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.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

(not so) Lazy Weekend

Yesterday I tried in vain to find a pair of cute sandals. This is mainly motivated by the fact that I realized I only have my purple Havaianas here with me, which are my only summer footwear. The women here wear the cutest sandals, so I thought to myself "Hey, let's get me a pair of those."

Turns out, it's not that easy. First of all, shoe stores here are seriously intimidating. I realize it was Saturday, but all the stores along Av. Las Heras were packed (although that's not really the place to be looking for shoes), but so were the stores along Av. San Martin and the Pietonal (pedestrianized shopping street w/ cafes). But the crowd wasn't really the problem. The problem is that you LOOK IN THE STORE WINDOW TO PICK OUT YOUR SHOES.  Like, you need to know what you want before you even go into the store to ask for your size. Do you even realize how difficult that is for someone who barely speaks Spanish? I can basically say "The black ones" or "the brown ones", or even "the white sandals", but that's as far as it goes. Forget people asking me if I needed help. I just froze and mumbled and walked away.

Shoe shopping fail. After walking and searching in vain for 4 miles, I gave up.

Note to self: Do NOT drink entire 1L bottle of Andes beer with lunch by myself. If so, siesta is necessary.

However, last night I went to the Casino at the Park Hyatt. FINALLY, something I could do without speaking Spanish! Even the slot machines were in English - especially my ol' reliable Star Trek machine. Don't act like you don't know the one. I ended up playing various games for around 4 hours before I headed home 350 pesos poorer, which is about, oh, US$85. This is after hours of blackjack, roulette, and slots. I had a good time by myself, so I think it was worth it.

This morning I took a nice stroll (and by stroll I mean a long walk that probably covered a couple miles) down to what I thought would be a nice little breakfast in an Irish pub on Av. Colon. However, said pub was not open when I finally arrived there 30 minutes later. Le sigh. So I made the best of it and went to the nearby Plaza Espana, took some photos and enjoyed the scenery. It's this amazing little plaza with tons of painted tiles everywhere, and Spain-themed, of course. I've heard that there used to be tons of artists who sold their wares and did their art-ing in the Plaza, but they've since relocated.

Ended up eating breakfast, or as they call it here ironically "Brunch" at a little corner cafe called La Belle Epoque. The Brunch #3 was coffee, orange juice, 4 pieces of toast with cream cheese and preserves. To my happy surprise, the orange juice was fresh-squeezed, probably on-site. The cream cheese was freshly made, and the preserves were ah-mazing. Plus, the coffee was really espresso with milk. All this for US $4.

A few random comments:
  • I really need to learn how to use this Argentine cell phone. I seriously think I just texted Egypt.
  • Dreadlock mullets are sort of an epidemic here. They are everywhere. And they are just as gross as you can imagine.
  • They give out free samples of mixed cocktails at the supermarket. I was in Carrefour earlier today, doing a little Sunday grocery shopping, and there was a temporary stand set up where this nice young man was mixing Gancia cocktails and handing them out like candy. 
    • Gancia cocktail: Gancia (an italian liqueur, I believe) and Sprite. Tastes like just Sprite. 
    • Directions: Enjoy while shopping.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jazz in the Park y mas

So it's the weekend of Valentine's day here in the great city of Mendoza. Normally I'd be hating said weekend, since I'm usually conveniently (or not so conveniently) single for the Holiday of Love. However, this year I have a wonderful Valentine..except he's thousands of miles away. Dammit. But, I'm not depressed or sad that it's Singles Awareness Day (or weekend, in this case), because I'm hanging around living la vita bella here and making new friends. Yay!  Also, just got an email suggesting that me and 2 of the other girls hit the spa on Monday night for a 2-for-1 spa special, so that could be very relaxing.

Last night my friend who took me to the music on the rooftop event came through AGAIN and invited me to go with her and her husband to Jazz in the Park, a 3-night mini jazz concert festival in Parque General San Martin, the biggest park in Mendoza. The park itself is gorgeous; it has a huge man-made lake, running trails, giant fountain, tons of little areas, weeping willows, a health club, etc. It's huge, and I think I've only seen a part of it so far. But anyway, the jazz is set up on the "lake"shore with chairs all around and some elevated tables and chairs in the back with waiter service. The event is totally free and it's part of the series of events leading up to the Vendimia. The music was actually awesome, and culminated with a band who had a Brazilian bossa nova singer with them who had an incredible voice. We drank Andes beer and ate empanadas while listening to some seriously good music. It was over at 12 or so, and we walked home the other way from the way we came in.

This is kind of interesting. Turns out, at night on weekends here, teenagers and early 20-somethings take their cars up to the road in the park, parallel park them, open all the doors or trunk and have a little party where they blast bad techno music and drink crappy beverages akin to Smirnoff Ice and others. I really wish I had my camera out to capture the amount of mullets, rattails and dreadlock mullets I saw. Yes, dreadlock mullets.

I'm told that families do it too, earlier in the day or on Sunday afternoons for barbecues, but that late on Sunday the teens and college kids take over and it's unbearable to be there past 4pm.

It reminded me a little of what they do in Queens under the Triboro bridge, is it? I always get my bridges mixed up.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

And then I was walking home from work...

... and I realize that around the corner from my apartment, the street is shut down, there are police cars everywhere, there's a crime scene investigation unit, people dusting for fingerprints, and all sorts of scary sh*t going on.

Keep in mind it's 6pm and light out, and I walk by this place every day on the way to work and back.

I went into the convenience store and asked the checkout guy what happened (he speaks English, I discovered that the other day). He said something in Spanish. I go "murder?" and he nodded.

Of course, I walked home as fast as possible, freaking out.

However, I look online, and find out that it's an armed robbery/shootout with police/wild police chase ensues:

http://www.losandes.com.ar/notas/2011/2/9/persecucion-tiroteo-tras-asalto-aseguradora-ciudad-549730.asp

Well, seems like we had a little miscommunication there.

Excitement abounds.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My first Asado, first Mate, and more...

So I got to go to my first asado this past weekend. I think it's my Lonely Planet: Argentina book that says you would be lucky to be invited to an asado when you are here, and they were right. We spent the day relaxing by the pool and eating amazing meat and fresh vegetables while looking at the mountains and riverbed below.  This was all courtesy of my awesome roommates, who in addition to having a place in the city, have a cabin in the countryside about an hour outside the city. It was so idyllic and was just perfect after being overwhelmed by being in a new place with such a foreign feel.

Mate (mah-tay, not "mate") is an interesting thing. It's tea, of course, but the etiquette around it and the cultural obsession with it here are the parts that really make it stand out. So, it's yerba mate tea and you can add sugar and/or some other flavoring to it. Then you pour hot water all over the loose leaves and drink it out of this gourd-shaped cup out of a silver bent straw. The idea is you share it with friends, and each time you get the cup, you drink it until the water is gone. Then, the water is refilled and you give it to the next person sharing mate with you. Again, this is probably something you'll get to do if you have friends here or if you're traveling with friends, but I seriously doubt ol' Frederico or whoever is going to ask you to join his little mate circle if you're backpacking through town. Maybe I'm wrong - the Mendocinos are pretty friendly. But I was pretty psyched to get to have some today already. The taste is a little strong, but I guess you get used to it. Plus, it's more caffeinated than coffee, so I have a feeling it will come in handy with work.

Random observation: You need to be a NINJA to cross the street here. Sure, there are stoplights. The drivers may even stop at them (I've seen some run a few, but mostly, they're law-abiding citizens...ish). But there are major intersections of busy streets where there is no light. There is not even a stop sign sometimes. If you're driving a car, you just basically pull a "California stop" and roll on through after slowing down to see if someone's gonna t-bone you. And through all of this, you, the pedestrian, are trying to cross the street. At the normal place where a crosswalk is.  It's kinda scary. Luckily, my NYC jaywalking skills are finally rewarded!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Supermercado...

Ok. I was going to go and get some groceries and a few odds and ends this morning. I think I spent the better part of an hour and a half in Carrefour, wandering around in search of familiar items.

This included a 10 minute odyssey for pasta sauce. Sidenote: the Argentines seem to LOVE their grated cheese. They have about 30 different kinds. This is located next to or near the pasta. The sauces are about 4 aisles away. Makes sense? I think not.


The good thing is that Carrefour is basically a Target in disguise, except a Target with a VERY extensive liquor selection and wine store.

Of course, the only thing I really needed from the store today was toilet paper. Guess what I forgot to get? FML.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bienvenida a Argentina!

My first day in Mendoza could not have been better. I forgot which wines I was tasting, but I will post them here when I get a chance to ask which ones I had, but they were 2 amazing Malbecs from Mendoza.

I was told by my amazing new coworker that the time leading up to the Vendimia in Mendoza is tons of fun - lots of free and cool events going on all the time all around the city.


Well, if last night was any indication, she was right. We went to the Mirador Terraza Municipal, which is the 8th floor rooftop terrace at the municipal building, with viewfinders and other stuff to get an amazing view of the Andes.  In the next few weeks, every Thursday night from early January through March 6 will feature a different type of music paired with a different type of wine. The event is free, and comes with a complimentary glass of the specially-chosen wine for the occasion. We were treated to the (extremely strange) sounds of "pop music" by the band Bigote (mustache), and a glass of Tempranillo. As one of my new friends described them, it was as if the lead singer had his underwear pulled up around his shoulders... lol. BUT, it was a rock band with a violinist, so that was pretty sweet. And you can pretty much guarantee that if you're serving free wine, I'm there.

We stayed at the concert until the wine was all packed up and the band was finished, then headed to Sarmiento in search of pizza. We ended up at the aptly-named La Pizza. I had my doubts about the capacity of anyone other than Italians and Italian-Americans making the stuff, but damn, it was pretty effing good. Only one complaint - they put whole olives on the pie... with the pits still inside them. Serious impediment when you're starving at 1030pm (normal dinner time here) and need a cushion for all the vino and cerveza you have been or are about to be drinking.  We paired our pizzas with Andes beer. I went home totally contenta with where I was and what I was doing.

For my first real day in a strange new country, today was fantastic. I didn't get lost going to or from work (an improvement from wandering around yesterday for 15 minutes without a map). It was a beautiful 75* on the way to the office, and the walk is mostly in the shade. Then, I realized I'm not going to be very poor here. For example, lunch for me and 2 new friends, consisted of 12 delicious meat, egg, olive & onion-filled empanadas and 2 bottles of Coke Zero from Quiero Mas? for only AR$32. That's $8. And they're not exactly small. In fact, we had 5 leftover for dinner (eaten at the office later on). This is going to be dangerous.

I'll write more about my general impressions of the city when I'm not a day behind and have other things to say. But, so far, I am having an amazing time.

Saludos,
Yo

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What's wrong with my karma?!

Quick bitchfest, sorry folks.

Well, I guess the universe is getting back at me for being so exhasperated with the NY snow news. Why? Because it's snowing in Dallas.

My flight to Santiago connects at Dallas.

I am not going to Dallas today, says American Airlines.

Sigh.

So I'm in Austin for one more night, but the sweet silver lining is that I get one more day w/ my boy, a few more domestic meals, and time to chill.

Some advice for people getting stuck because of closed airports and blizzards, etc:
 
My own advice? Be nice to the ticket agents. The first time I went up to the counter, I had done my own print & bag drop thing, bypassing the line. But as fate would have it, flight was canceled the second I got up to drop my bags. I was sent to the back of the (growing) line next to the electronic kiosks: The line I was in, got out of, printed my stuff and tried to bypass. Except now I was 5 people behind where I was earlier. HOWEVER, I called the boy, bitched to him for a few minutes, and calmed down. When I got back to the (same) lady who told me to stand in the line and couldn't help me 30 minutes earlier, I was calm and friendly. Turns out, she was really nice and helped me out a lot, rebooking all my flights for tomorrow without a problem. It pays to be nice, even if you don't get something out of it.
 
I saw this pushy woman keep yelling at the ticket agents from the line, asking if she could be next, if someone was open, and what was going on. Don't be that woman. I'm kind of curious as to what happened with her flight arrangements...