By Patrick HiegerAs South America rapidly becomes the next “it destination” for a whole new world of modern cuisine featuring unheard of flavors and ingredients that, until recently, were only known by locals, a new flock of tourists from both within the continent and outside are heading to the Southern hemisphere to get a taste of what some of the world’s leading chefs have to offer. However, no culinary getaway to just about any country in South America would be complete without a trip to the markets that so many capital cities are known for. Gastro-pilgrims looking to find the best of Lima know that after dining at Central or Astrid y Gastón, a trip to the Surquillo Market No. 1 is a prerequisite for a taste of caldo de gallina, or just to get their hands on one of the thousands of varieties of potatoes that Peru has to offer. Locals in Santiago know that, if you’re looking for a true taste of the best that Chile has to offer, the Vega Central is the only place you need to go. But it’s Bogotá, Colombia that plays home to one of the most remarkable city markets on the continent, Paloquemao. With a footprint of more than four city blocks, a variety of fruits, vegetables, tubers, live chickens, fish, and more, as well as a flower market that would make the Dutch weep, Paloquemao is one of those markets even the most traveled chef can only dream about, and where hungry travelers can get the most authentic taste of Bogotá that a cab ride can offer.
Two things make the Paloquemao such an incredible market: size and abundance. Located in the southern reaches of Bogotá, far from the Zona G and the abundance of high-end restaurants that make the city a tourist destination on its own, Paloquemao is massive. Before you even enter the market, a stretch of parking lot nearly two blocks wide, and at least a block deep is covered in flowers. Everything from roses to sunflowers, daisies, tulips and more are available in every color imaginable. After you sift your way through the seemingly unending sea of floral delights, a market that is all at once maze, restaurant, grocer, butcher, and kitchen supply store awaits. Finding the market isn’t difficult. Finding a way to leave is much more of a task.