The Great Escape: Bogota, Colombia


The Great Escape: Bogota, Colombia


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A Colombia native, Mariana Velasquez is a New York-based chef, food stylist, and cookbook author. She recently published Colombiana (Harper Collins), and launched Casa Velasquez – her own brand of hosting essentials spanning garments, table linens and accessories, all crafted in collaboration with women artisans and makers in Bogota.

What’s your “essential” list of places one must visit, eat, shop when in Bogota?

• For a glass of wine and a bite, I go to Atlas, a tiny garage space in the Chapinero neighborhood where locals meet to casually end the afternoon. I love how unfussy and local it feels.
• I never miss going to the Paloquemao market filled with tropical fruits, delicious yuca and rice flour pastries, an endless selection of flowers and ingredients and crafts from all over the country. I typically go at 6 a.m. to catch the buzzing flower market and then head over for some short rib soup for breakfast.
• There is a place called Cafe Rico, with very well-curated coffee and a breakfast selection that mixes ancestral ingredients with a contemporary take. On the second floor there is a fabulous home store called La Temporal.
• For great local design head to Paula Mendoza Store, where the Bogotanian designer handcrafts fabulous costume and fine jewelry. Right next door you’ll find gorgeous lingerie by Suki Cohen and downstairs Andrea Landa with exquisite leather designs.
• For a great lunch head over to Abasto for beautifully sourced ingredients and wholesome preparations that never disappoint.
• On any given Friday night, Cafe Bar Universal is a place for good drinks, beautiful people, and great ambiance. Unpretentious, well prepared and delicious food.
Mesa franca is a new favorite of mine, great to go as a large group so that you can taste many small dishes. Featuring a wood fire and open coal cooking, the chefs here truly celebrate the ritual of sharing the table.
• At the airport I never miss a meal before taking off at Crepes & Waffles, a Colombian institution founded by a husband-and-wife team over 30 years ago. They locally source many of their ingredients, solely employ women heads of their household and have the best ice cream flavors ever.

You’re known for lush tablescapes and effortless styling. What’s your secret sauce?

Gathering inspiration from other sources that have nothing to do with food. From the color palette in a Wong Kar-Wai movie, to using unexpected blooms like carnations – one of the most underrated flowers – as the center piece by combining its stems with branches and roses; from using textiles from different trips and layering them instead of one single table cloth to using elements I find in local markets and creating height with cake stands, books, and platters. I truly believe in adding unexpected elements to the table – they tend to become conversation pieces.

Your three tips to fool-proof entertaining?
• Be the host you want to be and trust your personal seal. After all, this is your home – do your way and trust in it.
• Set the table the night before the event, this way that is done and you can focus on the rest.
• If you are having a great time as a host, everyone else will too. Don’t worry about everything being perfect – most often than not, people don’t see the flaws that you see.

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