March 2, 2009
It's been a summer of record-breaking high temperatures in Mendoza this year; seemingly interminable hot day after hot day. During a heat wave, the line never disappears at Ferruccio Soppelsa, Mendoza's oldest helado (ice cream) chain.
And day after day, I've returned to the shop, in a vain attempt to escape the heat. I pay the guy behind the counter, who's wearing a white uniform with red and yellow trim. The shirt has a red 'Ferruccio Soppelsa' embroidered over the right breast pocket, and the uniform is complete with a white Soda Jerk hat. The whole look is straight out of a 1950s soda fountain.
This day, it's finally a few degrees cooler outside, so in place of my usual 6 peso, 3 flavor gelato tower, I order a cortito–an espresso. Literally, it means 'a little short one', or 'a little cut'. I move out to the patio to sit outside and watch the people who walk by. When the server brings the coffee to the table, it's served with a little plate of bite-sized cookies, and a glass of seltzer water.
In the US, 'sparkling water' is available on menus of nicer restaurants. Some people drink it at home. But in Argentina, a cup of coffee at a cafe is always served with a glass of soda. And what a nice touch. Until it was served to me, I don't think I ever noticed that after drinking my coffee, a little glass of seltzer was just what I needed for my parched throat. Plus, it prolongs the cafe experience of sitting and sipping, a great Argentinean pastime.
The selzter, or soda, comes from siphon bottles like the one above. The sifon is a ubiquitous part of the Argentinean cafe. The soda is mixed with wine or Gancia (an alcoholic apperitif) or served like this, next to a coffee. (I had to show off the vintage sifon we found at the flea market at Plazoleta Pelligrini. It's no longer functional, but I fell in love with the deco shape, gem-like color and the cut of the glass. )
These days, the rechargable bottles are made from plastic, with the soda brand logo on the side. When empty, the bottles are sent away in large crates to be cleaned, refilled and recharged. Which makes serving it with coffee it the perfect little detail–a gift that keeps on giving.
Find more photos on my flickr photostream, From Argentina With Love.