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Forbidden Fruit No Longer: Exploring the Tastes of Cuba

Global Feature
#0826
By: Elizabeth Winslow
Forbidden Fruit No Longer: Exploring the Tastes of Cuba

With travel restrictions lifted, millions of Americans will finally have the opportunity to discover why Cuba is hot, hot, hot! A short hop from the United States, there's nowhere in the world quite like the capital city of Havana, with its faded glamour, colonial architecture, vintage cars, romantic music, cool mojitos and tropical cuisine.

Many things about the country, including its food traditions, might surprise you. A true melting pot, Cuban cuisine derives from a lively mix of Spanish, African and Caribbean influences, and visitors will find plenty of tastes to explore. Think fresh seafood, Cuban tamales, grilled meats with mojo and tropical fruit. Cuba is an island of sensual delights. Pastel buildings glow in the golden sun, and around every corner you'll meet music, laughter, dancing, drifting cigar smoke, and the spicy, enticing scent of home cooking.

 

For travelers looking for vividly authentic, homemade food, paladares—independent, family-run restaurants in private homes—offer an opportunity to get up close and personal with the roots of Cuban gastronomy. In spaces that range from humble fishing cottages to grand villas, you might sample rustic Ropa Vieja or elegantly plated Lobster Tacos, followed by pineapple candied in a delicate cinnamon-sugar syrup. While walking the broad esplanade of El Malecón or exploring the twisting streets of La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), keep an eye open for street food vendors. A pressed Cuban sandwich filled with roasted pork and tangy pickles, or crispy spiced churros served alongside thick hot chocolate might be some of the best bites of your trip. Cumin-scented Papa Rellenos are another must-try you'll be craving long after you return home.

 

Follow in the footsteps of Hemingway and pull up a stool at the birthplace of the mojito, the bohemian La Bodeguita del Medio, where you can chase your toasted, spice-dusted plantains with the iconic mint and rum drink. Papa Hemingway enjoyed his daiquiri at La Floridita, fancier digs where today you can enjoy your own cocktail accompanied by elegant lobster enchiladas or the Cazuelita Colonial, a hearty stew of mixed seafood with supposed aphrodisiac and hangover-curing powers.

 

 

Hungry to recreate the flavors of Cuba in your own kitchen? Get started with the carefully curated flavors of Spice Islands® spices, like Picadillo. It makes for a quick weeknight exploration of the Cuban flavor profile: ground beef meets oregano, cumin and green olives in a rich tomato sauce, with raisins bringing a subtle sweetness. Serve alongside black beans, rice and fried plantains, listen closely, and you just might hear strains of the Buena Vista Social Club wafting through your kitchen window on a sultry breeze.

Elizabeth Winslow is a writer, food blogger, teacher and entrepreneur in Austin, Texas. She is a regular contributor to Edible Austin and creates compelling content for brands both large and small. She has an M.A. in Literature from the University of Texas at San Antonio and teaches cooking classes with Kitchen Underground. Winslow + co

Spice Islands® spices deliver high quality, authentic flavors from all over the world so you can put the most delicious meals on your table.

 

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