Category Archives: Travel

Argentina Travelogue: Mendoza, part one

(Sorry about the lapse in posting!)

The highlight of our trip was a three-day excursion to Mendoza, the Malbec-producing wine region at the base of the Andes, about 1000 km from Buenos Aires. We stayed at the absolutely fantastic Casa Glebinias, which is a private estate that has recently been converted into an inn. The family has scoured salvage yards to find antique doors and windows, then had their architect design the guest houses around the vintage pieces. The result: New, clean rooms with great modern bathrooms, but a very organic feel, as if they’d been built 100 years ago and well-updated. The grounds are filled with 700 trees and bushes, many of them imported from France by the owners. There were amazing fruit trees and bushes—apples, pears, figs, walnuts, grapes, olives, citrus, etc.—all in full harvest-time splendor.


The first day we arrived in the morning, and after settling in we walked about twenty minutes into the little town of Chacras de Coria to find some lunch. It was siesta time (and siesta time is a serious endeavor in Mendoza), so not much was open. We did find a sort of lunch bar and a bakery, and picked up sweet rolls, empanadas (see previous post) and what Ben thought was going to be a regular hamburger.

Oh, it was so much more.

We trekked back to the room, opened up the paper wrapping, and were confronted with this:


ENORMOUS. Ok, here’s more context: It is bigger than Ben’s head:

ben burger

It was a thin layer of hamburger with cheese, russian dressing, tomatoes, lettuce, ham and fried egg. After a minute or two of hysterical laughter, we dug in—Ben did a good job of it and then I finished it off. Best Burger Ever; the fried egg is a brilliant addition that we later discovered was standard. Oh man.

We had a so-so meal at a cool restaurant that night, and then spent the next day touring wineries, accompanied by our amazing driver Gustavo. We ate lunch at the famous Familia Zuccardi winery, where there is a very nice restaurant that serves an enormous all you can eat and drink lunch.

The kitchens:
zucc kit
The grills:

I’ve already shown the empanadas that start off the meal; they were followed by a bunch of traditional salads—regular lettuce with vinaigrette, lightly dressed tomatoes, and a pan of roasted vegetables. (The typical Asado (barbecue) accompaniments also include a beet salad with hard boiled eggs and some sort of roasted potato dish.)

First off the grill are the sausages, morcilla (a blood sausage that I wasn’t crazy about despite being a big boudin noir fan) and choriza (nothing at all like Spanish chorizo):

Then comes the steak:

Then beef ribs:

And finally chicken, though I wasn’t able to eat any!

For dessert there was a creamy gelatin sort of thing, not quite a cheesecake but very tasty:

And throughout we drank a LOT of wine—all from the Roble collection at the estate, which is a mid-level (actually turned out to be $6 US per bottle; we brought home 6) and extremely delicious line. We were particularly fond of the Tempranillo and Malbec.

To be continued….

Argentina Travelogue: Empanadas

I knew going into this trip that I would be quite focused on empanadas. I have an obsessive love of bread/pastry pockets, dumplings, stuffed buns, etc., stemming perhaps from the turnovers my mom used to make with leftover pie crust and her raspberry jam.

I sampled quite a few empanadas over the course of the trip, everywhere from a grungy corner lunchroom in Buenos Aires (where my answer of “hot” to the question “cold or hot?” produced a microwaved-but-still-tasty pocket filled with beef and hardboiled egg) to our bedroom at a fancy estancia in Le Pampa (where a staff member knocked on the door with a large white enamel pot full of freshly fried empanadas). I had ground and chopped beef (chopped is better) with and without green olives and hardboiled egg (I like both). I sampled cheese with ham, without ham, with onions and onions without cheese, baked and fried. The very best were the handcut beef, fried, from El Mirasol in Puerto Madero. I didn’t dislike any of them, but these meat ones weren’t top of the list:


They’re from a small restaurant in Chacra de Corria, outside Mendoza (in wine country, 1000 km west of Buenos Aires). These were takeout, and Ben’s hamburger from the same place will get its own post later. The crescents are meat, the rounds are ham and cheese. A tip re. empanadas: Some are wet, some are dry. This is a known quantity. The cheese and ham type tend to be wetter, and sometimes squirt, so your first bite must be very carefully taken.


Here are the famous empanadas from Familia Zuccardi, where we had a lunch that will also get written about. From the left, these are filled with onions, cheese, and meat. The center (cheese) one is notably drier-looking and flatter. You can also tell different fillings apart by the different folds.

zuccardi emp

At Le Bamba, the estancia in the grasslands where there is regular empanada delivery (note the deliciously fried crust):

bamba emp

And my last empanada, though not my favorite: straight onions in a baked shell, at a café near the capital building on our last day in Buenos Aires.

onion emp

I’d like to find a good recipe for the chopped meat type, like the ones at El Mirasol. I like the olive and egg, but I think I’ll leave out the egg for Ben’s sake. Fried was definitely my favorite, as well, but baked will have to do for home production.

Argentina Travelogue: Buenos Aires

Well, here’s part one of our trip… I posted a ton of photos (divided in food and non-food) at a shutterfly site for easy viewing, and I’ll just include a few in these posts.

italian consul

A little bit about the itinerary of this trip:

We left on March 12, arrived at about 2 a.m. on Tuesday, March 13 in Buenos Aires. We stayed there the 13th and 14th, and on the 15th we flew to Mendoza (wine country) for three nights. We returned and spent two more nights in BA, then one night in the Pampa (grasslands), and one more night in BA before flying to NY at 4 a.m. on 3/23. I’m going to go ahead and clump all the Buenos Aires stuff together, since we were in and out of the city so many times.

The visit

I loved the city. I love most cities, honestly, but Buenos Aires was really great, especially since we spent most of our time in the very cool but not-touristy Palermo Viejo and Soho neighborhoods. We sent much of our time wandering through the great boutiques in the area, though we did branch out and visit the Recoleta Cemetery one day, and on our last day we made a hurried trip to San Telmo (St. Elmo, according to Ben) for some last-minute gifts. (This fabulous store provided us with many great presents, all made in Argentina and none of them schlocky souvenirs!)

We weren’t in town over a weekend, so I didn’t get to go to the famous street fairs to search for antique goodies. But we did visit the Mercado de Pulgas, a permanent flea market open 6 days a week in the outer reaches of Palermo Hollywood. I loved this enormous bird cage (at least 5 feet tall):


and we saw tons of furniture that we would have loved to ship back, but we resisted since we have no idea what our apartment in Boston will be like. I picked up a handful of little things instead–a broken pocket watch from 1914, some old wooden dice, etc. Also a cabinet latch and a brass handle for my brother, who asked for antique hardware.

flea market stuff

In BA we stayed in two B & Bs and one hotel, in a total of 4 rooms. My favorite was La Otra Orilla, which is in a stunning early 20th century mansion that looks like nothing from the outside but opens to reveal a huge entry hall that goes straight back to the courtyard.


Our room was one of two with a private bath, so it was at the back in a new addition. It was small but charming, and I’m sort of obsessed with the iron bed frames they joined together to make a headboard. I love the slightly art deco curves (they remind me of that metal and glass awning in the first photo!).

bed otra

The Food

We had universally good food in BA. We were just walking into random places, but every meal was very good. There is a lot of Italian food—we ate a couple pizzas and quite a bit of pasta, and Ben had risotto two or three times. And, of course, the steak. The beef was as good as I’d heard, and we ate a lot of it. We loyally washed it down with Malbec, which I’m fairly sure would flow from our veins if anyone pricked us right now.

Very typical dinner (under $10):


A restaurant called Lele de Troya caught our eyes one day thanks to a lovely vine-shaded outdoor area on the sidewalk, and later in the trip we returned and ate dinner there (but inside). They have painted and decorated each room in one saturated color. The bar and lounge are deep red, and the small dining rooms are yellow (with the open kitchen), green or blue. We chose blue, and ate a winderful meal surrounded by one shade of deep turquoise.


It was a fancier meal than most of what we ate. We shared an appetizer of Paina (chickpea flatbread) with goat cheese and over roasted tomatoes to start (blurry because of the dark room, I’m sorry):


It’s delicious–soft inside and crispy and toasty along the edges. I ate something similar in Italy, and I’m dying to recreate it. Ben had risotto for his main course, and I had “Lomo Crostante,” a steak topped with mushroom and spinach puree and wrapped extravagantly in phyllo:


This sums up our favorite experiences eating in BA—outdoors on a peaceful roof deck, with a bottle of Malbec and a cold bottle of water to prep us for dinner!


That restaurant had a truly hilariously translated menu; I think they had run it through a bad online translator. There were several great examples, including “muffled chicken,” “embezzled asparagus,” and “…accompanied with grilled fungi added saffron to Popes stuffed with brownnose of vegetables.” I hate it when that happens; the poor Pope. My steak with mustard sauce came with stacked potatoes, and was very tender and tasty, but I’ll spare you the horrible blurred photo. I had coconut flan for dessert there—the only time I veered away from straight caramel flan, which is ubiquitous and delicious. Custards rate only a step below pastry treats and fried dough in my pantheon of adored sweets.

File under Pretty but Odd. At lunch one day I ordered crepes stuffed with ricotta, and chose a sauce randomly, since I didn’t really know what any of them were. It turned out to be a tomato-based sauce that may have had red pepper in it, but what I can’t figure out why it was SO tangy; almost sour. Quite strange, though a very pretty presentation:


Our last two nights in BA, sadly, are undocumented. We were joining an administrator from Ben’s school (who is a good friend) for some admissions events that were taking place in town. We met her at a fancy hotel for a reception the first night, then went out with a girl she’d met on the plane, a friend of that girl, and a guy who’d been at the reception. We went to El Mirasol in the Puerto Madero neighborhood, and had a fabulous meal of empanadas, interesting salads (ours had endive, radicchio, mâche or a similar green, tomatoes and cheese with a great dressing), a wide variety of steaks, from the fried Milanese to grilled brochettes (kebobs) with onions and bacon to a standard but REALLY good lomo. We drank two bottles of Malbec and one of Sauvignon Blanc, and I think we ordered dessert but I know it never came or we never ate it.

The next night there was a special dinner at La Bourgogne in the Alvear Palace Hotel. La Bourgogne in the Alvear Palace Hotel. After quite a lot of delicious champagne with even more delicious cheese straws, we had a mousse of red pepper and tomato, salmon wrapped around cucumber threads, veal chops, and a strawberry dessert. I’m sad that I didn’t get to take any photos, since the food looked really lovely. It was good, but not stunning, to eat—it’s said to be one of the best restaurants in Buenos Aires but I’d had better food at decidedly less upscale places in the city.

Finally, one of my favorite meals is always breakfast, and I liked the Argentine approach, which was the same at every B&B and café we ate at: small croissants called Medialunas, served with butter and jam or dulce de leche, along with fresh juice and coffee. Very simple, and a perfect start to the day.



Well, I’m back in the country but won’t be able to post about our amazing trip for another couple days. I just wanted to post and apologize to anyone who posted comments while I was gone–my spam filter went nuts and erased them all, though it kindly tells me how many are gone. Gee, thanks.

Hiatus: Off to Argentina!

We off for twelve days in Argentina: Buenos Aires, the Pampas and Mendoza, to be exact. I expect to eat my bodyweight in steak over the next two weeks.

Buenos Aires

I won’t be posting while we’re gone, I don’t think, but I will be taking loads of pictures of food (and other things, I’m sure), and I’ll post a full travelogue when we get back. See you all in two weeks!