Sunday, October 31, 2010

Asado With Money, Asado With Love

In Mendoza we had back to back asados (asado, noun - typically a sequence of (an absurb amount of) meats & wine presented by the asador (grill-man)).

Pulenta Estates
Just the beginning
(but a beginning of brie, blue cheese,
and salami is always a good start)
The first was at Pulenta Estates, a fantastic winery, which made us a fancy (and costly) asado in the owner’s on-site bungalow (which they only use when they fly in on their private jet from Buenos Aires). We began with a delicious spread of cheese, meats, wine, and the best empanadas to date (sweet potato and corn, I know, no meat, I can hardly believe it myself). After our group polished off a few bottles we moved to the table to enjoy the meat. Which never stopped coming. Chorizo, blood sausage, flank steak, sirloin steak (double portion please), tenderloin, and then ribs (oh those sweet crispy, juicy ribs)* along with salads, more empanadas (which I forced down), and then a fancy flan for dessert. Everything was served by waiters, we never saw the grill (actually, I snuck out the back to talk to the asador – to try to get a quick morsel in before the meal began because I, as always, was a little nervous there would not be enough).

That's a fancy asado.

This was a fantastic asado. But it was a fancy, sit-down, waiter-service kind of meal. Not that there is anything wrong with that.   If you have the opportunity to take an asado & wine tasting at Pulenta Estates, you would be a damned fool to pass it up. Kudos to Mike & Celeste of Hostel Lao for setting it up and insisting that we join them for this terrific day. It was great.

When you know its been a good asado...

Is that four glasses for the Meshkovs?  Could be.

Chaqnapi Estancia

The next day we scheduled a 10:30 AM start (knowing that the Pulenta tasting was the day before) for an
That's where we are riding?!?
all day horseback ride with a, you guessed it, asado.  Diego of Chaqnapi picked us up and we drove out to ranch, only 30 minutes outside of Mendoza, and after turning onto his property in the mountains you cannot see or hear the city at all.  Once we mounted our trusted steeds (Toki for me; Balthazar for J) we were overtaken by the calm quietness that comes when you are away from the hectic city. Just 30 minutes outside Mendoza there were no engines idling, horns honking, or sirens wailing – it was just us and our horses in the foothills of the beautiful Andes mountains.

The riding was good. But after a few hours I, and our horses, needed a break and some sustenance. Diego took us up to the an oasis of sorts where he had a small cabin with a clay oven and grill in which he would prepare our Asado.**  Because an Asado takes time to prepare (if there is no asador faithfully working while you tour the winery) while Diego set the table, collected wood, and began making a fire Jesse and I began drinking the first bottle of wine.*** Diego then prepared and served us delicious homemade bread, some cheese and a giant plate of olives (good for J, bad for me). We relaxed, drank more wine and waited for the grill to reach a proper cooking temperature.

Dream meal.  For sure.
The grill needed a lot of heat, because for the three of us Diego brought almost 3 kilos of meat! Two thirds beef, one third pork – can you say dream meal? You can once I saw that Deigo also brought onions to cook up (with salt, pepper, and more oil, duh) As we sat by the fire Deigo cooked up the meat to a perfect jugoso (juicy, medium rare) and then served us a freshly prepared salad of tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh herbs and salt. The meat with the salad was so simple, yet so delicious, we were well-reminded that sometimes the simplest things are the best.  Having watched (and offered to help) the entire preparation and sitting with the Diego as he made the meal made it taste that much better. The asado was made with love, and we could tell the difference. We finished the meal off with delicious homemade cake and a shared cup of matÄ— tea. After the meal, and totally stuffed – sorry Toki – we rode back to the ranch as the sun set over the Andes. It was a great day.

Fat & happy - thankfully the horses knew the way home.

* A photo of the meat from Pulenta Estates is missing because there may have been a bit of feeding frenzy once the beef was served.

** In the final stretch up to the campsite Diego encouraged me to let Toki run, so I gave him a half-hearted “hee-yah” and gentle kick hoping to break only into a trot (despite the possible pain to my butt and “package” (as Diego referred to my ‘private parts’ in his multiple inquiries as to our comfort and well-being)). Alas, despite my lackluster call to action, Toki knew it was almost breaktime and bolted into a full gallop. It was exhilarating. That horse was going so fast, it was all I could to just to hold on. If was like riding a wave-runner at full throttle, but without anyway to control your speed, direction, or avoid low-hanging branches...

*** Don’t worry mom. We offered to help multiple times but each time was firmly refused. As the (paying) guests we were told the only thing we could do was sit, relax, and enjoy the afternoon – my type of job.


  1. I am proud that you offered to assist Diego and glad that he did not let you help him. It sounds like you will need to go on lipitor in the very near future. I am glad that Toki took good care of you and did not toss you.

  2. I just have 2 questions:
    1. Is there anything else to do in South America besides eat meat, drink wine and ride horses?
    2. Was the asado better than, as good as or not as good as a cajan rib-eye at Mortons?

  3. @Steven - 1) not that i know of (actually, this morning i am going mouton biking); 2) that is a tough question, but the meat here is really really good. With respect to the sides, however, Morton's is the clear winner. Nobody can top their creamed spinach.

  4. i think i should stop eating now to make room for what awaits me in BA.


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