Friday, April 20, 2012

Good Bye to Chile: Fooding it Up

Had a good-bye dinner with Eugenio and several faculty last night. Eugenio put his seven children to work on a production line making a kind of salsa with tomatoes, aji, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and cilantro. Everything chopped very fine. Wonderful on bread. Helped Eugenio make paella, which turned out well. Chicken, sausage, mussels, beef, bacon. Cooked it on the stove and then baked it. Rice was nice and light, all the meats were good. Had a lot of different kinds of red wine, and the saintly Asuncion made a marvelous blueberry dessert. More red wine, coffee, more red wine, cigars. My head felt rather large this morning.

Today the official goodbye luncheon with the distinguished Couyoumdjian Netle family. Went to Le Bistrot, a generically-named but anything but generic restaurant in La Providencia. To start, we had wine and "Queso de cabeza casero con su salsa ravigote." The "head cheese" is a boiled pig's head that cooks down to an aspic or terrine, with meat pieces, and covered (in this case) with a "sauce ravigote," which is a vinaigrette with sliced eggs, pickles, and spices. An odd dish, but delicious. A bunch of flavors and textures.

We also had a nice snails dish for our other appetizer: Caracoles en salsa de roquefort, champiñones y tocino. The snails were small and quite tender, and of course if you have a sauce of white wine, blue cheese, mushrooms and bacon it's hard to go wrong. Came with hot toast points, and I was sopping up the remants.

For our main dish, Don Ricardo and I had the rabbit, while JP had steak tartare, and his mother had mussels. Rabbit was really, really great, and the side dish I ordered, zanahorias Vichy, was great, too. The zanahorias are carrots, with butter (and Vichy water, of course), and were sweet and cooked just past crisp but still firm.

The rabbit (Conejo con salsa de mostaza) had a rich mustard sauce, and again I was reaching for the bread to sop it up. It took a bit of work to separate the meat from the bones, but the meat was light, tender, and very flavorful.

The tartare JP had was mixed with blue cheese, egg, spices, apples, and walnuts. The raw steak was not ground, but rather finely chopped. It was amazingly rich, and the apples and walnuts added a texture that was very unusual. The mussels for madame were good also. (She made me have some, she MADE me.)

Dessert: Gigantic. JP was full from the very rich tartare, but he rallied and managed to down an entire tarte tatin, a slice of upside down cake with apples cooked in butter and sugar. Even I was disgusted by this display of gluttony. (No dessert for me, but then I had had most of the appetizers, and parts of everyone's entrees. So this was cowardice, not virtue). Madame had an ice cream sundae that she clearly ordered because she knew the wily Don Ricardo was fibbing when he said he didn't want any. The sundae was enormous, and Don Ricardo in fact had a lot. (Who would have thought?)

Prices were lower than average for a meal of that quality, and service was better than average. If you are looking for a traditional French base with a Chilean accent in La Providencia, hard to imagine a better place than Le Bistrot.

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