It's not exactly Pieter Cornelius Hooftstraat in Amsterdam, or Oxford Street in London, or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, but the west end of Avenida Hypolito Yrigoyen is gradually evolving as the chic shopping district of San Rafael. It is close to the upscale residential area called "Las Paredes," where many American expats choose to live in gated communities. There are a number of new businesses in the area, and the zone has developed a decidedly trendy atmosphere. This is where affluent shoppers go to find fancy evening wear, fine wines, exquisite baby clothes, expensive pet supplies or a high-end Johnson kitchen. It's a world away from the modest auto-servicio stores in Rama Caida and the barrio just across the river with the telling name of "Pobre Diablo".
La Cava wine store
La Cava, located at the corner of Yrigoyen and Manuel Donega offers a full range of wine and spirits, an assortment of local gourmet food items and accessories such as bottle openers and crystal decanters. Their inventory includes some fine vintages from boutique bodegas with limited production, as well as the more familiar wines by Bianchi, Goyenchea and Roca.
We purchased a bottle of Lavaque Pinot Noir 2006,
elaborated from grapes grown in the district of Canada Seca, near San Rafael. The Bodega Lavaque
is owned and operated by the fifth generation of the founding family. This wine was a fortunate discovery, with good balance of fruit and tannins, a silky texture and a complex, rich cocoa and herb flavour, characteristics that we rarely find in a Pinot Noir grown in such a warm, dry climate. This bottle costs 16 pesos at La Cava, and is great value for that price.
Celia Parasecoli boutique
For couture clothing and one-of-a-kind fashion accessories, Celia Parasecoli
is a boutique that offers great designs and unusually sumptuous fabrics. The walls of this shop are graced with abstract paintings by artist Antonio Camba
, whose bright canvases succeded in drawing me in the first time I passed by. I purchased a grey floral print silk blouse with rhinestone buttons on that initial visit and obtained the contact information for the artist, who sells work from his own downtown studio. (I ended up buying 7 of Camba's paintings, too.)
Frills, florals and ultra-feminine shapes are fashion-forward elements in Argentine ladies' wear.
This flouncy little sundress costs 390 pesos at Celia's shop and can be paid for over time, in quotas.
Just a little further down the street one finds the brand new branch of La Delicia Boulevard ice cream and sandwich shop. The interior is light and open, with natural stone details and off-white modern furnishings. This is where San Rafael's young people congregate for ice cream treats and people-watching on hot summer evenings.
There's a bright mosaic covered counter, with the word for "Welcome" translated in a dozen languages overhead. The young clerk at the till speaks English with an American accent, as well as Castellano.
For lunch we order a sandwich of jamon crudo, arugula and cream cheese on "pan Arabe" with an espresso coffee.
There's a mile-long counter serving ice cream in over 50 flavours, ready to fill waffle cones or styrofoam tubs, and a host of sundae toppings. La Delicia also delivers ice cream and pastries by motor scooter to addresses within the city limits of San Rafael.
We sampled Chocolate Bariloche/Chocolate Granizado and Dulce de Leche/Coco. Rich and refreshing! The bill for lunch came to 145 pesos, with a tip for our waiter.
My eldest son Aaron Nutting married Julie Lawrence in Halifax, Nova Scotia exactly one week ago. The happy event was celebrated with friends and family who gathered for four days of intense partying, marked by plenty of socializing, dancing, good food and fine wine. Even Hurricane Earl's direct hit on the Maritimes did not dampen the hospitality and high spirits of the wedding entourage.
The rehearsal party was held at the Lawrence family cottage overlooking the Atlantic ocean, with food prepared by Nicholas Nutting, brother of the groom and chef from the Wickaninnish Inn
. Nick brought seven sockeye salmon in his luggage, flying the catch fresh from West coast waters to a sizzling hot East coast grill. He and his skilled assistants Rhonda Rusk and George Wrobel shopped for ingredients at specialty markets and spent a whole day in the kitchen preparing huge platters of zucchini and eggplant, tomato and basil salad, fresh corn and green beans, barbecued pork tenderloin, watermelon and a blueberry custard dessert. The menu was a testament to the quality of seasonal produce, lovingly prepared with an East meets West fusion theme.
The extraordinary B.C. sockeye salmon run this year is a scientific mystery that clearly demonstrates how little is known about fishing in Canada. A record amount of salmon, topping 30 million, returned to the Fraser River this year after a 3 year moratorium on commercial harvesting. Last year, in comparison, yielded only 1.5 million. Was it the cooler water temperatures, or the reduction in sea lice that breed in fish farms that facilitated this windfall? No one is sure, but Canadian chefs are now confident about reintroducing this variety to their menus, and serving it up in style.
Bride and Groom
The bride and groom were married at Pier 21, the historic entry point for groups of immigrants arriving by boat to Canada. For many newcomers, this port marked the end of a long voyage and the beginning of a new life in a foreign land. Safe passage across the Atlantic to Halifax harbour was a transition leading to a host of challenges, opportunities and rewards that may never have been part of their experience had they decided to stay home. On September 5th, I watched my son Aaron standing at the front of the hall, waiting out the few moments before his bride appeared. There was a tangible sense of anticipation in the air, and Aaron displayed a quiet confidence fostered by the certainty of true love, pride and great expectations. He was about to step off the boat, take the plunge and begin a new stage in his life. When the radiant and beautiful Julie glided toward him down the aisle, tears welled up in his eyes (and his mother's.) The assembled guests and extended family witnessed Aaron's poignant emotional passage to the grown-up, demanding, fulfilling role of "husband."
Like the salmon run, love remains a mystery, and no one knows why some marriages blossom for a lifetime and others wither and die. I pray that this young couple will be blessed with many years of steadfast devotion, caring and meaningful experiences. They have so much promise; so much to offer one another.
Quail's Gate, a Canadian Pinot Noir
We toasted the bride and groom with Quail's Gate Pinot Noir
2007 from B.C. This wine has enough gusto to complement the strong flavours of the West Coast salmon. It has a rich ruby red colour, aroma of cherries, chocolate and crushed flowers, a spicy palate followed by tart fruit and cedar notes. The estate winery in the Okanagan Valley is owned and operated by the Stewart family, whose ancestors arrived in Canada and settled in B. C. in the year 1908. A bottle of Quail's Gate Pinot Noir costs $24.99 (Canadian dollars).
Sails in the harbour, Halifax, Nova Scotia
As Canadians, we are no strangers to winter. Our acreage in Alberta looked like this for six months of the year:
It was a frosty -42 degrees Celsius one January morning in 2005. The CBC radio announcer warned that exposed skin would freeze instantly
at that temperature, a pleasant thought to start the day with. Confronting severe cold meant a careful layering of thermal underwear, sweater, jeans, parka, boots, hat, scarf and gloves before stepping outside. It was hard to hear our muffled voices under all that protective gear, but as we walked with our dog through the frigid forest, we sang Gilles Vigneaults' Canadian anthem. "Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver,Mon jardin, ce n'est pas un jardin, c'est la plaine,Mon chemin ce n'est pas un chemin, c'est la neige,Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver."
Even the dog wore boots
Despite the past two weeks of unusually cold weather across South America, our winter experience here in Argentina has been a welcome change from the harsh Alberta climate. Cold means -3 degrees C at night and 17 degrees C at noon. We had one snowfall this month, but the insignificant dusting of white stuff disappeared by midday. The hardy greens that we planted in the vegetable garden late in the fall continue to thrive through the winter months and look like this:
We do have winter jackets, but like our electric heating units, we only need them on for part of the day. It's not unusual to wear a heavy wool coat in the morning and a t-shirt at lunch. Today we sat outside on the terrace and enjoyed French onion soup, a shish kebab of grilled beef and a green salad combining arugula, spinach and lettuce from the garden.
We paired our meal with Clos du Moulin Cabernet/Pinot Noir 2008,
blend elaborated by the French connection - Bodegas Chandon
- in Lujan de Cuyo. Aromas of ripe fruit, prunes and jam are followed by a smooth, silky mouth texture that finishes with tobacco and spice flavours. A bottle of Clos du Moulin costs 25 pesos at Vea supermarket.
"In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer." - Albert Camus