Thursday 25 April 2013

East meets West

In case you don’t know it yet, let me break the news: Cuca will exclusively use local products. No, we are not planning to cook Indonesian food, we have simply spent enough time on this island to understand that Indonesia has truly amazing products that we can be served in Cuca within hours of being ordered. We want to offer food that starts from freshness and pure flavor and a simple look at the traditional markets that surround us pointed us in this brave direction. Why brave? Because Kevin is quite an amateur when dealing with products like snakeskin fruit, mangosteen, kencur, rambutan, soursop, fresh seaweed, nutmeg fruit, fresh coconut and many many more I will slowly introduce you to (or if you know them, you may find interesting to read what we do with them). 

A mangosteen
More challenges we face adopting this philosophy? No butter, wine, cheese, olive oil, liqueurs, winter anything, berries, etc, etc. 

The opportunities? Many, among which to be “forced” to discover a huge range of unique ingredients truly inspirational that work amazingly well when Kevin adds his skillful western approach and develops entirely new dishes. 

And if that is not enough, the biggest recompense is the reaction of the locals (used to western chefs proud of importing absolutely everything) when we tell them we only use Indonesian ingredients: they look surprised, then they silently reflect and finally sincerely say: “Huh, thank you”. And all our efforts are instantly rewarded. 

Sunday 14 April 2013

Cuca Cocktail & Garden Lounge

One of the main experiences Cuca provides is our very special Cocktail and Garden Lounge. The restaurant is being built in a gorgeous coconut grove and we want to offer guests a chilled out space to let the hours pass by while sipping our cocktails, sharing our tapas or indulging in our desserts.

While we discuss with our architect the material and location of the islands we want to build among the grass and the coconut trees to host the seats, we also had to find the perfect furniture to fit in this very special environment. As I mentioned in my previous post, we finally found the right supplier and this week we finalized the design, material and colors for both the furniture and the cushions.

We knew that synthetic rattan was our only option as the heat and the proximity of the sea would damage any other material; but what about the design? There are dozens of suppliers in Bali but all of them have practically the same models: very square and rigid. We wanted something that feels super comfy, more organic and natural and that was not that easy to find… After finding someone capable to make it, we went into the bargaining phase that eventually took us to a comfortable agreement. Next step: the color of the rattan, that we chose based entirely on our surroundings, the dark wood color of the coconut trees. 

And final decision: the cushions. This is where we became dumbfounded. We were compelled to decide between two options: go for a canvas material that is cheap but under the strength of this sun would discolor in only weeks and when exposed to this extreme humidity would inevitably mold… or choose Sunbrella. If you haven’t heard of this brand, welcome to the universe of the highest quality performance and most comfortable fabric in the world, the Ferrari of cushions. It is so, so good that comes with a 5 years guarantee. Can you imagine a tiny outdoor cushion exposed to sun and rain, dirt and seawater, with a 5 year warranty? It is insane; like its price. Two little cushions cost the same than the entire armchair. If we are talking about a loveseat, a back and seat cushion with two small pillows… we are talking about three times the price of the loveseat! Unbelievable… it still hurts as I write. To make matters worse (or better, it depends on how you look at it), our interior designers unsurprisingly chose the most amazing patterns that in Sunbrella world translate as the most expensive ones. Now that is for sure, they are outstanding to look at and to seat on.

In summary, we are now proudly broke owners of the most amazing Garden Lounge… beautiful and irresistibly cozy. So get your calendar and start booking your dinner with us!

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Let's talk about Tuesday

By now you may know the amount of work we have in our hands, although after writing so many posts, it may look like we must be almost there. Well, our life is only getting busier! To illustrate it, let’s talk about yesterday, Tuesday.

9:00am. First stop of the day: outdoor furniture supplier. We had been checking options but mostly hoped our designers would find something interesting in Jakarta. After weeks hoping and getting nothing finalized, we contacted one more supplier here in Bali. We met them yesterday, they took us to their factory and we loved what we saw. We discussed a few changes and are now negotiating the price. You know, it is always too expensive :)

11:30am. Cuca aroma: yes, we are still working on it! After countless visits to our perfume guru, we were not yet completely satisfied so to the dismay of the expert, we stubbornly continued trying options. Finally we are extremely glad (and relieved) to announce that yesterday we got the magic potion! We almost cried from happiness when after a powerful simultaneous inhalation we looked at each other and both of us were smiling… The ingredients? Green tea, honey… and more, but the rest is a secret.

1:30pm. Bali wine: Cuca will only serve local products and the challenges fulfilling this promise are quite many… For example, what to do about the wine? Can Bali wine compete with the French one? We decided it was about time to solve this question and started tasting local wines yesterday. The outcome was superb: between sip and sip we found the perfect angle to offer these wines (since Bali wines cannot and should not be compared to any other wines) and also tasted some great options. We have more to try tomorrow so give us a bit more time and we will let you know the final outcome!

It was then way pass lunch time but we were late for the rest of our appointments so we could not stop and instead decided to sin. Our lunch: a croissant, a cinnamon roll and an ice-cream (the best we have ever tried!). I still feel guilty so I won’t comment any longer but better continue with our action day.

3:30pm. Office equipment: construction is moving fast and we had to take a bit of time to get furniture for our back office. Something simple but practical and a bit nice (I am planning to spend very long hours there…): a long shared desk, many many bookshelves and a practical glass writing board. Check!

5:30pm. Printing crisis: initially we had found Nik, who has a little printing business, worked with him on a few small jobs and loved him, but you know… the grass is always greener on the other side… so we decided to try working with a huge printer. Take note: bigger is not always better :) Yesterday we went back to Nik, asked for forgiveness and renewed our vows. Huge day for both parties because we finalized our colors on all printing materials and confirmed many, many more printing jobs. Will share them with you as soon as they are ready!

7:30pm. Indonesian coffee: we must admit that this was never a problem. Indonesian coffee is fantastic, we are big fans. Yesterday our mission was simply to decide on which variety was the best among many good ones. We had found a boutique shop where coffee is local, roasted daily and superb and those are the qualities we want for Cuca, the best. We met with a great barista there who took the time to explain to us the varieties, their tasting notes, their own recommended blends… We left knowing we had found the right supplier, although not cheap. But worth it.

By the time we left coffee heaven, we realized we should have started the day this way instead of ending it with coffee because it was already 9pm and sleeping was not going to be easy. You see, every step of the way is a lesson we learn…