Tuesday, July 15, 2008
"No Reservations" season 4, episode 12: Travels To Colombia
Anthony Bourdain in Medellin, Colombia
No Reservations: In Colombia
Location: This week Anthony is in Colombia, a country that finds itself the setting of one of South America's most remarkable transformations. In the 25 years since the death of Pablo Escobar, this once war-torn country has emerged like a phoenix from the scars of the past. Colombia offers Tony a tantalizing mix of cultures, delicious food and beautiful mountain scenery.
The next and final stop on Tony's Colombian odyssey is Medellín, the second-largest city in Colombia and one of its most notorious. The crew visits Queareparaenamorarte (try pronouncing that one), a restaurant that serves traditional Colombian cooking from across the country. Tony gorges himself on a mouth-watering array of foods - a plate of chorizo, rice soup with meat, avocado and plantains, flank steak and tamales de tilapia prepared with coconut, plantains and passion fruit sauce. All the while he's downing shots of aguardiente, the local Colombian rum, with his hosts. C'mon did you really think we could have an episode of No Reservations without Tony getting drunk?
And we're just getting started. In a show renowned for its gluttony, Tony's Medellín visit turns into one of the most gluttonous we've probably ever witnessed. Bourdain has breakfast at the "How Yummy" restaurant at the Plaza Minorista market in Medellín. After an appetizer of empanadas, he dines on Calentao, a typical breakfast plate of leftover rice, beans, fried eggs, fried plantains, an arepa covered in cheese AND meat. In what has to be the line of the episode, Tony decides that Calentao "makes the Grand Slam at Denny's look like a carrot stick." Heart attack anyone?
Clearly not yet full from his gigantic breakfast, Tony has an even bigger lunch, consisting of a plate with beans, salad, rice, fried eggs, pulled pork, an arepa, chorizo and chicharron. Good god man, please make it stop. It's almost painful to watch a human being eat this much food. But then again, it is a cooking and eating show - who am I to judge?
Tony wraps up the episode with a visit to the some of Medellín's rougher barrios for a traditional Sancocho lunch and a little local culture. His hosts are the neighborhood's residents - people who have experienced a dramatic rise in their standard of living in recent years. What was once the training ground for the Colombian drug cartels and their armies of mercenaries is now home to young adults who have started their own hip-hop crew, a filmmaker and a talented young chef. Thankfully Tony spares us the "kumbaya" moment at the campfire and gets back to what he does best - eating some tasty food and hanging out with his guests.
Bourdain's examination of Colombia offers the country high marks and an optimistic road to the nation's future success. It's the type of country that only Anthony Bourdain does best - a place cluttered with misconceptions waiting to be corrected. And although a "human interest" angle was definitely woven into the episode, No Reservations: Colombia was really all about the food. Tony's focus on the country's diverse and delicious cuisine definitely made this a surprising and very enjoyable episode to watch. But more than that, I found myself wanting to go visit Colombia - for any travel show, this is the pinnacle of a successful episode.