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Between the RAMMYs, the Food & Wine Festival at National Harbor, Teddy Folkman‘s turn on The Next Food Network Star, and the (I shit you not) Kids’ Restaurant Week, I think one legitimately serious gastronomic event has been overlooked: Chilean chef Matias Palomo‘s week-long stint at Ceiba.
Palomo is offering a five-course prix-fixe menu through Saturday, June 13, at the modern Latin American outlet. The meal will run you $39 — or $59 if you want to pair each course with a Chilean wine, which of course you do.
Now I haven’t sampled Palomo’s menu yet — that’ll happen later this week — but I have been reading as much as I can about the chef and how he has been working to transform and elevate traditional Chilean cuisine. What I found striking is that his approach mirrors the one that revolutionized the Chilean wine industry: Palomo is borrowing heavily from other cultures to make Chilean food more accessible (read: hip enough) for fine-dining gastronomes in fussy, First World countries.
Born in Mexico after his folks fled Pinochet’s reign of terror, Palomo eventually studied cooking at a culinary school in Santiago. But his real education took place outside of Chile when he accepted a kitchen position at Arzak in San Sebastian, the Michelin three-star performer under chef Juan Mari Arzak, who’s considered a pioneer in the Spanish avant-garde culinary movement. Palomo would later work with Daniel Boulud at Daniel as well as with Ferran Adrià, the Spanish legend himself, at El Bulli.
Much like how the Chilean wine industry relied on European and American techniques and expertise (not to mention money) to become an international player, Palomo leans on French techniques and the anything-goes Spanish mindset to raise the profile of Chilean ingredients and cuisine. As he noted in a recent press release:
“My goal,” says Palomo, “is to make a change in the national cuisine of Latin America. South America is home to some 80% of the quality products used in the culinary world, but its cuisine is not recognized at the international level, unlike Asia and Europe, for example. And our kitchens have the same root. In Mexico, there are empanadas and in Chile we have pastel de choclo. We cook the same ways and this can be empowering.”
Palomo’s restaurant in Santiago, Sukalde, has already earned the toque a Chef of the Year award in Chile, not to mention a glowing mention or two in American food magazines. But now you can sample his innovative Chilean cuisine this week at Ceiba, where he will serve, among other fusion specialties, a mini-braised short rib sopaipilla and a Chilean sea bass with red cabbage gelatine. His full five-course menu is below.
See you at Ceiba this week.
Amuse Mini Braised Beef Short Rib Sopaipilla Pebre Sauvignon Blanc, Haras, Maipo Valley, Chile, 2008
First Course Chilled Spicy Corn Soup Seared Sea Scallops, Popcorn Powder Riesling, Cousino Macul, Dona Isidora, Maipo Valley, Chile, 2007
Second Course Chilean Sea Bass Red Cabbage Gelatine, Curanto Sauce Chardonnay, Los Vascos, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 2007 OR Grilled Beef Tenderloin Potato Puree, Chilean Mushroom Sauce Cabernet Sauvignon, Montes Alpha, Maipo Valley, Chile, 2006
Dessert Yogurt and Chilean Olive Oil Mousse Basil Macerated Summer Berries Riesling, Miguel Torres, Curico Valley, Chile, 2006
Cheese Patagonian Andes Cheese Wine Jelly