Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Wed November 18 2015

Get to Know Bogota’s Culinary Scene

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | November 18, 2015

Get to Know Bogota’s Culinary Scene

PHOTO: Inside Andres D.C. (Photo by Janeen Christoff)

Colombia has made a stellar comeback over the last few years to become one of the most sought-after destinations in South America, gracing lists of must-see destinations. Foodies will be happy to know that along with Colombia’s revival, its culinary scene has also stepped up its game. Trendy restaurants with fresh, farm-to-table cuisine grace the menus of restaurants in some of the city’s chicest neighborhoods.

On a recent visit, our group was able to experience the farm-to-table movement firsthand and even try our hands at creating some traditional Colombian dishes of our own. We were also able to dine at a number of Bogota’s most exciting restaurants.

Plaza de Mercado Paloquemao

To learn the ins and outs of the culinary traditions of any country, it’s best to begin at the market. In Bogota, that is the Plaza de Mercado Paloquemao. The market has everything — live chickens, exotic fruits, every type of vegetable imaginable, flowers, fish. We sampled a few, including lulo, which is often made into juice, and pitaya, which is a strange-looking but delicious yellow fruit but there were so many more — guanabana anyone?

There were strange root vegetables and more types of potatoes than I knew existed but we were there on a specific mission: to get the ingredients for our empanadas and plantains that we would be making for lunch. Knowing that we had to sing for our supper, so to speak, we navigated the maze of food stalls to find our ingredients.

Café de Citas Cooking Class

Sampling some of Colombia’s traditional dishes definitely provides insight into the traditions of its people, but learning how to make them is an even more in-depth experience. Empanadas are one of Colombia’s most versatile dishes. You can fill them with just about anything and at Café de Citas, Mariel, Joanna and Tatiana taught us how to build the perfect empanada, from kneading the dough to frying them in hot oil.

We filled ours with simple ingredients, including chicken, peas and onions seasoned with cumin, salt and pepper. We also made plantains and a mild salsa. The meal was delicious, I’m sure mostly due to our knowledgeable instructors.

Eating Out

Colombia’s culinary scene has been heating up for a while and the people of Bogota take dining seriously. Trendy restaurants line the streets of the city’s most fashionable neighborhoods and draw from cuisines all over the world for inspiration. With a growing economy and booming tourism, young Colombian entrepreneurs have returned to the country and are contributing to its culinary coming of age, but Bogota’s dining scene has been serving up delicious dishes for a long time so its sophistication shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Take Criterion for example. Owned by the famous Colombian chefs Jorge and Mark Rausch, the restaurant is the flagship of their growing empire that now spans the country. They have been serving up delicious French cuisine since 2003 and are consistently ranked among the country’s top restaurants.

Criterion showcases the more sophisticated side of Bogota’s dining scene while Andres D.C. demonstrates the city’s wilder side. This is definitely a place that words cannot truly do justice as it needs to be experienced to fully understand its bright personality. The restaurant truly embodies the spirit of Colombia with its vibrance, its décor and its flavors. The restaurant is most easily described as chaotic, full of music, laughter and celebration.

Despite the fact that it occupies five stories of a building, it’s rarely empty. When restaurants have a lot of atmosphere, sometimes the food is more about the experience than about taste, but that is not the case here. The menu is sprawling (some 60 pages, even one page for elevensies) and almost as chaotic as the dining scene but the food is delicious, hearty and full of flavor – and if you are judging a city by its culinary offerings, flavorful is not a bad way to be remembered.

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