Doña Carmela and the most amazing grilled eggplant

A year or so ago, Cheesler and I vacationed in Varadero, Cuba with ten of our closest friends.


We stayed at one of those all-inclusive resorts and did nothing but vegetate on the beach, sipping Mojitos, reading in the shade and swimming in the sun.


If you’ve ever been to a resort in Cuba, or even heard the stories, you’ll know that regardless of how many stars it has, it is not famous for its food.


We knew this going in. We figured a slight culinary sacrifice could be made for beach perfection.


And the beach…it was perfect. A vast, uncrowded expanse of soft white sand, smattered few and far between with lounge chairs and grass huts. And the weather was perfect, a balmy 30 degrees Celsius and sunny the entire time.

Falcon attack

The food, in my opinion, was adequate. It was not great, or really flavourful. But it was edible.


After almost a full week of hunkering down at the resort, we took a day trip to Havana, arranged by a friendly pool guy at the resort, who knew a guy who took private groups in a taxi van.


It was a great day, and a much better way to see the city than going with 50 other people in a large bus. It was just 9 of us, our guide and the driver.


I really liked Havana with its crumbling colonial buildings and shiny classic cars and revolutionary structures.


But the best part of the day, by far, was the restaurant he took us to. Doña Carmela.


It was tucked away in a residential neighbourhood near the fortress. You walked around the side of the hacienda-style house to the back patio, where there was a huge wood-fired bbq oven. Locals dined at the small tables, there were no other tourists there.


There were no menus – the server just listed everything they had that day and we ordered our selections: pork chop; chicken; lobster; seafood platter.


Not long after ordering, the side dishes were brought to the table and served family-style. Beans, rice, salad, roasted eggplant.


After our week of unimpressive food we didn’t expect much. We thought it would be the same old – dry pork and fried chicken backs. But when I tasted the eggplant, a sensory explosion followed – a flavour blast to my dullened tastebuds. It was…good! It was really, really tasty and good! Looking around the table, I realized that my dining companions were undergoing similar culinary epiphanies.

Grilled eggplant

What was this sorcery? This delicious eggplant served cold that was garlicky and salty and tangy with lemon juice and olive oil?

Cuban feast

To this day, I have not discovered the answer to that question. Being the culinary goddess that I am, however, naturally I recreated it at home. While I was at it, I prepared a full replica of our meal at Doña Carmela. But that will be another post, mis berenjenas pequeñas.

Meanwhile, try this recipe for grilled eggplant. I promise it will blow your mind. Coming soon, Cuban-style Yucca!


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Categories: Food, Travel

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4 Comments on “Doña Carmela and the most amazing grilled eggplant”

  1. Marl
    March 7, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    Ahhh…daughter after my own heart…and soul! The temptation of recreating the ‘whole’ meal was just too enticing…
    When the meal was just too good ‘recreate’ it at home…my thoughts exactly!


  1. Mojito memories | Soph n' Stuff - March 21, 2013

    […] soon, I will reveal a compilation of the Doña Carmela meal I recreated at home. […]

  2. Yuca with lemon and garlic | Soph n' Stuff - March 15, 2013

    […] It was quite the comedy. Anyway, obtaining the Yuca inspired me to begin my quest for re-creating a fabulous meal I had in […]

  3. Beans and rice…it’s very nice! | Soph n' Stuff - March 14, 2013

    […] part of my recreation of the fabulous meal I had at Doña Carmela in Havana, black beans had to be one of the […]

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