Despite the incredibly Irish name, the O’Higgins Region is about as far as you can get from the Emerald Isle. In fact, its full name is actually ‘Región del Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins’ – and it’s bang in the middle of Chile!
One of the nation’s 16 main areas, the Region takes its name from Chilean founding father Bernardo O’Higgins. A crucial figure in Chile’s history, O’Higgins was a wealthy landowner of Spanish and Irish ancestry (ah ha!) who freed Chile from Spanish rule.
Here, freezing mountains (this is Andean country) descend to temperate coastal plains replete with fruit plantations: one in every four hectares of Chilean orchards can be found in O’Higgins. Apples and pears are the most popular produce, but grapes are also commonly grown, and vineyards abound.
Of course you’ll be after a crisp white if you want to pair your wine with much of the local fare; Chile is a coastal country, and marine cuisine is seriously big! In O’Higgins you’ll find machas a la parmesanam, a classic starter that includes native razor clams baked in their shell, and then topped with a thick layer of parmesan; chupe de camarones, a creamy stew containing crayfish or shrimp, along with potatoes, onions, and tomato; caldillo de congrio, a Chilean fish soup made with pink or red cusk-eel boiled up with fish heads, onion, garlic, carrots, and cream; and curanto, a shellfish dish that dates back centuries and consists of layers of clams, mussels, and giant barnacles all cooked in rhubarb leaves!
It’s not all shellfish, though. O’Higgins is cowboy country, and the local cattle produce particularly succulent beef. Plateada is a favourite here, a cut that’s similar to a boneless short rib. But when cooked the Chilean way (marinated in red wine vinegar and garlic for two days, browned in oil, and finally simmered with onions and carrots for three hours) it’s said to be amongst the tenderest cuts in the world!
If you’ve less time on your hands, you could try the completo: brought back from the States in the 1920s and then doubled in size, this huge hot dog is a meal in itself.