I made dinner for some friends in Havana the other night. I am in the Cuban capital for a couple of weeks reporting for Wine Spectator's sister publication, Cigar Aficionado. Check out my daily blog from the island at cigaraficionado.com.
The dinner I made was disgusting. Maybe the worst dinner I have ever cooked! I feel like throwing away my kitchen apron! Have you ever had similar kitchen disasters?
I thought I was going to make a simple pasta dish with olive oil, fresh tomatoes, garlic and shrimp. I couldn't find the shrimp, the "fresh" tomatoes were old and the pasta was made in Cuba. Buying fresh ingredients is not easy on the island. As they say, "Hace lo mismo!" - Make it anyway!
The pasta ended up being a weird concoction of tinned tomato sauce, sautéed garlic and ham and cabbage. The pasta fell apart after five minutes of cooking. The package said to cook it for 10 minutes. Maybe I should have served it uncooked? It was really not good.
It didn't help that the water never came to a boil on the hob. My Cuban friends keep teasing me about how I was such a bad cook that I couldn't even boil water! I promised them that I did attend three months of Cordon Bleu in London about 20 years ago. I am not sure they knew what Cordon Bleu was. The credentials don't help you cooking in Cuba anyway!
The bottle of 2005 Torres Cabernet Sauvignon Penedès Mas La Plana Black Label saved the evening, but a couple of my dinner guests don't drink. It was fresh and fruity with currant, raspberry and hints of vanilla. It was full- to medium-bodied, with balanced and fine tannins and a long finish. I thought it was beautiful to drink now but would improve with age. 90 points, non-blind. I am a big fan of this wine for the money.
There is a very good selection of Spanish wines in La Habana in the handful of top restaurants. I have been drinking lots of interesting bottles from Alexandro Fernandez and Emilio Morro. I think Tempranillo goes well with everything from fried pork to grilled fish, as well as the traditional accompaniment of black beans and rice.
I just wish I could find the right ingredients myself, and prove to my friends that I actually am a really good cook! Que pena!