A small bladder can be a good thing


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South America » Chile
January 5th 2009
Published: September 30th 2017
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The Concha Y Toro winery shop - $4 US for a bottle of wine!!!
Geo: -33.7333, -70.7833

Trouble sleeping as it was quite hot in the room at first, and when I finally fell asleep, the A/C really kicked in and I woke up shivering. I was up early and off to search for a laundromat - I´ve got nothing left to wear! The reception desk tried to steer me towards their expensive laundry service when I asked them yesterday, but another guy was working this morning, and pointed me to a place just down the block. Unfortunately it wasn´t going to open for a while, but a lady working in a tailor´s shop directed me towards another one.

Unfortunately again, I couldn´t find it and asked multiple passerbys who kept pointing me in different directions, until fortunately, someone told me that it no longer existed. Eventually I found someone who was able to direct me to a place that was less than two blocks from the hotel - if only I had just wandered this way myself, then I wouldn´t have wasted 30 minutes wandering around!

Back to the hotel to quickly down some breakfast before our winery tour out in the Maipo valley. Turns out one of the girls on the tour is horrifically ill,
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Neat little monk's uniforms to keep your wine cozy, spiritual, and styling.
possibly with food poisoning. A terrible way to start a trip and even worse, her friend had to stay behind to look after her for the day. We all figured it was from the restaurant last night, as the girls had only arrived in Santiago yesterday, early in the afternoon.

First up was the Concha Y Toro vineyard - a beautiful spot, it´s reminiscent of numerous beautiful wineries you will find near Kelowna, in the Okanagan Valley. Concha Y Toro is probably the most famous Chilean wine producer, and you can tell that they´ve got money to burn. The winery is surrounded by a beautifully-landscaped park.

The tour started with a bit of an ¨indoctrination¨ film, extolling the virtues of the great Concha Y Toro brand. It felt like a bit of propaganda, to me - but of course, they do produce good wines, so a lot of what they said was true. It just felt a bit over the top.

After, we stopped for lunch at La Vaquitea Echa - a very touristy-looking place that at first glance, didn´t appear very promising. The bread was terribly dry, and was served with the ubiquitous pebre, only their version looked and tasted
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Holy crap! You've gotta respect somebody that roasts a whole pig like that!
more like salsa that came out of a jar. On our tour guide´s recommendation (Martin), we went with the Lomo Chorizo Pobre. Holy crap! I expected a tiny, thin steak from what I had previously seen in Chile - ours were MASSIVE! It was the size of a small roast!

I originally had wanted a fruit cup for dessert, but there was no way I could eat another bite after that main course. There was room, however, for a rather putrid cafe cortado - Chileans mostly make instant coffee, even though such excellent coffee is grown here in South America. I´ve been told that it´s because all the good stuff gets exported, because they make more money that way.

Besides a lot of indigestion, up next was a tour to a lovely little family-run winery called Cavas de Raco, I believe. The owner conducted the tour, and provided numerous insights into his traditional methods of production. You had to admire the guy, because he´d devoted his life to producing wine and definitely had strong opinions, which he wasn´t afraid to tell you about. He managed to do so without crossing the line and sounding condescending or arrogant. The owner made an
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The beautiful grounds of the Concha Y Toro winery.
interesting comment about preferring to use Spanish cork versus Portuguese cork, because it is more compact. How interesting ... Spanish cork is compact and petite, just like Spanish women!

We sampled five or six wines along with some delicious cheese and crackers. Truthfully, I didn´t find all the wines that great, but I did buy a bottle of rose that I liked. I´d rather buy it from a little guy that is struggling to keep up with the giants like Concha y Toro - plus, you can get Concha y Toro anywhere in North America, whereas wine from this place probably can´t be found outside of Chile.

Back to Santiago, where I picked up my laundry and some water. A quick shower and we were off to dinner at Puerto Fuy, a reservation I made a few weeks ago. My roommate for the tour, Wade, decided to join us for dinner as he´s also a bit of a foodie, and we had an extra spot available with the reservation.

I knew that Santiago had some world-class restaurants, so I had done some research before the trip and stumbled upon a website for a Spanish-language magazine, where I found a
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More of the lovely grounds ...
food critics list of top Santiago restaurants. Europeo is supposedly the top restaurant in town, but I wasn´t able to make a reservation online - that left the choices between Puerto Fuy and Sukalde - I decided to go with Puerto Fuy because its cuisine was influenced by Ferran Adria, the leader of the molecular gastronomy movement (see blog entry entitled "We felt like judges on the Iron Chef!" http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/pwong/euro-2007/1188526740/tpod.html).

Puerto Fuy is located in Vitacura, an even more upscale neighbourhood in Santiago, that could've passed for any any ritzy area in any major city in the world. Driving up to the restaurant, there were tons of other high-end restaurants - in fact, we passed a few other places that I had found on the internet and considered trying.

Ben and Ha had never sampled such cuisine before, so I figured it was the best option - this was confirmed when we arrived and saw the hostess. All I can say is ... WOW!!! Definitely one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life - both classically and naturally beautiful, the receptionist had that combination of supermodel/cute girl next door look that is so prevalent in
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The vines from where comes the wine.
Spain, but seems so rare to encounter in the rest of the world.

Normally when I go to a restaurant, I don´t begin drooling until I see the food leaving the kitchen - well today, my drooling started as soon as I walked in the door! We were promptly seated, and we came to a consensus to go for the tasting menu - at $55-60 CAD, it was a very expensive dinner by Chilean standards, but any tasting menu back in Calgary would easily be double that amount. Even more shocking was how cheap the excellent wine selection was - we had two bottles of wine that were about $25 each!!! It was nice having Wade along tonight since he is a server from the Fairmount Hotel in Victoria - he definitely knows his wines and made two exceptional choices for us this evening.

We started with a selection of bread - both whole wheat and white buns, deliciously warmed, crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy inside. The white buns were the better of the two, and I was surprised that at a restaurant of this calibre, we were only served simple butter, instead of the compound butters you
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Trying to be artsy, this didn't quite turn out. It looks like my wine has some algae growing in it.
would expect to have. We were later given some high-end Chilean olive oil to have with the bread - Wade definitely has a refined palate, as he was able to pick up on a grassy flavour in the oil. Bang on! A wonderfully refreshing and unique flavour to start the meal. Some so-so crackers were also served to us.

As we enjoyed wine while waiting for the actual first course, I realized that I had made a strategic error - upon arrival, we were given a choice of sitting near the reception, or around the corner near the window. Having chosen the window, we were out of view of the receptionist - d´oh! No matter, my strategy was now going to involve 4-5 trips to the bathroom, which happened to be immediately adjacent to the reception area 😊

Upon returning from the first foray to the bathroom, I had one of those "Chino moments". I´ve had countless of these moments while traveling around Europe and in the smaller towns of Chile, but was surprised to experience this in Santiago, as the capital is quite multi-cultural. I managed to make a table of 12 people stop and stare at the same time,
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A toast - to good wine, good friends, and no more sunburns!
as I walked by. Of course, maybe it wasn´t because I was Chinese - maybe I had a piece of toilet paper stuck to my shoe, or maybe they were collectively thinking "How pathetic ... I bet this guy is going to use the bathroom 4 more times so that he can get better looks at the receptionist ..."

It was a long, drawn out meal, but didn't seem to drag on, because of all the elements that were available to enjoy (see pics for the full commentary). Plus, I ended up making about four trips to the bathroom, so that I could stroll by the reception area, helping pass the time ... we finished up our coffee and asked the waiter to call us a taxi. Needing some fresh air, I suggested that we all wait outside, which coincidentally, also offered a nice view of the reception area ...

Having time to kill, I figured I'd chat with the beautiful receptionist. It's a funny thing - after the brief chat, Wade asked me "So did you get her number?" I chuckled because I wasn't even trying to hit on her - we were leaving Santiago pretty soon, so there was no
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Down in the cellar, they talked of the legend of the Casillero del Diablo - Don Melchor, the founder of Concha Y Toro, found that workers were stealing wine form his cellars, so he created the legend that the cellar was the ¨Cellar of the Devil¨, to scare his employees and discourage further theft. The legend was told by locking us in the cellar, shutting the lights off, and playing a cheesy soundtrack. We were instructed to go down a dark corridor, where we found a picture of a devil painted onto a wall. Cheesy ... tacky ... so Disney-esque! But unfortunately, a number of kids didn´t find it so Disney-like, because they ended up scared and crying! Good job, Concha y Toro! You´re a massive winery that makes a great product - why do you need to resort to a gimmick like this, and scaring little children in the process? But maybe I shouldn´t criticize - after all, my Freddy Kreuger-esque sunburned face scared a large number of children, too!
point. Plus, the ring on her finger was discouraging, though it could have been a fake ring that women are known to wear, to ward off creepy Canadian tourists.

It's funny how a Spanish-speaking senorita always brings out the cheesy side in me (or again, perhaps it was the two bottles of wine) - I asked for her name, which she told me was Andrea. And remember, it´s not pronounced "Andrea" as it is in North America - it sounds so smooth and beautiful when pronounced in Spanish, especially with Spanish so suave and sexy as hers ....

I asked her if she was Chilean, because I thought that her facial characteristics were quite distinct, and told her that she didn't look like any other Chilean women I have met (Ben later suggested that I had completely insulted all other Chilean women with this comment!) She was a little taken aback by this, almost a little bit embarrassed, saying that this was the first time she had heard something like this. That very humble attitude is also quite common in Spain, and like I've said many times before, there is nothing more attractive than a woman who has no idea how
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Hmmm ... toasted heads, eh? I had a pretty funny joke in mind when I took the photo, but can no longer remember it :(
beautiful she is.

Again, none of it was a line (though had she responded with "Oh, I am so flattered! Let's have drinks later!", I definitely would not have refused ...), it was all genuine. Before stepping out to the taxi, I added "I'm not just saying this, because I'll probably never see you again. But without doubt, you are the most beautiful Chilean I had met. I only wanted to tell you this." Sometimes when you encounter a lady as beautiful and sweet as this, you just want to tell her how exactly how beautiful she is. Or go to the bathroom 4 times, just to get a closer look 😊 But what can I say - I have a small bladder!


Additional photos below
Photos: 29, Displayed: 29


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Lunch - there was NO way I was going to finish it all, especially since it was served with a huge portion of greasy fries, fried onions, and two sunny-side up eggs. The steak was a fine cut of meat - tender, juicy, perfectly cooked ... lacking a bit in flavour, I asked for a side of chimichurri to go with it. Tasty, but WAY too much food for lunch. Way too much for dinner too, in fact. The other members of the tour group were impressed that I ate as much as I did, even though a rather large chunk of steak went uneaten, as well as all of the fries. They were astonished to see that Ben had polished off the entire dish, but not I - I´ve seen him do that on a regular basis!
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I have BBQ envy after witnessing them grill on this beast!
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The fine vines of Cavas de Raco.
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Like the "toasted heads", I had a pretty funny joke in mind when I took the photo, but once again, can no longer remember it :(
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The owner of Cavas de Raco, giving us some wines to sample. L-R: Iain (from the UK, now living in Australia), Wade (Victoria), Darcie & Ranjit (Edmonton - boooo!!!)
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The first wine was a Casablanca Nimbus Sauvignon Blanc, a refreshing wine with citrus notes. We figured it was best to start with a white and then change to red, since the first few courses were seafood dishes, before moving to heavier fare. Cool wine glasses at Puerto Fuy. Not as shapely as the receptionist, though, I might add :)
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We were given an amuse bouche to start, a one-bite course to begin the meal that is now commonly found in higher-end restaurants. Tuna tartare, served with chili and sesame oil - a great first course that was heavenly! It was served atop a crisp crostini, and with what appeared to be a rice-cracker version of a crostini. The rice cracker provided a nice texturally contrast to the soft tuna tartare.
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Course #1 - Abalone cappuccino. A common thing with this type of cuisine is the plays on words - the "cappuccino" was served in a coffee cup, along with a healthy dollop of foam that gave the appearance of cappuccino. The "cappuccino" was a rich abalone-infused cream. Perhaps a bit salty, it was still delicious, and was nice when paired with what appeared to be a fried won ton wrapper. The abalone croquette was also good, but the little cubes of cured abalone were tough and flavourless. The rucola was served with a vinaigrette, whose sharp acidic flavour helped balance the rich "cappuccino". I liked the cute little tomato, both in appearance and flavour. Everything was served atop a slate tile.
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Course #2 - Shrimp cannelloni. Oops, I ate most of it before realizing I still needed to take a picture! Served with an olive oil foam, the pasta dough didn´t appear to be traditional, which I didn´t enjoy much. There was also a fried shrimp coated in panko, which was quite good, and tomato coulis on the plate. Least impressive was the shrimp jelly on the far left, made with shrimp-flavoured water, with a bit of tomato sauce encased inside. There was an excellent tomato which was hollowed out, and filled with something which I can´t quite remember. I do remember there being some tasty chevre located somewhere on the plate, but again, I´m not sure where. Overall, an OK dish.
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Course #3 - Foie gras on a crostini. This was even better the tuna tartare! It was served with a honey-flavoured mango foam that seemingly evaporated after sitting for only mere seconds on your tongue; the mango foam probably would´ve made an excellent dessert. I described the foam to Wade as "deliciously sweet, delicate, and fleeting, like the smile of a beautiful Spanish woman". Yup, the wine was starting to go to my head! As was the intoxicating beauty of the receptionist :) After this comment, we figured further intoxication was in order, so we ordered a bottle of Cono Sur Reserva Pinot Noir. I really couldn´t tell you much about this wine (the Sauvignon Blanc was already going to my head, remember?), other than it was delicious after warming up. Wade was horrified to see that the waiter had been chilling the bottle in ice.
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We were now given sorbet to cleanse the palate. Incredible! None of us could quite figure out what it was, but our best guess was mint, though the sorbet´s flavour was much more complex than that. The waiter finally told us - it was basil! Completely unexpected!


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