To put it nicely, my husband and I are healthy eaters, so we fully expected our two week trip to Argentina to feature steak, steak and more steak.
So imagine our surprise when our favorite meal of the entire trip — Jordan says the best meal of his lifetime — featured everything but.
Cava de Cano is tucked in a Mendoza suburb, a quick cab ride from city center. In the early part of the century, the building was the home of the area’s governor, Don Guillermo Cano, who in 1935 established the region’s first wine festival. In 2002, owner Claudio Mellimaci renovated the property, digging down, refinding the wine cellar that now serves as his dining rooms.
We asked our hotel, Petit Hotel in Mendoza, to make us reservations. That evening, we grabbed a cab that took us into a dark, residential area that had my husband wondering if we were being taken for a ride both literally and figuratively.
But soon our driver was ringing a doorbell and we entered the Cava de Cano property. Claudio welcomed us and offered us seats outside as well as a glasses of wine and plates of dried fruit while they prepared our table.
The wine, from the restaurant’s own vineyard, was delicious and set the tone for the meal to come.
Soon, Claudio was leading us down some steps and into a cool cellar stocked with wine. From there, he pointed us to our own private dining room, set with a table for two.
And the food on that table would have fed at least six.
It was covered, end to end, with cold appetizers. There were meats and cheeses and pickled vegetables and wine-cooked rice and five different kinds of beans and quinoa and roasted vegetables and bread and an unending flow of wine.
For the more ambitious eater, there was a little bowl of some kind of intestine, but we politely passed on it.
Claudio explained that there were four small courses to follow and we could indicate we were ready for them by pushing the button on a handheld device he gave us (think a doorbell that someone pulled off their door and gave to you). He left us then with two open bottles of wine and enough food for about a week.
Amazing, and that was the starting course, one they left on the table throughout the meal so you could pick as wanted. I can’t even tell you how disappointed I am in us for not making nearly enough progress with the starters. You would have thought we were amateurs.
When we finally pressed the button the first time, our first course was an empanada. It was followed by a beef stew rich with carrots, onions and potatoes and so delicious we sopped up the juices with our bread.
We found ourselves full after only two courses. But like the troopers we are, we pushed on.
The third course was the only miss of the night: a spaghetti Bolognese that was lackluster and lacked flavor. But perhaps that was better for us, as it left room for the finishing squash soup, another concoction that demanded to be soaked up.
At that point, I thought we were done. But there was more: Ice cream with dolce de leche, served with a sparkling white wine. They even offered us cigars.
We could have lingered for hours. As it was, we’d told our cab driver to come back for us, so we finished our meal in 2 1/2 hours. Total cost: About $50.
What’s your “meal of a lifetime?” Share in the comments!