Day 29: Bringing the streets of Colombia to the streets of NYC.
Started amidst a sea of taco trucks by Viviana Lewis and Angela “nena” Sierra, Palenque serves a simple menu of made-from-scratch arepas topped with a colorful assortment of cheese, meats, or veggies. If your only arepa experience comes from the myriad of weekend street fairs (besides the Arepa Lady in Queens), you haven’t really had an arepa. I asked Nena for my usual (you decide!) and received their original corn topped with grilled chicken and Hogao. For Hogao-newbies, it’s a traditional Colombian criollo sauce of tomatoes, scallions, and olive oil that’s far more delicious than the extra $1 charge might have you think. It was fresh and savory, yet light, with a slight pungent kick from the scallions. The olive oil contributed a mild sweetness that paired well with the super tender chicken and stringy cheese.
All of Palenque’s arepas come with arugula, cheese, chipotle mayo, cilantro, butter, and guacamole. The arepa itself was crumbly and even bland, but earthy in taste and texture, making it an ideal canvas for the rainbow of toppings. I wish I’d gotten more of the chipotle mayo – it was creamy and deliciously spicy, leaving a welcome lingering heat on my lips that made the accompanying agua de panela infinitely more refreshing. What’s agua de panela you might ask? It’s a Colombian drink that consists simply of water and panela – a product of boiling sugar cane juice that creates a rock-like cube of concentrated sweetness that has the taste of molasses and caramel. In my drink, it was mixed with pieces of fresh ginger, giving it a surprising citrusy flavor. I’m an unfan of ginger, but in my agua de panela, it was both refreshing and sharp giving it the taste of sweet and spicy lemonade. Be sure to check Palenque’s tweets for their most up-to-date locations. Thanks Nena and Viviana!