January __, 2019:
[Wait, 2019? But it’s November of 2022! We’re still in Mexico, but we went to Colombia in late 2018, and published three blog posts about it. See the archives. Here’s a page we drafted and never got around to finishing.]
Did you know they have coffee in Colombia? And the ubiquitous Juan Valdez Cafe chain is pretty good. It’s the Starbucks of Colombia, though Starbucks is here as well. Of course, there are many independent coffee shops as well, but for Colombians too busy to stop, there are vendors selling coffee from color coded thermoses pretty much everywhere.
So what did we eat?
We ate breakfast. Most places that we stayed included a decent meal with fruit and some kind of eggs. There is often an arepa accompanying the eggs, essentially a griddled corn cake. The one shown below is “de choclo,” with added fresh corn, giving the arepa a sweet flavor.
At our tiny hotel in Salento (just four rooms) there was no common area for breakfast service. So, this bounty was delivered on our first morning, easily enough for 4 people. Note the arepa in the bread basket with the toast. This one is without the fresh corn. It tastes a lot like cardboard.
The same tiny hotel came with a tiny kitchen. What’s that kitchen tool on the right you ask? Why that’s an arepa warmer. Colombians are serious about arepas.
In Bogotá, we ate everything. It’s is a cosmopolitan world capital, with low prices. Did we try traditional Colombian food? Sure. But (thankfully) there’s so much more.
Here’s Cevicheria Central. Excellent.
We passed on the wings. But if we were staying longer, who knows? Might be a good place to watch a game.
Note the sidewalk seating. Bogotá’s climate is such that many places transition between indoors and outdoors seamlessly and comfortably.
We found a Lebanese restaurant near our Airbnb. Really good.
On the coast, we encountered lots of seafood. While we stayed on the island of Baru, some fishermen pulled up in front of the house.
Their catch was promptly featured on the menu of the day. Delicious!
The traditional lunches, like the one shown below is served nationwide, often referred to as ejecutivos “executives.” You usually get a choice of meat, some rice, some salad or soup along with some kind of sweet beverage like juice or lemonade, usually priced around $5, trending up or down depending on the food quality and the location. It’s a lot of food for the price. In our experience these meals aren’t bad, but we didn’t find them to be particularly good, either. The traditional Colombian palate seems to trend towards bland and sweet.
Our Airbnb host in Bogotá provided us with fresh fruit.
Colombia has an incredible variety of fruit, many varieties of which aren’t exported.
Fruit is widely available as a street food. Those cups containing various combos of freshly cut fruit (coconut, mango, papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe, stuff we couldn’t identify) cost about $1 each.
Fruit cart in Cartagena.
Street food is prevalent throughout the country. We found this tasty snack, made of guava and cheese, in Salento.
In Cartagena, on Plaza Trinidad we had street food for dinner. There are tons of options, but we had kabobs and a burger so ridiculous that it had to be eaten with a fork.
Just like the rest of the world, Colombia imports European delicacies. Iberico ham anyone? This grocery store was selling not just the ham, but the stand to hold it.
Did we mention the palate for sweets? This chain is everywhere. Also, notice the trend in business names. There are tons of domestic businesses with fully English names in this Spanish speaking country.
Snacks in the airport. Empanadas for $1.25 US. In the airport. In Colombia, the empanadas are fried and filled with meat, cheese, potatoes, you name it.
For business people in too much of a hurry for a sit down lunch, there are people selling lunches out of coolers, car trunks, or even minivans:
There are even options for people who don’t like food:
Of course, we also tried the local beer. While in Bogotá, we noticed on Google Maps that there was a brewery on the other side of the block from where we were staying, so we checked it out. It was a place called the Bogotá Beer Company (BBC).
We then walked around a bit, and ran into another BBC, quite close by. Then another. We soon realized that, at least in this neighborhood, they were as common as Starbucks in the US. And the beer was pretty good.
BBC even has is own radio station, broadcast at all the locations (no relation to the Brits).
But it wasn’t just BBC, Colombia is in the thralls of craft beer fever. In the neighborhood near us, there were a ridiculous number of bars advertising craft (artisanal) beer.
And it wasn’t just in Bogotá. In every city that we visited, most restaurants had a couple of craft beers (often BBC beers, but not always).
Of course there’s plenty to drink in Colombia besides beer. The “national” drink is aguardiente. It’s a anise-flavored, semi-sweet liquor. It is the traditional accompaniment to Colombian celebrations.
[Well, that’s as far as we got in 2019. Colombia was fun and interesting. We sometimes think about flying down to Bogotá just for a couple of days of decadent eating.]