(Yet another long delay. I’ll try to wrap this up in the next week.)
The evening after our wine tasting day we simply could not face walking into town for dinner at a restaurant. That morning, we had asked Maria Gracia, the owner (and matriarch), if we could have dinner at the hotel. It turns out they had stopped having asados since no one ever asked for them, but we were invited to join the family for dinner at the main house.
The contractor who is working on the guest houses had gone fishing at the reservoir that morning and caught the trout (right Dad?) that we ate. Maria Gracia served mashed avocados (with lemon, salt and pepper) and bread to start, then we had an eggplant parmesan prepared by Maria Gracia’s mother, Rosa (with heavily rolled R, followed by a dramatic pause and: “di Napoli”). That was delicious—the eggplant was more bitter than I’m used to eating in the US, but the dish was served room temperature and all the flavors had mingled nicely. The eggplant wasn’t fried, just sliced and layered with tomatoes and cheese, then baked.
The trout had been cleaned and then stuffed with grated carrots, fresh oregano and tomatoes and baked. It was a good combination, especially with the incredibly delicate fish. I had a bit of trouble with the de-boning (I got one side off perfectly, then spent the rest of the night picking bones from the other side out of my mouth), proof that I have got to practice eating whole fish more often.
Maria Gracia’s birthday was earlier that week, and friends who own a bakery had given her three fancy Alfajors, which are the national cookie of Argentina, from what I could tell. They’re more like cakes, with two dry cookie layers filled with dulce de leche and then frosted with chocolate or meringue. We cut each one up into little pieces so everyone could try each flavor. (The cat tried to grab one, but we rescued it. The cake, not the cat.)
At the table were Ben and I, Maria Gracia and her husband Alberto, their son Gabriel, and Rosa. We sampled several wines from the vineyard where Gabriel works (he is in college studying viticulture), Alta Vista. The rosé was a nice end to the meal. We ate and talked for about three hours, in Spanish, English, French and a little Italian. Alberto is a scientist and Maria Gracia was an art history professor, and the conversation covered lots of ground. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, tied with our experience hanging out in the Andes with Gustavo.
…..Gustavo. The next day, Gustavo picked us up, this time in casual wear. We drove up into the Andes, a couple hours west of where we were staying (the foothills are within half an hour; we were driving nearly to Chile). We took a two-kilometer hike from the highway past the ranger station and up to a lake that has a great view of Mount Aconcagua, the highest point in the Americas. By far the best part was when we got to the viewing area and Gustavo opened up the box he’d been lugging up the path. Out came a bottle of wine and two glasses, along with some crackers to snack on.
Gustavo polishes up the glasses:
What an incredible interlude, slightly light-headed from the altitude and the wine and the sun, gazing at the mountain. Gustavo took this photo of us, with me looking incredibly Lushy–it makes me think of the Valley of the Dolls or something, with the sweater and glasses and glass of wine, so inappropriate in that setting:
Sigh. I’m not very outdoorsy. I got a fierce sunburn that day.
The mountain, through the perfect looking glass:
Aw, it’s not even as remotely food related as all the wine talk, but here’s a picture of us with Gustavo, who is an incredible guy and tons of fun:
For lunch we kept driving west, up to a hostel/restaurant/shop built up over the highway:
Gustavo told us it was simple food, the type of thing most people eat at home. Sure enough, there was a buffet of stewed beans and meats, rice, rice and beans, and rice and lentils, as well as a salad bar. I had a delicious chicken milanese, salad, mashed potatoes, rice, rice and lentils and salad. (With a side of carbs, please!)
I asked Gustavo how to cook the rice so it’s as flavorful as mine was. Here’s his recipe:
-Put corn oil in the pan, heat it up, and add rice. Cook for 10 minutes.
-Cover with water and add a bouillon cube. [I guess I could sub in chicken stock for those two.]
-Cook, uncovered, until almost done. Remove from heat and cover until dried out.
That night we were exhausted again, so we ended up walking to the corner store and assembling a rather make-shift picnic, ham sandwiches and chips and cookies: