I spent Christmas and New Year’s Holidays in Coquimbo, Chile, South America visiting family. The last time I was in Chile was for the New Millenium New Year in 1999/2000 and it felt amazing to go back.
While a lot has changed in Chile since the last time I was there, what has not change is the amount of general consuming one will do while visiting .
Whatever you do, do not go to Chile on a carb free diet because you will fail. And, it will be glorious.
You will not succeed on a carb free diet out there because bread is everywhere and it’s good – nay – amazing!, and it’s served with everything all the time. Eat it and eat lots of it. You will not be disappointed.
My second most coveted item of Chile are the dulces. These dulces are similar to the Argentinian alfajores but slightly different. Instead of an almond based cookie filled with Manjar, their dulces are a general pastry dough baked into various hollow shapes and then filled with Manjar. For those of you that don’t know: Manjar, aka Dulce de Leche aka Confiture de Lait aka Arequipe, is a confection prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to create a product that derives its taste from the maillard reaction of the product, changing flavor and color; basically, it’s a caramel sauce made with milk. The most important part is that it’s delicious and Chileans love it and it’s served with everything…even bread. Personally, my favorite way to eat it is spreading an inch thick layer on bread at tea time – or adding a tablespoon full to my coffee in the morning.
One thing that you will notice is that Chileans eat a lot of red meat. With their bustling economy and The Pampas of Argentina being right next door, they can get meat for relatively cheap and they love to throw it on a fire grill.
In fact the very first meal my mother and I had in Chile was at the Santiago airport grill waiting for our flight to La Serena.
For being airport food it was more than decent, and after an 8 hour flight and 24 hours worth of travel it was well received.
If you’re ever invited to a “very urgent” asada, you must go. There will be more food than you know what to do with.
You may also get lucky and get to sample prietas, aka morcillas aka blood sausage, cooked over a wood fire grill. If you are extremely lucky, you may get an appetizer of chori-pan which is spanish chorizo grilled over wood fire and slapped between two pieces of bread. Heaven in your mouth!
While we were in Chile, a good family friend of ours took us to Centro Gastronomico Caleta San Pedro for lunch one day. Centro Gastronomico Caleta San Pedro is a collection of restaurants that serve a large number of people (think something along the lines of a mall food court) on a beach about 10 minutes away from Downtown La Serena. Believe it or not, but even though Chile has about 4,000 miles of coastline, this was one of the only times I ate fish. I had a mariscos empanada and a whole fried fish with Chilean salad.
Another place I had fish at was at a restaurant along Avenida del Mar, La Serena. They had a special 5 course meal that my cousin and I devoured. We also enjoyed our meal with the two drinks of Chile: Pisco Sour and Wine.
One of the things I like to do in foreign countries when I visit is to compare the difference in execution of US companies in that country and the US. My cousin and I went to the mall one day and I had wanted a coffee. A big difference between coffee shops in Chile and the US is that no Chilean coffee shops offer to go cups. To-go cups don’t exist in Chilean culture. In Chile, there is no rushing. If you want a coffee, you sit down and drink the coffee while having a conversation with your friend or loved one. In the US that is almost unheard of; we (Americans) are always rushing. The only place I could find a “to-go” cup of coffee was at a McDonald’s McCafe. HOWEVER, this McCafe was not a general “McCafe” that you would find in the US. It’s an actual cafe…with dulces and snacks to enjoy with your coffee…and actual real espresso machines, not the express-push a button-machine you find at the McDonald’s in the US.
Tea time is a big deal in Chile, “tea” is kind of like their afternoon snack. Chileans eat their largest meal of the day around lunch time (1 or 2pm), however, they don’t eat dinner until 8 or 9 pm. This leaves you ravenously hungry by 5 or 6. That is when “tea” is. We sit around and drink tea and eat a light meal while talking with family and friends. One tea time my mother and I enjoyed was at La Colonial in La Serena. We enjoyed coffee and pancakies with (you guessed it) manjar. Pancakies is what the Chileans call crepes, it basically means “little pancakes”. HA! TAKE THAT FRENCH, RICKY BOBBY WAS RIGHT!
And, no matter what time of day you show up at someone’s house, your surprised hostess will be gracious and offer you food and tea…in their pajamas if need be. A family friend of mine took me to see his parents new apartment in La Serena, at midnight. His mom was still up knitting and watching tv. She served me tea. YOU MUST ACCEPT THE FOOD EVEN IF YOU ARE FULL AND CAN’T POSSIBLY EAT ANYMORE FOOD! Smile and say Gracias!
Finally, in Chile you will drink a lot of wine and pisco sours. Pisco is a liquor made in Chile (I DON’T CARE WHAT THE PERUVIANS SAY PISCO IS CHILEAN!) and they serve it several different ways. By far the most popular way is as an aperitif called Pisco Sour. I love Pisco Sours, they are tart, sweet, and strong! They are a perfect accompaniment to your appetizer – or with no appetizer at all. Drink a lot of them, they will help improve your spanish by 100%. Since it is hard to find Chilean – or even Peruvian – Pisco in the US, I brought a bottle of 12 year back with me. I only share it with special people and by “special people” I mean myself.
All this talk about pisco sours makes me crave a pisco sour. Ciao Bellas, until next time!