The Best Restaurant in Havana

Javier, one of the staff at the Airbnb where we are staying, was walking us through the dusty streets of Central Havana when he paused to point out a crowd of well-dressed people milling in front of a rather grand Baroque portal. A sign above the entrance read: “La Guardia.”

“That’s the best restaurant in Havana,” he struggled in his limited English. “Robert de Niro and Natalie Portman eated there.”

Javier was leading us to another restaurant just around the corner from La Guardia. We had asked him about good, authentic Cuban food, and he assured us that the deceptively named Notre Dame des Bijoux was the place to get it.

Jesus Gomez at his rooftop grill

We walked through a much less impressive portal into what seemed to be someone’s home (many of Cuba’s restaurants are run by people out of their homes). And quite a home it was — an explosion of tropical plants grew up from the floor, one wall was plastered with teacups, another was covered floor to ceiling with framed photographs. And in a throne-like chair, in a satin fuchsia robe with rings on every finger, surrounded by his ten toy dogs, was Tommy Reyes Martinez, a flamboyant former Cuban National Ballet dancer who owned the restaurant. More

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Year of the Sandwich Goes to Cuba

One of my favorite sandwiches ever, the torta Cubana at the Vallarta Mexican grocery store, is a towering affair with ham, beans, bacon, salsa, jalapeños and an egg, all on a soft telera roll. It is delicious, but it is most definitely a Mexican sandwich.

So, in preparing for our recent spring break trip to Havana, I was excited to try the actual Cuban sandwich. According to my research, there would be sandwiches on pretty much every corner. More

Kim Chee to the Rescue, Again!

It was Super Bowl Sunday, and things were not going well.

A few evenings earlier, I had awoken in the middle of the night with one of those sneezes that tells you immediately a cold is imminent.

We had friends for dinner Friday night, and despite feeling a bit under the weather, I cooked and ate and drank and toasted and laughed. And then went to bed. And didn’t sleep a wink — the entire night.

My medicine

My medicine

I got up, jittery, tired and sick. And went for a run. When I got home, I showered, took a Benadryl, climbed back in bed. And slept for four hours. When I woke, I felt wildly out of sorts — even sleepier than I had been, my vision skewed, my depth perception practically non existent. More

Quite Possibly the World’s Best Sandwich

I wasn’t much of a bologna — baloney — kid when I was young. While my friends pined for white bread with bologna and mayo, I found it rather bland and uninteresting.

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In my teen years, working at an Italian deli, I would discover that the origins of this pale, flaccid meatstuff was actually a salumi called mortadella (the American version was named after the central-Italian city from whence mortadella originates, Bologna). And my opinion would change. More

The Breakfast Salad

After a recent post on carbonara, I received a comment from my friend and one half of the dynamite blog duo known as Gourmandistan, Michelle, who confessed to having in the past served a Calvin Trillin Thanksgiving. The writer and humorist had once suggested we (America) should shift away from bland, dry turkey on the holiday, and serve spaghetti carbonara instead.

Salade frisée aux lardons

Salade frisée aux lardons

A perfectly sensible suggestion to this particular cook who finds the traditional Thanksgiving menu, politely put, uninspired. More

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