Mendoza / Argentina

23 11 2010

Translation into English: Engin Özsöz

For all Mendoza photos click link below:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/Mendoza#

19 – 28.05.2010

CAUTION: It might cause side effects to read this post with an empty stomach!!

Unexpectedly, Mendoza becomes our capital of food as we stayed here around 10 days, which was originally going to be 3 to 4 days. And for the majority of the time we were busy by eating and drinking wine. We stay at Gabriel’s house, in which he resides with his 3 friends and we kind of occupy the living room in the meantime.

Our first introduction to our continuous food adventures over here happens to take place at Gabriel’s workplace upon his invitation. The period we arrive at Mendoza, happens to be the 200th anniversary of Argentina’s independence with a 2-day official holiday, and there is a celebration party at Gabriel’s workplace. Actually, Gabriel and his colleagues, like a tradition, are used to prepare food every once a week but this time, the occasion takes place in a decorative environment where flags of Argentina scattered around with blue & white ribbons hanged through the ceilings. They have prepared “Carne a la olla”, a kind of meat with sauce cooked in a large pot and we like the taste of it so much that we eat one plate and another continuously, which is actually not surprising because everyone is already eating as if gone wild. After having consecutively three dishes of food, people still don’t stop and even the women jump into their fourth rounds. At the end, everyone stops except Murat 🙂 Actually in a polite manner, Murat also stops eating at some point in a full gesture but as the old man sitting next to Murat insists him to continue eating, Murat is “forced” to eat another round of dish. Gabriel’s work is at the old train station. Despite having a wide railway network in Argentina, the railroad agency has stopped operating them. Together with the new government, -at least some part of the- railway network is expected to be reopened.

The next day, we get together with folks from Couchsurfing. As being the only resident of Mendoza amongst the crowd, Gabriel takes us to a coffee house. We come across with the “Lomo” fact over here, which is a sandwich within a big loaf of bread stuffed with steak, lettuce, tomato, cheese and a special sauce. The Lomos are so big that they bring a small barbeque to everyone who order them, which helps the half of the Lomo to stay warm on the fire as the other half is being eaten. We stop by the same place couple of times more, later on, during our stay in Mendoza. The lomo that we eat can also be prepared at the size of a pizza, which is called lomo pizza and while the normal pizzas cost around 20-30 pesos, this one reaches up to 90 pesos. Since, the lomo pizza cannot be consumed by one person as a whole; usually 3 to 4 people share the pizza, which actually used to be a Friday ritual for Gabriel and his friends once as we hear. After the dinner, we stop by a house party at another CS member’s house. We kind of chit chat over the topic of ‘Vlad the Impaler’ or Vlad Tepes of Romania with a couple from Romania 🙂

lomo

 

The center of Mendoza consists of a square with 8×8 cuadra. To speak of cuadra, the city centers in Arjantina are built through parallel street systems and each block that is formed by the intersection of streets is called cuadra. Every cuadra is matched with 100 numerical systems and every point on the same line at each parallel street has the same door number. So in contrary to our address system that has building numbers in a consecutive manner like 1-2-3, this system has building numbers like 1-12-18 and thanks to this system every apartment or building at the same line at each parallel street has the same door number. All in all, Mendoza city center has 8 horizontal and 8 vertical main streets. At the corners of this big 8×8 square, there are four plazas – Spain, Italy, Chile and San Martin whereas right in the middle, there is the 2×2 Plaza Independencia.

In Mendoza, we join the Bicentenario (200th independence anniversary commemoration). The whole city is already covered with blue & white flags and ornaments and even the water in the fountains flow in blue.

There is big stage within the previously mentioned Plaza Independencia, where traditional Argentina dances are put into stage.

Actually, the most interesting thing is that the Plaza is all surrounded by asado, which are very big that there are whole lambs, pigs and beef ribs hanged through the grills.

In every stand, there are bunch of people lined up for the food while people also pay attention to empanada sellers. There are also couple places that prepare local food. We taste “locro” for the lunch, which turns out to be not very tasty and interesting.  It is a smeared cooked bean with sausage. For the first time in Argentina, a cuisine does not meet our expectations.

locro

 

Through the night, we try “humita”. This is cooked by smashed corn, onions and various spices. This is actually originated from Salta, in which they even use corn leaves to fold it while cooking. Despite ours is a similar version of the original one, it still tastes delicious. This is one of the cuisines that I am going to try to cook when we get back home.

humita

 

The level of the celebration parties get intensified during the evening. There are thousands in the plaza, and the dance acts still continue. At some point, many start getting together while carrying torches around the plaza while the band cheers up the people with songs at the four corners of the plaza. Each band walks in harmony by playing the same song one and another and approaches the center of the plaza. They all get together at the stage where they start playing marches all together which boosts the crowd eventually. Finally, the bands start playing the national anthem and we also join singing the anthem –actually try to sing as best as we can remember from the band at Puerto Madryn. At the end of the anthem, the crowd cheers “Viva la patria!” i.e. ‘long live the nation’ all together and the fireworks start, immediately.

The celebrations are over but our joy for eating does not come to an end. Since we kind of could not get enough from asado and try the meat over there, we get cow ribs from there. They cut the ribs with a special tool that we have not seen before. I guess there is more to learn from Argentinean people for us in the meat field.

In the evening, Gabriel mentions about the Mendoza-Santiago border crossing, which is called “caracoles” (snail). Since the road is full of turns, the road is called snail in short. The next day, at a restaurant at Mercado, we see “caracoles” on the menu and suddenly the topic of the conversation from last night pops in our heads and we decide to order snail (30 pesos) and a bottle of white wine (20 pesos) for the drinks. A full platter with full of snails with tomatoes, onions and peppers in a tasty sauce is served. Despite its beautiful taste, we especially like the way of eating the snails as the sipping and its sounds is joyful. One another nice thing to mention in Argentina is the availability of the wines and its cheapness. Despite the expensive prices of the wines in Turkey, one can taste better quality at a cheaper price. A wine that you can have opened at a restaurant for 50 Turkish Liras comes around just only 8 Turkish Liras over at a restaurant, here. In the meantime while speaking of wines; one cannot skip Mendoza, which actually I am going to mention shortly.

caracoles (snails)

 

There are two parts in Mercado. First one is the one where the restaurants are, where one can find everything, from snails to sandwiches up to 50 centimeters. The other one is the part where meat, vegetables and snacks are being sold. The meat is displayed on the hooks. People can choose whatever meat they want as if they are choosing fruits, from a variety of pigs, rabbits – on the hooks hanging from the ceiling.

In the snacks store, for the first time in South America, I am able to find sunflower seeds. They do sell it pure, not roasted as we used to in Turkey but still, I am able to get over my seed hunger up to a point. If you ever want to have some, look for “girasol” in the stores.

Our asado days in Argentina are not over yet as we experience another asado day thanks to Gabriel and his girlfriend. We go to a park where Gabriel cooks asado for us while telling the hints for preparing asado. He puts a sizeable cow meat to the grill for us whereas he informs us he is going to cook pork meat for him and his girlfriend. Considering the size of the meat, we let them know whether we can finish the whole meat or not but Gabriel seems not having any doubts about us as he points out Murat and adds together with the “aura” that Murat has around, that would not be a problem, which indeed becomes true. We finish all the meat that is offered to us. The meat is marinated with a special sauce called “chimichurri” and based upon desire, further sauce can be added to the meat after being cooked. The sauce is made of spices such as red hot peppers, thyme, peppermint; garlic and olive oil.

picture of happiness after another asado

 

After having such meat and getting all full, we stroll around the park and go to the city stadium. Some of the games during the 1978 Argentina World Cup took place here. The name of the stadium is “Malvinas Argentinas”, which stands for the Argentinian words for Falkland Islands. There is no fence between the field and the supporters but there is also a huge gap between the field and where the fan seats. We leave for home during the night with heavy smiles on our faces filled with the taste of meat and the dizziness from the wine. There is always meat and wine everyday during our stay in Mendoza, which gives us the utmost pleasure though having so much of meat and wine at one point brings also its side effects at one night as we cannot sleep due to our crumbled stomachs.

We decide to spent one of our days over here by eating light, which we prefer “empanada al malbec”, which is marinated meat with Malbec wine. We eagerly finish this dish as well with all pleasure. Fortunately, empanadas are being sold right beneath our house where we stay because we almost spent our whole day watching the last season of Lost. Without stepping out a foot from the bed, we are able to watch the last 10 episodes of Lost and we finally finish the infamous Lost that we have been waiting eagerly to see the end. At this point after through with Lost, we start watching another infamous TV series in Turkey. Every Thursday, right after the episode is being aired on TV, we able to watch the show thanks to YouTube.

While being at Mendoza, leaving here without doing any touristic activity should not be forgotten, thus we go to Maipu for wine tasting. Mendoza is famous for its wines and olive oil. The city is full of grape fields. Maipu, which one can reach by taking the city bus from the city, is famous for its best grape fields and well-known wineries (bodega). We take the bus for 2 pesos and rent a bike in Maipu for 15 pesos. We take a look at 2 wineries, a wine museum and 2 liqueur-houses. One got to pay 10 to 15 pesos per entrance for these places and can taste one or two kinds of wine or liqueur. Since the harvest season is over, we only visit wineries. In the liqueur houses, we taste olive oil first, second jam and the liqueur at the end. The most wanted is the absinthe but we would like to try something different that we don’t know the taste of. Murat tries a liqueur called “Russian Death”, which lives up to its name since Murat really burned out with it.

My favorite amongst the jams is the hazelnut “dulce de leche”, which is a milky caramel type. Being able to find a prior taste to Nutella, I buy a jar eagerly and also ask for two spoons to be able to taste it while we walk around.

We able to see the equipment used for wine making in the wine museum, but since there is only Spanish tour guide; we decide to take a stroll by our own.

After wandering aimlessly, we stop by a bodega called Trapiche. This one is the most industrialized and the famous one amongst all wineries. If I recall correctly one can find the same brand in selected stores in Turkey. Here, we both wander through the winery and also learn wine tasting. First the eyes, than the smell and finally the taste of the wine-the path to the wine tasting. We try three different wines and after drinking and tasting all various wines, we also come to a point where we find our favorite amongst the types. A white wine made from a grape type of Torrontes. Our beloved blog readers, we suggest you to go to a selected store such as Real or Carrefour and etc. and look for Torrentos grape white wine and buy it! While you start tasting it, please don’t forget to commemorate us with joy as the pureness of its color, its perfume like smell takes your thoughts away from wherever you are…

Having little dizziness due to the wine, we finally hand over our rented bikes in one piece. Even the bike store guy offers us a glass of wine to taste. The country is all about wine as if wine is flowing through the taps and actually it did sort of indeed happen as we happen to witness wine flowing through the rain drain pipes. We try various kinds of wine during our stay in Mendoza. If you happen to find a brand named Malbec with Mendoza sign on it and if you want to enjoy a stiff taste of wine, do not skip it… By the way, the tour that we just accomplished to finish is called “bikes & wines”, and is a very popular activity.

We return home tired and also hungry. Immediately, we go down to order our sandwiches beneath our house. Even the sandwiches are not in normal size, approximately 25 cm.

25 cm hamburger

 

Another dish that we taste in Mendoza is Shawarma. This is the Arabic style of our gyro (Turkish doner kebab) and little bit thicker. As being from a gyro country, we cannot even grade it as pass.

There are two interesting things that kind of taken our attention; first, every small shop – locutorio i.e. a place where cheap phone calls can be made – serves beer by placing tables in front of their stores; and second, the youngsters who gather around aimlessly at plazas that swallow lollipops…

Our days in Mendoza with little sightseeing but full of eating and drinking is over. Our next destination is Chile through Caracoles Border Pass.

For all Mendoza photos click link below:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/Mendoza#

Gülen & Murat

13.08.2010

Translation into English: Engin Özsöz

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2 responses

23 11 2010
Gabriel

Hi! i just read the blog! its great to see all the photos and read about your travel here and how much you enjoy it 🙂

Regards

Gabriel!

23 11 2010
Murat Tutuncu

Hi Gabriel!

I am glad you liked our Mendoza story 🙂

Greetings from Izmir

Murat

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