Taste the Local Food Culture
Rancho Doña Maria takes you on a really deep experience into Chilean food culture, where you eat Chilean food as it was prepared 100 years ago. It’s very simple food but made with tremendous skill. Everything cooked comes straight from Doña Maria’s farm – she’s amazing, her food is amazing – and very, very cheap! Her tiny restaurant is in Santiago, about thirty minutes’ drive from downtown, to an area called Chacobuco. It’s in the countryside; it’s like a hole in the valley where you have the hills on the side and you can see the countryside – that’s where you’ll find her in a small building by the side of the highway. It’s not fancy; you sit on red Coca-Cola plastic chairs, and you’ll see chickens running around; but it’s probably the most delicious, and authentic, Chilean food and empanadas in Chile. Señora Maria prepares everything – including her desserts – on a traditional Chilean clay oven which is fully covered by native wood aromas. She’s cooking the whole repertoire of Chilean food: Chilean empanadas (filled with meat, onions, eggs and raisins), amazing Chilean-style pork ribs, beautiful tomato salads and amazing broths – and everything you eat comes with a smoked and fermented Chilean condiment called Merkén. If you want to dive deep into the local culture, and deep into the ingredients of Chile, this is where you need to go.
When The Cook Understands Seafood
La Calma is a very simple and humble restaurant with a good cook, a great cook, Gabriel Layera. Gabriel is actually a diver, and so the seafood he has here – like super fresh rock fish, and especially the shellfish – is just amazing. He has these massive Chilean urchins that taste like none that I’ve tasted in the world. It’s quite incredible, and it’s actually a very important ingredient to us.
To Experience the Beautiful Surrounds
Santiago is a beautiful green city fully surrounded by nature, and the very high Andes (the highest point would be almost 7000 metres). Mestizo is a nice spot to feel this. It’s right in the middle of a beautiful green park, and you have an amazing view from the restaurant. It’s the perfect spot to have a sunset appetizer with a Chilean Pisco Sour, which is amazing. The food is not spectacular, but the Chilean-style seafood is good, and again, the location is just marvellous.
A Classic Santiago Sandwich
Here in Santiago, we have incredible sandwiches. It’s really a sandwich city. We have a sandwich called a Chacarero; it’s very simple with green beans, summer tomato, creamy avocado and meat. You’re probably thinking, how can a sandwich with only these ingredients taste so good? But when you taste it you say, “Holy shit – it’s so, so good!” My favourite place to get a sandwich is Fuente Alemana, which is one of the most popular places for sandwiches in Santiago. It’s very old, maybe around 70 or 80 years, but it’s wonderful, just wonderful.
Getting Out of The City
Take a 20-minute drive from Santiago, and you’ll be in the middle of some of the best wine-producing valleys of Chile. One of my favourite vineyards is Odfjell, who are making biodynamic wines. It’s close to the city, maybe a one-hour drive, and to me, it’s the most amazing spot. It’s so nice just to spend the day, or you can even stay there. You know, taste the wine, do the tours – which is a fascinating way to learn about Chilean wine – or just go for a romantic time.
Produce You Shouldn’t Miss
Chile is a tremendously seasonal country, and some ingredients are only popping up for three or four weeks a time per year; that’s it. Chile is one of the most endemic countries, and so for example, we have two mushroom seasons (Autumn and Spring) which bring two very different and unique kinds of mushrooms. So, what’s exciting about this, is that when you come to Santiago, or Chile in general, you get to really taste the seasonality, the changes of the land; and it’s quite marvellous. And of course, thanks to our giant, massive and long coast, we have amazing seafood.
Chilean summer tomatoes are unbelievable – they’re massive, it’s like eating meat, really! They have so much umami, it’s insane. We wait the whole year to have them. One of the best ways to enjoy a Chilean tomato is in a simple Chilean summer salad of only tomatoes and sliced onions. When you have produce as good as we have here, in front of you on the plate, you think “I don’t want to put anything on it, because it’s almost too good.”
Selected Works: Borago (2017)
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