Walking through San Pedro Plaza I noticed a guy selling arepas de queso (corn cakes with cheese). The smell was intoxicating, so I decided to buy one. The guy selling the arepas was from Medellin and this type of arepa is typical of that region. Total was 2000 pesos ($0.60). It was delicious. The cheese here in Cartegena is very rich with nice tartness.
Located one block down from the University of Cartagena, Espíritu Santo serves up home style local food at rock bottom prices. My wife ordered the carne asada and I ordered the pork chop special. Both came with coconut rice, patacones and side salad. The portions are huge and the food is deliciously simple. The restaurant serves lunch only.
La Mulata was recommended to us by a local friend of ours. It’s located on an unassuming street within the walled city. La Mulata’s decor is quirky and fun. The menu is etched on a thin wood board, which I found very clever. My wife and I ordered the ceviche, shrimp in garlic sauce and the Cartagena style braised beef. To drink I had a beer and my wife had the coconut limeade. The ceviche was amazing! It was made with large chunks of local sea bass tossed with citrus, chilies and red onion. The ceviche is only lightly cured in the marinade so it is essentially raw.
I arrived in Cartagena Saturday afternoon and met up with some colleagues for an alfresco dinner at Cafe San Pedro. The restaurant sits in front of the San Pedro Claver church. I ordered Sea Bass with shellfish in a coconut broth. The dish came with a side of coconut rice which is a staple here in Cartagena. The food was delicious and the setting amazing.
Maybe it was because of Mother’s Day, but for some reason I felt the urge to cook something Colombian today. I scrolled through a cookbook my mom brought back for me from Colombia to get some inspiration on what to make. My first choice was sancocho Antioqueño, which my grandmother would make from time to time, but the ingredient list is too big and for a soup it is extremely heavy. I ran across a recipe for Ajiaco Santafereño, a chicken and potato soup from Bogotá which is simple and delicious, so I decided to make Ajiaco for dinner. While browsing through my book “La Cocina Colombiana Paso a Paso” I had an epiphany moment regarding Colombian food. When compared to other Latin American cuisines like Peruvian and Mexican, Colombian food seems overly simple and bland. I’ve always appreciated Colombian food and it has always had a comfort food quality to me. I chalked this up to the fact that I grew up eating Colombian food, but felt that someone unfamiliar with the cuisine would find it bland and boring. The two most celebrated cuisines in the gastronomic world are Italian and French. Both of these cuisines are known for their purity of flavors and simplicity. Neither are dependent on heavy spices or over the top flavors. This is exactly what Colombian cuisine is all about, a few ingredients that compliment each other and enhance the star ingredient. Ajiaco has an uncanny resemblance to a French dish called Poule au Pot. For the Ajiaco the ingredients are as follows: chicken, potatoes (traditionally up to five different types of Andean potatoes are used), corn, onion, garlic, scallion, cilantro, oregano (traditionally a herb called guasca is used, but oregano makes a good substitute) and chicken bouillon (don’t try to substitute chicken stock).
Place the chicken, onion, garlic, scallion, cilantro and oregano in a pot and cover with water. Add some sea salt, pepper and bring to a simmer.
Once the chicken breasts are cooked through, remove them from the pot and pull them into strips.
Add the potatoes, then the corn and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. Remove from the heat and add the chicken breast.
To serve, garnish with sliced scallion and some cilantro sprigs.
Serve with rice, avocado, crema and capers. Put on some Carlos Vives and enjoy!