Arriving in the dusty, hot town of Mendoza in the middle of the afternoon we checked-into the slightly down-at-heel Hotel Urbano Suites and proceeded to explore the city center. We walked a short distance to Anna Bistro, a contemporary restaurant with a warm, inviting bar and grassy garden with flower bushes. The menu has a range of dishes that reflected the Italian influence on Argentine food, but also included stir-fry dishes or “woks” as they were called. We chose a couple of appetizers of chicken bruschetta (a new discovery in so far as I understood what constituted a bruschetta topping) and fettuccini pesto. The bruschetta was an odd flavor as it was more cheese and chunks of chicken than basil, garlic and tomato. The fettuccini pesto was creamier and with less garlic than I am accustomed too. The pasta was superb, however, thanks to the perfect al dente qualities and general freshness of the noodles. This was perfect with a glass of local ros
We quickly migrated down the street. We came across a Carrefour store and keen to find out more about how locals shop, we checked it out. We were struck by the very large meat section and by the different cuts of beef of course. We later went to find a small wine bar and tasting room called Vines Mendoza. This was a nice introduction to local wines. We especially liked the torrentes and bonarda varietals produced in the region. Both are French varietals, like malbec, that thrive in Argentina. Notes of honey in the torrontes and chocolate and berry flavors in the bonarda stood out. The malbecs we learned were frequently blended with cabernet franc, even when the only thing indicated on the label may be malbec. Bonarda, I was surprised to learn, is the second most produced grape in Mendoza. Vines of Mendoza also runs the very relaxing outdoor wine bar and adjoining store by the same name in the nearby Park Hyatt. Both are featured in this weekend’s New York Times travel section.
We walked a short distance to find the central market, a cornucopia of cheese, ham, fish, meat, some vegetables and a lively food court. Planning on returning later we keep walking east to arrive at the local reptile museum. As described in the guidebooks it’s a veritable freak show. Imagine a long tent with two dozen or more snakes in glass tanks. The assortment of large boa constrictors and pythons turned out to be quite amazing. As S (who is terrified of snakes) said, it may have been the best $5 we’ve spent today. However, that was quickly challenged later at dinner when after returning to the market, I finally tried a choripan. Often called a “choree,” I order the chorizo and bread sandwich along with a large bottle of Andes pilsner beer. The spicy sausage had been flattened outside of the typical casing and crisped up nicely on the flat griddle. It was served with mustard and ketchup on crusty bread. We went to find a corner restaurant with outdoor seating and ordered a bottle of malbec to share to cap off the night.