Christmas, as you might expect, is a big deal in Mexico, where the season stretches all the way to January 6, also known as Three Kings Day or Dias de los Reyes. A second Christmas, when children unwrap presents and the fiestas pick up swing, Día de Reyes is also celebrated with its own special cake called rosca de reyes, or kings cake.
When Colombian chef and restaurant consultant Paula Silva decided to open a new restaurant (her second) she wanted it to reflect her personal passions. The chef, who is a certified yoga instructor, has a meditation and yoga room at home, and sometimes wears a bindi, ultimately chose the name Hippie. I might have added the word “modern” to the name.
In 2014 Leo Cocina y Cava in Bogota, Colombia was inducted onto the list of 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America, shining a spotlight on Chef Leonor Espinosa and her meticulous preparation and presentation of dishes that incorporate and respect obscure Colombian ingredients and techniques.
As my taxi rounded the corner onto restaurant-filled 69th street in Bogota, Colombia one place outshone them all. Petite, two level Criterión sparkled with lights, warmth pouring out of every enormous window. Inside, it was stunning, with a palette heavy on metallics and lavender, dangling oversized showcase light bulbs twinkling overhead, curved furniture both inviting and discreet, and 3-D wallpaper inspiring double takes.
Chef Leonor Espinosa doesn’t look like anyone else in Colombia. Born in Cartagena, she's an imposing mix of Afro Colombian genes. More importantly, she doesn’t cook like anyone else in Colombia. That’s clear the moment we sat down to eat at Leo Cocina y Cava, her chic and acclaimed restaurant in Bogota.
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