When chef Michelle Bernstein described Miami’s lunch counter croquetas as “leaden”, I hated to admit that she was right. Made of pureed ham, chicken, or beef, they’re often left to sit out in glass cases for hours. Even if you’re lucky enough to come across a freshly fried batch, it’s more ham spread than creamy béchamel. On a recent trip home, I had one from an otherwise good bakery filled with a flourescent paste that could not have possibly been found in nature. Sold in large trays for family parties, the tiny versions pack an even weightier punch. Still, I haven’t given up on them yet. Using any excuse to visit the crowded coffee stands and bakeries that dot Miami, they’re usually the first thing I ask for when I land and the last thing I pick up on my way to the departure gate. Read more
Posts from the ‘Miami’ Category
After a wonderful fall break, I thought it was appropriate to wake up my blog the same way I wake up myself – with a cortadito. Landing in Paris was exhilarating, tinged with pink and capped with gold, the city smells like butter. From the first moment, I wanted to go in twenty directions at once. Exhausted but not wanting to lose the day, we went to the closest cafe for a quick lunch before heading out. Ordering in broken French, our waiter responded in broken Spanish. We weren’t getting very far until he hit on exactly what we were looking for – a cortado. Relieved to be understood, I finally felt awake. Read more
My sister Carmen has been asking me to make bistec empanizado for this blog for awhile. When I wrote about masitas de puerco, my favorite thing to order from Cuban menus, it seemed only fair to write about hers. Mine came with black beans and hers didn’t, so I’d always pass her my frijoles negros. This week we made a different deal – I’d finally make the bistec empanizado if she’d write the post. Here it is and I’m sure you’ll agree it was well worth the beans.
When I was little, the center of the universe seemed to exist at Casablanca. A bustling Cuban café on 8th street in the then sleepy little town of Miami. When my grandfather took me for lunch, I loved sitting at the counter where the vinyl covered, revolving stools gave me a 360 degree view of the action. When my parents took me at night, the same café was usually empty which gave my sister and I the odd run of the place. We’d feed quarters into the jukebox and play Donna Summer songs as my father talked about what life would have been like/could be like for us in Cuba. I don’t know exactly why I chose Donna Summer. I wasn’t crazy about disco (I didn’t want to dress like a that when I grew up) but there was something about her voice that kept me coming back. It was lonely and defiant. It spoke of another world I couldn’t possibly understand at that age. The boldness of it drew me in and it was endless. Very much like the breaded steak on my plate that I always ordered for dinner. Read more
Today I took my first steps in what I hope will end with the triumphant crossing New York City marathon finish line and not sleeping through the Staten Island start, crying on the 59th Street bridge, or passing out in Central Park’s closing stretch. Looking ahead the long Saturday training runs I have planned between now and November, I decided to play around with fresh fruit batidos (also known licuados or preparados depending on the accent). Read more
I collect links and articles for my monthly catching up posts every day so it’s not until I sit down to go through them all that a theme emerges. The New York Times City Room covered the struggles of two neighborhood restaurants. Due in part to the efforts of community leaders and a last minute fundraiser, Coqui Mexicano was able to temporarily stave off eviction from their South Bronx location but Manhattanville’s La Floridita, one of the last Cuban restaurants left in the area, was forced to close for repairs and faces an uncertain future. The Village Voice interview with Fernando Ruiz of the Tortilleria Nixtamal, which is doing well, was about mistakes, misconceptions, and underappreciated ingredients — a more interesting read but still. Even news that Rick Bayless would be preparing the state dinner President Felipe Calderón of Mexico stirred up some controversy both before and after. On a brighter note, Carolina González wrote for the Daily News about the prominence of women chefs and restaurateurs like Zarela Martínez and Sue Torres in high-end Mexican cuisine. I thought May would farmer’s markets and spring blossoms but there were some shadows too.
Before the official start of summer’s grilling, beaching, hazy half days, I wanted to thank everyone who’s been reading and commenting with my first cookbook giveaway. Since its release last year, Michelle Bernstein’s Cuisine à Latina has become one of my favorites. Raised in Miami by her food-loving Argentinian and Jewish family , she’s become known for the contemporary Latin cuisine with Spanish, South American, Caribbean and Mexican accents that she serves at Michy’s and Sra. Martinez in Miami and Palm Beach’s MB. The book is full of great recipes to make at home for anyone who’s home is always elsewhere. To win a copy, let me know what dish your most looking forward to having this summer. Leave a comment here (one entry per person) between today and June 4th midnight (EST) when I’ll pick a winner at random. Read more
I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my 200th post than with a game of dominoes. Growing up Cuban, we loved playing dominoes when we were kids. Our grandparents were happy to have us quiet and entertained for a couple of hours and we were happy to swirl the clacking tiles around the table, dunking oreos in milk between matches, and enjoying the late of hours of a Sunday afternoon. Then we got older and everything changed. Read more
If you ask Miamians for their favorite sandwich counter, they’ll often mention the Latin American Cafeteria on Coral Way. The fact that it’s been closed for almost a decade doesn’t seem to have diminished its popularity. While researching the Cuban sandwich, I had to deliver the sad news to friends that the original Latin American no longer existed. People were so surprised that I had to wonder how many of us had driven down Coral Way and projected the giant arches and wrap-around counter onto the generic Sergio’s franchise that had taken its place. Though there are still eponymous Latin American locations throughout the city, it’s just not the same. There are many contenders for second, but it’s only what someone will settle for when they can’t get what they really want. Read more
Every year I go to Miami for few days in December and return to find that my favorite farmer’s markets have all but vanished. Like Brigadoon in Brooklyn, the courthouse square is almost barren and there’s no trace of the small but convenient, last-chance Sunday market at Carrol Gardens. Of course Union Square and Grand Army Plaza are still active, but it’s not the same. For the next few months my only choices are apples or really cold apples from the few hold out vendors left at Boro Hall. It’s one more reason to burrow away till Spring. Read more
Until recently, I rarely fried anything at home. I hated the smell, the splatter, the guilt. When I started writing about Latin American food, I knew I couldn’t avoid it much longer and finally bought a deep fryer. While it produces perfect batches of churros, empanadas and buñuelos, it’s the SUV of fryers requiring such a massive amount of oil that I keep it parked most of the time. It wasn’t practical for smaller, any-night batches of plantains. Maduros I can handle. Overly ripe, they caramelize Read more