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.


The Highland Hill's said...

sounds great...i am sure my wife would love it...when and where can we book this trip w/ you? :) Let me know where I can make payment...thanks...

satomblablabla said...

what are you... a food critic now, Wade? ;) i felt like i was reading a review in an airline magazine while sitting in first class. bien hecho.

i must say that this post also makes me homesick for argentina. i sooo want to give this real deal experience to my husband so he can appreciate it as well! if only.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading the blog. I thought I was reading something from Travel & Leisure! You have a writing gift. I'm not sure I can explain what I mean. It was so informative, flavorful and inviting (how's that). I'm ready to travel and go there for dinner. The pictures just reinforce the article. Great job.