Since returning to the United States the Baker has been busy not baking. (Side note: the nonbaker has been busy with a variety of other non-baking related projects and has been enjoyed the free cocktail snacks that she’s being offered on a regular basis.) There was one week during which I, the Baker, had a few opportunities and took them, creating some ginger chocolate bran muffins and some chocolate chocolate chip cookies, but I never got around to posting them.
However, now back in the great Midwest near Chicago there is some commentary to catch up on. Because Chile has a unique food culture worth returning to I went to a Chilean meal in Chicago. This restaurant took me from the red line to the brown line to the 90 bus and after some adventurous walking through the snow and ice, during which froze, I arrived.
It was a cozy restaurant that only contained two other diners. However, that did not deter my dining companion or me. The waitress spoke to us in Spanish, possibly because of my successfully bronzed skin.
The fried cheese empanadas we began with were delicious. The white cheese melted into the light and delicious dough. This cheese empanada was a little doughier than those I had eaten in Chile, however, they were extremely tasty and had that crispy oily outside that crunches in your mouth.
Next my friend ordered an Inka Cola. Although this delicacy may actually be more Peruvian, it was worth the experience because of that unique bubble-gummy smell that caresses the air when you open the can. The bright yellow bubbly liquid was notably served in a can, as opposed to a bottle (as I had seen in Chile and Peru).
For our main dishes we shared a seafood salad and pastel de choclo. I chose the seafood salad because Chile obviously has an extremely long coast off of which fish, shellfish, and other ocean delicacies are retrieved. The dressing, per Chilean norm, was olive oil, white vinegar and lime.
To introduce you to pastel de choclo it is necessary to explain a little about choclo. Choclo is a variety of corn. The kernels are sweet and humungous and the ones I was often served were generally from the Valle de Azapa outside of Arica, Chile. The corn is prepared with flour, sugar, butter or cream and maybe an egg and then baked in a clay dish. The result is a cornbread like dish (though less bready and more like a baked-pudding). It is sweet and thick. This one was no exception. In fact it was the sweetest I had tasted, but so yummy.
Finally we finished off the meal with mille hojas, a name that, in Spanish, means ‘a thousand pages.’ The dessert has this name because it contains layers and layers of phyllo dough interspersed with layers of manjar. But ‘what is manjar’ you may ask. Manjar is the most intense and delicious sweet that Chieleans eat whenever they have an apropos excuse. It is dulce de leche, made by stewing sweetened condensed milk over a cooktop for an hour or so until it turns thick, sticky and brown. It is easily spread on cakes, cookies, bread or even fingers. The mille hojas at the restaurant was shorter and less exciting than those I found in Chile, however the idea behind it was wonderful and brought with it a wave of nostalgia.
The restaurant was highly enjoyable, though I must confess that I was certainly not the most unbiased audience as part of my desire to visit this restaurant was due to my missing Chilean food. However, I would visit it again- if only to try the rest of the Chilean specialties that I miss.