There is nothing quite like leaving town.
It was my first time in Athens and the goal was to visit my son on his semester abroad. Sam is thriving and couldn’t wait to share his love of Greek antiquities and food. As a college kid, he was thrilled to discover how affordable food and wine were, and eager to share a few favorites places with me, but only after we visited a few “piles of rocks.” It is the cuisine that defines local, fresh and healthy. We visited the meat/fish/produce market where I was surprised to see that every meat stall had large fridge units. We had traditional dishes and modern interpretive meals. The olives were the best ones I have ever had. The economic hardship was on everyone’s mind – shopkeepers complaining about business, individuals frustrated by lack of opportunity and an unresponsive government. In the county that fathered democracy, the lack of hope in the future seemed ironic and heartbreaking. A complicated country.
Over to Miami where our seasoned and hard working GP team was in high gear at the Miami Open (starting in mid-March and ending yesterday). It is a feat to be responsible for everything from stadium Brooklyn Bangers, to every beverage, a robust food plaza, snacks and the high-end suite entertaining. We connect to local farms for amazing produce, feature a catch of the day in the restaurants and capture the international flavor of Miami throughout the site. What a thrill to be a part of this tournament and nourish both players and guests year after year.
From Miami it’s less than an hour’s flight yet a world away to Havana, Cuba. It was my third visit and I was amazed by how much the city had changed in 2+ years. For starters, my iPhone worked seconds after landing. Restaurants were everywhere, as were a range of retails shops I had never seen before in Cuba. The signature fleet of 1950’s cars has been significantly supplemented by an array of newer cars. We ate out nightly in places that could have been located in any city – or even in hip Brooklyn. The cuisine combined the best of Cuban tradition with creative interpretations crafted from the limited ingredients available. That it is ‘local’ is an ironic understatement. And then some things were exactly the same – the poverty, decaying streets and buildings and the political realities. And like my previous visits, I am left digesting the paradoxes of this beautiful island and its warm and hospitable people.
That being said, it was good to touch down in Tampa yesterday. I had lost touch with the contentious political debates and the distractions of daily life. I forgot about connectivity, social media and my work calendar. That ends today – but that is fine. I am happy to be home.