Unfortunately, that is not the name of a restaurant in Cartagena. We had a decadent lunch yesterday at Juan del Mar, a seafood restaurant across from the Hotel Santa Clara, and it was during that lunch that two other women and I decided we would create a cooking show called "Three Hot, Sexed-Up Women Who Cook". There may have been some wine involved leading up to that conversation, and possibly a mojito when we first walked in the door. I'm not telling.
I'm feeling completely lost in the Old City, in a good way. It's easy to get sucked in to the architecture, the exquisite door knockers, the brilliant colors, and in conversation. A good meal and good conversation, and you have no sense that hours have passed.
There was a group lunch at Juan del Mar, prix fixe. To start I had Muelas de Cangrejo (crab claws). I have to pause here and tell you that before I met Eric, there was no gastronomic adventure in my life. Eric took me to Paris for a few days in 2000 and after a 4.5 hour lunch at Pierre Gagnaire my life has never been the same. Had it not been for that trip with Eric -- and that lunch -- I don't know that I would so easily order crab claws.
My sister-in-law nudged me to get the crab claws. I did and it was so worth it. It was not, however, until the third claw that I truly appreciated her recommendation. There were eight claws on the plate with a small bowl of melted butter in the middle. The bite-sized piece of meat was juicy and, while I am not a seafood expert, fresh. I could swear to you that someone just plucked these crabs from the ocean. For the main course, I ate Pescado Lamar.
This was a filet of fish in a Spanish stew with passion fruit and curry. When I was done, there was no evidence on my plate that food had been there. The fish was accompanied with coconut rice, which, if you have not tried, get yourself to a Colombian restaurant and eat.
When we were last in Cartagena, a friend took Eric and me aside at a family event and said we needed to scrape the bottom of the rice pot before anyone else got to it. Delicious. The rice at the bottom is crispy and tastes as if it's been marinating in coconut for days.
For dessert there was a choice between chocolate torte and flan -- I chose flan. I always choose flan.
|A piece of star fruit floating on top of the ice vat at |
Juan del Mar for chilling wine.
I've talked before about restaurant acoustics and my crazy desire to be able to hear conversation at a meal. All that goes out the window in Colombia. Restaurants such as Juan del Mar have open windows, there is loud music, there is usually an open view up to the sky and birds are flying around -- it's really fantastic. Everyone is deep in conversation that involves a lot of laughing. Waiters are walking around with bottles of wine through narrow passages between tables. A lot going on, and all good.