caryn arrives

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At the end of August Seth and I were overjoyed to welcome our first visitor to Bogotá. Caryn, one of our closest classmates from architecture school, stepped off her plane a little after midnight on Thursday night. The three of us promptly shuffled into a taxi, took a celebratory shot of Aguardiente, and went to sleep in preparation for busy days ahead.

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For her first day in the city, Seth and I wanted to show Caryn some of the major touristy sites. We were a bit worried that because of the ongoing paros (strikes) we would not be able to forge our way into the city center. However, on Friday morning President Santos deployed some 50,000 troops across the country “to assure normality,” thus making our stroll to the Plaza Simón Bolivar a cakewalk. We started our morning with a chocolate completo at La Puerta Falsa, followed by a quick visit to the Centro Cultural Gabriel García Márquez. Around one in the afternoon our friend Jeremy met us in the Plaza, and we proceeded to hike up Avenida Jiménez to the Monserrate cable car station. The weather was chilly and rainy, but lucky for us it cleared up just long enough to snap a few photos at the top. When it got cold again, we stopped at a food stall for some fried cow organs, potatoes, and plantains.

Feeling cold, wet, and tired, we took the cable car back down to the city and ducked into an artisan alcove in La Candelaria for a round of coffee. We browsed the goods for mochilas and other souvenirs for Caryn’s friends and family but to no avail. Jeremy then headed home while Caryn, Seth, and I wandered around La Macarena and admired Rogelio Salmona’s brick architecture. For dinner we enjoyed small bites and pan con tomate at Tapas Macarena, one of my favorite restaurants in all of Boogtá. The highlights of the evening included a peppery Tempranillo, jamón serrano gran reserva (18-month cured serrano ham), champiñones queso azul (mushrooms in a blue cheese sauce), pinchos de pollo Ketjap (chicken skewers in an Indonesian soy and peanut sauce), and langostinos cajun (cajun shrimp).

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Saturday, of course, was the first day of college football season. While Seth watched the Rice vs. A&M game, Caryn and I ate lunch at my beloved neighborhood corrientazo and drank beer in La Zona T. She had read about the Bogotá Beer Company in one of her travel guides, so we stopped in for a pint of Monserrate Roja (her) and Cajica Miel (me). After some much-needed girl talk, we returned home for a low-key evening of wine, cheese, and a movie.

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Sunday was probably my favorite day of the entire visit. Caryn, Seth, and I started the morning at home with a strong cup of coffee and decadent Nutella toast before walking fifty blocks along the Ciclovía route to Usaquén. There we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Abasto, which consisted of sparkling Chilean wine, fresh-baked focaccia, grilled octopus in a summer vegetable ratatouille, and shrimp in an achiote-coconut sauce with plantain puree and starfruit. In order to recover from our food comas, we grabbed a round of espresso and explored the neighborhood shops. Caryn bought a painting, two tins of Colombian coffee, and I think eight jars of tropical fruit jams. Meanwhile, Seth and I finally found the perfect autumn-colored mochila for his mother. Exhausted from spending the entire day out and about, we opted for another relaxing night in.

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On Monday the three of us skipped breakfast in favor of a colossal lunch at Fulanitos, a vallecaucano restaurant. I insisted that Caryn order the bandeja, as it is one of the most traditional and iconic dishes in the country. Seth followed suit. All of those meats and starches, plus a serving of lulada, had everyone stuffed. Somehow, though, we were able to walk the fifty blocks along Calle 63 to the Biblioteca Virgilio Barco. After admiring more of Salmona’s architecture, we continued over to the Parque Simón Bolivar and then to the Jardín Botánico. We were a little cold, wet, and grumpy due to the rain, but we managed to flag down a buseta and warm up in the comfort of our apartment. Since it was Caryn’s last full night in the city, we decided that it was only right to celebrate with pizza, wine, and grappa at one of our favorite spots, Julia in Zona G.

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Caryn’s last day included a series of snacks. We first stopped into a frutería for avena (a milk and oatmeal drink), jugo (juice), and buñuelos (fried doughy balls). We then walked to 7 de agosto—first, to have a look at the various tropical fruits in stock and second, to sample an ensalada de frutas (fruit salad), jugo de feijoa (pineapple guava juice), and jugo de maracuyá (passionfruit juice). For our next stop, we braved the violent hail for Restaurante Las Margaritas‘s famous empanaditas. We finished off our day of local flavor with a visit to Café Devotion (La Botica de Café) for a gourmet coffee tasting. Caryn, Seth, and I returned to our apartment with enough time for our visitor to pack and for us to say our goodbyes. Quite appropriately, on the way to the airport we just so happened to hire the most erratic and unstable of drivers, thus catapulting Caryn back to the United States in true Colombian fashion.

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twenty-six

tapas

ham

For my twenty-sixth birthday, Seth surprised me with some of my favorite things: a homemade breakfast, a dozen yellow roses, and a bottle of Chilean vino espumante (sparkling wine). We sipped the wine on my actual birthday, but we waited to go out to dinner until last night, when we had a bit more time and weren’t so stressed from work. Seth made reservations at Tapas Macarena, an itty-bitty corner restaurant in—you guessed it!—the bourgeois-bohemian neighborhood of La Macarena. I’d been wanting to dine there for months, ever since we tried to squeeze in over the summer and were promptly ushered down the street to La Tapería. Without question, the experience was definitely worth the wait.

We started our meal with a bottle of Tempranillo and pan con tomate (baguette slices with an olive oil and tomato spread). For our cold plates, we ordered the Ensalada Serrano, which consisted of a bed of lettuce topped with Serrano ham, Iberian cheese, asparagus, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, arugula, and a sun-dried tomato balsamic vinaigrette. For our hot plates, we munched on morcillitas bañadas en chutney de uchuva (little blood sausages in a sweet uchuva chutney), calamares al ajillo (squid in a garlic sauce), and champiñones queso azul (mushrooms in a blue cheese sauce). The food was quite simple and minimalistic but nevertheless very delicious and flavorful. To round out the meal, we requested a plate of house-cured and house-cut 18-month aged Serrano ham. I have a hard time resisting cured meats, and this one was most certainly not a disappointment.

My twenty-sixth was probably my first real adult birthday. It was my first where I didn’t worry about the status of my personal or professional future. I might not be where I once thought I would, but I think I am exactly where I should. Cheers!

[photos courtesy of Tapas Macarena]

[Tapas Macarena: Carrera. 4A # 26B-01, Bogotá-Colombia]

 

donostía

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Last night Seth and I enjoyed a nice dinner with our new friends, Joshua and Natalia. We journeyed to Donostía—a quiet restaurant nestled on a quieter street just a couple blocks north of the main avenue of La Macarena—for tapas and a Tempranillo.

We dined on canelón (cannelloni), tuna tartare, pulpo a la parilla (grilled octopus), ensalada de cangrejo (crab salad), alcachofas con mozzarella (artichokes with mozzarella), and, for dessert, la torta trufa de chocolate (a chocolate truffle torte), and panna cotta. Delicioso!

[Donostía: Calle 29 BIS # 5-84, Bogotá-Colombia]

la tapería

After our successful foray into La Macarena’s outer limits, Seth and I wanted to return to the neighborhood’s center for a proper dinner. We initially had our hearts set on Tapas Macarena, a cozy and intimate restaurant at the southernmost point of the bohemian strip. We made the mistake of not reserving a table, for we underestimated just how tiny the restaurant was. (The dining area literally consisted of one hundred square feet and six tightly-squeezed tables.) The head waiter kindly told us he was full for the night and recommended another tapas joint just two blocks down the twinkle light-adorned street. We were convinced that he had just sent us spiraling into a gringo tourist trap, but our open minds and empty bellies decided to check it out anyway. We were glad we did!

La Tapería did attract a few foreigners, but the crowd was largely Colombian. The restaurant’s host, who doubled as a waiter, led us to a corner table. We promptly ordered an Argentine Malbec and began perusing the tapas menu. After a few minutes of debate, we settled on a cured meat and cheese platter, which included jamón serrano, chorizo Ibérico, queso azul (blue cheese), brie, and aceitunas (olives). As we selected our tapas calientes, we sipped our wine and munched on some complimentary bread and aged balsamic vinegar. We eventually settled on lomo con salsa de queso azul (beef tenderloin cubes with a blue cheese sauce), gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic), and pulpo La Tapería (octopus with olive oil and herbs). Our waiter brought the dishes out one at a time, each with a plate of fresh bread, so we were really able to savor the meats and their accompanying sauces. We also appreciated the effects each plate had on the tasting notes of our wine. With the cured meats and cheeses, for example, our wine took on a bitter, dark chocolate flavor; with our tenderloin, which was cooked a perfect medium rare, the wine became slightly smoky; and with the octopus, which was served with house-prepared chips and a mild olive oil and tomato sauce blend, it seemed a little spicy. What La Tapería’s offerings lacked in innovation, they made up for in authenticity and presentation. (Our tapas were nearly identical to those we enjoyed in Barcelona.) The service was impeccable, possibly the finest Seth and I have experienced in Bogotá thus far, and the prices were reasonable (COP$20.000 or US$10 per plate, on average).

We hope to eventually return to the neighborhood to fulfill our original intent: to visit Tapas Macarena. Until then, we are thoroughly satisfied with our experience at La Tapería.

[La Tapería: Carrera 4A # 26-12, Bogotá-Colombia]

[photo courtesy of Revista Don Juan]

el libertador grand bar

I apologize for the lack of updates, but honestly, I have not had much to say. Seth and I have spent the past few weekends holed up in our apartment working on a design competition, and we have not made time to explore the city.

Yesterday we decided we needed a change of pace. After scouring the internet for stylish lounges, we settled on El Libertador Grand Bar. An homage to 1950’s New York, the cozy space is furbished with sleek brown couches, high modernist lamps, and polished swivel tables. Meanwhile, their menu boasts a slew of classic cocktails, including a dry martini, a Manhattan, and an Old Fashioned. Vodka-based drinks take a back seat to the bar’s whiskey offerings, which are appropriately listed by country of origin. Those who prefer gin can order a bottle of Hendrick’s, complete with a round of rose petal-adorned glasses. As Seth and I sipped our impeccably crafted cocktails, we admired their soft, cloudy reflections in the dim lighting. While a part of us felt as if we had been transported to a simpler time, the music—which consisted of everything from Will Smith to Hot Chip—kept us firmly placed in the present day.

El Libertador is located in La Macarena, a bohemian neighborhood in Santa Fe. Unlike the Zona Rosa or Parque 93, which are both in Chapinero, La Macarena feels less commercial; it feels a little grittier, a little more authentic, maybe even a little bit European. The people who frequent El Libertador and the surrounding establishments are not the type who want to dance; they are the type who want to talk (and awkwardly bop along to the music).

Tonight we plan to return to the neighborhood for a celebratory dinner of Spanish tapas and wine. Stay tuned!

[El Libertador Gran Bar: Calle 29 BIS # 5-90 (Segundo Piso), Bogotá-Colombia]

[photos courtesy of El Libertador]