Why does food -- and drink, for that matter -- always taste better when you're beachside? It's true. Think spaghetti alle vongole while overlooking the Mediterranean at a beach trattoria in Ostia. Or devouring a spicy green papaya salad purchased from a seaside cart in Krabi, Thailand. Or tucking into a rich shrimp moqueca while your toes are in the sand at a restaurant on the island of Morro de Sao Paolo in Brazil. I've done all of those things, and loved every minute of it. And somehow, the excitement of seaside snacking does not abate.
For instance, while most of the northeastern United States was suffering through a frigid first few weeks of the new year, I spent an afternoon in the Pacific Ocean-side town of Quintero, Chile, just about an hour north of Vina del Mar. It was a bit of an odd, popular place...sort of the Jones Beach of Chile, it seemed. And the locals we encountered there -- and we encountered only locals, as we were certainly the sole gringas on the beach that day -- seemed dressed more for an autumn outing in the park rather than the beach on an 82-degree afternoon in southern hemisphere summer. But no matter. We soaked up the sun and the beautiful natural surroundings of a cove we found, and then before getting a ride back to Vina, we indulged in a snack sold to us by a lovely older Chilean woman whose Spanish I was able to understand (Chilean Spanish is...challenging, I'll put it that way), and who was able to understand my Spanish in return. As a result, we enjoyed a frothy fresh mango juice and a couple of empanadas, one filled with fresh crab and cheese, the other with ground beef, onions, olives, and pine nuts, all wrapped up in a flaky pastry shell. This was the perfect snack to give us the energy to make it to dinner -- which was sure to be seaside, and to include at least one kind of ceviche. And since it was all consumed seaside, it was, of course, extra-delicious.