Great grilled steak and amazing Malbecs are just a couple of the reasons Master Sommelier James Tidwell of the Four Seasons in Dallas has visited Argentina twice in two years. Here are his favorite places in Buenos Aires and the Mendoza region, and a tip for one bottle worth bringing back.
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What to Eat and Drink in Buenos Aires and Mendoza
Courtesy of Faena Hotel
Tidwell recommends El Bistro at the surreal, over-the-top Faena Hotel + Universe in Buenos Aires not only for its spectacular, mostly Argentinean wine list, but also for the white unicorn heads on the walls and the hotel's excellent tango shows at night.
"It's like everywhere else in Argentina: You order meat," says Tidwell of the rustic, pig-centric spot in Mendoza. "The grilled sausages and meat are perfect with Malbec."
Much less rustic, but still grill-focused, is Francis Mallmann 1884. "My best memory of eating there is standing in the courtyard of this old palace next to a fire pit, smelling all these wonderful meats cooking, knowing I was going to eat soon. The beef overshadows everything else, even though the salads and desserts are also exceptional."
Wineries, Tasting Rooms and Other Activities
"Mendoza winemaker Ernesto Catena has the coolest contemporary photography gallery in Buenos Aires. It's full of work from artists across Argentina."
"You have to try a Fernet-Branca and Coca-Cola. Everyone drinks this. It's a little sweet and a little spicy. Argentina is one of the world's largest markets for Fernet."
Great Buenos Aires and Mendoza Bottles
2010 Doña Paula Torrontés ($16) There is more to Mendoza than Malbec, such as this excellent white Torrontés. "Doña Paula makes wines in a range of prices, and they are good all the way from the least expensive to the costliest bottles."
2007 Mendel Finca Remota Malbec ($115) This Mendoza winery recently purchased 60-year-old vines in the Uco valley. "It's a more elegant style of Malbec, even though it's still massive," says Tidwell. "It's like a football player who takes ballet."
2005 Mapema Grappa "It's not imported into the United States, so you have to buy it while you're in Argentina, but the 2005 Grappa from Mapema winery is quite good and unexpected. It has a soft, smooth flavor with hints of cocoa."