American Expats Create a Delicious Medellin Food Tour
I travelled to Medellín for a 3-day weekend, wanting to discover they city with all my senses. I did a fantastic free walking tour in Medellin to discover its history and ate a huge bandeja paisa in Hato Viejo among other things. I also met Nicole and Jeremy: An American couple who decided they needed a change and packed their bags for Medellín.
Nicole, originally from Missouri, has a background in Consulting and Jeremy from New Mexico, has vast experience in Public Health. Together they delved in their love for food and opened up La Mesa this January 2015, a food tour company based in Medellín, helping tourists discover the local goodies. So I sat down with the couple over dinner to talk about their new adventure.
What attracted you to come live in Colombia? And why Medellín?
Nicole: We didn’t come here at random. We already had many Colombian friends and had traveled here before. As a matter of fact, our friends recommended that we move to Medellín if we were going to live in Colombia, and so we did!
How did your idea of a Medellin food tour come about? It’s a long way from Consulting and Public Health!
Nicole: While Jeremy and I were on our honeymoon a few years ago in Vietnam, we visited a charming city called Hoi An. There, we did the most wonderful food tour in which we were taken to the local market, showed all types of exotic ingredients and taken back to the kitchen to cook a few local recipes. We thought it was brilliant and there was nothing like it in Medellín when we arrived. We didn’t want to replicate the same model as there is no cooking involved in our tours, but we wanted to give foreigners a peek into Colombian culture through its gastronomy.
How does food relate to the culture and history of a place for you?
Jeremy: Food is very strongly related to the cultural identity of a country. It serves more than just to feed our bodies and can have embedded meanings of social status; can serve to evoke feelings, sensations and memories; but more importantly, local food is representative of its land and people. Whether I have a traditional Italian pizza, a Vietnamese Pho or a Colombian arepa, when its ingredients and process is authentic, its flavors carry me to its place of origin. It’s a sensory journey that gives you a feel for the culture on a more primitive level if that makes any sense. Our idea is not only to give a simple food tour in Medellin, but to give foreigners a taste of Colombia’s many flavors.
How did your love affair with food come about?
Nicole: What sparked my curiosity for food was when I first traveled to Barcelona. I was amazed by how seriously the Spanish took their food. Every bite was filled with years of tradition.
With all your gastronomy expertise, what are your thoughts on Colombian food?
Nicole: Colombian food is comfort food! If I could describe it in 3 words it would be cheese, meat and carbs. However, I have never seen so much variety of fruits and vegetables and I think that there is still much left to be explored. Put in the right hands, Colombian food can become something really special. We show this in our Foodie Dream Tour, where we take our guests for dinner to some of the best restaurants in Medellín to try Colombian fusion food and drinks. Here you won’t find your ordinary arepa with cheese. Instead, you’ll encounter something along the lines of cocktails composed of fruits from the Amazon and fusion ceviches. It’s amazing!
Does La Mesa have any plans of expansion and any interesting projects in the making?
Jeremy: We have 3 popular tours at the moment. The first one is a Street Food Tour, the second is the Foodie Dream Tour and our third is a Culinary Road Trip, in which we take out guests to visit the breathtaking town of Guatapé, stopping at several places to eat along the way. It’s a great 2-in-1 allowing to visit and eat at the same time. The fourth food tour is currently underway. We are working on a coffee farm adventure tour because which better place to sip a tinto than in Antioquia?!
And if all goes well then hopefully you’ll find La Mesa in Cartagena in 2016!
If you are in Medellín and want to taste the true flavors of Colombia, be sure to pay Nicole and Jeremy a visit and try one of the various food tours they offer in Medellín!