Having neglected her loyal readership for more than 2 weeks, Restaurant Girl (aka Resting Girl) returns to you from a computer in the port town of Valparaiso, Chile. Having spent the last two weeks in Argentina, I was too busy eating and drinking to blog, sorry! Happily, my South American intestinal maladies have pretty much resolved themselves after a month of gut-misery, and I was able to sample the legendary cuisine of Argentina after just one last bout of unpleasantness in Mendoza.
Steak, steak, steak. Good thing I'm not vegetarian (actually, I was vegetarian for my whole life until I got my first restaurant job, working the cold side of the line at age 18 at Lisa Hemenway's in Santa Rosa)--chefs HATE vegetarians and there's just something so unconvincing about a waiter who tries to sell you your dinner by saying haughtily, "Well, I'm vegetarian (sniff), but I hear the steak is really good here."
I met up with two Irish friends of mine, Trevor and Pat, from the Macchu Pichu trek (during which I was only able to digest white rolls and some white rice), and we stayed at the lovely Hostel Alamo in Mendoza, just over the Andes from Santiago. I took the bus there, which only goes during the day in the winter when then passes are open at the whims of the skies.
Steak and Malbec are Argentinian specialties, and I enjoyed both of them in various combinations during stay. I also took private Spanish lessons, and am happy to report that my Spanish is progressing rapidly, which I will keep a secret upon my return to SF so I can see what the kitchen crew is really saying about me.
In Mendoza, we toured a couple of wineries one day; my favorite was the Fammilia di Tommaso. Not only did they have better wine than the legendary and large winery whose name I've already forgotten, di Tommaso has been using some of the same storage equipment for over 100 years, so everything was all cute and covered with adobe. The other place was just like Kendall-Jackson, except the hospitality crew was speaking Spanish, and not just the guys working in the cellars.
The week I spent in Buenos Aires was less culinary- and more wine-influenced, with the highlight restaurant dinner going as a tie between the live tango show at the famous Cafe Tortoni and a smoky, wine-drenched meal with 5 fellow tourists (two Spanish boys, a Chilean boy--Valentino's cousin who had flown out to meet me--and two Spanish-speaking German girls) at the Parridilla Desnivel in the cobbled San Telmo district of the city, where tango was born. At a parridilla, when you order a steak, you get just that: a giant steak on a plate. A grizzled old man brings up a huge board of meat and forks juicy pieces off onto everyone's plate. Such frivolous things like vegetables and use of cutlery are not included in the price of a steak, so you have to be sure and order them from the waiter.
Terribly, I have not been writing down the wines I've drunk since yesterday (when we drank a Concha y Toro Trio, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot gris from Chile's largest producer. It was bitchin', especially since it was a warm day and we were eating out on the terrace), so all I can say is that it's all yummy and it's mostly cheap, which you probably knew already.