The car picked me up at my hotel earlier than expected so I arrived at Guatemalan Ambassador Francisco Villagrán de León’s private residence 45 minutes before the 7PM arrival time. So, my driver offered to take me on a tour of the gorgeous North West area of D.C. to kills some time. Two blocks away is Number One Observatory Circle, where Vice President Biden and his family live.
Another six blocks is the National Cathedral, which I explored on foot. I also had the opportunity to get in a political discussion with my driver Miguel, who was from Haiti and had held his father in his hands as he died as a result of an insurgence years ago.
Seven rolled around and a few of us walked up to the door, which opened automatically, and we were led up a spiral staircase to a gorgeous living room and sitting area. This was a 20-person gathering and we were encouraged to speak freely and get to know everyone in the room. I met:
*Stephanie, who calls Guatemala her second home and has a line of handbags called Colecion Luna made from reclaimed Mayan women’s clothing
*Nancy, who lives in Atlanta and runs the Mango Tree Foundation, which helps poor women worldwide with hands-on projects promoting empowerment. For her first project, Nancy collected, shipped and handed out 44 bicycles to a community of farmers and factory workers in Uganda.
*Rita Claverie de Sciollo, the Deputy Ambassador
*Jose, in charge of tourism for the Embassy
*Peter, a field worker for CARE in Ecuador
*Eugenia, the Embassy’s social secretary and an aspiring fashion designer
At about 8:30, the doors opened to the dining room, which was dressed with three round, formal tables and our assigned seating place tags. My fears of the dinner being stuffy and feeling out of place were quickly forgotten. We discussed:
*Getting Anthony Bourdain to dedicate a show to Guatemala
*How Peruvian cuisine is leading the pack in Latin American innovation
*Acclimating Deputy Ambassador Rita to Facebook
*CARE’s current work in Cuba
*How on Stephanie’s first trip to Guatemala she shared a flight with the national soccer team and was hoping that would be the case always. Sadly, it wasn’t.
*The need for more CARE volunteer trips and the obstacles to making that happen
And, of course, the food. The salad course was followed by a traditional Guatemalan dish call Pepian, similar to a mole sauce (which I’m not a huge fan of). However, this didn’t taste like chocolate but instead pureed black beans with toasted sesame seeds sprinkled in. The sauce was served over chicken, which was served over a thick, arepa-style tortilla. Dessert was Quesadilla, but not even close to the Mexican dish that we’re used to. It looked like corn bread, but tasted like a manchego-infused cake dusted with powder and topped with fruit. They’ve promised me the recipe.
The main event was the previously-mentioned aged rum, which consistently wins all sorts of contests.
Now, ever since I got sick from Rum and Coke in high school I’ve stayed away from it except for the beach-side Pina Colada. This, however, was a masterpiece, served as an after dinner cordial designed for sipping and truly enjoying the layers of flavor and spice. I’m a convert — so much so that they slipped me another round.
The night ended at about 10 with hugs, laughter, photos and the exchange of contact information. Anyone up for a premium rum tasting event in NYC?
Posted by: Mariela