Having spent a year in Costa Rica that included many trips to Nicaragua, I was excited to spend some time in Panama, just one country south. Panama City was very different from the parts of Central America I know so well. For me, living in the tropics was about the simple life: rice and beans, beer, maybe a coconut. But being in a big city was different. I loved having three days to eat my way through Panama City’s emerging food scene, and the fun started almost the second I got there. Just an hour after arriving at the Trump Panama, I made it downstairs to its Tejas restaurant for a private cooking class with Chef Vitelio Reyes. His impressive pedigree told me right away that we were no longer in the land of rice and beans! I hadn’t thought about the fact that with the Canal, Panama City didn’t have the same importing difficulties that its neighbors to the north had. It was a whole new world!
Two of Chef’s dishes: beat salad and dessert of fried cheesecake and ice-cream topped with an edible flower.
Later that night, Chef Vitelio sent us to Casco Viejo for dinner at the charming Las Clementinas. We started with a cocktail made of basil and Panama’s national drink, Seco Herrerano, which is similar to rum.
The next night, we had an early dinner at the gorgeous Las Bovedas, which required a long walk through Casco Viejo. We didn’t mind — it was fun to meander along the winding roads. Plus, we eyed the tapas bar where we wanted an after-dinner nightcap. Las Bovedas is built into the seawall and is cozy, thanks to being a former dungeon. The menu was so large that it took us awhile to order. We ended up sharing a veal carpaccio and seafood pasta, which was absolutely delicious.
After dinner, we wanted to cap the night at a livelier place. We headed to DiVino Enoteca, a dark, romantic Italian and Spanish tapas bar. I couldn’t believe their wine selection — or charcuterie menu. Even though we had just eaten dinner (and pasta at that!), we couldn’t resist a little snack with our wine. The Spanish meats and cheeses were delicious, and came with slices of tasty bread served in a mini brown paper bag. So cute!
Panama City’s emerging food scene was a blast to explore!
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