Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Empanadas at Chile Lindo

I am afraid I have been very negligent about posting here.  Last year I became interested both in Chile and in Sausalito’s sister city relationship with the Chilean coastal city of Viña del Mar.  One thing lead to another, and now Virginia Reginato, the Mayor of Viña, is coming to Sausalito the week after next with a delegation of “Viñamarinos.”  I have been helping to coordinate that effort and it seems I have little time for anything else.

While I probably should be studying up on issues facing Chilean municipalities, my attention has instead, not unexpectedly, been drawn to matters of Chile's cuisine.  One thing I came across was Anthony Bourdain’s encounter with the famous Chilean “completo while on a visit to Viña during the filming of a “No Reservations” episode in Chile.  However, I have learned that the true national dish of Chile seems to be ……the empanada!

I have learned that virtually every country in Latin America, and many elsewhere, features some version of the empanada.  However, from what I have seen, the love of Chilenos for their empanadas is second to none -- perhaps comparable to norteamericanos’ passion for a good burger.  To illustrate this happy fixation, here is an entry on the Tasting Chile blog regarding the search by El Círculo de Cronistas Gastronómicos de Chile, a Chilean foodie group, to find the best empanada in all of Santiago. 

Cut to a few weeks ago when I was surfing the web looking for information on Chilean cuisine.  Somehow I happened upon a 7x7 SF list of the “20 Best Dishes in the San Francisco Mission District Under $20” and noted, at #15, “an empanada at Chile Lindo.”  I had never heard of Chile Lindo, but I filed that away for future action, although with everything else that is going on I was not sure how soon I would be able to get down there to check it out.

However, yesterday, on the way home, I had a bit of time and was in my car, so I decided that I would stop by.  I called first to ensure that they had empanadas available, then headed for the Mission.  The trip was not as bad as I had anticipated, and before long I was parking in front of Chile Lindo on 16th Street, just west of South Van Ness.
One of first things one notices about Chile Lindo is that there is a relatively large interior space, but that there is a bar across the doorway and the seating area is on sidewalk.  I learned that this was a result of an unfortunate ADA suit, which was resolved by excluding everyone from the interior.  Basically, if no one can go into the establishment, then no one is discriminated against. 

I was happy to find Paula Tejeda, the owner of the Chile Lindo, present, and I had a very nice chat with her. Paula is far more than just a cook, as one can see from the Chile Lindo website.  I also came across this nice piece about her on the KQED Bay Area Bites blog.

Chile Lindo offers four varieties of empanada, all of them “al horno” – i.e. baked in an oven instead of fried.

Their website has a very good description of how to prepare an empanada, which is not as simple as it might appear.

Since it was my first time there, I decided to try one of Paula’s empanada de pino, which I learned is the most classic version of Chilean empanadas.  The empanada is filled with a stuffing (“el pino” ) consisting of minced meat, sautéed onions, raisins, an olive and a slice of hard-boiled egg, all seasoned with paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.  I also picked up a couple of the same for some Chilean friends in Sausalito who I knew had never tried Chile Lindo’s empanadas.  

Although I may not have the empanada experience of El Círculo de Cronistas Gastronómicos, I thought my empanada de pino was excellent in all respects – everything from the quality and weight of the pastry, to the texture, seasoning and flavor of the filling.  As I came to the last bite driving down Lombard on the way home, I really regretted not getting one or two more.  I have to admit I gave some thought as to whether I really wanted to part with the two I had picked up for Isabel and Jaime.  If they had been warm, I would have been very tempted!

1 comment:

connie said...

Yum. Can't wait to try them!