Porkfat Candy: Colombian Cracklins

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Colombian-style chicharonnes, served with a chewy corn disk called an arepa and a squeeze of lime, make a nice late-morning breakfast with a cup of coffee. It's sort of a Latino fried bacon plate. That's what I ordered Sunday around noon at Leña Verde, the Colombian "taberna" in the same Westheimer shopping center where Café Pita+ is located. The name Leña Verde means "green wood." I think it refers to a famous song of the same name. (Lyrics, anyone?)

There were only two other customers in the large empty space when I stopped by. Leña Verde originally called itself a steakhouse, but according to the hours posted on the door, it isn't even open on weekdays anymore. And judging by the posters advertising bands and the dance floor, I'd guess the place has become a weekend-only tavern and South American music venue.

But the freshly fried chicharrones were excellent. Colombian chicharonnes are different from the Mexican kind. Colombians score a thick piece of pork belly, creating bacon meat sections held together by the tough rind on top. The fried rind was ridiculously hard to chew, so I cut it off. The little pieces of fried bacon meat that were left when I removed the skin looked exactly like the cracklins I bought at a soul food restaurant last week. And at $4, they cost the same amount too.

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