El Paraiso is a slice of paradise in the Valley of Silence, located in Viñales, Cuba. It’s part organic farm or finca and part family-run restaurant owned by Wilfredo and his daughters. When you enter the gates of the farm you’re greeted by a couple of dogs and a wafting aroma of pork roasting at the bottom of the hill. You get the sense very quickly that it’s going to be a good day.
Wilfredo’s organic crops are planted in neat beds that lead out to one of the most dramatic panoramas in Viñales (even better than the official mirador). It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago there was nothing growing on this land except a thorny weed called el marabú. But without any pesticides, Wilfredo managed to plant fruit and vegetable crops that are now thriving and are enough to feed his family and dozens of travelers who come to his farm every day for lunch.
Lunch is served family-style on the wrap-around porch of Wildredo’s farm house where tables are set with checkered cloths and paper napkins. His “anti-stress cocktails” are quite legendary in these parts and are the first thing to be served. They’re an herbal concoction of yerba buena, mint, basil and anise with some coconut milk and Cuban rum to taste.
The first course is a hearty vegetable soup with chunks of pumpkin and all sorts of veggies. I filled up on two bowls, not realizing how much more was to come. Next the tables begins to fill with vegetables and side dishes in every color of the rainbow. From beets, to tamales, rice, fritters, grilled pineapple, it’s a never-ending parade of plates.
And finally the really gluttonous platters arrive. Piles of pork just sliced from the pig that was roasting earlier. Crispy skin, juicy meat, it will slip you into a food coma of the best kind.
TIPS: Avoid going there when tour buses are in the driveway. You’ll have a more intimate meal. And two, go incredibly hungry!
Special thanks to Cuba Travel Services for arranging this adventure to Cuba.