It’s well established that we all love to eat. And we love to cook with ingredients that can be hard to find in Bogota – international products but also those that are local, organic, sustainable, delicious. And sometimes we need to find all those things in one place – the artisan bread for dinner, a box of handmade Colombian chocolates for a gift, a good local cheese, a bottle of wine. In just one place, and at a price that won’t break the bank? That’s hard to find.
The newly opened Gastronomy Market, right off the Parque de la 93, brings all that together – artisan products, organic goods (imported ones as well as local or national). Think of it as the food lovers market.
I spoke with Oscar Raudales, the manager of Gastronomy Market, to get a behind the scenes look at this market. Back in February of this year he started searching for products and contacting suppliers. The goal at the Market is to use organic, artisan suppliers and to stock products that you are not going to find in Carulla. At this point they only have a 25% overlap with Carulla, so 75% of the products in Gastronomy Market are not available at their big green neighbor.
Of course, getting organic suppliers in Colombia has its challenges. These small companies are more used to supplying directly to houses, not businesses. That means they’re not as stable as more established companies. And the challenge of bringing products in from other areas of the country is huge, with high transportation costs and other surprises along the way.
Gastronomy Market also has two resident chefs that select the products and ingredients, as well as help the customers out – but more on them later.
So, back to the products. They have about 2,800 packaged goods and more than 500 fresh products. The market has three main areas: packaged products, fresh fruits and vegetables, and the deli area. So here you can pick up those tough items to find, like your organic ketchup, tomato marmalade, nutmeg from Medellin, local cacao, organic flour, or coconut oil. Here you will find few mass-produced brands.
In the morning (from 9-11) you can pick up bread baked fresh by El Obrador. The bread is made with sour dough rather than yeast (making it easier to digest). They make choconueces, forest honey and cinnamon, and other flavors and types of bread. My favorite is the cappuccino brioche, which has a strong (but pleasant) taste of coffee, a soft texture, and is good for breakfast, a morning snack, or…really, at any time of the day.
They stock artisan beers from small breweries like Apostol, Cordillera, BBC, Chelarte, and Colon, and also imported beers. For those special moments, they have a Premium case stocked with delicacies like truffles, and they also have boxed chocolates from Grazia and Serge Thierry as well as Alma Cuisine products.
I discovered at the Market a bottled drink that is now one of my favorites. It’s an artisan, organic tea made by Kombucha, from the Bosque de Niebla Andino. I have to thank one of the in-house chefs for this find – Andrés walked around Cali for a full day, searching for special products for the store, until he finally found this fantastic fermented tea.
But if you decide to try it, be careful – like I said, it’s fermented, and has to be opened with care because if not, it will explode. Really. I had to watch the first bottle for about 20 minutes, opening it very slowly, because I didn’t take the warnings seriously. The ginger tea has a strong, peppery taste and is quite refreshing.
The deli area has meats from places like La Parisienne, which produces good dried meats, while Casablanca makes a tasty sweet ham.
Artisan cheeses come from suppliers like Artesano 7 Cueros, Planetarica, Eurolacteos. La Gavia, a small cheese factory, makes a light yellow queso especial that has a sharp flavor and dry texture. The Corazon del Valle de Tuesaca is another yellow cheese, with a blue cheese filling. Altania is a mozarella-type cheese with either pepper or basil and tomato.
There is a constantly changing selection of salads and sandwiches made with ingredients sold in the store. Andrés is the chef in charge of the deli, so he’s the guy that selects the ingredients and establishes the recipes.
The menu rotates monthly, maintaining a selection of six wraps, six sandwiches, and six salads. The roast beef sandwich (the roast beef is made on the premises) is a permanent, and permanently popular, sandwich on the menu. The veggie sandwich has also been popular, although the salmon wrap with dill sauce and spices is their # 1 wrap.
You can take out or eat in. The dining area is on their terrace, and I chose to have my taste of Gastronomy Deli out there. The couscous salad was light and tangy, with chick peas and an orange marinade. I’ll definitely be back for the veggie sandwich with gorgonzola sauce, arugula, mushrooms, onions, and maple syrup.
(Sandwiches and salads cost 13,800 pesos. Wraps go for 9.950.)
Working with artisans
One of the exciting things about Gastronomy Market is their desire to work with – and help – artisan suppliers. They want to continue to develop a training program for artisans not just because it’s a worthwhile thing to do, but also because they recognize that their survival depends on those artisans.
And many small artisan retailers need that help. Sometimes they aren’t sure what their prices should be. Product performance is also a challenge; selling to neighbors fresh products isn’t a problem, but shipping them to Bogota usually is.
Gastronomy Market helps those small suppliers by working with them to define which products would work in the store, giving them feedback on how they can be more effective selling their goods, placing those artisan products in a more visible area of the store, and giving them space to interact with customers.
It can be confusing to enter a store with so many unfamiliar products and choose what you need for dinner. That’s where the in-house chefs come in. Gastronomy Market has two chefs that are always available to explain the products, so clients understand which ones will suit their needs – and also learn how to prepare them.
One of the chefs, Andrés Guerrero, studied systems engineering in Spain and worked there for 17 years. But he was eventually seduced by Spain’s gastronomy, and decided to change careers. He studied cooking in Barcelona and worked as a private chef for people from around the world. Almost two years ago he decided to come back to Colombia. He’s the kind of chef that is easy to approach, and has the patience to answer any question. Food is his passion, so it’s easy for him to educate clients – and sell the right product.
Proof of that is in the results. You can hear clients say as they leave the store, “Thanks, Andres – your advice was perfect.”
Monday – Saturday 9 to 9.
Sundays and holidays from 10 am – 7pm.
They even have a parking lot.
Carrera 13 No. 93b-51, Bogota
Coffee fanatics will be pleased to hear that Azahar has its own space at the front of the store, with different preparation methods. These are the guys that really know their coffee, from origin to the final cup, so be prepared for an education.
Some of Gastronomy Market’s suppliers:
- Yummi Yummi
- Serge Thirry
- Miel del Bosque Seco
- Pan Forte
- El Patio
- La Gavia
- 7 Cueros
- Cacao Hunters
- 8 Metro Cuadrado
- Carisma de la Tere
- Arte Culinario
- Mermeladas Isabel
- Miel Saman
DISCLOSURE: I was invited to the launch of Gastronomy Market, where I learned about the products and talked with the chefs and some of their artisan product suppliers.