Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Chilean" Craving?

Today for lunch I didn't feel like cooking because I've been sick in bed all day, but I was pretty hungry and craving what is to me a really Chilean lunch even though I'm not sure it qualifies as a plato (dish). When I mentioned it to Italo, his jaw practically fell to the floor since I almost always insist on 1 of 2 things: picking up takeout or going to la vega and cooking some elaborate meal. So when I suggested something easy and inexspensive, it was surprising.

What was it you ask? 20-minute white rice, a tomato, and one of those frozen hamburgers from the grocery store although I would have been happy with any meat. What makes it so Chilean to me is that it was arranged on my plate so that the tomato juice dripped onto my rice making it kind of a soupy concoction and I ate it all with a dollop of MAYONNAISE!

One thing I love about a meal like that is that it's so filling and inexpensive, but what I have always complained about in the past is the fact that a "meal" that is a very common lunch special or menu at countless restaurants here is (to me) something you make in college when you're too broke to go to the grocery store so you throw together whatever's left. Granted, I'll never consider it a culinary treat, I will admit that I overreacted a little bit and that it leaves me totally happy and satisfecha (full)...sometimes.

My question is what are other people's not-so-Chilean Chilean cravings? Rice, tomatoes and meat are certainly not what I think about when I think of Chilean cuisine. Instead, I think of cazuela, pastel de choclo and machas a la parmesana, but perhaps it's the combination and the memories of eating it with my host mom while I was studying abroad here (think the Clos commercials in the metro when he remembers la despedida de su hijo) that instantly remind me of Chile.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

New Style

*I'm ignoring the hiatus from the blog world to write this as if that didn't happen

I've decided that I'm only going to write about food and alcohol and any establishment associated with the two. My favorite thing to do in Chile is find a new anything: new pikada, new wine store, new restaurant or my new favorite fruit and veggie stand. Anyone who knows me knows that I love good food and good wine and will go to great lengths to have it.

Unfortunately, I'm so in love with my neighborhood that it's really hard to get me to leave it. There are tons of restaurants I want to try or have tried and loved, but I haven't and won't go to them anymore because it means taking a taxi or the metro. To remedy this problem, last Thursday my boyfriend suggested we just head out on foot and eat at the first place that looked good--such a good idea and an excellent attempt to deal with my being picky since we could stay close to home and walk around my favorite place in Santiago.

So, we headed towards the patronato/bellavista area looking for a hidden gem. I started to lose hope quickly as we passed empty restaurant after empty restaurant. I wanted to head back and just get a pizza and a great bottle of wine, but Italo was determined to find a great new place.

As we got closer to bellavista, we started dreaming of yummy peruvian food which was when we noticed the El Otro Sito sign. We checked out the menu and everything looked as amazing as everyone's described it, but it wasn't a night to shell out 10.000 clp an entree and then worry about the wine so out of starvation we opted for the meat restaurant next door called Vaquita Sabrosa.

Walking up the stairs, I sort of regretted our snap decision to eat there because there were noticeable stains on the floor and all of the chairs. And when I tried the complementary cheese empanada that came in the bread basket, I almost had to spit it out because it had an unidentified gritty substance all over it. Clearly, they had been sitting out for hours because they were cold and stale.

To save the moment, we rushed to order a familiar bottle of Santa Ema Cabernet Savignon and checked out the menu. Granted, a lot of items on the menu were cheaper than at restaurants like Las Vacas Gordass, what we ended up getting was just about the same price--beef medallions wrapped with bacon for 4990 clp a plate. To go with it, two orders of french fries and a house salad (yup, we're chanchos).

Our food came quickly and it looked a lot better than I thought it would after the empanadas. The french fries were delicious! They were nice and crispy which is hard to find I think. The meat was just as good as other more famous meat restaurants, but I wasn't blown away by it. Bacon can mask a lot of things and make anything taste delicious, but I still think it could have been better. And the salad we ordered was a joke. The vegetables looked and tasted like they had been sitting out all day so I was really disappointed since I love a great salad.

We finished up and had those ridiculous bajativos (they were served with kids' straws!!) and paid the 22.000 clp we owed. We had 2 main dishes, 3 sides and a bottle of wine so that's not too bad, but it's a little steep considering it's ust an OK restaurant.

All in all, I'll never go back there. There's another meat restaurant nearby that's really touristy, but has great salads, free and delicious empanadas and a much better wine list (I think it's called Los Socios) so I'd definitely opt for that and take the clean seats as a bonus :)