I’ve was in Tampa for a long weekend the last few days, for a wedding and a little hangout time with some friends and my gal. The first few nights I was without internet (gasp!) and while the Tampa airport Hilton had free internet, it was so slow I was unable to work or update the old blog. I wish Hilton would offer “porn” and “non-porn” wireless signals. It would really help bandwidth for those of us doing important things like watching various renditions of “hide yo kids, hide yo wife”.
Our hotel was a mile away from Arco Iris, a Cuban restaurant I first heard about from Dirty. Amazingly enough, it turns out my friends from Tampa had also talked about going to Arco Iris (“rainbow”) for lunch, though as they are actually of Cuban descent and speak Spanish, our pronunciation of Arco Iris differed greatly.
I took Spanish in school for a few years, and was interested in further developing my ability, but I never did. It’s easy to be quickly discouraged. A few years back I was on a flight to Cusco, Peru which happened to be a flight populated by a hundred thirteen year old kids on a class trip. I sat between two giggly girls who conversed rapidly the whole time. Occasionally I tried to say something in Spanish, simple things like “Excuse me” when I had to use the restroom. They laughed hysterically in my face every time.
This flight is also notable as it is the only trip I’ve ever been on where the whole plane cheered when we landed. Mind you, not out of excitement for our arrival in an amazing destination, but because we didn’t crash and burn on the tiny mountain city’s runway that sits at over 13,000 feet above sea level.
If you’re still with me after that tangent, the food photos are below. I ordered the roasted pork in the second photo below, but also tried the flat iron steak and the ropa vieja. The steak and pork were my favorites. I liked the flavor of the ropa vieja, but agreed with the more experienced Cuban diner at the table that the stringy texture isn’t as appealing as the other meats on the table. Of the few I’ve sampled, it’s still the best ropa vieja I’ve tried.
Most of the dishes aren’t complicated, but are well executed. I loved the taste of the mostly raw onions with the tender pork, which was maybe a little too lean but was still extremely flavorful and moist from the cooking jus. My sides were roasted yuca and rice, also great. The soft and starchy yuca was so garlicky, the vegetable actually reminded me of a giant portion of roast garlic. The rice was also garlic heavy and delicious. Something new I learned is that most Cubans don’t eat yellow rice as a side dish, yellow rice is only eaten if the rice has turned yellow through the cooking process, as is the case when cooking arroz con pollo. (Thanks for all the knowledge Christie!)
I also ordered a Cuban sandwich to-go for the drive home. Awesome. The bread and roasted pork were superior to any I’ve had in Atlanta. Definitely seek out Arco Iris if you are in the Tampa area. Credit cards accepted, parking is somewhat limited.
One last related bit of Tampa news. We of course hit up The Temple of Bern’s to take advantage of their stunning and well-priced wine cellar. I tried a pinot noir blanc (white wine) from Nuits-St.-Georges in Burgundy, an area which almost exclusively produces red wine. Imagine a electrically acidic and fruit forward white Burgundy balanced by the tongue coating body of a red pinor noir. All you white wine haters need to get slapped in the face with a bottle like this, or at least try to find some to taste. Good luck on that in the retail market, but recently flights to Tampa were $69 each way. Also, after dinner I got engaged up in one of the little private dessert rooms at Bern’s, thus setting myself up for decades of trips to Bern’s with an anniversary serving as cover. Just kidding (a little); we both love the experience of Bern’s and the people that work there, and it was a great way to end an evening.