Robaina's plantation

Monday 25 February 2013

Montecristo Edmundo Box Date Dec.05 (cigar review)

               I have loved this cigar since it's release in 2004. What attracted me to this cigar, besides the fact that it was a Montecristo (I love Montecristo) was it's size. They call this a Robusto but at 52 x 135 (5.3"), it seems a little larger, almost like a Corona Gorda. Besides, back then Montecristo was missing this particular Vitola. Two years after that they released what I consider a Robusto when they came out with the Petit Edmundo. In those days I had the good fortune of smoking the Edmundos rolled out of the H.Upmann factory which was where they were first made. They were a staple of mine for the first couple of years but many cigars have come out since then. Nowadays I have a hand full Emundos a year, this one was sent to me by a friend who lives in the US.
               This cigar had an almost flawless light coloured wrapper with just a couple bumps on the cap. It was solid to the touch with a small soft spot a little past the halfway mark. The pre-light draw was very faint and I couldn't really pick-up anything distinctive but it drew marvelously. Once lit, the draw was absolutely perfect giving me big puffs of smoke. The burn was just a bit off  at the start but by around the 3/4" it straightened itself out. It was proving to be a well-made, mild to medium smoke. Once the flavours settled I picked up dominant chocolate and coffee notes.....and It was soooo smooth. A little further on and tobacco flavours began to make their way through and it had a kind of sweetness to it.
                It continued this way for the next quarter without changing much until it reached the halfway mark. At this point coffee took over again with a little bit of earth creeping in. I flicked the ash at this point to reveal a perfect little cone indicating a brilliantly rolled cigar. Halfway through the third quarter however, although very smooth, it begins to pickup strength turning into a good solid medium and sometimes a little stronger with hints of leather poking through.
                Nearing the last quarter, I left the cigar in the ashtray for a few minutes and it went out so I flicked the ash and relit. No cone was left this time but it was still smoking fine. It's been burning pretty straight all the way through so far. It had begun to taste a little bitter but after a few minutes it mellowed enough to make it smokeable again. Now, into the last quarter, the flavours change once more, I taste the classic earth and wood that I enjoy in a Montecarlo. The burn went off for a few minutes but straightened itself out again for the last inch of the smoke. Smoked it until the very end, almost.
                This was an absolutely fantastic cigar and I thoroughly enjoyed smoking it. I'm not sure that any more age could have made it any better. I still love this cigar, older or younger, it's still great value for a Cuban smoke and would recommend it to anyone who's yet to try one.

Saturday 23 February 2013

Gato Tuerto (Havana) Nightclub Review

               I love this place and try to make it out to catch a show at least once while I'm in Havana. It's not a very big place so by the time the main show begins the joint is packed and it's unlikely you'll find a table. I recommend you make a reservation or arrive early. I went personally to make a reservation while on my way to the Hotel Nacional which is within walking distance of Gato Tuerto, just a couple of blocks away. After having a couple of Mojitos at the Nacional patio we made our way to the Gato for our 11pm reservation.
               The show usually begins at about 11pm with a couple of guys playing traditional Cuban Boleros. On this particular night the opening act was asking the audience where they were from and playing a song from their country of origin. The song they played from my country, Canada, was brilliant. They played 'My Way' which was written by Paul Anka who is a Canadian. I never saw that coming. At 11pm there were still some tables available but by Midnight they were occupied. The main show begins at 12 and it can vary widely in Genre. One night we saw an old lady belting out Cuban classics that everyone seemed to recognize but on my last visit the main show was a young Cuban Artist and his band playing pop and modern Cuban ballads. On this visit it happened to be the same guy as last time but now he seemed to be famous. His name is Mayco D'Alma and I've been seeing his videos about town lately. He seems to have become quite popular since the last time I saw him. I don't know how all those guys can fit on such a small stage but they do it.
               The crowd that comes to the Gato is always a good mix of mature tourists and locals in the Arts or who have a bit of money. There's a 5cuc cover charge but once you're inside it's not very expensive. On this visit we had: 2 Mojitos, 2 Nacional Beer, 2 Baileys, 1 Frangelico, 1 Havana Club Anejo Especial and an Appetizer for 21cuc before gratuity. It's open until very late, has decent service and is very safe. There's even a restaurant upstairs but I have yet to eat there. I don't believe the food is very good but I think I should try it one day anyway so I can say for sure. The bar is dark and crammed and allows cigar smoking so if you don't like smoke I wouldn't recommend you go. However, if that doesn't bother you I suggest you put it on the top of your list of Clubs to check out when you're in Havana.

Gato Tuerto
Vedado, Havana
Calle O e/ 17 y 19
Tel.  (7) 55 2696  (7) 166 2224

Mayco D'Alma and I

Friday 22 February 2013

El Meson de la Flota (Havana) Restaurant Review

                This place always brings back memories of my early visits to Havana. On my first overnight visit to the city about 8 years ago, before discovering 'Casa Particulares', I stayed in one of the rooms above the restaurant. El Meson de la Flota is not only a restaurant, it's a boutique hotel as well. The building was constructed in 1890 and was even an armory at one time but had been abandoned for many years until 11 years ago when it became what it is today. It's reminiscent of the inns that existed back in the 18th & 19th century which catered to the sailors who's ships were in port. The motif of the restaurant even has a nautical feel to it. I came back again a few months after that and took a room for several days this time. Looking back, the rooms were spacious, comfortable and not as expensive as some of the other options I was looking at. I took a couple of meals in the restaurant back then and remembered them being acceptable. Although my partner and I have talked about taking a meal here many times, it's been a while since I've been back.
                The person serving us on this day was Eduardo who has been here from the time the restaurant opened 11 years ago. I can actually say I've known him longer than any other Cuban, about 9 years. He was Manager of the restaurant when I first stayed in the Hotel but nowadays he's opted for the less stressful job of waiting on tables. We happened to be walking by El Meson as the Flamenco show was about to begin and finally decided to take that meal we've been talking about. The Flamenco show is on twice a day, the 1pm show lasts 20 minutes while the dinner show which begins at 8pm lasts about 40 minutes, both shows feature singing & dancing performed by a professional troupe. The restaurant is centrally located within steps of the Plaza San Francisco and open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. It's guaranteed they get a lot of business from people just walking by. They have a Patio set-up on the brick-lined street in front of the restaurant & sometimes have a grill going so to attract customers into the place. The building is located in a part of Old Havana, on Calle Mercaderes, where cars are not allowed to go....which means, you have a lot of tourists walking by and poking their heads into the place. There's no mistaking it, this is a tourist restaurant.
                The cuisine is Spanish and the menu is limited. I remember them always trying to sell me the Paella. I've had people tell me it's very good here but I'm not a big fan of Paella. The Appetizer selection was pretty vast but we opted to just have a main course, hindsight....I should have tried the Lobster Bisque or Fried Chick Peas to start. The Main Course selection was limited but I found a couple of choices on the fish page that I thought might be good. My date had the Lobster Tail which was oven baked and topped with melted cheese and a mushroom cream sauce. The lobster meat had been taken out of it's shell, cut up and put back in the shell before being topped with cheese that melts in the oven, later adding the sauce. My date loved it not only because it tasted great but also because she's always struggled with gracefully pulling the meat out of the shell. This time the restaurant did it for her. I had the Pargo Filet in shrimp bechamel sauce with garlic & seafood jus. I enjoyed my choice as well and would have it again. I usually have my fish prepared simply, I never have it cooked with cheese or a  bechamel sauce but they turned out to be pretty good done this way. Once again the side vegetables were horrible except for the pureed pumpkin. We ordered white rice with a side of black beans which was done well enough but didn't realize the meal came with white rice. Regardless, the portions of both of our meals was generous and it was more than sufficient. We washed our food down with a Rose from Spain, Joan Sarda Cabernet Sauvignon, Penedes Region for under 20cuc. The wine list was quite extensive with half the wines being Spanish and ranging from 10cuc-75cuc. I don't know if all the wines were available but I counted 21 wines under 20cuc and 25 wines priced betwe 20-25cuc with 8 countries being represented. The list was too long to post.
              The service was ok but not great, I've had far worse. I like Eduardo so for me he can't do any wrong. I would strongly recommend taking in the show while having your meal, a pleasant experience which adds value to your lunch or dinner. It's a little different than the usual state owned restaurants and not priced too badly. It's definitely not as good as some of the Paladars that have been opening up lately but it's not as expensive either. Acceptable food, a fairly large & moderately priced wine list and if you come at the right time you can see a floor show. In my opinion it's worth giving this restaurant a try but come during one of the shows so you get full value for your money.

El Meson de la Flota
Calle Mercaderes #257
e/Amargura y Brasil (Teniente Rey)
Habana Vieja, Havana
tel. (07) 863-3838

Wine Room

Lobster Tail

Red Snapper Filet

Eduardo and I