cubanos and café con leché

On the eve of my last night in Miami, all brushed and tucked in bed, I turned over toward Arya and posed the question…what was the best meal of the trip?

Interestingly enough, it was not the trendy Thai tapas place (with the 90 minute wait) that Gerardo, our island driver, talked up as he dropped us at the beach. It was not the perfectly roasted papad dipped in refreshing tamarind date chutney that we enjoyed at Mumbai Darbar on Christmas Day. It was not the flavorful yellow arroz that we devoured at a popular Cuban restaurant. It was not the relaxed vibe at Green Street Cafe as we munched on french toast and watched puppies and flip-flops passing by on the sunshined street. It was not the robust sandwiches with French Riviera dressing from La Sandwicherie.


It was far simpler.

Pick up a scooter on Miracle Mile and go straight for approximately eleven minutes down the block, round the corner, and you’d be there. Take a number. Wait for your turn. Keep your ears peeled. Be ready when the time comes. If you don’t know Spanish…well, good luck to you. I have faith, that it will all turn out just fine in the end.


Cafe Versailles. A Cuban bakery, sitting on the brink of Little Havana, and filled with life!

A frenzy of people pack themselves in front of the glass cases, deciding what to order. The ladies with the power, dressed in red, are yelling out the numbers, pausing barely a breath before moving on to the next one if they don’t see a wave. The barista machine hissing and frothing. The orange juicer squelching. The drawer of the cash register opening and shutting, opening and shutting. Bakers in white, push everyone aside as they parade out of the kitchen with trays of fresh pastries. And among the chaos, old men sit, sipping slowly on their cafécitos.

Dare I say, we went there enough times for the ladies to know our drink orders by heart.

I’m sure you’re wondering, what was it, that was just SO good?

Well, of course, I tried a number of things out of curiosity…the guava pastelitos were flaky and interesting. The croquetas had a nice flavor but you know, I’m not a huge fan of fried food. The fruit tart looked the part and that was mostly it. The baked spinach and cheese empanadas were fantastic for sure..But what really stole my heart was the tostada cubana alongside a té con leché.


The tostada cubana was a thin and crispy toast, cut into lengthy triangles, slathered with salty, yellow butter. My té con leché was actually a Lipton tea bag (of all things!), served alongside a small espresso sized cup of steaming milk. The Lipton tea bag raged loudly in the hot water, bringing a robustness and depth of dark flavor. Upon dribbling hot milk, the beverage was instantly tamed, to a pleasant, buttery caramel. And when I dunked the crisp, crumbly bread in the hot tea, it melted instantly as it got drunk with flavor. It was perfection.

No fancy fruit jam. No ancient grains. No loose leaf. Just simple white bread and Lipton tea.

I’ll bet it all had something to do with a memory from my childhood. Tea was no light matter in our Indian household. My mom always kept a jar of Lipton tea bags prominently displayed on the counter. I fondly remember filling up the jar with importance, whenever it was time, smelling the sweet florals and bitter notes. Sometimes, my mom would cut our buttered toast into strips and let us dunk the pieces into her tea, filling her teacup with crumbs. And on lucky occasions, she would let us have our own cup of sweet, extra milky tea for the dunking pleasure. Those were good days.

Across from me, Arya is enjoying his Cubano, a sandwich made from the same toasted bread, slathered with mustard, melted Swiss, and some deli meats. His steaming café con leché tempts me for a taste. However, upon my first sniff, I simply must push it aside. The fourteen week baby growing in my belly (surprise! More on this later.) does NOT like coffee. Not one bit.

Anyways, the simplicity of this meal is what really makes me ponder. The simplicity of the early days already and always exists. Very often, when I read the Yoga Sutras, I am amazed by the clear, profound wisdom that the great scholars already knew, and we have yet to figure out. It is our mind that craves the complexity and the media does not help.

But in the end, the simple wins. Could it be that perhaps the simplest is the most nourishing?

be well,