Last night, I happily traveled way uptown for a Foods from Chile Underground Dinner Party at Alejandra Ramos‘ apartment. The dinner featured a selection of foods and recipes from Chile. I loved the concept – a series of dinners were happening across the US in LA, Chicago, Miami and Washington DC. Throughout the day yesterday, I was already starting to have bloggers from other locations connect with me on Twitter – quite a fun, unifying event before I ever stepped foot in her apartment!
I’ll admit, I don’t know a ton about Chilean food, so I was not sure what to expect. When I think of Chile, I mostly think of wine and remember an ex-boyfriend mentioning he loved snowboarding there. That’s about it. I did not realize the crazy high percentage of fruit and fruit juices, for example, that we use regularly that actually come in from Chile. Something like 80% of cherries! We had three different wines throughout the course of the evening – two whites (a MontGras Reserve Savignon Blanc 2011 and a Ventisquero Quelat Sauvignon Blanc 2011) and a red (Toblano Pinot Noir 2009). I was particularly a fan of the MontGras – very flavorful for a white. I’ll be looking for this one in the future in my local store.
When we arrived, we were greeted by an assortment of tasty things. This Chilean goat cheese and blueberry spread pictured above was a perfect balance of lighty salty and sweet. I was just sad that this magic spread was absent from my goody bag (though I’m looking forward to testing out the onion jam I received instead)! There was also a platter with more cheese, crackers, fresh fruits, nuts and, my favorite out of this plate – the fig spread.
I was a big fan of the chorizo, which was served in a wine reduction – Chilean wine, of course. It was so flavorful. Today at lunch, I was wishing I could have more of this.
The endive salad was a fun, creative way to make the salad course more party friendly. Much easier to move around and eat this versus your standard salad. The salad was endive leaves filled with goat cheese, Chilean raspberries and clementines, micro kale, all drizzled with Chilean olive oil and garnished with chopped cilantro. The raspberries in particular were richer than I’ve ever had before. I will definitely keep an eye open for raspberries from Chile going forward.
The next course was to have been a Chilean avocado soup, but as the avocados were not ripe, Alejandra ended up substituting this fabulous merken spiced almond gazpacho soup. It was a little bit creamy and it was at this point that I decided I needed my very own container of merken. So good.
The main course was an almond crusted Chilean salmon. It had been prepared with the Chilean merken spice, salt/pepper, Chilean olive oil all topped with Chilean almonds and a bread crumb and parsley mix. It was accompanied by a salsa made of Chilean raspberries, clementines, grapes, red onions, green peppers and cilantro, all topped with Chilean olive oil.
The salmon was served with a black rice with a “light squeeze” of Chilean clementines and sea salt. The salmon – oh the salmon! I can’t say that I’ve had Chilean salmon before – though I think the lesson from last night was that you probably have had it more frequently than you realize. The flavor was fantastic – so fresh. I was glad to see the raspberries continue to be featured throughout the dinner. Each time, they were equally as impressive as the first bite in the endive salad. And the merken – well, you know how I feel there.
For dessert, we had a cherry berry crisp, which included Chilean blueberries, raspberries and cherries baked and topped with a cinnamon brown sugar crisp crumble accompanied by ice cream. We were treated to a bonus dessert – spicy brownies with mereken. I will definitely be on the lookout for the recipe Alejandra promised would follow shortly.
Special thanks to Alejandra for inviting me to join in on the evening (be sure to check out her blog, Always Order Dessert). I met so many wonderful new faces during the event, as well as was able to catch up with some familiar ones. Be sure to take a moment and check out these other great bloggers!
We left the evening with some fabulous Chilean products that I look forward to trying and reporting back on. Who knows – perhaps they’ll finally inspire me to get back into the kitchen (which I have to admit – it’s been a while since I’ve done much cooking… guilty).