Food and Drink in Chile
Chilean cuisine is great.
Here's what I experienced, in the order I encountered it.
Due to Chile's peculiar shape, the country is mostly coastline or coastline-adjacent. So, the seafood is fantastic.
Vineyards between the coastal mountain range and the Andes cordillera produce great wine.
And, the Chileans know their way around a kitchen. Chilean pollo asado is close to the French poulet rôti.
Chile is a great source of wine.
I had planned to ask for vino roja or red wine, but quickly learned that the local specialty is properly called vino tinto, effectively "dark wine".
"Red" might mean just vaguely red-ish, pink, rosé even, while tinto means the dark red wine of Chile.
OK, tinto it is. Solamente tinto.
The Central Valley south of Santiago, through Rancagua and Talca and beyond, is a prime source of grapes for vino tinto. Below are some vineyards between Talca and the coast.
Wine is made by fermenting grape juice. Then you can distill wine to get brandy-like liquors. Pisco is the distinctive liquor of Chile. Pisco plus lime juice, simple syrup, and bitters yields the pisco sour. But first, breakfast.
I started my first visit to Chile in Santiago, staying at the Happy House hostel. Here is the breakfast at Happy House.
Eggs, ham, turkey, bread with jam and butter, and coffee.
My first meal in Chile, however, was the night before, a late dinner near the hostel in Barrio Brasil. Chicken, papas fritas, and salad. Y Escudo, named for the retired Chilean currency used from 1960 to 1975.
The cantina made for a nice place to stop late in the evening. Notice the "no smoking" sign on the wall. I noticed that there was very little smoking in Chile, when compared to parts of the U.S.
You can get uno litro there or at the neighborhood botillerila.
I liked the Barrio Brasil area, where I stayed in Santiago. Here's lunch at Café Buda, near the Cumming Metro station.
Chicken noodle soup first, with small bread rolls and pico de gallo to go with the main dish. Plus a pisco sour.
The main dish was salmon a la plancha, grilled salmon, with salad.
Dessert, part of the French-style menu or pre-defined multi-course meal, was a sort of pudding.
Later, I could stop at another Barrio Brasil establishment for another pisco sour.
La Piojera is a long-lived Santiago establishment near Plaza de Armas. I started with a chicha.
Chile has two main types of chicha: apple chicha produced in southern Chile, like this one, and grape chicha produced in central to northern Chile. Both are alcoholic beverages produced with fermentation only, no distillation.
I was going to get just the salad. But, oh no, I was told that was scarcely anything at all.
Hmmm. Maybe an empenada, then.
Oh, but that would be barely any more, nowhere near a complete meal.
OK, then, a salad and empanada.
I was just then learning that Chilean meals tend to be rather large.
By the end of it I had added uno litro of Cristal. And, they had brought me an unsolicited tomato-based beverage.
I next went to Valparaiso, where the Acuarelo Hostel had quite the breakfast buffet.
Acuarelo is a steep climb up from the Metro at the waterfront, you gain about 130 meters elevation along the way. Most of the way back down is Ñamburger along Urriola, where I got lunch a couple of times. Here is one example.
It was a long bus ride up to La Serena, then a trek from the bus station to the Aji Verde hostel. About 2230 local I went back out looking for dinner.
Here is the Duna Bar's version of El Completo, the Chilean specialty that's like asking the hot dog vendor, just like the Zen master, to "make me one with everything".
Chopped tomatos, chopped onions, mayonnaise, and guacamole on top of the hot dog. El Completo.
The next day, here's roasted chicken con arroz and salad in La Serena.
Mate is considered a drink of southern Chile. But even in La Serena, six to seven hours north of Santiago by bus, mate and its paraphernalia are common. Here's a vendor set up at the Plaza de Armas in the build-up to the 2019 eclipse.
And below, on the shelves at a local supermarket.
The market just down from the Aji Verde hostel had a great place for desayuno or breakfast.
Just like the locals, I asked for El Completo y cafe.
When they ask "¿Con salsa picante?", of course you answer ¡Si! It's in the red and yellow squeeze bottles.
Here is ceviche as a first course at a place along Vicuña in La Serena. Shrimp, mussels, and other seafood.
Then the main course, pollo.
Dessert was a curious gelatine.
The seafood market along the inner coastline of Coquimbo has fresh fish for restaurants and homes, and ceviche in small cups for individuals.
I had quite a bit of time to kill, waiting for a southbound bus that evening. I went upstairs to El Romane, where I had a seafood stew with, of course, vino tinto.
I went to Rancagua, about an hour south of Santiago by train. I was there for just over a day, and heard no English at all during my visit.
That didn't stop me from getting a very nice lunch of pollo con arroz.
In the evening I had a very nice salmon ceviche.
On the narrow-gauge rail line from Talca to Constitución, we stopped mid-way at Gonzalez Bastias.
Vendors there sold sourdough bread and coffee. It's just what you need on an unheated 3-hour train ride in mid-winter.
Constitución was devastated by a tsunami, the railway station and surrounding area are still a wreck. But food markets have been re-established down by the waterline.
Salmon a la plancha con salata, very nice. I ended up at this place every day throughout my stay in Talca.
I got lunch at Il Cuete Rojo, a great restaurant in Talca. It's toward the center, and back a narrow hallway.