Good eating in the south of Chile (1): Puerto Varas
Puerto Varas is always charming, whether it is cold, rainy or hot. It’s a recurring destination when choosing a place for vacations because of what it offers: Lake Llanquihue, visits to volcanoes, nature everywhere and a variety of excursions and activities. If we add to all this good places to eat, of course with Concha y Toro wines, the stay in this southern town will be unforgettable.
Today new gastronomic alternatives are added to the already traditional German cuisine of Puerto Varas. Such is the case of the Catalan boutique restaurant ‘Xic-Dalí’ which is now into its second year. It’s a family business of the Chilean-Catalan sisters Mercedes, Francisca and Mariona Xicota.
Although easily missed as it is a simple house outside the town’s tourist zone, entering it is to enjoy the good cooking, aromas and preparations similar to Catalan cuisine. “The decoration has a Provencal style and everything has been brought from abroad,” explains Mercedes.
Restaurant’s name is a play on the words ‘Xic’, meaning small in Catalan and which refers to the fact that it’s a place with limited capacity (approx. 22 people) in order to provide quality attention. At the same time, ‘Xic’ are the first 3 letters of the surname of these sisters (Xicota), and “Dalí” is in honor of one of the great Catalan artists, Salvador Dalí.
Mercedes came to Puerto Varas eight years ago and opened the restaurant two years ago: “The idea is to take advantage of a zone with very good raw materials. Our merit is that we dedicate ourselves fully to each dish and do not employ pre-cooked food; everything is prepared to the minute and is very fresh. We offer a traditional menu but we are always innovating”. The menu therefore varies from month to month.
The art of cooking
Francisca Xicota is the chef or, better said, the artist, because she is dedicated to preparing each dish delicately and in detail.
Mariona, the eldest sister, arrived in Chile from Barcelona just four months ago, and apart from attending and preparing the tables for the guests, is responsible for looking after the vegetable garden in order to have the ingredients we need more at hand.
Mercedes is concerned with the minutest details and the whole administration. During the day, the three look for the freshest and most natural products in order to provide “the best of the best” at meal times.
Merecedes says that their most characteristic dishes are:
- “In Winter, onion soup, southern hake with Spanish export goulash ‘al pil-pil’ as the main dish and ‘crema catalana’ for desert.
- In Spring, scallops au gratin attract a lot of attention and the salads which are a combination of organic vegetables with citrus and dried fruit and cheeses, plus different balsamic vinegars.
- As the main dish in Summer, we offer kingfish with water melon, which we have not seen anywhere else, and a cream of white chocolate for desert.” People also often ask for paella and ‘fideuá’.
Xic-Dalí also has a room for selling and tasting wines, so this is a very good place for wine-lovers. Naturally, some of the Concha y Toro wines are available and a menu was presented to us with them.
“With the menu we have this month, we might suggest as a starter a salad of spinach and orange with braised scallops, accompanied by a Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc wine.
As the main course, pork fillet in Malbec wine with cherries, and a good pairing for this is Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Malbec.
For desert, a mango cream, which is a white chocolate cream with natural yoghurt and small cubes of fresh mango. This goes very well with a Chardonnay,” says Mercedes.
- Address: Purísima 690, Puerto Varas.
- Booking: telephone (65) 234424, mobile 8-5009734.
- Hours: open Monday to Saturday, from 8.30 p.m. to midnight.
- Average cost per person: between CLP$15.000 and CLP$20.000, depending on the wine chosen (considering starter, main dish and desert). Groups and companies are attended.
For those seeking exclusivity
This can be found at Quincho Country Home, a Chilean-German hotel on the road to Ensenada, at Km 7.5. Without any publicity, this mansion is in a privileged location, surrounded by green areas and with spectacular views of Lake Llanquihue.
It has to be said that the prices are higher than the average for hotels in the zone because it is a different concept. This country house has only four exclusive rooms. A night in a suite for two people, with breakfast included, costs US$ 790. And if you want to include meals, these would cost around US$ 60 per person.
But if the stay is longer, it is worth taking all-inclusive terms; these include full board, transportation and activities like excursions to Chiloé, visits to the penguin colonies of Ancud, beaches and fishing villages (Calbuco, Maullín), Lake Todos los Santos, etc., always accompanied by a guide from the hotel.
Activities like horse-riding, trekking, rafting and kayak can also be arranged with Quincho’s tourist guides. While there is no access to the beach, the Niklitschek beach is just a few meters from the hotel.
At Quincho Country Home, it is the guests themselves who decide what to do and everything is adapted to their times and needs. The same happens with meals; if there are foods that cannot be eaten or if an early breakfast is required, all this is catered for.
Silja Torborg, the manager of Quincho Country Home, says we want guests to feel at home, so the hotel functions as such. “When they arrive they sense the aromas of cooking and can freely walk about the kitchen and see how everything is prepared. In the morning when they wake up, they are aware of the smell of bread and coffee.”
The good touch of the chef
The meals of this country house are the responsibility of its executive chef, Jordán Barrera, who prepares gourmet meals with fresh foods from the area: fish, shellfish, meats and vegetables from the hotel’s own garden.
New menus are prepared every day with the freshest local market produce and there are always two alternatives for the guests. “Chilean cooking is offered, but at the same time trying to preserve German dishes: pork, orange sauces, chucrut, apples, etc.,” says Mr. Jordán.
Regarding wines, only Chilean wines are offeredand the all-inclusive terms offer the Viña Concha y Toro TRIO line. There is also the opportunity to try high-quality wines like Marques de Casa Concha and Don Melchor.
Jordan Barrera proposes the following menu for the summer:
- Starter: Pot of razor clams in olive oil with stew of “reineta” with smoked cheese, accompanied by Amelia Chardonnay.
- Main course: Roast beef strips cooked in vanilla sauce served on mashed potatoes and black pudding with caramelized onion in Cabernet Sauvignon and pistachio, with pork in orange sauce on chucrut with apples and caramelized nuts. All this accompanied by a TRIO Cabernet Sauvignon or Don Melchor.
- Finish: a desert of raspberry fantasy, which is jelly with fresh raspberries, vodka, home-made peach jam and dry banana. “For this we suggest the Late Harvest of Concha y Toro or a TRIO Carmenere,” advises Mr Jordán.
For this chef, “food doesn’t have to be the same, for example if I prepare mashed potato it shouldn’t have just the flavor of potato. There should be more than that flavor and that of a mixture of different spices, so that pairing it with wine is a real explosion of flavors in the mouth.”
Another activity offered by Quincho Country Home, depending on availability, for not only its guests but for tourists who wish learn new dishes, are the cooking classes together with Jordan Barrera, which should be arranged beforehand. “Curantos” are also offered for groups of people who want to know and taste this dish from Chiloé in the open air.
Quincho Conutry Home coordinates
- Address: Route 225 (road to Ensenada), Km 7,5 Puerto Varas.
- Booking: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (65) 330737.
- Prices: they can be requested directly by these means of contact.
- Website: www.quinchocountryhome.cl
Other places worth visiting
1. Organic garden of Juanita Münzenmeyer de Minte: she has fresh vegetables like lettuces, spinach, beetroot, coriander, parsley and watercress.
She also sells farm eggs at CLP$1,800 a dozen and a kilo of fresh raspberries at CLP$1,500.
- Address: FundoLa Laja, road to Alerce km 5, Puerto Varas.
- Telephone: (65) 330483.
2. La Gringa: the owner, Naomí Allan, offers American pastries inspired by Patagonian flavors.
It’s a café-pastries shop, or “Bakery Café”, where all the products may be served there or taken away. One of the coffees most asked for is the Musetti, but there also teas, juices, and gourmet and organic products and gifts.
It offers an executive menu from Monday to Friday. Cakes can be ordered for 15 people at a cost of $13,000. They also sell muffins, cupcakes, cheesecake, large biscuits and grain bread. A gourmet shop with wines is planned to open in late January.
- Address: Imperial 605, Puerto Varas.
- Telephone: mobile 78010314.
- Website: www.lagringapostres.wordpress.com
3. La Picá de la Abeja: this establishment sells native “ulmo” honey in 600 gram pots costing $ 3,000.
It also offers a complete range of honey bio-cosmetics and products for improving and protecting the skin.
This store promotes apitherapy as an alternative treatment for improving body affections through consuming products that restore the balance.
One of the star products is Apitop, which contains real jelly, pollen, propolis and honey; it costs $ 9,000.
- Address: there are 2 stores, in the center, San Pedro 521, and on the road to Ensenada Km 28.
- Telephone: (65) 330137.
- Web page: www.lapicadelaabeja.cl