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So Chow, Baby headed off two weeks ago on its latest International Cuisine Research trip – but unfortunately for cabrito-studying purposes, on Day One it fell instantly in love with comida costeña, the foods of the southern Caribbean coast, and so spent its entire time in the über-charming seaside town of Cartagena, Colombia, without even a single excursion southward into the Andes as originally planned. Thus no goat for Chow, Baby, but its research budget of 652,619 Colombian pesos (CoP) was not wasted. Oh no.

shrimp-ceviche-aIn Cartagena, Chow, Baby quickly became a regular at two killer ceviche places. At the touristy La Cevicheria, a huge bowl of shrimp with mango, passion fruit, and garlic butter went for 30,000 CoP (about $15), though apparently it cost much less before Anthony Bourdain featured this place on his TV show a couple of years back. At the other, a street cart just outside the walls of the 500-year-old center city, a large go-cup of big, pink-sauced buggers costs just 6,500 CoP, but the cart vendors stock only water and Coke, no basil mojitos (11,000 CoP back at La Cevicherria; Chow, Baby’s Spanish wasn’t up to negotiating quantity discounts). Where to get such great Latin seafood here? Why, let’s check the Weekly‘s handy Best Of issue: And the mariscos winner was … La Playita, with two locations, and you know Chow, Baby’s hitting the one in La Gran Plaza (4200 S. Fwy.), a.k.a. no-offense-intended Mex Mall, an instant space warp to Latin America. You can buy your mariachi outfits here!

Indeed, though La Playita’s buggers were perhaps not as sea-popping-fresh as you get when the sea is two blocks away, the cocktel de camaron (chico, $6.95) was mighty satisfying, with bits of avocado cooling the zesty cocktail sauce. And when La Playita’s shrimp were dressed with just a garlic sauce (camarones al mojo de ajo, $9.95), Chow Baby could almost taste the Caribbean. With that, all Chow, Baby had to do to keep its “I’m still in paradise, not in a Fort Worth mall food court” fantasy going was to call out “Buenas!” to random strangers (who said it back; how nice!) and walk with its back to the Royal Yogurt shop. At La Media Naranja‘s juice and tortas stand (there’s a larger, sit-down location at 961 Magnolia Av.), Chow, Baby had a papaya shake ($3) as tropical-tasty as the fresh-fruit squeezings it had relished in Colombia. Although some of those South American botanicals may not technically have been fruit; the innards looked more like alien babies in gelatin. But all were quite delicious. Well, most were.

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El Pollo Regio, Chow, Baby’s last stop on the way out of Mex Mall, provided a hearty dinner: half a pollo asado al carbon (with rice and beans, $7.99). Down to the capper of half a roasted onion, Regio’s grilled chicken is just like you get in Colombia’s al fresco pollo-eries – a guy and his grill staking out a corner in a saint-named pocket park (quarter pollo, 4,000 CoP). Ooh, another interesting similarity … but no, Chow, Baby has so many more vacation slides to show you, this will have to be a two-part episode. Next week: The people, climate, and architecture of Colombia, plus – for those of you who don’t keep track of Chow, Baby’s idiotic grudges – why it’s so keen to eat goat in South America.

Contact Chow, Baby at chowbaby@fwweekly.com.

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