Monthly Archives: March 2012

Candlelit Vigil for Daniel Zamudio

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UPDATE: Daniel Zamudio has died. President Piñera says that the anti-discrimination legislation long pending will now move forward. Whether or not this will promote real change remains to be seen. I can say that the public sentiment and outrage surrounding this case has been far-reaching and unanimous. The Chilean people may not be the most open nation when it comes to LGBT issues and rights, but they vehement do not accept these kinds of hateful attacks. Daniel will most definitely not be forgotten. Rest in peace.

One hundred people in near silence are milling about, not saying too much and generally just trying not to cry. Daniel Zamudio was beaten and tortured for six hours on March 3rd by a group of four drunk young males (ages 19-26) in downtown Santiago, Chile. They burned him with cigarettes, broke his leg and marked his body with carved swastikas on his belly and face. For this it has been deduced that they are possibly part of a sect of Neo-nazis whose mission is a message of violence against anyone different. Daniel’s error was having been born gay. Maybe these guys were pissed that he had the gall to exist with that gay face of his. They are now in jail. If Daniel dies, they will spend 40 years there before possible parole. I’m not sure what would happen if he lives. A number of years ago President Michelle Bachelet proposed an anti-discrimation bill. It hasn’t gone anywhere. That looks likely to change, as Matthew Shepard’s death spurred similar action.

The sidewalk in front of the Central Hospital is covered in candles, notes and posters. The candles are a sign of continued vigilance, waiting for the doctors’ to explain what comes next. What comes next is more waiting. They have detected that part of his brain is not responding, but aren’t fully sure if he has suffered total brain death. The dailies have been reporting today that they have to do further tests to know for certain. Regardless, it looks very grim.

There is an overwhelming feeling of sadness laced with profound respect here in the quiet darkness. The people here are very supportive. We all want Daniel to make it. We all want justice even though this world doesn’t always grant it. His family gets in their car and drives away at the end of another night. They call out the window, Gracias, thanks for coming everyone. I hope our humble act of simply standing there and showing our faces makes them feel a tiny bit better, or at least not quite so alone.

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Chilean Empanadas – Where to Find the Love

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Empanadas are food filled happiness pockets much like sealed sandwiches and known throughout the Americas. In Argentina, they’re cute and ball-like, in Venezuela always fried. Over yon they’re big, and hither they are tiny. I like all of them. What’s not so food festival are the factory made versions stocked inside a lot of mom n’ pop snack shops around these parts. They’re baked and boring. But not to fear, there are great ones to be had all around Santiago de Chile.

Newest favorite:

Los Almeyda: Although the name is barely visible, you’ll see the giant EMPANADA sign out front. Run by very friendly ladies, they make everything in house, and they are fried just right. Cheese, mushroom, chicken and pino. They got ’em all. But the best are the seafood options: cheese mixed with camarón (shrimp), jaiva (fresh crab) or ostiones (scallops) all caught off the coast very nearby. The pino type is beef with hard-boiled egg, onion and raisins and are pretty standard for independence day parties. Although these aren’t my favorite, if done right they can be quite good. They offer a typical pebre topping, but without the tomato, meaning it’s mostly onion, hot pepper, vinegar, cilantro and salt. It’s the perfect piquant accompaniment, ladled inside the recesses of your favorite fried pocket with a simple popsicle stick. They offer ice cream and fresh juice, too.

Address: In Providencia on the north side of Avenida Alferez Real 1232 (called Rancagua as you head west) half a block west of Manuel Montt and one block north of Bilbao. The two other locations are Dublé Almeyda 1746 in Ñuñoa and Vergara 39 downtown.

Hours: Noon – ten M-F and S/S Noon – four

Where to Find Decent Coffee in Santiago and Avoid No es Café

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You may think South America and assume good coffee, but sadly this ain´t Colombia. The order of the day is Nescafé, or what some of us like to call it, No es café (It´s not coffee). In Venezuela you can sidle up to nearly any ramshackle hut along the highway and they will have an espresso machine and a never ending supply of sugar on hand. Most places in the far south stock a tea kettle and little packets of instant if you´re looking for a jolt. But if you want real coffee in Chile and Argentina, ask for Café del Grano (bean sourced coffee). That said, it´s still hit or miss so I´m going to keep track of the crap beans and the good stuff so you don´t have to waste your pesos. If you have suggestions or warnings, please let me know.

THE GOOD STUFF:

1. New spot! The Original Green Roasters café roasts beans brought in from Guatemala right in the store, and it’s centrally located by the Parque Bustamante green line stop (one stop away from Plaza Italia).  As I’ve been waiting three years for a coffee shop to sprout up near home, I almost had an – ahem – emotional moment before entering the first time. The coffee is extremely fresh and everything is made in house (lunch special Monday-Friday, homemade gnocchi and more). They have three types of bean, from mountain to rainforest grown with different roasting styles. The three owners/friends speak excellent English and will be more than happy to explain everything from where they source the raw goods to how a coffee roaster works. Really, more than happy. They talk a lot. Pick a spacious, inviting wooden table if you’re with friends, or snag a bar stool along the window looking out to the park. Table service. You can also get whole beans to go. I don’t have any dates yet, but they do have occasional coffee tastings.

Address: Ramón Carnicer 77 (corner of Rancagua and Bustamante Park, half a block north of the train exit and one block east of Vicuña MacKenna)

Phone: +56 2 635 1626        Hours: Mon-Fri 8 AM – 7 PM (they mentioned if you get there early, they’ll likely let ya in) & Weekends 8 AM – 4 PM

For some lovely pics check out this blog.

2. Café Pedregal is only a few months old, but it´s gonna be a hit. It´s small but comfy, and it´s hopping during the lunch hour. The walls are covered in old, lacquered newspapers with clocks lining the top of the wall showing the hour in various countries. Great espresso. A doppio costs 3 USD or 1,500 CLP (Chilean pesos). They offer a few desserts, pie de limón and kuchen con nueces (walnut cake). I´ve only tried the set lunch once, average price ($3,500 CLP), but a very above average taste. Today´s menu was panqueques (similar to French crépes – awesome-tastical) stuffed with mushrooms and topped with spinach sauce served with a mixed green salad and house-made vinaigrette.  It´s rare to find a vegetarian lunch that´s not simply a plate of iceberg topped with tuna. It´s served with pebre (typical salsa) and wheat rolls. They offer five different salads (caesar, Greek, tuna, etc.) which can also be hard to come by in other locales. The service here is EXCELLENT; quick and friendly. The address is Portugal 48, Local 4 Torre 6. Here´s a little map. It is just off of Av. Marcoleta between the Universidad de Chile School of Architecture and the Unimarc on Portugal near Alameda. They are open Monday through Friday at 8:30 in the morning. In the slower summer months when the city is empty they close at 6:30 but come March closing time extends to 8:00.

3. Went to Divan on José Victorino Lastarria 202 (tourist district just off Alameda behind the GAM) the other day and had a lovely Italian espresso. The coffee list is extensive. The tourist nature of this strip jacks the prices up a bit, but their back patio is worth it – Spacious, cool and minimalist with very quick service. Click here for a photo.  Haven´t had their lunch yet, but the sandwich I ordered for 2,400 pesos (five USD) was a waste. May not sound like a lot of money, but as you can get an entire several course lunch for that price at other places so I was expecting a little more. Day old bread from Líder (the Wal-Mart owned grocery store) and scant toppings left me hungry, and that was second lunch! Sit out front if you want to listen to the accordian players and watch the wildlife.

Open weekday noon ´til ten and weekends from four in the afternoon until 10:30.

ROT GUT:

1. Although the Café Literario at Parque Bustamante (one block south of Plaza Italia metro stop) is a great place to chill with a book (or laptop: there´s free Wi-fi but tables and outlets fill up quickly) the espresso tastes like roasted, pulverized dirt. Don´t let the literary lounge-ness of the place trick you. Order tea.

I haven´t tried to jive juice at the two other Cafés Literario, but I´m gonna guess it´s the same business. All three have indoor and outdoor seating and are open Monday through Friday 9:00 – 7:45, weekends/holidays 10:00 – 7:45. While you can read their stuff without a library card, if you want to check things out they require a lot of personal information. Ask for the checklist.

How to Make Humitas, or Corn Pastry Goodness

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Mashed up jumbo-sized corn kernels form the basis for humitas, a simple but versatile dish that was in use before the Spaniards arrived. The summer choclo (corn) grown here is not the same as the sweet stuff found in the north. This type has a lower water content perfect for transforming into a dough-like raw material. In Chile humitas are fairly large and typically served with an ensalada chilena – tomato wedges, finely sliced white onion and fresh cilantro or basil with a touch of olive oil. If you live anywhere near a Mexican or Central American restaurant or in one of those countries you’ve probably had tamales, which are similar but smaller, and frequently filled with meat. In Venezuela they are called hallacas and also have a meat filling with black olives and spices and are often served as a Christmas dish.

I recently asked Marcela’s mom Blanca to show me how to make these inexpensive, comforting taste-tastic treats. After giving away half of them I still had so many left I ate them every day for a week with a different type of salad, spicy tomato sauce or balsamic and arugula and never got bored.

It may not be easy to find the right type of corn in every country, but in summertime around these parts this is how it’s done:

INGREDIENTS:

  • Chopped fresh basil. A good handful per dozen corn ears depending on how much you like it. I think it’s hard to add too much basil. These giant bunches at La Vega came to 60 cents! Un-be-fucking-lievable.
  • Chilean style uncooked corn ears. I’d say get at least two dozen to make it worth your time (The humitas can be frozen). Slice the thick ends off and save the husks. Scrape the kernels from the husk.
  • White onion: one small one per dozen ears. Chop and rinse so they keep the flavor without being overpowering.

 

 

 

 

METHOD:

  • Sauté the onion until brown in vegetable oil. If you want them to caramelize a bit more, toss in a teaspoon of white sugar.
  • Add the basil, but don’t cook the hell out of it.
  • Separately, chop the corn in a hand blender or shake maker until smooth. Don’t add milk or water or any liquid, or the dough won’t stay together.
  • Pour the onion/basil mixture into the corn and add a bit of salt. The mixture will have an almost spongy, light feel to it that may make you want to dive into a vat of it.
  • Select two pieces of clean cornhusks that are equivalent in size and on the larger side. Lay one wide end over the other pieces wide end with their respective tips pointing away from each other.
  • Ladle in the corn mixture. Fold the horizontal sides in, followed by the points.
  • Tie both lateral directions with twine and drop into a vat of boiling water.
  • Cook for about half an hour.

 

 

 

 

 

Serve with Chilean salad or really any salad or sauce you can come up with. I think of these almost like rice, potatoes or pasta – a great staple food that really are excellent and good on the nutrition front. There are many variations by cook and country, such as adding a touch of condensed milk or cinnamon, or other vegetables. Experiment! If you don’t want to make up a whole batch and you’re in Santiago in the summertime, find nearly any supermarket downtown and you’ll also find a street vendor with homemade humitas standing outside. I recommend them most definitely.