In order to properly write this entry, I needed to separate myself from the Chilean food scene. No, I didn’t come home to the States, but rather, I moved one country over, to Argentina; and let me tell you, the difference is night and day.
For a land that is surrounded on its western “border” by the Pacific Ocean, and fenced in on its eastern side by the Andes, Chile more than makes due with a cuisine that many copy, but hardly replicate. For a land like this, I can only focus on a few things (like duck, which I will talk about), but seafood stands out.
The Pacific Ocean is the farming ground for the Chilean industry and business; its a boomin. Fresh shrimp for ceviche, cuddlefish, sea urchin, crab, and mussels. The kettle of reward that is sitting off the coast of Chile is brimming with some of the best seafood I have had in quite a while.
Of course this ties in to wine, but there is something special about the food served. Chef Pilar Rodriguez introduced us to incredible food that was just as simple to prepare from ingredients caught off the coast of Chile, or that simply were sourced within 25 miles of her Food & Wine Studio in Santa Cruz. What is just as impressive: even though Chef Pilar had been trained in France, she breaks a major rule and leaves the butter out of the kitchen and still finds a way to make the food and the wine speak harmoniously.
“The taste [of] a meal almost always reveals, and then enhances the quality of the wine. In turn the quality of wine not only complements the pleasure of a meal, but also spiritualizes.” –Pilar Rodriguez
This symbiotic affect is the intention that she has in her small studio that seats only a handful of people, but her food almost makes you forget that you are there to try wine.
She starts out simple, with an opening concept of ceviche with a fresh scallop that is doused in a citrus medley of orange juice with a touch of lemon zest and olive oil taken from a mile away. For a little crunch, she adds a touch of red onion. The bite is simple, but has serious composition and call to attention. I took a sip of Siegel Familiy Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and for the first time in my professional life realized exactly why their Sauvignon Blanc was a style different than any other. The flavors of the food melted together and the wine was the fire that kept it going. After that? Octopus and duck.
The octopus was seared and then slowly smoked in olive oil and local spices, and the duck was seared perfectly for that crispy skin and served on top of kale and squid ink pasta, made fresh in the back. These were paired with two varying styles of Carmenere. The smoky goodness from the food and the wine were some of the best bites of food I have ever had in my life.
This trip to South America has been educational and at times moving with the combination of freshness and an understanding of combining flavors. The chefs that we encountered are mostly French trained, and the ones that aren’t, apprentice under someone with that French influence.
Red wine, white wine. In Chile, the food scene has a way of enhancing both. I must come back.