Food Friday: Historic Pastries in Villa de Levya


This gallery contains 10 photos.

Delicious treats from Villa de Leyva. I swear we ate real food while we were there — but you wouldn’t know it from my photos. Clearly I have my artistic (and gastronomic) priorities in order.

Food Friday: Cholado

they look just good enough to eat, don't they?

Oh so tempting…

On my trip to Cali a few weeks ago, I think it’s safe to say that about 30% of my conversations with my best friend revolved around cholado. How excited we were to eat cholado, where we were going to buy cholado, how much cholado we could possibly eat in one weekend — if it involved cholado, you can be sure it was discussed at great length.

So what, you ask, is this magical, delightful treat that so captured our imaginations and taste buds? WELL. Remember a few weeks ago when we talked about raspado?

that is a brave woman, right there


Cholado is more or less its bigger, sugarier, fruitier cousin — and man, is it delicious. It’s also a specialty of Cali and the Cauca department, appearing under brightly-colored carts every few blocks in the cities and towns of that region. I guess icy treats are a much easier sell in places where it doesn’t rain every two hours.

Imagine if a sno-cone and a fruit parfait had a baby and shoved it into a giant cup with a straw. That’s essentially what cholado is: a sugar-high in a cup. It’s made by tossing a bunch of different kinds of fruit (pineapple, maracuyá, papaya, strawberries, etc.) into a plastic cup the size of a Big Gulp, adding shaved ice and food coloring, and topping the whole thing off with a strawberry, sticky-sweet condensed milk and a vanilla wafer, just for the hell of it.

all of that color is purely natural, of course

Bet you’re jealous you don’t have one of these right now

Grab a long-handled spoon and a straw (yes, you’ll end up needing both), and you’re good to go.

I only ate one of these treats during my weekend in Cali — not because I didn’t like it, but rather that one per weekend is about the limit that a normal digestive system can handle. Any more and I would’ve been bouncing off the walls for the whole week. It’s been long enough since that delicious day, though, that I think I’m just about ready for another.

Food Friday: Arequipe, or Whatever You Call It Where You Live

If you’ve visited pretty much any country in South America, you’re probably already familiar with arequipe, or at least with one of its cousins. It goes by many names: arequipe here in Colombia, dulce de leche in Argentina, manjar in Ecuador, and something in Mexico that I won’t write here because it’s a dirty word in Argentine Spanish and I don’t want to offend my former host family. Google it yourself.

evidence of my non-love for the 'quipe

Not all arequipe is created alike. Some comes in a plastic container from a roadside stand somewhere west of Bogotá….

Whatever you want to call it, arequipe is a sugary treat made from heated, caramelized milk and, obviously, a lot of sugar. Like many of the dulces here, I often find it overwhelmingly sweet — a little bit goes a long way. Conventional wisdom has it that Americans have a serious (and seriously problematic) sweet tooth, so maybe I’m just an abnormality, but to me it seems that people here eat way more sweets than at home, and  dulces here have a hell of a lot of sugar. Lunch at my school always comes with some kind of candy, and everyone from kids to adults walk around snacking on sugary confections. You’d never see an adult in the U.S. walking around with a lollipop, but here, it’s pretty common.

but really, I'd probably eat dirt if it were covered with chocolate

…some comes slathered in chocolate and baked into a cake…

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re talking about arequipe. Colombians put arequipe on/in EVERYTHING — cakes, pastries, croissants, cookies, you name it. There are arequipe-flavored lollipops, ice cream, chocolate bars and cappuccinos. And that’s if they even bother pairing it with something — half the time, people will just eat it right out of the container with a spoon, like a sugarier version of me with a jar of peanut butter.

GET AT ME, arequipe con cafe

…and some is coffee-flavored and further evidence of the brilliance of the Colombian people.

I have to admit, I still haven’t totally adjusted to the national obsession with arequipe. Don’t get me wrong — I love my sweets, but I prefer my sugar fix to arrive in the form of chocolate or possibly frappes (I believe those of you who aren’t from the Northeast call them milkshakes. Colombians call them batidos). I didn’t really love dulce de leche while I lived in Argentina (unless it arrived inside alfajores, which I could happily eat every day for the rest of my life, or at least until they gave me diabetes), and apparently my taste buds haven’t changed significantly in the last three years.

who am I kidding? I totally want to shove my face in it

You know what? At least I’m bothering to put it on cookies instead of just shoving my face in it. Small victories, people!

As with every rule, of course, there’s one exception: last week I discovered, lurking in my second-closest supermarket, arequipe con café. Yeah, that’s right, kids: it’s coffee-flavored arequipe. Because the only thing that can make a bowl of sugar better is caffeine. Friends and family, expect me to return to the U.S. with about ten jars of this stuff.

Still, while this product was obviously designed specifically with me as its target consumer, I’m not yet a full-fledged arequipe convert. Sure, it’s tasty in small doses, or as a topping, or when flavored with my biggest food vice after chocolate, but for the foreseeable future, I think I’m going to reserve my spooning-empty-calories-directly-from-the-jar impulses for Nutella.

Food Friday: Cake or Death? Colombia Chooses Cake.

suck it, people who wait in those long lines in new york

The cupcake trend has even made it to Bogotá! Her bakery is actually only about 10 blocks away from me -- I have yet to visit, for fear that I may attempt to move in there.

Let’s talk about CAKE, baby….

Seriously. Let’s talk about it. Because they do cake like it’s their job here (even the people for whom it is not their job). Colombians love their desserts — which, now that I reflect upon it, may have a lot to do with why I’m falling in love with this country so quickly. I’ve found that dessert only tends to hasten the seduction process. But putting aside the psychological effects of chocolate for a moment, Colombia really is a country of glorious sweets, and there’s something for pretty much every palate, whether your idea of a perfect post-dinner snack is a bowl of fresh papaya or a just a container of arequipe and a spoon. Sure, the helado might not be quite as rico as in Buenos Aires, but there’s just as much of it, and you hardly notice the difference once it’s covered in chocolate sauce and sprinkles.

oh hey chocoflan, i see you back there

This is why I never end up eating actual lunch on weekends. It's not my fault that my ears are just fine-tuned to the siren song of sugar.

And the bakeries! There are bakeries practically everywhere — it seems like you can hardly walk three blocks without stopping to peer in the window of a pasteleria to admire the piles of merengones (fluffy meringues in a dozen different flavors, so delicious they’ve converted even this non-meringue-fan) and elaborate cakes decorated for every possible occasion. Want a mora (blackberry)-flavored cake to celebrate a holiday, or a massive icing-slathered construction for a quinceañera? Bogotá bakeries can make it happen.

nom, and so forth

The cake for our friend Brighid's birthday. Nothing says "feliz cumpleaños" like a pile of fruit and frosting.

Oh, and remember how we discussed the fantastical cornucopia of fruit available here? Well, the all-powerful cakemakers are well aware of the amazing range of flavors they have to work with, and they make excellent use of them. I’ve seen cakes in every flavor from orange to banana to maracuyá (passionfruit). The motto seems to be: if it grows here, let’s make a cake with it! And that, my friends, is a motto I can definitely live — and eat — with.

pretty sure nobody who comes to usaquen is on a diet

I will have one of each, please. (And this photo doesn't even include the Oreo cheesecake. Oh yeah. There was Oreo cheesecake.)