When I moved to my apartment 4½ years ago there was only one restaurant close by and it never caught my fancy. Now, when I’m hungry and don’t want to cook, I can walk out my front door, cross the street onto the Rio Tomebamba footbridge, and voila! — there are two restaurants and a bar serving very agreeable food within a hundred feet.
As the remodeling for the restaurants and bar was going on, I would walk over from time to time to make sure they were doing it right and became friends with the owners. It is great to always be welcomed with a friendly smile, to get to know the staff by name (whose smiles remain even when I forget the name, a regular occurrence), and to be able to make changes to my order (chicken parmesan please, without the chicken and more salad and pasta).
So, a couple of weeks ago I was in the mood to go out, walked over to Charlie’s for a glass of gin and a little conversation and then back out onto the street. It was decision time. Should I go to Mayu, with its varied menu and warm “feel” from two years of eating there, or to Fondue Garden, where I always receive an ebullient greeting from the owner and the waiter and, if I want, a table on the front deck overlooking the river, and excellent cheese fondue dishes?
Fondue won and even though it was quite cold, so did the front deck. The river was high and loud and the Christmas lights strung across it were still on.
There was a man in a suit pouring wine, and Pablo, the owner, came over to explain that a winery was introducing a couple of new varieties, so I had a free half glass of the white. It was a combination of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and to my uneducated tongue, quite nice. The other offering was a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere, which I had with my meal and which was also quite nice. I look forward to describing both of them to my nephew who is in training to be a sommelier.
I had finished my dinner and was enjoying sitting and sipping my wine when I noticed four young musicians inside setting up. Soon, they began playing — two guitars, a small bass and violin with the violinist doing the vocals. My ears perked up when I recognized the sounds of Django Reinhardt. So I went inside, sat at a table right next to them, and spent the rest of the evening absorbed in and taken away by the music.
Django was a French guitarist who played at the “Hot Club of France”, a jazz club in Paris, before and after WWII, and whose music is exceptional. The old standards sound different when played in his unique style and these guys did a great job. I have a CD of his music but the live music at Fondue Garden sounded better to me.
There was time to talk a little with the group, which is based in Lima, with one member from Argentina, who are paid by the winery and whose next stop is Quito. Somehow they got interested in Reinhardt’s music and love it. They gave me a card with a code# on it which, apparently, I can use to access their music on the internet. I will check it out.
It is fun living in Cuenca.
Dave Nelson is a native Oregonian who practiced law in Oakland, California for 40 years before moving to Cuenca. He is approaching his 89th birthday.