Mendoza is perpetually drunk. On damn fine wine. And as if Argentina on the whole wasn’t suffering from vino delirium, Mendoza happens to be the epicenter of their production. Its star, Malbec: a purple red, fruity, smoky new found lover of mine. Malbec is why we’re here. Actually, it’s the only reason we’re here in the wine region of Argentina after escaping Easter Island and crossing over the Andes in a fancy bus. To continue our South American quest of weight gain via booze. And a Mendoza cooking class.
To approach European-esque Mendoza– a cute city that I only ever saw from the inside of coffee shops– you either join a wine tour or hike a mountain. We’re a bit hiked out but alas, never wined out, so a decision was made. Now, I’ve powered through enough wine tours to know that I have a track record. That is, I always end up accidentally drunk. I also promptly forget all the wine snippets of wisdom the tour guide imparts. Because wine.
Thus, let’s try an alternative: a Mendoza cooking class at Finca Adalgisa, a majestic boutique hotel and one of the umpteenth vineyards within easy access of Mendoza city. It is here that Cristina Brino, local sassy chef, leads Argentinian cooking classes that I read rave reviews about. Unlimited Malbec? Drunken empanadas? Confiscate my Visa, by god. Surely, a non-wine tour would be different. I wouldn’t break a glass or fall into the vines or do any of the normal things I do after a hundred forced “samples.” After all, a cooking class is safer for people like me. Right? Right??
When we arrived in the city after the nine-hour bus ride, our hostel called up the class to see if there was space for us in the next few days. There was not. “Way to plan, you idiots. The only class is happening tonight. You would need to leave in 15 minutes or else you’re f*&#ed.” Robbie and I conducted a quick sniff test— eh, passable— and shed clothes in a non-sexy frenzy, making the Mendoza cooking class in time. An Easter miracle indeed.
Thankfully, we weren’t bothered to find out it wasn’t so much a cooking class as it was an observation class. The eight of us— the maximum number— all sat at a counter, dutifully taking notes whilst Cristina did her thang. And answered all our inane questions… somehow not getting drunk herself out of annoyance. We were subsequently schooled in the art of Argentinian cooking. Which seems to involve a f&$* ton of beef fat. The kind that somehow gets stuffed inside an empanada and squirts out all over you after several glasses of wine. With pleasure. At some point, there was also a giant rib eye steak involved. And dessert. But one can never be quite sure. Unknowingly, Cristina’s assistant was swooping in and refilling our wine glasses like a enabling ninja.
I am most definitely a kinesthetic learner but a hands-off cooking class can be just as effective. I actually learned helpful “no shit” techniques that I should’ve learned from grama or someone. ONES THAT I STILL REMEMBER POST MALBEC. Like, when you panfry veggies, wait until much later to salt them. Or like when you cut onions and you get to that last end part in which you almost cut off your fingers, flip the onion moon over. Or like when you drink seven glasses of Malbec, perhaps pair that with about seven glasses of water to avoid next day headaches. Because Malbec ain’t no regular wine, my friends.
But speaking of friends, Robbie and I are learning— among other things on a long-term trip— that the social experiences tend to be the ones that mean the most. As much as we loved hiking to Torres del Paine or motorcycling around Easter Island as a couple (::gag::), our time with couchsurfers, hitchhikers, and drunken old people who can afford a Mendoza cooking class, triumph. I feel like it’s been a long time since we had a community and can’t wait to— gasp— settle down in a nonconventional sense.
IF you are interested in the recipe for these empanadas or the chimichurri steak topping, feel free to drop me an email or join my mailing list (who will receive the recipe in the next newsletter). Thanks Runaway Brit for your blog on the Mendoza cooking class, whilst I’d never drowned in empanadas. For accounts of other drunken encounters in Mendoza, check out this blog by Earth Trekkers or this one by O. Christine or this one by Around the World in 80 Harvests.