MASA: Oven to Table

I am not so much a bread person. Carbohydrates don’t excited me, unless I happen to be in Paris. I can easily forgo most pastas, rice and rolls. Filler foods, who needs ’em? That is, unless we’re talking about flaky croissants aux amandes or heavenly pain au chocolat. These works of art can lure me in and ignite pulmonary palpitations, much like those I feel when I watch the Colombian soccer players gallop and swing their shirts in the air after scoring a goal in the last few seconds of an intense match. Buttery layered doughs and sweaty soccer players hold a special place in my heart..but let’s get back to the real story.

I was not expecting to eat croissants, nor homemade jams in Colombia. I had resigned to eating fried pork fat, beans and lots and lots of plantains. I had even gotten lost in a bowl of Mondongo once, a rich, robust meal of tripe and potato soup. Colombian food is earthy, rich and heavy. I wanted something lighter, with less pork fat involved.  I was completely smitten with MASA, a bright, sunlit corner of a restaurant that served many items laced with butter, the other animal fat I was craving.

My friend Silvana left New York two years ago to return to Bogota, her home, but not before working in some of the city’s best kitchens: Jean-Georges, Gordon Ramsay’s, Wallse and Amy’s Breads. I was thrilled to head to Bogota and see what a friend had accomplished since she left the big city and started her own business in another major capitol of the world.

I was totally floored by her beautiful space. The restaurant, situated on a corner in the Zona G, feels like a little piece of New York. The warm wood walls are lined with baguettes and batards, the counter proudly showcases cakes available by the slice and cupcakes ready for a guilty walk home.

A make-your-own-salad bar, like the dozens in midtown, is one of the first of its kind in Bogota. The menu offers fresh, healthy brunch options right alongside the chewy sour doughs and dulce de leche donuts.

My friend Irena and I decided we were ready for a little taste of home and so went to brunch at Silvana’s restaurant. We ordered eggs, banana French toast, pan de chocolate and juices. Everything was well seasoned, the French toast was creamy and not overly sweet, and the chocolate pastry made me weak in the knees. The layers of the flaky dough crumpled beneath my fingers and yielded to warm, gooey chocolate; I felt joy akin to what an oil driller must feel when he strikes a vein with the other important natural commodity.

After finishing my mini skillet of scrambled eggs and slurping the last bits of my Feijoa juice (a tart green slushy), Silvana sent out a basket of her proudest accomplishments: her house baked goods. I smeared gooseberry jam on her pan integral and delicately devoured the almond croissant. With each bite I couldn’t believe I was in Bogota. A city not long ago known for murder, drugs and crime is now becoming a destination on the international food scene radar.

MASA is a restaurant that should be looked up not only when North American comfort foods are craved, but when you are curious to taste some of the best breakfast foods a young South American has to offer.

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