Francis Mallman is Argentina’s most identifiable chefs. His signature restaurant, 1884, in Mendoza is the preeminent restaurant for meat in the world’s most preeminent meat country. His book, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, is basically the bible of cooking Argentine meat. The emphasis on the food here is rustic. Many dishes are cooked over an open fire or in a clay oven. Mallman gravitates not toward the European influenced kitchens of Buenos Aires, but the gaucho ways of Patagonia and beyond.
Oilve oil production in Argentina is still in its infancy. This year is expected to be a poor one because of the falling price of the euro and the fact that Argentineans only consume .15 liters of olive oil annually, compared with 25 liters in Greece. Still, as I discovered at Duty Free in Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza airport while loading up on wine, the country is producing some excellent olive oils.
While Chardonnay and to a lesser extent Torrentes and Sauvignon Blanc are almost always given the nod as South America’s favorite white wines, dry, refreshing Viognier is slowly carving out a name for itself. It pairs well with shellfish, seafood, sushi, and even curry and the wine is drunk best young.
Michael Evans, the co-founder of Vines of Mendoza – a wine entrepreneurship program in Argentina’s Uco Valley near Mendoza – isn’t just an entrepreneur. He’s also a photographer. I caught wind of some of his images from his vineyards in Mendoza that he shot recently during the Argentine winter and he was kind enough to allow me to post them here. It’s far from the vineyard seen you usually see.
Francis Ford Coppola, who is now a hotel owner in Buenos Aires (see Casa Escondido below shot Tetro, a mostly black and white film on the streets of La Boca, the gritty port district in Buenos Aires where tango was born. The colorful barrio is as much of a character as the actors themselves and showcases Coppola’s love for the Argentina as they move from the capital with a drive south to Patagonia, where a literary festival sets the scene for the closing credits.
While there is some debate over this, both in Buenos Aires and out, most critics point to two parillas, or steakhouses, for the best meat in the city. Cabaña Las Lilas in Puerto Madero is the flashier, more expensive, and harder to get into of the two restaurants, though I’m still going with La Cabrera, with two nearly side by side restaurants in Palermo Soho.
I first heard about groups of armed gunmen robbing the luxury resort hotels in Argentine Wine Country in late 2008, when the raids seemed to be at their peak. I soon learned that the robberies in Mendoza had been going on since 2006 and recently discovered that they have continued as recently as this January.
As a preview of our forthcoming interview with Vines of Mendoza co-founder Michael Evans, we asked Vines of Mendoza to provide a few Argentine wine picks for the holiday season. Mendoza born Pablo Gimenez Riili, the private vineyard estate’s other founder and President, has provided six choices from the Mendoza area. All of these wines are available online from The Vines Wine Shop, a division of The Vines of Mendoza.
With Europe being still so unaffordable for American travelers, Buenos Aires, a city many consider to be more European than anywhere in Europe, is a steal. True the Peso has gone up from where it was a few years ago, but when the price of a steak and a bottle of Malbec is the same price as a burger at TGI Friday’s at home you can’t complain. Here are three places options for resting your head:
It wasn’t until a recent trip to Argentina that I had ever heard of the liquor Fernet Branca. They consider a national drink there, though it is made in Milan, Italy. I still had yet to taste it, but a few weeks ago at Duty Free in the Dusseldorf, Germany airport there was a sale so I couldn’t resist.