It is cool on the first real fall evening of the year. Couples mingle on the patio unworried that they might stench of the sweat of July in Dallas. All thoughts of cholera are banished. Debonaire waiters in dark suits and ties perform their unscripted ritual of delivering food to an apprehensive hoard. Sometimes in the night we hear the buzzing of mosquitoes, also contemplating their evening repast. Will it be the scrawny bicep of an ageing dowager or the juicy fullness of a young twenty something?
Appetizer is served. A hundred shrimp die. Few will realize how appreciative their conquerors were of their succulence, their insouciant brininess. Their refusal to subdue in the face of chiles combined as a sauce might be noted in dispatches in a more honorable era.
“Would you like some bread sir?” asks the waiter.
“Yes” I reply.
A waiter shuffles skillfully around the room planting plates on tables as though marking or reclaiming his property. Pollo al Aljibe he says, his eyes drilling a smile through me. When I went to el Aljibe the bitter orange sauce could rip the taste buds off your mouth. Everyone ordered this dish. It made me dream of sleeping by the roaring surf of the sea.
At an adjacent table the waiter proffers a red snapper stuffed with shrimp, lobster and ham. topped with a creamy sofrito sauce, accompanied by saffron rice. Or, a Delmonico steak with patatas, bravas, frijoles negros. The choice is too huge a decision for the old man who relapses into a deep sleep in which he dreams of red snapper in Africa, dancing in the waves of the ocean. He awakes abruptly.
“How did you sleep old man?” the waiter asks.
He is leaving his sleep behind now.
“Very well young man. Where is the car wash?” he asks. He has confused his current location with Carmel car wash.
The evening is slipping into night. The mosquitoes have become morbidly obese on their prey. We consume our Baked Alaska with Dulce de Leche Ice Cream, Caramel and Sea Salt in absorbed silence. It seems this Cuba will last forever. And if not, we will still have our memories.
Hotel St. Germain’s next “Lost World” themed dinner is October 26 at which the focus will be 30 cities that were lost by being buried, flooded, sunken, overgrown or forgotten for centuries. Cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a special wine dinner of updated dishes from ancient cultures. Mini treasure hunt with chocolate dessert and coffee. $95 per person (plus t&t). 7pm. Call (214) 871-2516 for reservations.