There is something about the ingredients in this Northern part of Argentina that makes simple local dishes a whole lot tastier than the city.
This area is surrounded by the abundance of goat cheese, salads of quinoa, loads of empanadas, humitas/tamales, and gritty, juicy, wild meats and fresh seafood. And of course there are the fabulous wines in Cafayate, excellent beef in Salta City, and realizing that mexican-salsa is their version of chimichurri here.
If you ask me what I’ll remember from the city, this is what I’ll most likely say: sitting outside at Jovi Dos restaurant on that afternoon slowly devouring the gigantic charred crispy pacu fish along with a bottle of torrontes; exclaiming at the best hunk of beef I’ve had so far in this country at El Charrua while I spoon mouthfuls of delicious locro into my mouth, and then drooling over the seafood paella filled with mussels, calamari, and shrimps sitting right across from me; and devouring 24 empanadas from the not-so-inviting-ambiance of Cafe Tobias Empanadas with a good ole’ bottle of dark Salta beer. The rest is just a blur of dishes, and tourist places that drowns out my appreciation of the actual food.
Santa Finca Anita
This is the place to shake off the crusty-dusty shoes and rejuvenate for a few days after the long impressive drives up to Jujuy, and just before heading down to the wineries of Cafayate. The country-side rustic estancia serves home cooked meals made by the mothers; the men took us around the farm, giving us some taste of their outstanding goat cheese, and providing an awesome organic 2+ hours horseback ride up to the lake. Leave wi-fi behind, stock up on insect repellent, and get some movies and books to lounge by their terrace and pool. Their super affordable slow-cooked meals change daily; big salads can be ordered upon request (amazing), and their dulce de leche mousse cannot be missed (Duff ate 4). Their empanadas are one of the best we’ve had: dripping melted goat cheese paired with their homemade hot sauce. If you are lucky, it could be the day when the family is doing an asado.
- Take a drive up to Finca Las Nubes for the view; get some empanadas in the garden with a glass of something. Don’t get sucked into the 1 hour (yawning) wine tour and the not-so-impressive wines.
- The wine-tasting experience at El Esteco. Choose a series of tastings from their three tiers: 50 pesos for 6 tasting glasses.
- Pop by the boutique Bodega Nanni as they boast to be one of the only few places to do organic wines. The Bodega is nice but wine is okay.
- Go across Bodega Nanni and ask for a quick tasting at El Transito. We like their very affordable reserve blend and 2009 Malbec.
- Not enough? Go a few streets down to El Provenir for some Torrontes. Picturesque bodega and blends.
- Definitely drive up to Yacochuya Norte and to Dominos Molinos and linger over their wines as well as the breathe-taking view. Love their Cab and Malbec 2010. The other bodega, San Pedro doesn’t give tastings but have great wines and a free tour.
- Chato’s Wine Bar. The local owner relieves you of figuring out what bodegas to go to by offering a mix-and-match (knowledgable) flights to tryout, as well as wine by glasses, and bottles. Picadas are also available to curb a bad hangover.
- Terruno Gourmet is the #1 (only) place to go for a special night out: romantic ambiance, superb wine service, and the only gourmet-ish food. Great tender lamb fillet and flaky salmon.
- El Rancho for some delicious clay-baked rabbit; get some delicious clay-baked goat at La Carreta de Don Olegario. Stray away from the norm of pasta, and carne.
- Torrontes and Cabernet gelatos at Healderia Miranda. Yes folks – Ice Cream Wine. Need I say more?
- Legado Mitico Salta makes the stay in Salta City extremely enjoyable: located a few blocks from downtown, beautiful hotel grounds, big rooms, and excellent breakfast buffet.
- Killa Cafayate has fairy-tale like buildings, located a few blocks from the plaza and bodegas and is run by super-friendly sisters. They have a good enough spread of breakfast- wait until 9am for them to load up on the delicious facturas they buy from the local panaderia.
- Have 1-2 days in Salta after the trip? Get away from downtown and stay in the boutique Hotel Kkala. Homemade waffles, eggs upon order on top of the spread of breakfast buffet. Get the room with a jacuzzi and hang out at the pool.