Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chile, Day 20

Sleep. I need more sleep.

Last night some kind of disco near the hostel where I was staying started blasting dance music at midnight and didn’t stop until 5 a.m. Then the drunks came out, singing loudly, followed by a chorus of dogs barking at them. I think I slept an hour. So, at 8:00 I went walking into Puerto Varas to look for a new place to stay, found one that said I could check in immediately, then returned to my hostel, gathered my things, and canceled the tour I’d arranged the night before. With one hour of sleep, I didn’t think I’d do very well on the long hiking trails of Osono Volcano. It was a good choice, despite the lack of anything to do today. Why? Because my new hotel is awesome, and because it’s been raining all day long – I can’t even see the volcanoes across Lake Llanquihue today.

Where are the volcanoes? And why isn't the weather cooperating?

Since I left my hostel before breakfast – they were half an hour late putting it together – I had to go into town for some morning grub. There were only three places that served breakfast at around 9 a.m., so I picked the one that looked most promising: Dane’s Café.

Actually, the interior of Dane’s is nothing special: a dark interior full of gray-brown wood (mostly gray) and cafeteria-style tables. But there’s something vaguely old and homey about it – perhaps it’s the bow-tied wait staff who seem like a throwback to an earlier time. Speaking of waiters, I didn’t have to sit for long before a menu was brought to me. The menu was hard to read, but one of the few breakfast items I found that wasn’t sweet was an omelette con verduras surtido, so I went with that.

I just noticed in this photo that my omelet looks like someone stuck their finger in it.

I wasn’t thrilled with what I was served: the omelet was bigger than I had hoped – it looked like they’d used four eggs to make it – and was filled with green beans, white asparagus, diced onions, and chopped tomatoes. Maybe I’m just not used to having so many green beans in an omelet, but they certainly dominated. The omelet was also very dry on the outside and runny on the inside. I ordered an expresso grande, which came with two small cookies, and polished it off rather quickly. I managed to get through most of the omelet, but I couldn’t finish the entire thing. Dane’s café is probably a better place than I’m giving it credit for, especially as other people’s meals looked just fine. One plus to this café is that it has an English menu available, and the people working there are nice and patient when dealing with gringos. In the entrance to the café there are numerous cakes for sale, along with wine and cigarettes. Because what goes better with cake than alcohol and tobacco?

Dane’s Café is at Del Salvador 441. Tel: 232-371.

From Dane’s I returned in the rain to my new hotel and tried unsuccessfully to nap. Then at some point I realized that I didn’t have my sunglasses with me (again), not that I needed them today, so I went back to my former hostel and picked them up. The friendly homeless dog that sits in the grass in front of the hostel door jumped all over me on my way out, probably thinking I had food, and he was drenched from the rain. I played with him a bit, but when his dirt began transferring to my hands too much I decided to go back to my hotel and take care of some travel arrangements and class prep.

When lunchtime rolled around, I hit a Japanese restaurant called Kaori that wasn’t terribly far, and was in a direction that allowed me to stroll at my leisure past Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón…in the rain.

Kaori is a charming little restaurant, with a large stone fireplace along the back wall.

I made sure there were Asian people working there, as I’ve had “Japanese” food in entirely South American-run Japanese restaurants that weren’t good at all. (Same-same with a "Vietnamese" restaurant in Quito, Ecuador.) Well, there was an Argentine of Japanese descent who ran Kaori, but the food wasn’t particularly Japanese to me. I ordered miso soup, a wakame (seaweed) and bamboo shoot salad, and two small handrolls (maki): one with salmon, and the other with crab, red pepper, and cream cheese. Well, they didn’t have any tofu, so I couldn’t have miso soup, but the owner asked me what other kind of soup I’d like and it would be on the house. At a loss, I asked for vegetable soup. The sushi came first, and indeed look very nice.

Unfortunately the pickled ginger tasted spoiled, and red bell pepper really doesn’t go very well in sushi. The salmon maki was excellent, however. After that my wakame-bamboo shoot salad arrived…without any kind of dressing. Also, instead of bamboo shoots there were bean sprouts, which, when I thought about it, made more sense anyway.

It was absolutely flavorless. A waitress eventually came by with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. It was healthy, however, so I shoveled it down. The soup came last, and it wasn’t Japanese at all as far as I could tell, but it tasted fine.

With a glass of wine, the meal came to 10,800 pesos, or just over $22. It really wasn’t worth it, but the place is definitely nice and the owner quite attentive to his customers. He also speaks English very well.

Kaori is at 695 San Ignacio. Tel: 237-222. Email: Web:

The rain continued all day, and by the time dinner rolled around it was coming down hard and with gusty winds. I took a seat at the hotel restaurant and watched people – tourists, I guess – walk up the hill to the hotel, bent against the wind and rain, without umbrellas or raingear.

I don't usually stay in hotels with dining rooms this nice.

I tsk-ed them from my warm, dry, comfortable seat, and laughed loudly and slapped my thigh when I thought they saw me through the window, though I probably only made the waitresses think I’m crazy. Still, I had food to order, so I beat my chest with my fists and shouted, “Menu!” Thankfully, a waitress hurried one over to me. I ordered a salad with lettuce, tomatoes, goat cheese, bell peppers, eggplant, and zucchini, and a plate of panzotti pasta with a rich cream sauce that included crab and walnuts.

I had absolutely no complaints with this meal, though it was about five or six bites more than I should have eaten. That’s the problem with being a tourist and not wanting to waste food – I feel like I have to eat everything, and I usually do…which is exactly why I’m afraid to step on the bathroom scale that the hotel provided me.

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  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences in Chile. I was reading through all your days and enjoyed your descriptions of food and country.

  2. You should still try to take the volcano tour, the sights are breathtaking.

  3. Artist: Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed my posts on food and travel in Chile! Have you been to Chile before? I was looking through your website earlier today and was both fascinated and impressed by your synesthetic art. I remember reading that Nabokov was synesthetic, too, though I'm not sure exactly how this manifested in his writing.

    Jan: Thanks for taking time to leave a comment! Yes, I really wish I'd had more time for the volcano tour. I'll just have to make it a priority the next time I visit Chile. I wasn't able to visit Patagonia due to time and financial constraints, but hopefully I'll be back soon. :)