During one of my last trips to South America I bumped into another epicurean-driven traveler who pointed me in the direction of the Chilean wine country. This traveler (whom we will call Margot) was from the Boudreaux area of France. Coincidentally, she worked as a Sommelier at one of the South of France’s most prestigious and revered resorts.
While she was there to “taste the Chilean culture,” it was actually a “working vacation,” in that she was doing research on Chilean Wines. While I knew she was obviously well versed in wines in general, her technical knowledge and depth of understanding regarding the complexities of wine was literally astounding.
It was over a bottle of Montes Alpha M (2010) that Margot casually mentioned that she was nearing the completion of her certification as a Brevet Professionnel de Sommelier (BP). Needless to say neither Fleischer nor I are often intimidated by someone in the culinary world… however, I found Margot’s background and qualifications to be quite impressive to say the least.
As I was headed towards Santiago and she was headed deeper into the Central Valley Region where many of Chile’s finest wines are created, she graciously provided me a few tips on some eateries worth visiting while in the capital city… as well as a few watering-holes where accomplished mixologist’s served libations that a thirsty traveler would no doubt appreciate!
Side Note: Margot, if you are reading this review of my recent trip to Chile, your Roadie Cook & Cut Travel Set is in the mail to you! Your restaurant recommendations were equal to my expectations. Thank you again for the wine suggestions as well. Safe Travels!
Chile’s capital is amazing. The views of the white peaks of the Andes’ are breathtaking and the city itself is full of friendly, accommodating people who are quick to smile and eager to assist with directions to even those who struggle with the native language.
The city streets vary between old world architecture and modern skyscrapers (by Chilean standards). Yet, they are welcoming and for the most part clean and safe. However, the most exciting experiences I had in this amazing city were in the recipes shared with me in several world class restaurants my new friend encouraged me to try.
The menu fare in Santiago was a mix of Spanish influences with creative native recipes, the freshest of ingredients with exotic fruits and ultra-fresh fish. While the dishes themselves were a delight… I was equally impressed with a rather unconventional trait most servers shared in these establishments. When your dish was brought to the table, many times your server will actually “stand by,” until you actually taste your selection and confirm that it meets your expectations, before they take their leave.
Bocana’riz was the first restaurant my traveling Sommelier suggested I try. When I saw the house wine list, I understood immediately why she chose this eatery for me. You will find a comfortable urban setting with bare brick walls and stout wooden tables with an amazing crystal chandelier hovering above the dining room. As someone once wrote, “Bocana’riz’s menu is a gastronomic and oenological journey through the country of Chile’.” That is truly an understatement. The wine list is simply unmatched for their domestic offerings with over 400 different labels! Their food is bold, sophisticated and slightly eclectic in execution. This first stop set the bar very high for the following locales!
Opera Catedral was another dining establishment I visited while in the city. I found it a perfect place to combine drinks, food and music. The ambiance is informal yet very alluring due to how uniquely decorated it is. The main floor establishment hosts a mostly European menu blending Chilean spices and domestic influences. Try the Albacora lombarda which is paired with a risotto that is off the charts! Just don’t linger too long over your dish because as the night gets its legs, the bar area turns into a dance floor! Did I mention the live music? This is a locale that you can visit for afternoon drinks, stay for dinner and then not have to leave until early morning. Of course, there is a pleasant surprise as the second floor of the establishment houses an elegant French restaurant. (Well played Margot!)
Bajo Llave is one of the trendiest yet coziest bars I have been in for a long time. Much of that charm comes from the fact that it is “hidden” in a subterranean cave-like location. This is a place that locals love to hang out, yet they welcome travelers with open arms. I lost count (literally) of the number of drinks I was bought by these wonderful people. They offer great pizzas and even more substantial meals that make it hard to leave as your late afternoon “watering-stop,” turns to dusk. Again, I found it refreshing to discover an accomplished Chef in what is primarily a neighborhood bar.
It was at Bajo Llave that after being served an untold number of beers, wine and mixed-drinks (the unholy trinity) I coerced a visit to the kitchen to see for myself how a cozy little bar could turn out such fine cuisine. I wasn’t disappointed in what I found. I witnessed a small but efficient professional kitchen that was run with an almost military precision. Don’t get me wrong, it was informal in its staff interaction, yet the intensity at which everyone seemed to be committed to turning out fine table fare was impressive to say the least.
What I witnessed in every restaurant and bar I visited in the capital city was in a word…passion. A passion not just for the preparation of each order placed, but a passion for providing excellent service. A passion for every cocktail prepared to perfection. A palatable bit of excitement on each server’s behalf as they anticipate the customer trying each dish presented.
Fleischer and I believe that passion is the key to creating great food and memories. You can’t sleepwalk through life. We bring that passion to every design we create for our cookware. Our cookware company is not just a job for us. It is a way of life. We are convinced that when you try our products you will immediately know that people passionate about food, cooking and building great memories were involved in every facet of bringing this product to life.
Life…Food…Memories… Passion. THAT is the Fleischer and Wolf way. It was nice to see those same passionate beliefs grounded in the city of Santiago Chile’… the Paris of South America!