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Exploring Argentina’s Food and Wine

It’s no secret that travel is my crack.  Few experiences can compete with setting foot in a new country, seeing how the people live, soaking up the culture, and—of course—eating and drinking everything in sight.  So imagine my excitement when my friend Sarai and I decided on Argentina for our girls’ trip this year.

This was basically my face the whole time.

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So, without further ado, here are some highlights (a little heavily food/wine focused, because…well, duh) from Argentina.  I hope it gets you as excited to try and visit this amazing country as it did for me.

Our first taste of Argentina actually was a medialuna and kind of sad coffee hastily bought at the airport before jumping on a bus that took two hours to take us across the city to the domestic airport. It actually was pretty darn good, but then once we got to the airport we were STARVING. On the great advice of someone from the TripAdvisor forum, we eschewed the airport food and walked across the street to one of the food carts.

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One hamburgesa and a grapefruit soda later, we were content to bask in the sunlight and watch old men fish while waiting to check in for our flight.  Our first stop was in Puerto Iguazu, where we spent the next day exploring the absolutely amazing Iguazu Falls (from the Argentinian side).

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THIS IS REAL LIFE.

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The falls are mind-blowing.  There’s no other word for it (I mean, there is…gorgeous, breathtaking, phenomenal, amazing).  And they’ve done a great job of making it a super up-close and personal experience, and not really commercial or touristy.  There are all of these walkways where you can trek through, over, above, and around the network of falls, and a little train you can take between the major areas (there’s an upper and lower track, plus the Garganta del Diablo a.k.a. Throat of the Devil).  They’re one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, and I’d highly recommend making a visit here a priority.

So, let’s talk Argentinian pastry.

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They take it very seriously, and I basically worship them for it.  We ate…a lot.  I made it my personal mission to find the best medialunas in Argentina.  Medialunas are like if a croissant and a brioche had a baby.  They’re flaky and buttery like a croissant, but a little eggy and soft and sweet like a brioche, and then drizzled or soaked in a sugar water glaze that makes them sticky and moist.  I want to eat them every day.

After Puerto Iguazu we moved on to Mendoza, a very different climate than the tropical rainforest of Iguazu.  Mendoza is mountainous and desert, tucked up at the foot of the Andes and known worldwide for their amazing wines.

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We spent two days doing winery tours with an awesome company called Trout & Wine.  The first day we went to the Lujan de Cuyo region, and the second to the Valle de Uco.  It was awesome not only tasting so many amazing wines, but getting to hear about the history of the winemaking and also the country itself, and learn about different tastes and how what we eat affects it.  We also had one gut-bursting six-course lunch each day at one of the wineries, where they made the best meals we had the entire trip and paired each course with a wine.

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From watermelon carpaccio, to squash pastry with ricotta and peaches, to mouthwatering, perfectly cooked steaks (Argentina IS known for its beef), we ate like kings.  Definitely in my top three experiences of the trip.  And always topped off with a super strong double espresso to keep us going…

The following day, we used the same tour company for a trip up into the Andes.

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The pictures really tell the story—it was AMAZING.  We were picked up early and began the drive up into the three different sets of Andes (foothills, mountains and…more intense mountains; I promise, I was paying attention, but also was wildly undercaffeinated so details are a little fuzzy).  We had a few little stops to stretch our legs to start with (and also acclimate to the increasing altitude), including some Incan ruins and much-needed cafe con leche and a medialuna.  We spent a little time at the Puente del Inca (that glorious bright yellow rock formation above), which is a natural bridge that formed over the river and is insanely cool in person.  Our guide, Ricardo, made us some mate, the traditional tea that Argentinians (and other cultures) make and share with each other (you can read more about it here).  It was my first time having it, and it was a really cool experience (must like other teas and coffee, it’s an acquired taste).

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We spent about an hour hiking at the base of Aconcagua, the highest peak in the world outside the Himalayas (who knew?!).  We were at about 10,000 feet, but the peak is almost 23,000 feet.  The weather couldn’t have been more gorgeous and the hiking was surprisingly easy, given the altitude.  The different bands of color in the surrounding mountains were so cool, I couldn’t stop taking pictures…I seriously have like 300 pictures of the hike alone.  Finally, we stopped and had a traditional asados (rough translation: ALL THE MEAT) lunch in a tiny mountain town.  It was crazy packed because it was also Easter Sunday, so tons of families were celebrating and getting their fill of meat—their big Easter service is actually Saturday night (which is your random trivia for the day).  We had empanadas and all sorts of cuts of meat.  I tried tripe for the first time; flavor was good, but had trouble getting past the texture.  The five of us shared wine and talked and gorged ourselves, then mostly spent the drive back to Mendoza in a meat coma.

The next day we explored Mendoza all morning, then hopped a plane back to Buenos Aires to madly explore the city for less than 24 hours.

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We spent the day walking everywhere (and using a taxi to get from neighborhood to neighborhood quickly in some cases).  We started in Palermo Soho at an adorable cafe called Felix Felicis, which is Harry Potter themed and so right up my alley.  We fortified ourselves for the day to come with some of the best coffee of our trip and alfajores—a traditional treat that consists of tender, melt-in-your-mouth cookies sandwiched with thick dulce de leche.  We then made our way to the Recoleta neighborhood to explore the famous Recoleta Cemetary.  The huge intricate tombs and mausoleums make this place a fascinating walk, like you’re inside a tiny city.  Probably the most famous tomb here is that of Eva Peron, a.k.a. Evita.  We also happened to be there for a ceremony in commemoration of Argentine Army Day, celebrating the foundation of their army four days after overthrowing the Spanish administration in 1810.  There were sweet uniforms, military demonstrations, and a speech by the major.

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We made sure to stop in El Ateneo, a huge bookstore that used to be an old theater, then headed to San Telmo for lunch.  While the food was terrible (we mostly had bad luck in Buenos Aires because we made bad choices due to being so rushed), we were graced with a tango show while we sipped our Quilmes beer on a gorgeous afternoon.  Before having to head to the airport, we decided we had time to pop over to the neighborhood of La Boca, a low-income area known for its crazy colorful buildings.  It’s also *super* touristy, but photographed like a dream.

We were definitely sad to head to the airport that afternoon, but dreams of steak and wine and medialunas danced through our heads.  We felt like we just barely got a taste of all the amazing food and culture and natural beauty that Argentina has to offer, and are already planning out how we can get back to see more!

Have you been to Argentina?  What were your favorite parts, and any major foods I missed??  I can’t wait to plan my next trip, so tell me all about it!

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