Buenos días from the Republic of Colombia! And hello, spring! We were excited to return to globetrotting after a rather busy but enjoyable winter—which even included a real-life globetrot to the Azores in Portugal—and this South American country was next on our list.
We set out earlier than usual on Saturday morning with the aim of sampling some traditional Colombian breakfast foods at El Peñol, a well-reviewed restaurant located in East Boston. Unfortunately, we arrived only to find the entrance dark and no hours posted on the door. Fortunately, East Boston is home to a large Colombian-American population whose shops and businesses can be found throughout the neighborhood.
Walking towards Maverick Square, we were excited to discover La Abundancia, a bakery and breakfast café that was serving exactly the kind of food we were looking for! Once inside, the friendly waitress explained that the food was Colombian (“okay!”) and sat us in front of the large bakery display case.
I ordered the calentado, which was a combo plate of beef, scrambled eggs, rice and beans, and an arepa (corn cake) topped with queso fresco (fresh cheese). Jess ordered the huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs) which also came with an arepa and queso fresco.
The best part? Each dish came with a free cup of hot chocolate! The cacao tree is native to Colombia, which is now among the top ten producers of cocoa beans in the world.
Before we left, Jess ordered a couple of fresh almojábanas, a type of Colombian cheese bread, from the bakery case, which we would soon enjoy at home as part of our lunch. The rest of the morning was spent trekking to and from various grocery stores in order to assemble all of the ingredients that we would need for the culinary side of our adventure.
For lunch, I stirred up this vegetarian recipe for a Colombian cazuela soup. It’s a hearty broth of tomato and coconut milk with lots of kale (at least in the vegetarian version). You can see our tasty almojábanas in the back:
Jess spent much of the afternoon preparing a delicious dinner of frijoles rojos (red beans) served with rice and fried ripe plantains:
After dinner, we watched a documentary called La Sierra (2005) which chronicles the desperate lives of three young Colombians caught up in the gang violence of La Sierra, one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city of Medellín. You can watch the trailer here.
On a more positive note, I baked some cocadas de lechera, or coconut bars made with sweetened condensed milk. While the original recipe would have made plain white bars, I decided to color ours to match the Colombian flag: a wide band of yellow above deep blue and red. Very sweet!
The next morning, I made a recipe for arepa Boyacense (arepas from the Boyacá region) which were different from the arepas that we tried at La Abundancia because the queso fresco was inside the arepa rather than on the top. Taking a cue from the day before, we enjoyed our homemade arepas with some mugs of hot chocolate:
Having completed some chores for the week, I set about preparing a dish of papas chorreadas (red potatoes with cream and cheese sauce) for lunch. They were quite rich:
After lunch, Jess and I took turns reading an English translation of a story called Death Constant beyond Love by Gabriel García Márquez, one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated authors and a native of Colombia.
We also watched a few short videos. The first, above, is a corny tourism ad that attempts to associate Colombia with magical realism—the style of writing for which García Márquez was most famous. The second (here) was a longer documentary that follows a tour group as they take in several of Colombia’s most impressive sights. The final video, below, gave us the amusing Geography Now! overview of the country’s ecological, demographic, and diplomatic points of interest:
For dinner, I cooked a final recipe of Colombian lentils, topped with green onions, which we followed with more of the cazuela soup from the day before.
This was a fun and very tasty weekend that reminded us how much we like globetrotting (even with some lingering winter colds). Until next time, hasta pronto!