María Josefina Yances knew all of the things life could offer. The smells, colours, flavours and textures. She knew, and very well, everything about the gastronomy of Colombia’s North Coast and she knew how to get advantage of that. She knew her friends, and everybody else who dreamed about the magic of her cuisine.
Her food is what her conversation used to be, warm, delightful, explosive and unforgettable. Pepina, or how she liked to be called, was each and every one of the flavours of the Caribbean. She was sweet pepper, eggplant, scallions, lemon, cumin, pepper and many more. And we should consider ourselves lucky that her infinite talent has been immortalized in many writings and her restaurant, La Cocina de Pepina, today’s Hidden Gem.
This tiny venue, it’s a giant in Cartagena’s gastronomic universe. Although it usually remains unnoticed for its location in Getsemany, a neighborhood full of history and tradition on the other side of Cartagena’s historic centre, conveniently tucked away of the tourist and vendors.
The food is artisanal full of colours and rich in textures. Pepina based the restaurant’s menu in the land of her family (The Sinú region in the north of Colombia) and the traditional recipes of Colombia’s Caribbean in general. The menu is short but varied and full of this great chef’s essence.
I particularly recommend the Sopa Caribe (Caribbean soup), the Mote de Queso (a thick soup made of fresh cheese), the Cabeza de Gato (cat’s head) that for those who are impressionable is only a preparation made of plantain, garlic y onions, that Pepina knew how give it a new and delightful twists.
La Cocina de Pepina is the perfect place to taste the varied flavours in fruits, vegetables y juices Colombia’s Caribbean has to offer. A whole new universe to be discovered.
La Cocina de Pepina.
Callejon Vargas between Arsenal and Calle Larga.
Calle 25#9a-06 Local 2 Casa Amarilla, Getsemany, Cartagena de Indias. Colombia.
Photos by Cristian Sepúlveda.