2011: Another Year Devoured

by Liz Caskey on December 28, 2011

December. Again. This year, the months passed as if they were weeks, but it has been awesome. Busy. Productive. Fun.

I´m always in favor of New Year’s resolutions and defining my yearly goals to achieve, but before setting off on that exercise, I take a moment to reflect on the year that I have just lived. Save those memories and highlights.

This post is a ranking of what most impacted and inspired me in flavors, wines, meals, places, trips, books, and experiences. It was not easy to choose. Honestly, I feel so grateful every day to be able to make a living from my passion, work with my husband, and share that with with the world. There are so many options. However, after thinking about this for a while, of course, I came up with the finalists.

Three memorable meals in the US: 1) Rasika in Washington DC is by far the best contemporary Indian food that has tantalized my palate as of late. Best. Chaat. Ever. 2) Spoon Thai in Chicago. My brother took me here, and although they speak very broken English, I quickly learned that what’s spicy for Thai, is something I cannot hack (call the fire department my taste buds are ablaze…). I did have an epiphany though with their Tom Kha soup. 3) Hugo’s in Houston. If I lived in Houston, you’d have to peel me away from this place which serves authentic Oaxacan cuisine at brunch, from chilaquiles to mole. Two lethal margaritas on the rocks lead to a fuzzy afternoon and siesta.

Three memorable meals in South America: 1) Last year I celebrated my 34th birthday at Osaka in the W Santiago. It was a parade of one sexy sushi fusion roll after another, and tiraditos that melted in my mouth. Heaven. 2) One freezing cold June afternoon in Buenos Aires at Brasserie Petanque in San Telmo, I ate the best steak tartar in my life. This dish is why I will never be vegetarian in this lifetime. 3) Gardenia in Montevideo, Uruguay is a nuevo resto by a young chef couple from Spain & Brazil. Its fun, edgy gastronomy that rewrites the rules and pushes the envelope with its traditional yet innovative flavores and textures.

Best road trip: Crossing from Awasi in San Pedro de Atacama over the altiplano (by vehicle) to Purmamarca, in Northwestern Argentina. On our vuelta, we went through Salta and its stunning canyons and charming adobe towns of Cafayate, Colomé and Cachi. This landscape bewitched me and made me fall madly in love again with South America and it’s amazing diversity.

Best surprises: 1) My birthday present #34 from my husband. 2) Business trips to the States that coincided with seeing my entire family in Chicago, Pennsylvania, and Florida. At times, I miss having everybody so spread out and far away.

Biggest challenge: At the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, among the events, I had to prep and serve food  for 1,000  people at the famous “Party of the Senses.” This was in huge scale not only in food, but in navigating the mammoth industrial kitchen and managing a team of willing interns. I didn’t think too much, I just crushed it.

Favorite new cuisine discovered: Korean food is driving me crazy. I am addicted to it. Kimchi. Bulgogi. Kimbap. Ddeokbukki. Fortunately, Little Korea is only three blocks away in Patronato.

Best new cookbook: Only one? Darn, that’s hard. Ok… Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food. The queen of the organic/fresh food movement shares her easy techniques to transmute ingredients and respect their noble origin. I love it because Chile has the most amazing produce (like California) which needs little to no doctoring. AND, I just got a huge mortero, mortar-and-pestle made from volcanic rock for Christmas. Forget the food processor, now I can grind it all up in the Stone, which Waters suggests. Yay!

Three words to describe 2011: Growth. Believe. Enjoy.

Three words to describe the culinary scene in Chile: Effervescent. Blossoming. Diversifying.

Three most memorable wines consumed in 2011: This was pure agony…but I did it. Chateau Haut-Bailly 2005; Chateau Cos D’Estournel  2000; Polkura G + i 2008.

Best new discovery in Chilean wine: Miguel Torres Santa Digna Estelado made with the País grape.

Favorite new ingredient: Mapuche pepper from the Canelo, cinnamon, tree.

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