Adios Buenos Aires y Bienvenido Mendoza

After over a month, it was finally time for me to leave Buenos Aires. Time had flown by and I was going truly miss this crazy, fun, diverse and massive city. I was going to particularly going to miss the extra buying power the Argentine’s completely messed up economy had gotten me. My flight was scheduled to leave at 7PM so I had plenty of time to say goodbye.

My first stop was to have one final, great meal at my favorite spot, Local. Even though it was Thursday, they didn’t have their usual wood oven options, which was OK at it allowed me to try something from their regular menu. I had become obsessed with the Argentine version of the sweet potato so I selected the pork shoulder with roasted sweet potatoes and an olive tapenade. The pork shoulder had been cooked sous vide for 6 hours and then flash roasted for a few minutes. This gave it a wonderful combination of a crispy skin and incredibly tender meat. It was a great send off.

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As I was eating, Daniel, the owner, showed up with his wife and young girl. I told him how I was going to miss the place, and he said he’d miss one of his favorite customers (awww) I walked out sated as usual and made my way back to the loft for the last time. I was surprised how emotional I was getting about leaving. I was looking forward to continuing my trip, but it was a bittersweet moment.

I arrived at the gleaming new Aeorparque airport and made it through customs in no time. It was nice not to have to take my shoes off for a change. There was an impressive food court and shopping mall on the second level, including this fancy high tea and dessert place.

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Right before I left the loft, I had gotten an email stating my flight had once again been delayed. When I got to the gate, there were a bunch of people waiting who clearly didn’t receive the same email.

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After a truly garbled announcement, the group started gathering their things and heading to another gate. It was a good thing I had been paying attention or I would have easily missed my flight. After securing an exit row (huzzah!), I bordered the plane, only to notice a truly interesting sight. Pretty much the entire back of the plane consisted of little girls ranging I’d guess from age 10-15 or so, all dressed in pink. They were part of some sort of summer group and sang songs as the plane was boarding. They also pretended like the takeoff was a rollercoaster going “Wooooo!” as the plane ascended. It was all quite charming, especially when we landed and they all started singing/clapping as they made their way to baggage claim.

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My host in Mendoza, Damian, was there to pick me up and told me my timing was good as the entire city of Mendoza had been without water for the past 2 days due to some large storms knocking out the distribution plants. Water had just been turned back on only a few hours before. I wondered if maybe that’s why they kept delaying the plane.

It was once again hot, even at 10PM but unlike Buenos Aires, much less humid. Damian played tour guide, pointing out various landmarks, barrios and points of interest. He said we were going to one of his favorite local restaurants, Siete Cocinas. It was located in what looked like to be a former house and while now almost 11PM, there were still a few people dining there. Damian comes from a winemaking family so he walked into their cellar to check out what looked good to him. I mentioned that I had several good Malbecs in Buenos Aires, which made him smile and say “You haven’t had Malbecs yet.”

Since it was hot, I suggested getting a white first and he scanned through the ubiquitous iPad wine list. There were several that he asked about that weren’t in stock, including the chardonnay that he really wanted me to try. He settled for another chardonnay, which while tasty, didn’t have quite enough depth to it. Given the late hour, for once, I ordered an appetizer. On the menu it said it was peas and fried sweet potatoes, which sounded intriguing. I was surprised though when it came and the peas were actually part of a small casserole with cheese, onions and bacon – so much for my supposedly healthy starter. Alas, the lighting was too low for any decent food porn shots.

I couldn’t have my first choice of entree – the goat – because, of course, it had been braised in garlic so Damian suggested the matambre. I can’t say it was my favorite as it was too dry but Damian had paired it excellently with a fantastic Malbec/Cabernet blend.

Since there was still quite a bit of wine left and Damian wanted coffee, I decided to get the baked apples with homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert. This was a real winner and was necessary after the dry matambre. Since it was only 1AM (i.e. early), Damian suggested we head up the street for a drink and so he could smoke. After a couple of false starts, we chose a bustling bar that had some outside seating.

Unfortunately, right as we sat down, some sort of liquor promo started up, with a blaring TV and PA right in front of us. We were able to secure another table thankfully, and Damian enjoyed another cigarette. A night cap sounded good to both of us and for some reason, I chose a Negroni. I thought the slightly bitter taste would be a nice contrast to what we had previously. Alas, the Negroni was waay too bitter but I was able to counteract that by having them bring some lemon slices. Now it was fine to drink. By this point, it was 2:30AM, and I had yet to check in to the hotel.

We got back in Damian’s car and took the short drive to the hotel. I checked in and said my goodbyes to Damian. The plan for the next day was to go to Damian’s office, which we both agreed probably wouldn’t happen until at least after lunch. It was quite the change to go from a large loft to a tiny hotel room but I was so tired and wiped out, I crashed easily.

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