In Argentina’s Valle de Uco, a boutique catering company is creating authentic culinary experiences
Tucked away in the heart of Mendoza, a catering-company-meets-restaurant is facilitating an authentic and exciting way to eat like an Argentinian—even if just for the day. Started by ex-pats Reesa Kashuk, Alise Howell, Mateo Fabersunne and local chef Lau Pinna, Tres Arbolitos is an ode to the Valle de Uco region’s rich food culture and its familial approach to the kitchen. Designed to be an oasis away from the area’s wine-fueled tourist traps, the small company invites guests to experience local culinary treats through either al fresco cooking classes or private picadas—complete with views of the Andes decorating the distance.
Working with neighboring vineyards and farms, Tres Arbolitos hosts tastings with local winemakers and provides seasonal menus to match—think cured meats, endless olives and fresh fruits. Founded in late 2013, Tres Arbolitos is still evolving and finding new ways to embrace Argentina’s natural beauty. To learn more about the initiative, we spoke to their communications director Kashuk about their origins and plans for the future.
What made you decide to start Tres Arbolitos?
We realized that while there is a plethora of vineyards to visit in Valle de Uco, there aren't many other things to do. It's such a shame because the area has so much beauty to offer, but many people only stay a day or two because they run out of activities. We wanted to provide a different experience—complete with everything from meals to cooking classes. We are also planning on expanding and offering horseback riding, mountain biking and walking paths.
How did you choose the location?
We chose the location because it's unlike anywhere else in the region. Mendoza is a desert and, while it is very beautiful and perfect for growing wine, there is not much greenery. Our specific parcel of land is an oasis and is incredibly lush because we have a lot of surface water. The trees are old and gorgeous and provide amazing shade and serenity that is difficult to find nearby. We also love our spot because Tres Arbolitos isn't visible from the road and when you arrive, you feel like you have stumbled upon a hidden sanctuary.
What are some of your favorite dishes to prepare and eat?
Argentinean cuisine is famous for its succulent meat, which absolutely lives up to expectations. We offer a traditional Argentine asado outside on a parrilla (the name for the grill used to prepare the meat). It's important to eat and prepare your asado outside like the locals do—you can't have the same authentic experience eating inside in a restaurant. And, while it's true that you can't go to Argentina without trying an asado, you would be missing out if you didn't try some of the vegetable-based dishes, too. One of my favorites is humita. This is a creamy corn-based dish that is often prepared with onion and spices and is then cooked inside a corn-husk. It melts in your mouth and is incredibly fresh tasting.
Where do you source your ingredients?
We get our meat from a wonderful butcher who only sells steak from La Pampa, which is where—hands-down—the absolute best meat in Argentina comes from. The rest of our food is prepared by Bröd bakery in Mendoza's city center. They prepare all of our picnics and picadas and Chef Pinna (who trained under the famous Argentine chef, Francis Malmann) teaches our cooking classes. The bakery bakes all of our bread and desserts and they source the rest of their ingredients at local markets and cheese shops. We grow herbs on the land and incorporate those into our food whenever we can; we also turn to our neighbors to buy fresh produce. The surrounding farms grow apples, pears, peaches, garlic, cider, honey, and more. Valle de Uco is an incredible agricultural haven and we are lucky to be surrounded by such delicious produce.
Images courtesy of Tres Arbolitios