Arepas, patacones, bandeja paisa—these are foods of Colombia that I spoke about in my latest Travel Through Food segment this morning on CBC Edmonton A.M. The audio link can be found here. For visuals and more info, read on:
In 2015, my time in Colombia was spent in the urban and rural areas of Antioquia and Choco, two Departments (like provinces) in the north central and northwestern part of the country.
The government and people of Colombia have worked hard to put aside the country’s sordid reputation it developed thanks to drug cartels, gang wars and guerrilla conflict. Colombia is a beguiling country and one worth exploring if you ever get the chance.
According to Wikipedia (2016) 1.9% of Edmonton’s population is people from Latin America — that includes Mexico, Portugal, El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, etc., The Colombian population, according to that website, is growing, but still the numbers are quite small. In Edmonton, finding Colombian food offerings is not that easy, but I did discover arepas (corn-based flatbread) from the Bogota Street Food Company a couple of weeks ago at Uproot Food Collective. The owner, Katyna, also sells her arepas and other product through the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ market. Katyna is lovely and has all the info you need on the nuances of Colombia food and that of neighbouring countries.
Venezuelan arepas can be found at Avila Arepa on Whyte Ave, along with the patacones (fried green plaintains) I mentioned in my segment. Avila Arepa is a real gem—love the food, and the owners are so gracious and hospitable.
Acajutla, Mamenches and El Fogon are more Central American but I see El Fogon has bandeja paisa (a full-on carb and protein worker’s platter) on the menu, so I’m curious to go there and try it.
Of course, coffee exportation is huge in Colombia and we are fortunate to have a couple of fantastic coffee shops in the city, those being the Colombian Coffee & Roastery, and The Dapper Beaver, that source beans directly from Colombia and roast them here.
Scott at the Dapper Beaver is constantly donating funds to various charitable efforts in the city, and his little cafe in the Park Allen neighbourhood is a wonderful place to stop for a great cup of coffee and baked goods from TypTop Bakery. If you want to do something good in the world of coffee, please support these folks who ensure those farmers are paid a fair and livable wage. When you buy a cup of Colombian coffee here, it really is about more than just the coffee.
As far as grocery stores go, Edmonton has a few that carry a good variety of Mexican, Central and South American products: Tienda Latina (I blogged about them in 2010) at 9844 – 63 Avenue; Mi Casa at 2910 Ellwood Drive; Paraiso Tropical (two locations) and La Tienda Pasito at 11460 – 112 Avenue. My experience at all of these stores has been wonderful as the owners really appreciate questions about their food products and are more than happy to talk about their culture.
We’re lucky to live in such a culturally diverse city and country. I hope we never take that for granted. Stay curious, my friends. Keep exploring, and be kind.