Leo Espinosa in her office at Leo, great Colombian cuisine in Bogotà. Here she shows a sketch of a dish she'll make in the future
Some time ago, the great Spanish gastronomist (now based in Latin America) Ignacio Medina wrote, almost suffering, of a dish he really couldn't get out of his mind, "I'm still thinking about it, three weeks after eating it. It has all I look for: surprise, clarity, simplicity, textures and emotions. I also feel it's an unquestionable reference to understand the journey followed by the most advanced cook in the Latin American scene, and a point of reference for Colombian restaurants". Something very similar happened to us, though not exactly the same, after tasting Tongue and skin of pirarucù from Leo Espinosa, at restaurant Leo in Bogotá, number 46 in the World's 50Best, 14 in the 50Best Latin America.
Tongue and skin of pirarucù
Pirarucù, sour manioca, cacay milk and katara
The sign of Leo
The chef, with her daughter Laura Hernández who is the sommelier, presented a lesson titled “Territorio - CicloBioma: experiential interpretation of Colombian ecosystems” strongly focused on the new pairing presented at their restaurant, a pairing with an innovative concept, a sort of “Amazonian mixology” developed in a project called Territorio. It's based on some cocktails developed by Hernández in partnership with the Universidad de los Andes, each inspired by the flavours of the ecosystem, and made with herbs and fruits. They are called Páramo (bay leaf and rosemary), Desierto (prickly pear and nopal), Bosque de Niebla (honey from the forests of Sotaquirá in the Andes, Boyacá), Piedemonte (cocoa leaves and Arauca cocoa beans), Montaña (distilled gulupa).
The same cocktails partly accompanied our meal. In general, CiclioBioma means the study of the Colombian territory in its different ecosystems through research, development and innovation. In each biome, she and her staff work with biologists, farmers and producers to make place for local products that recreate the collective memory of Colombia.
Take the appetizers, eight small dishes:
From the right, clockwise, Mussels, green coconut, foam of organic salt from Galerazamba; Dried prawns, Copey sea snails, coconut and azotea herbs; Alalunga tuna, hormiga culona, mañoco, cane honey and seaweeds; King crab
From the right, clockwise: Cucha, oil of mojojoy, creole saffron; Heart of palm, mojojoy, huito; Salted marshmallow of tail of Amazon caiman with palmito; Broth of ray fish, hormiga limonera and citrus herbs
Then there are 1+4 meat-based dishes (in all honesty, far too many, even in a long tasting menu as the one we were expecting).
Broth of guinea fowl, tallo leaf, green corn and casabe
Denver cut beef, fern in brine, native potatoes, siete cuero and paipa
Goat, tamaca, wild oregano of the desert
Savannah pig, red rice from Guajira
Cured neck of ram, ancient Arhuacos cocoa and ocañera onion
As you can tell, a great and very interesting dinner. The desserts, however, are the most extraordinary part of the entire menu, from a culinary point of view.
Macambo, anise, loquats, Tumaco cocoa
Gelatine of potato, coquindo, salt of Manure
Pulantana, granita of Tayrona cocoa
Coffee and cocoa
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
An outdoor trip or a journey to the other side of the planet?
One thing is for sure: the destination is delicious, by Carlo Passera
journalist born in 1974, for many years he has covered politics, mostly, and food in his free time. Today he does exactly the opposite and this makes him very happy. As soon as he can, he dives into travels and good food. Identità Golose's editor in chief
Leonor Espinosa at Identià Milano 2023
Leonor Espinosa and Fatmata Binta, both special guest speakers in the Auditorium at Identità Milano 2023: the Colombian chef will give a talk with her daughter Laura Hernandez on Sunday 29th January at 3.40 p.m.; the Sierra Leonean chef on Saturday 28th at 4.20 p.m.
Chef Alvaro Clavijo and Ivan Cordoba with his wife Maria. Right, Envuelto with curd and plantain, one of the dishes capable of telling the story of Colombian ingredients and traditions. Photos: Annalisa Cavaleri