It’s been a while between posts, and I’m sorry about that. There’s a number of reasons, but a lack of fun things to write about is certainly not one of them. Rather than backtrack, I thought I’d sit down and write about an event while it was still fresh in my mind.
One of the good things about living in a diverse city with so many expats, is that you get to sample a lot of different cultures, not just the local one. It’s been “French Week” here for example, so there have been a number of French-style events around Santiago. I also recently enjoyed a South American festival, with a great selection of food and wine, on a sunny Spring day in the park. On top of that, the North American Thanksgiving is upon us, Christmas will promptly follow, then it’s New Year’s, etc. They don’t call it the “Silly Season” for nothing!
It seems rather ironic that, although I’ve spent time in the US (and have an American brother-in-law!), I had my first Thanksgiving dinner in Chile. When I first saw the event published, I thought the menu looked great, but I didn’t immediately sign up as I didn’t think of it as “our holiday”. The event had been organised by Kimberly, another fairly recent arrival, this time from New York, who has set up her own business “Savory Five” and works with local chefs to deliver events with a twist. As the date got closer, I heard from a few “gringo” friends about what Thanksgiving means to them and, no, it wasn’t ALL football, the discovery of America, and turkey. In fact, for many, it is the launching pad for the holiday season, a great time to share with friends and family, and an opportunity to reflect on all the things you are thankful for. With a new perspective, and a few places still remaining at the table, I enlisted seasoned foodie friend, Fer, to join me and we booked ourselves in.
The evening started relatively early by Chilean standards, at 7pm, and was held at Casaluz, a pretty little restaurant in Barrio Italia. When we arrived, we were shown to a beautiful, leafy courtyard where we were immediately welcomed with a refreshing cocktail. Always a good start to an evening! Despite the recent bout of hot weather, the day had been quite cool and the evening threatened rain. Given the outdoor setting, and the amount of work that had been put in to make the courtyard look beautiful, I really hoped that it wouldn’t be the case. The organisers were prepared for the cool change however, with soft, fluffy blankets available to wrap yourself in as the evening cooled down and, thankfully, the rain held off and the sky cleared as the night went on.
We initially mingled, armed with our cocktails, and enjoyed some Thanksgiving-themed appetisers, my favourites being a yummy Pumpkin Arancini, and a Goat’s Cheese and Bacon bruschetta with Apple Chutney. We bumped into some friends we already knew, and met new people, including a lady who had recently spent time with her daughter in Melbourne and couldn’t speak highly enough of our beautiful city.
As people filtered in, musicians played softly under a nearby tree, and the pumpkin-resembling lanterns were lit up. The courtyard and tables had been decorated with abundant Thanksgiving produce, some embellished with gold paint. The overall effect was relaxing and lovely.
We were soon seated at our tables, and our order was taken for our choice of entrée, main and dessert, all with a Thanksgiving flavour of course. Fer and I chose different dishes for entrée and main, but both decided we really needed to try the Pumpkin Pie for dessert.
The rocket salad with figs, pecans, dried cranberries and parmesan looked great, but my Pumpkin and Ginger soup was not only good, but also reminiscent of home.
By the time the mains were being served, the sun had fully set and the lantern-lit courtyard was full of the buzz of people enjoying their evening.
For the main, Fer had ordered the quintessential Roast Turkey. It was a little on the dry-side, an easy thing to do with turkey, especially when feeding so many people. I went for the Rib-Eye, not being able to go past the promise of a good pepper sauce. I felt a little like Fred Flintstone when my huge steak arrived and, although the meat was nicely cooked and tender, there was no way I was able to get through it all, not even with the help of some willing neighbours. I wasn’t sure about the connection between Rib-Eye and Thanksgiving but, as we ate, our hostess Kimberly explained that her Great Uncle Stan always prepared a fresh Rib-Eye at Thanksgiving and the dish was on the menu in his honour. A sweet tribute.
The mains were served with “fixings” or sides, served “family style”, shared in the middle of the table. There was a lovely plate of roast vegetables, mashed potato, an apple sauce for the turkey (as fresh cranberries had proven elusive in Chile at this time of year), and the delicious pepper sauce for the Rib-Eye.
During the meal, we were served different wines by our friendly sommelier, starting with a Sauvignon Blanc and a 100% Petit Verdot, and followed by a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which was my preference.
Our dessert arrived and, although the pumpkin pie was soft and sweet with a good texture, it really wasn’t to my taste. I guess that’s what comes from a lifetime of eating pumpkin as a savoury food. The alternative dessert, a pecan bar, arrived for my neighbour and he was kind enough to let me taste it. It was nutty and tasty, but a little dry and possibly could have benefited from a little caramel sauce (yum!).
After being offered coffee, and lingering a while longer, we decided to make a move before we ourselves turned into pumpkins. As we said our goodbyes, our hostess gave us a lovely “care package”, which contained a hand-drawn Chilean card, and a take-home serve of roast turkey. I guess, like any good Christmas, there’s never a Thanksgiving without leftovers, and it certainly made the next day’s dinner an easy choice! The package was trimmed with a card, prompting us to think of things to be thankful for, of which there are certainly many.
Overall, it was a fabulous, very well-organised evening, with every detail given careful consideration. Considering that the kitchen had no experience with Thanksgiving dishes, the food was very well prepared, plentiful and delicious. Most of all, it was lovely to mingle with a diverse and fun group of people, many of whom were also experiencing their first Thanksgiving dinner.