a diverse collection of travel photos and firsthand experiences while venturing across the globe. each destination has welcomed us with open arms and warm smiles, making us feel right at home. from argentina to utah - and thousands of miles in between - these are our visual memories of 'home'...just as we never imagined.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Restaurant Pick: La Tupiña

This blog has become a wonderful outlet for both Tania and I to discuss our life and share our moments. We do not openly market and/or promote businesses on this blog - however, there are special exceptions. I believe it is always necessary to recognize exceptional service when possible - especially when such service far exceeds your initial expectations.

In 2006, I returned to Argentina on business. I spent two weeks building contacts and friendships across the country - artists, managers, chefs, etc. While in Mendoza, I had the pleasure to visit La Tupiña - a unique bistro nestled below the majestic peaks of the Andes. After years of eager anticipation, I returned yesterday (2008) with three dear friends who have recently relocated to Argentina. What appears to be a quaint adobe cottage along a narrow gravel road is actually one of the finest dining experiences we have ever had. I use "experience" because the word "meal" does not suffice.

From downtown Mendoza, you must travel south along Ruta 40 before turning west towards Tupungato - a developed town nearly 100km from the provincial capital in the heart of Valle de Uco. Located just outside Tupungato (in Gualtallary), La Tupiña welcomes travelers for afternoon lunch (reservations a good idea).

La Tupiña signifies the black cauldron which rests inside over an open fire - a common gathering place for dear friends in the countryside. Upon arrival, you will be greeted with the warm hospitality of both cooks and servers, inviting you to join them around the cauldron as master chefs prepare fine h'orderves and appetizers before your eyes - roasted eggplant, empanadas criollas, grilled mozzarella with sundried tomato, and a "shot" of gourd soup. You are encouraged to mingle and ask questions as the chef clearly explains his choice of ingredients and methods of preparation.

After savoring the flavor of several distinct spices and herbs, you will return to the main dining area and unwind on a leather sofa, turning the pages of local wine books that sit before you. In just a few short minutes, a new round of h'orderves begins, each served with a gracious smile. A personal favorite: miniature bowl of soft yam served over ground beef and onion, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

Your official table has now been prepared and you are invited to dine outdoors on the patio. Amidst a peaceful vineyard, and surrounded by towering poplars, you will now begin with the main course - vegetable canoles, roasted potatoes, and seasoned matambre (flank steak). Each and every dish is served with an insightful explanation.

As for desert, you will be treated with rice pudding and other sweet miniature concoctions. However, it is the soft sorbet inbetween that will not only cleanse your pallet, but delight your taste buds: strawberry with specks of black pepper + pear with a pinch of thyme.

Each course is paired with fine wine - burgundy Malbec, Cabernet, Merlot - all of which are carefully crafted inside Altus, a charming bodega (winery) located directly across the gravel road. As La Tupiña is part of the Altus establishment, you are encouraged to combine your culinary experience with a private tour conducted inside the winery - a staple activity of the local tourism industry.

*For my fellow non-wine drinkers, you will be happy to know they serve all Coca-Cola products...and a very pleasant lemonade :)

With such a peaceful rural setting, paired with the rustic elegance of the interior (dried flowers, vibrant gourds, warm paints of orange and yellow hues), La Tupiña captures both intimate ambience and cultural tradition.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Enanitos Verdes: EN VIVO!

To celebrate Tania's birthday early, I purchased tickets to see Los Enanitos Verdes here in Mendoza. As native mendocinos, the group was coming home to perform at Bustelo Auditorium - just a few blocks from our home. Despite Marciano's apparent new look (reminiscent of Jerry Garcia), the band put on an incredible show until 12:30AM last Friday, September 12th. We only recorded a few clips with our camcorder.

Suddenly, during the third song, a frantic red laser beam started jumping around my head. Security must have seen the camcorder, and thinking I would sell bootleg copies of the tape all over town, they made me turn it off (which you will see near the end). Irony: street vendors were selling pirate music of the band just outside in the hallway.

The concert was amazing. Felipe must have changed his guitar at least 12 times during the show - including a neon green "glow in the dark" guitar for Tu Cárcel. Marciano would make a different toast between each song, and even invited a bunch of young girls on stage to sing Luz de Dia with the band. My favorite highlight was watching teenagers and their aging parents jumping up and down together with their illuminated cell phones during Guitarra Blanca.

Anyway, here's a short video highlighting one of Argentina's great rock bands - music for all ages.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tele - $%*@

So, as many have noticed, we have not posted anything new this week. We apologize to our devoted readers and friends - all five of you :)

Basically, we lost our internet service at home this past Wednesday morning - no explanation, no reason. Despite numerous calls to different "customer service" numbers, Telefonica will not assist us for at least 96 hours - this is their company policy.

You do not have much of a choice when the company you have basically runs a monopoly across the nation. So, as with many of our friends, we just sit and wait.

For now, we have the joy of using public cyber cafes in the city.