I had some projects to do around the house today, and I had the Godfather 2 playing for background entertainment. There was a key scene that takes place in Havana, and I remembered having a fine dinner of Cuban cuisine. We were down visiting some friends in Venice, Florida and the four of us went to St. Armands Circle just outside of Sarasota. The women can always find a reason to shop, and the Circle is a shopping and dining attraction. While we were shopping and taking in the sights, our friends met another couple of friends and he was of Cuban descent.
Eventually after wandering around the Circle, the men enjoying cigars and the ladies going in and out of shops and boutiques, everyone had worked up an appetite as well as a thirst. Our newest friend suggested that we go to Columbia Restaurant, as he had been there often and touted the food. We all agreed and found ourselves there at a table for six. As they we were receiving our menus, our new friend suggested that he do the ordering, and then we could all try several dishes at one time. That worked for all of us, unfortunately I cannot remember a single dish that we had, as we had a huge setting of family style plates among us, and we all started a taste fest of unknown delicacies.
It was decided that I select the wine, and even back then I was starting to have a bit of a reputation for enjoying the fruit of the vine. As we had entered the restaurant, I saw a display of the house wine, which was Don Cesar Rioja Reserva 1986 and also what had caught my eye was the artwork on the label. It was done by LeRoy Neiman, who had done the art work for the Kentucky Derby one year and we had purchased an autographed print of his work. I normally would have ordered something else, as I am leery of “house” wines, as I have found them to be mediocre, but an excellent profit margin maker for the house. I decided to abandon my prior conviction because I decided that I wanted the label for my cellar wall, and I love Rioja Reserva wines. I figured that if the wine was not great with six drinkers, it would be gone in no time, and I could order something else. Well it was wonderful, and delivered what a good Rioja wine should deliver and it paired with the food.
Dinner lasted several hours between the appetizers and then all of the other food that was ordered. Not to mention the many bottles of wine needed to compliment all of the food that we were enjoying. I still wish I could remember what had been ordered, but since our new friend and the waiter both spoke Cuban-Spanish I could not keep up with the conversation and just enjoyed the moment. It is amazing how something totally alien to the subject of wine can trigger a fond memory.