Tag Archive | travel

Wines of Chile and Argentina

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.

226. wine and food tasting

pairing wines and foods in Mendoza on the tour.

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.

179. Sav blanc

Chile: Carmenere
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.

Agentina: Torrontes
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.

Argentina: Malbec
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.

227. wines tried

the one on the left is the late harvest malbec

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.

A Vegetarian in South America

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.

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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.

sorry about the pic - I blame the restaurant's lighting

sorry about the pic – I blame the restaurant’s lighting

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).

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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.

 

Cooking in Chile

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.

Pembre
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)
Olive oil
lemon juice
salt

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

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Stuffed Avocado
1 cup pembre (before you add the oil and lemon juice)
1 avocado
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.

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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.

Travels With Sunshine

Due a series of family things and odd timing, I have been bouncing all over creation for the past two weeks, including short vacations to Montreal and Portland, Oregon. The downside of which is that I haven’t had much opportunity to cook or update this blog. Le sigh. However, I took pictures of some of the random things I’ve had on my travels and jumping around, and here are some of the highlights.
Poutine. I was in Montreal for a couple days, so of course I had to try the famous poutine – fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. However, it took a while to find a place that did a vegetarian version. I found La Banquise – which does more than 30 styles of poutine and makes a vegan sauce which can be substituted on any of their dishes. I got La Taquise, which added guacamole, tomatoes and sour cream to the standard mix with the vegan sauce. It was delicious but insanely heavy and filling. I only made it through half of the dish and was stuffed and this was after a three hour walk in the park – share with a friend is my recommendation.
poutine
Torta with Potatoes and Nopales. In Portland, a land known for microbrewies, I needed something beyond standard pub-fare. And I found a place doing highly recommended Mexico City-style guisados called Mi Mero Mole. I ordered the nopales-potato one in a torta, which turned out to be a giant roll with guacamole smothered on the inside, filled with the guisado, and then covered in cheese. It was beyond delicious – one of the best Mexican dishes I’d ever had. And it was the perfect level of spicy for me. Pair with a margarita of course.
nopales torta
Toasted White Chocolate and Roasted Strawberries ice cream: Seems like an odd flavor for ice cream, but a local ice cream place in Portland was doing five berry flavors for July (berries locally grown, of course) and so I had to try it. This was the single scoop, believe it or not, and was incredible. It had been ages since I’ve gone to a local ice cream place, and damn, it was good.
ice cream
Beer! So much beer over the past couple weeks. Montreal and Canadian beer is no slouch for the record. They do a number of good red ales in particular which I liked, and St. Ambroise is a solidly good brewery that makes a number of different styles and is fairly ubiquitous in Montreal. Portland, of course, is the microbreweries capital of the US. I visited 4 microbreweries, and tried beers from several more. My favorite was Rogue. I’ve had Rogue beers out here in DC, but their brewhouse beer menu had three pages and I had two sampler trays there. They even had mead, which was good. So if you are in Portland – go there.
beer
Song of the week: Creep by Postmodern Jukebox. My best friend introduced me to Postmodern Jukebox, which reinterpret songs in old-school styles. This is a version of Radiohead’s Creep in a old-school blues style and I heard it at a blues club in Montreal before the band started to play. It gives me chills in the best possible way.

Cheese Pastries and Eggplant – The Wonderful Food of Turkey

I have returned from my adventure in Turkey, and I must say, the food there (and my cooking class) was absolutely one of the best things about that country. Especially if you are a vegetarian, as they have amazing vegetable dishes and, at least in the touristy parts, understand when you say you are vegetarian. People didn’t even ask if that meant I ate fish! I ate so many amazing things while I was over there, but unfortunately there are way too many to stick in one post. So here are some of the dishes I had, loved, and remembered to take pictures of. Also – the Turks love cheese, which made me love the food even more.

Sailor’s Pastry
This comes first because it was so freaking amazing and one of my favorite things there – I had it an an Ottoman restaurant (aka making ottoman-era food, mostly from the palace based on historical records). Apparently, they use seven different kinds of cheese and wrap it in filo to make a spiral, and then fry it til golden. They served it with a couple things, including honey, which was perfect with it. I don’t know if I want to attempt to recreate it or not, I’d hate to try and have it not be as awesome as it was there.
49. sailor's pastry

Boreks
Borek is a pretty general term for various pastries in Turkey. I had a few different kinds of boreks while I was over there. One, a cheese and parsley borek, was kinda like a sauce-less lasagna. Soft egg-noodle-esque layers, with cheese mixed with herbs, in between and presumably baked. The other kind I need to learn how to make myself – the are cheese cigar boreks, and its basically cheese wrapped up in a little filo cylinder, and I think fried? Maybe baked, but probably fried. When I make them, they will be baked
219. cigar boreks

Stuffed Eggplant
So the picture is of the stuffed eggplant I made in my cooking class, but I had it other places too when I was in Turkey, it was very common on menus in Selcuk. The version I had in Selcuk didn’t have mushrooms, it was just tomatoes, onions and various herbs and spices from what I could tell. It, however, was also served with yogurt and a side of rice, and was insanely good too. I think I might just omit the mushrooms when I make this myself. Also, and I did this with most veggie dishes, you can scoop it onto flatbread maybe add a bit of the yogurt, and eat it that way. Eggplant dishes work particularly well when you do this.
109. stuffed eggplant and pilaf

Pide
Pide is basically Turkish pizza. I made a version pide a while back, and I still make it on occasion. This, however, tasted less healthy and flavorful than what I made, and am used to. That said, it would be an amazing drunk food. The one I had there was a good with beer and I’ve had a couple food (which is the stage of the evening I was in), and would be a bad sober food. At least in my opinion.
187. pide;

Song of the week: The Suffering, by Coheed and Cambria. I’ve been listening too this song a lot lately not sure why. It’s hard rock, with an awesome combination of upbeat and darkness. Hell, maybe my emo teenaged self is just coming to the fore for some reason this week. But its awesome, so you should listen to it. One caveat – this is hard rock, you need to listen to it very loudly for the proper effect.