By Patrick HiegerLadies and gentlemen, late last night in the outskirts of Bogotá, at a massive dance club that, by day, serves heaping portions of meat, a new phenomenon that can only be described as “crotch motorboating” was created. We’ll have more on that towards the bottom, but just let the idea soak over you.
Due to a few logistical snags and timing issues, several chefs, like Enrique Olvera and Ignacio Mattos, that were supposed to attend the festival had to cancel last minute, so day three, the final day of chats with chefs and other professionals was cut short. However, with the three Roca brothers kicking the day off and Renzo Garibaldi taking down an entire leg of beef (later topped off by that new dance phenomenon) ending the day, it wasn’t as though we were missing much. Bogotá continued to excite, inspire, and make us hungry.
Day three, the hits, below:
• The morning kicked off bright and early with a guided tour to Bogotá’s Mercado Quemado. A two to three block spree that is equal parts exotic fruits, endless seas of roses and other beautiful flowers that grow locally, as well as live chickens, arepas, and just about everything else you could imagine in between, this market gives the others of South America a strong run for their money. Santiago Macias Acuña, chef of Buenos Aires’ iLatina and a Bogotá native, gave us a guided tour of the stalls that were teeming with fruits like lulo, mangosteen, indigenous potatoes and other tubers, and many more exotic delicacies that only Colombia can lay claim to. No trip to Bogotá that is focused on eating will be complete without a visit to the Mercado Quemado. You’ve been told.
• From the market it was straight off to the chat the Roca brothers were giving as part of their tour of the Americas that will finish next week in Lima. The conference hall at the local culinary school was packed with eager students looking for bits of wisdom from the trio of chefs and wine lovers that have been collecting and using native ingredients for their dinners since they landed in Houston a few weeks ago. Several technical issues, a couple iPads and about an hour late, the conference finally started, and the wisdom started to flow.
Josep, the wine dude of the the brothers three, told of the humble beginnings of the restaurant more than twenty years ago, and how their mother’s food at her humble restaurant continues to inspire them each day. A commitment to excellence, each and every day, and a focus on the classic foods that their parents have given them since childhood, is the secret to the Roca’s success. That, and a lot of awesome machines that Joan would discuss.
Joan and Jodi, the culinary duo, each discussed the inspiration for the food at El Celler De Can Roca, citing the bevvy of ingredients that surround the restaurant near Girona spain, as well as tradition, as major factors in what they do every day. There were videos galore, some completely nonsensical and others just for fun, to try and show how everything from classic cook books to a little humor in the kitchen make for a great chef. With no time left, a packed schedule, and a few guards eager to rush the chefs out, they swooped off the stage and disappeared into the Bogotá day. Fear not, they would return.
• Post-Roca, the evening’s main event was a trip outside of Bogotá to Chía, where the goliath that is Andrés Carne de Res lives. Equal parts circus, compound, restaurant, museum, and foodie-style acid trip, the events space behind the labyrinthine main building was taken over by meat, and Lima’s Renzo Garibaldi was the main attraction. There were grills, heaping piles of meat, entertainers dressed up like clowns, cows, uh, freaks (?), and more. By 22:00, the meat started to trickle off the grills and onto our tables, accompanied by various South American wines, simple (but delicious!) salads, native potatoes, and more.
The main attraction, though, that would go on for nearly two hours, was the whole leg of beef that was brought into the center of the room for Garibaldi to break down, letting us know just who the mad butcher of South America is. For a few minutes last night, Renzo Garibaldi was God, surrounded by his meat-loving disciples who just wanted to watch the man cut meat. And cut he did, explaining the process, the muscles, step by step. Once he had finished, a surprise auction of the individual cuts was held to raise more money for this year’s charity, Fundación Escuela Taller, to which all of the proceeds of this year’s festival will head. There was confetti, drum rolls, screaming, dancing, and meat.
Back in the main building, the food was still flowing, and the dancing hordes of young and old were throbbing to the sound of 80s music, classic Colombian hits, the din of sweat and lust. We caught David Kinch, and even Dominique Crenn’s sous chef tapping their feet, thinking about dancing. We drank US $18 gin and tonics. Food continued to pass through the crowd. Glasses were dropped. And that dude in the argyle sweater, loafers, and tight khakis sat on a bench, surrounded by his friends, as his lady pressed her waist into his face and he let the motorboat shake.
Crotch motorboating, folks. Accompanied by Joan Roca in a pink blazer, out in the sticks for a party at 2:00 in the morning. That’s Bogotá.