Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Paul's Country Review: Chile

Well we didn't get to see a lot of the country due to high cost and low funds but we did get to see a good part of Santiago and the surrounding areas. 11-12 million people live in Santiago while the entire population of Chile is 16 million. That's why locals say we saw Santiago, not the real Chile. Despite being very crowded and busy all of the time (except Sundays), I really liked Santiago - maybe even more than Buenos Aires. Christine was able to find a really nice apartment in the main part of the city close to the majority of the attractions and there was a supermarket right next door so more cooking for ourselves. We didn't really want to because everything I read on Chile was about their great cuisine so we were excited to eat the food.

By now you will have read Christine's posts so you know what we did and what we saw (Santiago and its surrounding area) so I'll just talk about some random stuff about the place.

So we (mostly me) were really excited to eat the amazing Chilean cuisine I kept hearing about and as we walked around taking in the sights, I kept an eye peeled for where we would be eating. What I found were mostly caf├ęs (because Chileans just have a coffee and a cigarette for both breakfast and lunch - oh, and eat dinner obscenely late) and pizzerias, and Subways and McDonald's, and Burger Kings and pizzerias. Where is the damn Chilean food? So then I remembered reading that there were neighborhoods for eating. This "district" mentality is so strange to me but exists in almost every country we've been to. Want a sheet of plywood? Go to the plywood district where for a whole mile there will be store after store selling plywood. Need a saw to cut that plywood? Drive to the other side of town to the saw district - over and over. It always reminded of me of this one Simpson's episode where Homer wanted to buy a hammock: Hammocks r' Us on Hammock Street, and Hammocks Hammocks Hammocks in the Hammocks Center - oh all in the Hammocks District! Anyway there are a couple of neighborhoods to visit so you can eat that great Chilean food - oh and they are really nice places to walk around too. One of them is an area called Bellavista, near the university. An area with a lot of bars and cool graffiti art decorating the walls and good Chilean food. Let's see there was Chilean hamburgers and Chilean French fries and Chilean hot wings and... wait a minute this sounds like food you'd get at any bar! Where is this Chilean food I keep hearing about? You can't fool me Chile! So we didn't really eat there just walked around and cooked dinner for ourselves.

The other neighborhood to go so you can eat is Lastarria which was right next to where we were staying. Lastarria is a really charming neighborhood to walk around in and has a lot of restaurants crammed into 2 or 3 streets. Going through the entire area we found 1 or 2 French restaurants, more pizzerias, a couple of gastropubs, lots of Italian restaurants, a few sushi joints and tons of Peruvian restaurants. Is it the address of these restaurants that make them Chilean? Maybe I was just confused and thought that when people said great Chilean food it meant that Chile has a food all it's own and it is great. It really means there are good restaurants serving good food within the national borders of Chile. So we didn't really eat there and went back to the apartment and cooked for ourselves.

Now let me tell you about the supermarket. We didn't really cook for ourselves like I keep saying because there wasn't much at the store. There was an entire aisle of hotdogs, an aisle of sugar, an aisle of oil, an aisle of soda, of Lays potato chips, of beer, of eggs, of ham and cheese, of bread and a couple of aisles for household stuff. Oh and an aisle of produce that was either nowhere near ripe or rotting. So we had a lot of ham and cheese sandwiches (bread was really good) with avocado salads or roasted chicken - the kind supermarkets sell in the hot foods section already cooked in a bag. I don't think they are all that good for you but it was delicious the 4 times we went that route. 

First of many

Not sure if this is the second of many

This all could be pictures of the same bird

It comes in a bag so you know it's good

We did go out treat twice during a two week stay there. Once at a restaurant that was maybe Italian, maybe local, we didn't know and I don't think they did either. It was for lunch and we had salads because we desired some type of vegetable and Christine got a plate of corn and I got a few leaves of lettuce for about $15 each! And there wasn't any dressing on mine just a bowl of mustard on the side. Great Chilean cuisine? This was early on in our stay so it set the tone early for eating in.

I ordered this plate of corn but it came with tomatoes so I had to give it to Christine

Christine convinced me that we go out at least one more time before we leave so we walked around Lastarria one more time hoping that one of the many Peruvian or Peruvian fusion restaurants had closed and that a Chilean restaurant had opened, but it was a foolish dream really, so we settled on the second most populous of choices - Italian. Nothing really sounded good so I opted for a mushroom risotto and christine had a spaghetti marinara (I think). Each dish was very bland and the pasta was overcooked and small and about $20 each - yay!

Christine, "It's linguini not spaghetti" - who cares

Both dishes look pretty good but were bland

Despite all of that, the place is beautiful and the people are friendly. We have to go back to see the real Chile. But if the real Chile is anything like Chilean food the people will probably be from Peru.

In Chile's defense, they export some 90% of their produce to the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe - keeping nothing for themselves. 


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