One of the best ways to get to know a country is through its cuisine. The ingredients, cooking methods, serving vessels and customs provide great insight into a country's soul. Travel, unfortunately, necessitates money and time something most of us have precious little of these days. That doesnt mean exploration is out of the question, however. Feel like tasting Colombia? Take a trip there via Presto Latin Restaurant (1392-B Roswell Road, Marietta, 770-973-2196, www.prestorestaurant.com).
The breadth of Prestos menu is impressive and the staff is always willing to help you you navigate the offerings despite its sometimes limited English.
A long list of made-to-order fruit juices both water and milk-based deserve your attention: The sweet and sour passion fruit is a favorite. Airy balls of pandebono ($1.35) a baked cheese bread made with tapioca flour, cornmeal and farmers cheese arrive warm and disappear quickly.
The best dish on the menu is the Colombian classic, Bandeja Paisa ($11.50), a dish so popular, fans have tried to make it the countrys national dish. The enormous platter includes a thin piece of grilled beef, a curl of crunchy chicharron (fried pork skin), a crispy skinned link of chorizo, fried maduros (sweet plantains), a forgettable arepa (corn cake), creamy red beans, white rice, an avocado half and a perfectly cooked fried egg. The restaurant also serves loads of seafood dishes such as paella for two ($26) chock-full of calamari, shrimp and scallops. Arroz con camarones ($11.50) comes with a towering mound of deeply flavored tomato rice studded with peas and carrots, a dozen medium shrimp sautéed with garlic and onion, and a side of fried maduros.
The restaurant always has some sort of obscenely cheap special and the small bakery section is worth exploring. Hearty combos starting at $2.99 fill the breakfast menu; the sweet arepas with cheese ($3.50) and the Calentado Colombiano ($8) a remixed version of the Bandeja Paisa are especially tempting.
(Photo by Jennifer Zyman)
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