Bogotá notes

March 7, 2011

Linda and I spent the four nights from February 11, 2011, at the apartment of our friend Judith in the El Retiro district of Bogotá.  

The first morning we went to the big, crowded Paloquemao Market. It has four sections: the flowers are outdoors; fruit and vegetables are in big covered spaces; the meat and the fish are both areas with refrigerated lockers and displays. Nestor, our excellent guide and driver for the day, advised me that I would have to get permission to take any photo, so I limited myself to a few photos of our group. This is too bad as there were many exotic, photogenic flowers, fruits and vegetables I had never seen before. They would have made an interesting market blogpost.

Here Linda, Judith and Nestor are buying exotic foliage to go with the big, red exotic flowers they had just bought. Below they are buying lotus flowers.


Here Judith and Nestor are buying for her dinner party that evening while Linda chooses mangos and papayas for our breakfasts.

This was the big, central area.

After the market, Judith took the flowers home while we went to the Gold Museum. This is an enormous display of pre-Colombian Colombian metal and pottery objects with excellent descriptions and histories.  The amount of gold is impressive. Linda, Nestor and I then had lunch in the museum’s restaurant, which features traditional Colombian dishes.

Linda had
Se empieza en la parilla y se termina al horno, se sirve con guacamole, mazorca y papas bañadas en hogao.
A chunk of marinated, grilled, then roasted, flank steak was served with guacamole; a potato topped with a good, light hogao, fresh tomato and onion sauce; and a chunk of boiled field corn. Linda really enjoyed this. The meat had a very good flavor.

I had
Plato tipico antioqueño acompañado con arroz blanco, agaucate, plátano, hogao, arepa paisa y chicharrón
The stewed beans were served with a glob of hogao. Alongside was a plate with white rice, an avocado slice, a very crisp plantain chip which one picks up to eat, crispy pork rinds and a simple white potato cake. Nice.

Nestor had
Sopa tipica bogotana hecha a base de papas y guascas, se acompaña con mazorca, pollo desmechado, crema de leche, alcaparras, aguacate y arroz blanco.
Ajiaco is an important, traditional local dish in Bogotá. I would have ordered it, but we knew that Judith would be serving it at the dinner party in her apartment that evening. It uses three kinds of potatoes: one dissolves into the stew and thickens it. The other two provide white and yellow chunks with different textures. One surprise is that the corn is doughy field corn, not the sweet corn we expected. The soup also includes chicken shreds and guascas, an Andean herb regarded as essential for Ajiaco. On top there is a garnish of cream and capers. White rice and an avocado slice are served alongside. Judith’s version was much the same, but the capers were passed in a little bowl.

The next morning, Sunday, we went to the Colsubsidio Theater for a good piano concert and stayed for lunch in its restaurant. As this was the bullfight season in Bogotá, there was a Spanish menu sponsored by Tio Pepe. We had mixed small plates to start and then three different paellas. We particularly enjoyed a bottle of merlot from Casa Lapostelle in Chile. That evening we walked to a nearby cevicheria for ceviche.

On our third morning, Nestor picked us up and took us to the Candelaria, or Old Bogotá. He showed us the old houses, now being gentrified. We went to the excellent Botero Museum, which has both Botero’s own paintings, watercolors and drawings and his extensive collection of European impressionist and modern art. It is in a lovely old building, renovated in 2000. We walked past the Congress, the Supreme Court and the President’s House. We went into two old colonial churches, but the cathedral and another important church were closed because a demonstration was scheduled for Bolivar Square. It turned out to be a lot smaller than anticipated, but the churches remained closed. We went into some shops, but didn’t buy anything. Finally Nestor drove us to Leo Cocina y Cava, for lunch. (Separate blogpost.) The next day we flew back to New York on the excellent Avianca Airline.

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