Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chilean Cooking

Danny's Christmas gift for our family- a trip to Valparaiso on the coast with a Chilean cooking class!

On Tuesday we took the bus from Santiago to Valparaiso.  It is an easy ride, just two hours, and we arrived in the busy port city early in the afternoon.  Lining much of the coast here are all kinds of ships- naval boats with the Navy headquarters here, cargo boats with Valparaiso being Chile's biggest port and fishing boats to bring in all the great seafood.  The docks are full of boxcars being loaded and unloaded from the cargo ships and we spent a lot of time Tuesday watching the huge cranes and semi-trucks at work.  Before kids I don't think I would have appreciated the hustle and bustle of it all but we had a great time just watching the work and imagining where all the contents of the boxcars were headed.

Valparaiso is built up into the hills and from our bed and breakfast we had a great view. It is a city much like San Francisco in that it has lots of hilly winding streets.  There are 15 different rattling ascensores (funiculars) to get from the bottoms of the hills to the tops all built between 1883 and 1916.   Cal especially enjoyed watching the huge wheel turning and pulling the cables of the shaky funicular up the side of the hill.
The town has a lot of color- literally and figuratively.  The houses are painted all kinds of shades and murals line many of the walls along the steep winding streets.  The town is home to many universities, markets, restaurants and people.  It is a loud and friendly place.  We watched two different street performer shows at plaza Concepcion, one of which had two clowns doing acrobatics and silly skits with a stray dog who kept joining the act which made it all the more funny.  Children could rent different kinds of bikes at the plaza and Cal and Harper were thrilled to be back on wheels.  A small carnival was also going on in the next square over so the kids got to take a few turns on the kiddie rides.  It was a good time strolling back and forth between all the great family-friendly activities.  (and thankfully the not so family-friendly jokes and innuendos made by the clowns seem to go over our kids' heads.)

Hurray for wheels!
We have sampled many a carnival ride in South America 
Danny's new look
We found a great restaurant for dinner just down the street from our b&b called Cuatro Ventos, (Four Winds) which we were told the next morning is the most photographed house in Valparaiso.  It is precariously perched on the hillside just enough to feel mildly nerve-wracking, but also to give an amazing view of the bay and city.  The food was outstanding and reminded us of Carbondale's Six89 in its creative presentation and varied mix of ingredients, but also because it was laid back and not fancy.  We sat at a table in a corner of the room surrounded by walls of stained and clear glass windows.  Although I started the meal nervous about Cal crashing through a window, the kids did great job and made a little nest of toys and coloring books to hang out in.  The carmenere wine didn't hurt in easing my nerves as well.
It wasn't fancy, although they served the kids juice in wine glasses

Cuatro Ventos- view from the front
View from below YIKES!
View from our corner spot, looking down on the port in action
Wednesday morning we met Andrés, our chef, and picked out our menu.  We chose to make pebre (salsa), ceviche, empanadas, pastel de choclo (Chilean corn pie), tomato salad, and Pisco Sours (the national drink of Chile.)  We walked to the market and bought fresh fish, herbs, fruits, vegetables, etc.  During the walk Andres described the area and some of its history.  He pointed out a red brick line on one street that showed where the edge where the ocean used to come up to, but throughout numerous earthquakes and renovations over the years the city dumped concrete and used building supplies there to extend the port's size.  Interesting urban planning, we thought.
Fish market
Juicing lemons for ceviche
Cal is not too sure about the chopping
Prepping fish for ceviche
Pisco sours

Harper was served champagne and downed it!
Back in the kitchen we went to work.  Cal and Harper got to help a lot by juicing lemons, mixing sauces and even chopping with extremely sharp knives (when in Chile...)  Andres was great with our kids and they were very proud of their work.  After the chopping was through and the salads were made, Danny mixed up the pisco sours and the drinking portion of the day began (and continued on through lunch with local champagne and after with a digestif grappa also from Chile.)  The food was all very good.  Danny and I have never seen ceviche made although we love to eat it so that was a cool new experience for us.  Without a doubt we will make these recipes at home. Back in our kitchen in Santiago we are most excited to get creative with the empanadas and make a variety of different fillings.  (especially without queso for Harper, as most of the empanadas here have cheese inside.)
Tomato onion salad
Pastel de Choclo
Bananas with Palm syrup
We arrived back in Santiago late last evening and the kids were troopers for the travel home.  We all had a lot of fun in Valparaiso and if we were living here longer I think we'd try to spend more time in the area.  As that is not the case, we'll have to take it with us in spirit each time we mix up some Chilean cuisine.  And if you are reading this, Gracias Andres for the class!
Andrés keeping us on our toes.

1 comment:

  1. Having a great time following your trip. Thanks so much for sharing it. Love to you all, Uncle Greg