De Horta, now 66, was always a good cook, according to her 40-year-old son, David Millan. So five years ago, she persuaded him and his three other siblings to give up their individual pursuits, move to Miami, and open Manantial Market Place (6778 W. Flagler St., 786-388-8989). "My mother always said she had a purpose," Millan says. "Now she says that was to get us back together."
Here, triangular red, blue, and yellow flags are strung up and over rows of provisions that could quell most Colombians' longings for home. There's a rainbow of the sugary sodas called Colombiana and Postobon. Next to them sit bags of lime-flavored potato chips and tawny bricks of the fragrant sugar called panela.
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When you step up to the counter, you're greeted by a rusty vase offering masato. Every customer who walks in is welcomed with a small shot of the fermented rice drink. Though different versions of it are found across Latin America, Colombia's concoction mashes and ferments rice for three days until it develops a puckery twang. The quasi-lime flavor then quickly gives way to sweet, almost vanilla notes. "It's something that in Colombia, people drink in the afternoon as a pick-me-up," Millan says. "If we let it ferment for ten days, it becomes alcoholic, and we call that chicha."
In a back corner stands a freezer filled with handmade chorizo and morcilla that Millan buys from family friends. Nearby, two women stamp out hundreds of yellow corn rounds soon to be packed with a fragrant beef-and-potato filling. Later they'll get to work on buñeuelos, tamales, and the addictive cheese bread called pandebono.
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Don't miss the daily specials, though. Each day, the kitchen whips up four soup, meat, and rice plates priced around $12 to $16. On a recent afternoon, sopa de costillas ($12.95) was in the offing. But rather than lump all of this classic's hearty ingredients together, Manantial serves a kind of deconstructed version. "We like to be a little bit more refined when we can," Millan says. The short ribs are braised in a fragrant stock dosed with plenty of sweet onion slices that still cling to the meat, along with sweet tomato cubes. The soup is a hearty creation with a rich, viscous vegetable broth filled with tender knobs of yuca and plantain.
It's not quite the life Millan thought he'd have a few years ago while working in digital marketing. "One day, I realized I'd been here for five years frying empanadas," he says. "But then I realized I'm still an entrepreneur dealing with permits, people, and my family. I'm being educated in a different kind of way now."