Mapuyampay is the creation of Belgium-born chef Ruth Van Waerebeek and her Chilean husband Vincente Escobar. They bought the land fifteen years ago and laid every stone and planted every rose bush themselves. Labor of love doesn’t begin to describe Mapuyampay. As vineyards grew up around them, Mapuyampay developed into an oasis of calm and relaxation. A secret garden with dangling vines and fragrant flowers, plush pillows and French doors that lead out onto an expansive lawn, a brook that really does babble and arching footbridges.
There I was, sipping a fizzy passion fruit, relaxing after lunch
My culinary vacation in Chile
I love food. And wine.
Unfortunately, I have not been the world´s most skilled cook. (I once boiled a chicken in the oven.) These days I am much better in the cocina, but I never pass up the opportunity to sharpen my skills.
So naturally I agreed when my friend suggested a few days at a guest house two hours outside of Santiago where we could eat well and have a cooking class with an international chef and cookbook author.
A secret garden outside my cozy accommodation
Day 1: Arrival
Dinner our first night was Ruth´s Gastronomic Dinner, which opened with seafood empanadas made with a phyllo-like dough and Vincente´s fabulous pisco sour, which have a bit of a kick and are hands down the best I had in Chile. Two more savory dishes followed – ceviche and chicken – before our meal closed out with a spoon-licking icebox strawberry cake.
Mapuyampay's seafood empanadas and pisco sour drink: the best in Chile!
Day 2: Market visit and cooking class
The next morning we joined Ruth at the Curico market to pick up some odds and ends for our cooking class. (Ruth grows most of her own produce at Mapuyampay) There is a common thread that runs through food markets around the world, of vibrant greens, reds, and yellows coupled with the low hum of shoppers squeezing tomatoes and sniffing oranges. It always gets me excited about food. We plucked some plump zucchinis, juicy pears and ripe avocados for our class.
Later that day I found myself wrapped in an apron, chopping veggies and mixing sauces. I also found out we would be preparing mussels and lamb, two foods I detested. But it was too late to tell Ruth I didn’t like those two particular items, so I put on my food game face.
Imagine my surprise when I loved both dishes.
The mussels minus their shell were laid out on mild salsa surrounded by scoops of avocado. Our juicy lamb had a side of mint sauce, grilled vegetable kabobs and an egg and cheese soufflé. Both had several layers of flavors and made me sorry I had to share them with the rest of the group. And for dessert? Poached pear with home-churned ginger ice cream. I walked away from this cooking class with a handful of recipes and a new level of confidence in preparing foods which had previously made me turn up my nose.
Going to the Curico market in the morning, buying ingredients for our first cooking class
Preparing the food that would take me by surprise, magic at Ruth's homey kitchen
Day 3: Free time and cooking class
Our third day was spent lounging under an umbrella in what felt like a scene from Downton Abbey, sipping fizzy passion fruit drinks and munching on grilled chicken, couscous and a salad made with greens from Ruth´s garden.
But the real treat came that evening. During our cooking class the previous day, as we were prepping and mixing in Ruth´s homey French country kitchen, I casually mentioned that my eight months of travel through South America had left me with a serious craving for Indian food.
Ruth took pity on my taste buds and swapped out her planned Mediterranean Flavours meal for an Indian feast. There were three chutneys with papad, fragrant biryani, and hearty dal. I was in heaven.
Enjoying a Chilean lunch and a "Downton Abbey" afternoon in the garden
My favorite Indian food for dinner, this was paradise
Day 4: Departure
Our last day we were sent off with a breakfast of homemade marmalades and French toast. I didn’t want to leave Mapuyampay. Ever. This is a place where you can take a deep breath… and let it out (preferably before you finish one of the delicious meals you will be treated to). Ruth chose to forego a high-paying and glamorous career to create her own dream on this charming piece of land. Her attention to detail is evident in every mouth-watering morsel she prepares, in the gentle guidance she gives students in the kitchen and in the way she decorates her home and tends to her gardens. She is an inspiration to anyone looking for the courage to live their dream.
Mapuyampay's dreamy dishes
Fran Zarnitzky contributed this writing and all the pictures personally for BookCulinaryVacations.com She went to Mapuyampay in Chile in November 2012 and wrote about it on her blog where you can read more about her vacation and see more pictures! Did you stay at Mapuyampay and would like to share your culinary travel experience as well? We would be glad if you send us a message and share with us your personal holiday stories and pictures. Please add your comments below.