Hello Readers! Sorry I have not written in a while. My internship with the Colombia Green Building Council finished a few weeks ago and I have been travelling up a storm since! I spent nearly a week on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia where I visited Tayrona National Natural Park, a beautiful and secluded area teeming with wildlife, boasting dozens of pristine beaches and hot, humid weather. I next jetted off to the island of Roatan, part of the world-famous Bay Islands in Honduras, for some more beach time and scuba diving on the second largest reef system on earth. And my last week was spent in Guatemala where Sarah, a friend from school, came to meet me. We visited the incredible Mayan site, Tikal, explored caves by candlelight, and wandered around Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its well-preserved baroque architecture and spectacular ruins, most dated back over 400 years.
Now that I am back home and getting settled into my life as I knew it, I have had an opportunity to reflect on my experiences of the past four months, and I have a lot to share so expect more posts this week!
Best Meal of the Summer
To be perfectly honest, overall, I was not terribly impressed with the food in Colombia (lo siento, mis amigos colombianos!). In general, I found the food to be bland. However, I really liked their use of plantains in entrees or as a side, and loved all the fresh fruits available for purchase by street vendors. But take arepas for example. Arepas are a corn-based patty often filled with cheese or meat and baked or grilled. Most Colombians that I met ate them for breakfast and throughout the day, they are a staple. Not only did my stomach not agree with this traditional meal (I cannot eat corn) but neither did my taste buds, they have little flavour and are a bit dry. That said however, there are a few pretty remarkable meals that I thought worthy of sharing.
There is one dish that I came to adore while in Bogota, called ajiaco. Ajiaco is a potato stew typically served with chunks of corn on the cob (that I was able to remove thankfully), rice, chicken, two or three kinds of potatoes, and chilled avocado. The broth is made from scratch with the use of these ingredients, along with garlic and guasca (which I have recently learned is the only herb that can be used for this dish and considered a weed in most of the world), for flavouring. It is also served with crema de leche, and sometimes capers. The first time that I tried ajiaco, my coworker, Angela, had invited me to her place for lunch. Her maid (yes, it is very common here to have a maid!) had made her the dish and I was instantly hooked. Since that day, I had my maid make at least four portions of the masterpiece for me every week and had even inquired about it in other cities on weekend trips, to try some different variations. As it turns out, ajiaco is a Bogotano creation, and is not as common in other parts of the country (could be partly the cool climate in Bogota, unlike other parts of the country, that compels them to eat stews often).
My parents came to visit me in Colombia for nearly three weeks, and we had some really fantastic meals. The most memorable was that at Andres D.C, a famous steakhouse in Bogota’s Zona Rosa that is known more for the experience than the food. I had heard so much about this place from Colombians and expats alike that I knew I needed to check it out at least once. The place was incredible, unlike any other restaurant I have been. The menu, a 60 page magazine, offered steaks and seafood to arepas and empanadas, and everything in between. The venue is filled to the brim with kitschy items and artwork. We were served sizzling steaks while wearing bibs and being serenaded by a group of musicians and singers while being showered with heart-shaped confetti! We received goody bags filled with treats when leaving and took many pictures of the interesting decor in the four-story gem.
The only difficulty we had that evening was when trying to order our steaks “rare”. They tend to like their meat very well done in Colombia, so when trying to order a steak “rare” at Andres, we found ourselves surrounded by a group of waiters attempting to understand what we wanted, even after trying the dictionary’s translation. The steaks, however, came out perfect (and “rare”), and the atmosphere and experience of Andres was well worth the trouble.