Robaina's plantation

Monday 28 November 2011

Cohiba Behike 52 & Cohiba 1966 Edicion Limitada 2011 (cigar reviews)

                  I was going to enjoy this night. I was going to smoke two of what I think are some of the best cigars available today. The Cohiba Behike 52 & the Cohiba Limited Edition 2011 or what people call the 1966's. I started with the Behike thinking it would be the lighter of the two cigars. I hadn't tried the 52 yet but if was anything like the other 2, the 1966 would be stronger.
                  The Behike had a beautiful light brown, silky smooth wrapper. It had a perfect draw with an earthy, spicy flavor. It was as complex as the 54 & 56 with the extra leaf, the medio tiempo, giving this cigar a very full body with good balance. Not your typical Cohiba but very good just the same. The burn was almost perfect but corrected itself before reaching the halfway point. The cigar picked up strength after the half and I wondered if the long ash had anything to do with it. It was beginning to taste bitter so I got rid of the ash. I know that's supposed to be a no-no but the cigar did begin to mellow a bit after that and the bitterness disappeared. It had begun to burn unevenly before dumping the ash so I touched it up with my lighter. It smoked well for a while longer but let it go at the quarter mark. A very good smoke.
                   The 1966 had a dark, oily maduro wrapper. The draw was a little tight but smokable. Very strong, full bodied, toasty, nutty, earthy flavors. I had White Port with this cigar and it semmed to go well. The cigar began to burn a bit hot & I hoped it wouldn't be like that all the way through. The burn was even. The draw did get better, the cigar cooled down and the burn continued to be even. I didn't want the same thing to happen to this cigar so I dumped the ash about a third the way down. At the halfway point the cigar was burning beautifully and tasting great. This is a very full bodied smoke and needs a little time to age. It's smokable now but this cigar is not for everyone or at least not for the novice.
                   If I had to choose between these two cigars I wouls have to pick the Cohiba 1966, I prefer the size and can't wait to taste what it's going to be like in a couple of years.

                           Cohiba Behike 52

Cohiba Edicion Limitada 2011 (1966)

Doctor Cafe, La Habana (Restaurant Review)

               Before going on my last trip to Cuba a friend of mine, Amir, recommended I try the paladar 'Doctor Cafe'. A frequent traveller to Cuba himself, he told me it was his favourite restaurant there. How could I not try it.
               It's a little difficult to find if you don't have the address and not all the taxi drivers know where it is. It's your typical paladar in residential Miramar where the only way you know if there's restaurant is by some tiny sign that's hard to see. I would also suggest you make a reservation because the place has only 6 tables, 3 on the patio & 3 indoors. The indoor tables have air-conditioning.
               The restaurant was originally opened by a doctor, hence the name. It's been around for a while, is well established and is known for it's outdoor grill and quality of food. This particular evening, two of the items they were offering were Turtle and Deer. The waiter recited the numerous offerings by memory. There is no menu because they shop for the day and don't know what's available to them from one day to the next. That's Cuba. I don't mind the menu changing daily but going for the first time it's a bit uncomfortable not knowing the prices ahead of time and I find it embarrassing to ask for them. In the end, the prices were reasonable but not cheap. We had a Chilean Cabernet that was marked up almost 3 times. The service was prompt and professional and the presentation of the dishes we had was excellent. The quality of the food was as my friend had said, very good, especially for Cuba.
               I started with the Ceviche which was a little tough but tasty & finished with the Grilled Turtle which was the best I've ever had. My date started with an Avocado Shrimp salad that was amazing and finished with the Filet Mignon which was just ok, I've had better. Both our meats and the vegetables were done on the grill and perfectly cooked. I wanted to try the Octopus appetizer but it would have been too much food so I opted for a Shrimp Cocktail for the middle of the table. Both of the Shrimp Appetizers were made with decent sized shrimps compared to the usual sizes I get around the city. One of our guests ordered a salad which was the best I've seen on the island .
                It's a comfortable place to eat & I guess, all in all, for the 110 cuc I paid, it was fair. I suppose 2 people with appetizers and main courses, with a bottle of wine, might be 60 - 80 cuc, depending on what you order. If you're counting your money, this may not be for you but if you want to eat well for a fair price, it's a must visit.

Doctor Cafe
Calle 28 #111 e/1ra y 3ra
tel. 05 268-0607 or 05 281-8263

The Grill Master

                                                           Shrimp Avocado Salad


Shrimp Cocktail

                                                                      Mixed Salad

                                                                        Filet Mignon


                                                                  Grilled Vegetables

Our Waiter

Friday 25 November 2011

Taberna de La Muralla, Plaza Vieja, La Habana

              When I feel like being a tourist I like to take a walk through Old Havana. I usually end up at this Pub-Brewery in Plaza Vieja, "Taberna de La Muralla". It's the only pub-brewery in Havana. It sits in one of the corners of the plaza at Calle Muralla & Calle San Ignacio. Just follow the sound of live music. There seems to be a band playing every time I go there. I realized on this last visit that the bands change every hour or so.
               Over the last few years they've transformed this beautiful but rundown plaza into the magnificence it is today or would have looked like. Durning all these restorations the pub has been there with the bands playing traditional Cuban music, "Buena Vista Social Club" style.
               The Taberna serves food but I don't find it to be anything great. It hasn't been very consitant through the years. The skewered meats & fish, what they're known for, are good most of the time but not always. They have; chicken, shrimp, lobster tail & pork on the skewer. I had the grilled chicken breast on my last visit & it was pretty good but it didn't come with anything. My guest had the filet of sole that didn't look very appetizing. The main reason to come is for the beer and to chillout. Light lager or Amber beer served in 3 litre cylinders with ice to keep it cold & a spout for dispensing or you can order by the pint. The food is not very expensive, just a few CUC per person. I can except it as a good accompaniment for the beer. This place is just a great spot to spend a couple of hours listening to music with a beautiful backdrop.

Video Clip.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Cafe Laurent, La Habana (restaurant review)

                Just before my last trip to Havana I read a blurb about this new restaurant 'Cafe Laurent'. It was very positive so I decided to check it out. I had no address but knew it was close to Hotel Nacional. Fifteen minutes later after driving in circles and asking around, we finally found it. Just a tiny little sign in front of an apartment building was the only indication that a restaurant existed. We were cordially escorted inside the building and led into an elevator which took us to the penthouse.
                 Once you enter the apartment you forget where you are. You enter a large space which is the main dining room and you can see the room extend to the terrace. There is as much seating outside on the terrace as there is in the main room. Huge patio with a beautiful view. There is also a small bar to the side of the room with another much smaller terrace lined with a few stools. Very tastefully done, the walls are lined with old newspapers but it works. There was a television screen playing 'Chris Botti' in concert, low volume, good choice. To the back, towards the kitchen and bathroom, is a private room that can hold about 12 with it's own small balcony, bar and bathroom. Imagine what a great apartment this must have been.
                  The service was very pleasant. Right off the start, the waitress informed us that they had no meat because they were not happy with the quality available to them at the time. If that was true, I can appreciate that. If it was a lie, good move. Regardless, there was plenty to choose from. It was a tough choice to make but I went with the 'Lobster Cocktail' for my appetizer and the whole fried 'Red Snapper' for my main. I couldn't understand how they would fry a whole 1 1/2 lb. fish. I'm used to having it grilled or baked. My guest had the 'Cod Stuffed Pimentos' as her appetizer & the foil wrapped 'Baked Fish Filet' for her main course. When I got my appetizer it blew me away. There were about 1 1/2 lobster tails cut into large chunks, perfectly cooked with a perfect mayo based cocktail sauce on the side. That could have been dinner. The main course, the Snapper, was actually very good. I expected it to be dry but it was cooked just right. With a drizzle of olive oil, that was on every table, it was perfect. My guest's appetizer, the pimentos, were not as strong as I've had in the past. Usually anything with salted cod is quite strong but these were tasty. The fish filet she ordered was beautifully done. The fish was cut into cubes and placed into the foil package with onions, eggplant, white wine and other tasty treats. I won't get into the desserts on this post but we had the Crema Catalana that was to die for. An excellent sellection of homemade goodies. We had a bottle of Chilean Rose with our dinner and a bottle of mineral water, with 10% tip included on the bill, the total was 55cuc. I think that's an excellent deal for what we got. One the top of our list of favourite restaurants in Havana. Can't wait to go back.
                   Refreshing, a little different than the usual fair. The owner-chef, Victor, has worked with his partner Pepe for the last three years in Mexico, New Jersey and in Havana in El Templete, a very good restaurant on the Malecon behind Plaza de Armas. Victor says this is the beginning of a revolution or change in perception and quality of food available in Cuba (which really means Havana). I for one love it.

Calle M  e/19 y 21 no.257 Penthouse
Vedado, La Habana
Tel.(537) 831-2090   832-6890


Looking at the entrance to the restaurant.

Looking at the bar with the small terrace to the left. Chris Botti
blowing his horn on the tv screen.

The Terrace.

Main Courses

Stuffed Pimentos

Lobster Cocktail

Whole Fried Red Snapper

Foil Wrapper Filet of Soul

The Sweethearts of Cuban Television

Sunday 13 November 2011

Angel Ramirez (artist) part 2

                 It's been a year since I last visited Angel Ramirez. The last time I tried he was off on some exhibit. I caught him this time but I only dropped in to tell him hello. He seems to be in good health and in his usual laid back self.
                 He was born in Havana in 1954. He's a painter, engraver and creator of objects. He is a poet and a writer and ties in many of his pieces with ironic writings or poetry. In a lot of his works he uses recycled materials and paintings are often mixed with objects to produce a dramatic effect that needs to be seen in person. I have taken a lot of photographes in his studio but the photos aren't in 3D so you don't get the full effect. Angel has had many exhibits around the world and I'm hoping he comes to Toronto soon.
I hope you enjoy the new batch of pictures taken in his studio.