The well-seasoned story of Margarita

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“Margarita Estupiñán was born in El Charco, Nariño, more than four decades ago. At 12 years old, after a family fight, she left her home and landed in Cali where, for some unknown reason – let’s say almost miraculously – a traditional local family adopted her, raised her, paid her studies and taught her several trades, among them the gratifying art of cooking.

When Margarita was 18, the family said: “We’ve done our part; now it’s your turn”. And thus she set out for Bogotá in search of work. Among other jobs, the “Negrita” (as everyone called her), was employed by the Croydon, a packaging company for roses in the Bogotá savanna.

Some of the flowers didn’t classify as exportable so Margarita bought and sold them, door to door, in the streets of northern Bogotá. One day she sold a rose bouquet to Melisa Guibert, a French women that had a boutique in the El Chicó neighborhood.

That afternoon, Melisa asked her: “Have you eaten (here) yet?” To which Margarita responded: “What do you think?” Melisa took her to her elegant apartment in Los Rosales and prepared a type of meat she had never had before. “I want to learn to make this”, Margarita told her.

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And she not only learned to make a steak like that – as she also learned what it was called -, but then she picked apart a French recipe book from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, in which Mrs Guibert was an expert.

So, during 7 years, Margarita cultivated and dominated this succulent type of world cuisine.

In December, 17 years ago, Margarita went on vacation in Santa Marta, a land she then fell in love with. That’s when she decided to leave everything and, with her savings, opened a small place for French food called San Basilio.

The overwhelming success of the restaurant made Margarita expand, and so she rented a place in the city’s historic downtown, where her business still operates. Since then, Basilea (a name she later chose in order to give it a European touch), is an exquisite gastronomic reference in the city.

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Due to the curious curves that destiny proposed, one afternoon a Swiss man named Christian Bumann happened upon her place. And yes…it was love at first sight (it’s been going strong 8 years).

But the incredible and well-seasoned story of Margarita didn’t and doesn’t stop there. Soon after Christian would get to know, in the intimacy of her home, her other speciality: cuisine of the Colombian Pacífico, and so he got her to open another spot, showcasing her other cuisine. The place became reality and it’s called Casa Marina.

If only due to such a story, it’s worth it to sit down at any of the two places. I’ve gone to Basilea many times, and yes, it’s a classic. A little while back, I visited Casa Marina and, in an “encocado” of shrimp, I found Margarita’s other truth: Pacific cuisine. In both cases, pure seasoning and a lot of heart.” – Source (which I translated)

Casa Marina.
Calle 19 N°. 3-53.
Santa Marta
Tel.: (5) 423 1809

Basilea
Calle 16 N°. 2-58
Santa Marta
Tel.: (5) 431 4138

Consumerism and Conservation in Bogotá

News on the two items below came out at the same time, which I found interesting.

Eden Mall

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“Just granted planning constent, Eden Mall will be Colombia’s largest shopping centre, covering an area of  320,000 m2 and 134,000 m2 dedicated to retail space.

It is located in the southeast intersection of Avenida Boyacá and Calle 13, in the city of Bogota – a strategic location in the capital and a place of major residential growth.  The location connects the Mall to the rest of the city, with immediate access from any of the major arterial roads.

USD$500 million is to be invested in the project and will include international and national brands and retailers in over 350 stores, a food court, restaurants, cinemas and approx 20,000 m2 for family entertainment, plus parking for 4,000 vehicles.

Construction is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2015, and open in 2017.  When open, the Mall is expected to attract circa 2 million visitors monthly. ” – Source

Ecological Park

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“Bogota conservation authorities plan to create a bio-diversity corridor to preserve ground water and natural plant species in what would be the largest urban ecological park in Latin America.

An Environmental Management Plan has been created for the area located north of Bogota and covering regions Guaymaral, Corpas and Suba.

Regional Autonomous Corporation (CAR) has banned construction on roughly 1,400 acres of land situated on Thomas van der Hammen Forest reserve, and aims to build a huge ecological reserve which would be the largest in the whole of Latin America. The project is expected to cost around 73 million dollars. ” – Source

Building homes differently in Colombia

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“Building homes using recycled plastic bottles – that’s the innovative idea of a design school in Colombia specialised in sustainable habitat. The inspiration came from the ancient “wattle and daub” housebuilding technique: the idea is to stack recycled bottles filled with sand and earth. The design school offers courses to teach students how to empower communities by using alternative and accessible technologies.” – Source, Source 2

La Casa Vergara

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“Colombian architect Jose Andres Vallejo is the inspired genius behind La Casa Vergara, an innovative dome-shaped residence built with sustainable earthbag solutions. Constructed in Bogota in 2011, La Casa Vergara uses traditional earth (superadobe concept from Iran) to create a naturally cool residence with a gentle environmental impact. Covered with concrete finishing, building from earth is not only cost effective, but also offers seismic resistance and peace of mind.” – Source

Café Tero vs Café de Colombia

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The Café de Colombia brand, a pioneer in certificates of origin, obtained its name in 2005. Due to its particular condition, it’s under protection, and that consists of stopping anyone from registering any sign that reproduces, imitates or contains a certificate of origin. Therefore, the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce decided to refuse registration of the brand Cafe Tero requested by Inox Sentry.

“I consider the decision to be a little exagerated given that the National Federation of Coffee-growers has a monopoly on the evocations, “Colombia” and “café”. Only for having the word of the product associated with the national flag, it makes reference to the certificate of origin. I believe that it’s an incorrect interpretation on behalf of SIC”, said a lawyer specialized in industrial property, Lola Kandelaft, from the Muños Abogados firm.

The lawyer Javier Delgadillo, also a specialist in the field of law, from the firm Q&D Abogados, takes an opposite view. “I share SIC’s decision because the registration of a brand should be denied if if reproduces the concept of a protected certificate of origin.”

He also adds that “the decision was successful because the protections don’t limit themselves to signs that reproduce its name, but rather it encompasses any graphic representation or any other representation that may evoke the same concept.

A certificate of origin is the name or indication of a geographic location, that may be a country or determined region, which designates a product that by being originated from said region, and by the customs of production or transformations of its inhabitants, has characteristics or a reputation that makes it different from similar products coming from other geographic regions.

On the list headed by Café de Colombia for certificates of origin, are Café de Cauca, Café de Nariño, Café de Huila, Chalupa del Huila, Queso del Caquetá, Queso Paipa, Bizcocho de Achira del Huila, Clavel de Colombia, Crisantemo de Colombia and Rosa de Colombia.

On this occasion, the lawsuit was started against Café de Colombia on October 16, 2013, when Inox Sentry requested from SIC the registration of its brand Café Tero to distinguish its grain, which is included in class 30 of the International Nice Classification.

Once the request was published, the Federation presented its opposition citing pertanent laws. First, they say that “they are registrable signs which may mislead trade circles or the public, particularly in regards to geographical origin, nature, manufacturing process, characteristics, qualities or suitability for employment of related products or services.”

Second, “one cannot register items that reproduce, imitate or contain a protected certificate of origin.”

The opposition says “in virtue of the declaration of the protection of the Café de Colombia certificate of origin, no third party can register or use a merging of these expressions.”

Facing of the decision of the Department to refuse registration of the brand, Inox Sentry appealed. However, on appeal the denial was upheld.” – Source (ES)

Checking In On Avianca’s Offer

I was on El Tiempo after not checking it for a few months and I saw a Brazilian flag in an advert. It was from Avianca (which now has hubs in Brazil after buying Brazilian airline Ocean Air earlier this year) and their ad was to inform people that it operates two daily flights to São Paulo from Bogotá.

Late last year in Medellín, I decided to give Avianca a call, pretending I was a Brazilian living in Colombia so I spoke with a Brazilian Portuguese speaking agent and received a price of around $1,000 for a round-trip flight to São Paulo. Considering my round-trip flight from the US to Colombia was $600, I said thanks but no thanks. Fast-foward a year and Avianca, as mentioned previously, is operating from within Brazil. One would think their operating costs would go down somehow and any savings might be able to go to the customer. Wrong.

From the image above, it can be noted that a round-trip flight (which, by the way, is BOG-SAO) would cost me US$800. Perhaps the time of the year has a little to do with it but I kind of doubt it.

As a carrier, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but praise for Avianca. In fact, I’ve never flown better. Assuming third time is a charm and I move back to Brazil in 2011, it would be really nice to have a cheap(er) way to go between countries and the difference for me is in the price. At $500-$600 rt, which I’ve always been able to find from the US to Colombia, I have been able to get to know various Colombian cities in the last two years but at $800 rt, such a pleasure must be relegated to once every 3-4 years. That’s the psychological difference that $200-$300 in savings makes.

Oma – Colombia’s Other Coffee Shop

As one of Colombia’s two main coffee shops, Oma is a nice place to go to get out of the heat (assuming you’re on the coast) or as a ‘third place’ to go after home and work. Just like the Juan Valdez shops, they offer coffee+liquor drinks, too. For additional information, see the facts below or visit their site!

  • Started in 1970, OMA owns shops selling all the usual hot and cold coffee drinks, and snacks.
  • The shops also feature books and music.
  • In addition, OMA owns a restaurant chain and a manufacturing facility for OMA Coffee Roasters.
  • The name OMA is derived from German. OMA is an endearing word for “grandmother.”

More Info

Oma – Official Site

From Caffeine to Computers

“Two new tablets, one an Android avatar and the other a Windows 7, are due to be launched , not by an electronics company from South East Asia but from Colombia. Engadget reported that two Bogota-based companies are due to launch two 10-inch tablets. Compumax is targeting an Android-based tablet sporting a Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHz Cotex A9 microprocessor with 32GB in internal memory and 512MB RAM.

Another company Smart PC is aiming at a Windows 7 based slate that runs on Atom N450 processor. The tablet will have 320GB hard drive and 2GB RAM. It will also have a DVD writer. Both the companies claim that the tablets have been indigenously built in Colombia sourcing parts from other countries.

The Android tablet will be christened Hyper Android and will cost about $387 while the Windows tablet will be called Smart Touch and will cost $608. Both the machines are due to be released in Peru in October. After India joined the tablet bandwagon with its $35 tablet, it seems Colombia, which is known for coffee exports, has found an unlikely complementary product in tablets.” – Source

More Info

Colombia Tops Internet Usage List