I went to Chile to taste wines, and fell in love with the gracious tradition of dining in the vineyards. We set out one sunny morning on horseback through the Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Just as the heat of the day peaked, we came to a shady eucalyptus grove, where wisps of smoke hinted at cooking.
On a barbecue grill, plump empanadas were heating; on a spit surrounded by low coals, slabs of fresh brisket were turning; and a nearby table was laden with light vegetable salads, crusty breads, and a platter of local fruit, including pale green, purple-streaked pepinos ― a South American relative of tomatoes, available at specialty markets here. The setting itself was a relative of our own wine country; the meal would be perfectly at home in the West.
It was so simple and laced with make-ahead possibilities that I've added it to my roster of easy-entertaining menus. The brisket, a cut of beef we usually braise for tenderness, yields firm but juicy, flavorful slices when cooked over very low heat on a gas barbecue. Or, for quick results, grill flank steak instead.
Allow about 1 cup of sliced fruit per person for dessert. As for wines, I recommend the Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon from those vineyards we traversed, owned by the Undurraga family, who have been making wine for more than 100 years. Their wines are available in some wine shops here.
Country-style Hearth-baked Breads
Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon
Sliced-Fruit Platter: Pineapple, Oranges, Apples, Pepinos, and Grapes Splashed with Orange Liqueur