All posts by Karen Attman

Shhhh! Speakeasy, please

We arrived at the door and stared blankly at it.

“Is this the place?” My husband 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 door bell 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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What Makes a Specialty Coffee Shop Unforgettable?

When you visit Bogota, at some point you may find yourself on a chilly street wondering where to warm up with a good coffee. Now, if what you mean by a good coffee is that you need to find a specialty coffee shop, you and I have something in common.

When I began writing travel articles for international publications, I always had to include coffee shops. After all, this is Colombia, the largest exporter of fine Arabica coffee in the world.

It was only after spending large amounts of time with enthusiastic coffee shop owners, talented and generous baristas, and many cups of coffee that I realized I’d found something amazing.

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Restaurants in Bogota: Prudencia

La Candelaria is one of Bogota’s most fascinating neighborhoods, both bohemian and historic. It’s uncomfortably crowded down by the main plaza but takes on an eerie calm up by Chorro de Quevedo, the fountain and plaza where they say Bogota got its start.

I can feel the history as I walk on the quiet streets past buildings whose foundations were laid in the early 1600s.  The cobblestone streets are crowded with red tile roofed houses painted in vibrant colonial colors. Occasional splashes of street art invoke the past and present, modern and historic, European and indigenous.

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What a Superstar Chef Brings to Fine Dining

He’s got a sweet baby face, like that guy in school you had a secret crush on (and never told anyone about). I wasn’t expecting to find that kind of superstar magnetism in a chef. I knew that his restaurant is among the top in fine dining in Bogota. I’d seen enough of his Instagram account to know that this chef tapped into a truly hip  vibe. But I wasn’t expecting the openness, bright smile, and intense gaze of a man thoroughly comfortable with himself and his world.

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Coffee Fair in Bogota

Every year the coffee industry in Colombia has a coffee fair that gathers together everyone involved in the coffee industry – coffee growers, exporters and distributors, coffee shop owners and baristas. From around the world coffee importers come looking for the next specialty coffee to take back home with them.

The most exciting moment of the fair is the national barista championships, where the top baristas around the country compete to see who will be the king for the following year.

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How Coffee Changes Us

I grew up in a house with no coffee. There was no coffee pot on the stove, no coffee maker on the counter. There was no smell of coffee to wake us in the morning and no reason to sit around the kitchen table mid-afternoon. We ate our cookies with milk. And we considered ourselves normal.

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