The first edition of Bogotá Madrid Fusión by the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce, in alliance with the Spanish media group Vocento of Madrid Fusión, took place at Corferia’s fairgrounds in November. The idea behind the gastronomic platform is to promote Bogotá as a food capital in Latin America, given its award-winning homegrown chefs and a vibrant restaurant setting.
While Bogotá’s gastro scene has evolved over the years to offer visitors almost every choice on a plate, from the Colombian classics to global flavors, the rest of the country is also home to creative cooks who deliver well-executed dishes.
Bogotá Madrid Fusion, BMF, also gives residents and visitors the chance to explore cuisines from all over the country, including chefs from 11 restaurants across Colombia, who will present their signature dishes, and talk about ingredients, cooking techniques and influences.
Restaurants from Armenia, Buenaventura, Cali, Leticia, Medellín, Mesitas Del Colegio (Cundinamarca) and Pasto will take center stage at the gastronomic congress. They all share one main characteristic: a commitment to the culinary arts and recipes based on tradition. Covering plenty of regional terrains, we list a few BMF’s inaugural chefs and restaurants serving patrons all year round.
We begin at the heart of salsa (not the sauce), in Cali. Located in the residential neighborhood of El Peñón is El Escudo (Calle 4 Oeste No.3-46), a restaurant at the helm of chef María Claudia Zarama, who has a 15-year trajectory of serving food inspired by the Pacific’s bountiful ecosystems and ancestral recipes. As part of its guiding mission to “narrate what we are made of, and where we come from,” guests can enjoy dishes that incorporate sustainable ingredients cultivated by indigenous farmers and fresh fish caught with artisanal practices. Among the house specialties are the Cazuelita with chorizo sausage, a Pacific tuna in a Biche reduction (Biche is a fermented sugarcane drink), and sweet plantain. The cheesecake made with 60% Colombian cocoa is an enticing option on the dessert list.
Another restaurant in Cali that makes its debut at the inaugural BMF is Pica, the brainchild of Alex Nessim. The chef is grounded in a sustainable vision to support coastal communities of the Pacific. Nessim’s attention to detail, such as the use of color in his plates, makes Pica (Calle 4 Oeste No 3A-32) a stalwart of culinary creativity. Nessim’s tribute to ceviche is represented by a Cebiche Trilogy and auteur plates, such as Grilled tuna in a Quinoa crust and watermelon brulee.
The second-largest city in Valle del Cauca, Buenaventura, is also present with Café Pacifico (Calle 1 No. 5A-15). Decked with local handicrafts and housed in a small wood edifice, this New York Times-reviewed restaurant pairs traditional seafood with ancestral drinks.
If driving from Pasto, capital of Nariño, to the high altitude lagoon Laguna de la Cocha, chances are you’ll stop off at the restaurant Naturalia of chef and proprietor Aníbal Criollo. Considered among the very best in Colombia’s southern Andes region, Criollo explores rural flavors and serves traditional staples with trout, game and roasted guinea pig.
The small restaurant Mestizo Cocina de Origen, in the temperate town of Mesitas del Colegio, Cundinamarca, was awarded the 2016 Ministry of Culture award for traditional cooking, known in Spanish as Premio Nacional a las Cocinas Tradicionales. This local eatery gained recognition when food anthropologist Cristina Consuegra and chef Jennifer Rodríguez used 17 ingredients grown by Mestizo’s owner Rosana Cereré to recreate an ancestral platter: the piquete campesino.
Hemmed-in by the coffee plantations of Quindío, El Silo restaurant is an important food reference for the department, located 15 minutes from its capital Armenia. Founded by chef Julián Hoyos, El Silo’s main draw with clients is its artisanal produce, and a menu inspired by the old fashioned kitchen. Wood-fired meats, chorizo with plantain puree and mandarin garnished pork rinds are some of Hoyos’ signature plates and meant to be shared. El Silo is located at Km 1 on the Montenegro-Armenia road.
If you want to enjoy a gastronomic and cultural experience try the menu of La Chagra. This restaurant in Medellín (Cra 33 No. 7A-24) takes its culinary cues from indigenous orchards across the Amazon, working closely with communities in Colombia, Brazil and Peru. Chef Juan Sebastián Gallego delivers dishes that feature rare yams, gourds, fruits and other tropical edibles. Enjoy the house’s caipirinha to accompany a pirarucú fish fillet with sacha inchi oil, Criolla potatoes and asparagus.