Here we are once again, the third Friday of November, at the Gala dinner for the Partagas Encuentro. This year, like last year, it was held at the Salon de Protocolo in the "El Laguito" area of Havana, a very Ritzy part of town. I'm not sure if this used to be some rich guy's house back in the day (I think it was) but today this space is used for the government's receptions for heads of state and other important events. It was quite the space but I was told it didn't have a kitchen, or at least not one big enough to cater an event of this size, there were several hundred of us. What was the food going to be like? One by one the cars pulled into the long driveway heading to the house and the mostly formally dressed guests poured out of the vehicles and mingled about the expansive patio to the sounds of a Trio playing traditional Cuban music while being offered a cocktail of the night. The first of many cigars is lit at this time as we make our way through the crowd, hugging, kissing, hand shaking and generally exchanging salutations. The conversations will generally revolve around what's been happening the past week and where it's been happening and questions about seating arrangements and the evening's activities. When the main doors finally open and we enter the main room we're given our loot bag and some of us a seating arrangement. Once the initial confusion subsides and we're all at our tables the second cigar of the night is handed out to us (on top of the several that were already in the loot bag)....but still no beverages of any kind in the 30 minutes we've been inside. That was one thing that was very obviously missing for a long time, halfway through a Robusto. It wasn't until they served the food that they poured the wine. I think that was a big mistake, most of the people sitting at my table agreed. At the very least, put water on the table. The table settings and the general decor was very well done but now the question of the food comes up again as we perused the menu in front of us. The dessert was the best part of the meal and without going too much into detail, the Tuna, although an excellent choice being that it's one of my favourite fish, is unlikely going to be cooked how I enjoy it from a place that doesn't have a kitchen. The presentation was ok, the taste and quality we're very good but it was over cooked as I anticipated.
All in all, as usual, it was a great time. Grecia did a good job of choosing a venue that could accommodate this size of a crowd, albeit without a suitable kitchen, and her staff were there to graciously take care of all of our needs. Anyway, I don't come for the food, location or entertainment, I come to spend a part of the night with like minded friends and enjoy some terrific cigars. We had dancers, we had musicians and we had an auction of some beautifully crafted humidors filled with some wonderful cigars. I myself didn't take part in the auction and wasn't present in the room when it was going on but it concludes the night's activities and it won't be long until we say our goodbyes until the same time next year....I know I'll be there.