Ahhh… Cartagena! I’m writing to you – live! – from this beautiful city in Colombia and plan on discussing – possibly at length – every bit of fabulous food I eat starting today. If you haven’t been to Cartagena, you are missing out. I rave about many things in Cartagena – the people, the hospitality, the night life, the ocean breeze – but one thing truly stands out: the food.
So, we’re here to celebrate my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday. We flew in from DC and landed in pure hotness. There were a lot of people coming in from the States for the birthday weekend, and we all gathered outside the airport and boarded a small charter bus (sipping iced coffees all the while) to head over to the hotel in the Old City.
The Old City takes up a small area and each event for the weekend is within walking distance from our hotel. (Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s house is in sight of our hotel.) Once our bags were carted away, we walked along cobblestone streets to my brother’s apartment where a large table was set with shrimp paella, salad with avacados and artichoke hearts, flattened plantains, a bowl of cilantro green sauce for the salad (which I used with the plantains and the paella), a sour cream sauce (for the plantains, but I did not use), a large pitcher of fresh raspberry juice, and large glasses of Cervaza Aguilla.
While I was running around trying to get the kids situated, some sane person handed me a cold glass of Cerveza Aguilla. This is my third visit to Colombia and I can say with certainty that drinking cold, cold beer in the summer months is a must and a pleasure. Cerveza Aguilla is a light (ish) and really tastes great on a hot day.
We all sat at a long table and began eating. I’ve mentioned before my love for cilantro and as soon as heard there was cilantro sauce on the table, I was happy. Although the cilantro sauce was meant for the salad, I knew I had to put it on the plantains. What a smart decision. There is a bit of kick to the sauce, but not too great.
All of the food for our lunch was made by the house cook and I am working with a translator to get the recipe for the sauce, and quiz her about her favorite Colombian foods.
I’m a little hesitant to say this out loud but I think I just need to do it: paella is not my absolute, favorite food in the world. Especially when there is seafood involved. I know: I just lost my entire Latin and Spanish readership. I’m going to have to move on. It was a beautifully-made paella with lots of shrimp. I dressed it up with the cilantro sauce and found it to incredibly satisfying. Sometimes the rice in a paella dish can be firm and I tend to prefer it on the fluffy side, which is what I got today.
I did try the cilantro sauce on the salad but was not crazy about it.
We’re off to a big dinner tonight, which will end in dancing on a roof overlooking the ocean. More to come.