Food corner

"I'd sit around dreaming that the boys I saw at shows or at work - the boys with silver earrings and big boots - would tell me I was beautiful, take me home and feed me Thai food or omelets and undress me and make love to me all night with the palm trees whispering windsongs about a tortured gleaming city and the moonlight like flame melting our candle bodies."

Francesca Lia Block

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The Quebradas

One of the most beautiful landscapes I was fortunate enough to see in Argentina was the Quebrada de Cafayate. Quebrada in Spanish literally means ‘broken’ and refers in geological terms to a deep valley or ravine. Despite having lived in Australia for most of my life, I have sadly never been to the ‘Red Centre’ but I reckon the vivid colours of this part of Northern Argentina would give it a run for its money.  

The main attractions in the valley lie along the Route 68 that runs from Salta to Cafayate. As such most things can be viewed comfortably from a tour bus window with little pit stops along the way. This is how I chose to do it because I was lacking on time and I felt I saw everything I wanted to, but it was a little rushed. It would have been nicer to do it at my own pace in a car and at a different time of day, for example early evening, when the lighting is supposed to be at its best and there are less tourists on the road.

So what has this got to do with food? Not a lot really. Of course I did eat along the way, and a couple of things are worth noting, which I will do in due course. But mainly this is an excuse to share the spectacular photos of the valley itself:

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Top shelf and top nosh in Luján de Cuyo

9am is the new wine o’clock.

My personal rule for drinking is that you shouldn’t have an alcoholic beverage before 12pm. Unless, of course, you have been out all night, in which case drinking in the morning is perfectly acceptable. But if you have had a good night’s sleep and woken up feeling fresh, starting to drink before 12 o’clock – beer o’clock – is stretching into alcoholics territory.

Well, on this day I broke the rules. But with good reason.

A trip to Mendoza will inevitably involve a wine tour of some description. Most people tend to go with the cheap and cheerful bike tours of neighbouring Maipú available on almost every corner in the town centre. My sister did one of these tours and she really enjoyed it, as did lots of the people I met along the way, but I had been told that you don’t really get to try that much wine on those tours and certainly not the good stuff. Lonely Planet recommends two companies that offer deluxe wine tours,

“They’re not cheap, but the benefits are obvious – small group sizes … a knowledgeable English-speaking guide … and access to some of the more exclusive (i.e. better quality) vineyards. Winemakers are much more likely to be getting the good stuff down off the top shelf for you on these tours too.”

My Mum had given me £100 for my birthday before I left which I was to save for something special so I decided to splash out on a tour of Luján de Cuyo with Trout and Wine. The tour cost US$165 (£106) which I thought incredibly reasonable given that included a tour and tasting of three top-end wineries as well a 4 course lunch and matching wines with unlimited top ups at a fourth bodega.

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Back to Argentina

It feels like so long ago that I was getting my teeth stuck into the most succulent and tender of steaks, drinking fine malbecs and spreading my legs for the juiciest empanadas I could find. But the memories are still fresh in my mind and I promised when I crossed to Bolivia that I would get back to Argentina, not physically, but on this here blog to let you know all about the rest of my foodie experiences there.

Where better to start than with a quintessentially Argentinean experience. On an estancia in the countryside just outside of Salta, I spent a morning horseriding through patchwork fields of brown and green, parched rocky river beds and eucalypus groves with the Andes as a backdrop and gauchos as my guides. This was followed by a traditional asado prepared by master of the house, the exuberant Enrique.

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Neal’s Yard Dairy, choice cheese retailer

Updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 9:02PM by Registered CommenterVix

It is strange the things you miss while travelling. As I got ready to depart Lima for London, after three months on the road in South America, I found myself looking forward to a proper cup of tea, fresh milk and cheddar cheese.

My Dad, Chef Has, would think it blasphemy that my idea of a proper cuppa these days is not the carefully prepared pots of loose leaf tea he reared me on: cups and pot warmed with boiling water, a spoon for each person and one for the pot, drawn for no less than five minutes, milk first and NO strainer: “I’m not scared of bits!” (I never got more than a 6/10 despite my studiousness). No, give me a builder’s any day, lovingly prepared with PG tips. Yes, Dad: tea-bags. 

He does, however, approve of my taste in British cheese and, more specifically, my cheese retailer of choice, Neal's Yard Dairy.

I was lucky enough to discover this prime providore the very week I moved back to the UK four years ago. Foodie friends had told me that Borough Markets should be top of my agenda and so I headed there on my first Friday in The Big Smoke. (I had been advised that Saturday’s should be avoided because of the crowds. Sound advice; I later made the mistake of going on a Saturday and left in an emotional state bordering on suicidal.)

I was blown away by the quality and range of the produce on offer and spent a long time walking back and forth trying to take decisive action but failing miserably. In the process I stumbled across Neal’s Yard Dairy and what can I say? A love affair was born.

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Posh guinea pig

Yep, that’s right, I ate a guinea pig. In Peru cuy is something of a local delicacy. 

Usually it is served like this:

I cheated and went to a posh restaurant. Had it confit:

Looks much more appetising, doesn't it? 


You can’t get away from the fact that guinea pigs just aren’t that tasty, no matter how you cook them. Most people I spoke to said they tasted like chicken, but if I were a chook I’d be mightily insulted by such a comparison,

“What’s that you say? Them cuy got no meat on ’em baby. All skin and bones. Ain’t got nothing on my breasts and thighs.”

People tend to say ‘tastes like chicken’ to describe any meat that doesn’t have a distinct flavour, which is a bit unfair, because a good free range roast chook is tastes fantastic and guinea pig, well, doesn’t.

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