Camarón y Pez: Good seafood at the Mayorista

If you are visiting the Mayorista wholesale market or just looking for a good lunch near the Ayura Metro Station try Camarón y Pez.  This small but very good restaurant that can be found at Local 12A in Block 18 inside the market complex. We had their seafood bowl Saturday afternoon and it was rich and creamy. The shrimp, squid and fish were all very fresh and tasty. It is served with coconut rice and patacones (fried green platano slices) both of which were also very good. At $COP 19,000 for a full bowl and 14, 000 for the half bowl ($US 10.70 and 7.90 respectively.) I would not call it inexpensive but the quality makes it worthwhile.

They also serve other seafood dishes including, but not limited to a ceviche bar, filets of robalo, tuna medallions, sea food pasta (Wednesdays)  and paella (Fridays).  The prices range from $COP 5000 ($US 2.80) for a bowl of fish consoume to the $19,000 peso seafood bowl mentioned above.

Getting there is easy by Metro. Just get off at the Ayura Station and walk west about a block and a half to the entrance to the Mayorista wholesale market. If you have not been to the the Mayorisa, it is a bustling, modern wholesale marketplace with an excellent selection of goods at some of the best prices in Medellin. I plan to write an article about this lively place within the next few weeks.

El Astor: Sweets in the City

If you have not been to el Astor,  you have missed some of the best candies and confections in Medellin. A tradition for tasty snacks and sweets since 1930, its popularity has never waned. It has formed cherished memories for my wife since the 1950’s and for me since I first visited Colombia in the 1980’s.

The original tea salon was opened by the Swiss couple, Enrique Baer and Anny Gipppert.  Yup, Swiss as in quality and Swiss Chocolate! The plot begins to unfold. While not real big on sweets I do enjoy an occasional chocolate and these are about the only ones I eat. Take a look at their selection here. The Aguardiente Mice (Ratoncitos de Aguardiente) are really good. Yes, I said mice, cute chocolate mice. Aguardiente is the licorice flavored Colombian National beverage. The combination sounded odd to me at first but their candy makers have created a delicious product.

Another fun chocolate treat are the Cucarrónes. These are large Swiss chocolate beetles. Just the thing for kids or anyone who likes a little fun with their candy. The Sacher lips would make a great Valentines gift or perhaps not to subtle hint any time of the year. There are more romantically inclined candies to chose from, kisses (Besitos de Negro.) These are a white cream filling covered with chocolate and I will vouch for their lingering sensation of excitement.

When I was kid I was fascinated by marzipan (mazapan in Spanish). I never got to try them but now thanks to el Astor I can have all I want. The ones I have seen there are the traditional fruits in bright colors. If only these had shown up in my Easter baskets.

So far I have been yacking about the standard line of candies made with sugar. If you want to, or need to avoid sugar, el Astor has a line of dietetic candies just for you. These include milk chocolate bars with peanuts, sugarless cookies, chocolate truffles and more.

El Astor also offer breads, pastries, cookies, cakes, and dishes perfect for a light meal. Nubia always stops for a glass of tangerine juice. It is fresh squeezed and worth a trip in and of its self.

My favorite location is the original shop on Junin. There are however other seven other locations including Medellin’s two airports, el Poblado, Laureles, the los Molinos Shopping Center, Puerta del Norte and San Lucas. That pretty well covers the city as you can see on their map (this may be a little slow to load).

One last thing, the service is very good. According to Nubia many of the waitress have been employed their since they were young women and I think this speaks to the quality of the people as well as the products.

El Palazzetto D’ Italia Real Italian Food Downtown

I want to share another of our long time favorite restaurants in the downtown area, El Palazzetto D’ Italia. They serve a broad range of delicious Italian dishes with a genuine old country flavor. The second story location raises you above the hustle and bustle of the busy downtown streets and the carefully designed space is tasteful, warm, and welcoming. I always feel relaxed and at home when we dine there. In addition to the regular dinner service their Tea Room (Salon de Te) is open from 3 PM to 7 PM.

Rather than spend a lot of words on the details of their menu and pricing I refer you to their online menu. The last time we were  there I had the fettuccine with pesto. Nubia enjoyed the Cottoleta Parmigiana. Both were very well prepared and the servings were generous to say the least. I normally eat a lot but my fettuccine plate was the junior size and I was quite satisfied.  Nubia’s cottoleta was HUGE!  It came with the salad bar which had a very good selection of items. Nubia chose potato salad, hard-boiled eggs, red bell peppers and pickles. With juice and a glass of the house wine we got out of there for $COP 49,700. At today’s exchange rate (1909 COPs per dollar) that come out to about $US26.00. That is a great price for the atmosphere, good service and tasty meal

El Palazzetto D’ Italia is located at  Calle 54# 43 – 102. (Caracas). The restaurant is on the second floor and the entrance to the stairs is just a few steps to the east of el Palo. There are parking lots near by if you drive and several bus routes pass along el Palo. They may be reached by phone at 239 65 72  and via their excellent website.

Be sure to check out their recipe of the month. It is details like this that speak to the quality of the establishment!

I love this place!

Great Fish in Downtown Medellin

We went to the Resturante Nuqui for an early dinner the other day.  As we had been there before we were expecting a great fish dinner and were not disappointed.

The atmosphere is cheery and comfortable with a rustic feel and pleasing aquatic color scheme of blues and greens. A nicely done frieze of tropical reef fish brings the high ceiling down to sea level. Nuqui is a small Choco town on the Pacific Coast and the restaurant  reflects the culture and cooking style of that area.

Nubia had a grilled sierra plate. The fish was done to perfection and very tasty. I had their famous Tumbacatre fish sancocho. This is a stew made with coconut, yuca (cassava root), name (yam) and fish.  The flavor rich and not “fishy.” The serving of catfish was generous and the accompaniment of coconut rice and a salad also was delicious. Nubia’s sierra plate also included a small bowl of sanchcho, coconut rice and salad. I had two beers and Nubia drank coconut water. This came to just $COP 43,000 or about $US $22.60 at today’s exchange rate of about 1901 to 1.

Each time we have been there the service has been friendly, helpful and reasonably fast. It’s the kind of place I actually feel like leaving a tip.

The resturant is located downtown at Calle 55  Number 45-83,  less than a block east of Oriental, the main drag.  Calle 55 is also known a Peru. When traveling north on Oriental it makes a sharp curve to the west. If you make the curve you have gone about blocks too far.

They also have a resturant in el Poblado at Carrera 42 Number 10-49. This is a couple of blocks off of Parque Lleras. We have not eaten at this location so I can’t really comment on it.

A Downtown Walk

Medellin’s downtown has two streets dedicated to pedestrian use.

Carabobo

Carabobo between San Juan and La Playa provides a nice corridor sheltered from the diesel exhaust of the the buses.  Lots of shops, eateries and something interesting at both ends. The portion of Carabobo south of San Juan is characterized by shops selling automotive parts. At the intersection with  San Juan you will find the Parque de la Luz and the goverenment complex called la alpujarra.

The architecture of the alpujarra  is interesting in its self. I am partial to the the sculptures of Rodrigo Arenas Betancur in any case and the work that graces the main plaza there is representative of his odes to human aspiration.

The north end of the pedestrian section of Carabobo includes both the Veracruz Church and the Museo de Antioquia. The La Inglesia de la Veracruz is, I believe the oldest church in the Medellin area and was started in 1682 by el Capitán Juan Céspedes de Hinestroza. The Museo de Antioquia houses a collection of art reflecting the cultural environment of Antioquia. They have an excellent permanent collection and host rotating shows of cultural and artistic significance. I love the place!

I also love the museums patio restaurant that overlooks the Botero Plaza.  Nubia and I often enjoy a snack or meal, just sitting watching the people in the plaza. There are lots of tourists both from other parts of Colombia and of international origin in the plaza and enjoying the restaurant. If you want to meet others visiting Medellin this is a good spot.

This entire walking route has the advantage of never being more than a few blocks from the Metro. Stations nearby include, from south to north, Alpujarra, San Antonio, and Parque Berrio.

Junín

The second pedestrian corridor is Junín. It can be accessed from the end of Carabobo by walking just two blocks to the east on La Playa. A turn to the left will take you on to Junin where you will find the original location of El Astor. This is a a great place for a snack on excellent pastries and confections. A bit further to the north on the left you will find the Versalles restaurant. Versalles has a great atmosphere typical of its heritage as a gathering place for intellectuals and artists. You never know who you may see here. The food also is good and the pastries sold at the entrance are excellent. I really like the Palitos de Guayaba (Guava Sticks). To date these are just $COP 1000 ( US$ 0.53 at today’s exchange rate) and IMHO the best treat buy in Medellin.

Just a few steps further you will find the Parque de Bolivar and Metropolitan Cathedral.  The park is a bit seedy but the cathedral is beautiful both outside and within. They have a pipe  organ well worth hearing if you get the chance.

Please take advantage of these pedestrian thoroughfares.  They will give you an insight into the vitality and commercial spirit of Medellin and introduce you  to many of the pleasures of the Center City.

Big Food Event October 20 through 23

The MARIDAJE 2011 Foods Festival (EL FESTIVAL GASTRONÓMICO) will take place at the Plaza Mayor between October 20th and 23rd. They will be featuring 5o local resturants and a wide variety of food and drink related displays. This could be a great way to find out about tasty opportunites here in Medellin. There should be several of the better coffee growers represented.

I did not attend their first event but will be  at this one for sure. There are some really great resturaunts in town but which one to try next?

Walking for Exercise and More

I have picked up my walking program again recently. While in Medellin I have been using the Metro Stations as landmarks and goals. Sometimes I jump the Metro and ride to a distant station, get off and walk back home. Other times, I walk to a station and back home. Today I walked from here in Prado Centro to the Exposiciones station and back.  This turns out to be about 5 miles given the route I took. On the return I eat at the El Palo vegetarian restaurant on El Palo just north of La Playa. This turned out to be a good move and I describe it in a comment to my previous post.

I find that walking greatly improves my knowledge of the city. It provides vital detail in the overall context of my mental map.

 

Vegan/Vegeterian Food In Medellin

I am moving in the direction of removing animal products from my diet for health and environmental reasons. I just found the Happy Cow site which lists and reviews vegetarian eateries worldwide. Here is their page for Medellin (click here).