La Fogata in Pittsfield

Miguel Gomez Serves the Taste of Colombia

By: - Nov 12, 2011

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La Fogata Restaurant
Colombian and Latin Cuisine
Miguel Gomez owner and chef
770 Tyler Street
Pittsfield, Mass.
413 443 6969

Arriving at La Fogata in Pittsfield the chef, Miguel Gomez, warmly greeted Pancho “Hey Haitiano.”

“I have been coming here for years,” Pancho said. “It is one of the rare Caribbean restaurants in the Berkshires although it is not. It is South American with the food of Colombia. It is part of the otherness in restaurants.

“It is truly  Colombian. For example the tripe soup that we just ate. The steak and egg. The way that they prepare the yucca. Haiti has yucca too.  But prepared another way. Jamaica does it another way. Everybody has their own style.”

We talked with Miuguel about his catering and in particular whole roasted pig. It feeds forty people and is something to think about for a special occasion. It takes a day of slow cooking to prepare.

During our return visit. Miguel was visiting family in Colombia.

The restaurant is a favorite for Pancho and Sweetiepie. Cisco had also dined there previously. But we wanted to experience the range of the cuisine and make accurate observations. There is a difference between casual dining and being on a mission.

The mandate of the Pit Bulls is to seek out alternative dining in the Berkshires with an emphasis on the range of food particularly more home style, neighborhood friendly, and affordable alternatives.

In all of those criteria La Fogata deserves a ranking of Best of the Berkshires.

For our first lunch we opted for a massive Picada La Fogata platter for two ($24.95) with a great abundance and variety of meats. These included marinated skirt or flank steak, riblets, chorizo sausage, grilled chicken, fried pork rind with fried plantain and roasted small Yukon gold potatoes.

It was a feast. OMG.

On the side we ordered rice and beans an essential in evaluating Latino cuisine.

Pancho likes Miguel’s beans. It is close to how he prepares them at home.

“It’s the sauce” he said. “That’s essential. The gravy.”

He explained in detail. First the beans are soaked. Then simmered until about half cooked. Half of the beans are removed. Then put into a food processor to create a puree. Mixed with fried onion, garlic, fat back or other meat flavoring. Spices. Dash of this or that. (Family secrets.) The ingredients are then combined until the beans that had been set aside are cooked until tender but still have texture.

The rice is also crucial. Miguel advised Pancho that he get’s his at Price Chopper which caters to its Latino customers. In our house we prefer Basmati rice, washed thoroughly and simmered over low heat. My sweetiepie prefers Basmati brown rice which takes longer to simmer. Last week Cisco made black beans with ham, enough for two meals, then a yellow pea soup with more of the ham. We will use the ham bone for greens.

Rice and beans are a staple combining economy, flavor and nutrition. A good source for protein.

For our return visit we both opted for the lunch specials at $7.99 each. Pancho had the steak with rice and beans. Cisco had the chicken and rice. It comes in a large formed mound with a side of fried plantain.

“When you are in South America steak becomes an important thing” Pancho said. “Like the rancheros of Argentina. Meat becomes a big deal. In New York I would look for Argentinean restaurants where you can get the best steaks. They bring you the meats on skewers.

“Places like Argentina and Brazil have European influences. Post WWII the Italians and Germans in Argentina. Brazil was Portugal’s baby. I love everything about Brazil from the food, to the music and football.”

For our second lunch we both had a cup portion of tripe soup ($4.95). It was indeed a meal in itself and came in a medium sized bowl. If you order the "bowl" it is served in the same size container but comes with salad and rice (“$7.99). With potato and other ingredients it proved to be filling. We each had just half of our portions to make room for the lunch we ordered. Pancho took home a doggie bag for today’s lunch.

“What is special about La Fogata is its tripe soup” Pancho said.  “Many cuisines feature it. The Cubans have an incredible tripe soup. Most of the tripe soups I have tasted- the Cuban, Jamaican, Dominican- are different from this one. This one has a distinct way about it. The palate takes it in a different way. If you ask me do I prefer it, I’m not going to say that. It may be an acquired taste but if you acquire it, it’s good stuff. The cilantro is an interesting touch. I have to think about it for awhile.

“I always like the way they do their rice and beans here. It is always close to home for me. I like Miguel’s rice and beans. They may come back on you.”

Cisco asked why La Fogata is a haunt for his dining partner? “What keeps me coming back to La Fogata is the environment. Simple, authentic food and the price. As well as the collection of Botero prints. Where else in the Berkshires are you going to see that?

“In the Berkshires, except for the Brazilian restaurant that closed, where are you going to get “The Other’s” food? The Food of the Other. We have explored the soul food at Mad Jack and Jack Jack’s. It’s not like Sylvia’s in Harlem. To have the food of the other there has to be a presence. It’s not going to be like New York and Boston. The otherness is here. The mainstream  people of the Berkshires come to La Fogata and will tell you it is one of their favorite restaurants. That’s their step into the otherness. There’s a lot of soccer on the TV screen which is good for me.”