LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 68
By: Julia Caprara
SAN MARTIN DE LOS ANDES
Every season Chapelco is clearly the Mecca for skiers, who stroll along its tarmac streets among wooden houses and with the unrivalled beauty of Lake Lácar in the background.
San Martin de los Andes offers accommodations to suit every pocket. There are luxury hotels like La Cheminée with its comfy chairs arranged in front of a roaring log fire. Only a stone's throw from the town centre, it offers good service, abundant breakfasts and very comfortable rooms.
For those who prefer to stay somewhere on the road to Chapelco, Paihuén is an excellent alternative with its wonderfully comfortable wooden and stone cabins surrounded by ancient forests set in the heart of the Lanín National Park. It also has a spectacular view of the lake and an excellent restaurant, the Calheuche, run by Pablo Buzzo, one of the younger members of a well-known local family of cooks.
The range of gastronomic alternatives is growing rapidly with many good restaurants now serving what we might call "Patagonian cuisine". A new development this season is the expansion of La Tasca, now decorated with an extraordinary mural in which Alejandro Zolezzi, the owner of the restaurant, appears as the central character at a Dionysian table surrounded by his friends.
The restaurant continues to offer assorted delicacies, like the venison a La Tasca. The Pionieri restaurant still serves its fusion of ItalianPatagonian cuisine. On winter afternoons this restaurant, owned by Alej andro Bunetti, becomes a teahouse serving delicious homemade cakes and tarts as well as cold cuts, cheeses and salads.
Los Patos, the eatery next door to this restaurant, is an excellent choice for take-away food. Gloria Ocampo continues to run El Radal with its famous pickles and pates. She likes to cook everything herself and runs everything singlehanded. But her pride swells most when she talks about her daughter, Agustina Buzzo, who continues to produce wonderful delicacies in the Arrayán tea house on the old road to Bariloche, and of her son, Pablo.
Avataras, the ethnic option in the region, has opened a pub and a new fast food business. It also continues to offer its "strange mix" of enchiladas and moussaka as well as typically American spare ribs all at good prices and in a warm "pub" atmosphere with more than 60 different beers to choose from.
If you are watching your weight you should definitely avoid the Av. San Martin: Abuela Goye is a cafe, a chocolatier and ice cream parlour and offers chocolates to die for in every shape and flavour. A few blocks further on, La Vieja Aldea, with its truffles, bonbons, alfajores and other sweets is still a local favourite.
If shopping is your thing, stay on the same avenue. In Raíces, Estela Hardoy designs everything from rabbit wool sweaters and jackets to wooden and metal trays and locally inspired handicrafts. La Oveja Negra and Orígenes are other good choices if you are shopping for gifts.
For art lovers a visit to Georg Miciu Nicolavici's workshop is the thing to do. This Austrian painter has been living for years in the region, and has his Patagonian landscapes to show for it. His young son, Emaus is following in his father's steps and, if asked, will show visitors his works as well.