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    When Fernando Martinez idolizes someone, you know they must be incredibly talented. Martinez (the father of Guaca Mole, Mussel & Burger Bar, El Taco Luchador, etc.) said at last night’s New Cuban Food Revolution dinner at Cena that he “learned more in a year and a half [working with Douglas Rodriguez] than I learned in my first twelve years as a cook. The guy’s a genius.”

    Douglas Rodriguez is cooking in Louisville for one more night, and it’s a meal that shouldn’t be missed. Rodriguez is the “Godfather of Nuevo Latin cuisine,” the author of several cookbooks, the recipient of many awards. Martinez, a Cuban native, said that “every Latin cook in the world knows who he is. I’ve been trying to get him to Louisville for awhile…I’m really honored that he’s here.”

    Last night’s meal had seven courses, six of them paired with cocktails and wine. The evening started with a small bites course: Martinez’s offering was a timba de foie gras torchon y guava, which is a fancied-up “Cuban version of peanut butter and jelly!” Rodriguez noted. Rodriguez’s contribution was a nuevo sandwich Cubano: a Cuban sandwich on a skewer.

    Between courses, dense Cuban cheese bread was served in a cigar box with a healthy scoop of guava butter. The next course, lobster & shrimp ceviche with young coconut, cucumber, tomato, mint and basil was served with La Marca Prosecco, a beautiful, biting combination.

    The courses designed by Martinez (Asopado Paella, with all kinds of seafood including a perfectly buttery scallop draped with a sliver of iberico lardo and Trio de Pato with duck breast, confit and foie gras raspado) were reminiscent of The Place Downstairs, Martinez’s short-lived but much-loved upscale restaurant that once operated in the space that now houses Cena.

    Through the evening, courses were highlighted by a Havana old fashioned made with Shellback spiced rum, a global warming mojito with a pale green scoop of poblano pepper sorbet and a café con leche martini.

    Rodriguez’s courses (ribeye palomilla with bone marrow and oxtail croquette, and the aforementioned ceviche) were perfectly balanced and a little simpler. The puerco two ways, a collaboration course between Martinez and Rodriguez, showcased pork two ways: crispy lechon and masas de puerco. 

    The final course, prepared by Cena’s pastry chef Christian Cobos, actually elicited a burst of applause from diners as it was served. A Cuban chocolate cigar came in its own box with coffee ice cream and edible matches. When the boxes were opened, aromatic smoke billowed out around the room and waiters stopped by the tables to light the edible matches on fire. This party even had favors: little complimentary mignardises from Chef Christan Cobos were delivered at the end of the meal.

    There will be one more New Cuban Food Revolution dinner at Cena tonight, (Thursday, January 22 at 7 p.m.) and there are still a few reservations available. Cost per person is $120 and includes alcohol pairings, but not gratuity.

    Article Image and Images 3, 4, 7 and 8 courtesy of Cena's Facebook Page, image 2 courtesy of Chris Witzke, Image 3 courtesy of Douglas Rodriguez's Website

    Elizabeth Myers's picture

    About Elizabeth Myers

    Big fan of bacon and bourbon, deep fried anything, sweet tea and sweet nothings.

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