Exploring Chile’s food and wine scene ahead of Mercado Chileno 2016
LONDON, England - As the longest country in the world, Chile’s variety of landscapes combined with the richness of the Chilean soil provide the perfect environment for a vast range of natural produc
LONDON, England – As the longest country in the world, Chile’s variety of landscapes combined with the richness of the Chilean soil provide the perfect environment for a vast range of natural produce to flourish. Chile’s traditional ingredients carry in their taste the more than 4,000 kilometres of coast and the life of Chile’s 17 climates, making them truly unique, and as the country prepares to welcome its first direct flight from the UK, Chile’s reputation as a leading foodie destination continues to grow.
Food and wine enthusiasts interested in Chile’s gastronomy can head to this year’s Mercado Chileno festival at London’s Old Truman Brewery on Tuesday 13th September to celebrate all things “Chile”, where 50 wineries will be among the exhibitors showcasing their best Chilean products.
Chile’s cuisine consists of three main areas for visitors to experience:
Chile reaches both ends of the climate spectrum from desert to glacier and so it’s no surprise there is so much variety in the ingredients available across the country. Traditional Chilean cuisine therefore varies widely depending on the region. In the north, visitors can savour delicious quinoa-based dishes from the cultures and lands of the region and marvel at the range of tropical fruits grown in the hot, fertile valleys on the edge of the Atacama Desert.
In Chile’s central lakes region, the Elqui Valley offers excellent local restaurants called “picadas” which are known for serving roasted goat and local organic cuisine. Meanwhile, the cuisine of the Arauco territory in the Biobio Region of southwest Chile draws on its indigenous roots where locals cook pine nut flowers and gather blue eggs from the Araucana bird, a type of the chicken also known as ‘Colloncas’.
Superb fish and seafood are the main attraction from Chile’s vast coastline and the variety is immense; here seafood lovers can enjoy conger eel stew, razor clams a la parmesana, and scallops al pil pil (in a chilli-laced olive oil), to name but a few of the country’s best-loved dishes from the sea.
The south of Chile is best known for its hearty casseroles such as the cazuela and also Mapuche catutos (a wheat-based bread) and tortillas de rescoldo (a traditional ash-baked bread) while Chiloé’s most famous dish is the curanto which is a medley of seafood, meat and potatoes steamed in a hole covered with native leaves and cooked over hot stones.
The thousands of restaurants, cafés and bars throughout Chile, aim to serve flavours from different parts of the world drawing on different influences from across the globe. The traditions of immigrants that came in centuries past and chefs that travel the world looking for new culinary experiences breathe life into a diverse gastronomic fare.
Chile’s capital city of Santiago is located in the country’s central valley and offers a culinary melting pot of local food and international dishes. Visitors should head to the Bellavista, Lastarria and Italia districts to experience a variety of foods. The culinary scene in the Chilean capital is truly having its moment with a new generation of chefs who have trained abroad and returned to their country to transform classic recipes with a refined European technique.
In the south of Chile, foodies should try the unique combination of Italian, Chilean and Mapuche flavours in Capitan Pastene, or taste the German-influenced crafted beers and pastries on offer in the cities of Valdivia, Osorno, Puerto Varas and the city of Frutillar, which is particularly well-known for its German Kuchen, a cake made from a sweet dough and topped with fruit.
Chile is now the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world, and the ninth largest producer, making it a haven for wine lovers and this year’s Mercado Chileno festival offers over 400 wines from across Chile for visitors to taste. Chile’s successful wine production can be credited to its landscapes – sheltered by the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west – its wide range of terroirs, its significant differentiating day/night temperatures and its largely Mediterranean climate. Visitors to Chile can even try wine-inspired spa treatments which uses the therapeutic benefits of Chilean wine to cleanse the skin and relax the body!
Chile is home to some of the most highly acclaimed wine-producing valleys in the world including the Casablanca Valley, located between Santiago and the city of Valparaíso, which ranks in the ‘Top Ten Wine Capitals of the World’ and is renowned for its vast wine production and refined preparation of white wine of the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc varieties. In this region there are a range of vineyards not to be missed such as the Loma Larga where grapes are manually picked at night to control the fermentation process and to establish the unique crispness and aroma which are so important for white wines and rosés. Meanwhile, the Colchagua Valley is known for its robust Cabernet Sauvignon reds and was dubbed the ‘Best winemaking region in the world’ by Wine Enthusiast magazine. There are many vineyards to explore in this area such as the Santa Cruz vineyard which uses sustainable practices in the manufacturing of its wine and offers a variety of unique wine tasting activities for visitors including wine tasting under the stars as well as a trekking excursion to Chaman Hill.
Chile’s culinary offering combines mouth-watering seafood, fabulous fruits and sophisticated traditional dishes, together with tantalising wine pairings to captivate all the senses, and so with Chile challenging its South American neighbours to become the new food capital of the continent, and a hotly anticipated direct UK flight arriving in January, there’s no better time to discover Chile’s gastronomy!