On Wednesday I was invited to go to dinner and the theater after to see Rent’s 20th anniversary tour. Fast forward 2 hours, hair and makeup was done and we were driving to a restaurant called Flora Street Cafe in the Dallas Arts District.
Once the luxurious C-class Mercedes was valeted (kind note: only my car in my dreams) we took a group picture outside of the restaurant before arriving promptly for our 6:00 pm reservations.
Now weren’t my two dates just too handsome?
I will say this.. going to dinner with Jim you sure do get treated like royalty. The chef, Stephan Pyles, kindly greeted us at the door.
Once seated, we decided on some cocktails and champagne. The boys drank an old fashion and a Manhattan while I greedily started sipping on the Tattinger. I was basically in heaven.
For my appetizer I ate the Ahi Tuna. Not surprisingly it melted in my mouth, especially since it was paired with kiwis, tomatillos, and marchano almonds.
The others ordered dry-aged Texas wagyu beef tartare, and sea scallops. Now the scallops were SO TASTY, and probably one of the coolest dishes on the menu. They use liquid nitrogen to make coconut gellee, which basically looks like noodles. The dish also is served with ‘Jasmine Sea Essence’ which is created by pouring water over dry ice. Pretty neat.
For my main course I decided on the roast pheasant. It comes with a blackberry mojo, and a squash blossom quesadilla. It’s pretty amazing how the flavors came together so well. I really enjoyed it because unlike most upscale restaurants the food felt comfortable and filling. I guess its the epitome of Texas fine dining.
The dinner was phenominal but the company was even better. I haven’t had a meal out like that experience in a long long time and it felt very refreshing. Probably helped that the bill was also compensated so I didn’t even have to spend a penny!
Following in true nerd fashion, I got my friend to come along to downtown of an area called McKinney in order to play Pokemon Go (I’m slightly obsessed). While we were there we decided to eat. This was a critical moment.. I get HANGRY, and that’s not a good look on anyone.
So we parked the car in the town square. I love it because it feels very old school Texas in this area, the court house is even in the middle of the square. Anyways, going off topic here. So we parked right in front of this local restaurant. Figured we’d look at the menu and after we decided ‘Why the hell not?’
So in we go and to be honest I was shocked. It was cozy, and felt very rustic. We sat at a secluded table and eyed the menu once again. We ordered the ribeye with bearnaise sauce (is your mouth drooling? Cause mine is!) and the serrano caesar salad.
The food was amazing. We had the peach cobbler for dessert and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to live in Texas. My god the food was awesome.
So if you’re ever around downtown McKinney make sure to stop by Harvest. They’re a seasonal kitchen devoted to finding local ingredients. Plus its delish.
After a few days in Varadero, we scheduled a driver to come pick us up in a classic 50’s pink convertible and drive us all the way to Havana. The drive took a little more than two hours, and the salt from the ocean when driving on the coast sure as hell got in my hair as you can see below. (Click on photos to enlarge)
In hindsight- the drive was longer than i expected and i should’ve worn a hat. My scalp was sunburnt the day after… oops. When we arrived we were promptly dropped off in the middle of the old city at Plaza De San Fransisco and waited to find our Airbnb.
The airbnb we rented was located in the heart of the old Havana and was perfect for us. A small kitchen with a lady who made us a traditional breakfast in the morning, the coffee was GOOD. We also had really good air conditioning and two bedrooms with separate bathrooms. For anyone traveling to Cuba, i’d highly recommend getting an airbnb in Havana- was really easy and made me feel a little less like the tourist i was.
Our first day we decided to wander around the city a bit- we walked along the Malecon and i stopped to pose whilst dad took pictures of every single classic car we could find. It’s such a surreal experience being in Cuba.
After a while we sat down for drinks and snacks at a little cafe located on the corner of what felt like one of the main ‘shopping’ streets. Mojitos and Bucanero beers all around! I’ll tell you what- the cuban take on pizza sure is different.
Me being me, i of course wanted to look in the shops. I still have no clue how the shopping works in Cuba, or where you go to get what as every shop seemed to have a little bit of everything, yet nothing all at the same time.
Pictured above is the Farmacia Taquechel (an old pharmacy) that i believe they have turned into a museum. Really nicely kept and cool to see! Then we took a rickshaw back to the apartment because mom wasn’t feeling quite 100% yet, and i got a migraine from the long car ride in the sun. I skipped out on dinner in order to rest up for the next days adventures- but mom brought me back some bruschetta and fresh lobster from dinner. The food in Havana was only slightly better than Varadero.
On our second day in Havana we decided to get another classic car to show us around the city & the sights. Havana really isn’t that big of a city after all. Dad rode shotgun with our driver who barely spoke english yet kept mentioning a green elephant, how bizarre.
Some of the buildings were being restored and others were just down right beautiful to look at with the sunshine and blue skies as backdrop. Riding in a convertible seeing the sights was at least ten times better than the usual double decker tour bus!
After about an hour riding around different neighborhoods we got to a green area where we drank some water and got some shade. Mom and i lost dad at one point, but when we all gathered back by the car the tour guide had something he wanted to show us. So we all followed him along the road in a single file line looking even more touristy than before. Finally we got to see his beloved green elephant…
…basically just a branch with leaves that just happened to be in the shape of an elephant. That gave us all a good laugh and reaffirmed that my dad wasn’t crazy, our driver really did keep mentioning the green elephant.
Next up on our ride around Havana was some sightseeing. Did you know there’s a China Town in Havana?! Small world i suppose.
Finally we got to Plaza De La Revolucion, the one place i had really wanted to see. We hopped out of the car to take picture of the large murals on the square. Another surreal experience- the square is huge but it just feels so misplaced. I guess it’s where they used to hold political rallies.
We had our driver drop us off at the Hotel Nacional De Cuba to end the tour. We sat outside on their terrace and enjoyed some refreshments looking out at the view. This probably turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. The hotel really is STUNNING. I wish we could have stayed there for a night just so i could lay out by the pool one day and feel like the royalty that’s all visited.
All in all i feel lucky to have seen this side of Cuba, i hope that the lifted trade embargo improves certain aspects of the country but doesn’t ruin the culture. Cubans are such happy and nice people, if i ever go again i’ll for sure get a local tour guide to show me more of the cuisine and nightlife!