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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chile: Wine! Food! Penguini!

As many of you know, I am a "sweeper" and contest-junkie. While my friends are playing Mafia Wars and Farmville at 2a.m. on Facebook, I am often entering sweeps and contests...  LOTS of sweeps and contests! And while the downside is I get 1000+ emails a day (and you really Do have to check your email, as that is the ONLY way you are notified if you've won something...), I can tell you that my hobby has turned out to be one helluvalot more lucrative than Solitaire! I've won a lot of extremely cool things (such as some truly fabulous shoes from Princess Dominique's fashion blog and ShuzSociety), and several wonderful trips (including tickets to Israel from the American Associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which was THE greatest gift!), as well a Le Crueset casserole for Dan, and beautiful jewelry from Auralee). I recently won a totally fabulous 2 week "Ultimate To-Do List" trip to Chile from Hilton Garden Inn on Facebook, so I could do the Chilean Wine Route with Chef Dan, and we just got back; I have to say that this was THE best Hanukkah present I could possibly have imagined! 
The night I got the winning email I almost went bananas; we had guests at the Elkhorn Inn and I came out of my office screaming "I won! I won!" like a lunatic! Doing the Chile Wine Route with Dan was a dream, all right, but not one that we ever though about seriously, due to the time and money involved in such a trip. The funny part is that although I usually don't discuss my contest entries with Dan (there are so many! LOL), I actually Did ask him if he'd go to Chile if I won this one! (Note for all you budding sweepers: I was about to enter a piece about a dream trip to Alaska, Israel, Vietnam, or a cruise to the Antarctic... and then I read the fine print rules which were Very specific: the trip had to be to a place where there was a Hilton Garden Inn, selected from a list of 10 places- one of which was Chile! A word to the wise: read the rules, kids!) I returned the signed affidavit immediately, and when I finally got the notification that I really Had won and the flights were being booked for us, I ordered several books on Chile (Frommer's Chile, Culture Shock! Chile, and Chile: A Traveller's Literary Companion, and began to seriously "Google", research, and plan our trip.
Part of the joy of a trip for me is in the planning of it, discovering all sorts of interesting things, and part of the joy is in the writing and blogging about it afterwords, which lets me relive it again and again! Thanks to the internet and email, I was able to find out about a lot of cool  "off the beaten track" things that I wouldn't otherwise have known about, and all the people I emailed in Chile were super helpful and friendly, and got back to me immediately!   

Dan and I started our trip in Santiago, with a two-night stay at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport that was part of the prize package. The concierge had been Very helpful to me when I first started planning our trip, and the hotel was lovely; I did my first Official Chilean Pisco Tasting in the bar at the Hilton! After 20 hours in transit (3 flights and 9+ hours of layovers, softened by really good sushi and flights of wine at Vino Volo at the Dulles airport...),
 Yep!

Sushi, followed by flights of wine at Vino Volo in Dulles Airport:
the right way to start a Wine Route trip!

 Wearing our silly hats...


(and wearing our suitably silly South American "Panama" hats we'd bought in Columbia on our cruise!), we arrived into Santiago the following morning. After paying the $130pp "reciprocity fee"(!) at the airport, we took Hilton's free shuttle bus to the hotel and I spent the morning basking in the 90-degree sun on their balcony. In the late afternoon Dan and I took a cab to Santiago's Central Market and strolled around downtown Santiago. We had a Mote con Huesillo, the cooling summer drink of Chile, made with peaches and chewy wheat kernels, window-shopped, had wine in a cafe at Plaza des Armes, people-watched local families enjoying a day out, happy puppies, guys playing chess, and a classic pupetter, listened to the local bands, and got to see dancers doing the handkerchief-waving Cueca (Chile's national "mating dance", patterned on chickens!) We had a nice little dinner (yummy ceviche!) in a small restaurant near the Market to end our first lovely day in Chile- and then went back to the Hilton so Elisse could do her first Official Pisco Tasting- and the bartender did me proud! :-) 
 Pisco Tasting at the Hilton! :-)

 Dinner in the Market: Ceviche!


 
A lovely chocolate welcome gift from the Hilton Garden Inn!

 Chess players...




 
Santiago: the old reflected in then new...


Puppet theatre in the Plazas des Armes, Santiago 
  Cafe, Plazas des Armes, Santiago

We took two wine tours with Uncorked Wine Tours Chile to start off our 2 week "wine and foodie trip", and were very pleased with them. We did their tours of both large and small wineries in the Aconcagua and Maipo wine regions, and especially liked the first one in Aconcagua, with Patricia (ask for her- she's great!), as we were able to learn to taste, blend, and bottle our own wine at the Vina San Esteban winery. That was such a great (and delicious!) learning experience- and so much fun- that we Highly recommend it to anyone starting out on a Wine Trip in Chile! We enjoyed empanadas and wine in the sun out by the vineyards, and then went to Vina Errazuriz, where we had a tour, followed by a delicious lunch on their beautiful patio facing the terraced vineyards, and a wine tasting. The next day we had tours and tastings at three wineries in Maipo Valley: Vina  Aquitania, the only winery to survive the 2010 earthquake intact, thanks to their unique all-wood architecture, Vina Perez Cruz, and the Santa Rita winery, where we had another delicious wine-paired lunch.   


 

Vina San Esteban- blending our own wine!

 
Elisse, bottling her wine!







 
Vina Errazuriz lunch...



 Santa Rita Winery - tasting and lunch


Strolling around downtown Santiago: Dan with his Mote Con Huesillo


 Vina Aquitania

 Tasting!

Wine as art... Silicone, colored with red Chilean wine

Yummy lunch at the winery - wonderful carpaccio!


 Vineyards...

 Stainless Steel Wine Tanks

 Elisse in her "dream cellar"!

 The museum at Vina Perez Cruz

 

Private wine tours in Chile are not inexpensive, and I contacted several companies, all of which offered excellent sounding trips. I chose Uncorked based on their email correspondence with me and online reviews, although there were several others, including Santiago Adventures, which also had great wine tours. We didn't set out to do private tours, and would have happily joined a small group, but as it was only the two of us, joining with others wasn't an option with any of the wine tour companies I contacted. The lunches at the wineries were excellent, and we highly recommend eating at any of the wineries you go to. Most private wine tours will run at least $250.00/pp per day, but these are full-day tours with fine lunches, and well worth it. As you do need reservations at most wineries, unless you speak Spanish it may be difficult to make your own reservations and get driving directions, and with a driver you are free to truly enjoy all the wine (and Chilean wineries don't stint on the wine at their tastings!), and not worry about driving home!


 



We also took Enotour Chile’s “Santiago Wine Bar Route” tour one evening, and thoroughly enjoyed it! Again, I was hoping we’d be able to join with others, as it’s more fun that way (not to mention cheaper...), but as it was just the two of us, a private tour was the only option, and Enotour was the only company I could find offering such
a tour. We started out having a bottle of fine Chilean wine up on San Cristobal Hill overlooking Santiago at sunset, and it was wonderful: elegant and romantic! The drive up the hill, with all the bicyclists coming up and down, was amazing, too! (There's also a tram up to the top, which looked like fun! Next time!) Then we went to two chic Santiago wine bars, Baco and Bocanariz, had wine tastings, and enjoyed some yummy tapas, including excellent hams (especially the llama ham!) and THE best oysters I’ve ever had in my life! While not inexpensive (a little less than $200/pp), a tour like this was really the only way for us to experience this side of Santiago, as we had limited time, and no hip Santiagan friends to tell us which wine bars to go to and what wines or specialties to order! We highly recommend this tour, and Enotour had a number of other great-sounding wine and food tours that I wish we’d had the time to do as well!














Chef Dan and I had an excellent "Chile Discovery" dinner at Borago in Santiago; Borago is truly a trip thru Chile's food, culture, and geography through a series of delicious (and exquisitely beautiful) small plates and wines- all the foods and wines are Chilean, as are the serving plates and presentation concepts- even the bottled water was Patagonian rainwater! The restaurant is elegant and the service was relaxed and totally charming; we were told the background and story of each dish (which is extremely important) in English :-) We both wished some of the dishes had been a bit larger as they were so delicious, but we were full by the time we finished dinner! The restaurant gave Chef Dan and I a lot of ideas for things we may be able to do here at our inn in West Virginia, and we highly recommend this restaurant for "foodies", and those truly interested in Chile food, wine, geography, and culture, and in having a unique, as well as delicious and esthetically pleasing (and romantic) dining experience! Note that it is not inexpensive, but it’s not “insane”: the complete "discovery" dinner, including wines and tip, cost us approx. $220, and they do accept US credit cards. (Note that if you're looking for an all-you-can-eat bargain cafeteria you will NOT be happy!) Check out the links below for more info on Borago: http://www.borago.cl/this-is-chile and http://www.starchefs.com/cook/photos/chef-rodolfo-guzman-borago-santiago-chile

 Santiago murals & mosaics...


For our next two nights in Santiago we stayed at the Hotel Loreto in the fun Barrio Bellavista neighborhood and really enjoyed it- it's in a great location where almost everything was within walking distance, and the area has great wall mural street art, lots of cafes, bars, markets, music, and the lovely "Patio Bellavista" for outdoor dining and boutiques! Note that at the Hotel Loreto (we got a great deal on Expedia), as in every place we stayed in Chile with the exception of the Hilton Garden Inn, we had a shower, not a bathtub- conserving water is something Chileans (very wisely) take VERY seriously! The staff was extremely nice, and our guest room had a lovely little balcony that overlooked a garden courtyard; we were very happy with it, and we'd definitely return there if we’re lucky enough to get back to Santiago! (And as there was so much we didn't have time to do, I'm hoping we will!) Patio Bellavista was fun- very much like Bryant Park in Manhattan! We shopped the cute boutiques (We both fell in love with the sweet little lapis penguins- lapis lazuli is The gem of Chile- I got two tiny penguini I'd love to somehow turn into jewelry, and Dan got a lapis penguin wine-stopper at the nearby craft market), and had a nice lunch and later a dinner (more great Peruvian-style ceviche, and a delish Chilean corn meal and beef casserole) in their outdoor cafes.
On a recommendation from The Yellow House in Valparaiso (see below), we rented a car from Rosselot, the Chilean car rental company, at Santiago Airport, and they were GREAT! Rosselot was THE best car rental experience overseas we've EVER had, and a great deal: the small Kia manual car we rented cost us $450.00 for 9 days! There were no extra charges, no "surprises" when we returned the car, and no "funny business" with being blackmailed into signing blank credit card forms like Europacar/Sixt did to us- no problems at all!  When I emailed them to inquire about a rental they responded immediately, and in excellent English, and everything went smooth as silk! By contrast, the "well known" car rental companies, such as Avis and Hertz, were NOT cooperative, were more expensive, and made it clear that they didn't want our business. And you know what? They didn't get it! Advice for renting a car overseas: Email the hotel concierges at the places you will be staying and ask for their recommendations; and if at all possible, use local companies! Hubs is comfortable driving stick, and as gas is expensive in Chile we wanted a small car that would get good gas mileage, so we chose the cheapest car they had- a little Kia- and it was fine! It cost us about $50 to fill the tank each time (we used our US credit/debit card in all the gas stations- make SURE you check the recept against the gas pump so you know you are paying what you should be paying...), and there were frequent tolls on the major highways as they were built by private companies! Each toll was approx. $5. Santiago's freeway has an "automatic toll", too, and we had an "Easy Pass"-type box attached to the car that dinged every few minutes as we drove the highway. But as we were only in Santiago to drive out of it in the beginning and back into it at the end of our stay, it wound up costing us only about $20.
Chile is VERY long- basically thousands of miles of coastline!- and when I started planning this trip I rapidly discovered that the driving distances are incredible! As a result, with only 13 nights (I wish I'd made the trip 3 weeks instead of 2!), we could only really stay in the center of the country, which is where most of the wine valleys are; getting up to the deserts of the north and south to Patagonia and Easter Island will have to wait for another trip win!  
 Santiago murals...
 
After 4 nights in Santiago, we picked up our car at the airport and headed north to see the penguins! This was something both Dan and I were very excited about, as the Humboldt Penguin Reserve off Punta de Choros was the only place within a reasonable driving distance where we could see penguins- which neither of us had ever seen in the wild! Our intention was to spend the night in Pisco El Qui and do some pisco tastings at the distilleries along the way, but the driving time turned out to be a LOT longer than I'd calculated, and the distilleries all closed at 6pm! At sunset we found ourselves in La Serena, and wound up having a lovely dinner at Tololo Beach- a place I found in Frommer's Guide to Chile as we were driving, and which, happily, was one of the only beach restaurants open- it not being yet "the season". Frommer's described Totolo Beach as an inexpensive beach "toes in the sand" restaurant with good food, leading me to believe it was basically a seafood shack- which would have been fine- but it turned out to be a beautiful and elegant restaurant with a lovely outside patio on the beach, complete with wicker sofas and white umbrellas in the sand- THE perfect place to have romantic sunset drinks and a delicious seafood dinner! The restaurant is obviously a favorite of the local business men and women who filled the dining room; we were the only tourists! Chef Dan treated himself to a 5-year old Gold Pisco, and we both sipped it like you would a good scotch; I had a Pisco Sour, and, as usual, we had excellent Chilean wine with our entrees; we wound up buying a bottle of wine, and got to take the unfinished bottle with us! :-)

 On the road...




 
Chile's copper freight trains - originally Canadian, as we learned from a railfan guest of the Elkhorn Inn!


 
Sunset dinner on the beach at Tololo Beach, La Serena



 Sunset at Tololo Beach, La Serena

 
After dinner we continued the drive north to Punta de Choros, as I was convinced (unlike Dan...) that we'd find a "Love Motel" to spend the night along the way. Nope! We drove and drove and drove, in the total pitch-black dark of rural Chile... and wound up arriving at Cabanas Amarilis, in Punta de Choros, after midnight, and a day ahead of schedule, totally exhausted (and a little stunned from encountering wild horses in the middle of the road as we drove into town in pitch-black darkeness...), and were SO happy (and amazed, frankly!) to find that the lovely, charming lady who owns the cabins (Sylvia) was able to give us our cabin a night early- and seemed genuinely happy to see us, even at midnight! (Thank you, Maria, at the Santiago Hilton Garden Inn, for helping me make this reservation!) I found Cabana Amarlis in Frommer’s Guide to Chile too, and emailed them for a reservation, and although the email sent back to me was in Spanish, I could understand about 80% of it, and was reassured that we did, indeed have a reservation!  As it turned out, we were Very glad we came that night, as we were able to get a good night’s sleep and have breakfast before taking the fishing boat out to the Humboldt Penguin Reserve- which was GREAT! We got to see the Humboldt Penguins, sea lions, pelicans, other sea birds nesting on the rocks, and even dolphins, which playfully danced around our little boat and gave us quite a show! (Our only regret is that we couldn't understand 90% of what our fisherman guide was explaining; we would have Loved a tour in English!) Sylvia walked us to the boat dock (where she released a small sea bird she had rescued!), and helped us get tickets (we were the only non-Spanish speaking tourists that day), and later that afternoon walked us around town and the beach and recommended restaurants, showing us everything the area has to offer. We were there in December, not in “the season” (which starts in January) when the little beach town is apparently packed to the rafters; it was very quiet, peaceful, and romantic... Everything was walking distance from our cabin, and we had yummy fish and seafood meals in the two little restaurants that were open: super-fresh grilled and fried fish and abalone, with, yes, more great Chilean wine!  Our cute little cabin was lovely, surrounded by flowering plants and shells, Sylvia’s breakfasts were delish, and we were totally happy there! We would definitely go back and highly recommend it!




 Penguini!!!!!!







 Dolfini!!!!!

 Fresh fish lunch in Punta des Choros


 Punta des Choros



 
Yummy abalone & LOTS of Chilean wine! Dinner in Punta des Choros 

After our two nights in Punta de Choros, we got off the main highway and headed south along the coast to Valparaiso, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Coming down the winding mountain road from Punta in the morning made us both Really glad Dan had driven it at night in the dark when we couldn't see enough to be freaked out!  We drove south along the coast, driving thru Rincon, with its terraced appartments overlooking the sea (must go back and stay here!), and Vina del Mar, which was so beautiful that I literally started crying- I felt SO lucky to be in this beautiful place with the man I love more than anything!
We got to Valparaiso in the late afternoon and had a lot of "fun" trying to find our lodging; Valparaiso is all about Hills - lots and lots and lots of Hills- think San Francisco squared... and just because you're on Artilleria Street at the Bottom of the hill doesn't mean that the address you want on Artilleria Street on Top of the hill is anywhere near! We stayed at the Yellow House Bed-and-Breakfast (on TOP of the hill! LOL) for 3 nights; our guest room had a glass wall of windows on an AMAZING view of the port that I will never forget!  Australian Martin and his Chilean wife and staff were charming and helpful, and the breakfasts were lovely; we highly recommend this B-and-B if you're lucky enough to be in Valpo! I found the Yellow House through my email correspondence with Boris at Cooking Classes Chile (right across from The Yellow House), which I'd seen written up on the blog The Travel Chica, and we had a great day with them, which included a walking tour through unique Valparaiso neighborhoods with great architecture and wonderful wall murals, riding several of the extremely cool antique funiculars up and down the mountain, taking the bus and metro (just like real Valparaisians! LOL), shopping (and tasting!) at the Historic Seaport's fish/seafood market, shopping at the veggie market, a fun, group lunch with live, traditional Valpo guitar music, and a really good cooking class with Chef Andreas! If you've only one day to spend in Valpo, this is the way to spend it! We had an excellent time preparing Chilean dishes (razor clams baked in their shells with butter, cheese, and cream; a classic Chilean baked crab casserole, and pears poached in red wine), and learning to make Pisco Sours, and then enjoyed the 'fruits of our labors' with Chilean wine! The fish market beach, with people feeding the happy sea lions and pelicans, was a total surprise and amazing fun; the atmosphere was great, with all the colorful fishing boats, and the fresh seafood and fish were fabulous delish! We got to taste excellent, fresh urchin and ceviche, and buy crab and clams for our cooking class!



                                                              Coffee-to-go & Chilean potato chips for the road!

Tomatoes!


Rincon, on the way to Valparaiso...
 Our first lovely dinner in Valpo...

 The "million dollar view"...
The" million dollar view" from our guest room at The Yellow House
Dan shares his breakfast coffee with a new friend...
The Valpo funicular...
Elisse with The Poet of Valparaiso...

Valpo architecture: The new IN the old!

Taking the metro to the fish market...

The Valpo fish market

Feeding the sea lions and pelicans at the Valpo fish market!

YUM-O! Elisse gets to finally try sea urchin!

Dan, shopping the Valpo market
...In another fab Valpo funicular...
Valpo street murals, Chef Andreas in the market
Valpo murals & kids hanging out...
Arriving at the top of the funicular...                                       Chef Dan, cooking Chilean!


Elisse, shucking razor clams!
Dan making Pisco Sours!
 
Valpo Street Art

Crab for the casseroles...


 
Chef Dan cooks Chilean!
 Razor clams with cream, cheese and butter...




 
Crab and cornmeal casseroles


Elisse, making empanadas!
Chef Dan and his pear, poached in red Chilean wine!

Because we were repeatedly advised that pickpockets are such a problem in Valparaiso that I should absolutely not to carry a purse- or even a wallet- we used our PortaPockets on waist straps under our clothes while in Valparaiso and they worked great! (Freed up our hands to carry stuff, too!) PortaPockets are different sized pockets that attach with Velcro or belt loops to adjustable wrist, leg, or waist belts, and they hold just about anything you'd want to carry, from cash and credit cards to glasses to a digital camera! We've used our PortaPockets on either arm or waist straps doing everything from sailing to horseback riding to jet skiing to ATVing, and they have turned out to be THE BEST travel item we've Ever purchased!
 Elisse and her fabulous Portapocket!
 
After navigating the winding, 75-degree-incline streets of Valparaiso on our way up to The Yellow House (Dan was fine with it, but I had moments when not being able to see the street beneath our car freaked me out a bit!), we happily parked our rental car in front of the B-and-B and didn't go near it for 3 days! Valpo has cabs, busses, cabs, a metro, and the fab antique funiculars- it is truly a city you do not need or want a car in! Martin recommended several very good local restaurants that we could walk to from The Yellow House, including Casa Quatro Vientos, where we had our first dinner in Valparaiso: a delicious, romantic, and elegant dinner of Chilean dishes (I had truly yummy octopus ceviche and that classic Chilean baked crab casserole), excellent Chilean wine, and a breathtaking view of the port! The service was charming and gracious, and we loved the Chef's Tasting Desert of fruit flans and sorbet! The other cute place he recommended was Cafe Postal, and our last night in Valparaiso we enjoyed empanadas and a bottle of Chilean Chardonnay up on their rooftop with that "million dollar view" of the port, together with a lovely couyle from England, their son, and his Chilean wife!

 The Valpo lighthouse...

 
The Purple House, which we passed 6 times on our way our of Valparaiso. LOL

Another fab Valpo mural...

Martin also arranged a great day tour for us with Michael, the "German Pirate of Valparaiso", who took us for tastings at two fine Casablanca Valley wineries, the William Cole winery and Casa del Bosque, and for a delish seafood lunch at a picturesque fishing village, where I got to indulge myself again on razor clams baked in cream and cheese! This time they were done in a casserole, and they were even more rich and luscious than they were baked in their shells! The highlight of the day was meeting the German Pirate's delightful retired engineer friend at his beautiful home in Quintero overlooking the sea, and getting to visit his private museum- especially the incredible collection of working model trains and boats he built that physically illustrate Chilean history. This was a treat of the first order! 
 Tasting at the William Cole Winery...

 Dan and the German Pirate

 The fishing village...

 Totally luscious razor clams, baked in cheese and cream...

  



 
The delightful, extraordinary man who opened his home and private museum to us, thanks to The German Pirate of Valparaiso!



 Tasting!

 Buying!

 At Vina Casa del Bosque, apres wine tasting!
 
The final stop on our 13-night trip was 4 wonderful nights at Mapuyampay, a truly lovely "Gastronomic Resort" about 2.5 hours south of Santiago. We found it through one of my posts on the TripAdvisor Chile Forum, and we loved it so much that although we had only booked 3 nights, we wound up staying for 4! Created by international chef and wine expert Ruth Van Waerebeek and her husband Vicente Escobar, Mapuyampay is a beautiful, romantic oasis in the Chilean countryside at the foot of the Andes. The Chilean wine-pairing cooking class dinner that started our stay was a highlight, and the dishes were so delicious that Chef Dan has added several of them to the menu at our historic inn in West Virginia, the Elkhorn Inn and Theatre! We truly enjoyed our time there, our lovely, romantic guest room decorated with African art from their travels, their splendid puppies who won our hearts, and the truly delicious food: housemade gravlax and ice creams, grilled pork loin with a spicy quince-Merken glaze, tuna ceviche in paper-thin cucumber rolls (and yes, I just bought Chef Dan a Mandoline so he can make it at the Elkhorn Inn!), served with a spicy Asian dipping sauce, a delicious fresh pea puree with cream and nutmeg, a Passion Fruit Souffle... all accompanied by excellent Chilean wines- and the advice of an expert!


 
Chef Ruth and Chef Dan, creating a feast...

 Chef Dan at the stove...
 Chef Ruth, ading the cheese-butter to the seafood shells...
 Chef Dan and Sous-Chef Elisse!
Dan and Vicente, grilling pork tenderloin with Quince-Merken Glaze...

Dinner!

Chef Ruth, with her paper-thin slices of cucumber for the ceviche rolls...
THIS is why you need a mandoline!

 Ceviche rolls with a spicy asian dipping sauce..

Elisse with a glorious Mapuyampay desert of house-made ice cream and granite...

Pork Tenderloin with Quince-Merken Glaze, Jalepino-Cilantro Salsa, and nutmeg-cream Pea Puree... & a fine Chilean wine!


Playing with the puppies...

Mapuyampay...

Ruth feeding the goat!

Elisse, ready to ride in the Chilean rodeo!
 Tasting!
Mapuyampay...
 Dan, with our naughty Cuban rum!

 House-made gravlax at Mapuyampay...
 The road to Santa Cruz...
Santa Cruz Museum

Santa Cruz Museum

Mine Rescue Exhibit, Santa Cruz Museum

Tasting at the Montes Winery: Feng Shui & Angels!


 Mine Rescue Exhibit, Santa Cruz Museum

Dan with the "Back to the Future" DeLorean in Lolol, Chile!

 Lolol, Chile Auto Museum

 On the way to Lolol...

 
Dan, making a fire for us in our lovely guest rooom at Mapuyampay...

Ruth recommended places we should go, such as the fascinating and world-class Colchagua Museum in Santa Cruz (and gave us excellent directions!), and she arranged wine tastings for us at nearby Colchagua Valley wineries Montes (which was created with a fascinating mix of Feng Shui and angels!) and Miguel Torres, as well as a superb olive oil tasting at the boutique olive oil crafter Diaz Guerrero that was an incredible eye (and nose) opener that totally rocked Chef Dan's taste-buds! Diaz Guerrero makes small batches of medal-winning olive oil from three varieties of olives they grow there: Arbequina, Frantoio, and Picual. We not only got to learn what makes a great oil and distinguish between the good and the bad, (and be able to do our own taste-tests at the Inn and learn how the stuff we usually buy stacks up!), we brought back oils that are not yet available in the USA, and can now do olive oil tastings with our guests at the Inn!

At Ruth's sugggestion, we stopped at a Chilean supermarket to buy "foodie" things, including quince paste, canned local seafood, and palm honey (MUCH cheaper than at the airport!), and the nearby Vina San Pedro Winery, where Dan finally found his Riesling!
After our visit to the Museum in Santa Cruz we decided to go to Cardoen's brand new Automobile Museum in Lolol, which we Thought must be right nearby... Not! The museum had just opened and it's pretty amazing- the "Back to the Future" DeLorean is one of the exhibits, and the curator told us that Cardoen has 6 warehouses full of cars that have yet to be catalogued! An arms dealer who is evidently persona non grata in a number of countries, he's been using his billions to buy extraordinary collections connected to Chile's history, and created a world-class museum of Chilean history and culture in Santa Cruz that literally put his city on the map; the Santa Cruz museum, has, among other things, incredible collections of ancient Chilean archaeological artifacts and jewelry, carriages, the Chilean Mine Rescue exhibition, and a steam train by the restored train station! (It also has a lovely gift shop where I got beautiful Chilean leather/hide belts and a bottle of Boldo Leaf Liqueur, a Chilean speciality that I had to try!) Ruth also arranged for us to go horseback riding around the beautiful vineyards that surrpund Mapuyampay and through the nearby village, which was a fun adventure! We got to trot and we got to cater and we got to gallop... and let's just say that my experience on a prancing Chilean rodeo horse totally humbled me as a horsewoman! ;-)


Dan and Elisse, riding Chilean rodeo horses around the vineyards...



 
Elisse, having the time of her life, horseback riding in Chile...

We would love to return to Mapuyampay, and highly recommend this beautiful place and the lovely, talented people who created it!

Chile's very own Golden Gate Bridge!

Diaz Guerrero Olive Oil Emporium

 The kind of "found" art Elisse loves...

Olive Oil Tasting at Diaz Guesrrero

Elisse & Dan in the Diaz Guerrero olive groves!

 Chile...

One of Chile's thousands of roadside memorials...
 Buying strawberries...
 A trucker's ode to love...
 Dan HAD to try a Chilean hot dog- with The Works- including lots of guacamole!

The day of our flight back to the USA we left Mapuyampay and drove north to Santiago, at Ruth's suggestion stopping at Jumbo (Chile's answer to Wal-Mart, also filled with crap from China... LOL) to buy, yes, another suitcase- to hold all the wine and food we'd purchased! When we got to the airport we did an epic re-packing, artfully wrapping 39 glass bottles of wine and olive oil(!), plus all the foodie things we'd bought, including Merken, quince paste, and cans of palm honey and seafood, in plastic bags and our clothing, and then praying it would all arrive home intact! And it did- 3 days later! (Thanks to Beckley WV's airport lacking a reliable taxi service...) It's my belief that everyone has a talent... and mine is apparently wrapping glass bottles in clothing. ;-)

Our last stop in Chile was, of course, at The Last Pisco Sour, the bar in the airport: delightfully, we had time for 4 last Pisco Sours! :-)


And so we are now home again, and Chef Dan is making a Smoked Chilean Pork Tenderloin with a spicy Merken-Quince Glaze, herb-roasted poratoes, and nutmeg-cream Pea Puree, and a Chilean desert of Pears Poached in Red Wine for our Elkhorn Inn & Theatre guests! Happy New Year!
 Chilean Poached Pears in Red Wine


 
Dinner at the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre: Mapuyampay's Chilean Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Quince-Merken Glaze, Jalepino-Cilantro Salsa, and Pea Puree with nutmeg and cream!