The food circuit
Much of our press visit turned to food. Carlos guided us through the downtown Central and
La Vega covered markets. In a sobering reminder that security isn’t the best, he required that we leave all valuables, except cameras, in the van with our driver. As we walked between the markets, a bystander warned us to watch our cameras.
The markets — particularly notable for their size — offered fish, meat and all sorts of fruits and vegetables, as well as some basic restaurant options.
We devoted considerably more time to the eating aspect of a foodie tour, as follows:
• We settled in for a three-hour lunch at the home of a former executive chef for LAN airline, Maria Eugenia Terragno, a gracious and creative cook.
She entertained us in her kitchen, a cozy setting. The room’s centerpiece was a long, tall wooden table with chairs at barstool height. The table was accented with food-themed decorations.
We could eat at the table while standing, and that’s how we demolished a mild white farmers cheese called quesillo.
Our lunch was Andean paella, devised by our hostess and made with quinoa and rabbit, among other ingredients. We drank wine but finished with tea made with herbs that our hostess picked as we watched. Her garden was just outside the kitchen.
Maria Eugenia Terragno was available to us and is available to other tourists by arrangement through Santiago Adventures.
• One night, we walked (part way) to our dinner. This introduced us to the Lastarria district, a trendy area of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs on cobblestone streets.
Our destination was a wonderful small — and fairly new — wine bar called Bocanariz. We were served six Chilean wines plus tapas, which for our table involved quite a bit of beef, as well as oysters. It was a good way to sample several food items without overdoing.
• Dinner at the forward-leaning Borago restaurant was something of a theatrical event or, put differently, it was a journey.
The restaurant reflects the vision of a young Chilean chef, Rodolfo Guzman, who apparently has explored the forests for food ideas as well as studied Mapuche food traditions.
I think he aims to connect his human customers to nature and especially the earth itself. He uses only local ingredients, we were advised.
We had a 10-course dinner that was experimental for us but not always especially flavorful, nor was it finished quickly.
Our appetizers were several mostly unidentifiable items served on rocks. One was roasted fish skin combined with a mystery sauce; this was like eating a chip without a strong flavor.
One course featured an egg sprinkled with ashes. Another was flavored rainwater that I sipped with a spoon. It was in a
glass buried in dirt.
Another course was a sea urchin served with flowers, foraged greens and some grains. I liked the debris around it, but not the squishy urchin!
One was a piece of raw marinated fish, another steak tartar under a tiny shrub of greens that were awfully good — the greens, I mean.
We had a very good dessert, a ball of creamy chocolate ice cream — sort of. The last item was white meringue dipped in liquid nitrogen. It smoked in our mouths for an amusing visual.
• I have to mention a lunch at a downtown eatery called Ambrosia. The menu included celery root soup (very good) and, after a main course, chocolate mousse in caramel topped with sprinklings of bacon!! Fortunately, the bacon was not greasy; the dessert was good.
• We walked past one of the city’s several establishments dubbed “cafés with legs.” Coffee is served at stand-up bars, where women stand on a slightly higher platform in their short skirts and the guys get a good look. Our guide said there were others where the men stand in shorts and women have ogling rights.
This article and its photos are by Nadine Godwin, the author of Travia: The Ultimate Book of Travel Trivia, which was published by The Intrepid Traveler.
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