All posts by Karen Attman

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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The First Step of a Coffee Book Journey

How far can one idea take you? Where will the casual comment of another person lead you?

I learned a lesson on the power of ideas about a year and a half ago. I was in Mexico City for the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. It’s the top food awards event for the region, when spectacular chefs gather together to celebrate their past achievements and their future goals. The whole week, not just the night of the awards, is a thrilling experience; as a food writer I get to attend numerous dinners and parties in glittering settings and try the best food in the city.

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La Grande: Peruvian Cuisine in Quinta Camacho

Do you have a favorite street? One that you love to walk down, where you take time sit on a bench and look at the trees and admire the gardens and the ivy-covered houses? It can create a peaceful moment that takes you away from the big-city traffic.

I have a street like that. I can always find a good excuse to walk down it. When I’m nearby checking out new coffee shops or restaurants I’ll go out of my way to head down that street and get the feeling I’ve escaped to a small town outside Bogota.

So when a restaurant opens up on my favorite street, I pay attention.

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