Before I get into the food, I have to comment on the setting. We are lucky to have a number of people in our lives who are great cooks and hosts. (You know how I feel about good hosting.) When we walk into Mike and Katya's home, it is always warm and inviting. It feels incredibly comfortable and comforting. There are candles lit around the house, and it is within a few minutes of entering we have drinks in our hands. We leave feeling loved, pampered, and well fed. Ending a day or a week like this is perfection.
So, on to the food. The Cuban tacos were amazing. According to Mike, it was all in the assembly: soft taco shells topped with ham, Swiss cheese, pork loin (pre-grilled after being marinated in canola oil, orange juice, garlic, and oregano), and jalapeños. After assembly, the tacos were folded in half and placed on the grill for 12 minutes (flipped continuously). The result was a satisfying crunchy-soft taco.
Mike and Katya keep a large stable of hot sauces and I topped my tacos with one called Bacon Hot Sauce. My mouth is watering at the memory of it. It was wickedly delicious and spicy.
For the plantains, two large plantains were sliced at a diagonal and fried in oil and butter, laid on a paper towel for a bit to dry out, and lightly salted.
The rice and beans were made from long grain white rice with peppers, onions, garlic, and canned black beans. The recipes for the plantains and rice are from the Viva la Vida Cookbook.
Katya cooking the plantains.
I asked Katya about their principles of hosting. I'm a huge fan of mission statements (consulting anyone?) and was so happy she and Mike have one for hosting: "We like to make our guests feel welcome."
And their top three principles of hosting to accomplish this important mission?
1. Don't run out of booze. Specifically, don't run out of the booze you know your guests enjoy.
2. Before guests arrive, have things ready. Do as much prep as you can.
3. Don't clean up while your guests are still there.
I support the mission and the principles.
Warm details: Katya placed these little red flowers in
espresso cups on the dining table.