Just got back from a 2 week "wine-foodie" trip with chef hubs and managed to bring back 39 bottles of wine, pisco, and olive oil in my suitcases- not to mention the spices, palm honey, seafood, and quince paste! (Everyone has a talent, and mine is apparently wrapping glass bottles in my chothing... LOL) If you are going to Chile I can make these recommendations:
The wine tours/tastings are expensive, but unless you speak Spanish and can make all your own arrangements, if you have limited time, they are the way to go. We took two private tours (we wanted to join other people, but that wasn't an option :-( ) with Uncorked Wine Tours Chille
(you can Google and TripAdvisor them) and they were great- especially the first one to the Aconcagua area with Patricia, where we actually got to blend and bottle our own wine at one of the vineyards! We learned SO much during that tasting/blending experience that I Highly recommend a tour like that at the beginning of a wine trip to Chile to "start you off on the right foot", as it were. The tours also included grand lunches at the wineries, which we loved. We also did an evening "wine bar-tapas tour" with Enotour Chile
, which was also a private tour and expensive, but great- and they were the only company offering such a tour. It would have taken us a week (and knowing hip Santiagans who could tell us which wine bars to go to and what to order...) to do it ourselves- and we only had 13 nights in Chile total! We drank wine up on the hill overlooking Santiago at sunset, and then went to 2 excellent wine bars for wine tastings and tapas- including great hams (llama ham among them), and THE best oysters I've ever had in my life. Seriously. We enjoyed staying in the Barrio Bellavista
neighborhood in Santiago- fun neighborhood with lots of music, clubs, art, cafes- it's the "hip" neighborhood and has great wall murals and the "Patio Bellavista" with outdoor cafes and boutique kiosks... We stayed at the Hotel Loreto
(got a great deal on Expedia...) and we recommend it. Not fancy, but perfect location, lovely room with a little balcony overlooking a courtyard garden, and VERY nice staff!
Merken is THE spice to bring back
- it's a spicy pepper blend made by the Mapuche people, and available all over Chile. We bought a large can of it at one of the wineries. Olive Oil
and Palm honey
are other special Chilean "foodie" thing to bring back... and there are specialty herb liquers, as well as Pisco, too... and wine, of course!
(2 1/2 hours south of Santiago) for a romantic, foodie/wine stay- you can Google and TripAdvisor it. We had an Excellent cooking/wine-pairing class and dinner with Chef Ruth, and loved our 3 days there so much that we stayed an extra night! The food is extraordinary (housemade gravlax, ice creams, etc.), great wines, beautiful, romantic room... and they arranged wine tours for us in the Curico region, horseback riding around the vineyards, and a fabulous olive oil tasting at a boutique olive oil grower that was an incredible learning experience! A Beautiful place created by beautiful people!
We also recommend, in Valparaiso, "Cooking Classes Chile"
and the Yellow House Bed-and-Breakfast
right across from it. (A sweet B&B owned by an Australian-Chilean couple, we had a Totally Amazing view of the port from the wall of windows in our guest room!) We had a great, fun day with our group of 8 shopping the fish/seafood and veggie markets in Valparaiso, taking the trams and metro and seeing different neighborhoods, a lunch with live Valpo music, and then learning to cook (and then eating) a yummy dinner of Chilean dishes, accomapnied by Chilean wine and learning to make Pisco Sours! We also did a great day tour with "The German Pirate of Valparaiso"
(found him thru the Yellow House B&B; you can Google him, too & he's on Facebook) to 2 wineries in the Casablanca area and lunch at a fishing village: totally amazing razor clams baked in cream and cheese!!!!
If you are any kind of a "foodie" interested in Chilean culture, you Have to eat at Borago
in Santiago- Google and Trip Advisor it. Their "discovery menu" (approx $100pp) is literally a trip through Chile food, culture, art, wine, and water thru 8 small plates with accompanying wines- everything is Chilean, from the ingredients to the wines to the serving plates; the water is bottled Patagonian rainwater! A truly fab foodie experience, each course has a "story" and they explained it all to us in English! :-) We actually learned a lot of things that we are thinking we may be able to adopt at our inn in WV! (Note: if you are looking for an all-you-can-eat bargain cafeteria, you will not be happy here!)
Best thing about Chilean cuisine: the amazing seafood
! Urchin! Razor Clams! Octopus! Abalone! Crab! THE best oysters I've ever had in my life! Ceviche! Fish you will not find elsewhere, too. The country is basically 1000s of miles of coast lilne, and seafood and fish is THE thing to order!!! I brought back cans of exotic seafood so I can periodically indulge myself... The best place to buy most of these "foodie" things (at prices WAY cheaper than at the airport...) is in a Chilean grocery store
- there are lots of "Walmart SuperCenter"-type malls with great supermarkets; Jumbo, Paris - there are many.
And you must go see the penguins at the Humbolt Penguin Reserve! The really nice fishermen at Punta de Choros take you out to the island, and it really is cool! We stayed at a lovely little cabin (Cabanas Amarilis) in Punta de Choros for 2 nights, and the lady who owns them was SO nice and helpful! Nice, simple fish/seafood restaurants there, too!
We rented a car at the Santiago airport- from the Chilean rental car firm Rosselot-
and they were GREAT! WAY better than Avis, Hertz, etc. Our small Kia manual cost us only $450 for 9 days! Note that it cost us $50 to fill the tank, and there are lots of tolls if you drive the main highways.
Believe it or not, I won this "dream trip" on Facebook in a Hilton Garden Inn contest- and it really was a dream trip! We feel incredibly lucky we got to do it, and HIGHLY recommed Chile to anyone into wine and food on any level! And the people are SOOOOOOOOOOO nice!!!!! Go! Enjoy!