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Lucire: Volante
argentina



Town and country

Looking for a holiday boasting good things from the good Earth? Look no further than Buenos Aires, Argentina’s sexy urban hub, and Mendoza, sublime centre of culinary bliss by Elyse Glickman
photographed by the author

 

FROM THE EVOLUTION OF THE TANGO to the era when Eva Perón passionately cried out to her countrymen from a famous balcony in Buenos Aires, Argentina has been closely associated with a kind of style and æsthetic that melds together Old World Spain, Italy and France along with New World ideas. However, that rich, precise kind of flair stretches beyond Buenos Aires and that balcony into to the rest of the country. Mendoza, located across the continent and tucked into the Andes, is a small city big on style, innovative cuisine with organic ingredients, ecotourism and ambiance.

 

 

 

¡Que Buenos! From history to haute cuisine to hip couture

Whether or not you agree with her politics, the life of the iconic Eva Perón is an interesting place to start one’s journey, both figuratively and literally. Amid the world-class art museums and galleries in Buenos Aires, one of the most fascinating cultural institutions lies in old money chic area of La Recoleta. The Museo Evita, forged out of a house Perón took over to house homeless women and children, is now dedicated to her life story, politics and undeniable sense of style via film clips, photos and to-die-for outfits. The former sanctuary also houses a lovely café serving savoury homespun dishes and great coffee, and guarded by a cat named in Evita’s honor.

Since the Evita era, many impressive women have made their mark on Argentina and the world, with their mix of flair and commitment to the community. Museo Fortabat, an impressive collection in the Puerto Madero district, is a living tribute to its founder, María Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, a Buenos Aires renaissance woman who was a long-time chairperson and chief stock holder of Loma Negra, the largest cement manufacturer in Argentina. This museum, which includes works by Marc Chagall, Roberto Aizenberg and many of Argentina’s great contemporary artists, is emblematic of Buenos Aires’ character itself. La Colección, an airy café space adjoining the museum and overlooking the city, serves up ambiance and dishes that mirror the museum’s collection: flavourful, forged from the finest local products and fused from Argentina’s indigenous and European influences.

Branching out from the city centre, it is a natural step to move onto Montserrat to get deeper into recent local history. The anchoring Plaza de Mayo includes Casa Rosado, home of that famous balcony where Evita Perón professed her love to her countrymen. At the moment, Casa Rosado is also the seat of power for current Argentine president, Cristina Fernández. It is fitting that she in her own way is as controversial as Perón, whom she cites as her principal role model, with both women harnessing their husbands’ popularity as springboards up to their own platforms of influence.

While the picturesque public area in front of the Casa and other important buildings, including the Catedral Metropolitana, is peopled with vendors and office workers on lunch breaks, there is also the undeniable 30 plus-year presence of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, parents of 30,000 Argentines teens and young adults arrested and presumed murdered between 1976 and 1983 by the military government in power. Many of these women have evolved into major forces in Argentine politics, and have spawned other groups seeking justice for the genocide. Even with a high standard of living enjoyed by Buenos Aires and visitors today, it is important to pay respects to these women, who collectively paved the way for critical social change.

On a happier note, Buenos Aires women with all sorts of talents are putting their heads and hearts into revitalizing the La Boca and San Telmo neighbourhoods. By night in San Telmo, you can visit venues such as La Ventana, where classic and modern forms of tango, jazz and traditional Argentine folk music are preserved and performed. While La Ventana lies just to this side of touristy, the two-and-a-half hour show is a substantial, engaging collage of Argentine performing arts, from veteran accordion mæstros, to a macho gaucho dancer, to lithe dancers in fabulous art-déco costumes to the closing scene of Evita, performed in Spanish. San Telmo by day retains a wonderful “old Buenos Aires” authenticity through its Plaza Dorrego, flanked by refurbished cafés, boutique hotels and antique stores. La Boca, meanwhile, is in the midst of a renaissance at the hands of resident artists. Though locals advise that it may not be the safest place to be at night, by day it is as alluring and charismatic, if not more so, than more affluent areas.

That said, Buenos Aires’ posh neighbourhoods are absolute requirements, especially for fashionistas fixated on great shoes, bags and silver jewellery. If your tastes run toward big designer labels and hard-to-find local labels international stars like Sharon Stone covet, La Recoleta will be your hunting-ground. Looking for a promenade with a quirky mix of high-street retailers, leather emporiums and souvenir shops? Florida Street will be your thoroughfare of choice (check out great in-season finds and past-season steals at Cardon’s flagship store, with workmanship that would make Ralph Lauren green with envy). If your time is limited, or you seek a mix of better Argentine chains and high-end boutiques, take a spin around Patio Bullrich and Galerías Pacífico. Here, you will find branches of local shoe-and-handbag chain Prüne, famous for its luminous colours and supple skins.

Those interested in breaking the chain, so to speak, will love the laid-back Palermo Soho, where most of the fashion-forward action is taking place. Shoe stores are particularly fabulous, not only for the quality-to-price ratio but also the shopping environments, which are part-tea salon, part-walk-in closet and part-couture boutique. Silvia Vane and Mandarine are pitch-perfect when it comes to reconciling ahead-of-curve colours and silhouettes with everyday comfort and function. If you’re an aficionado of statement-making, colour-happy designers as Petro Zillia or Oilily, the quirky-cute pieces fashioned by Juana de Arco need to be tried on. On the high end, Harapo Reales offers one-off sweaters and scarves with many stories behind them, as several artisans are involved in the creation of each mixed-media piece. Araceli Pourcel’s boutique takes that form of eclecticism into office settings and cocktail parties with one-of-a-kind pieces that balance sculptural flourishes with wearability. If fashion for the home is more your thing, Capital and Calma Chicha are filled to the brim with a fun, vibrant mix of retro and modern home accessories. Though there are many great silver jewellery boutiques, 925 stands out, as the focus is larger-than-life cocktail rings.

Cabernet is the ideal place to top off a day of Palermo Soho shopping or get a preview of the savoury pleasures that await the visitor in Mendoza. Its wine shop across the street, Lo De Joachin Alberdi Vinoteca, is not only well-organized, but downright cool, thanks to vintage album covers aptly paired with Argentina’s best varietals and blended wines. Back at the warm and toasty Cabernet, you can put the owner–chef–sommelier’s judgment to the test, pairing some of those same wines with rich, hearty and beautifully prepared Epicadas (similar to tapas or antipasti dishes), steak and salmon dishes.

 

 

 

 

Mendoza: vintage fine

What makes Mendoza—state and city—so memorable is that its charm and sophistication sneak up on you. The town looks a little industrial and sleepy as you drive in. However, a short walk and a few right turns from the Sheraton Mendoza, you’re in the midst of a lively pedestrian mall anchored by Sarmiento and San Martin streets, with a seemingly endless offering of (more) leathergoods, sweet shops doling out divine ice cream and sorbet (Bianco & Nero is sublime), unprepossessing clothing stores (like Fascino, a neat sweater store with sweater jackets costing a mere US$25–$50) and craft boutiques that are refreshingly un-kitschy. Walk a little further to discover arty little side streets, as well as picturesque picnic worthy plazas with their own enticing street markets and cozy artisinal cafés such as the amazing Azafran. Book-ending the city is the lush Parque San Martin, a sprawling marriage of green space, monuments, zoo, sports fields and public amenities.

Beyond the city lies a sort of Garden of Eden that not only supports and fortifies one of the world’s fastest-growing (and growing in global acclaim) wine industries, but also stunning, unique settings to enjoy that food and wine in. If Buenos Aires reveals the art of fine living like a tasting menu, Mendoza puts its sensory delights out there, family style and in generous homespun portions. An hour outside the city, you can not only commune with nature or ski the Andes, but indulge your senses at other great Estancias and Bodegas that bring gastronomy to life beyond the table, and with an emphasis on environmentally friendly production techniques.

Though La Alboroza (translated to where happiness lives) is not a winery or an organic farm, there are a lot of delightful things growing out of it, including artist–owner Sergio Roggerone’s canvases fusing Latin and Indian sensibilities and a boutique hotel still in the works at press time. The décor in the Roggerones’ private quarters, atelier and public space is an inspirational example of how recycling objects and classic art training can be transformed into the epitome of fine modern living. The home-turned-Andes oasis is a stunning jewel box of antiques, objets d’art and books from around the world, set off with his extraordinary murals, lush textiles and kaledescopic colour.

During our visit, over French-press coffee and pastries, Sergio shows our group a book given to him by a colleague about the Rajs of India. He opens the book to a page depicting a couple from Edwardian times that evocatively resembles himself and his wife. If reincarnation is true, the Roggerones picked up in the 21st century where they left off over a century ago, with a shared passion for antiques, global culture and beauty. Even with their magnetic presence, the temptation is there to wander their property to see what surprise awaits around every corner and nook.

The Familia Zuccardi home base is also worthy of exploration, but for entirely different (but equally wonderful) reasons. This estate not only offers tours of their wine and olive oil production facilities, but a number of ways to get around, by bike, hot air balloon or classic cars. They also offer opportunities to get even more intimately involved in Argentine country life, with programmes that enable you to learn viticulture hands on in their fields or cook with their chefs. You arrive at the Zuccardi estate as an honoured guest. The family dogs warmly greet you, your bikes are waiting at the porch and lovely pastries and breads are set out to fuel your day. Once in the hands of your capable guide, on foot or wheels, you will be squired to the family’s state-of-the-art production facility for a tasting of their internationally acclaimed olive oils. As the sun bakes the fields, the guide hands you protective goggles and clippers and sends you off to work to harvest or prune the vines. There’s no better way to appreciate the various wines that will accompany barbequed Argentine beef and pork and the many side dishes.

Trapiche offers tours of their historic winery, which happens to be one of the oldest surviving buildings in the area. However, their wine country experience extends to pouring their great Malbecs and other wines at Almacén Del Sur and its Mendoza city affiliates, Winery (the Tiffany’s of wine shops) and adjacent El 23 Gran Bar. The charming country cottage housing the Almacén gives way to an expansive and nearly interactive experience, thanks to the sprawling kitchen and organic gardens. Our hostess Ivana proudly shows off the various gardens and trees, as well as the solar powered ovens used to sun-dry tomatoes and other things they will tempt you with later via its retail area and restaurant set up. The motto, ‘Food 4 Wine’, graces the Almacén and its siblings, but what really gets the message across is experiencing their organic food and Trapiche wine pairings.

The most stunning sensory snapshot of Argentina’s ruggedly beautiful west can be found at Espacio Salentein, which incorporates the art déco-inspired Salentein Winery, Killka Restaurant, Museo Killka and Posada Salentein into a spiritual awakening. Near-perfect cuisine, excellent wines and eclectic mix of modern and Renaissance Dutch art is truly worth going to the ends of the Earth for. But then again, there is Killka’s savoury lamb dishes, seasonal green salad and perhaps one of the most magnificent incarnation of the classic dulce de leche dessert, with molten caramel oozing from the pores and faults of flaky, sugar-dusted pastry, paired with Malbecs and desert wines clearly benefiting from Salentein’s unique soils and microclimates.

Whether your idea of an ideal vacation is town or country, or you want a taste of both, chances are you’ll ultimately come away from Argentina with a smile on your face, both with a sense of pride and the memory of sensory pleasure. •

 

One of the most fascinating cultural institutions lies in old money chic area of La Recoleta. The Museo Evita, forged out of a house Perón took over to house homeless women and children, is now dedicated to her life story

 

 





 






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on Argentina, visit www.argentina.travel. LAN Chile Airlines (www.lan.com) offers multiple flights to Argentina via Los Angeles, Miami and New York City, as well as Australia and New Zealand. The Park Tower Hotel in Buenos Aires and the Sheraton in Mendoza, both Starwood properties, are highly recommended for their central city locations, amenities and first-rate staff.


Elyse Glickman is US West Coast editor of Lucire.

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