Chile’s expanding craft beer scene is still going strong, particularly in Valparaiso where a handful of small breweries are thriving.
All eyes on Chile after the dramatic mine rescue and let’s not forget last year’s earthquake that devastated the region south of the capital, it’s an appropriate time to examine Santiago’s blossoming food scene. A new wave of talented chefs, from within Chile and from abroad, are rapidly changing the city’s culinary landscape. There is renewed in old markets and indigenous Mapuche ingredients, while wine bars and bistros are transforming once decrepit districts into cool new food hoods.
Liz Caskey is a chef, sommelier, food/wine writer, and owner of Liz Caskey Culinary & Wine Experiences, a luxury travel design firm based in Santiago, Chile offering culinary and wine-focused itineraries throughout Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. She is also the author of the recently launched cookbook, Knack South American Cooking (Globe Pequot Press, 2010) available in the US market.
Eating on Easter Island is expensive. Most restaurant meals average around $30 for a main course and a beer. The price of getting ingredients to the most remote island in the world is costly, therefore using the native ingredients and products from the island (like the new Easter Island beer, Mahina), which deforestation has limited greatly unfortunately, is advised to keep your budget on target. This means sticking to the island’s two most common fish: Tuna and Kana Kana.
The last five years have seen a boom in artisanal beer-making in Chile and there are anywhere between 70 and 90 microbreweries active in the country, ranging from backyard businesses to much larger operations. Most brewers are concentrated in the Lakes District south of Santiago, from Valdivia to Puerto Montt, as well as places further afield. These brewers are creating a significant turning point for Chilean beer.
Easter Island, or Rapa Nui (or Isla de Pascua) finally has a beer and brewery to call its own. The non-filtered, 100% natural, and double fermented Mahina beer operation is partially owned by explora hotel associate and one time underwater diving champion Mike Rapu. The bottle states that the beer is produced under a full moon using an ancient recipe from the wise man Paca, though that may be a bit of an embellishment.
I’ve only recently discovered the brilliant adjoined stores Puro Chile and Puro Wine in New York’s Soho. While Puro Wine focuses on selling premium Chilean wines, Puro Chile sells an array of high quality Chilean products – olive oils, wool sweaters, photo books, and handicrafts. Combined they are a powerful tool for promotion. Last night they held “A Taste of Chile,” which was put on by Wines of Chile. A number of wines, served by bartenders in miner outfits, were available from four different regions: the Casablanca Valley, Elqui & Limari Valleys, Maipo Valley, and Colchagua Valley. Their were several wines I had yet to try so I pleased to have the opportunity for so much Chile in one place.
In 1968 the eventual founders of Patagonia and North Face outfitters, Yvon Chouinard and Douglas Tompkins, and two other friends drive their VW bus on a whim to Patagonia. The follow the then mostly unpaved Pan-American highway from California to Chile on a trip that took 6 months. The journey would change both of their lives and begin their lifelong interest in Patagonia.
Never would I have thought I would see the day when NYC residents will be chowing down on Chile’s fattiest dish. Chilean sandwich shop we love Barros Luco has begun serving the typical dish of Valparaiso, the Chorrillana, a mound of french fries that is topped with steak strips, onions and a fried egg. It has no cholesteral as you would imagine. Barros Luco serves it for just $7.99! Heart attack not included.
While Chardonnay and to a lesser extent Torrentes and Sauvignon Blanc are almost always given the nod as South America’s favorite white wines, dry, refreshing Viognier is slowly carving out a name for itself. It pairs well with shellfish, seafood, sushi, and even curry and the wine is drunk best young.