Monthly Archives: December 2008

De Martino 2008 Legado Sauvignon Blanc

Legado Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Legado Sauvignon Blanc 2008

By Margaret Snook, December 26, 2008

Herbal and citrusy on the nose. Bright, fresh, crisp–even a bit spritzy–although that won’t last long. Juicy, juicy, juicy and seems just a tad sweet.

Great aperitif. Great with ceviche–ok, that’s a no brainer, but try it too with something shrimp-and-Thai (I’m thinking a Thai shrimp soup with coconut milk and lemon grass). This would also be good with salty foods- Serrano ham, blue cheese, anchovies (Caesar Salad) or fresh foods that are slightly bitter, such as an arugula salad with bits of crisp bacon, blue cheese and strawberries.

A great choice for a Chilean dish would be a green bean and carrot tortilla… forget the Mexican bread… in Chile a tortilla is made Spanish style with egg (like a frittata), cooked til set in a skillet, flipped, and cooked til set on the last side then slid out of the pan onto a serving platter.

Denomination of Origin: Casablanca Valley
Winemaker: Marcelo Retamal


Filed under Wine

Cola de Mono: Chile’s True Christmas Spirit!

By Margaret Snook, December 22, 2008

It just wouldn’t be Christmas in Chile without a nice cold glass of Cola de Mono and some Pan de Pascua Christmas bread.

Chilean Christmas comes in the height of summer, with searing heat (90º and up is the norm), so nobody’s thinking about eggnog by the fireplace or spending the day baking cookies, but one Christmas treat that can’t be beat is “Cola de Mono” (Monkey’s Tail), served as cold as possible with the ubiquitous Pan de Pascua (Christmas bread). This milk-based punch is lighter than egg nog and easily made at home (don’t waste your time or money on the far inferior store-bought version!).  Use the recipe below to make up a batch of your own, and check out Cachando Chile for an explanation of its history while you wait for it to chill. There are no great scientific principles at work here; all measurements are to taste.

Step 1- a liter of milk

Step 1- a liter of milk

Start with a liter of milk.  Yes, Chilean milk comes in boxes with a shelflife of about 6 months! (but that’s another story).

Add about 1/4 cup sugar (more or less, depending on your sweet tooth).

Add a cinnamon stick, 3 or 4 whole cloves, some fresh-grated  nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp), a vanilla bean or a couple tsps vanilla extract, fresh lemon or orange peel, and 2-3 tbls ground coffee.

(Yes, I know that most Chilean recipes call for instant Nescafé powder, but have you heard the old expression “Nescafé no es café” ?? Right… use the real stuff).

Cola de Mono Step 2- add the flavorings

Cola de Mono Step 2- add the flavorings

Yes, it looks like a mess at this point!

Bring it to a simmer over gentle heat. Don’t let it boil. You don’t want the milk to scald. Be patient, and stir often.

Once it approaches a boil, turn off the heat, stir well, cover, and let it steep and cool. It should be a nice café con leche color.

Cola de Mono step 3- let it cool

Cola de Mono step 3- let it cool

Drain it carefully and add aguardiente to taste. Don’t use pisco. I’ve tried it; it was dreadful. Rum would work if you don’t have aguardiente brandy. Use at least a cup, more if you like. The alcohol will be less noticeable when cold.

Cola de Mono with Pan de Pascua

Cola de Mono with Pan de Pascua

Voila! Christmas a la Chilena!


Filed under Drinks

China Village- Chilean Chinese for two

Chinese food in Chile varies widely from downright awful to quite good. China Village is among the very best.

By Margaret Snook, December 21, 2009

Let’s face it, going out for Chinese is the most fun in a group of say 8 people, so you get to order about 6 great dishes and all get to try everything. But there are times when those other 6 people are nowhere to be found and we end up with “ganas” for Chinese and the two of us go on our own. But the thing is, he’s a vegetarian and she (that would be me) is a carnivore. So… 2 dishes, skip the apps. He shares, but snubs her meat-infested fare… she wins…

There are hundreds–perhaps thousands–of Chinese restaurants in Chile, and the more “humilde” the neighborhood, the more there are. It makes sense. Since the dishes are served family style and you don’t need to order something for everyone, a crowd can eat cheap.

China Village in La Reina  is our favorite, in large part because it’s closest to the Chinese I know from home. I was appalled the first time I went to a Chilean-Chinese restaurant in the early 1990s and every dish we ordered was the same color brown. Yuck. No crisp and colorful vegetables, no bursts of flavor, just overcooked, mushy gook. My husband couldn’t understand what I was complaining about until he went to Chinatown in New York… Ahhh! That was an eyeopener!

There are plenty of anthropological studies about the ways that Chinese food adapts to local cultures (see, for example, The Globalisation of Chinese Food, by David Wu), and although we think we know what it is, what we find is a local interpretation based on available ingredients and tastes and foodways that are acceptable in the new cultural context.

China Village has the most varied menu of any I’ve seen in Chile. Hot and sour soup is on the list (and delicious), for example, although no Kung Pao Chicken (Schezuan) or General Tso’s Chicken (that’s a North American dish anyway) or Moo Shu Pork (northern China), but there is still plenty that breaks away from the typical “Mongolian beef, chicken, pork” and Chop Suey standards found in Chile. Call ahead and you can order Peking duck with the works. (If anyone knows where to find Schezuan in Chile, please let the rest of us know!)

We got there fairly late, about 10:30, and the place was packed. Within minutes our waitress approached us (the daughter of the Chinese chef/owner Feng Shen Pan, I believe) and we were immediately impressed by her friendly, professional, and very helpful manner. Service is often an issue here in Chile, and many places could learn a thing or two from her.

We asked for a pisco sour “seco” (that’s dry, and I always add “not sweet” because many places confuse dry with strong). We got strong and sweet, made with powdered sugar, which I always find has an unpleasant bitter aftertaste (sugar in Chile is another topic altogether. For now let’s just say that not all sugar is created equal).

The vegetarian in my life ordered the spectacular “berenjena con jengibre” (eggplant with ginger) that comes  ablaze in aluminum foil. It makes quite a sight and of course, all heads turned to our table, though no one dared to ask… The dish is truly delicious, the eggplant is tender but not mushy, the ginger is subtle, and the  flavors rich and slightly smoky.

I ordered the house special  Schezuan-style beef dish. The menu suggested asking for it served spicy, which I did, but alas… it was not to be. It was rich and flavorful, though nary a pinch of ají (chili, pronounced ah-HEE) to be found, and the nearly raw onions were a bit overpowering for my taste and got pushed aside. White rice for me; “chaufan” (fried) for him. He raved  at all the bits and pieces of vegetables and egg, and “look!  the grains are nice separated, just the way I like it.”  Never been one of my favorites. Chileans love rice with “stuff” in it (carrots, peppers, etc); I prefer my rice stuffless, and I want my Chinese rice to stick together enough that I can eat it with chopsticks.

We ordered a half bottle of Casillero de Diablo Cabernet, reasonably well served by another very “canchera” (adept and professional) waitress, although even though I’m the one who ordered the wine, she automatically addressed the service show to my husband. (As a sommelier, I’m a stickler for service issues).

The place itself is agreeable enough. It certainly isn’t the gaudy bright red and dragon decor so often found in Chile’s Chinese restaurants, but don’t expect a cozy romantic setting either. It’s bright and busy, and usually packed, especially weekends, but it’s clean and pleasant.

The prices are reasonable. We chose two of the more expensive dishes on the menu and the bill was still only about $20,000 before tip.

There are two locations:

La Reina: Salvador Izquierdo 1757  Phone: 277-7499
Mauqehue: Manquehue Sur 1022   Phone: 229-0362


Filed under Food, Restaurants

Facundo 2006

By Margaret Snook, December 20, 2008

Uf, it’s happened again. I write a wine column for the Agenda Urbana section of Chile’s La Tercera newspaper. They specify the space available, and I send them the piece, painstakingly edited to coincide with the allotted space. Unfortunately and all too often, they take a chain saw to it because they need more room for advertising (hey, it pays the bills). So… I’ve decided that I will publish my version of the story here in Tasting Chile. The originals are always in Spanish, but I’ll put the English translation up first with the Spanish as the first comment.

Winemakers Cony Schwaderer & Felipe Garcia
Winemakers Cony Schwaderer & Felipe García

Facundo García Schwaderer 2006

December 20, 2008

Have you ever noticed that the best wines come with a story? They’re made with love and purpose; they’re the product of a search for something special, and—in my opinion—the very best have a personal dimension to them.

This is the case of Facundo, the first son of husband and wife winemakers Felipe García, from Casas del Bosque, and Constanza Schwaderer, from Agustinos (Córpora). Facundo began as the dream of young lovers, it developed along with the projects of newlyweds, grew along with their two daughters, and was finally born after a long two years in the delivery room. The recently christened Facundo García-Schwaderer was welcomed into the world with grand applause and blessings.

Of course this is no ordinary child. No, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from Itata and Loncomilla with a touch of Carignan and Petit Verdot shows aromas of fresh fruit, medium body, juicy acidity, and plenty of personality. Two years in the barrel lend character without taking center stage. This child born of good genes is a pleasure today and will continue to grow with grace for years to come.


Filed under Wine

Wine by the Light of the Moon

Biodynamic-inspired winery Antiyal celebrates ten years of winemaking in Chile’s Maipo Valley.

By Margaret Snook, December 13, 2008

Moon over the Maipo

Moon over the Maipo

One of my favorite things about living in Chile is the opportunity to do such amazing things as dance by the light of the full December moon on the roof of a biodynamic winery in the Andes. How much cooler can life get?

Last night winemaker Alvaro Espinoza–Chile’s organic guru–and his wife Marina Ashton invited a couple hundred people to join them in celebrating 10 years of their personal wine project, Antiyal.

It all began in 1996 when they planted some Cabernet Sauvignon in their front yard. Two years later the first Antiyal–or “Son of the Sun”–was born and quickly gained fame as Chile’s first “garage wine.”  They have since bought another 4 hectares down the road and closer to the Andean foothills, where they planted more vines, built a new bodega, and moved their llamas up the hill.

It’s all organic and biodynamically managed, which means, among other things, that the lunar cycles play a key role in the winegrowing process, so it was absolutely no coincidence that they chose Friday, December 12 for the celebration. Not only was it a gorgeous summer evening perfect for a high-altitude roof-top party, it was also the date when the moon was closest to the Earth.

The guests were also in for a special treat. The popular Chilean singer-songwriter Joe Vasconcellos performed and closed his generous set with the his hit song “Hijo del Sol Luminoso” (Son of the Shining Sun) in honor of the wine of honor.

Anityal is a well-balanced premium blend of organically grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, and Syrah whose proportions change from year to year. I tasted the latest vintage–the 2006– at the party (not the best conditions for serious tasting, but perfect for the occasion! Wine is made to be enjoyed, not analyzed). It’s rich and full-bodied, without being overblown. There’s plenty of red berry fruit with enough tannins and complexity to find a perfect partner in Marina’s incredible chicken liver pate topped with a red-wine & raspberry reduction.

Hmmm- life’s good.

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