I became a pescetarian nearly a year ago because I wanted to adopt a healthy diet that facilitated my weight loss. Traveling overseas can certainly prove challenging to anyone with dietary restrictions, but Chile’s nearly 4,000 miles of coastline provided an abundance of fresh seafood and shellfish that kept this hungry pesceterian happy—and most importantly feeling healthy.
Roughly 90 minutes west of Santiago through the Casablanca Valley, Algarrobo is a popular seaside town that brims with vacationers and daytrippers on summer weekends. Poet Pablo Neruda’s home at Isla Negra is a few miles south of Algarrobo along the dramatic coastline, but one of the town’s best assets is the seafood restaurants that overlook the Pacific Ocean.
My Chilean-born boyfriend strongly recommended sopa de mariscos (shellfish soup) and caldillo de congrio (congrio stew) to me while we were staying in Algarrobo in January. But when we went to Las Tinajas, I gave it the sopa de machas (razor clam soup) a try, at the waiter’s insistence. It boiled for several minutes after the waitress brought it to our table.
And that’s not all we ate. Flaky empanadas de queso (cheese empanadas), hallulla (flat round bread common throughout Chile) with ají (a spicy sauce with tomatoes, cilantro, hot peppers and lemon juice,) locos en salsa verde (abalone with green sauce) and ensalada chilena (sliced peeled tomatoes with onions thinly sliced under running water) all added to our amazing lunch.
The waitress at Las Tinajas had complained the locos her restaurant serves are small because Japanese fishing fleets have depleted stocks. So that meant I had to try abalone again, this time at Villa Casa Marin at Lo Abarca. The cream of abalone with Gruyere cheese and a Sauvignon Blanc base remains the best culinary creation of all time. And the corvina a la plancha (grilled corvina) at Azul Profundo in Santiago’s Bellavista neighborhood could prove a distant second.
Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about those razor clams. We saw them at the Mercado Central in Santiago, and they appeared with Parmesan cheese at Cafe Tucci in Valparaiso.
Waiters at El Club Social in Santa Cruz in the Colchagua Valley insisted that we try the razor clams in an omelet (tortilla de machas). And two boxes of Robinson Crusoe machas somehow made their way from the duty free shop in Santiago’s airport to Brooklyn.
Chile’s fruits and vegetables are truly some of the best one can find anywhere. Damascos (apricots,) duraznos (peaches), cherimoyas, melons, porotos verdes (green beans) and paltas (avocados) are widely available—even at roadside fruit and vegetable stands. And mermelada de moya (moya jam) goes quite well with hallullas and even panquehue, a mild Chilean cheese.
It goes without saying a bottle of Chilean wine is an obligatory part of any two-hour lunch on a patio covered by grape vines. And here’s the proof!
Chileans pride themselves on their country’s Pisco sours—although some purists continue to claim the Peruvian version is actually better. This controversy matters little when one is sipping one on the roof of a Santiago hotel, as the high Andes turn pastel pink during sunset.