Keeping It Simple – Cuba November 2019

5 Dec

The more I travel to Cuba the more I concentrate on things, places, friends and experiences that are important to me now that I’ve seen enough to evaluate what is and is not of interest.

There’s a saying in Spanish : A veces perdiendo se gana ….

As a good friend was not able to make this trip with me I had ample time to do exactly that – call it a “happy divorce” from all activities and people that only clutter the agenda, are nice photo ops but do not really deliver or have been seen, done and dusted to death already.

The only three events on my agenda were the Friends of Habanos lunches, always a great opportunity to meet old and new friends and the trip to the Vegas. All else was “playing by ear”.

Besides meeting all the good people at the FoH meetings I was happy to meet Yann LeBlanc – the brains behind the Montreal Cuban Cigar pricelist all of us use and are grateful for.

Thank you Yann for all your good work !

Being with a good friend at the Casa was a big bonus as we kept it low profile and basically enjoyed a quiet week, him off diving Bay of Pigs and we both diving in- and out of stores searching for the new releases.

We soon got tired of all the multiple useless replies to one simple question and decided to wait for our luck while meeting Cuban friends and having a good time.

We were lucky with the releases – not so lucky ordering G&T’s at my favourite spot – the nice waitress offered us a new Spanish Gin, nice bottle, OK, let’s have some and I woke up 5 G&T’s later with a 16,50 CUC cheque for each of them …

Not a bad price in Miami but outright robbery in Havana – besides being a waste as it tasted more of cucumber water …

One more experience and a happy divorce.

I was happy to meet Gene again this year and spend some time talking and smoking together as well as chasing some boxes – guess we helped each other just fine to get the stuff we wanted.

Thank you for the English lessons in liquid Bourbon form for my Cuban friends Gene, they sure did improve their language skills 🙂

Happy to meet some other lost souls and share time and fun with them like good old Keith the Canuck who provided me with my cherished Red Fiery Dentyne – thank you Erin !! – and mon frere Yannick.

My deepest apologies for the prank we played on you Cory – hope no scars remain…. 🙂

Paladares that we went to were basically Santy’s, Tocamadera and Destino plus Marea.

I truly enjoy Tocamadera for the fresh approach and the willingness of Enrique to make me happy with simple recipes – I enjoyed a fantastic Tortilla de Patatas there made especially for me and my friends as well as giving him the idea of a extremely yummy Cuban Sandwich for the Menu including a fried egg on top.

I had 2 new Paladares on my list but they will have to wait until next trip.

Another great meal was the one Habana Mike invited us to at the home of his Cuban family – we had an incredible home cooked dinner that night in a school and the very best Flan casero I’ve ever had. Gracias Mike !!

Jody joined us for 3 quick days down from FLA and we moved Casa down by the river.

The trip to the Vegas was exceptional in that Hector Luis gave us his time and the chance to be among the first to visit his new project, a cellar to keep and ferment his best leaves under palm bark in a dark and cool environment. Very interesting and good to see how he tries to maintain old traditions.

Jody was happy to talk and touch horses with Hector Luis and see his pictures framed hanging at Hector’s.

Lunch at the next Vega was incredible – the best Lobster I’ve ever had anywhere in Cuba ( and I don’t really fancy Lobster at all ) … I had 6 helpings and couldn’t get enough, what a great lunch it was !

Crowned by boiled green Papayas in gelatine with fresh cheese …. I am still dreaming of that lunch and can’t wait to be back and spend two days there just relaxing, enjoying, learning and smoking great cigars.

It was just us and the farmers family – surrounded by quiet and nothing else. Total Bliss.

Just the way it used to be and just the way some Farmers like to keep it – quiet and friends only. No rush, no hassle and no distractions from the important basics. Fine by me.

The last place we visited was a “new/old” place – I had been there on the opening day of that Paladar in 2010, funny to be back again.

Now it is a place for friends and a new/old owner who makes very good custom rolled cigars with lovely pigtails. Very interesting and generous host and a place to come back to.

Thanks Gene for the heads-up and the La Rosa !

Last night in Havana it was another great couple of hours of good cigars, good food and a litre bottle of Santiago Añejo under the Mango tree with friends shooting the breeze, laughing and enjoying ourselves.

That nice hang-over was planned and helped me get much needed shuteye on my flight back home next day… 🙂

We learned a few new interesting things during the Vegas trip – all farmers we spoke to were certain this coming harvest would be much smaller in size, even before they had begun planting the seeds – not because of weather conditions, fertilizer problems or anything else but due to the severe shortages of petrol in Cuba that hinder the irrigation process and proper caretaking of the many production steps that require machines ….

Why do these great people have to deal with so many obstacles and problems to provide us with the best cigars in the world …

All I can hope and wish for is better times for my friends in Cuba.







2 Responses to “Keeping It Simple – Cuba November 2019”

  1. joe akers 24/12/2019 at 16:56 #

    Thank you for another great post Nino. Your coverage of Cuba is the best I have seen.