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On Sunday we took a trip to Malargue, the mountain town where clear air and clear water  create an ideal environment for two activities: observing the heavens and raising trout.  Sky and water combined to make this an exceptionally satisfying day.  

Following Route 40 up and over a ridge of the Sierra Pintadas that borders San Rafael, the landscape levels out on a plateau known as Pampa Amarilla.  There's a salt lake Salinas del Diamante to the south of the highway and dry desert land to the north and straight ahead a view of three majestic Andean snow-capped peaks.  Our driver points out El Sosneado, the site of the airline crash in 1972 that tragically took the lives of many members of a Uruguayan rugby team.   The survivors headed west towards Chile seeking rescue, a rugged journey that took several months.  Had they chosen to walk eastward, they would have arrived on the Argentine pampa and found help within a day or two.  Every year, parents and relatives of the team members make a special pilgrimage to visit the mountain grave. 

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At intervals across the hardscrabble desert ranches where Black Angus cattle graze on sparse vegetation and gauchos can be seen riding their horses, plastic tanks stand out like strange beige mushrooms amidst cacti and sagebrush.  The Pierre Auger Observatory in Malargue has installed 1600 water tanks as part of an international project designed to attract and record cosmic rays.   The inside of each tank is a completely dark environment until cosmic rays enter and electromagnetic shock waves produce light.  Solving the mystery of high energy particles  is the goal for  280 scientists from 70 countries involved in the project.  Where do they come from?  How can  energy be harnessed for use here on earth?  What do cosmic rays tell us about the origin of the universe?   A few questions to ponder on the two hour drive to Malargue....
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Pierre Auger Observatory in Malargue
About 12 km  outside of town, past the Dique Blas-Brisoli and Rio Malargue, a dirt road leads to a trout farm called Cuyam-Co Truchas.  This family business includes a campground, a series of freshwater pools for raising fish and a restaurant where trout is featured on the menu.   A worker catches, kills and cleans the trout that will be served for our lunch. 
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The restaurant overlooks the pools where trout are swimming.
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A worker scoops fish from the pond.
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The trout are cleaned.
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The restaurant fills up with families enjoying Sunday lunch.
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Slices of smoked trout and trout pate are served as appetizers.
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The foil-baked trout is moist and delicious.
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A perfect pairing with the fish.
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Remains of a fine meal
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Ambrosia, a light-textured, lemon-flavoured polenta dessert.
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"We have heard so far the voice of life on one small world only.  But we have at last begun to listen for other voices in the cosmic fugue." 
                                                                                                 - Carl Sagan
 
 
Spring is the season for asparagus, that delicate shoot that at its best is sweet-tasting, earthy-smelling and tender.   October  in San Rafael  brings vendors to the streetcorners with their wooden carts full of green bundles tied with string.    The man who sells asparagus just outside of the supermarket Vea has the best thin stalks, much nicer than the woody thick ones sold inside the store.   The price for a bundle is 4 pesos.  
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Years ago, when we lived in the Netherlands, the spring season was marked by the harvest of white asparagus and each restaurant featured a special white wine to accompany this delicacy.  Served with melted butter, hard-boiled eggs and ham, the white asparagus was a traditional  rite of spring  in the province of Limburg. 


 At lunchtime today we decided to recreate the asparagus menu with a distinctive Argentine twist.  Our wine selection was a bottle of Jean Rivier Tocai 2008, a white wine made right here in San Rafael from grapes grown in our neighbourhood, Rama Caida.  The crisp citrus notes in this wine  complemented the asparagus, devilled eggs and jamon crudo we paired with it, without overwhelming the light flavours of the meal.  

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Bodega Jean Rivier was founded by Swiss-French immigrants in 1956, and has continued under the direction of the Rivier family to the present day.  Their artisanal production includes a line of reds (Cabernet Sauvignon,  Merlot) a rose (Malbec) and whites (Tocai, Chenin Blanc).  They also produce two interesting  blended wines - Malbec/Bonarda and Chenin/Torrontes.   We highly recommend the Jean Rivier whites.   This bottle was purchased for 14 pesos at Vinoteca wine store on Ballofet.

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