Last week I took a 3 day trip with 3 friends to Mendoza and Tupungato Argentina (from Santiago, Chile). My main reason for going was, to be honest, the food, and it was well worth it. We left on a mini-bus from Santiago for the 7-8 hour trip over the Andes into Argentina.....while there is much to be said about Chilean food, I would have to say overall that food in Argentina (or at least Mendoza) is better. Top 3 reasons being: a) garlic b) beef c) coffee
The good eating started JUST over the border, high in the mountains (over 3000 meters), in a little shack behind the customs builing. Here they sold lomo (steak) and milanesa (breaded steak) sandwiches, great bread, lettuce, tomato, AMAZING beef, very inexpensive. After a short stop here, our mini-bus continued downhill to Mendoza. Mendoza was very hot and much more humid than Santiago, we all were thirsty. Between the 4 of us, we managed to drink 4 jugos naturales (natural fruit juice), strawberry, peach, banana, grape.....got some good ice cream, sat for a while at a cafe on the pedestrian walkways.
For dinner we went to Las Tinajas, an all you can eat buffet restaurant. This place was touristy (filled with lots of folks visiting from Buenos Aires) but GREAT value....the highlights were a grill with EVERY type of meat imaginable, a dessert crepe station where crepes were made to order. I had one right after my appetizers, bananas sauteed in a homemade caramel sauce, covered with chocolate liquor, served flaming with another liquor. At some point in the meal I had a nice pasta dish (also made to order, you chose your pasta and the sauce) with raviolis and bolognese sauce (they do meat sauce REALLY well in Argentina). I also had a chinese style stir fried octopus chop sui. Good, yet random. For dessert it was another crepe. With two bottles of wine, each of us paid 20 pesos (which is about 7 dollars currently).....this meal would have been worth it even for 20 dollars though....
The next day for breakfast we went to a cafe for pastries and REAL COFFEE!!! Chile is not known for real coffee, and the good coffee in Mendoza was a treat.
One of my friends had a connection in Tupungato, about an hour from Mendoza, so we went there to spend one of our nights with a family she knew. The father of the household is originally from Tupungato, and owns a garlic company. He grows garlic, exports to brasil and europe, his office is filled with garlic related items. ¨No trabajo en cebolla,¨ he said. ¨Trabajo en ajo.¨ I was pysched, since garlic is not used too much in Chile. Ironically, his wife, Chilean, HATES garlic, as do her 3 children. They insisted on making us an Argentinian Asado, which consisted of LARGE pieces of amazing steak, chorizos, blood sausage, tomato salads. We threw a bunch of garlic on the grill too, and ate roasted garlic along with bread and meat. DELICIOUS.
Bakeries in Mendoza are amazing too, especially for medialunas (sweet croissant-like pastries) and other pastries made with quince preserves. Ate plenty of milanesa sandwiches, ice cream, fruit, drank great wine. Then it was back to Santiago.....our food filled trip was over....
I have to admit though that I was craving a mote con huesillos (dried peach soaked in peach juice and served with mote, a barley like grain, served ice cold) by the time I came back to Chile. And any country that sells fresh tomato and avocado sandwiches in carts on the street or at the booths at the Estadio Nacional can`t be that bad!