Journal

Top 5 Things to do in the Chilean Lake District

Top 5 Things to do in the Chilean Lake District

Chile’s Lake District is the perfect region to experience lush landscapes, crystal clear lakes and endless outdoor activities. It is also a great option for those who would like a taste of Patagonia, but do not have the time or equipment to go further south to the more remote areas. This region was by far my favorite part of the trip, and I’m excited to share with you my top 5 must-sees of the Lake District!

Our time in the south was spent around Lago Llanquihue  

1. Lunch at Rancho Espantaparajos

We stumbled upon this restaurant by chance on our first day in the region, and it became a highlight of the trip.  Weekends are the best times to go, when locals bring their families and children play outside. Situated on a hillside overlooking Lake Llanquihue the views are outstanding. Ask to sit on the deck to get the full experience! 

 Small farmhouse near the restaurant overlooking the lake and volcano 

Rancho serves all you can eat meat and vegetables "a la parrilla" or grilled. The food is fresh and delicious with many local specialities, including regional beers!

Crispy pork, multigrain bread, fresh butter, homemade pickles, and in season artichokes and salads  

 At this restaurant and most we visited afterwards, herbal infusions were offered as an afternoon tea or post meal digestif.  As someone who studies herbs, this was one of my favorite parts of Chilean culture and the most unexpected discoveries. 

Post meal herbal infusion of dried eucalyptus leaves and fresh fennel

The Mapuche people of Southern Chile for centuries have used indigenous herbs and superfoods to create medicinal elixirs and tonics. These practices are still common in contemporary Chilean society. Typically when you see a tea infusion station at a hotel or restaurant it will include fresh and dried leaves of eucalyptus, fennel, coca, cinnamon, and local herbs such as melí and maquí. As well as miel de ulmo, which is honey made from bees who feed exclusively from the Ulmo tree.  

 

After eating at Rancho Espantaparajos, don't forget to stop by their little store which sells a ton of local ingredients. I picked up a few herbs to make my own infusion, and added ChocoVivo Cacao Bitters for its digestive properties. Raw cacao can be mixed in with any of the herbs mentioned to give an antioxidant and flavonoid boost. 

 

ChocoVivo Infusion with Cinnamon, Melí, and Miel de Ulmo 
 
 Another product they carry at the restaurant is Cochayuyo. Cochayuyo is a seaweed native to the icy cold southern Pacific ocean. It is sold dried and can be thrown into stir-fries and used as a protein, or it can be rehydrated and incorporated into a seaweed salad.  The medicinal properties of this superfood include aiding in thyroid function, lowering cholesterol and increasing energy. 
 

Dried Cochayuyo

 

    Trying a Cochayuyo seaweed salad

2. Drive the Lake Circuit

Set aside a full day to drive the lake circuit of Llanquihue and take in the incredible vistas. You will not be disappointed! The lake is surrounded by small towns built and settled by Germans in the late 1800s. With many of the original buildings still standing, it is worth getting out and exploring a few including Frutillar, Puerto Varas and Puerto Octay. In total the circuit will take between 5 and 7 hours. 

Perfect road trip snack to keep me energized, a ChocoVivo Paleo Bar with Maqui super fruit juice 

 

Manicured gardens and parks were in full bloom

                 Herbs for sale in a native market in Frutillar 

3. National Park Vincente Perez Rosales 

There is a reason this is one of the most visited national parks in Chile. On a sunny day, the landscape is a spectacular mix of snowcapped mountains, black volcanic soil and icy blue lagoons. The park has hiking trails to the volcano or waterfalls, fishing expeditions, kayak tours, and trips across the lake Todos Santos to Argentina.  

View of jade colored lake Todos Santos 

Petrohué Falls 

Hiking trail to the top of Volcano Osorno

 

4. Horseback Riding

Through our hotel we booked a sunset ride along the lake with Alanca Puerto Varas horse tour. This was one of the most magical experiences we had in Chile. 

Bonding with our horses before the trail ride 

The owners of Alanca, Cristian and Carolina spent the first part of the tour allowing us to get to know the horses, learn the Chilean saddle, and differences in riding styles. Then we were taken by Cristian on a two hour tour through the temperate forest down to the beachfront, where he explained the biodiversity of the region and identified many of the flora and fauna unique to Chile.

 

Sunset trail ride, during summer sunset happens in the south at 9pm or later!

The tour ended with "once", or snack, prepared by Carolina. Once is a Chilean custom of tea, local honey, jams, cheeses and homemade breads in the evening. 

                  Bread similar to empanada dough with local farmer cheese
 

5. Carretera Austral 

Beginning just south of Puerto Montt, the Carretera Austral is a long highway (770 mi) extending to the southern most tip of Chile. Mostly unpaved, this highway curves along the fjords and open beaches of Patagonia with vistas of untouched landscape. We saw only a tiny fraction of the highway on our drive to National Park Alerce Andino, but wished we could have driven more. 

South of Puerto Montt the landscape begins to change 

National Park Alerce Andino is home to a large swath of Chile's temperate rainforest. If you are interested in camping, this would be the spot!

  

Waterfall in National Park Alerce Andino 

How to Get There:

Puerto Montt is a quick hour and forty five minute flight from Santiago and the closest airport to Lake Llanquihue. I highly recommend renting a car at the airport as you will need it to get to all the spots mentioned. Also look into getting a GPS and a 4 x 4 as many roads are unpaved.  

Where to Stay:

Casa Werner

 Llanquihue, Chile 

What to Pack: 

The weather during the summer months is significantly colder and wetter than Santiago. It can change within minutes, so it's best to be prepared! 

  • raincoat 
  • hiking boots 
  • water repellent pants 
  • plenty of socks 
  • bathing suit 
  • light layers, light puff jacket for the cold 

Thanks for following my Chilean travel series! Next week we will be moving north to join Patricia on her Cacao Expedition in Nicaragua.  

Chilean Wine Guide, an adventure with ChocoVivo: Part 2

Chilean Wine Guide, an adventure with ChocoVivo: Part 2

Welcome back to our Chilean travel series! Last week, I highlighted some of my favorite places in Santiago. This week, we will move on to Chilean central valley. So grab your wine glass, let’s do it! 

The valley is named for the Maipo River, which runs through it

The fertile Maipo Valley is a hub for all things agricultural in Chile, including wine. If you are a red wine lover like myself, then you might be aware that Chile is one of the largest exporters in the world. This valley is known for it's reds, especially cabernet. I highly recommend if you are staying in Santiago for more than two days, take advantage of the capital’s close proximity to vineyards! 

How to Get There:

Since we rented a car for our time in the city, we drove to the vineyards for a day trip. Another great option if you don’t want to deal with a car, is to arrange for a group tour that will pick you up from the hotel. There are numerous tours to choose from depending on the length of time you’d like to spend. Some even incorporate horseback riding, biking, and over night stays. 

If you do decide to rent a car, get a GPS! Similar to LA, we spent a lot of time in traffic while in Santiago. If you plan to drive yourself, book enough time in between tours and plan accordingly to avoid rush hour! 

Viña Cousiño Macul

We kicked off our day trip at Cousiño Macul. Located about 30 minutes outside the city center, it is nestled like a secret garden amidst the suburbs of Santiago. 

 

Grapes at Viña Cousiño Macul

The charm of Cousiño is in its small, intimate size and authentic character. The architecture of the vineyard is original, dating back to the 1870s. At that time, all of the wine was produced in the same spot. However today the process is spread across two vineyards, with one a bit further south growing the majority of the grapes. Nonetheless, Cousiño is still family owned and operated, and the main estate serves as a museum to the history of Chilean wine.

Antique bottle filling machine 

Old stencils used to export boxes of wine to the USA, Venezuela, Canada, Australia

The importance of Chilean identity is in every aspect of the estate from the barrels to the grapes themselves. While Spaniards brought the first vines to South America in the 1500s, Chileans tweaked certain European processes to make their wine unique. For example, Cousiño used huge barrels made from native araucaria wood. The araucaria or monkey-puzzle trees can live for up to 1,000 years and are incredibly durable, not to mention beautiful! As the national tree of Chile, the use of araucaria wood was not only practical at the time, but a symbol of Chilean ingenuity in viticulture.

 

Left: Large araucaria barrels                 Right: Tall araucaria aka monkey puzzle trees 

 

After the tour we tried some of Chile's best blends and varieties. Interested in how Chilean wines would pair with my ChocoVivo bars, I brought them along for a taste test. I decided to pair the chocolates with red wine, the first being the Carménère.

 

 My friend, Alexis enjoying the ChocoVivo/ Wine combo

 

The Carménère grape is originally from Bordeaux, but now is almost exclusively, 98% of the world supply, grown in Chile! It’s rich berry taste pairs well with the dried sweet cherries of the Cherries + Almonds + Black Peppercorn bar.  

  

My favorite wine pairing, Chilean Cab blend and Mayan Tradition  

The second red we tried was a Cabernet Sauvignon blend, which was excellent with the Mayan Tradition! The spicy/ smokiness of the Pasilla peppers was a perfect match to the dark fruit flavors of the Chilean specialty blend. I left the vineyard with a bottle to continue my taste testing of this combo at home!

Concha y Toro:

After Cousiño we went to our next stop, Concha y Toro. I guarantee you have seen bottles from this vineyard in your local grocery store with the label Don Melchor or Casillero del Diablo. Concha y Toro is a huge, industrial wine making operation spanning across vineyards all over Chile. Due to its size, the experience touring was much different than Cousiño. The grounds at it’s Maipo location were lush, sprawling and impeccably manicured.

 

  Streams and ponds covered the rolling hills of the Concha y Toro estate 

 

Both are from Concha y Toro 

However beautiful the scenery, I found the experience to be much like the Disneyland of wine. There were crowds, many simultaneous tours, and less of a personal experience. If you are a fan of Concha y Toro wines, it is worth visiting and picking up some swag from the gift shop. However, I much preferred the experience of Cousiño Macul and their approach.

In conclusion, the Chilean wine region is a must visit even for exclusive white wine drinkers! No matter the length of your trip you will come away with an education and hopefully a few bottles. I recommend going to both a small and large vineyard on your tour if possible. That way, you can get a taste of the history and future of Chilean winemaking...just don't forget the chocolate!!  

 

Taking my ChocoVivo into the cellar to cool down on the hottest day of summer!

More Information: 

Cousiño Macul 

Concha y Toro  

ChocoVivo and Wine Pairing:

Interested in learning more about chocolate and wine pairing? We plan on hosting an event soon, subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page and stay tuned for details! 

 

Check in next week as we discover Southern Chile's medicinal superfoods and how they mix with ChocoVivo 

How to cacao in Chile, an adventure with ChocoVivo: Part 1

How to cacao in Chile, an adventure with ChocoVivo: Part 1

Hi everyone and welcome to my Chilean travel series! My name is Alexandra, and I am ChocoVivo’s Chocolate Ambassador. I’m so excited to share my trip, and pass along some tips in case you plan to travel soon or just want to add a little Chilean spice to your life! I highly recommend Chile to anyone who craves untouched nature and has an appreciation for the medicinal, nourishing qualities of fresh local vegetation…. That’s all of us, right?

 This whole idea began when one of my closest friends invited me to his brother’s wedding in Santiago. As someone who NEVER passes up an opportunity to experience a foreign culture with locals, I jumped at the chance! Armed with a suitcase full of ChocoVivo to get me through it, I took off on my two-week adventure.

 

Itinerary:

 As you can see, Chile may be narrow, but it is crazy long. Stretching north to south 2,647 miles, trying to see everything in two weeks is like trying to see all of the United States. So it’s best to focus on a few places!   

 

Originally we had planned to go to Torres del Paine. However, due to the commitments we had in Santiago, we decided to split our trip into four regions: Santiago/ Vineyards, Lake District, Valparaiso.

 

Santiago:

After 15 hours of travel to Santiago we arrived exhausted! The first thing I noticed about Chile was the lack of coffee culture. It seemed cafés serving espresso-style drinks were limited to tourist areas. Coffee, like cacao only grows between the tropics…. far away from Santiago. So instead of hunting down my americano, I decided to go cold turkey off coffee, and give into the Chilean tradition of herbal teas. 

To supplement my energy slump, I used ChocoVivo Cacao nibs mixed into hotel breakfasts. Throwing them into oats with fresh berries was the best way to start a long, busy day.

 

In season strawberries, the perfect complement to cacao

 

                   View from the top of the hill Santa Lucia overlooking Santiago

 

 

 Shopping at Fundación Artesanías de Chile

 

A beautifully curated selection of home goods, clothing, and pottery Fundación Artesanias is a must see! With locations throughout Chile, all proceeds go directly to the artisans. 

 

Fresh in season produce at every corner 

 

Lucuma Ice Cream Bar

Lucuma is a fruit that grows in northern Chile, in the Andean valley near Peru. It is a popular ice cream flavor, usually paired with chocolate or “manjar”, the Chilean name for dulce de leche. The taste of lucuma is very sweet, almost like caramel or maple syrup. 

 

For centuries lucuma has been used as a medicinal superfood by the indigenous people of northern Chile and Peru. In its raw form, it has many health benefits including high amounts of beta-carotene, iron, calcium, and protein. The oil of lucuma can also be used to treat skin conditions and is excellent for hair! 

  

 Colorful Streets of bohemian barrio Bellavista

 

Enjoying a pisco sour and incredible ceviche at Santa Colonia 

One of the most hotly debated topics in Chile is who created the pisco sour. Peruvians also claim this delicious drink and both countries have their own variation. For those unfamiliar with pisco, it is a brandy distilled from grapes. Below is a recipe for the Chilean version made with ChocoVivo Cacao Bitters. Usually this recipe is made with simple syrup, however I modified it to use honey after having a honey variation in southern Chile. 

 

 ChocoVivo Pisco Sour Recipe

Yields: 1 

Ingredients: 

  • 2.5 ounces pisco*
  • 1 egg white 
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey 
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ChocoVivo Cacao Bitters 

Preparation: 

Mix pisco, egg white, honey, and lemon in a martini shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Pour into glass. Top with a few drops of ChocoVivo Cacao Bitters. 

* Chilean pisco. If using Peruvian pisco, which is stronger change lemon ratio accordingly 

Where to go in Santiago: 

STAY:

Hotel Paris Londres

London 54, Santiago Chile  

 Luciano K Hotel

Merced 84, Santiago  

SEE:

Parque Forrestal

Cerro Santa Lucia 

Barrio Lastarria

Barrio Bellavista 

Fundación Artesanía de Chile

Museo Chileno Precolombino

EAT: 

Bocanarriz Wine Bar

José Victorino Lastarria 276, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile

Emporia La Rosa Ice Cream

José Victorino Lastarria 71, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile 

Sarita Colonia 

Loreto 40 | Recoleta, Santiago 8420499, Chile

 

What to Pack:

December is the height of summer in Chile, and we arrived during a record heat wave. Then on our last day it was raining and cold. If you’re staying in Santiago during the summer expect temperatures ranging from the low 50s to high 90s and possible rain.

  • Light layers for chilly nights or rain
  • Walking shoes
  • Dresses or Shorts 
  • Sunscreen!!

Follow along for the next part of the series, as we pair ChocoVivo bars with Chilean wine! 

ChocoVivo and Cacao Nibs

ChocoVivo and Cacao Nibs

ChocoVivo and cacao nibs have a pretty serious relationship. They are an essential part of our company and that is why we use minimum fermentation and keep it as natural as it gets.

Our plantation is located in Tabasco, Mexico where we’ve strived to build a strong partnership with our grower. On Meet the Grower Night, you also have the opportunity to meet our grower, Vicente from the Jesus Maria plantation.

 When the cacao nibs are brought to ChocoVivo from Vicente’s plantation, we carefully sift through them before we begin to use them for production.

Cacao nibs are a beautiful color and have a strong cacao scent.  After we’ve unpackaged and sifted through them, we begin the process of stone grinding them with other natural ingredients to create our dark chocolate bars! Cacao possesses much value as it was used as a form of currency between the Aztecs and the Mayans. Although it is no longer a barter currency today, it still carries the same value to us.

With cacao and cacao nibs, we make our bars, drinks, apothecary products, pastries and more!

 Check out our previous blog post to learn more about how YOU can use cacao nibs and its benefits.

Know Your Cacao: A Beginner's Guide

When we hear the word cacao, we think chocolate. Which is true, chocolate derives from cacao but serves as so much more than just a key ingredient to one of our favorite treats. 

The number of benefits that cacao has is endless: from serving as a natural energy booster to reducing heart disease! Amazing! 

Cacao can be consumed as more than just a chocolate bar. It can be digested as a drink, used as an ingredient for healthy meals and snacks, or even on its own as nibs! 

At ChocoVivo, our cacao is minimally fermented to keep the high levels of antioxidants and minerals true to how mother nature intended. Our raw cacao is brought straight from our plantation in Tabasco, Mexico to the shop where we stone grind it into chocolate bars and melt it into our delicious drinks. 

Cacao is medicinal and beneficial to our health. FIVE of the best advantages we gain by intaking cacao are:

  1. A small daily dose of cacao can lower your blood pressure naturally.
  2. Protect your heart. Cacao improves blood circulation that decreases your chances of a stroke.
  3. Better your digestive system: raw cacao contains fiber that stimulates our digestive enzymes.
  4. The sulfur in cacao can make our hair shinier and nails stronger.
  5. Cacao contains anandamide- the bliss molecule due to improving your mood and creating a sense of euphoria.

 

 

New Journal

New Journal

New Chocolate Journey

by Patricia Tsai

If you've read my posts from the old website, you'll see some new changes here.  The evolution of the business has morphed into many things, but it's still true to what I envisioned.  The 1st half of my journey was head down and Just Do It.  As old as the adage of the Nike saying is, It's true.  Now 6 years later, I look up & Breathe.  Life goes by too fast.  There's been much self-reflection on my part.  NY Times recently did an article on the End of Reflection.  We move so fast in life and forget to look up, smile, and look out to realize the world is much bigger than our microcosm.  We've lost the patience and grace to move thru life like a wave and to feel, be transparent, and honest with our feelings and emotions.  Bruce Lee said, the hardest part is being true to oneself.  I woke up.  Thru doctors (east & west), I'm self-aware of my body, my mind, and my soul.  Chakra, Energy, Kundalini was all so foreign to me.  Call it the power of Cacao or just my journey in life, I'm more awake of my being and what I've created.

Building ChocoVivo has been a true literal sense.  I LIVE chocolate.  Every waking moment, breath, and movement has been to define, nurture, and spread the message.  Understanding the intricacies of starting a business from scratch with little start-up capital except my sweat, tears, and perseverance.  Lebron said the weight was heavy on his shoulders for Cleveland.  The weight was heavy for me.  Could be my Tiger Parents, my Wharton friends who asked if I was still working on my "chocolate idea", or/and my own limits of what I could do.  Years later, I can sit back and say, "I chose the path not traveled. "  And it's exciting.  Exhausting.  But exciting.  I'm so grateful that I can create and be a catalyst for change.  I can go on and philosophize, but the journey continues.  I still see the fork in the road.  The path that Robert Frost mentions.  The momentum has shifted.  What that looks like I don't know, but Starbucks, here we come.   

You'll be seeing posts from others and from myself.  Snippets of Self Reflection that I hope you can use in your own life.  Or at least you can live thru me.  The Oracle (she really does look like Whoopi in The Matrix) says that we won't remember our life as what we are in human form after we die.  So hopefully you'll enjoy the chocolate journey with me while we all can still Breathe, Hug, and be Thankful that I have YOU out there.  Whoever you are, I'm hoping that you can gain something out of what I write type here.  Live The Chocolate Journey.  

I'm no longer following the East Wind, but still looking for my Johnny Depp.