Flavors from the Amazon at Mini Mal

Colombia is one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world, rich with natural resources from various climates and landscapes. Mini Mal's menu aims to highlight not only Colombia's geographic diversity, but also it's cultural diversity that draws from a mix of indigenous, african and european roots. 

On the menu you'll find surprising ingredients like tucupí, a traditional seasoning from the Amazon, mañoco and farofa, indigenous types of yucca flour, native fruits like lulo and feijoa, and bug or two.

Corbina with tucupi, farofa, yucca and hormigas culonas, aka big booty ants

Corbina with tucupi, farofa, yucca and hormigas culonas, aka big booty ants

Side of greens and calendula with tropical dressing and coconut rice served in a coconut

Side of greens and calendula with tropical dressing and coconut rice served in a coconut

Tumaco, fried ripe plantain balls filled with crab meat, topped with coconut milk sauce and house made red curry

Tumaco, fried ripe plantain balls filled with crab meat, topped with coconut milk sauce and house made red curry

Sopa Cítrica

Sopa Cítrica

Soup inspired in the Cocuy lands. Mushrooms, spinach and tiger shrimp with crunchy cardamom infused rice balls and fresh cheese fried until golden brown, in a light, citrus lemongrass broth. The spice on the side, guaya, is from the Amazon and it's insanely hot.

OBELO Mini Mal
OBELO Mini Mal
OBELO Mini Mal
OBELO Mini Mal

After lunch, check out the cute shop in the front of the restaurant. The shop features goods from local designers and artisans.

Mini Mal · Bogotá · Website · Directions

Brunch at Misia

OBELO Misia

Authentic, everyday Colombian food with a focus on local ingredients is what Misia is all about. A great spot for all day brunch in Chapinero. Like most traditional Colombian breakfasts, thei combos start with a light fruit plate followed by a hearty combo of arepas and eggs.

OBELO Misia Arepa Huevo
OBELO Misia
OBELO Misia
OBELO Misia
OBELO Misia Arepa Chorizo
OBELO Misia

Make sure to ask about their house made ajis, a variety of pickled roots and veggies. You can buy a bottle of your favorite right there in the restaurant.

Misia Aji
 

Misia · Bogotá · Website · Directions

Organic Coffee at El Ocaso in Salento

 
OBELO | Organic Coffee Farm

Colombia is the third largest producer of coffee in the world, following Brazil and Vietnam.

While we were in Salento we took a tour of a sustainable coffee farm, El Ocaso, and learned about the various stages of the coffee production process: planting, harvesting, milling, roasting and brewing.

OBELO | Organic Coffee Farm

El Ocaso is uniquely situated at 1,780 meters (5,840 feet) above sea level, the perfect altitude for growing coffee.

As part of the rainforest alliance, they grow 12 different varieties of trees every 70 hectares. This helps with soil fertility by creating a diverse and balanced environment for the coffee plants to thrive. Plantains are one of the many plants cultivated alongside coffee. They not only provide a food staple for the region, but also create a micro climate for the coffee plants. Their massive, umbrella-like leaves shade the coffee trees from direct sunlight, so the coffee trees can focus their energy on producing fruit instead of trying to keep cool. Shade from the Plantain leaves is also helpful when harvesting ripe coffee fruits.

OBELO | Planting Coffee

Planting

Coffee seeds (aka the bean) from coffee cherries are planted into fertile river soil where they quickly grow into little match-like sprouts called fosforos. As the sprouts continue to grow, the seeds fall away and two leaves unfold like wings. This stage is called Chapolas, named after butterfly native to the region.

OBELO | Planting Coffee

Healthy Chapolas are then transfered from the soft river soil to bags of nutrient rich, composted soil.

Once the Chapolas are about a foot and a half tall they are planted in ground. Coffee plants produce coffee fruit for five years, the third year is the most fruitful.  

OBELO | Soca

After the fifth year coffee trees stop bearing fruit. They are cut to about a foot tall, so that a new tree will grow from the existing root structure and produce another five years of fruit.   After another five years, the new trees stop bearing fruit. After a third and final cutting, or Soca, they produce coffee fruit for 4 years.

Thats makes for a total productive lifespan of about 20 years from the coffee trees at El Ocaso.

OBELO | Picking Coffee

Harvesting

Coffee is harvested by hand twice a year, in the spring and fall, by women who live in the area. The spring harvest here usually yields more fruit than fall.

OBELO | Coffee Cherry

Milling and Drying

After harvesting the ripe cherries are depulped, washed and then dried in the sun.

OBELO | Drying Coffee Beans

After drying, before roasting, the dried shells are removed to get the "green beans" or unroasted coffee beans.

OBELO | Drying Coffee Beans

Roasting and Brewing

El Ocaso works with local roasters to make a variety of light and dark roasts. Light roasts actually have more caffeine than dark roasts because caffeine is lost during the roasting process.

OBELO | Coffee Sock
OBELO | Coffee Brewing
OBELO | El Ocaso Coffee
 
OBELO | Organic Coffee Production Process

Salvo Patria in Chapinero

 

Salvo Patria is hidden in the slopes of Chapinero. It's situated on a corner, in a quaint, old-timey, two story house with exposed brick, hard wood floors and large sun lit rooms.

OBELO Salvo Patria
OBELO Salvo Patria

The concept is simple, dishes themed around Colombian cuisine, using few, but really flavorful ingredients. Salvo Patria also takes its coffee seriously, buying directly from farmers in Huila and Tolima, so most people hang around after lunch to enjoy a cup of coffee.

OBELO Salvo Patria

At night the place doesn't completely transform, but the vibe changes as cocktails flow out of the bar non-stop and small plates fill the tables. It's a great way to get the night started.

 
Pulpo a la Plancha

Pulpo a la Plancha

Bondiola de Cerdo Braseada

Bondiola de Cerdo Braseada

Milhoja de la Patria, Arequipe y Vanilla

Milhoja de la Patria, Arequipe y Vanilla

 
OBELO Salvo Patria
OBELO Salvo Patria
 
 
OBELO Salvo Patria
 

Salvo Patria · Bogota · Website · Directions

Arab Influence on Colombian Cuisine

 
OBELO | Los Turcos

In the late 19th and early 20th century there was a mass migration from what is now Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Palestine to Latin America. Immigrants were looking to escape repression and hardships of, the then, Turkish Ottoman Empire. Yet ironically, they were called Turks, or Turcos, in their new homes in Latin America.

My family immigrated from Lebanon to Colombia in 1890. Like many others, they brought their culture and cuisine from the Middle East.

Los Turcos is a popular, authentic Lebanese restaurant in Cali. They've been serving up traditional dishes since 1960. Although they relocated from their original location, the vibe hasn't changed a bit.

Hummus, Babaganoush, Tabouleh and Tzatiki with Pita.

Hummus, Babaganoush, Tabouleh and Tzatiki with Pita.

Liver with fried onions and potatoes.

Liver with fried onions and potatoes.

Arab Platter, Bandeja Árabe, marcona almond rice, fried kibbe with onions, tabouleh and warm grape leaves.

Arab Platter, Bandeja Árabe, marcona almond rice, fried kibbe with onions, tabouleh and warm grape leaves.

 
OBELO | Los Turcos
OBELO | Los Turcos

Don Elias' Organic Coffee Farm

 
OBELO | Coffee Cherries

Don Elias' small, old-school organic coffee farm is located in Salento, Quindío. We took a tour this past winter while staying at La Serrana, a mountain top farmhouse-turned-hostel. The tour was lead by Don Elias' grandson, who actually grew up in Jersey but has gone back to Colombia to give tours and run a tejo bar in town.

Ripe Arabica coffee cherries, one is a typical variety and the other is the Colombia variety.

 
 

Coffee beans drying in the sun.

Green beans before roasting.

After roasting and ready to enjoy! ☕

 

Queso Costeño at La Galería Alameda

 
OBELO | Queso Costeño
OBELO | Queso Costeño
OBELO | Queso Costeño

Cheese culture in Cali is pretty limited because of it's hot and humid climate. You can find cheese in supermarkets here, but it's usually over processed and has a gummy texture. So, finding handmade Queso Costeño at La Galería is pretty exciting. 🚩

Queso Costeño is a soft and salty, fresh cheese originally from Colombia's Caribbean coast. 

This vendor makes a few different varieties, some firmer and saltier, others softer and silkier. He also had some fresh butter, which is surprisingly hard to come by in Cali. 

 

Panela on the Menu at Platillos Voladores

 
OBELO | Vicky Acosta

While visiting Cali we met Vicky Acosta, the Executive Chef and Owner of one of the best restaurant in the city, Platillos Voladores. She shared with us the delicious and inspiring ways she uses panela.

OBELO | Rollitos de Chontaduro

To start, Rollitos de Chontaduro. These savory spring rolls are filled with chontaduro, parmesan and ricotta cheese, served with a decadent panela and cayenne pepper sauce.  

Chontaduro is a unique fruit that's popular in Cali and along the Pacific Coast. It has smooth red skin, a starchy texture and earthy flavor that makes it taste more like a potato than a fruit.

OBELO | Platillos Voladores

Vicky made us some special, off-menu Chorizitos. Little sausages between fried queso costeño and tortilla, drizzled with a guarapo and panela sauce.

OBELO | Posta Negra
OBELO | Posta Negra

Next we had the Posta Negra, a beef dish originally from Cartagena. It's a panela marinated cut of tri-tip, or punta de anca, slow cooked with wok veggies. Then topped with fried onions and served with Arroz con Coco, rice cooked in coconut milk.

OBELO | Lomo Banano
OBELO | Lomo Banano

We also had an amazing dinner-meets-dessert dish, Lomo Banano. Beef tenderloin with an Amaretto-Panela glaze, topped with a caramelized banana and cinnamon. It was the ultimate sweet and savory combo. 

 
OBELO | Platillos Voladores
OBELO | Platillos Voladores
OBELO | Platillos Voladores
OBELO | Platillos Voladores
OBELO | Platillos Voladores
OBELO | Platillos Voladores
OBELO | Platillos Voladores