Robaina's plantation

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Partagas Salomones (cigar review)

                 I picked up this box dated July 2011 on my last trip to Havana and was really wanting to try one. The time was right, long day at work, perfect night to sit outside and the company couldn't be any better. I decided to share the moment with a couple of friends who have travelled with me to Havana in the past. The three of us all tried the first cigar from this box. It's always better to 'share the wealth' is my feeling and cigars are no exception. It gave me pleasure to spend this time with my smoking buddies.
                  Looking at these cigars lined up in the box was a sight to see. They looked outstanding sitting there dark and oily, alluring, just asking to be smoked. Upon further inspection, the wrapper was a little bumpy, mottled but otherwise veinless. Beautiful construction from cap to foot on this Double Perfecto at 57 x 184 (7.2"). There was a little give to the touch, not spongy but... I got nothing from the pre-light draw.
                  Before lighting a Salomon or a Diadema I usually clip both the cap and a touch off the foot as well. The reason I do this is to facility the lighting of the cigar and give it a better chance to burn evenly. My buddies told me it wasn't necessary this time, their cigars had lit well and gave them no problems. Once lit, the draw was perfect but the burn was a bit off. This was a mild, woody cigar with a touch of creaminess and a hint of earthy. The burn began to straighten itself out. By about the first quarter this cigar was burning, drawing and tasting great and my friends were enjoying theirs as well. I flicked the ash, I could feel it was stifling the smoke. Once the ash was gone I noticed it was beginning to burn hotter through the middle, I wasn't left with a point at the end of my cigar. It wasn't problem, I was able to fix it by touching it up with my torch and slow down my smoking a bit.
                    At about the first third this cigar hadn't changed much. I'm enjoying it but I can see where some Partagas fans may not like this smoke, it may be a little mild for their tastes. My friends were having the same experience. My cigar was still going through the burn issues, almost going out and having to be touched up now and again. The flavour went a little off for a moment but shortly after was ok.
                     By the time I reached the half-way point the burn was off. We all got a touch of floral at this point that came and went just for a moment. So it went like this, never really changing and always having to fight with the burn but is was a good cigar. I think mine was just a little too loosely rolled but the other two were fine. Going through the remainder of the cigars in the box I could feel they were half and half, some a little looser than others. Will have to pick a harder one for my next smoke.
                      If your going to buy this cigar because you think it's going to kick your ass, don't, it doesn't. It's a pleasant smoke and the three of us enjoyed it but there seems to be a little inconsistency in the cigars. After weighing the remaining cigars I found 4@18grams, 1@20grams and 2@22grams, that's about a 20% difference between them in some cases. I have two loose Solomon in my humidor both from different boxes and they weigh 20grams each. Once again, we enjoyed it.


Friday 24 August 2012

Rio Mar (restaurant review) Miramar, Havana

               This is one of the new restaurants that has opened up in the last little while since the government has made it easier for them to do so. This place has only been open for 5 months and I've heard some talk about it so I thought I would check it out. The main reason I wanted to eat here was for the view from the patio. It's a Paladar, which means the restaurant is in a house and this one sits on an inlet at the entrance to the Almendares river that cuts through the city of Havana. It has a beautiful view of this part of the city with the 'Torreon de Santa Dorotea de La Chorrere' within sight. This is a small fortress that was completed in 1762 by the same Italian designer who did the one in Cojimar. It now houses a small restaurant called the 'Meson La Chorrera'. I always see this building on my way to Miramar but never from this angle. The area in which the house is located in has a name and it's 'La Puntilla' (small point) in Miramar, which may help when giving directions to your taxi driver.
                Upon arriving my first thought was..."It doesn't look very nice from the outside". I know better in Cuba, first appearances can often be deceiving. Once you enter however you're transported to another time and place. The decor is simplistic, minimal, clean, there isn't too much furniture, just a few tables for diners, a bar, a waiters stand and set behind some couches in a separate area a table that could accommodate 12. Finally we get to the best part of the restaurant, the patio. It's fairly big but only set up for about 30 with it's own bar at one end in case they're busy. There was a beautiful view of the city and it felt wonderful having dinner right on the water as the sun went down. It wasn't too busy that evening and a Cuban friend of mine had told me it was expensive. I don't know if that had anything to do with it.
                 The menu had a variety of goodies and I didn't know what to choose. I like whole fish but it wasn't on the menu. For starters my date had the Shrimp Cocktail which was basically boiled shrimp on a plate with two sauces on the side. It was presented nicely but we expected it in a cup of some kind already mixed together. It was a fair portion and the shrimp were fresh and a decent size. I had the Octopus in Garlic and Oil. I enjoyed it but it was really heavy and only had a little. There were a few other things I would like to try like the Ceviche or the Pork Ribs & the time. We both had the same main course, the Filet of Sole in white wine sauce. The fish was prepared well and was tasty with just a few vegetables and a pinch of potatoes. When the waiter was taking our order I sensed by his description of the food that the mains weren't coming with big side dishes, especially after he pointed out the sides available to us on the menu. We opted for a couple of mashed potatoes at 2.50cuc a pop. The mashed potatoes were actually quite good and would recommend sharing one for two persons.
                 The dessert selection was sparse with only cheesecake, ice cream and a dessert of the day. They didn't have a wine list either and had to zero in on a wine and ask for prices.... I don't like that. I did find a decent Chardonnay from Italy for 28cuc. A little higher than the average Paladar in Havana but not too bad.
The service was pleasant and helpful. The waiter was mature and obviously experienced.
                  In conclusion, I will go back and try some of the other dishes. The food and service were good but the experience of dining on the water is irresistible. My dinner for 2 with 10% gratuity included on the bill was 69.85cuc. I posted a picture of the bill below. A little high by Cuban standards for what we got but worth it in my opinion.

Rio Mar Restaurant-Bar-Grill
3ra y Final no.11
La Puntilla, Miramar
(07) 209-4838

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Statues & Monuments (Havana)

                  I often walk through the city of Havana and, they have a lot of statues in this town. It's not just the statues but the monuments too and to a wide variety of personalities. It reminds me of cities in Italy with all there monuments to fallen heroes but who are these people and what have they done for Cuba. There are many foreigners as well that have something dedicated to them. Many times when I return home to Canada from a visit to Cuba, I will go on the internet to search for these different people.
                  Every town I've visited in Cuba has at least one bust of the famous Jose Marti. It may only be a small one on a school property but there he is. Jose Marti is probably the most honoured person in Cuba, next to Che. They are the most obvious and recognizable people in Cuba. I thought I would show you some of the less notable and a couple of surprise ones as well. Some are in high traffic areas that can be seen while in a moving vehicle and some are a little more difficult to find even on foot.

Here's my List.

1.  Jose Marti (1853-1895) was a poet, essayist, journalist, philosopher and political theorist among other things. He was shot and killed on his first foray into battle in the war for Cuban independence and instantly became a martyr. He was a Cuban Freemason and started what was called the 'Cuban Revolutionary Party'.  He was very vocal in his support for the cause of Cuban independence. His name is still synonymous with the Revolutionary Cause.
2-3.  Jose Marti
4.  El Caballero de Paris is the name of the statue but the person's real name was Jose Maria Lopez Lledin (1899- 1985). He was a street person who wandered all over Havana and became well known during the 50's. He was articulate, kind, never begged and would only take money from people he knew.
5.  Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928-1967) and Camilo Cienfuegos (1932-1959). They are both revolutionary figures who where with Fidel Castro from the start of the revolution in 1956. Both are dead and both are martyrs but Che Guevara still fuels the revolution with the sales of a multitude of products with his face on them. Che's face is known all over the world and is the face of the revolution.
6.  Máximo Gómez (1836-1905) was a well known military commander in both the 'Ten Years War' (1868-1878) and Cuba's War of Independence (1895-1898).
7.  Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was a famous America author who loved Cuba and made it his home for a number of years. He lived in Havana at the Ambos Mundo hotel for a while and wrote some famous books while there. Places that he frequented during those times are still there. This bust is not exactly in the city of Havana but in a fishing village called Cojimar which is a suburb about 25 minutes outside of Havana. They loved this guy over there.
8.  John Lennon (1940-1980) ....who doesn't know John Lennon?? What is ironic about this statue is that the Beatles and their music were banned in Cuba after the revolution in the 60-70's and now there is a statue honouring one of them. What is even more ironic is that Fidel Castro inaugurated it himself in December 2000.
9.  Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) is one of Fidel Castro's favourite people in history. He even laid a wreath at the statue of Lincoln when he visited Washington in 1959.
10. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes (1819-1874) owned a plantation in Cuba and was one of the first to free his slaves. He made the Declaration of Cuban Independence in 1868 which initiated the 'Ten Years' War'.
11. Emiliano Zapata (1879-1919) formed and commanded a revolutionary army after the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910 and became a legendary figure.
12. Antonio Maceo (1845-1896) was a Lt.General and second in command of the Cuban Army of Independence.
13. Rafael Montoro y Valdes (1852-1933) was born in Spain but once Cuba won it's independence from her, he became a Cuban citizen. He was an important politician and an essayist.
14. The Maine Monument was inaugurated March 8, 1925 and includes two of the ships's 10 inch guns. It's in memory of the lives lost in the Maine disaster that took place on February 15, 1898 in Havana harbour.
15. Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a Prussian geographer and naturalist who travelled extensively through Latin America exploring, writing and later publishing volumes on his discoveries.
16. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) was a Spanish novelist, poet and playwright who is best known for having written 'Don Quixote'. 
17. Mahatma Gandhi....I don't think I need to say anything about him.
18. Jose Miguel Gomez (1858-1921) was a Cuban general in the War of Independence who later became President of Cuba.
19. Mariano Ignacio Prado (1826-1901) was President of Peru for two terms.
20. Monument to The Estudiantes de Medicina commemorates the spot where eight medical students were unjustly executed in 1871 for crimes against the then Spanish Government.

              In conclusion....there are many more that I could post and there is a lot more that I can say about the ones that I have but this post is not about a history lesson. I just wanted to let you know a little about a few of the personalities scattered around the city of Havana. I hope you've enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Jose Marti - The Jose Marti Memorial in The Plaza de La Revolucion

Jose Marti - Calle N y 13

Jose Marti - Parque Central 

El Caballero de Paris - In front of the Iglesia de San Francisco de Asis

Che Guevara & Camilo Cienfuegos - Plaza de La Revolucion

Antonio Maceo - On the Malecon near the Hotel Nacional

Ernest Hemingway - Cojimar

John Lennon - Parque John Lennon Calle 17 y 6

Abe Lincoln - Parque de La Fraternidad Next to the Capitolio

Carlos Manuel de Cespedes - Plaza de the little park

Emiliano Zapata - A Park along 5th Ave in Miramar

Antonio Maceo - On the Ave del Puerto between Monserrate y Zulueta

Rafael Montoro y Valdes - Linea y N

The Maine Monument - Malecon y 17

Alexander Von Humboldt - On Mercaderes across the Conde de Villanueva

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra - Aguacate y Lamparilla

Gandhi - Somewhere along 5th Ave in Miramar

Jose Miguel Gomez - Ave de Los Presidentes y 27

Mariano Ignacio Prado - Somewhere along 5th Ave in Miramar

Monument to the Estudiantes de Medicina - End of Prado on the Malecon