I have been fortunate enough to travel plenty in my life. I take a lot of pleasure in discovering the little gems that cities tend to hold close to their chest, so as not to be spoiled. But no single venue has had as enormous an effect on me than a location in a small town North of Bogotá called Andrés Carne de Res. Alejandro first introduced me to ACR on my first visit to Colombia in 2004. It is one part traditional Colombian fare, 3 parts art gallery, and a pinch of nightclub all finished with a garnish of theatrical whimsy. The decor alone is worth the trip.
I have on many occasions tried to explain to my fellow gringo’s, the special hysteria associated with this popular destination but words do not do the experience (or the food) justice. This magnetic power that “Andrés” has over me and millions of others has made it our location of choice for Zemoga celebrations. Well…OK…my choice.
It can get overwhelming. But that is understandable since this carnival of salted meat and candied mayhem started as a simple street side outpost in 1982 in the heart of a town called Chia. (No relation to the pet).
Andrés Jaramillo is the proprietor of a destination that has evolved into a cacophony of visuals for the diner, or what I like to call the “rumberos”… depending on your arrival time and particular fancy. Andrés Carne De Res has become THE destination for all “Rollo’s” (The Colombian nickname for a person from Bogotá)…regardless of age. They dine on specialties like Ajiaco con Pollo, a traditional stew and Lomo de cerdo, one of my favorite beef dishes.
The most attractive component of Andrés is the art that hangs not just on the walls but in every corner and on every beam that holds this open-air barn together. Each piece is a reinvention of some utilitarian item that had already existed, and has since been discarded. Nothing is off limits including tires, typewriters and bottle caps. These are repurposed and coupled with steel, wire, paint and wood. The craftsmanship is uncanny and the items beg the viewer to look more closely to discover their original form before Andrés and his crew of 50 odd artisans got their hands, and their torches on them.
An overwhelming visual theme that works it’s way into a majority of the art is the seamless inclusion of religious iconography, mostly renaissance imagery of angels, the Virgin, and the Christ Child. You would think that this might cause some consternation in a Catholic country like Colombia. But the tasteful way Andrés weaves the imagery into his creations makes perfect sense, as if the old discarded items have been blessed by his hand with a new life and purpose.
On a recent visit in 2007, I had the pleasure of sharing several Aguardientes at the Andrés altar…I mean table. Our financial team member Carlos Pardo accompanied me (it seems that Carlos caught the eye one of Andrés female friends). The ensuing conversation revealed to me a quiet man who at first had little to say. It must have seemed like his worst nightmare, the intrusion of another foreigner into his temple. But after a few words he opened up, and agreed to sign a few books on the restaurant for Zemoga. I was surprised when he paused and said he did not know what to write. I commented that his creative talent must have some application in the written word. His response is in my book. “Andrés, poet on the walls”
For more information on the restaurant and to get a feel for the aesthetic and food, visit the website at www.andrescarnederes.com