suggestions in Cartagena from chef Leonor Espinosa

Recognized as the best Latin American chef in 2017, Colombian-born Leonor Espinosa preserves the gastronomic richness of her home country at her three restaurants and foundation

 

Pride in her roots: this is basically what moves Leonor Espinosa, born in the Cauca Valley, raised in Cartagena, and currently living in Bogotá. It’s there that her restaurants Leo, which is among the 50 best in Latin America, and two Misia locations are installed. FunLeo, an organization she founded in 2008, focuses on retrieving local ingredients and supporting communities by placing value on agriculture and biodiversity. Next, she shares tips on her favorite places in Cartagena.

 

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Tilapia like in the old days

“Red tilapia, a marine fish, used to be one of the most popular dishes in Cartagena in the past. These days, the only tilapia available comes from fish farms, as it’s extinct in the ocean. However, at the restaurants Las Mellas and Reyatos, in Pasacaballos, it’s possible to find great fried fish of the season, served with rice with coconut and plantains. Pasacaballos is a village located on the way to Playa Blanca, on Isla Barú.”

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Where to dance salsa

“Platanal de Bartolo and Vueltabajero are the places frequented by people who love to salsa. The former is famous for promoting competitions for men, who take to the stage to show off their moves and become known as ‘that dancer.’ Meanwhile, the atmosphere at Vueltabajero is more elegant. There, the rumba starts at 8 p.m.”

El Platanal de Bartolo: Transv. 45 Diagonal 21A-47

El Vueltabajero: Transv. 54 #30-266

 

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A favorite neighborhood and dish

“The neighborhood of Pie de la Popa is characterized by old mansions in republican style and its classic 17th-century convent, but also by its traditional dishes and fried food. When I was a kid, I used to go to a restaurant on Calle Albercó with my family, and I remember Dona Carmen attending diners as if it were yesterday, offering egg empanadas, sweet arepas (made with cornmeal), and the unforgettable black bean dumplings. Her daughter, Maria, has carried on the tradition, maintaining that unique flavor passed on from her cook mother.”

 

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The best apéritif for a day at the beach

“Made with ice and extracts, ‘raspao’ with tamarind or corozo, both tropical fruits, is the perfect option for a sunny day at the beach.”