Santa Elena, Colombia

On the ride from the airport in Medellín to the finca in Santa Elena, my brother, Josh, pointed out a restaurant on the side of the road.  “I ate there last night,” he said.  “It was pretty good.  Everything I ate came from around here.  And I mean around here.”  He made a circular motion with his pointer finger.  “All these places serve local food, and they don’t advertise it or anything, it’s just the way things are around here.  The food is real simple though.  Not what you’d call imaginative cuisine.”

Patatas Criollas.

“What’d you eat?”

“Chicken with mushrooms, a green salad, and french fries.”

“Was the chicken local?”


“And the mushrooms?”

“I don’t know, but the potatoes were.  I saw them hanging from the ceiling.”

Uchuvas, blackberries, and strawberries.

The locally grown potatoes are small, waxy, yellow potatoes known as patatas criollas.  Santa Elena is 2000 meters above sea level.  Strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries grow here, but they are unlike our strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries.  The blueberries are called mortiños, and they taste like a cranberry-ish blueberry.  Lalo is another local fruit, and uchuvas.  And coffee.  The best Colombian coffee grows here, in the Antioquia region of Colombia.


This is coffee growing country.  Behind the finca, there is a slope that drops away, revealing layers of mountain.  The farther away the mountain, the bluer the mountain gets and the less visible detail.

I remember that lyric, “Everything looks perfect from far away,” from “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service.  Now, after getting to know these mountains, I know that I disagree.  Everything looks smoother from far away and the distance forces the eye to see the form instead of the details.  The farthest parts of the mountain are barely distinguishable from the sky.  Here, the clouds touch the land and run through the valleys.  These mountains respond to the sky.

Bandeja paisa is a typical dish around these parts.  Mine had beans, white rice, fried egg, chorizo, chicharron, and a salad.



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