Taste of South America, Part 3: Wining and Dining in Mendoza, Argentina

 

Our rescue didn’t come by way of a knight in armor.  Rather, he was an older gentleman with a big smile, his missing front teeth just adding to his charm–and instead of a horse he had a motor scooter.

We were lost in Mendoza. With only one full day to become acquainted with Argentina’s wine capital, we had no time to spare; precious minutes ticked away as my travel companions and I struggled to find our first winery stop of the day.  We drove along tree-lined roads offering glimpses of lush vineyards left and right but the one leading to the driveway of Achaval-Ferrer proved elusive.  We finally stopped the car and approached a trio of gentlemen on the side of the road.

Disculpe. ¿Sabe dónde está a Bodega Achaval Ferrer, por favor? Excuse me, do you know where the Achaval Ferrer winery is, please?

Despite our rusty Spanish, the three men nod in understanding as soon as they hear the winery’s name and proceed to give us directions in Spanish.  The bodega isn’t far away at all, they said, but rather than sending us on our way, one of the men who happened to be sitting on his little scooter donned his helmet and motioned for us to follow him!   With our very own escort we arrived at the entrance of our first stop, leaving us only a few minutes late for our tour.  The sweet gentleman who came to our rescue refused a tip and the winery’s tour guide brushed away our apologies for being tardy with understanding.  Graciousness reigns supreme in Mendoza and despite our less-than-ideal start, the day turned out to be one of the best of the trip.

 

 

Being from San Francisco, it was only natural to find myself comparing Mendoza to the wine country I grew up so close to, Napa Valley.  Both share the distinction of being two of the eight World Wine Capitals–I should probably be embarrassed to admit that until just a few years ago I did not know that Argentina was a key player in the wine world.  Save for a few special labels I have come to love, I can’t pretend to be comfortable reading a wine list.  But I do know what I like and I have enjoyed my fair share of Malbecs along with other French or California favorites so my initial observations were more about place than on product.

What Mendoza might lack (again based on very short visit) by way of Napa Valley’s high-brow streets lined with designed-to-look-old-and-rustic storefronts it more than makes up for with the valley’s breathtaking vistas.  Some of the highest peaks in South America like Cerro Aconcagua (22,841 ft, 6962 m, in fact the highest peak), Cerro Tupungato (21, 538 ft, 6565 m) and Pabellón (20,183 ft, 6152 m) can be seen from Argentina’s fourth largest city.  And as much as I would have liked a more intimate Andes Mountains experience, our short South America trip allowed only for a brief, wine-centered visit.

 

 

If you love wine like my friends and I do, Mendoza will not disappoint.  From a small boutique winery like Achaval-Ferrer (started by five friends) whose old-vines yield just roughly 825 cases to century-old Bodega Norton which supplies wine worldwide to over 60 countries, the options are many. While our tours of these two wineries vividly displayed the contrast between individual labeling of wine bottles to a much-larger automated process or managing a two-room wine vat versus a factory-sized one, the verdict was the same:  Argentina produces good wine.

 

 

The food in Mendoza didn’t fall short of expectations either.  We had lunch at Chandon.  With no more than 5 or six tables in the restaurant, our break between tours was an intimate affair made special with artfully-prepared food and four varieties of champagne that seemed to be poured from bottomless bottles.

 

 

For dinner, my friends and I secured a reservation at Francis Mallman’s 1884.  Mr. Mallman, said to be the author of the grilling bible, Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, focuses on rustic food.  Had I heard of him before this trip? No.  Sylvie, our tour guide in Buenos Aires, introduced us to this restaurant but I fell in love with his menu at once.  The grilled meats, the house specialty, were spectacular, as were the other courses we enjoyed.  However, one dish stayed with me long after our visit to 1884.

 

 

We were served an amuse-bouche with burrata and cucumber, soaked in a lemony dressing.  What appeared to be an unassuming dish easily became one of my favorites of the evening as soon as I took a bite.  The creamy burrata and crisp cucumber dressed in lemon and butter (or was it olive oil?) was simple food at its best.  The ingredients are sourced locally so the freshness was unmistakeable.  The hors d’oeuvre was delicate and brightly flavored all at once and I should not have been so surprised that such simple ingredients would make such a powerful impact on my palate but this one did.

Since the burrata and cucumber went so well with our wine that night, I could not think of a better dish to share from my visit to Mendoza.  I did not have a recipe and recreated the amuse-bouche as a crostini here but I believe I’ve captured the essence of what 1884 stands for.

 

 

5.0 from 7 reviews

Burrata and Cucumber Crostini
 
The power of simple but ultra-fresh ingredients is demonstrated in this elegant appetizer. There are no hard-rules about proportions in the ingredients so feel free to make this your own.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Ingredients
  • Burrata
  • 1 cucumber, sliced thinly
  • Clarified Butter, about half a stick (or olive oil)
  • Fresh emon juice
  • salt
  • Baguette slices
Instructions
  1. Feel free to use olive oil for this recipe but if you are using butter, just note that it is better served while the latter is still warm. To clarify it, simmer the butter on the stove over low heat until the foam rises to the top. Simmer for a few minutes until the foam stops forming. Take off the heat and skim the foam with a spoon. To remove the rest of the foam, strain the clarified butter using a cheese cloth arranged on top of a strainer. The clear liquid that is left is the clarified butter.
  2. Add as much or as little fresh lemon juice until the dressing is to your liking and salt to taste.
  3. Arrange the burrata and cucumber slices on plate and drizzle with the dressing. Serve with toasted sliced baguettes.

 

 

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Comments

  1. I’m really enjoying your series on South America, it looks like you hit all the spots that would be on my itinerary for sure! I can’t tell you how much we love Burrata and can’t wait to try it with the buttery cucumbers and crusty bread slices;-)

  2. I’m curious what wine you were drinking that paired well with the marinated cucumber. That burrata looks amazing – the best I’ve had here locally was at Lucca – on our list ;). Thanks for taking us to Argentina with you, Jean! All stunning photographs, but the one of the restaurant at Chandon really captures the light magnificently.

    • lemonsandanchovies says:

      Priscilla, I’m so bad at remembering wine labels but I might have taken a picture of it–or my friends would know. I’ll try to find out for you. :)

  3. I love seeing more of your photos and taking a mini vacay through your lens! :) Crostini is fabulous for entertaining or just a light meal, and I love burrata – what a decadent yet refreshing hors d’oeuvre!

  4. You make me cry for Argentina (excuse the pun)! I love Buenos Aires but was not able to make it to Mendoza, unfortunately. I was assigned by a magazine to cover the Master Food and Wine event in Mendoza last year. But tragically, I was struck with vertigo (first time!) and was told by the doctor not to fly AND not to drink alcohol. I had no problem with the “no alcohol” advice since I am allergic to alcohol (another gasp!). Yes, I am a foodie, but I am also severely allergic to alcohol, can you believe? But the ironic thing is, I ALWAYS have wine and liqueur at home, as I like to cook with them. Anyway, I was so, so, so sad that I had to cancel the press trip to Argentina but I vowed not to let that stop me from setting foot in South America! Soon as my vertigo was gone, I booked the first flight out of Toronto to Buenos Aires WITH my 1-year-old in tow!!!!

  5. Beautiful post and gorgeous photos Jean! Your crostini are must try! Thank you for sharing and have a great night!

  6. Jean – I have enjoyed your series on Argentina – I felt like I was with you on the trip. :-) That winery and restaurant sounds a-m-a-z-i-n-g! Your photos are just breadth taking and in awe. This appetizer is right up my alley with the crostini and I agree the simplicity of flavors is often the best – not too complicated. Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventures with all of us! {Stay dry with all of these storms we are having. I was awoken this morning at about 4am by the wind and rain}

  7. I and the husband enjoys wine more than any other cocktail or any other alcoholic drinks! So far, I think we tried only one kind of Argentinean wine and we did liked it!
    Thanks for the lovely tour :)

  8. I’m enjoying reading about Mendoza and love seeing all these beautiful photographs,

  9. Fabulous post. Makes me want to travel and drink and eat. I even love the cucumber with burrata.

  10. Wow your photos are gorgeous (just LOVE those grapes!) and those crostinis look absolutely delicious!!

  11. I’m envious–I’ve always wanted to go to Argentina. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful photos. And I love anything with burrata!

  12. Your opening photo of the grapes is so beautiful, as are the rest. I love it when simple ingredients have a lasting impression on you and keeps lingering in your mind. Great looking presentation of crostini. A bit envious of your trip :)

  13. A trip of a lifetime! Wow, fabulous pictures and I’m dying to try the crostini. I can just imagine sitting on a porch on a warm summer night eating that and sipping on a glass of wine.

  14. While I like myself a nice glass of wine from time to time, I am far away from being an expert, either. I always wanted to attend a tasting but so far never had the opportunity. Oh well..,

    Like so many others, I really enjoy reading about your journeys and find it amazing how your gained experiences inspire you to create new recipes. This one for example is so basic yet fresh and special in its own way.

  15. First off, your photographs are so beautiful!! Really. Lovelier than ever. And I love the textured sides on the blog. Your blog is looking fab.

    Thank you for sharing your trip with us. Mendoza seems like a very special place. I would love to visit some day. I can see how you enjoyed the burrata and cucumber so much. Hope to see you soon :-)

  16. I enjoy reading about other places in the world, especially where I can’t visit (with the kids for a while). Like I mentioned to you before I’m not much of a drinker but my husband loves wine from Argentina. I remember he told me the wines from Argentina is known for Malbecs. I’ve never tried burrata, but if I can find it I’d love to make this easy crostini for him with the wine. Thank you for sharing and your pictures are simply stunning!!!!!

  17. I’ve never been to Argentina, and I have to admit I’ve never really thought of going there on holiday, but your beautiful post has made me think otherwise. It looks so beautiful, as does your cucumber and burrata crostini.

  18. I just tried Burrata for the first time this past weekend and I am soooooo obsessed with it! Once I hunt some down, I can not wait to try this out.

  19. Wow – stunning, stunning pictures, and I’d love to sample my way through!

  20. Oh, Jean! What a treat this post is!! I’ve been reading so much about the wines from Argentina and I’m extraordinarily envious of your trip!! But your photos captured it so well that I almost feel like I’ve seen a little part of it. Isn’t it always amazing how wonderful people can be sometimes? Wonderful post!!

  21. I have tried a few Argentinian Wines and have enjoyed them…but I tend to favor CA wines. I do try to explore a bit though :) This is such a beautiful trip, and I love your post on this amazing journey!
    And as for this delightful little dish…I am thinking a must try! Looks so fresh and inviting :)

  22. What a great post with beautiful photos. I love your appetizer and will be trying it soon.

  23. I love Argentine wine. When I went to Buenos Aires, I discovered their white wine, torrontes, and it’s my favorite white wine. It’s more popular than the malbec. Hope you got to try some. I wasn’t able to get to Mendoza when I was in Argentina, but your photos make me want to plan a return trip soon!

  24. Lora @cakeduchess says:

    Beautiful…just love all of it. I would love to visit Mendoza when we make it back to Argentina one day. Your grape photo is lovely. I bet the tour of the wineries was incredible. Francis Mallman’s 1884 must be delicious and your crostini are lovely. .:)

  25. I know have Argentina on my must see list! I’m not that well versed in wine, but I sure do love drinking it. That winery is just stunning and I think the crostini would go so good. Hope you are having a good week and soaking up some of this beautiful sunshine we are having.
    -Gina-

  26. I’m finally catching up on your adventures and Mendoza has very quickly been added to my to-visit list. I sadly did not get to explore outside Buenos Aires, so that must be remedied. And this appetizer – I have fallen in love with burrata – I know I would love this!

  27. Argentina has long been on our places to visit. Their wine country is definitely on the list. In the past few years we’ve seen and bought many Argentine wines from Mendoza. Your tour really makes me want to go and visit. Thanks for sharing your trip, and the Crostini sounds perfect!

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