Saturday, January 15, 2011

Music to my Ears

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On our initial visit to Cuenca a year and a half ago we were pleased to learn that the city boasted its own symphony. This wasn't really on the radar of things to look for as we weighed our relocation options, but whether or not you are a fan of classical music it is undeniable that such cultural offerings are a plus to any municipality.

We even got to see the symphony perform a free outdoor concert during our stay. Sadly, they weren't very good. I'll never forget that part of the program was a tribute to Michael Jackson (while he was still alive). Let's just say that "Thriller" wasn't too thrilling. But there was so much pride in the faces of the attendees and, hey, at least we had an orchestra, even if they sounded more like an average high school band.

Since we moved here we've seen the symphony perform perhaps 4-5 times. We found out the concerts are always free, and strolling into town, having dinner, and enjoying live music is a fine way to spend an occasional evening. We've been pleased to discern an undeniable improvement in the quality of performance since that first exposure as well.

And last night it all came together. The maestro was almost manically animated as he steered the musicians through a diverse program that ranged from a Strauss polks to Glenn Miller ("In the Mood") to a Pasodoble. Then three talented singers, a baritone, soprano, and tenor, took turns belting out selections from Mozart's Don Giovanni, finishing the evening with all three plus the orchestra hitting Verdi's La Traviata out of the ballpark. The audience erupted with a long and boisterous standing ovation that was well deserved.

Enough about culture. Let's talk about food. Specifically, pizza. First an aside. My son-in-law correctly pointed out the irony of my wanting to shed those 15 US pounds while at the same time waxing effusively about discovering crunchy Cheetos here. I acknowledge the contradiction and admit that while the first 10 were easily and quickly dispersed, the final 5 are attempting to establish a permanent beachhead and clinging to my body with every ounce (pardon the pun) of strength they possess. I'm also a big enough man (yikes, another pun!) to confess to restocking the pantry with more Cheetos after my trip to the Supermaxi this week. Ah, the mind is willing but the flesh is weak-----------.

Anyway, we've found the pizza in Cuenca to be pretty terrible. The custom here is to load the pie up with dried oregano to the point that my throat starting closing up the first time I tried it. One little artisanal place has recently opened that's good, but if you ask most Cuencanos who makes the best pizza they'll quickly say "Pizza Hut."

We took the kids to the "Hut" some when they were growing up but we've never been big fans. And we've judiciously avoided our three American franchises--Pizza Hut, KFC, and Burger King--the whole time we've been here. It just seems sad that the best of anything the city has to offer would come from one of those establishments.

Well, Cynthia came home yesterday with an announcement that can only be described as a "game changer." The music to my ears? Padre Juan is coming to town!! Yep, Papa John's is opening a sit-down restaurant in Milennium (not misspelled, trust me) Plaza just a 10 minute walk from our home. Now that's a pizza TeamStaton can sink its collective teeth into! Our son ordered so much of it in college the employees knew his voice and what he was ordering as soon as they answered the phone.

So there it is again--those pesky compromises we are compelled to make as we journey through life. On the one hand I don't want this lovely city to be overrun with American fast food joints; look at what that trend has done to the American waistline (wasteline?). Then for Papa John's, see, I make an exception. But that's it! No more!

Except it sure would be great to have Popeye's here---------.


Rono said...

What about In-and-Out with better french fries?

Miss Footloose said...

We heard about a pizza place using organic ingredients,which sounds to me like a place that might have good pizza. We were in Cuenca in September to have a look around (to see if this is a place we'd like to live), and heard about the pizza in a later e-mail or Yahoo loop.

Maybe you can ask around (at the Kookaburra?) and find it. Unless you've already discovered it and not found it good ;)

Jack and Claudia said...

Our personal favorite is La Fornace on Reg. Crespo just east of Totums. Pepperoni add spinach....cooked in a wood fired oven... good stuff! Guess that's why there is chololate and vanilla, we all like different things . . . however Papa Johns is tempting! See you there!

Diego said...

Don't get your hopes up.

There's a pappa john's in Quito and the pizza was worse than pizza hut.

There are a bunch of places where the cooks learned how to make pizza in NYC, however, they'll make pizza the way the ecuadorians like, you need to specify every single step to be done on the pizza and you'll get what you want.