Second in a series of Cuban-related posts.
Sol Rio Luna y Mares pool
I love Cuba. Rather, I love a particular resort in Cuba. It’s called Sol Rio Luna y Mares and is located 50 minutes outside of Holguin in the middle of a nature reserve. The beds are comfy, the swim-up bar is convenient, the beach is spectacular, the staff is friendly, and the dining options are plentiful and good.
Unfortunately, as is true with many all-inclusive resorts, the vacation experience can be somewhat insular in that it’s very easy to avoid exposure to any sort of local culture, history or genuine interaction with those that actually live there. In fact, until as recently as 1997, Cuba’s communist regime forbade any contact between tourists and Cubans and essentially created enclave resorts, resulting in a situation often referred to as “tourism apartheid.” This is no longer the case and other incremental changes are being made. It is still required for a tourist to obtain a discretionary permit in order to stay outside of a resort. But Cubans may stay at the resorts and enjoy the beaches along with the vacationers. And now, majority foreign ownership of these resorts is virtually non-existent. Still, it is possible for the typical Canadian to stay on Cuban soil for a week and never venture beyond the poolside buffet, which is very sad indeed.
And speaking of buffets, take note that many of the Cuban resorts cater predominantly to German, Italian, English, Canadian (and Quebecois), and Spanish tour operators. This means having to please a diverse range of palates. On any typical night, one may find antipasti and pasta, stroganoff, sausages and sauerkraut, fish and chips, and of course burgers in addition to the 50 or so other options available. And if that’s not enough, we are encouraged to enjoy the special à la carte restaurants offering “Cuban”, “Romantic”, “Italian”, or “International” cuisine. I place all names in quotes since the name rarely offers a hint at what might be served.
I was delighted to learn that a new French restaurant had opened on the resort since my last visit and it was earning raves on the review sites. My sweet baboo and I were eager to enjoy the experience and reserved a table for our final night there…sort of a last hurrah. Well, in short, it was everything the reviewers had described. We were greeted at the door with a blast of cool air and a glass of sparkling wine and were guided to our table. Celine Dion’s “Deux” album was spinning on the platter and we got momentarily lost in the menus. I selected an appetizer of fois gras.
fois gras at le Bistro
I like paté but haven’t tried fois gras, ethical implications notwithstanding. And at the resort, the food may be good but the menu translations tend to be a little more on the creative side. “Cow Spine” in the Italian restaurant, for example, was really meant to be Bistecca alla Fiorentina, and ended up being flank steak. Who would have thought? Anyway, all this to say that I was certainly not guaranteed to receive authentic fois gras. In the end, it didn’t really matter because it was scrumptuous. It was a piped rosette of cognac-flavoured liver puree with a sliver of toasted bread and garnished with cornichons, onion, prune, and a port reduction. Served with a bottomless glass of bubbly, it was heaven on a plate.
steak au poivre
For my main, I dove into a top notch piece of steak “au poivre” and some artfully arranged vegetables. I don’t know where they get their beef but it’s been among the best I’ve ever enjoyed.
I concluded my bistro meal with a dessert of slightly rude-looking, piped chocolate mousse (I’ve declined to publish the photo), silky and smooth, creamy and rich. We were sent off into the tropical sunset, riding our chocolate buzz and rubbing our linen-covered bellies, looking for the nearest lounge chair in which to enjoy our final digestif.
Sol Rio Luna y Mares Resort
Playa Esmeralda, Crta. Guardalavaca, Holguín, Cuba