A cuisine can speak volumes about a culture, and Austin will soon get an authentic taste of the exquisite flavors and fare of Chile. This October, in partnership with Wines of Chile, Omni will introduce ¡Destinación Chile!, a three-month-long, brand-wide culinary experience, complete with recipes, ingredients and wine sourced straight from Chile. This year’s partnership is a rendition of Omni’s annual “Flavors of the World” series, which features an innovative food and wine menu inspired by the region’s fare.
In preparation to launch ¡Destinación Chile!, Omni brought together its chefs for a week-long culinary immersion trip to experience authentic Chilean cooking at the San Antonio campus of the Culinary Institute of America, widely regarded as the world’s premier cooking school. The training, led by renowned Wines of Chile Chef Rocío Alvarado Díaz, taught the chefs about Chilean culture, indigenous flavor profiles and ingredients, and how to effectively pair wines with each dish to enhance the flavor.
“It is important to us that our chefs receive continuous training and education in order to stay at the cusp of innovation. In this case, to experience hands-on training and a cultural immersion led by our Wines of Chile partner chef,” says David Morgan, Omni’s vice president of food and beverage.
Training was kicked off by learning how to make empanadas — “the epitome of Chilean cuisine,” according to Díaz — as well as the flavor base of most Chilean cooking, the sofrito — a powerful combination of sautéed garlic and onion, seasoned with cumin, paprika, oregano and black pepper.
The chefs then turned loose to try their hand at creating the Chilean staple and other dishes as an experiment for what to include on their Flavors of the World menu. Upon completion, chefs sampled dishes while facing critique from Diaz, who provided direct and constructive feedback.
“A lot of [the training] revolves around connecting with the soul of food,” says Regional Executive Chef Daven Wardynski, who helps drive Omni’s culinary agenda and has 17 years of experience in the industry. “At the end of the day, that’s what all of us as chefs are looking to do — to build a connection with the food.”
When the promotion launches this fall, Omni guests can expect to receive a truly authentic experience as they taste their way through the menu and are transported to South America through bold seasoning and unique Chilean recipes. Brisket and prawn empanadas are the standouts of the menu, which features a variety of appetizers, entrees and desserts. The chacarerito sliders and milcaos con pebre de palto (fried potato cakes) will also be crowd favorites. Each of these dishes prepared by the Omni chefs came with high praise from Díaz during the CIA training.
During the trip, chefs also took a deep dive into Chilean wines. Led by Wines of Chile, the session acted as a tutorial for the diverse Chilean climate and how it relates not only to the food but also the distinctly varied varietals of Chilean wines. To that end, in September, Omni’s food and beverage directors will travel to Chile to gain a deeper, and more intimate, understanding of the culture, wine and food. The group will also meet with some of the Chilean winemakers who have helped craft a sophisticated wine list to perfectly complement this year’s menu.
Omni selected these soon-to-be featured Chilean wines at a grand wine tasting at Omni Fort Worth Hotel in April. Through Wines of Chile, numerous Chilean wineries shared a variety of wines that were sampled and then selected by Omni’s culinary teams. Each participating hotel will offer eight unique Chilean wines in 6- and 9-ounce pours.
As Morgan describes, “We don’t want to be known as a cookie-cutter company but rather an innovative brand with many different facets.” This is apparent when visiting any Omni location, including the 13 properties found in Texas that match each city’s personality and vibe. At San Antonio’s Omni La Mansión del Rio, the historic architecture and style, set against the backdrop of the River Walk, is enhanced for a genuine guest experience. At Omni Austin Hotel Downtown, the modern design — complete with a rooftop pool featuring spectacular views of downtown — makes the hotel a destination in itself.
This October through December, visitors to Omni can experience this worldly dining venture at any of the Austin Omni properties, including Omni Austin Hotel Downtown, Omni Austin Hotel at Southpark and Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa. The Chilean wines will be available in all of the hotel bars, and the food will be available in all of the main restaurants. Don’t miss this opportunity to revel in a one-of-a-kind gourmet adventure without leaving the comforts of your own backyard.
Want to making your own empanadas? This exclusive, easy-to-use recipe, courtesy of chef Rocío Alvarado Díaz and Omni Hotels & Resorts, calls for a beef filling, but the beauty of empanadas is that they can be stuffed with anything.
Make a dessert empanada with cinnamon apples or peaches, or breakfast empanadas with eggs, cheese and sausage. No matter the style, you can’t go wrong.
Yields: 48 empanadas, or 16 servings
Serving suggestion: three empanadas per person
2 pounds flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
10 ounces warm milk
3 ounces vegetable oil
3 egg yolks
½ ounce baking powder
Combine all ingredients in a mixer with a dough hook. Knead on lowest speed for five to seven minutes or until fully developed. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (working with cold dough is essential for empanadas) before rolling and cutting.
2 pounds beef brisket, braised and chopped
1 pound onion, diced
2 tablespoons lard, melted
8 ounces beef stock
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
5 hard cooked eggs, quartered
1 ounce raisins
20 black olives, quartered
Sauté onions in melted lard until lightly caramelized. Add chopped beef and beef stock and bring to boil. Season with paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Chill and reserve.
Lightly flour a work surface and roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out 4 ½-inch dough rounds. For each empanada use 1 ounce beef, 1/4 boiled egg, three raisins and three olive quarters. Add 1 ¼-ounce filling to one half of each dough round and brush the other half of the dough with egg yolk. (This is so the dough sticks together.) Use a fork to press and seal the edges closed.
You can either bake or deep fry empanadas. To bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange empanadas on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Turn empanadas and bake for five minutes, until lightly browned on both sides.
To fry, heat oil in a deep fryer to 350 degrees. Fry empanadas until golden brown, six to seven minutes.