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Why does Chilean food always taste like the sun and ocean–ripe and teeming with flavor? When Mio hosted a Foods from Chile dinner in November, I got the answer straight from visiting chef Mikel Zulueta of Guria Restaurant in Santiago, Chile. “What’s unique about Chilean food is the ingredients, which are of very high quality,” Zulueta said as translated through Mio’s Executive Chef Giovanna Huyke. “The sea is very cold which means you’re going to have excellent seafood and fish. At the same time, the different climates that [Chile] has can grow all the fruits and vegetables very fresh.”

Chile is a geographical island, surrounded by the super-duper, arid, ultra-dry Atacama Desert to the north; icy fjords and glaciers of the South Pole, the Andes mountains to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. This kind of natural barrier to diseases, pests and other forms of contamination creates a natural garden of good eatin’ for you and me.

Chilean cuisine requires little manipulation. A confitted Chilean salmon and mussels chupe (pictured) and simple avocado gratin (pictured), paired with Emiliana Novas Sauvibnon Blanc and Ventisquero Quelat Pinot Noir, both let natural flavors shine through. “We’re telling the stories about our food through traditional dishes like chupe,” said Zuleta. “It’s quite amazing to watch people learn about the traditional cuisine of Chile.”

Fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries over vanilla custard.

Did you know that most of the grapes, cherries and nectarines that you’re eating right now are from Chile? A lot of “out-of-season” fruits that we enjoy in the winter are from Chile. It’s the largest exporter of grapes and berries in world, and the second largest of salmon and cherries, according to The Chilean Embassy’s Chief-of-Staff, Roberto Matus. That’s how you can enjoy recipes like berries and vanilla custard (pictured) even when it’s not summer here. Look for Foods from Chile at these DC-area grocers. And don’t forget the Chilean wines!

  • Whole Foods, 1440 P Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.332.4300
  • Giant Food, 5463 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD. 240.497.6100
  • Safeway, 1855 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC. 202.333.6048
  • Wegman’s, 11620 Monument Drive, Fairfax, VA. 703.653.1600
  • Dean & Deluca, 3276 M Street NW, Washington DC. 202.342.2500

Photos: Foods From Chile