Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tango and something else…

Where are we? Take a guess… We are in beautiful Argentina and even though we have not seen Tango we have had a great time tasting food and wine… and beer too, why not?

Exchange rate is about $4 Argentinean pesos per Canadian dollar. Sorry if sometimes I use Canadian dollars and others American dollars, it is just to make you work a little bit but I have not mixed them up…

Andes Beer.
We tried two types: Blanca and Negra (big bottles, 970 cm3). Brian liked the Negra and I liked the Blanca, funny eh!
Blanca costs $5.74 Argentinean pesos and Negra costs $6.8 Argentinean pesos. If you do not bring the bottles then you have to pay a deposit of $2.5 Argentinean pesos per bottle which you will get back upon the return of the bottle. If you purchase beer at Wal-Mart then you will find a machine inside the store where you place the bottles, you get a ticket with the amount corresponding the number of bottles you placed in and then that ticket is delivered to the cashier in order to get new bottles or the money back.

El Patio.
El Patio de Jesus Maria is a beautiful restaurant in the area of Chacras de Coria with 10 years of experience. Its name takes you back to the province of Cordoba, to the location of Jesus Maria renowned for housing the largest Argentinean Customs Festival.
How was it? To give you an idea: Brian had tears in his eyes. This was a fantastic way to experience Argentinean meats, money well spent. Having such well prepared cuts of meat with local wines, quiet ambience and great company made for an emotional experience.

Here is what we got but there is a large selection of items depending on needs and budget.

**Parrillada for $110 Argentinean pesos- this is a great option to try a little or a lot of everything. It comes with an empanada criolla (criollo or criolla means Spanish born in America), chorizo, morcilla (cooked blood), achuras (entrails), various veal and pork cuts and a delicious drink at the end. They serve you meat until you say “STOP”.
**Wine: La Flor Malbec from Bodega Pulentas Estate for $50 Argentinean pesos: my favourite wine so far. Malbec suppose to be the grape that grows the best in Argentina; the flavour is soft but rich…
**Wine: Vistalba Cortec from Finca Bodega Carlos Pulenta for $68 Argentinean pesos: stronger than Malbec, it is a combination of Malbec and Cabernet; Brian preferred this one…
**Licor Limoncello or Lemoncello: to help digest all this food “El Patio” offers a little glass of some sweet and tasty liquor at the end of the feast included with the Parrillada. This is a new tradition here, Italian based.

Total Experience cost=$448 Argentinean pesos for three people… As I said, one of those experiences that you will remember for life!!!
-Empanada criolla-

Helados de Chacras, Chacras de Coria.
To complete the magical evening, Carlos took us to a wonderful ice cream shop called “Helados de Chacras” in Chacras de Coria (exclusive neighbourhood), near “El Patio”. We had a lot of ice cream and it was bursting with creamy flavour and settle fruity tones: Chocolate del Bosque (Chocolate of the forest), Sofia (speciality of the house), Coco quemado (fantastic “Burnt coconut”), Chocolate con almendras (Chocolate with almonds), Pistaches (Pistachio).
Prices? It was too late to pay attention… Argentineans like to eat late; we were having dessert by 1 am.

Family Reunion in Tupungato.
Tupungato is located 68 kilometres South from Mendoza. In a farm house nestled in a beautiful vineyard surrounded by the preamble of the Andes we enjoyed a traditional “Asado” with a wide selection of wines in a family setting, a real Argentinean experience.

The family knows how to prepare meat and we learned a lot about it. Also we were presented with simple and delicious desserts:
**Pastelito: typical criollo Argentinean pastry.
**Vigilante: a combination of cheese and dulce de batata (sweet potatoes’ hard jelly), I love this jelly in combination with the cheese… I love it!!!
**Yerba mate: mate is a traditional South American infused drink, particularly in Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, southern states of Brazil, South of Chile, the Bolivian Chaco, and to some extent, Syria and Lebanon. It is prepared from steeping dried leaves of yerba mate in hot water. At first I thought it was some kind of drug but it is not, it is like green tea and kids drink it. It is known to have positive effects in cholesterol levels. Tasty with sugar but alone is very bitter which Brian loves... ummm… Brian likes Dark (Negra) and Bitter (Amarga)… like his wife!!!



Pastelito... delicious...


No me gusta...

Asado Camping Suizo.
Not in Suiza (Switzerland) for sure… In Argentina, in our camping we prepared a great “asado” with the Argentinean technique and ate it late just like Argentineans do… Brian loves this kind of cooking and he says it is a manly sport!!! Total price=$6.23 Argentinean pesos.
We are not sure if the dense cloud over Mendoza comes from the dust in the desert (all the trees have been planted by people), smog or smoke from all the people making asados, or a combination of all… If you are ever in our Finca you will understand what this discovery has done to our lives.

Beef ribs
White beans
Olive oil

1) Prepare the meat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put it on the fire next to the corn.
2) Cut all veggies (except corn) in small pieces (Annette’s style… I love it).
3) Place all veggies in a container with the drained white beans but leave a little bit of the beans’ juice in the salad (just a little bit).
4) Condiment the salad with olive oil, mustard and salt.
5) Serve meat, corn with some butter and salad. Enjoy!!!
Manly Sport!!!


I forgot to say we had green onions!!!

Finally good corn...

Tour around Mendoza.
You can visit wineries by motorcycle but I would recommend a tour to eliminate the hassle of riding home tipsy,
especially here in Argentina where the moment between yellow and red in traffic lights is called Adrenaline. For $65 Argentinean pesos (price if you are staying at Camping Suizo) you get to visit a Finca, 2 Bodegas (2 wine factories out of 800) and 1 olive oil factory.

**Organic Finca “La Olivia”- 61 years producing a variety of products: almonds, apples, olives, lemons, plumbs, membrillos (a mix between apples and pears) and others, as well as products made with the items mentioned before liked jams, jellies and pastes. Remember, right now is Winter here so the finca is not running full throttle.
The best part of this finca was Acero, a huge rabbit, pet of the family; also the bird nests made out of clay by a particular kind of bird.



**Bodega Baudron, Maipu Mendoza- This bodega (wine factory, no viñedo=vineyard) has tasty wines but once again my favourite was Malbec. They also have a huge room for rent for any kind of event offering packages including food and beverages. Bottles in this bodega range from $10-$100 Argentinean pesos and empanadas are only $4 Argentinean pesos to go with your wine tasting.
Interesting facts: Since Mendoza is a desert very little water falls naturally so canals are very important as well as explosion of clouds with canyons (Russian technology).
Trapiche is the biggest bodega in Mendoza but we did not visit it.
Lavender is used around the vineyards to keep insects away.
In case you are looking for a place to get married...

One for the road for $30 AR

**PASRAI- Olive factory. Very interesting process and products. They have extra virgin oils and different products made with olives.

**Cavas de Don Arturo- A small bodega where I personally did not enjoy the wines but we had a nice tour in perfect English. Bottles go from $10-$100 Argentinean pesos and can only be purchased there.
 A little wine makes life longer, but a lot makes life bitter...

Ensalada Suiza.
With some leftovers we made a great salad for under $5 CAD. The chicken was cooked previously when we made the recipe called: Asado Camping Suizo in order to utilize the fire to the maximum.

Chicken asado (with mustard, olive oil and seasoning salt)
Spicy peppers
Olive oil

1) Cut chicken in small pieces as well as the veggies.
2) Mix everything in a container. Add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
3) Enjoy with crackers.
"Camping Suizo" is awesome!!!

Empanadas LA VENECIANA, comida hecha con amor (“food made with love” is their logo).
These are Carlos’ favourite empanadas in Mendoza. They were delicious; you can get 6 empanadas for $15 Argentinean pesos with meat, onions and egg inside.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The end of Chile.

Cocoa Avena.
This is a nice quick meal of oat flakes. It comes in a bag with 300 grams of product and it costs $899 Chilean pesos. When we made it we realized that it is not as good as our regular Archie’s oats. So, I will not recommend this product.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It maybe that it rains money in Chile…

Unless it rains money in Chile I can’t see how anybody can live with the minimum wage down here, with $400 USD per month I would consider nearly impossible to survive.

Most of the food I present to you here is perhaps not as expensive but we had to look hard for it. Also our host in Santiago was very sharing and we got to learn a lot about the traditional food in Chile.

Mote con huesillo.
This drink is quite refreshing. We were camping at an Army campground, yes “Army campground”, with a lot of Army folks and the Officer in charge of the area shared this with us.
In Chile there are several Army social facilities and they are shared with the society at a reasonable cost; we got the Army price rather than civilian’s price. Facilities are really clean, with hot water and peaceful… This has been so far one of our best camping nights…
Going back to the drink, it is made with boiled wheat (previously roasted), water, huesillo (dried peaches), cinnamon, sugar and other secret ingredients. It is considered a dessert but for us it was a refreshing drink.
In fact, Mario told us that during Summer people drink this often to fight the heat; you can buy a small glass or a litre, depending on your needs.

Baked empanadas and tortillas…
Empanadas in Chile are more like a pastry and you can find them for a reasonable price. We had some at Tiltil (near Santiago de Chile) for $700 Chilean pesos each. Filled with meat, onions, raisins, olives and eggs (baked in a clay oven), these were the best empanadas we had in Chile. You can also find them filled with chicken and other tasty combinations e.g. seafood with cilantro, napolitana, etc.
Now, tortillas are nothing like in Mexico… Tortillas in Chile are bread. We had a tortilla for $1000 Chilean pesos, stuffed with almonds and olives, seasoned and baked in a clay oven; the taste of yeast was strong making it almost like sour dough bread… very good!!! This “tortilla” lasted for about 5 days…

Tortillas... actually BREAD!!!

Café cortado.
This is a regular coffee with milk: 2/3 coffee and 1/3 milk, the interesting part is that you get mineral water on the side. What for? To clean your mouth after you have coffee but we had it before the coffee since we were thirsty. Prices range from $900 to $1600 Chilean pesos depending on the chair you sit in.

Drinks and food with Mario…
Mario our host in Santiago de Chile was great… he basically shared his home, his family and all his food and drinks with us. Here are some of the tasty things we enjoyed…

Asado- this is the typical Chilean BBQ, we added some guacamole made with paltas (avocados). This was an excellent day, we felt like in Canada in a Sunday during Summer with great company: Mario’s family and his 12 dogs plus the two from the neighbours that enjoy Mario’s home more than theirs.
Our host Mario getting the BBQ up to speed.

HAPPY SUNDAY... (behind: ARETA).

Pisco- typical Chilean drink made from the distillation of wine (specific grapes), it belongs to the family of Brandy. With it you can make Pisco sour by adding lemon juice, sugar and ice. Pisco sour is a fantastic and refreshing drink.
Pisco sour at a Sushi place... Mariana's is better.

Learning tool...

Late Harvest wine “CARPE DIEM”- this is a sweet wine, but not too sweet just perfect. There are several brand names but it all depends on preference and how big your pockets are…
Late Harvest wine, Kingkona with the bottle...

Chicha, a dangerous drink!!!- another typical Chilean drink made with fermented fruits with a distinctive clay flavour since it ferments in a clay barrel in some areas. You may wonder why dangerous? Simple, it can be enjoyed when sitting but do not GET UP… It tastes like juice, so quite difficult to realize it is getting in your veins… I recommend one glass, Mario recommends at least two, he says there is not first without second.

Higos rellenos- these are figs filled with walnuts, fantastic…
Francisca, one of my favourites dogs.

Pure de castanas- this is like butter but made with hazelnuts…
Pure de castanas.

Merluza frita con dos agregados- we had this dish at the Central Market in Santiago de Chile, well known for having great seafood, “fresh seafood”. This dish was composed by two big pieces of fish and a great salad with different veggies and mashed potatoes. Price: $3200 Chilean pesos…
Merluza frita con dos agregados.

Paila marina desconchada- a bowl of seafood soup in a clear broth for $3500 Chilean pesos. Brian really enjoyed it and discovered the “secret recipe” to the owner’s dismay. If you want to know the “secret” wait until we see you again…
Paila marina desconchada.

Bubble gum…
You may think this is not necessary but for long rides it makes for good company… I really like this gum, mint and watermelon flavour lasting for at least four hours. It helps to keep you awake and pops your ears during elevation changes. Price=$450 Chilean pesos at a grocery store e.g. Lider, but if you buy it in a gas station then it is $800-$900 Chilean pesos. Look for Lider, my recommendation… unless you do not like to shop at Wal-Mart (Lider belongs to Wal-Mart).

What the heck is this? The remedy, which we have not tried yet, for altitude sickness; it is a recommendation from Mario’s brother who is a doctor. We refuse to take the well known remedy for altitude sickness: coca in different presentations… so, Mario understood this and helped us find an alternative which is Acetazolamida (this is the generic name in Chile, you may have to check the name in other countries/laboratories). We will let you know how this goes pretty soon!!!
Once we try the remedy I will show you a picture…

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CHILE, high prices…

I had heard that Chile is expensive and now I confirm it. It is like Europe but without the quality of service for sure, at least in the North. Food is good but expensive; however there are things we need to buy regardless…

Exchange rate, about $450 Chilean pesos for 1 American dollar.

Cristal beer.
You can get a six pack for $2199 Chilean pesos. It is tasty and even warm is ok. Beer has kind of become part of our diet, it is not bad if it is consumed properly.

Wine… GATO!!!
Gato wine is a bit expensive in Canada but in Chile it is just fine… I think this is the only product that has been priced reasonably. It is also a good element in any diet, for sure!!!
The price for a litre of wine of this type is $1449 Chilean pesos. Ah and let me tell you if you are looking for a liquor store in Chile, look for a Botilleria… however any grocery store should have liquor…

I never expected sugar to be that expensive. This is a better kind for sure, it is completely raw. Price: $3259 Chilean pesos for 750 grams?

Garbanzo soup from Carabineros of Chile.
We were in the mountains of Chile near Argentina and Bolivia (really close), high in the mountains, a bit lost, suffering from the altitude and hungry. The police men (Carabineros) saved us by giving us oxygen and feeding us this wonderful chickpeas soup.
Thanks guys, you are awesome!!!

Escudo beer.
A larger beer, tasty and fair price. $1000 Chilean pesos/each. Of course when you think about getting two for the same price, this price is high… you can get two beers in Peru for $2 American dollars.

Churrasco marino.
A good marine sandwich with fish, mayonnaise, Chilean aji (hot sauce) and lemon for breakfast. This day we did not have our regular breakfast and we often regret when we do that. Don’t take me wrong, the sandwich was excellent but our regular breakfast is FANTASTIC… Anyway, in the town of Chañaral, this is typical. Price? $2000 Chilean pesos including coffee.