Mealtimes in Italy

Okay, so mealtimes in Italy.

Colazione (breakfast): Breakfast is a cup of coffee with milk like a cappuccino. Maybe a croissant or a sandwich (triangular white sandwiches like the triples in Peru). Italians don’t really eat much for breakfast. They consider the milk in the coffee to be the “food.” But, later in the morning, they will have more coffee. Coffee is a small cup of coffee like an espresso. No coffee in Italy is ever the size of American coffees. Italians will have many coffees throughout the day, although milk in coffee is only for breakfast (so before 11 a.m.).

Around 10 or 11 a.m., Italians might have a small snack with their next coffee.

Pranzo (lunch): Lunch is generally eaten from noon to 2 p.m. but on a Sunday, lunch can be later.

Merenda (tea): At around 3 p.m., Italians (and certainly children) will have a snack. One could have a gelato… or some crackers and cheese.

Aperitivo (happy hour): after work, Italians may have a tapas/mezze style spread. Many judge the bar based on the selection of free nibbles. During the current COVID restrictions (restaurants close for in restaurant dining at 6 p.m.), many people are having aperitivo at 3 p.m. Why not?

Cena “che-na” (dinner): Dinner is generally at 8:30 p.m. or later. One had a snack earlier, thankfully.

Secret Eco-Rooms With A View of Gocta Waterfall

fullsizeoutput_1ebNo that you have done Machu Picchu, you want to do the next big thing… Kuelap, the Gocta Waterfall, and so on. Then, the question is where to stay. The secret, secret, place to stay in Gocta… no, not that one… is… Gocta Natura. But only if you like “natural” and bohemian (and no WIFI). This small organization will give you ALL the FEELS. Warm, fuzzy, friendly. Gocta Natura has five cabins in the woods overlooking the waterfall. The price is per person and they employ a gourmet chef. Like I said, ALL. THE. FEELS. You’re gonna love it. If you like rustic, eco-friendly. If not, stay at the famous Gocta Lodge hotel located up the hill behind Gocta Natura. (Note: I have not stayed at either of the Goctas. This is just based on the rave reviews of someone I know who is “in the know”.). To see the waterfall up close, you can ride a horse for part of the hike, as it may be hot and sweaty. Then, once you have seen “the nature,” you get to go back to your peaceful cabin and enjoy gourmet cuisine.

fullsizeoutput_1ecThe closest village to Gocta Waterfall is Cocachimba. It’s got a village green and the village doesn’t seem to consist of more than the buildings surrounding the green. The Gocta Lodge is at the end of the village behind a high wall. To get to the Gocta Natura, you have to walk the path on the way to the waterfall. Cocachimba’s altitude is 4,000 feet above sea level, making this village a better place to sleep if you suffer from altitude sickness. Chachapoyas is at 7,600 feet (2,300 meters) and Kuelap is 10,000 (3,000 meters).

NBQ-zoYyUGKo-Kt9puXvQJLa8hJMnDM0VliVWZtYhqp7DvPBFXproGE46UnE18JMfilsFsfqY7WEt9GhZvu_wnxBSUFu7RY_o9VJLYF_1gZgZPUEf8fFZ3FhxUyTQfLmigOp6tMXuAJPVpiH8UGc9V9MGOnMi4BWRUWSXgmeXs5j4Iiod994erOl0CI7d_A1bUV19uNWUKn4yPVtwNaooyEboBogAbYI liked the drive up to the village of Cocachimba. Amazing views and amazing coffee. All along the road, locals were drying their coffee beans on tarps spread out in front of their houses. At one of the village restaurants, I had a delicious mug of coffee. When I asked what brand they had used, they explained that it was their own coffee, from their own beans, from their own tree. They weren’t showing off.

The photo of the fighting cocks was taken at a spot along the road to Cocachimba that had a spectacular view of Gocta waterfall. When I saw the location of the cages, I wondered why the owner of that house didn’t open a B&B in that location. I would think that tourists are a better source of income… and with fewer feathers?

Coffee Tasting in Lima – Alpha to Omega

hpnxbod0onpvzyc33ukcakzdtsv3nd7_ecxehcvqqdxokod0ukcp6zdvmbrdsuf9ubre5etbsfemsakdowuwhcr5p0nzubr-lf4gv_fxriqgnwj6_b0jwe0govni_4jinuezdd_coxbfaz8bgfyfjpdgotlkfqr7l7j_frmn8jjfbq-_4sotqplpzjI organized a coffee tasting with the guys from Artidoro Rodriguez coffee. After five hours of learning about coffee and drinking coffee, I was too caffeinated to write this blog posting… I realized how little I know about coffee. For the food geeks, there is a coffee tasting certification class in Lima (one week for eight months–not sure why they don’t do a two month class). Anyway, back to what I didn’t know…. Notice in the photo below that there is some magical ratio of weight of ground coffee to water at a certain temperature (I think this is why the Brits say, “water from a freshly boiled kettle”).

brfmvt3pkp_vrir5694d8ojao2lyr5mkilb7xtxvqi8dw6nthmbdf46omagr2bur8dj4ikdz5wzvq-oobk8y5u1b4ssexdm4att3gg_d0jyajwxyglbtshnekvrzri3boy_1rqavemjt9mx58cidyssofiyl9-ctsyhwq6vif2hqpc9lv1zczs7ogxThe coffee tasting class cost 100 soles (about $30) per person. It was planned from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. but we got a five hour class, freebies, coffee (duh!) and so much info that I had a buzz not solely from the coffee! The owners, Felix and Julian, are experts in tasting and roasting respectively. Felix is the grandson of Artidoro Rodriguez so a legend in the making (Juan Valdez was made up by marketeers!). You heard it here!

ck_gg9o4_pmvmxly_y-5h6jrafmnkar10zbojykcqevhm0xbhxvwxacxdhwvcn9wgrjranve-uhvveju7cystubxmhpx-kas17nwrd8cqlhljuxbyvwhvvtxdfxc0h4ffvuftrpxeo3tjy7aocphhfafmosotbyfiuy_ova-wpij11wklzrlinhcsrI set up the class with Julian via email. The class was in Spanish as Felix feels more comfortable in Spanish. Julian’s English is good so he translated when he could. Plus, I had my secret superpower with me (a bilingual friend who is professional level simultaneous translator level, and a subject matter expert to boot!). We tried more than ten brands of coffee and around six methods of making coffee. As it was a tasting, we could choose to not swallow the coffee and spittoons were provided… but I drank the coffee (hence the buzz).

9t5q9-bs1osqtlr9o9vxawhu3ntqwwryvdzjgc6pmagfj36hqwwspqmrorm0rbwehzze5s45zmdvk3tbqpm632speuugo20civf0tmiuv8plr9aimuigezbpgir_6mwy_bxapta7ct1nrt8bfdu7c1zvigewkpvw3l-tjlbpzvk_sblqgshwxv1unrWe learned so much that I can’t recall most of it. But, there are two types of coffee beans and Peru has lots of areas where both kinds (robusta and arabica) of beans can be grown to produce gourmet coffee. We learned about weighing our coffee when we make it. We learned that there is a coffee grading scale from zero to 100 points. 80 or above is gourmet. Aridoro Rodriguez is 84 (no  shame in that!). Coffee from 60 to 80 is commercial coffee. Below 60… fuggedaboutit. We learned that shiny beans are no good. Shiny beans have been over roasted, one way to compensate for deficiencies. Notice the shiny burned look of the two groups in the photo below. The smallest bunch of beans are roasted correctly. No oily sheen. Just a healthy luster.

y_aq8gg5cnd3slkdznrwwkungden1qxwkky1tz7kjubqsu4tqa2juijh4untex0pc4tpjcnxsn4jc07agejzpdjlk6eqnrxr07muj7rggkoqum4xctq2jq8rgo8grqgq2lumygasgzadwpsqhcyxsap8zymfxzrilsggobxxgsvb7snp3eqm5zpyynWe learned that slurping is good when tasting coffee. We looked at runty beans called “snails” and how they are picked out as a specialty. Just smaller, uglier, but with equal potential (some deep zen going on here, amiright?).

6e3hxhwt92tcc2kgoq4e9ztntjfznlszfd68phrgsix4x_unin3e2imwp2puu1jvgpf4a8mixmrrijvi_ivkey-2nfzynqhxd2difxifzmawszyofp-qscvcap_zw8onfvvj5ctmmwdt1idns6hte39dcvydc4olwy2xg8_netf-e5n3h3v8ueifgdWe learned that beans need to be separated before roasting so they roast at the same degree. That it’s a matter of seconds from the “first pop” of the first bean roasting to the full on fireworks of popping, and, that in those ten seconds, the coffee roaster can make or destroy a batch of coffee. A roast lasts around eight minutes but I can’t recall the exact details. We also learned that after roasting, coffee grounds should “exhale” for eight hours before being used to brew coffee. We learned about “fragrance” and “aroma” and all the other ways to know one’s coffee. We even learned about coffee “tea” (see raisin-like things next to weak cup of liquid in photo below), and then our minds were blown.

vgzs3l3bykenfekexnqn95bfizn14dimdpuwq66xsw1e72te7oqehh8piaasp0iyjb4kkgjnkq035nwdfnszrv9rbsgzuwj7wgrcyfbmifpvrvl4g7sr6tmdmnet5n8euke11u6alynvohtxudtjzsqqpxyn8slxfqhwq5vwijp2ihepcddd1tilqsWe learned even more. About people, livelihoods, the environment, pride in product, taste, and that Felix and Julian are looking to open up a coffee bar somewhere in Miraflores. We learned of the coffee places approved of by Felix. We sniffed… we sipped… we giggled… we roared with laughter… we… take the class! Learn. Get caffeinated. Get mo’ on joe!

ytsbs7jqqzbzkpnjlvep_bhtjb7uwdlr3x35hnhj6cy76i0i5-xo_ekgbphixb3a7je2g8dujr59m_teya0ofgfuiwingt6dzorqig4m-cvvvyikdcou7f0ejhbhgzbf7iq9pwexu0i1yrxjhi74ggngc7ifyghzqmajtn9d8i18t6frjyhhbcrhjoThe key point that Felix told us was… no two cups of coffee will be the same… each cup is as individual… as an individual…

O-M-ega. This just got deep.

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Drink up, my friends, may your cup runneth over. In the best of company.

A Coffee Expert’s Choice of Where to Drink A Cup of Gourmet Josephus in Lima

mk3cgijzqrjy-rlnr3y51egskptmg1vy-j-5m-wgw39oittpz6dpdklt8dg7gh5y5fhew_7kffg9hwh15wul4i34ga8z4gwaquftsvuotvfmq7nuu90qyogpctagmtqjxfts8wz_b17mknv0y34c7xasotu2tgro162ayucl1xuuwe34qghfuca7wjRecently, I organized a coffee class tasting at Artidoro Rodriguez (I’ll write about that another time, once the caffeine has worn off. But, if you want a foretaste, read about how gourmet coffee is a hot item (!!!) in Peru.). Felix of Artidoro Rodriguez is an expert coffee taster (a different skill from being an expert roaster). Naturally, we asked Felix where he drinks coffee in Lima, and he told us his list of where to drink gourmet coffee (gourmet coffee is coffee with a grade of more than 80 on the 100 point scale. Don’t ask about coffee below 60 — okay, okay, more about that another time). Now, I need a cup of Joe. Gourmet Joe!

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La Teoría de 6 Cafés, Calle Gral Mendiburu 890, Miraflores: They have cold brewed coffee as well (there is more caffeine in cold brew). Felix, the coffee roaster of Artidoro Rodriguez coffee (and grandson of Artidoro), may be biased as he is friends with the folks at this cafe (or did they become friends over a cup of coffee?). Note in the photo below that this cafe serves cold brew with orange juice along with other hipster coffee trends.
Milimétrica Espresso Bar, Av. la Paz 580, Miraflores: The link from Beanhunters provides lists of where to drink gourmet coffee around the world.
Colonia & Co, Av San Martin 131, Barranco: From the photos, it looks like they even have a real hipster with a manbun working here.
Caleta Dolsa, Av San Martin 223, Barranco (couldn’t find a link on the cafe so inside I include one of the area including a tip on a hotel to stay in): this place is only a few months old. It’s located in a sunken (basement) space.
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And these two:
Neira Café Lab, Calle Enrique Palacios 1074, Miraflores: Also has lists of cafes, plus a notification about a foam competition
Cafe Verde (this link includes even more coffee shops to try, though Aromia is gone), Av. Sta. Cruz 1305, Miraflores

 

Oh to Breakfast

yck49Lt6OkC5oorMFnaWCNYyCA9y3E4Totccbetqk-C41t3TAwsLHW9mmK2VhaGUD71Y07nBEI1FHwIgR0Bw6G3H9RDiR0F4ZCW_JKyxSjJSaIm60aCQlHYC2KQ9ppMHqCBRhhSO0PYj9sSRQM6FNid-Q1sgiZsgqrc1JHF6_e_egEffGRIMf7lIXBreakfast is one of my favorite meals (well, so are: brunch, elevenses, lunch, sobremesa, linner, high tea, supper, dinner, natmad “nightmeal”, and stumble-home-greasy-and-spicy-mouthful…). Some people consider eggs to be a vital part of a “breakfast” and others consider a piece of bread dipped in coffee to be the start to the day. In some countries, soup is it. In Vietnam, it’s pho (as in my photo from New Mexico, USA) and in Colombia, it’s a broth with rib meat and potatoes. In China and Thailand, the breakfast “oatmeal” is a rice porridge soup… I hereby advocate for more soup for breakfast!

And palta avocado! (It’s delicious in soup too!). Photo from El Pan de la Chola in Lima.

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Breakfast at KM Marker 52

F2yl8Y-igUdNURLmAzWQCpeur1o8H6Zv798pGYDQkDxZGQPRy-fwnbw1cQ7A0uj3RuY_H9rQmsYDDRKS9kpWJJg8XpEGUyIJ7_rLmz4WFOrk4_VCxtuTpUhagoK7iOc7wTb5qN-m0-Ygf1tQZpGhaaxFj_K2Ny8b67j2OHTasnzfxXTrXkCEYTr1UCLocated on the Panamerican highway at kilometer marker 52 on the road south of Lima, this bakery is a great pit stop for breakfast. It’s called Tambo Rural (tambo is the indigenous word for kiosk) and there is no sign so you just have to pay attention and turn in at marker 52. They now have a real dirt driveway and expanded parking lot so it’s much easier to stop off the highway.

rP8ffFMWjFoeO9pHiACIZdI2I22UoepATGVvCzjeK1jnjiKTO6D5eud7lZp1Jemf9JhUZiNyBlOKncrgizEKdo_purEp-2EzpdgTud0Z_jZBpvelxPyZNharVRHQtyEq-9Iy0SWcrPclEo6sCZjc3cKNpVxObekZRGA6PHaIVypIZtViVExH2VzzjHThe coffee is amazingly creamy.

J5SvTUiS_l1c5D4XQyf8TZXgHLIYurlCGeczeKsrdUhZjX8bG6_jV1yxm3krCoGvezeKMcqLEm4Kfng8eiYMjXefhB0-eE0qHlqHwP0o6ruoaYZleuFLtxTq7Icv80sZaCt2yUUk4P6m57DQ-g39UfS1ulKOplJsL82ZHnhUu-oLEKaDEvqeQ5RhRfSpeaking of breakfast, they sell chicharron which they cook in the wood fired oven (how is that for mind blowing!?), a breakfast item in Peru.

GCByCJimKgLY6SwdvdBIKa2R9DfRMHnouDpGhwUjR90RGLffrwnLVDCTC2HnEaq4TFuyztNFg60wy-UdELbUe34bEVhXGotHOFFfhQ0MicmgNRMyasofP-WFm1ornHJD1CnaxUAEG7jZjv6F1zu01WAsDcs7f8UOkyRdmJX4bVJmzhoL85YjRFJTYIThey sell bread that you can buy to take with you including photogenic focaccia.

mEG8spfsoDGXjO0_vteyCFhAUIJR6ja7_9WqnrhBhV7r_33lJ3jvQyPnBadHt-LPWl36Sxy_yYFgDDI0vPu_x_uzEN1XNvg8z7P467UNAcD1FyTfXr2ApnLmw1MEg_tMSNnwgEP9tULJxKohbAO3tDUBTcHsDS8TKgPKAr2v04YMK9VPAPjKwVR3AmThey have toilets which work on a “bucket of water” flush system.

This place is not super fancy but it is good and covers all the bases. It’s not a secret either but TripAdvisor reviews are only in Spanish.

I enjoyed the fresh warm rolls, some filled with ham (turkey ham) and cheese, and some with olives and oregano. Plus that locally sources coffee. Yum. Great way to start a day and a trip. Go! Enjoy!

Best Coffee (Shops and Cafes) an Bakeries

I can’t leave Bogota without mentioning coffee. Coffee shops are very popular here. Some of the famous brands of coffee are Juan Valdez, Oma, Amor Perfecto, and lesser know is Bourbon, but it gets confusing because some of the coffee shops use other brands but make the coffee so well that your experience will be changed! One of those places is in the Hilton on 7th Avenue. The barista certainly takes a long time to make your coffee (including asking you how you want it – percolated, drip, etc. etc.) and it is nice. But not good if you actually just need a cup of coffee. The cafe looks like a 1920s location so the decor is appealing as well. I like Bourbon, both for their coffee and their cafe. And the fact that they make coffee with almond milk, for those who care about that sort of thing.

13220685_10154160417399618_6869800116600708308_oBut, the best bakery is Arbol del Pan (Calle 66 Bis, #4-63: they are located up near Gordo and La Fama, on a street parallel to La Fama). Their coffee is okay but it’s their breads that are the best. Plus, they are open for breakfast. They make a poached egg, asparagus and prosciutto croissant that is delectable. This is not to say that I don’t still enjoy Eric Kaiser and Masa’s products. But, I think I like Arbol’s almond croissant best. On top of which, the staff speak English and the owner has one of those great back stories (architect decides to become baker… and it’s a woman-owned business, for those who care about that sort of thing!).

Bread and Cheese – El Pan de la Chola

IMG_1081Lima, Lima, Lima! My friends are probably tired of hearing me rave about the food in Lima… turn away now then.

IMG_1076Yet another delicious place to eat in Miraflores is El Pan de la Chola. The atmosphere is a bit like being in San Francisco. Just not quite as expensive. The baker is a young man who started by selling bread on the beach. Now he teaches children to bake in the open-air bakery at the back of the restaurant.

IMG_1043The cheese used in the melted cheese sandwich is so locally sourced that it doesn’t even have a name! The juice drinks are refreshing, the yogurt home-made, and simple dish of “palta fuerte” avocado, oil, and bread is simplicity itself.

IMG_1032Even the cafe con leche is one of the best cups of coffee that I’ve had (the coffee is one found by the “coffee hunter” of TV fame).

IMG_1036Never mind the hype. Go for the melted cheese sandwich.

A Birthday Wish for Colombia

Today, on Colombia’s birthday (205 years old), I went for a walk to see how Colombians celebrate. I knew there was a parade somewhere and I’m pretty sure that I heard the flyover, but mostly, I noticed that almost all the buildings were flying the flag. I went out to a favorite eatery and as I pondered my cafe latte, I wished Colombia a happy birthday. Google had Colombia as a their design today, but in the headlines, it’s another country starting with a “C” that has grabbed the spotlight (also, I’ve noted that my blog readership had dropped now that I blog mostly about Colombia — which makes me realize the power of 170 million Bangladeshis, with smartphones!). Speaking of things starting with the letter “c,” my birthday wish for Colombia (other than people learn to spell her name correctly) is that she will loosen the fetters of her reputation for cocaine and kidnapping. Instead, I hope that people will think of Colombia when they enjoy their coffee, or nibble on organic chocolate, or cruise into Cartagena. Or come seeking the legend.

Coffee beans on the bush.
Coffee beans on the bush.

One year later, I thought I’d comment on my post about stereotypes about Colombia:

1. Aren’t you worried about getting kidnapped? (I wouldn’t go to Colombia if kidnapping was a guarantee. Duh!)

Answer: Still not worried. I stay in my bathtub, blubbering at my rubber ducky.

2. It’s dangerous. You will get mugged. Or worse. (Bogota, with seven million inhabitants, has all the usual dangers of a large city so I think my chances are equal those if I lived in New York or Bangkok).

Answer: Yes, it is. Hardworking Colombians get killed for the price of their cell phone. But, again, are you going to stay in your bathtub? No. I wander around during the day, going on epic 100-block walks. I don’t wander around at night. At night, I admire the reflection in my bathtub. 

3. Will you become a drug dealer? Or an emerald smuggler? (Why would you ask me that? Is it a conversation starter?)

Answer: Again, why would you DARE ask me if I really was one? And, frankly, I’d completely forgotten about the emeralds. I guess the Wizard will disown me now.

4. I hear that plastic surgery is really cheap and of high quality there. Are you going to get plastic surgery? (Thanks for the suggestion?).

Answer: Yes, it is. I’ve heard that a tummy tuck is about 4,000 dollars. Now, if you want danger, cheap plastic surgery is the way to go. But why would you scrimp when doing surgery?

5. Colombian women are the hottest in the world. You will get divorced there. (Colombia ranks first in bird bio-diversity…)

Answer: Some are. Some get plastic surgery (not the birds). The Colombians certainly seem to be careful about their appearance. Not all women wear high heels here in “cold” Bogota. But, the jeans are super-uber tight. Like shellac-tight (I just made up that term but you can imagine how tight a car is with its paintjob). The men do not wear tight jeans. No equality here. 

6. You will get married there. (If I go to a wedding, I’ll blog about it for sure!)

Answer: Not yet. It’s hard to meet anyone when cowering in my bathtub.

7. Oh, you’ll be having a lot of romantic assignations (Okay, they put it more crassly.)

Answer: See number six (and one) above. Plus, something about beeswax…

8. You will enjoy the steamy hot weather (Not in Bogota. The daily average temperature is 48-68 F, or 9-20 C)

Answer: Not hot in Bogota. Average is 65 F or 14 C. I love it.

9. Hope you like salsa because there will be lots of it. Any opportunity and Colombians start dancing! (Yup, bring on the vallenato, cumbia, hard salsa, salsa romantica, porro, and so on. More later.)

Answer: I do love salsa, both the dance and the dip. So far, the funniest salsa (or was it something else?) experience I’ve had was an awful experience at a club watching a drunk client get escorted back and forth from her chair to the bathroom. Otherwise, the most salsa I’ve done is the two-step on my slippery waxed floors. 

10. You will never want to leave. (The Colombian public relations slogan says, “the only danger is wanting to stay” so maybe they are right?)

Answer: I don’t have a bathtub.

Kidnapped! 10 Stereotypes About Colombia

The ramparts of Cartagena.
The ramparts of Cartagena.

When I tell people that I’m moving to Colombia, I usually get one of two reactions. Excitement. Or excitement. Excitement about how lovely Colombia and Colombians are. Or, usually, excitement about the possible dangers. Here are the ten most common assumptions I hear about Colombia.

1. Aren’t you worried about getting kidnapped? (I wouldn’t go to Colombia if kidnapping was a guarantee. Duh!)

2. It’s dangerous. You will get mugged. Or worse. (Bogota, with seven million inhabitants, has all the usual dangers of a large city so I think my chances are equal those if I lived in New York or Bangkok)

3. Will you become a drug dealer? Or an emerald smuggler? (Why would you ask me that? Is it a conversation starter?)

4. I hear that plastic surgery is really cheap and of high quality there. Are you going to get plastic surgery? (Thanks for the suggestion?)

5. Colombian women are the hottest in the world. You will get divorced there. (Colombia ranks first in bird bio-diversity…)

6. You will get married there. (If I go to a wedding, I’ll blog about it for sure!)

7. Oh, you’ll be having a lot of romantic assignations (Okay, they put it more crassly.)

8. You will enjoy the steamy hot weather (Not in Bogota. The daily average temperature is 48-68 F, or 9-20 C)

9. Hope you like salsa because there will be lots of it. Any opportunity and Colombians start dancing! (Yup, bring on the vallenato, cumbia, hard salsa, salsa romantica, porro, and so on. More later.)

10. You will never want to leave. (The Colombian public relations slogan says, “the only danger is wanting to stay” so maybe they are right?)

Colombians and Colombia have been through violent times, but according to recent articles, times are changing in Colombia. Medellin, previously infamous, is cited as a model success story of urbanization; Cartagena is a popular tourist destination; most of the world’s cut flowers are grown in Colombia; and the culinary scene is growing. Even with all of this, people still equate Colombia with cocaine, kidnapping, and coffee.

Speaking of coffee, apparently most Colombians drink instant coffee, like Nescafe. With Starbucks’s launch, this week, of their first cafe in Colombia, it will be interesting to see how they change the cafe culture. Will Juan Valdez match the mighty marketing machine that is Starbucks? I will try them both in between my forays into new fruits.

Ethiopian Food in Ethiopia

A traditional Ethiopian meal.
A traditional Ethiopian meal.

Washington, DC’s Ethiopian restaurants are well-known. Yet, I tried Ethiopian food for the first time in Ethiopia. The food was new to me. It was perhaps not so different from the bhorta of Bangladesh, but it was a world away from the sancocho of Colombia, and the burgers of America. When I was in Ethiopia, my friend took me to a restaurant serving traditional Ethiopian food. First, we sat at low tables about the size of chair. The food was served on a large platter (about a yard/meter wide) on which the waitress placed our different dishes along with the national bread, injera, a spongy flat bread. The waitress brought a silver pot and poured water over my hands so that I could wash them, although I only ever dream of using my right hand! We had a boiled egg, stewed greens, a curry, etc. I found the food to be on the sour side and immediately thought of certain friends who love sour foods — like lemons.

As we were at a tourist friendly, the other guests appeared to be a mix of expat Ethiopians, families, and the national football (soccer) coach. For dessert, we had coffee. After all, coffee comes from “Kaffa” in Ethiopia. It was strong in the “Turkish” style. I enjoyed it.

A male dancer at the beginning of the evening.
A male dancer at the beginning of the evening.

Traditional dancing.
Traditional dancing.

During the meal, traditional dances of Ethiopia were sung and performed for us. I’m sure that the stories being told in the dances were those of battle, courtship, and harvest, and they involved a style of dance which required high impact step aerobics and what is fondly called the “chicken” dance. As the evening progressed, the men changed into costumes that seemed to allow them more air during their feverish dances while the women continued to put on more and more clothing like sweaters and headscarves. I don’t know if any of the restaurants in DC have dance performances like the one I saw in Addis but I found the dance and the music uplifting and I’d watch it again.

Coffee served with air freshener and popcorn.
Coffee served with air freshener and popcorn.

 

 

Restaurants in Dhaka – Part Five

80 down… here are 61-80. Read roundup part one, part two, part three, and part four to read about the previous 60 eateries I’ve tried in Dhaka. Other than word of mouth (!), read about where I find the restaurants to try. I also scout for new places when I’m out and about and I welcome recommendations.

The lunch buffet at Istanbul is only 1000 taka.
The lunch buffet at Istanbul is only 1000 taka.

Orange and a Half cafe (7/13): New place! Cafe with coffee, shakes, desserts, and sandwiches. Located in Tejgaon, the industrial zone. The cafe is hip looking and located in the Shanta Western building. The owners want a “western” level place. Let’s see if they can reach it. For not, it’s coffee is okay, some of the sandwiches and cakes are okay… let’s see how they do once they have been open for a while. Their goal is to match Gloria Jean’s.

Ideas Manzil (11/13): International guest house with private set menus – Bangladeshi, Indian, Thai, European, and seafood. All the food was fresh. The antique shopping was also fun. Unique location much like a secret garden in Dhaka. You must contact them ahead of time to arrange the menu. Owned by an expat.

Mallika Snacks (8/13): Phoughka. It’s a local place and it’s more a snack place. Best phoughka in the Gulshan area. Very local place.

KFChicken (9/13) on Road 13: Batter fried chicken. The best fried chicken in Dhaka.

Sakura Golden Rice (5/13) near road 118: Chinese/Japanese/Bangladeshi. Reopened and still mediocre watered down food.

Istanbul (12/13): Turkish. Road 118. You can’t even tell you’re in Dhaka. It’s a massive multi-world restaurant with wood fire oven, Las Vegas painted sky ceiling, and a two level castle for children. They have a creamery on location and sell fresh cheese and bread. Soon will have a level with hookah/nargile/water pipe.

Topkapi (6/13): Buffet. Mostly Bangladeshi and Thai food. The papaya salad was not bad and it was spicy!

Emerald Thai (8/13): Thai. Located in Uttara near the flagship Arong store but very hard to find… interior decor is elegant but the food is not Thai spicy. Made for the Bangladeshi palate.

New Cathay (10/13): Chinese. This new location in Banani, on Road 11, is modern looking but the food and the waiters are as good as they have been for 25 years.

Gloria Jean’s (7/13): Cafe with food. Nice enough atmosphere inside and a place to hang out and grab a light bite to eat. Wi-fi and perky staff seem to be some of the reasons there’s hype about this place. I’m not really into it but then I don’t need a cafe to work from.

Nagasaki (7/13): Japanese. This place is like stepping back in time 50 years… there are holes under the tables so that you sit Japanese style but don’t have to sit on the floor if you are out of practice. Soggy rice. Not fresh sashimi. Located out in Uttara.

Just Juice (4/13): Juice and sandwiches. Has a few seats out in front and is otherwise a very small shop.

Attin (9/13): Arabic. Located on Road 27 in Gulshan, this is a hipster sort of place with a rustic loft feel. The middle eastern appetizers are not bad and the waiters are talkative.

Cuppa Coffee Cafe (7/13): Continental/Bangla-Asian. Located with a great view of Gulshan II circle, the people watching is the best thing about this place. Usual hit or miss with dishes covered in mystery white “special sauce” or red ketchup chili.

Baristo (8/13) – Road 6, Banani: Cafe/Italian/Smokers Lounge/Lounge. Opened in February 2013. Have the coffee while sitting in a car… this is a large place suited for large groups. Will soon have hookah/nargile/water pipe.

American Burger (7/13) – Road 11, Banani: Burgers and fries. Okay fries. Burger was okay. Small, take out sort of place with three tables.

Rush Tex Mex (7/13) – Road 6, Banani: Burgers and fries. The advertised Mexican dishes were mysteriously not available… small place with two booths. Fries were okay.

Spicy Restaurant (4/13) on Kemal Attaturk: Opened March 15, 2013. Usual burgers, kababs, banglese (bangla/chinese) stuff. Also has Wifi, I think. Has four booths (or half of the table is booth and the other side is chairs) and a table for six.

Atrium (7/13): Chinesey Bangla food. Some Indian. The lunch buffet for under 600 taka is okay. The exterior Japanesey garden and tables could be nice if it weren’t right on one of the busiest roads in the area.

Quesadilla (5/13); The quesadilla was actually okay. Not greasy and edible. The “Mexican pizza” was like a basic frozen pizza with some charred crumbled beefish added plus a few loops of green pepper. The nachos were a plate of fried wonton skins covered in brown beans, cheese, and decorated with swirls of “mexican” sauce — a slightly sweet pink sauce. The garlic bread with melted cheese was so tasteless as to be useless.

Istanbul restaurant bakes their own bread including this round bread called a simit.
Istanbul restaurant bakes their own bread including this round bread called a simit.

I’m encouraged by the emergence of new places. I’ll blog another time about the best places where I go more than once. Go out and explore!