Just as Seth and I were finally coming to terms with the fact that we would be deprived of quality cheese for the next two years, one of Seth’s coworkers informed him about queso paipa, an aged, slightly nutty cheese native to the Boyacá department of Colombia. Before we learned about this semi-hard, mild-rinded, and reasonably-priced piece of heaven, we occasionally circled the cheese counter at our local Carulla (a grocery store similar to Randalls or Safeway in the U.S.), admiring the fine, imported Bries, Cheddars, Goats, Goudas, Gruyeres, Manchegos, and blue cheeses we could not afford. Meanwhile, we purchased only the cheeses available at our Chapinero Olympica—queso fresco, processed mozzarella, and pre-grated parmesan. On last month’s visit to La Tapería, we enjoyed a charcuterie platter with some brie and the tiniest dot of blue cheese you can imagine, but other than that, our diets have remained entirely void of quality cheese.
Yesterday, everything changed. Under the advisement of his coworker Sara, Seth searched the Usaquén Olympica—a much bigger and nicer version of our neighborhood store—for queso paipa. At COP$20.000 per kilogram, he was able to find a decent package for about US$3.50. He also bought some Iberian chorizo and a 30%-off Argentine Malbec. (Conveniently, all wine at Olympica is priced 30%-off on Fridays.) We spent the evening at home savoring our culinary delights, listening to music, and catching up on the week’s news and events.
I have not quite figured out the reason behind Colombians’ aversion to aged and/or pungent cheeses. If you dine at an Italian establishment, you will probably spot a pasta with a blue cheese sauce on the menu, but even so, the sauce is such a watered-down version of the original product that it is hardly recognizable. Salads in Bogotá are served sans cheese, so if you are hoping to find a roasted beet salad with goat cheese, or perhaps a Greek salad with a block of fresh feta, you will be sorely disappointed. (One exception is the Colombian fruit salad, which is always served with milk and topped with shredded cheese. Qué raro!) Needless to say, I am overjoyed to have found an economical and delicious option that we can enjoy on a regular basis.