The bustle of downtown Havana
Exactly this time two years ago I was cycling around Cuba (sans padded bike pants – something I definitely don’t recommend) and taking in the lush countryside, communist signs (of which there are many) and salsa beats coming off every street. It was one of the most memorable travel adventures I’ve ever had.
Doing my best to fit in with the locals
Cycling through the lush mountains of Pinar del Rio
I felt compelled to go before it was too late. Before the Cadillacs disappeared and the Castro’ had their last days in office. That sentiment is even more relevant now that the Cubans and Americans have politically kissed and made up and the borders are opening. The country is fast catching up with the rest of the world, whether that’s for better or worse.
You can’t miss the socialist propaganda…
… or Che
The legacy of that trip is still with me now, mainly in the form of salsa dancing which I’ve taken to like $2 mojitos (only in Cuba). I can’t say I brought back a truckload of recipes and culinary inspiration as I have from trips to Europe, Asia and Mexico (unless you count variations on the mojito), but I certainly embraced the food offering in Cuba, if only because it is so unique.
My upteenth ham and cheese sandwich
So what was the national dish of Cuba? Well after two weeks I surmised that it was the toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Because they were EVERYWHERE. Every hotel, every street corner, and the only item of food one could buy at the airport.
Delicious stewed beans and yuca
Of course when staying with locals in a casa particulare, you are treated like royalty, to the best standard that your host can afford. Having a casa license is like gold in Cuba and hosts are careful not to step a foot wrong. So a meal at a casa is a showcase of the best food the host has access to. The meals are humble but tasty. Read More
A first class daiquiri from El Floridita, Havana
My last post was all about drinking food which segues nicely into the topic of drinking itself.
I adore cocktails. Literally love ‘em. It was quite convenient when I worked for a hospitality company that owned a dozen cocktail bars because drinking was technically work. Now it falls squarely back into the self-funded leisure category but that hasn’t dampened my spirits in the slightest.
It’s impossible to highlight all my cocktail shenanigans because there have been so very many. Plus I’m not always in a lucid enough state to remember them all. Thank god for iphones.
The bar at El Floridita in Havana
Possibly my greatest cocktail memory ever happened in Havana two years ago. After a painful 35 hour journey involving three stop overs and very little sleep, I arrived in Havana on a Saturday evening. En route to my hotel I spotted ‘El Floridita’ out of the corner of my eye and knew instantly my impending plans to sleep would be shafted.
Abel works his magic
”My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita”
noted the famous alcoholic, I mean author, Ernest Hemingway and who was I to argue? My new friend Lena and I got comfy at the bar and ended up spending hours there. The daiquiris were sensational – did I mention this is where they were invented?
The signature Floridita Daiquiri blends crushed ice, sugar, rum, lime and maraschino liqueur and the result is an intense frothy delight. They’re served with a bottomless plate of highly addictive plantain chips which create the perfect ballast to support all that rum. Read More