Friday, December 21, 2007

Colombian Breeze: Food for the Soul

The national dish of Colombia is a hearty soup made of chicken and four different types of potatoes. It’s a heady broth spiked with grassy herbs, chunks of chicken and corn on the cob. It comes with crema for garnish, along with ripe avocado and capers. Ajiaco hails from the nations capita, Bogota and is a true special occasion dish reserved for holidays and birthdays.

Another great Colombian dish is Bandeja Paisa. This is a dish that hails from Medellin, Colombia’s second city and is more of a plato tipico (literally translated: typical plate), then an actual dish. Bandeja Paisa consists of white rice, stewed beans, chicharron (a fried pork crackling) ½ a chorizo sausage, grilled carne asada (skirt steak), fried plantains, avocado, an arepa and one fried egg.

Steve and Carlos (our resident Colombian) stumbled upon a jewel of a place in the fabulous Kentlands the other day as they were “galavanting” through the neighborhood.

Colombian Breeze is a quaint family run restaurant, featuring very authentic Colombian cuisine in a small, but cozy atmosphere.

One cold and grey Sunday afternoon we made a visit.

The service is friendly and suggestive, which I like. When we were about to order drinks, our server, the owner’s daughter interjected, "we have Passion Fruit and Blackberry juice today".
I ordered the Passion Fruit juice which was sweet and tart and very refreshing. Steven got the Blackberry Juice which was equally delicious.

We started with the Empanadas, again at our servers behest, and she was right to tell us to do so. Piping hot, crisp cornmeal pastries filled with creamy potato and ground beef are served with a spicy and herbaceous sauce, not unlike chimichurri sauce, but without the vinegar bite. I asked our server what was in the sauce and all she would tell me is that her mother makes it by hand, she closely guards the recipe (not even the daughter knows what’s in it) and that it is made with lots of love. You can definitely taste the love in both the empanadas and the sauce.

I ordered the Bandeja Paisa, Carlos got the Ajiaco and Steve orderd a breakfast dish which consisted of rice and beans, eggs and fried plantains. All I can say is that this place rocks! The food is fresh, tasty and soul satisfying. I loved the Bandeja Paisa which is like a mini tapas buffet on a plate, but the real star of the show was the Ajiaco.

Colombian Breeze only makes Ajiaco on Sundays and it is not listed on the menu. That doesn’t stop any one from ordering it though. There were several other Colombian nationals in the restaurant and I couldn’t help but notice that they all ordered the dish. Something like a cross between a stew and soup, the Ajiaco had a rich chicken flavor and a velvety texture supported by the pureed potatoes. A bowl of this stuff is like having your Mom wrap her arms around you after you've come in from the cold. This is the comfort food of the Gods.

Carlos has already been back to Colombian Breeze and we are planning another visit soon. I think my Sunday afternoons are going to be very busy for a while.

(240) 350-4217
348 Main St, Gaithersburg, MD 20878


nicisme said...

I've never had Columbian food and I'm thoroughly jealous after reading this!

Patrick said...

Oh, Nic, you would absolutely love it! I'm going to attempt to make Ajiaco soon. I will post the recipe if it comes out well. In the meantime, come to the states and you can join us ;)

Happy Holidays, Patrick