Robaina's plantation

Thursday 10 December 2015

La Guarida Restaurant (Havana) A Visit

                     I can't call this a review because I didn't eat here on this visit, I was on the rooftop patio for an event but had to stop in for a few pics. I ate here only once and that was about 10 years ago, way before this blog. I remember it being one of the better restaurants I ate at, not cheap, but excellent quality and service. Looking over the menu, the choices are pretty varied and I could see there were a few items that I would venture to try. As far as atmosphere goes it hits a home run. When you enter the building, two floors below, you would never imagine there would be anything of any worth in here but how wrong you are. The restaurant opened it's doors in 1996 taking over the apartment used in the movie 'Fresa y Chocolate' (Strawberry & Chocolate) which is the only Cuban movie to win an oscar. The apartment's name in the movie was 'La Guarida' (hideaway or hideout), hence the name of the restaurant. It's the only commercial space in this otherwise residential building. In case you were wondering, yes, Beyonce ate here while she was in Havana with her husband JayZ. It's pricey for Cuba but always cheaper than back home for similar quality. If they're still this popular I assume they've continued putting out a good product, after all, they've been in operation for 20 years now and must be doing something right. Give them a try.

La Guarida
418 Concordia
Centro Habana, La Habana
tel. +53 7 8669047

Alex (house roller) Hotel Comodoro Cigar Shop (Havana) Nov.2015

                      Once again I was in Cuba and while there I frequently visited my local cigar shop. That cigar shop happens to be the one in the Hotel Comodoro with Alex being the house roller. He's been here about two years now, he took over after the well known (and friend) Crisantos retired. Since that time he's earned himself quite the reputation. I used to sit in the shop for hours and hardly see a soul come in to buy cigars, except maybe the hotel guests. On this trip I had a couple of opportunities to hang out for a while and it was like a revolving door of people coming in to buy cigars and many of them coming in to see Alex. Someone at the Partagas Encuentro blurted out that he was the best roller in city and to that Alex replied something humbling. He's rather embarrassed of all this attention is what he's told me, not wanting to put himself above rollers who have been in the industry longer than he's been on the planet. "I try to do the best job that I can" is what Alex says, "There are many better rollers in the city." He may not be the best, not even close if you take into consideration the dozens of exceptional rollers in the numerous factories in and around Havana but he's very young and has many years ahead of him. In my opinion, if he continues to grow from the position he's been given, there's no reason he can't become one of the elite few. Below are a few pictures from a couple of my visits.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Encuentro Amigos de Partagas Cena de Gala (Nov.2015) Gala Dinner...Havana

                       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.