Outside of work at Bodega Catena Zapata, pretty much all of my interactions with the winemakers have involved ridiculous amounts of local cuisine. Beware, if you are vegetarian/vegan, or severely limit your alcohol content, there isn't much point continuing with this post. A few meals have stood out in particular.
When the winery was having a slow day from a local worker strike, we de-stressed with lunch at a restaurant in the next town over. This was one of my first meals with the winemakers, and I was not prepared for the amount of good food I was about to encounter. Without control over what or when I eat, I have developed the nasty habit of stuffing my face as soon as I see edibles, and those cheese fries were delicious. However, once my tummy was nice and happy, I was asked what I would like to eat for lunch. After the main courses came around, with a couple more bottles of beer and wine, we moved on to dessert. Despite how incredibly full I was, I could not say no to chocolate cake, which I had not eaten in a month (this is a record for me).
By the time I was ready to pass out from this work out of a meal, my boss brought over a bottle of whisky. Now I was already slightly tipsy from the beer and wine, but saying no to the whisky didn’t seem like an option. I decided to embrace Argentina and drink whisky, with my bosses, in the middle of the workday. We moved outside for the last half hour of our three-hour lunch, and I sat there comatosed, pretending to understand their Spanish.
Another meal that stood as a testament to the good nature of my peers was the asado, local barbecue, we had for dinner at one of the winemaker's houses. We arrived after work, and started off with the usual beer, but this time paired with guacamole and Doritos. Despite the close proximity of incredibly good wines and meats we were about to have, it was refreshing to see such a casual appetizer. The food was all about enjoyment and company, not presentation, but that didn't mean any less care was put into it. The cow and pork ribs, sausages, and intestines were cooked over slowly burning wood meticulously prodded by the Spanish winemaker nicknamed Catalan.
The meat was paired with a side dish of tomatoes and onions, along with bread. For the wine, they had taken some of the nicer bottles they had made from previous years, Chardonnay, and a Cabernet Malbec blend. The six of us sat, ate, drank, and laughed until one in the morning. I was informed about some of the nicknames for the workers who have been making life at the winery difficult lately. Everyone in Argentina seems to have a nickname, and most of the time it would be offensive back in the states, but here its just funny. This conversation was centered around the kid called Harry Potter.
After a round of Coca Cola and fernet, the winemakers dispersed back to the places they would normally call home outside of harvest. I drove back with Gabriel who speaks very good English from working a harvest in the states. We laughed the whole way to my house, even when the topic of my two week late pay check came up. In his slightly too intoxicated state Gabriel repeated something to me that I had been hearing a lot lately, "If you need anything here, you just need to ask."
I was under the notion that too many reminders were rude, but apparently thats how you get things done, because I got my paycheck a couple days later. It wasn't meant in the 'we are too busy to think about you' sense, but more of a 'nobody can take better care of you than yourself' notion.
Sunday Asado Menu
This is a combination of the local barbecues, asado, that I have had the pleasure of indulging in. Depending on the host, not all of the items will be present, but I have been to restaurants where they are. In general I find a good rule of three pretty accurate; three types of meat, three types of alcohol, and for at least three hours.
- Malbec cured ham
- More ham slices
- Cheese slices
- Green olives
- Cow ribs
- Goat ribs
- Pork ribs
- Alternative cuts of pork and goat, usually the shoulder or thigh
- Sausages, blood sausage is very common
- Uncooked cubed tomatoes and thinly sliced onions tossed with oil and salt
- Shredded carrots
- More fresh tomatoes
- Barbecued corn
- Beer for before dinner mingling
- Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc with starters
- Malbec with main course
- Fernet and Coca Cola for digestion