All posts by Karen Attman

Taking the Restaurant on the Road – El Cielo Restaurant

I’m packing for a trip. I’m surrounded by the usual disaster scene: suitcases are scattered around my living room, my closets look like they’ve been ransacked, and items on my packing list are getting crossed off. It’s complicated to pack for a trip – and I’m just packing for two.

Now imagine packing for 1,000.

That’s the challenge facing Juan Manuel Barrientos and his team at El Cielo. They’re taking his famous restaurant – with locations in Medellin, Bogota and Miami – on the road for the months of September, October and November.

Taking the El Cielo Restaurant on the road

What’s involved in taking a luxury tasting menu on the road?

Good planning. And lots of it. After more than a year of planning, the team is ready to take this nearly 5,000 km trip. With 1800 plates. And 500 luxury Italian wine glasses. With a 13 member cooking team. And of course, all the implements that have helped Juan Manuel earn his place as one of the top chefs in Latin America.

Imagine that packing list.

Why all the work? The 10 year anniversary of his El Cielo restaurants. And since not everyone can get to one of his restaurants, he’s taking the experience to Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cartagena, and Cali. So if you look at a map of Colombia, you’ll see that they’re going way west, way east, and quite a ways north.

The menu

Juan Manuel keeps his menu focused on Colombia and its traditions, and that’s no exception for this tour. He’ll be changing the menu slightly in every area he visits to accommodate some regional ingredients, and the 13-course meal will include:

  • Ropa vieja croquettes
  • Aborrajado
  • Chocolate therapy
  • Gallina ravioli (in Bucaramanga this will be served with hormiga culona)
  • Posta cartagenera
  • Yellow butterflies (don’t worry, you won’t be eating real butterflies)
  • Ceviche with Colombian fruits. The fish will be marinated in typical Colombian fruits rather than lime. These fruits will vary according to the area, so in Barranquilla count on the flavors of green papaya, guanabana and guyaba agria, in Bucaramanga feijoa and curuba, in Cartagena mangostino and in Cali lulo, borojo and chontaduro.
  • Colombian desserts
  • Coffee tree experience

If you’re going to be in any of the cities on the our route, here are the details you need to join in the tasting experience.

El Cielo Tour by Nacimiento

Dates

Barranquilla: October 11 and 12

Bucaramanga: October 18 and 19

Cartagena: October 26 and 27

Cali: November 1, 2

Cost for dinner

COP$180,000

How to purchase tickets

Only by Whatsapp message – +57 350 532 4747

What is the Secret of Colombia’s Happiness?

“Why do you love coffee?”

I was in one of Bogota best specialty coffee shops, Amor Perfecto, with a tour group. Light came streaming in the café on that sunny Bogota morning, and the intoxicating smell of freshly ground coffee made us all a bit dizzy.

Over the sounds of coffee cups clinking against saucers and the typical chatter of a busy cafe, the tour guests crowded in to catch the barista’s answer to my question.  The barista thought for a few seconds before answering, and then…what an answer he gave!

Continue reading What is the Secret of Colombia’s Happiness?

Cooking in Latin America: My Beloved Budare

Since I spend a lot of time cooking, I get attached to certain cooking implements. Has that happened to you? If you love to make cakes or bread, perhaps you have a special relationship with your mixer and oven. Or perhaps you can’t live without your backyard barbecue grill or that wine paraphernalia you’ve carefully collected over the years.

When you move abroad, though, those culinary affections can vary. Living in Latin America, my container of corn flour, which I reach for daily, is like an old friend. Perhaps you have a favorite yerba mate brewer. Or that perfect pan to fry plantain.

For me, there’s a special place in my kitchen and my heart for my budare.

Continue reading Cooking in Latin America: My Beloved Budare

A Different Kind of Sunday Brunch in Bogota: JW Marriott’s Tamarine

In Bogota, Sunday brunch has been trending for some time. Many of the restaurants at top hotels boast a brunch menu, whether buffet or a la carte. Coaxing Bogotanos to leave their homes on Sunday mornings for a hearty meal isn’t tough – it’s traditional to go with the whole family to get their fill of tamales and hot chocolate and buñuelos.

When you look around at what’s offered for Sunday brunch in Bogota, there’s a definite tendency towards American or Colombian traditions. Waffles or tamales, scrambled eggs or empanadas, it can be hard to break that mold (not that I mind the waffle mold).

However, Tamarine broke the mold.

Continue reading A Different Kind of Sunday Brunch in Bogota: JW Marriott’s Tamarine

Brunch in Bogota: W Hotel

I’m fascinated by brunch. Growing up in the United States, Sunday morning was brunch morning. We loved to go out as a family to see what delights were hiding at our favorite brunch buffet. Fresh waffles dripping with syrup, eggs made just the way we wanted them, and plentiful meats lured us back again and again.

However, in Colombia the word makes me cringe a bit. Especially the all-you-can-eat buffets, which are often pricey and with stale, tasteless offerings. After numerous disappointments, I’d sworn off most brunches.

The brunch at the W hotel, though, sparked my interest. I love the hip feel to the hotel and the offer seemed irresistible: an all you can eat buffet, complete with a waffle section.

Continue reading Brunch in Bogota: W Hotel

In Colombia, Hope Smells of Coffee Beans

When people suffer, we want to help. Even a small act makes a difference to a person in need. Maybe the only thing we can give is a hug, a few words of encouragement, or perhaps a smile. Those tiny acts can seem like very little, but they can change a lonely child’s world, comfort an elderly person, or convince a single mother that she can make it through another tough day.

Continue reading In Colombia, Hope Smells of Coffee Beans

Two of our Favorite Things: Chocolate and Coffee in Colombia

Two items in my kitchen cupboard are not essential but certainly seem to be: coffee and chocolate. Yes, I could live without them – though not too happily.

I’ve also noticed that combining them produces double the happiness. It’s something I did recently by teaming up with Suzie Hoban from the Colombian Chocolate Club for an interview with Richard McColl on Colombia Calling, the top English-language radio show in Colombia.

We did the chocolate-coffee themed podcast at the headquarters of the Colombian Chocolate Club. That’s where Suzie, a university lecturer on the subject of cacao, brings her chocolate knowledge to the public with tastings that feature 100% Colombian products.

So yes, the Coffee Lady got together with the Chocolate Lady to talk about two of our passions.

Continue reading Two of our Favorite Things: Chocolate and Coffee in Colombia

Shhhh! Speakeasy, please

We arrived at the door and stared blankly at it.

“Is this the place?” Peter asked, doubt and worry in his voice. He stepped up to the darkened windows and tried to peer in.

I fidgeted on the doorstep. Was this the address? Were we on the wrong street? It’s an easy mistake to make when you depend on Bogota’s notoriously bizarre street numbering system.

I looked for a doorbell but there wasn’t one, and the door was firmly shut against the world.

Just then the door swung open and a thin-faced man with serious eyes and heavy stubble looked at us. He didn’t say a word.

What was I supposed to do? What should I say? Was there a password we should recite, or would he simply recognize my name?

He swung the door open wide. “Come on in.”

Continue reading Shhhh! Speakeasy, please

The Hidden Secrets of a Food Market in Colombia

The taxi driver had warned us.

But we didn’t listen. I mean, who really follows the advice of a Colombian taxi driver?

On the way there we passed by a swamp where pelicans floated and white herons circled overhead. Cars, motorcycles, and buses lurched down the road alongside our taxi, clouds of exhaust swirling around in the dense heat.

Vendors on the sidewalk yelled out at the top of their lungs, deafening shouts that let us know there was yucca for sale. Avocados were placed in huge piles on the next table. Fresh-eyed fish laid out in rows on wood planks let us know we were close.

The taxi stopped. “We’re here,” the driver muttered gloomily.

My heart was beating hard.

Continue reading The Hidden Secrets of a Food Market in Colombia