So while this may be a cooking/food blog, I firmly believe that wine and beer are an integral part of that – hence trying to do wine/beer pairings with most of my recipes. Also, I really just love wine and beer. So, naturally during my trip since both Chile and Argentina are huge wine producers the goal was to drink all the wines! This was achieved in several ways. Mostly, just drinking wines at restaurants, but my cooking class did some pairings and I went on a spectacular wine tour in Mendoza with Trout and Wine – seriously, totally worth it, the tour was phenomenal.
So here are the four most important wines I had in the region.
Chile: Sauvingon Blanc
So if you’ve been reading this blog, at least in the summer, you’ll know I’m already a huge fan of Sauvignon Blancs. Chile does some of the best, but they are somewhat different from New Zealand ones – less grassy more mineral-y. But since it was warm and early summer down there, I drank a ton of it and was always happy in the process.
Carmenere is a red varietal almost exclusive produced in Chile – the type of grape basically died out in France. I’d describe it as half-way between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, way fuller body than Merlot, but fewer tanins than a Cab. Frankly, I really wish more of them were exported to the US – it’s a great all-purpose red. I don’t have any pictures, but keep it in mind if you are interested in a new red varietal.
A white wine that’s starting to show up a bit in the US, but not a lot. All the torrontes I’ve had have been light and flowery. It’s actually a bit lighter than a Sauvignon Blanc, so you can only pair it with something really on the light side, or have it by itself. It’s nice, but I’d rather drink other types of wine to be honest.
And of course, you can’t talk about Argentinian wines without talking about Malbec. Of course you can get malbec pretty much anywhere in the US so if you haven’t tried it, the US intro Malbec (and Argentina’s most exported one) is Alamos. However, while I was there, not only did I try a number of different malbec, I also had some late harvest malbec. Late harvest means that there was a lot of sugar in the grapes, so it creates a really sweet, really alcoholic wine, not dissimilar to port. I haven’t seen any in the US yet, but I’m keeping an eye out as it was delicious.
There are other things to drink down there. Chile has a slowly developing craft beer market, basically two breweries: Kuntsmann and Austral, and both were pretty good. Also, pisco sours. Lots of pisco sours, which I found to be rather hit or miss while I was down there. Song of the week: Back in the USSR by The Beatles. Self-explanatory and also great song.
So when I told my friends in the states that I was going to South America for two weeks, a common response was along the lines of “omg steak in Argentina!! oh wait…. what are you going to eat then?” What indeed? My basic knowledge of both countries suggested that neither were particularly vegetarian-friendly, being either beef-centric (Argentina) or seafood-centric (Chile). But both had some Italian influence, and I’ve managed in plenty of countries – besides, that’s part of the adventure right?
To be perfectly honest, I was disappointed in Chile – I assumed, incorrectly, that a country which exported so much produce would be fairly vegetarian-friendly. You can totally manage, but you manage by eating pizza and sandwiches. Those are obviously not the only things I ate while I was there, but they were a good chunk of it. I feel like I ate mostly bread and cheese and tomatoes, in various forms while I was there. That said, I did have a couple really good sandwiches.
This one I got in a cafe in Puerto Varas, Caffe El Barrista. Their food was actually so good I went their twice. This sandwich was lettuce, sauteed scallions and mushrooms, and goat cheese either cooked with, or possibly marinated in soy sauce. I’m not sure exactly where is came in but it was definitely in there.
One of the strangest tasty foods I had was at RestoBar in Ancud. This place does a bunch of things, including “TexMex” which naturally I had to try. So I ordered their vegetarian burrito. My burrito (which was big enough for 2-3 people) was just sautéed vegetables that had been mixed with lemon juice I think on the inside and then cheese was melted over the top of the burrito, and then there was a thin layer of sour cream and guacamole. And the whole thing was surrounded by Doritos. It was really good. Not TexMex, but really good.
Mendoza was an amazing surprise – the food there was delicious and so many options for vegetarians! And while Argentina may be renowned for beef, they do pasta like nobody’s business. The best I had was at Siete Cocinas, a super nice restaurant I went to for my last meal in Argentina (warning, its a prix fixe menu). It was goat cheese ravioli with fresh tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, and sweet roasted sunflower seeds. It was amazing. I had it with a perfectly paired glass of malbec (wines are getting their own post).
Another incredibly delicious thing I had was at El Palenque, and it was crepes filled with a spiced corn mixture, with cheese on top. They were served in a bowl that was then filled with cream sauce. I suppose anything swimming in cream sauce would be delicious, but this was up there. I’d post the picture, but all you’ll see is a bowl of white, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Song of the Week: Open Road Song, by Eve 6 – one of my top 3 late 90s rock bands, I’ve been jamming to this song a lot for the past couple days. It’s awesome so you should jam along with it too.
I am so so sorry for my prolonged absence from this blog. Life got away from me. First it was getting ready for Thanksgiving, and then visiting relatives and then getting ready for my trip to South America! Which is where I am now – specifically I’m in the city of Valparaiso in Chile. However, this means some extra fun posts will make up for my absence. Yesterday, for example, I was able to take a Chilean cooking class! There were too many dishes for us all to be involved in all of them – we made pembre (salsa), ceviche (which I didn’t have), pisco sours, avocados stuffed with hearts of palm salad, empanadas, Pastel de choclo, and chilean flan. Unfortunately, the chef hasn’t emailed me the recipes yet, and what we cooked was not overly precise, but I can give you a decent overview of pembre, which is basically salsa, and the stuffed avocado.
4 large tomatoes
2 small onions
2 cloves garlic
1 large but mild pepper (I think Anaheim is the best US equivalent)
Cilantro (1/4 cup finely chopped)
Mince – and I seriously mean mince – the onions, tomatoes, garlic, pepper and cilantro. You are also supposed to peel the tomatoes, but quite frankly that seems like too much work and quite unnecessary. Mix all of them together thoroughly. It should look like pico de gallo, but not chunky. Add 2-3 teaspoons salt, some lemon juice (I want to say 1/4 cup) and like 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix and serve. We had this on bread and as a condiment for the other dishes but I’m sure it would taste great on tortilla chips
1 cup pembre (before you add the oil and lemon juice)
2 pieces of heart of palm
Dice the heart of palm and mix it with the pembre. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Fill the cavity with the mixture and add a little to the plate and serve.
Like many cuisines, neither of these were difficult to make, so much as rather time-consuming. All of the dishes I had, particularly the pastel de choclo, were delicious, and the class, just called Chilean Cooking Class (thank you Lonely Planet) was extremely fun. Song of the Week: Ridin’ Solo/Dil Se Re by Dhamakapella. Apparently Penn Masala isn’t the only acapella group to mix bollywood and pop songs, and I’ve been loving this mashup as of late – something about it just speaks to my travelling around the world solo and feeling awesome about it.