Category Archives: Food

Fuente Mardoqueo: Best sánguches in town

The search is over. I’ve found the perfect chacarero!

cacharero, Fuente Mardoqueo, sánguche

The perfect Chacarero: tasty beef topped with fresh tomato, crisp green beans, and a touch of green chili

I am admittedly not the world’s biggest sandwich fan…and them’s fightin’ words in Chile.  Chileans love—and passionately defend—their beloved sánguches. So I’m here to call a truce. And while I’m not likely to ever get up much enthusiasm for the basic avocado- and mayo-smeared ham & cheese, there are other Chilean sandwich combinations that are pretty hard to resist. Make mine a chacarero, a super sánguche whose special defining feature is a big pile of green beans. Yep, that’s right, green beans. Who knew?

Fuente MardoqueoFuente Mardoqueo, half a block from the Plaza Yungay, is one of those word-of-mouth type places—a true picada—and it had been on our radar for a while. Continue reading


Filed under Food, Restaurants

Foolproof Chilean Beef Empanada de Horno

Sonia Rodríguez de Hofstadt of El Toque Gourmet

Caterer and cooking teacher Sonia Rodríguez de Hofstadt, of El Toque Gourmet

Two recent posts about empanadas, here and on Cachando Chile, have produced a flurry of requests for a recipe for those who cannot just pop over to the neighborhood empanada shop. Chilean caterer and cooking teacher extraordinaire, Sonia Rodríguez de Hoftstadt kindly offered to share her foolproof, no-fail recipe for Empanadas de Horno–de pino (beef)–of course!

Sonia is truly a woman of the world, the daughter and wife of diplomats, she has spent much of her life abroad, lived in 9 different countries, and speaks 5 languages. She was trained as a simultaneous interpreter and finally turned to her true passion: food from around the world. She teaches and caters through her company “El Toque Gourmet,” and is currently working on a book of the same title. Her specialties include (but certainly not limited to!) Asian Cooking, Mediterranean and European Food, American Desserts, and Chilean Asados.

You can contact Sonia at: hofstadt (a)
See more of what she’s up to here: El Toque Gourmet and Classes for Children

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for….The Recipe! Continue reading


Filed under Food

September: Empanada Time

Truth be told, it’s always empanada time in Chile, but September—the month of Chilenidad—would not be complete without endless rounds of empanadas. These savory stuffed turnover (my brother calls them Hot Pockets) originally crossed the Atlantic with the Spanish some 500 years ago and are now found throughout Latin America. Each culture has its own versions, and I’m sure people from other countries get just as serious about their versions as Chileans do about theirs.

While Chilean empanadas come in all sorts of baked and fried shapes, sizes, and fillings, in September, the only empanada that counts is the most traditional of all: the empanada de pino del horno: a baked beef-stuffed meat turn-over, considered best when they emerge hot from a rounded adobe oven  that dot the countryside in Central Chile.

Read on for more on empanadas and a list of the 21 top places in Santiago to find them! Continue reading


Filed under Food

Just Say NO to Crispy Wine

¿Vino quebradizo?

Chilean Spanish uses lots of words borrowed from other languages, especially English, and, not being a purist, I generally have no problem with that—why would I? English is full of “borrowisms.”

But when it comes to “winespeak,” there’s one misused crossover that drives me up the wall. Wine is not, cannot, and never will be “crispy.” And I’ll tell ya why… Continue reading


Filed under Drinks, Food, Wine

MOVI wins Vitivinicultural Initiative of the Year Award

By Margaret Snook

What a great night!
Chile’s Círculo de Cronistas Gastronómicas (Chilean Circle of Food & Wine Writers) held its annual awards ceremony last night to deliver its awards to those who rock Chile’s food & wine world. (See my write-up and the complete list of winners at Cachando Chile).

MOVI members, winners of the 2009 Viticultural Initiative of the Year Award, March 30, 2010 (Photo (c) MSnook)

As a member of this group, I had the right—and tremendous honor—of presenting an award to a group of innovative winemakers, several of whom I am proud to include among my friends (and not just on Facebook!).

I was very pleased to present the Iniciativa Vitivinícola del Año (Vitivinicultural Initiative Award) to MOVI, the Movimiento de Viñateros Independientes (Independent Vintners Movement). Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Food, Wine

Coquinaria: The Jury’s Still Out

CoquinariaThis is a place we’ve had our eye on for quite a while. A new concept in Santiago, an upscale market offering gourmet products (Chilean and imported)—a foodie’s delight—and tables indoors and out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

We stopped by with friends the other night, originally on our way to someplace else, but stopped in to check it out and decided to stay.

The ambiance is delightful. Modern yet cozy, sophisticated yet friendly. My kinda place.

But I am sad to say that the dining side of the set-up still needs work. Continue reading


Filed under Food, Restaurants

La Gatita

By Margaret Snook, May 5, 2009

Somehow—for reasons beyond my comprehension—the seaside town of Concón, in Central Chile, has managed to get away with declaring itself the “Gastronomic Capital of Chile.” Yes, there are plenty of restaurants, but the vast majority are the typical seaside eateries with white-shirted, bow-tied waiters pushing outdated wines and overcooked fish. There are few worth writing home (or anywhere else) about. And then there’s La Gatita.

La Gatita seafood restaurant in Concón

La Gatita seafood restaurant in Concón

My husband and I have been hearing about La Gatita, a favorite seafood restaurant in the Las Higuerillas section of Concón (near the yacht club) for years. We’ve even tried going a few times to find out what’s behind all the to-do. But it fills up fast, and in a country where Sunday dinner begins at 2:00—or even 3:00, the line forms outside La Gatita at 11:30, and it’s filled to its 18-table capacity within minutes after it opens its doors at noon.

We got there at 12:20 and were fourth on the waiting list. “Table for two? 20 or 30 minutes,” she said. Hah! An hour 20, in fact, but we were determined. Getting a table was our goal of the day. Sure, the place next door (Calipso) was completely empty and had a better view, but we were on a mission and installed ourselves in the parking lot with the others.

This is clearly a picada, a simple place, with too-close tables and plenty of hustle and bustle, but the wait staff is fast and generally efficient. Hot rolls and spicy pebre appeared on the table within minutes, and the generously large and strong pisco sours we ordered just moments later.

We opted for an order of machas (razor clams)—half a la parmesana, half con salsa verde. The salsa verde (green sauce) turned out to be more onion than parsley, and the parmesana was creamy style, served on the half shell and swimming in sauce. Yummy, although I prefer the standard drier, creamless style with lemon juice. The machas themselves were perfectly tender.

Like most regional restaurants and nearly every picada in the country, the wine list leaves something to be desired. We wanted a half bottle of Chardonnay, and although a Casillero del Diablo appears on the menu, the only half-bottle whites were a Santa Emiliana Sauvignon and a Carmen Rhin. We needed more body to go with the fried fish and ended up going classical with a Santa Rita 120 Cabernet (a light red holds up better to the fried batter than a light-bodied white).

The wine appeared before we had gotten half way through the pisco sour. She popped the cork on the Sauvignon Blanc before we had a chance to say “tinto.” “¡EEEEE!” She responded, in that wide-eyed, air-sucking way that so many Chilean women do… it quickly disappeared and the correct wine appeared in its place, along with a big, apologetic smile, earning her good service points despite the error.

Congrio Frito (Batter-fried Conger Eel)

Congrio Frito (Batter-fried Conger Eel)

Everything happens fast here. Our main course showed up before the first course was cleared, but the waitress seemed to have 6 arms and managed to lift one set of dishes and smoothly replace them with the next set all at once. Suddenly I was seated before an enormous and perfectly prepared congrio frito (batter-fried conger eel or kingclip), the kind I’d been yearning for for ages. It was big and golden with crispy coating, flaky flesh, and accompanied by several fresh-cut lemon halves. “The Mr.” wanted merluza, which was unavailable, so he opted for albacora, which is usually simply grilled with butter and capers or almonds, but he too hankered for fried batter. Not the best choice of the day; he’ll stick to tradition next time. The fries served along side would’ve benefited from a few more minutes in the fryer to crisp and golden up their limp-ish pallor.

Singer in La Gatita

Singer in La Gatita

In typical picada style, a singer strolls through about once per seating (they turn this place over about 5 times on busy Sundays). ¡Bésame! Bésame mucho… he sings with a smile bigger than his voice. Tips are expected as he strolls from table to table.

The check

The check

The portions are generous, and dessert, out of the question, although the meal did end on a sweet note. The bill: not cheap, but a quite reasonable $20.000 (about $35 US) including tip for a Sunday lunch for 2.

The final conclusion? The mystery remains as to why people are so willing to line up and wait an hour-plus to get in. It’s good, sure, as far as picadas go, but great? Mmm… there’s still room for improvement.

Av. Borgoño s/n
Higuerillas, Concón
Tel: (56-32) 281-4235


Filed under Food, Restaurants