The Malbec Pilgrim has Arrived! - The week of Rest and Recuperation in Mendoza
The week of rest in Mendoza has been pretty sweet. An astonishing 90% of Argentina's wine comes from the vineyards around the city, and consequently it has developed as something of a gastronomic centre. Not only is the city centre packed with an array of fun places to eat or booze, but also the surrounding vineyards often have their own onsite restaurants, which are referred to as Bodegas. They're out of the city but not so far by bike, and with no need to have luggage on the bike it was amazing how easily it seemed to roll.
The number 1 restaurant on TripAdvisor for Mendoza is one of these Bodegas & located on the Lagarde vineyard, and they offer a 5-course/5-wine pairing lunch which went down a treat. I'd also visited 2 wineries for tastings before I got to the lunch, the bike ride 20km back afterwards occasionally feeling a little hairy. Luckily I'm pretty used to keeping a bike under control these days.
Other gastronomic highlights included some slowcooked beef ribs which were in a Malbec marinade - not so surprisingly it went well with a Malbec, clearly the favourite grape variety out here. Malbec was also the perfect accompaniment to the many steaks I worked my way through. Another more unusual highlight was pork chops that had been stuffed with ham & cheese and then marinated in something quite spicy, & served with hollowed-out baked potatoes filled with a blue-cheese sauce - the combination of the spice with the blue cheese was pretty intense but pretty nice too.
Although I've leaned away from the Craft Beer and moved more into the wine for this week of the trip, I did nevertheless find a cracking tap house with 25 taps of different artisan beers from all over Argentina, and between 6pm & 9pm every day it was a little less than £2 a pint so naturally familiarised myself with a few of them. They had good burgers too, so if I tired of steak & Malbec for a bit I could always break the routine with a burger & beer.
Apart from trips out to vineyards, my main excursion was a daytrip to a spa hotel based on natural hotsprings, about 30km out of Mendoza in the foothills of the Andes. It was a pretty lush setting with an interesting indoor/outdoor flow and a lot of different pools of varying temperatures - the water cascaded down them via a series of mini-waterfalls, so the pools highest up were hottest with the ones further below slightly cooler. They'd shaped some of the waterfalls with stones in a such a way it was possible to sit under them for a shoulder massage. They also had lots of mud to plaster all over your face if you felt so inclined - couldn't pass up that opportunity.