“You are what you eat,” read a big welcoming sign at the entrance of Haven Lounge, Miami, the day of the Chilean dinner event on November 15.
The special dinner event was part of a campaign that Foods From Chile, part of ProChile (ProChile is the Trade Commission of Chile, part of the General Directorate of International Economic Affairs of Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and is responsible for implementing and enhancing Chile’s trade policy) that represents 22 food sectors grown and produced in Chile, launched in New York City, D.C., Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago to promote Chile’s fresh produce, and showcase Chilean cuisine.
Foods From Chile by Chilean chef Matias Palomo
The hand-crafted dinner, highlighting fresh Chilean foods, was prepared by Chilean chef Matias Palomo who flew in from Chile especially for the event, in collaboration with chef Todd Erickson of Haven. Both have worked long hours for the past few months to create what it was called “a multi-sensory dinning event unlike any you have ever tasted.”
And it was indeed a multi-sensory experience. The idea applied behind the event was to virtually “transport” diners to Chile, make them feel they were there, experiencing Chile with all their senses.
Walking through the main door felt as if you traveled in a matter of seconds to a foreign country. The main room was filled with warm-dimmed blue lights, and the soft glow of candlelights illuminated the dining room; the walls of the main wing were covered with slideshows of Chile’s geography and foods; the air was amused with gentle live music, and the tables were beautifully arranged with fresh fruit baskets from Chile, delicate tablecloths and a simple clean line of dining-ware.
The menu delivered its message, displaying a very creative culinary effort using fresh foods from Chile and displaying a new and modern innovative Chilean Cuisine.
“We are trying to develop a new concept of Chilean Cuisine with all the other Chilean regions,” said Chilean chef Matias Palomo on a recent phone interview with VOXXI.
Back at Sukalde, his restaurant in Chile, Palomo brings produce from all regions; uses the power of social media to teach and educate people about food, and goes to different schools including cooking schools, to teach for free how to cook with ingredients that almost nobody knows.
Another angle of the campaign was to show that Chile goes beyond their vineyards and wine production. The event aimed to open people’s eyes and show that indeed Chile has much more to offer to the world.
“There isn’t much information out there,” said Palomo. “To give you an idea we have 50 different types of fish and only eight are being used, only because people don’t know we are such a rich, abundant country.”
Yet, it is not only about showing or telling the world what Chile has. It is about teaching and educating people how to cook and use such simple, fresh, rich ingredients.
“We want to show people that Chile has good produce, and that our produce comes from a very clean environment. We offer great quality but much cleaner than Europe’s produce,” added Palomo. “We are going out there to inspire, support, teach consumers, and young chefs how to use our produce and eat healthier.”
Back at his restaurant Sukalde in Chile, Palomo spends his time in the kitchen immersed in molecular cuisine.
“For a Chilean chef to be given the opportunity to do a dinner like this is a culinary recognition,” explained Gustavo Rodriguez, Trade Commissioner for ProChile.
Though, Palomo has done 15 of these events in the last three years, Rodriguez said that “we took him out of his comfort zone which is molecular gastronomy.” Adding that, “he had to face the challenge to create a simple tasting menu using only the list of ingredients we gave him.”
From there, it all sounded like the mystery basket the contestants have to face in any given episode on Chopped.
“Matias was given a list of Chilean ingredients and from there they (Chef Erickson and Chef Palomo) had to create tonight’s menu,” Rodriguez said, “it was sort of like bringing him back to the basics, to highlight the simplicity, quality and freshness of what Chile has to offer to the world.”
But there is more than what meets the eye, and Chile is just warming up.
“See, South America is the supermarket of the world,” said Palomo, “and not only that, but we think green, we care about how we grow our food and the environment.” Adding that, “Chile has started blending cuisines with Peru and Chile, and sharing techniques with Argentina and Peru.”
Palomo also has a secret, a secret gathering. “For a few years, a group of chefs from South America and I have been gathering to brainstorm recipes, techniques and bring new food concepts to the table and to the world…I can’t say anything else, but you will hear from us soon, very soon.”
I couldn’t help but ask about the three ingredients Palomo couldn’t cook without. Without hesitation he said: “Merken (a traditional Mapuche spice, sweeter and more refined than traditional red pepper), olive oil, and garlic.”
The menu, signature dishes and ingredients
The menu was fresh, light and seasonal. Even the bouillabaisse felt like a light summer breeze, delightfully garnished with Merken rouille.
The highlights of the meal were the berries, the Chilean farm raised salmon, the Merken and the sophisticated and clean Chilean extra virgin olive oil. The wine pairing was outstanding, elevating the notes of each dish, yet the event was about the fresh foods from Chile. The wine was just a great supportive element.
After a full hour of amuse bouches and pisco, Rodriguez opened the event with a clear introduction. “You are what you eat. We are here to raise food awareness and to show people that Chile has great, fresh produce.”
Highlights of the menu
The salmon was delicately treated; the fresh berries added freshness and a delicate acidic balance to all courses and beverages; while the chicken was seasonally festive, tender and creatively filled with fresh (and surprisingly sweet) cranberries. The Chilean olive oil and the farm raised salmon were the surprises of the night, but the star of it was the dessert menu.
It all started with the olive oil mousse and the berries with Borgoña to prepare your palate for what was coming after: the richest, creamiest helado de manjar garnished with crunchy meringue. It was the perfect recreation of South American sweet flavors.
Not to be missed
I was surprised with the flavor and texture of the Chilean farm raised salmon. Farm raised fish can be very polluted and high in mercury.
However, the Chilean salmon, is raised in clean, fresh water; it’s a fatty salmon, rich in Omega 3s, and it has a buttery texture, smooth flavor and smell. “It is so fresh and so good for your health … even for pregnant women,” said Richard Grunwald.
This responsibly farmed salmon is available at Costco and Sam’s Club.
Their extra virgin olive oil is light, clean and sophisticated without leaving a heavy, acidic, greasy aftertaste. And according to Rodriguez, Chile keeps producing award-winning extra virgin olive oils. To try it, find Olave at your nearest Whole Foods.
Chef Matias Palomo studied culinary arts at INACP, the Cordon Bleu of Santiago. He has since worked in prestigious culinary establishments in Spain, New York, France, Italy and South America. Palomo trained at the Costa Vasca, one of the most renowned restaurants in Mexico, under Chef Iñaki Aguirre. In 2000 he joined the opening team of Santiago’s Marriott Hotel. In 2007, Food Writers Circle of Chile named Palomo Chef of the Year and Wiken Magazine named him Best New Chef. Food & Wine Magazine included Sukalde, Palomo’s restaurant, in its Go to List in 2008.
Bring Chile to your kitchen
Deep dish fresh Chilean blueberry pie recipe
1 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca
8 cups fresh Chilean blueberries
juice of 1 orange
pastry dough for a large double crust pie
1 egg mixed w/1 Tbsp. milk
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a large mixing bowl combine sugar, tapioca, blueberries and juice to make the filling. Roll out pastry bottom on a well-floured surface to fit in pie dish. Place in the bottom of a 9-½ inch deep dish pie plate. Spoon filling into pie dish. Chill while rolling out top layer of pastry. Cut out five or six small holes in pastry top using a decorative cookie cutter. Gently roll dough onto top of pie. Crimp edges of pastry to form a tight seal and decorative trim. Brush pie with egg and milk wash.
Bake pie on a tray for 45 to 50 minutes. The blueberry filling should be bubbly and the crust golden brown. Cool before serving.
Recipe courtesy of Chilean Fresh Fruit Association
For more recipes, to learn what’s in season, find a store near you that carries Chilean foods, or learn more about foods from Chile, go to foodsfromchile.org.