Sunday, April 02, 2006

March Food and Wine Recommendations

So another month has passed and once again we have spent several nights eating at the best restaurants in the area. We are truly blessed to live in a time when the exchange rate is in our favor – but I will reserve discussions of the exchange rate for another time. Where was I? Oh yes, eating at the best restaurants.

As I mentioned we have once again eaten at some of the best restaurants in Mendoza this month and yet none of them show up on my Food and Wine recommendations for the month. In fact, the place that I have selected to highlight is what is known as a “resto-bar”. I am not all sure what the means, but I am pretty sure it is not a five-star eating establishment. This month’s food recommendation is El Planque. At El Planque you sit in gravel and if you get there early and are lucky you can score the comfortable director’s style chairs – if you are unlucky you sit on some wood/woven chairs that are not designed for people with backsides as large as mine. Since we are Americans and accustomed to eating before 10:00 PM (22:00 locally – in the U.S. we call that military time, the rest of the world calls it time) we are very often lucky enough to have the big chairs.

Ambience aside, this place has some amazing food. We generally start the evening off with a hot plate of Papas Fritas. Having eaten Papas Fritas in virtually every city I have ever visited I have a lot of confidence saying these are among the best French Fries in the world. Mia would eat a plate all by herself if we gave her half a chance. We follow that with a plate of various of empanadas (jamon y queso, choclo and carne being the favorites). When we finally get down to really eating we focus in on pork chops stuffed with fontina cheese and red pepper. Somewhere in there Janalee usually orders an ensalada verde – not sure what she does with it, but I see it on the bill a lot. All together it makes for a great (if potentially heart stopping) meal. Luckily we live about 1/4 of a mile away from El Planque and we typically walk to and from the place. Certainly not enough exercise to keep us healthy, but it helps with digestion.

After reading this I can see how you might not be jumping right on the El Planque bus – but the food more than makes up for everything else – really it does.

This month’s wine comes from a little winery that Janalee and I visited with our friend Julia Riches. Julia paid us a surprise visit in March and thank goodness she did – it really shook us out of our stuck in the city approach to life and gave us an incentive to get out and see the area, not the least of which is seeing the wineries of the region. Anyway, we visited a winery called Hacienda Del Plata and tasted some great Malbec, Cabernet and Syrah. Their 2003 Mayoral Malbec is really great. It is a big-bodied Malbec with a burst of fruit and a really nice finish (I actually wrote that – strange). I am told that it has outstanding structure – I have absolutely no idea what that means, but it makes me feel really intelligent to say it. I don’t have a picture of this wine, but I have included a picture of Amelia waiting for us while we tasted the wine – good thing she is a patient girl. Perhaps the coolest part is we got to meet Juan Pablo, a member of the family that runs the winery. Juan is going to be riding his motorcycle from Alaska to Mendoza starting in June and we have offered him housing at any of our friends' houses in Utah, Colorado, Oregon and Arizona -- I hope that is ok with all of you. By the way Juan Pablo has a cousin named Juan Reyes (middle names they share the same last name), they were born 2 weeks apart.

Which brings me to my random note of the day. The other day I asked Mia where she had put her tennis shoes. You can guess the situation – it was 8:55, school starts at 9:00. So, I ask her where her shoes are and her answer back was, “I have absolutely no idea”. Where do you think she picked that up? I really need to talk to her teachers about what they say in the classroom – you never know what kids will pick up.

Buenos Noches

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