Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My Adventure in Cuba: City to Countryside

One of my most memorable weeks of 2015 was when I traveled to Cuba! I had an amazing trip and I want to share it with you. In October I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience and recommend you take the opportunity to learn about Cuban culture first hand if you ever get the chance. 

As an American, I always thought a trip to Cuba would be completely forbidden. Well, it is not if you travel with a licensed cultural exchange group. I signed up on a culinary trip with Cultural Contrast and Guillermo Pernot the Chef-Partner of Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar.

Old Havana is exactly how it is depicted in photos with old cars, open air restaurants, run down buildings and friendly faces. The people of Cuba were very welcoming and I felt safe walking around the streets with my mother who traveled with me. 

Each meal was a mini adventure within the trip! We were on a culinary tour and ate a lot while also learning about how the food was sourced and prepared. Food is a large part of the Cuban culture. Before arriving in Old Havana, I really didn't know that much about how the people of Cuba lived day to day- or meal to meal. 

Anthony Bourdain's Parts unknown episode about Cuba prepared me for what to expect when it came to authentic Cuban cuisine. I suggest watching it if you are planning a trip there soon. However, Chef Pernot knows a whole lot more about Cuban cuisine than Bourdain so we were in good hands on our trip! Just take a trip to Cuba Libre Restaurants and Rum Bars on the east coast and get a taste of his cuisine in either Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Washington D.C. or Orlando. 

Pork and Flan were the most common menu items but no two dishes were prepared exactly the same! The dish above is a pulled pork dish constructed and delicately plated with the crispy skin on top of it. 

The hotel our group stayed at was in the heart of Old Havana, Parque Central. It is a top ranked hotel and is well known for it's rooftop pool and view. There I am in the photo below admiring the surroundings on the rooftop. 

We took a day trip to the western province of Pinar Del Rio, home of Cuba’s most lush landscapes and agriculture. This was my favorite day of the entire trip because it showed me there was more to Cuba than the city of Havana! 

Lunch at the private farmhouse was the best farm-to-table meal I have ever enjoyed. Everything was sourced from the acres of land that surrounded us. The abundant of fresh vegetables and herbs was unbelievable! 

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