By Colin Bennett
It just wouldn’t be right. Imagine if I was offering food tours in Santiago’s foodtastic spots and didn’t get out here and there to travel and eat abroad. With that in mind we made sure to book a couple days of stop over time between the Midwest United States and Santiago. Isn’t it great that means a few days in Miami Beach?
I’ll admit it, the ultra-tourist side of the destination, endless hotels, resorts, shopping malls and much of the glitz of the place, isn’t my favorite. But the great beaches (warm Atlantic water and white sand, not like the fridgid currents of the Pacific we have down here), compensate well. But what makes the place special is that vibrant mix of people from all over the Americas and Caribbean.
Walking around in a bilingual haze, mixing up certifiable Spanglish is the norm. Is it really even the US or a Latin American colony on the tip of Florida? In any case, after living in Chile long enough to not feel 100% gringo, but definitely not being Chilean, it’s a blend that feels sort of familiar and comforting.
The real beneficiary of this cultural mix,(besides the chiseled and curvy bodies of the beach) is by far the food. Cuba is king, with its pulled pork and powerfully charged café, but by no means is it the rule. The real dilemma is where to start.
Hence the need to find someone who can walk you around the place and share their spots and share the story behind it. So we snagged a couple spots on the Miami Culinary Tour, choosing their South Beach Lunch tour.
It was a tasting tour, so we visited about six places all with their own concept, cuisine and story. Argentinian empanadas (though the place did have some big Chilean Pino empanadas for sale), Ceviche (let’s say we are spoiled here in Santiago with all the Peruvian restaurants and excellent ceviche) and more.
All the places were good, two were great: Bolivar, a fusion Colombian restobar where we had a patacone, made with fried plantain topped with beef and a fried empanada on the side with some crisp and spicy sauce on the side. This place had great atmosphere with tall ceilings and a colorful décor, and had all the markings of a great place to go for drinks.
Another favorite was a tightly wrapped version of a Cuban sandwich with pork, pickles, ham, swiss cheese with a small pile of homemade potato chips next to it. Followed by a delectable bite (literally a bite, unfortunately) of something like peach cobbler in a little cute jar, the food left me want to come back to the Tudor House on the next trip through.
The tour wasn’t all food though, after all being in SoBe’s Art Deco district you’ve got to talk about the architecture. With its asymmetrical, curvy style from the 20s and 30’s, this area also has some lessons for Santiago. Despite its development and popularity in its birth and today, the area went through a sharp decline and in the 1970’s it was not a recommendable or safe place to visit, thus setting the stage and offering plenty of material for Miami Vice.
Around that time it was nearly demolished to make way for real estate developers to install buildings and hotels that look like buildings and hotels everywhere. (Something that is happening as we speak to some of Santiago’s unique historical neighborhoods).
But luckily for the area and the neighborhoods there were those, specifically Barbara Capitman that weren’t going to have it. She is credited as single handedly getting the area classified in the US’s Historical Registry, thus protecting it for the future, which one must say, looks much better, and original than whatever those developers had up their sleeves. Our guide, Natalia, brought together the food and the sites, making us wish we had another few days to explore.
The trip wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to one of the area’s fine sit down restaurants. So we visited OLA, at the Sanctuary Hotel for a nice meal. The place focuses on Latin Fusion, in a tight and rather simple setting. There was a strong Peruvian and Mexican theme running through the dishes, with a touch of Cuba, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina as well. Pricey, yes, worth it, yes. The work of Douglas Rodriguez, it is a critically acclaimed spot that lived up to the hype. We opened with the star of the night, Oysters Rodriguez, which is a fried oyster over a mass of creamed spinach with a touch of horseradish in an open shell, all sitting on top of something called fufu, which was basically mashed sweet potato.
The oysters were the best, but the Raspado de Pato, a rich duck breast served over a very taste rice mix served in a hot bowl, so it gets crispy as time passes, was definitely recommendable, as was the Lamb Loin.
Leaving the hot and humid beach for Santiago’s gray winter was a bit painful, as was leaving behind the long list of places that we didn’t get to see or taste. I see a repeat down the line.
Follow our updates comments on Facebook and Twitter!
© Copyright 2011 Pebemol S.A. All rights reserved.
Design & develop to BuenaBuena.cl
Contact: email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org