Río, río, río, río de verdad
Como un animal que ha sido
puesto en libertad
What follows is not part of the plan ... but I'm in love.
And they say that love justifies its own excesses.
Who is she?
Better to go from the beginning...
A longtime friend summoned me for a working meeting at the most inconvenient possible hour: 6 pm on a Friday. Shame on her doing something like that.
We met in Plaza Vieja and looked for accommodation in the inner terrace of Casa del Chocolate, still an intimate place. There were many pending issues to be discussed, so it was already dark when we almost forced the bystandig waiter to throw us out.
I paid the bill despite being the guest so she felt a duty to compensate:
- I'll take you somewhere...
And then gave me this mysterious smile.
The wooden gate said that it was enough to push in to access Wonderland: Bianchini. Croissant-Dulcería; we are open. The hours of operation sign placed on the door, however, said otherwise. According to the latter, they were closed.
There was light and noise in the window.
A shutter was opened.
They were closed. Pity…
The door opened and the clerk delivered the most amazing word I had ever heard from the lips of an ombudsman of an entity of the Cuban gastronomic sector:
- Come on in.
For those among you readers who may consider I’m overreacting, I bring up to you this classic scene of services industry in Cuba named “shift change”…Have you ever, ever tried to buy a bottle of water during a shift change? Human cruelty will never become clearer. And that would be during the hours of operation. What do you think master reader, would happen if the event take place after the establishment had closed?
Upon entering, the girl said something endowing logic to what she did, but I did not listen. I did not hear because I was already in love with the place and we already know well that when we are in love, we do not listen.
It was a minimal room, 4 x 6 meter max and I’m being optimistic.
It is not because this place were conceived and decorated with radiant taste. Not even because whoever did so, did it on a dark side street in Old Havana, we can do so, we always can do more and better.
The point is that each object, the minimum ceramic cups of the tableware, the byline bench with colored cushions, the woven bags hanging from wooden furniture, the cats, cats, cats, ceramics, painted clay, paper, ink cats, peeking from the corners… The point is that each object seemed calculated to the millimeter to convey a sweetness that would challenge the logic elsewhere.
But not in there…while in there I was perfectly prepared to accept that the mechanics of the universe was precisely that one, despite the fact that the harsh realities of the street were a few meters away.
Meanwhile sweet were peeking under the counter, in the refrigerated box, on plates and trays.
My friend negotiated behind me to take a dose she handed me in a paper bag. In a paper bag! The last time someone handed me something in a paper bag, Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr. ... anyway ... why am I explaining this to you? Over 30% of the Cuban population was born after the Fall of the Paper bags.
I held onto the package of recycled paper just in case.
I took 3 flyers / menus, one for me, one for my friends and the third for the first person with a sad face I stumble with... good karma must be used effectively and promptly returned. We completed the order with gingerbread cookies.
I have no reference point for determining the quality of gingerbread cookies because I had never eaten before, but if these are the bad ones, Mozart must have stuffed himself with the good ones before composing his Rondo alla turca.
We went up the street talking about the ephemeral nature of existence and the categorical relevance of the pastry and its place in the scheme of a better universe (which is possible). Given the topic of conversation, I suspect that the name of the person preparing the cookies is Maria.
I came home and I look at the paper bag as I write these lines.
I get up and I take it. I open it carefully.
I draw a poundcake cylinder wrapped in colorful paper. The center is hollowed out and filled with cream. I check the flyer / menu, this (ladies and gentlemen) is a lemon cupcake.
You guys have to eat a lemon cupcake or all of what what you have lived so far has been in vain because your lives will be forever incomplete. The lemon flavor is provided by the Poundcake, the cream is made out of milk, so you must bite deep to allow flavors to blend.
I nibble the paper ripping off the crumbs before I realized that you are giving me a weird look. I cast it aside embarrassed.
Back to the paper bag.
The other candy is larger; it is a chocolate soufflé with raisins inside.
Now, if you're a single woman, this is what you should ask for. The necessity of finding a mate and its side concerns will drop dramatically while you hold your soufflé in your hand. In fact, and despite being a man (I don’t think I’m being a sexist if I do notice the long documented mystical relationship between women and chocolate) I felt the effect.
All good things come to an end. Carefully fold the cartridge and put it among the souvenirs of many memorable events. I stack this sheet with the others with sticky fingers.
3 days after writing the above, several members of AlaMesa Team (me among others) made and full incursion into the place to complement our initial impressions.
The croissaints deserve fame: the smell of those diabolical croissants evokes the Arab story of the miraculous apple included by Herminio Almendros in his book "Oros Viejos".
We tried an infusion mixing aromas of apple, cinnamon, lemon and others. We take generous portions of tres leches cake and warm pastries stuffed with cheese. The owner came with reinforcements just in time to give us the equivalent of a pastry fashion show, filled with colorful fruit tarts and dark mini muffins with a few pieces of chocolate well entrenched.
With Katia, we talk about Silvio and Pablo and Sabina, and how the purpose of entertaining her friends became a project and then her own place. We talk about her plans to launch a second establishment (I do not know if I should not where).
I know I should have on hand a punch line to end this already lengthy ... maybe just encourage you will be enough: " Come on in."