Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nicaragua: Casa del Cafe

Things are easier on the eyes here in Nicaragua.

For lunch during the championship our hosts have contracted with Casa del Cafe, a coffeeshop on the lower level of the Galerias Santo Domingo, to provide our lunch. The first day they were planning on catering cheeseburgers to our quarters in the competition space but the security guards wouldn't allow anyone to bring outside food. Odd.

But the real oddity was after we finished the first day of competition and went down to the cafe to eat our food. Food that has turned cold because it's been sitting around for awhile isn't unusual, what was unusual was the manager's insistence that they wouldn't reheat the food for us. Rather than warm the food to maintain some level of flavor integrity, it was more important for the manager to be "right" than the food warm.

Rouki and Brent excited for another lunch at Casa del Cafe.

Unfortunately, one of the recurring themes here in Latin America is the influence of the United States' industrial agriculture system. The burgers at Casa del Cafe are a perfect example of what is wrong with industrial agriculture.

Rather than buying fresh local meat, which I understand is widely available in Nicaragua, the convenience of commercial, pre-portioned, frozen beef patties is too seductive to resist. Why worry about frivolities such as sourcing, labor and waste when deep frozen convenience is readily at hand?

The hambuguesa y queso.

What this means is that the beef patty is just lame and devoid of flavor. Sure, it's a large portion and holds together nicely, but there's no reason to eat it other than to stave off death by starvation. Add frozen cut fries and you've got a classic American meal - just as bad as though you bought it in the United States.

Which brings me to another thought: the fries. I'm seeing a trend in the preparation of fries here in Nicaragua: no one knows how to make them - even frozen fries. Frozen industrial fries are bad enough but how about learning how to cook them properly? Fried to a golden crisp is ideal, not this limp yellow julienne-cut piece of potato I keep finding in front of me.

Day two at Casa del Cafe could have been better had I chosen wisely. The choices for day two were a cheeseburger or empanada. Stupid me was worried that maybe the empanada wouldn't be sizable enough and it wouldn't come with fries. For some reason, I had to have my fries. I chose poorly.

Empanadas - the better choice.

When traveling and the option exists to go with the local cuisine, always choose the local cuisine. Even I know this. Why I decided on the burger still haunts me. It was a moment of culinary weakness. At least this time, the burger was hot, and so were the fries (undercooked yet again). Sadly, the burger still tasted like cardboard, just hot cardboard.

Castalia, on the other had, decided to go with the empanada. A good choice even though it lacked fries. Two large empanadas. One chicken, the other beef, how could I have gone with the burger? Luckily, she let me have a taste.

The crust was thick and flaky. Perhaps a bit too thick for my tastes. The fillings were savory and slightly sweet, like a good empanada. Can I send my burger back?

Casa del Cafe
Galerias Santo Domingo
Km 7 Carretera a Masaya
Managua, Nicaragua

No comments: