and less taxis available to be hailed on the street.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Major life decisions.

So, I was only supposed to be here for 6 months - from February to August. Well, I have news.

I'm staying until April.  So that means 8+ more months of South America for me!

I can't say that I've been loving every minute here, and I have been really homesick. But I feel confident that I've made the right decision to stay (and work) until the end of the next high season. That means another summer, and my first Mendocino spring. And a lot more time to get out and SEE Argentina!

I also get to spend 2+ weeks in Texas in August, seeing my friends, taking care of things at home, and packing up my apartment to lease for 6 months. So, if you're in the market for a sweet downtown Austin condo in a new building with tons of perks, let me know :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Automatic Weightloss

I finally stepped on a scale the other day for the first time since I got to Mendoza.
I know I've lost weight because a) everyone's telling me I look like I have and b) my clothes are a little big.

So I went to one of the farmacias near my office and stepped on the embarrassingly-large scale outside that weighs you for free.

I've lost 20-23 pounds.

I'm not really on a diet. I eat what I want, when I want. But working so much and for such long hours, sometimes when I get home at night, I don't feel like eating dinner and I just go to sleep. Or I'll eat less because I'm in a rush. Or skip breakfast because I forget to eat. 

Not having a car here, you pretty much have to walk everywhere or take cabs.  I still haven't figured out the über complex bus system yet, so I stick to walking.

I haven't worked out in at least 2 and a half months. And voilá! Lost 20 pounds.

Pretty sweet.

Autumn in Mendoza

Autumn seemed to suddenly set upon Mendoza overnight.  One day, the trees all had leaves, and the weather was decent (no coats needed), people were out at all hours of the night, sitting at sidewalk cafés and bars.  The next day, the leaves turned yellow and fell from the trees, the weather turned brisk and coats are a necessary item, and the Mendocinos have begun to hibernate.

The same change is noted in the vines at the vineyards. Within a 2 or 3-week period, they went from beautiful deep reds and purples, to shriveling up and losing all their leaves for winter.

The saving grace of the Mendocino winter is that the sun is still strong and warm, and there are still over 300 days of sunshine here a year.  Outdoor cafes have tables outside still (optimistic?), and many have big spaceheaters to accommodate diners who want to dine alfresco without getting too frio. 

Arístedes (the major nightlife street) is dead - about 1/4 of the people are out at any given night now, compared to a month ago. It's really quite strange.

It's good red wine drinking weather. :)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Walkie-talkie phones

Dear Argentina,

I just thought you should know that we were actually quite comfortable in 2002, and would like to be left there. We're really not cool anymore. And nobody else wants to hear your conversation. Thanks.

Regards,
Nextel direct-connect phones.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fernet & Coke

A brief, uplifting note about an Argentine tradition that I've come to enjoy over these past few months: Fernet con Coca Cola.

Fernet Branca is an herbacious digestif made in Italy by Distillerie Fratelli Branca. However, Argentina is the only other place in the world that they make it outside of Italy.  Fernet became popular in Argentina with the Italian immigrants at the turn of the last century (as in 1900) and then just spread like wildfire throughout the country. On its own, it is disgusting. It's bitter, it's really hard to describe the taste, and the recipe is a secret.  Its Wikipedia entry describes it as "myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and especially saffron, with a base of grape distilled spirits, and coloured with caramel colouring. Ingredients rumored to be in fernet include codeine, mushrooms, fermented beets, coca leaf, gentian, rhubarb, wormwood, zedoary, cinchona, bay leaves, absinthe, orange peel, calumba, echinacea, quinine, ginseng, St. John's wort, sage, and peppermint oil."

Fernet is an acquired taste. The first time I tried it, I hated it. I asked my friends how they could possible drink something so terrible. They assured me that I'd come to like it. I was a nonbeliever.

There are a couple ways to order Fernet in a bar here. You can either get it normally (fernet con coke), or you can get it "para preparar", when the bar gives you 1 glass with ice and fernet, another glass with just ice, and a bottle of Coke to mix your own according to how you like it.  This is probably the best way to go and the best value - and you can make it more suave at first (mostly Coke) and then move on to higher potency combinations later in the evening.

Then one day I enjoyed it. It was after a few adult beverages, of course. But for some reason, I began to like it. And now I know I'm going to crave it when I get back to Texas. Hmph.

A very sad week

On Wednesday night, my 27-year-old coworker passed away unexpectedly. It's been a tough week.  I am still keeping this blog publicly anonymous, so I will not mention his name. But he was an amazing person and he will be missed immensely.

I didn't want to have to go to a wake or funeral while I was here, and I never even contemplated it. Yesterday I went to the wake. It was tough, and it all happened so fast that I'm not sure any of us have processed what happened.  It's not the same as at home, where there are 2 or 3 days between the passing and burial at minimum. I feel like they buried him too quickly for any of us to really understand what was going on.

But that's life. And it has to go on.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Buenos Aires Day 3: The bus tour

BA is a giant city. A cab from Palermo to San Telmo is about $20 pesos each way. This is fine when there are more than one of you, but if you're traveling solo, it can get really expensive. Which is why on Day 3, my first full day alone, I decided to play tourist and buy a ticket on the Buenos Aires Bus. For 24 or 48 hours, I could then hop on and off the bus as much as I wanted, and it goes to pretty much every are of the city you'd want to see if you're visiting, all in less than 3 hours.

Unfortunately for us, there was a Boca Junior game going on in the afternoon, and therefore no tour buses were going to the neighborhood of La Boca. I'm not sure if it's because it was going to be too crowded, or because it was going to be too dangerous. Either way, I sadly didn't get to go to La Boca and take photos of the colorful houses and figures on Caminito.

Grabbing the bus from the stop nearest the zoo, we went from there to the last stop which was right by the Casa Rosada. This area was beautiful, and it's a good thing, too, because we were forced to get off the bus and wait for the next tour to start in 45 minutes or so. At least that's what I think they were telling us when we were forced to get off. Either way, I capitalized on the opportunity and walked to the square to take photos of the Casa Rosada and surrounding buildings. It was beautiful.

After an hour or so of tooling around, I got on the next bus headed around the route and we cruised through the city on the way to San Telmo.  On Sunday afternoons, San Telmo is full of people buying and selling antiques (or crap, depending on your tastes), as well as hand-made crafts and other things that make good gifts for people back home. There are tango shows on the street and street performers here and there doing everything from playing classical guitar to posing as statues.  I wandered around the San Telmo market on calle Defensa and Plaza Dorrego for a few hours, then made my way back to the bus stop to pick up the rest of the tour.
Seriously, if you're ever in BA on a Sunday - go to San Telmo!
We passed by buses of Boca fans who were singing and chanting and making rude gestures to just about anyone who would look at them, so I'm pretty happy that although I'm a big soccer fan, that I was NOT going to the game.

We drove through the modern barrio of Puerto Madeiro, which just feels like you're somewhere in the US, and around the city up to Chinatown and the barrio of Belgrano before we looped around and I got off the bus near my apartment. It was freezing outside at this point (in the late afternoon) and being on an open-top bus was no longer enjoyable.

Pretty forgettable take-out Chinese for dinner, and some American movies on the tv, and I was a happy camper.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Buenos Aires Day 2: Dinner at Fabrica del Taco


I've been bitching that I haven't had Mexican food much here, so I must report on this experience.

Thanks to Gringo in Buenos Aires' post concerning Mexican food in BA, I was able to find Fabrica Del Taco, a Mexican food joint in Palermo SoHo within walking distance from where I was staying.

I was starving and in major need of something resembling beans, possibly rice, and things that come on a tortilla. Upon arriving at Fabrica Del Taco, it was clear that I was about to be in heaven.

The décor is cheesy fantastic Mexican luchadores masks throughout, and the staff was really nice. I was flying solo and the place was busy, but they invited me to sit at the bar counter. I opted to sit against the outer bar wall with a ledge/countertop all to myself.  I got the menu and my eyes nearly jumped out of my head when I saw they had micheladas on the menu.

I was SO pleased. The michelada was really good, and made with Corona. So, 1 point for YOU, my dear new friends. Then, the waiter asked if I liked spicy things, to which I replied that yes, I live in Texas, and he brought me some serious hot sauce and chopped onions with cilantro to go with my food. 2 points.

I opted for 2 tacos: one was carne asado on a fried corn tortilla (note: They aren't quite sure what to call things correctly here - we'd just call it a tostada) with guacamole.  The guac was more saucy than dippy, but it wasn't bad. The problem I had was the consistency of the meat. It wasn't ground beef, and wasn't quite what you'd picture carne asado to be, either. It was kind of in between, and a bit tough. However, it was good enough for me to eat all of it, being deprived of my neighbor of the South's specialties for so long.


The second taco was much better, which featured pork and beef. I forget what it was called, but it was good (better than just the beef). I ordered a side of refried beans (everything is pretty much a la carte, as far as I could tell) and they brought a basket of tortilla chips. The chips were pretty good, or at least the best I've had in Argentina.

All in all, it wasn't mind-blowing but considering where it is and what the alternatives are, it definitely hit the spot. Bravo, Fabrica del Taco. Bravo.

Buenos Aires Day 2: Recoleta & San Telmo

So late nights in Argentina usually mean late mornings. It took us a while to get ourselves up and out of the apartment, and into a cab on the way to Recoleta. Our first order of the day was to head to the cemetery and find Evita's grave. Except before this, we needed coffee.

We got some coffees (cafe cortados, to be exact) to go from Havanna, (yes that's 2 n's ) which does coffees to go, in the strip of cafes and shops across from the cemetary. There's also a random pair of red phonebooths from England.

The cemetery at Recoleta is seriously one of the most interesting places I've been. It really is a small city of mausoleums that seems to go on forever. The mausoleums range from beautiful to ordinary, to downright disturbing. Evita's grave is somewhat austere compared to the others, specifically that of newspaper baron Paz.

Hi, I'm Mr. Paz and I have more money than God.
Evita's family's mausoleum. Bo-ring. Sorry.
After Recoleta, we headed to San Telmo to do some shopping and get lunch at 3pm at Café San Juan. I'd been told by many people how great it was, so I made sure to make a reservation earlier that morning for our late lunch. Thank goodness we did, because there were people waiting for an open table who didn't have reservations, and even we had to wait 15 minutes for our table, although we had reserved.

It was 100% worth it. An amazing lunch awaited us: chorizo in red wine and 2 types of crostini/bruschetta for appetizers...

then three entrees between 4 of us: octopus, ribeye, and linguine. They were fantastic. We had no room for dessert, unfortunately, and even had to take a bunch of food home, even though we had 3 entrees between the 4 of us.

After lunch, we shopped the antique markets and street vendors in San Telmo, bustling with activity and full of great deals for haggling enthusiasts. It was a Saturday, and so the big market was the next day, but it was still worth a visit no matter what.

Buenos Aires Day 1: Passport bidness & Palermo SoHo

Driving through the city from Retiro to Palermo, we passed a bunch of embassies and beautiful outdoor green areas.  I was staying in Palermo near the US Embassy, close to the Avenida de Libertadores and the zoo.

This was fortunate because my first order of business was to get more pages put into my passport at the American embassy. Apparently, there is a law in every country that says a customs/ border agent can deny you entry into a country if you have less than a certain number of pages in your passport blank for stamps. WTF, right? Read an example here: http://travel.latimes.com/articles/la-tr-spot9mar09

So, being an American can sometimes have its perks. Like strolling up to the embassy and realizing that the line down the street is for people who are NOT citizens, and the window for citizens has nobody waiting for it. So you bypass the line and go right on in. Score.

After paying my US $82 to get pieces of paper sewn into my passport that I had to pick up a few hours later, my #1 errand in BA was accomplished.

My new friends from Mendoza were arriving around 10pm that night and I knew the next day that we'd be going sight-seeing, so I didn't do much. There was a great little café down the street where I got a quiche lorraine, salad and some mineral water called Voulez-Vous Café.  It's on a corner with great outdoor dining. I sat against the wall on a pillow-covered banquette between two patrons working on their laptops. In fact, many people in the café had their laptops. This was strange to me, because I heard how dangerous BA can be at times and that you should be careful where you take your computer. But I guess since it's a nice neighborhood and the clientele are fairly upper middle-class, porteños are comfortable here letting their guard down and Macbooks out.

After my friends arrived, we set out to the trendy neighborhood of Palermo SoHo in search of food. While we didn't end up finding the restaurant we were trying to go to (damn you, Google maps and your wrong information!) we ended up eating at Romario's for pizza. A chain, it had a brick oven and the pizza was surprisingly good.

When we finished our pizza and beer we headed farther into the neighborhood of Palermo Viejo to Congo at Honduras 5329, an African-themed bar that was seriously cool. The back garden seems to go on forever, and the drinks were tasty.  For my first full day in Buenos Aires, it was a great end to a great day.

Taking the bus to Buenos Aires

Well, this post is only a few days late.  I am pretty sure this is something a lot of people who don't live in Argentina don't know about Argentina - you can take overnight buses that have accommodations extremely similar to a first-class section of an airplane.  There are several tour companies that provide this class of service, but I took AndesMar from Mendoza to Buenos Aires and it was fantastic.

I booked my ticket earlier last week for leaving on Friday night and returning on Tuesday morning to Mendoza for $780 pesos. That's roughly US $160, roundtrip.  The cheapest airfare I could find was US $360 roundtrip. My friends/coworkers convinced me to go a day earlier and helped me change my ticket. My friend called the bus company and asked if I could change my ticket, and he said yes but was all iffy about it, so we went immediately to the Terminal in Mendoza and went to the ticket office. The first chick we talked to said I had to change it online and couldn't do it.

But my friend doesn't take no for an answer, and I'm really glad she doesn't. We went to another AndesMar office (yes there are several in the station) and she got the manager to change my ticket, no questions asked. I then had about 2 hours to pack for a weekend in BA (it was 430pm) and get back to the bus station with my stuff to leave at 7pm.

The bus ride to BA takes about 12-13 hours. You can choose to do this in a regular seat, or you can pay extra and spring for an Executive Suite. On some buses, the entire bus consists of Executive Suites (first class), and are double-decker buses. This was my bus. They have bathrooms and bars on board, with a bus attendant, televisions, radios, curtains and fully-reclining flat beds with pillows and blankets for your comfort. Sure, it may be way slower than flying, but if you're not in a rush, why not be comfortable and even save a night or two in a hotel?
Comfy flat beds, plush leather and blankets? What's not to love?!


You only need to arrive 10-15 mins before departure and give the guy standing next to the bus your bag to store underneath. He gives me a claim ticket and I get on the bus, finding my reserved seat. There's a bag for your shoes that bungees to your armrest. Then we leave the station.

The bus attendant introduces themselves and we watch a safety video.

Then he hands out motherf*cking BINGO cards and I get to play Bingo! The prize being a bottle of wine.

The first movie starts. It's in English (subtitled in Spanish) and it's Grown Ups.

You get your meal served an hour later. But before the meal, you are offered wine and soda. Afterwards, you can have champagne, coffee or tea.  Anyone who knows me knows that I went for the wine and champagne. Non-alcoholic drinks are for plebes.

Another movie starts. This time in Spanish. I've lost interest, but amused that it features Kirk Cameron as the lead.

Bed goes back flat, curtains drawn. It's sleeping time, biatches.

Wake up to honking like someone is having a baby and we're in their way as they're trying to get to the hospital. Turns out it's just a traffic jam somewhere on the outskirts of BA. The sun is rising and we're on a highway, but there are tons of buildings everywhere. This city is enormous.

We pull into Retiro station and park. It was cold and drizzling, but it was still so exciting to be in Buenos Aires that I didn't care. I got my luggage (and the man really does check your claim ticket, which is a nice security measure) and wheeled it downstairs to the sign where it said to get a taxi. No line for a taxi. Yay!

Got in the cab, gave the driver the address and I was on my way to the apartment in Palermo. Cab driver was talking about Chuck Norris and the TV show Dallas, and I was just happy he understood my Spanish.

And so the Buenos Aires adventure began...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dieciseis & Pregnant

Brief commentary on the family life here as it appears to a foreigner.

It's interesting, because Mendocinos don't really move out of their parents' houses until they get married. This makes for PDA going on EVERYWHERE. This is mostly in the parks and plazas, but can happen in the street, on the sidewalk, etc.  I'm forced to watch people making out hardcore everywhere. Bah humbug.

Lots of these people are teenagers. I asked a friend of mine what the deal was with this, and she explained that since they all live with their parents, they pretty much just take the action outside. So that I get to watch them making out and feeling each other up while I am picking up contracts.

They also go to hourly-rate hotels called Telohs here (kind of like hotel backwards, see?), since they can't hang out at each other's houses if they are so inclined. While in the States, these are super seedy and gross with bad reputations, here it seems as though they're generally accepted and normal.

There are also a ton of teen pregnancies that I've seen, as well as super young couples with babies. They breed young here, and they all breed. I feel like there must be pressure if you're my age and unmarried as a girl here (or at least have been married at least once so far) because I'm pretty sure the Old Maid thing here is an actual threat.


The living at home thing also explains why Mendocinos go out late very often. I thought they were big partiers. It turns out, they will nurse a drink or two over the course of the entire night while smoking cigarettes at an outside cafe on Arístedes or similar, just to avoid going home until the wee hours of the morning when their parents are getting up and going to work.

Interesting effects from a seemingly conservative approach to family values.

Mendoza Bus Tour

My friends and I took a bus tour last Saturday from in front of the Park Hyatt hotel that, unfortunately, only went through the park up to the top of this overlook where the Gloria statue is and came back down to the city.

It was a really good tour, however. My only complaint is that it was all in Spanish with no English option. I'm kinda glad I waited to go on it until after I've been here a while so that I actually understood what they were saying.

We spiced things up by bringing Fernet & Coke, champagne and beer on board with us in thermoses and our bags. While this was very enjoyable to us, we definitely got some dirty looks from this chick sitting across from me whose daughter insisted on standing up in EVERY PICTURE I TRIED TO TAKE FROM HER SIDE OF THE BUS.

I'm not bitter. Just saying.

Some people need to lighten up. We're all in our 20's and 30's and were having a very contained, non-disruptive time. Sorry for partying.

What I miss from home: Part 1

I've been thinking a lot lately about the things I really miss from home. This is partially due to having to miss one of my best friends from law school's wedding last Saturday.  We'll call this post the "bitching and moaning that I'm not in the U.S." post. I do like it here, but everyone gets homesick, don't they?

Here's a list. While not exhaustive, it's a good start. I'm breaking it into categories because, well, food is important and is probably most of it. Deal with it.

Food:
  • Mexican food - last time I had it in Mendoza, I got food poisoning.
  • Queso (you know, Velveeta + Rotel), although we did have it once already here. It's still rare.
  • VARIETY (i.e. anything other than steak, pizza, salad, and tartas). 
  • Indian food
  • Seedless grapes
  • Spicy things
  • American-style bacon
  • Thai food (although I haven't tried Wasana yet)

Culture:
  • Being able to order food for delivery without having a panic attack and psyching myself out of it
  • Not waiting in line for over 30 minutes at the supermarket 10-items-or-less lane
  • Actually using the little conveyor belt at the checkout, rather than moving it all manually and having the cashier give you a dirty look
  • Not having to walk everywhere or take a cab
  • Eating before 10pm and being considered normal
  • SPEAKING ENGLISH - I'm making a serious effort to speak only Spanish all the time with strangers, and it is seriously tiring. It is really helping my Spanish, though!
  • Men with good haircuts
  • Ethnic diversity
  • Laws that say you need to pick up after your dog
  • Giving someone a $20 bill and not being constantly asked if I have any smaller bills.
Other:
  • My friends and family from home
  • My boyfriend (sorry babe - you're just as important as friends and family but I wanted to give you a shout-out!)
  • My car
  • Turning on the hot water and having it be hot right away, rather than 5 minutes later
  • Not being bitten by mosquitoes nearly daily
  • Not almost slipping on the sidewalk because it's made of tile and not concrete or brick/stone
I know I'll think of more later. But before that, I should probably post about what I love about Argentina, no?

Asado with special guests.

So it's been a while since my last update.

I went to a family Sunday asado a few weekends ago (April 3 to be exact) near Rivadavia I think it was. Anyway, it was south somewhere, past Lujan on the way to Tunuyán. This random guy just opens his little farm to anyone who wants to barbecue there for the weekend and take their ATVs out for a spin on these crazy dirt hills next door (assuming it's on his property too).

We show up to the asado and my friend's dog is barking and going nuts. I think it's because of the other dogs around. Then... she goes "oh yeah he's going nuts because of the llama."

Excuse me?

That's right. The llama. There were 2 of them  - a white one and a black one. Just hanging out, roaming around the property. Hanging out in the lemon grove. Being llamas.



Also guests of our little asado were horses, roosters, hens, geese, ducks, pigs, cows (yeah I felt bad about that one), donkeys, mules, and goats... just hanging out, roaming around, crapping everywhere. Making me feel bad for eating their tasty friends.

It was a really fun day - didn't get to ride the ATVs although I was offered - it looked a little too hardcore for me. But the asado was great and I got to meet my friends' family, which is always a cool experience.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bodegas Twitter Event



A week ago today (Saturday March 26), I was lucky enough to have a ticket to attend a huge winetasting event here in Mendoza called Bodegas Twitter.  The event was a fundraiser for Fundación CONIN, which is a charity that works with underprivileged children.

So why was it called Bodegas Twitter? The entire event was supposedly organized using solely Twitter.  And, if you tweeted from the event using the hashtag #bodegastw , your tweet would be broadcast to the entire party via a giant screen behind the stage.

Held at the Auditorio Angel Bustelo in downtown Mendoza, the event brought together bodegas all around the Mendoza region (and Patagonia), including some local restaurants. Attendees got little coupons for specific types of wine and food to exchange at the tasting booths.

Some of the highlights of the night were a performance by local flamenco musicians Simpecao and (apparently) an Argentine-American superstar named Kevin Johansen. He was really good, but I just wasn't able to appreciate it nearly as much as my girlfriends who were there.

Now, the wine was much appreciated. While the lines were long for wine, and the food kept running out (a slight snag in the otherwise great night - I only got to try the empanadas and heavenly tiramisu, but there was salmon from a big restaurant here, and a trout dish from Siete Cocinas, as well as some food I missed from O'Fournier), I still got to taste 5 or so wines before I decided I didn't want any more. I know, I know, it's very odd for me.

A nice surprise was the Saurus Pinot Noir from Patagonia.  I also enjoyed the sparkling wine offerings ("Espumante" as they're called here) from Trivento. I can't remember the names of the other wines I had, but I know I had a Norton reserva that was excellent.

Photos will be up later!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Winetasting on a Saturday



Last Saturday, a few friends invited me to come along on a bodega-hopping adventure. Bodega, just in case you weren't sure, is the fancy word for winery/vineyard here.  We had a rental car (a zippy little Ford Fiesta) and a full day to go taste wines in the Mendoza region.

My friend is a sommelier in training, so she knows her stuff. We started on our trip heading to San Carlos (a fairly far-away land from the ciudad) to O'Fournier. The trip was WELL worth it. The bodega itself is breathtaking; it's super modern but also really uniquely designed to take advantage of the use of gravity during the winemaking process. Plus, it looks like something you'd see an evil villain living in a James Bond movie, or perhaps Dr. Evil's summer home.
Mr. Bigglesworth loves the view.
It is also home to the largest wine cellar in all of North and South America combined. Pretty freaking cool. The bodega uses its cellar also as an art gallery, so it makes it a bit more interesting than staring at barrels of wine.
Best place to take shelter in an earthquake?
 Lunch at O'Fournier was good, but we had heard it was great, so it was a bit disappointing. This was mostly due to the portion sizes (a shot-glass of two different appetizers were called "two courses", for example). Still, it was tasty and well done. And the view was spectacular.

After O'Fournier, we made our way to La Azul, but we were 20 minutes late. Turns out, they're not so much on Argentine time when they're waiting for you. They were gone, and not a soul was in sight. We knocked on a door of a neighboring house to see if they knew if anyone was there, and they couldn't help us. Ah well.
Hello? Is it me you're looking for?


Backup plan: We went to Jean Bousquet, who were very kind and received us as well as they could receive a surprise visitor. We wine-tasted with the staff and had a great day.


Our drive back to the city was interesting, as we missed a main road entrance and ended up on a dirt desert road going up and down hills and having to get out and push the car across a few points. It was really, really fun though. It may or may not have had anything to do with the alcohol. But it was a great day, with a beautiful sunset, and a great time with new friends.

The Best. Steak. EVAR.



Ok, so coming from Texas and New York, I've had some great steaks in my lifetime. I've been to some of the best steakhouses in the US, and I have my favorites, but I think I have found my favorite steak in the world.

Here it is, in all its splendor. The Bife de chorizo at Don Mario's :




Big deal, a hunk of meat. Right? Wrong. Upon further examination, it is awesome.

I still haven't been to Francis Mallman's place here, but I'm thinking this will be hard to top.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

St. Paddy's in South America

Okay, my blog updates are becoming few and far between and I promise I'll change that. I've been working pretty long days (the usual) but my weekends are becoming more and more jam-packed with fun things instead of sitting in my bedroom blogging about random observations, so... forgive me.

Anyway, this year was my first St. Paddy's in South America. It was my fifth St. Patrick's Day in a row that I've been in a different city.
Here's a breakdown:
2007 - NYC
2008 - Austin
2009 - Paris
2010 - Las Vegas
2011 - Mendoza

Let's rank these now from most fun to least fun experience:
1. NYC
2. Austin
3. Mendoza (can't decide whether it's better or not as good as Austin)
4. Paris
5. Vegas (we were out really late the night before and none of us were in the mood to party)

So, as you can see, Mendoza St. Patrick's day is pretty legit. Here's why. There is one Irish pub here. One. And it's called Believe Irish Pub.  However, since it's the only one, you can say "the Irish pub"when you get in a cab, and everyone knows where you're going. It's on Av. Colón and it's the place to be in Mendoza for St. Patrick's.




The night featured some random guys playing the tin flute and other traditional instruments, but instead of being dressed like leprechauns or something, they were dressed like medieval serfs in brown and drab colors. They had on weird hats. And it was just strange.

No Guinness for me this year, because they only come in small bottles here. Instead we drank Stella Artois and Andes Porter (a Guinness substitute at best) because they come in the liter-size bottles and the bar was so crowded, we ordered 4 or 5 liters at a time.

The turnout was amazing - it seemed like every expat in Mendoza was there - plus any Mendocino ready to party. I'll post some pics in a few days of the crowd and you'll see. The normal size patio in front spilled over to the front of the shops on either side, and we took over the street in front so that one full lane of traffic was blocked by people standing around.

While there was no music outside other than Peter pan and friends, it was a great night out. They could do with some satellite bars for the occasion, but all in all, a solid experience.
Erin go bragh!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Restaurant review - Sushi Club


Ok so today, my roommates informed me of a lunch deal at the local sushi place. When I say local sushi place, I mean one of like 2 in all of Mendoza...just the closer one.

Turns out, pretty great deal. The sushi itself leaves a little something to be desired (not even being an Uchi snob here). The rice is sweet, or something, so that the whole roll tastes sweeter than it should. That being said, I could see that if you're craving, it'll definitely do the job.

Anyway, here's the deal. For 65 pesos, which is roughly $16.25 you get all of the following:

- an amuse bouche - in this case a ceviche on one of those fancy ceramic spoons
- 5 pork gyoza
- 12 pieces of sushi of your choice. I opted for the Buenos Aires roll and the Crazy roll (both have salmon, cream cheese, and vary from there)
- a glass of Mumm Brut champagne
- a bottle of agua con gas
- Coffee
- petit fours

It was great! Minus the Haitian waiter unabashedly hitting on me, and just trying harder when I told him I have a boyfriend in Spanish AND in French. Meh.

Adventures at the copy store

Well, I promised some funny Spanish-speaking fails, and I think this post may deliver on that promise.

So at work, we sometimes need things sent to the printer for binding, etc (like contracts, for example). There are a few places here, and we recently changed vendors because the old ones did a crappy job. The new ones do a great job, but I won't reveal their name so they can't find this post somehow and know it's me. Cause it's a bit embarrassing.

I'll spare you the gory details but I had to go there alone one day and try to swap out one page of a contract we were getting bound for another page. Now, the word for page is in Spanish is "página". The accent is clearly on the first syllable - like PAH hee na. However, my genius interpretation and recollection of the world is "pagina". Which I pronounced pa HEE na. 

Allow me to illustrate further that a "v" in Spanish is pronounced like a soft B or P.  For example the word for veggies is "verduras" can be said "berr doo ras" (gringo accent alert).

Allow me to further illustrate that the word for ladyparts is the same in Spanish as it is in English. (hint: it starts with a v....)

Let's revisit the conversation between me and the shopkeeper above (who at least is a woman).

Me: "Hola, me llamo ____ y soy de _____.  Necesitamos cambiar esta página para esta página acquí. "
(feeling quite proud that I think i've figured out how to explain the situation)
Nice shopkeeper lady (after a brief pause and smile): "spanishspanishspanishspanishspanish...."
--at some point I figure out that I'm going to need help explaining something I get my colleague to join me---
After my colleague had joined me, she straightened everything out and we left the store.
Then I tell her what I said to the shopkeeper, and how I was proud I remembered what to say, when she starts laughing and looks at me.. and says..

"No, it's PA hee na. Not pa HEE na. The accent is on the first syllable. It sounds like you're saying you need to change one vagina for another vagina."

Fail.
Special thanks to the nice shopkeeper lady for not losing her sh*t and laughing at me on the spot.  :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Argentine bachelorette parties & weddings

So, I was lucky enough to already be able to attend an Argentine wedding and bachelorette party (the bachelorette was last weekend and the wedding was last night) since I got here a month ago.  The bride is a coworker/new friend of mine from the States, and the groom is an Argentine.

The bachelorette was pretty much the same as an American one, minus all the penis paraphernalia, veils, sashes, etc. However, in our night out on Arístedes (the main street for restaurants and bars in Mendoza), we were treated to a spectacle that they don't have in the states: the humiliation of a bachelor at his bachelor party.

This is achieved by putting the lucky bachelor in the back of a pickup truck, stripping him down either naked or putting him in an equally offensive man-thong and driving him down the busiest street in Mendoza at night, honking the horn, playing music, and yelling. I've heard that sometimes they stick things in the guy's um... well... you know. Either way, it's simultaneously hilarious and appalling.

Weddings here are something else. There's 2 guestlists: one for the dinner and church and then one for the party, or "casimiento".  The party STARTS at 11:30pm and often goes till 8am the next day. Unfortunately, I'm lame and only lasted till a little after 3am, but it was fantastic.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Megadegustacion 2011


Ok, so during the Vendimia time they have a wine-tasting festival. It lasts for 3 consecutive days and features bodegas from all around Mendoza and Argentina in general where you can taste it all in one place. It's called Megadegustación and it. is. awesome.


This year, I hear, was more tame than the years before because we were limited to a certain number of glasses of wine by buying our entrance tickets. Tickets for premium tasting were 60 pesos (divide that by 4 and you have your price in dollars), while the regular tasting was 30 pesos (I think). With that, you got coupons for 5 glasses of wine. Or maybe 4. I don't remember. It was a good time.  The city shuts down Sarmiento (a major street) for 4 blocks between the Plaza Independencia and Belgrano for this epic shindig.  There's the wine and they also sell food if you're hungry (empanadas, etc).

My personal favorite for the evening was the wines from bodega Azul. It was a cab-malbec reserva blend, I think. Soooo good. I also tried reservas from Altos las Hormigas (someone check me on that spelling/name), aand...yeah I'm gonna have to check and see which wines I tasted.

My favorite part of the evening was when my BEAUROCRAT BOYFRIEND approached me and said "Hey, remember me?!"... I said "Yes, of course I do" and he laughed and said "Hey, I'm sorry about today. Cheers!" and toasted me, and walked off.

The city of Mendoza is just a really big town.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My personal saga with Argentine Bureaucracy

Ok, sorry I haven't posted in a while. Last weekend was a bit of a whirlwind for me, and I'm going to tell you why, in 3 consecutive posts.

The first reason is last Friday was extremely busy for me. Why, you ask? Well, I'll tell you.

Picture yourself walking from point A (your house) past point C (your office)  to point B (the offices of an extremely bureaucratic country that make the DMV look like a vacation). Got it? Yeah, the point order doesn't make sense. Whatever. Charlie Sheen wouldn't care.

Then have the nice, annoyingly goodlooking man who works the desk and hands out ticket numbers at point B tell you that your documentation is wrong, and you need this super special notarized paper in your packet.
I say "No, we have done this 100+ times before, we never needed that. I don't think we need it. Or if we do, the information should be here in this packet" (which was notarized and certified copies).
He says "No, sorry, you need it."
After unsuccessfully trying to convince him that I had the right papers, I called my boss/friend's cell at 8 in the morning to tell her we needed something else. I start walking back to the office (point C) to go search for this magical paper.

The score: Bureaucracy: 1,  Me:0

I get the magical paper I think he is telling me I need. I walk from point C to point B (we are talking 10 blocks or so) - my old friend is at the desk. I approach.
I gingerly hand him my papers, and say, "I think I have them now. Can you check?" . He glances at my feeble attempt to produce the magical paper.
"Nay," says he.  "You shall not pass go."
Then he asks me for my passport. The thing I'm there for is for a client - not for me. I try to explain this. He goes "Ohhhhh, I thought it was for you." Me "No, my name is not (insert man's name here.)" Him: "Oh I misunderstood. But you still have the wrong document. I'm sorry."
Me: "Are you SERIOUS? So I'm missing only this one thing? You swear? That's the ONLY thing I need, everything else is okay? Because I'm walking a LOT today (and I'm fucking tired of your shit)."
Him: Yes yes I am sorry, that is all you need.
Me: I'll play your game, you rogue. I'll be back. Again.

Part of that conversation may or may not have been part of an imaginary dramatic reenactment going on in my head on the walk back to Point C.

The Score: Bureaucracy: 2, Me : 0

And so, I walk back to Point C on a mission.  Get back to Point C - people are in the office now. I get backup for what I need. I am told that what I needed (this magical paper) was IN MY PACKET THE ENTIRE TIME.  Hot annoyingly-polite douchebag just didn't look closely enough. So what do we do? We highlight the damn lines he needs to read. Then I bring reinforcements. 2 of us then parade from Point C to Point B, on a fucking mission.

My colleague is a native Spanish speaker, and ready to raise hell. I'm pretty excited. This time it's gonna be ON.

My new boyfriend is no longer at the number counter. It's now the Big Boss Man. Big Boss Man knows my colleague, barely glances at my papers, and gives me a number, no questions asked. HA - you're going down, Argentine bureaucrats.

However, just before our number is called, we realize a terrible thing. I get a pit in my stomach. I break out in a cold sweat. We didn't have the forms with us anymore - they were left in our office at point C when I went back the last time. Hijo de puta! I make a game-time decision. It's time for me to get my ass back to Point C and get those goddamn papers. I'm NOT doing this again on Monday.

The Score: Bureaucracy: 3, Me: 0

I go into my "This is what I would do if I was on the goddamn Amazing Race" mode. It's 10 blocks. I'm not a runner. I'm also in business casual attire. It's time to get a taxi.

Little did I know that all the one-way streets in this city, plus midday traffic and rabid Mendocino shoppers would turn my 10-block trip from a fairly easy endeavor into a "Sorry, you're the last team to arrive" situation.

The driver didn't even want to drive me. I had to convince him that I had to get there fast, so he had to take me. Into the cab I went. We circled 6 blocks out of the way. We stopped for bitches with strollers, several old people hobbled in front of our car, and I started wishing he would just take out a bike or two. 10 minutes later, which felt like an eternity, we arrive at Point C. I am 10 pesos poorer, and running out of time.

I run in, get the forms, and run out. Realize I look like an idiot half jogging down the street and settle on a powerwalk. I call my colleague at the offices - she says we're fine. Finally, I arrive back at point B, sweaty and panting, yet triumphant.

I brandish my magic paper. It's TOTALLY on now, bitches.  We spend approximately 3 minutes at the window. I get my stamp and ID #. It's over. It is now 12:30pm. I began this journey at 7:45am.

The final score: Bureaucracy: 3, Me: One happy gringa

And then Steve stabbed a guy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Weinert Bodega in Lujan (Mendoza)


This past weekend I paid a visit to the Weinert bodega (vineyard + premises) in Lujan, an area south of the center of the city.




The winery is family-owned, and we were treated to an amazing Brazilian meal consisting of feijoala (sp?) and bobó do pesce (another spellcheck, please) courtesy of our chef friends and son of the winery owner. This was in preparation for next week's Brazilian Carnival expat luncheon to be held on the premises on Saturday.


We drank the 2005 Malbec (one of my favorites so far of the Malbecs I've had), the Merlot (didn't catch the year), the Cabernet Sauvignon, and then came my unlikely favorite (with dessert in the form of traditional Brazilian 'brigaderos'):

'


The Cosecha de Otoño Sauvignon Blanc

Okay, this wine is fantastic. And no, I have nothing to gain financially from giving it a gold star. It's sweet, but not too sweet; it still tastes like wine. It's not overpowering, but it goes well with chocolate and cream. It's the kind of wine you wish you could finish your dinner with when you aren't in the mood for a super-sweet port, or a bitter digestif like Fernet.  Not syrupy at all, it has a light texture and is (maybe too) easy to drink.  It's just perfect. I want more!  It's slightly more expensive than other bottles Weinert produces given the fact that it's harvested so late, it's basically made from raisins. But it's worth the money. Trust me.

My new friend informed me that they sell in the US, and particularly in Texas, so keep an eye out.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Brief restaurant review (Anna Bistro) and an Argentina obsession


I just had the most delicious salad EVAR at this place really close to where I live called Anna Bistro. It's called the Italian ..(something something). It had 2 types of prosciutto, shaved parmesan cheese, golden raisins, kiwis, plums, mangoes, nuts, arugula, mixed greens, cracked pepper, croutons, and sundried tomatoes. I'm full.



Some food-porn available here: http://www.annabistro.com/especialidades.html

The place itself is super cool and they have English menus, in addition to the usual Spanish. My server spoke English to me (yayyy) but I tried my best to respond in Spanish and use my newly-acquired ordering skills. I think she was amused by my insistence on trying to speak Spanish, but she was very sweet.  The food came out super fast and I didn't even get to read more than 10 pages of my book, since I was so fixated on shoveling the salad into my mouth as fast as possible; I was starving, and you already know how I felt about the salad.

This brings me to my next point. I may be obsessed with this salad, but the Argentines have a much more dangerous, yet sweeter obsession: Dulce de leche .

I'm serious. They put it in every dessert you can think of. Oh, you want some ice cream? Better put some dulce de leche on that!  Craving a chocolate bar? Let's go ahead and fill it with dulce de leche.  Hey, Juan, why don't we cover this poundcake in dulce de leche? Sound good? BUENO!

Or how about a f*cking DULCE DE LECHE AND BANANA OREO COOKIE.  Yes. They have Oreos that have dulce de leche and banana-flavored cream. I haven't tried them - it scares me - but I think I may.

My comments come as a result of spending about 15 minutes in the galletita dulces (what we Americans call "cookies"and what the Brits call "biscuits") and chocolate aisles of Carrefour.  I wanted something sweet after my lunch, and I wanted something cheap. I ended up purchasing 2 things: one for now and one for later.  My total came to AR$6,50, which is like, US$1.50. 

The one I bought for now was, well, less than thrilling. I'm completely underwhelmed. However, it was sweet and I think if I was Argentine, I'd love it.  It's made by Bagley and called, simply, "Negro".  It's an "alfajor de dulce de leche cubierto con chocolate y almendras"- a little cookie/candy thing filled with dulce de leche cream , covered in chocolate and almonds. It's basically 2 wafers with the filling between, and dunked in chocolate. Sounds good, right? It's pretty dry, and "meh". I recommend skipping it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Will you be my Valentine Asador?

Started this week off right with a Valentine's day asado after work. However, this was after my "novio"(BF) sent me a ton of pink lilies to my office. Turns out, he was able to order them online, without speaking Spanish, and have them delivered in Mendoza. I was über impressed. 

The funny part is one of our CEO's came in to tell me on Tuesday (the day after V-day, for those of you following) that my flowers had made me the subject of some hot gossip; How does the girl who's been in the country for a little over a week get flowers for Valentine's Day already? She must work fast!

I'm still impressed with my novio. Good boy.

The asado was fantastic, and I got to meet new people - a couple who were also expats. And it helps that the other guests at a party are chefs, because dang, the guy can make a MEAN steak.  We drank 5 bottles of wine between 3 people and it was an amazing night.

You may have noticed or became jealous of my usage and correct spelling of über earlier. I'm pretty impressed with myself that I've learned the international keyboard setting on my Mac actually has a function. Now I can write emails with to all the "Señors", asking for the "sustitución", and when they say "sí ", I can reply "Está bien". Or something. Very exciting.