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."

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!