I am a bread lover. I am also a bread snob. I know it, and my friends and family here in Cali tell me daily. But I can’t help it – and I’m never going to get used to eating the white Colombian bread they serve everywhere. Whether Bimbo or straight from the bakery, it seems to me, that all Colombian bakeries produce the same god-awful, alabaster-white, super-dry, no-nutritious styrofoam-feel-alike thing, that they call bread. Even in the Supermarkets it is almost impossible to find proper flour (that isn’t bleached white), making it hard to even make your own bread.
A few times in Carulla and La14 I’ve been able to find vacuum-packed, long-life dark rye bread imported from the US or Germany, costing about USD$7 for about 5 slices. To give you an idea about how much money that is in Cali, seven bucks will also buy to two full set lunches, including soup, main course, dessert and a juice. If you’ve ever heard of the term over-priced, this sure fits the bill.
I felt lost, until recently, when I discovered three places that are both bakeries and cafés: Barakha Panadería Ancestral located on top of the SuperA supermarket on Carrera 1 Oeste #1-109 (right next to the river), El Molino with 10 locations spread over the city, and finally Zahavi with two locations – one in the middle of San Antonio and the other in Ciudad Jardin. Contrary to the bakeries in my home country of Denmark, if you want the good stuff, don’t show up before 10am. Arriving early and you will be disappointed. So don’t rush it. Bakeries in Colombia stay open late and usually keep producing all day.
Barakha Panadería Ancestral, with no-hassle parking on the roof, has the best product and selection, if you like real bread made after ancient traditions. The rye bread, “pan centeno”, that they make is hands-down the best in Cali. The almond pie called “torta de Santiago” is amazing, the cinnamon rolls the bomb and the “Stroopwafel” makes you feel like you’re back in Amsterdam. They also serve what is likely the best cup of coffee in Cali. To top it off, they have a selection of goodies that are hard to come by in Colombia, like almond butter, (no sugar) peanut butter, good yoghurts, artesanal beers from the German brewers in Buga and so forth. For some reason their sandwiches are not that amazing. Buy the bread, drink the coffee, enjoy the sweets, but make your own sandwich at home. The place is by no means cheap, but if you’re bread connoisseur with cravings, I guarantee you that it will be worth it.
El Molin0 is another bakery with a great selection of cakes and bread. It’s a place where people meet up for coffee and a chat.. kind of like a Starbucks, just without the wifi. Try the sourdough bread with olives or cranberries. Once a week they make a really good rye bread. At my local shop it’s usually on Wednesdays, but it could wary depending on location. The prices are also very fair for the quality, about $2-3.000 pesos for a nice loaf of bread. Oh, I almost forgot – if you have a sweet tooth, you have to try the “cañas de limon”. They’re sweet, without being too sweet. Just perfect!
Zahavi make decent bread, but is really famous for its cakes.. and with good reason. The house specialty is the “Kremschnitte” – a guanábana (soursop) mousse layered cake with blackberries. It’s really good, but the passion fruit cake, “postre de maracuyá”, is my favorite sweet in the entire city and I always end up buying it for birthdays and special occasions. If my two choices are not yours, do not despair – the place has great selection and I’m sure there will be something to accommodate your tongue as well.
By the way, there are two exceptions to the initial criticism of the regular Colombian , the “pandebono”, a donut-looking cheese bread and the “almojabana”, that looks like a small bun – also made from a cheese-based dough. Get them warm, straight out of the oven and they are delicious. Our local bakery in Bellavista will sell you 7 of them for $2000 pesos. Now that’s a deal!
Any others? Please let us know below!
BTW, I recommend keeping your bread in the fridge. The warm and humid climate in Cali does speed up the decomposing process immensely.