Monday, April 21, 2014

Spectacularly Unmet Expectations

For our first night back in Mindelo, Easter Eve, the day of gut-troubling curvy roads and high seas, Ian found us a place to eat that was listed in one of our guide books.

When we travel these epic journeys, the division of labor is generally 95%-5% me at home: planning, reserving, packing all but Ian's clothes, canceling mail and papers, and generally adding High-End Travel Agent to my unconventional list of jobs. Once we're at our destination, however, the proportion flips, with Ian coming into his own on the ground: scouring guide books, maps, and local papers, and taking over the bulk of purchase interactions ("You can be the man," I say).

It works for us, and appeals to both our strengths and the amount of flexible time we respectively have. We trust each other, and have largely commensurate tastes and interests.

I wasn't so sure about trusting Ian last Saturday night, however.

He had read about a restaurant called "Tapas" in Mindelo, not far from our inn, up from the port and the center of town. Guide books for Cabo Verde leave something to be desired; streets on maps are often wrong to varying degrees, and points of interest are poorly noted, or not noted at all. In the case of Tapas, we decided to take an exploratory trek to locate it before dark, and see if we could suss out whether or not it would even be open.

We wandered in what we thought was the vicinity for several minutes, and finally got close enough that a young man working in a nearby pharmacy was able to step away from work and point it out to us . . . an unassuming storefront on the bottom floor of a building fronting a wide, gritty, wind-blown and trashy vacant lot. There was little sign of activity, except for a partially open door.


As we were readying ourselves for dinner that evening, after an episode of mild, ambiguous anxiety for me and coma-like afternoon sleeps for both of us, I thought about how I might play my cards to get out of walking through the windy night and that now dark vacant lot.

I could come up with nothing legitimate (even after a week and a half here my first impression of Cabo Verdeans being scrupulously honest and trustworthy holds), AND I AM SO GLAD.

The meal we had at Tapas was, by any reckoning, one of the best meals I have eaten in any restaurant, anywhere. The interior was an oasis of quiet charm, with soft lighting and quietly stylish wood accents. We ate a mix of dishes, each the pinnacle of its type: a fresh tomato salad with onion and olives; linguiƧa in a spicy tomato sauce; thinly-sliced tuna carpaccio; crisp and buttery garlic bread; breaded and fried local goat cheese with honey; and followed by a divine fried banana with a brown-butter syrup and two little balls of housemade vanilla ice cream.

We were as enchanted with this meal as we were with our first glimpse of Fontainhas (well, almost). Every bit of it was the most delicious it could possibly be.

We stopped outside to take a picture of the incongruity--this savory oasis in a sea of blowing sand--and as we were ruminating on our pleasure, we began to notice a high-pitched whine in the air, which all at once became piercing, and a strong gust of wind whirled the sands of the vacant lot into a shrieking vortex and flung it into our faces. We ran, heads bowed, and when we paused to look back, Tapas had vanished into the swirling cloud, and scudding trash was all that was left.

(no, not really, but it was a magical meal.)

one-fingered on my phone

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