Food in Cuba, Part One: Oh, Those Tourist Traps: Hotels and Restaurants

3 Feb

There are so many things that make Cuba Cuba. Our website, farmcuba.org, only highlighted a fraction of the amazing things we saw. Although the website spotlighted the farm we visited, we experienced many other scenes just as vivid as what you see there.

So much of our project was about food, which is the end product of the majority of what was produced on the farm. Being tourists, we got to experience the best of what Cuba has to offer. This is the first of two posts on the food we ate in Cuba, this one focusing on the touristy, hotel meals we had. After the jump are some of the things I (or we) ate.

Cuban PaellaOur hotel had a paella restaurant on the first floor. Most of the hotels we saw all had a restaurant that opened onto the streets, and many of our meals came from hotels in Old Havana, the area of the city where we stayed. This paella was served on our first night in town. We all noticed how much shrimp they gave you — and there were even seconds if you wanted more.

Cuban Hotel BreakfastHotel breakfasts in other countries are often strange because they mix in American  staples like cereal with traditional local favorites. There’s pound cake in the foreground, with ham salad with noodles, top right, followed by a type of stuffed cabbage. The little donut was actually very hard, like a biscotti. The flapjacks on the left, topped with a piece of pineapple, were a constant at every breakfast and were, judging by our group’s fondness for them, the best thing offered. They were sweeter, smaller and lighter than American pancakes, but I’d argue more delicious.

The next couple of pictures were taken at the best restaurant we ate at, a hotel around the corner from where we stayed.

Anchovy and Raisin Bruschetta

 

 

This was so simple and so delicious: anchovy and raisin bruschetta.

 

 

 

SONY DSC

 

 

This photo, taken by Rachel, is what I believe to be her appetizer: something with chorizo, I’m sure.

 

Cuban Shrimp Scampi

 

 

 

 

 

This was Ben’s shrimp scampi. Lots of shrimp!

 

 

 

layered appetizer

 

 

 

Also taken by Ben, this is one hell of an appetizer.

 

 

 

 

Hazelnut Rum

 

 

 

Neff got this hazelnut rum because he had never heard of it before. This might be everyone’s new favorite drink. Picture by Ben.

 

 

 

salmon in lemon sauce

 

 

I got adventurous — smoked salmon in a lemon sauce. The sauce would go perfect over a cheesecake.

 

 

kebobs

 

 

 

Anna got kebobs.

 

 

 

chocolate cake

 

 

Alexandra and I split a slice of chocolate cake. That is not a french fry.

 

 

 

We ate at a restaurant Hemingway frequented. Because we were a group, our meal was already set — and like a few of our meals, it came with drinks! Some came with mojitos (I unfortunately do not have any pictures of the many we drank), but here we had blue curacao (?) and little fried herring to chew on with our bread. Our drink options were often water (gas or no gas — that’s seltzer or plain to Americans), beer or soda. Yes, everything was the same price, so it was often a tossup.

One of our biggest surprises was the discovery that many restaurants ran out of food. This happened to us at least three times — waiters had to come back after we ordered to say there wasn’t enough chicken for two dishes, or they ran out of shrimp. This always caused a mad scrambling to figure out what could actually be ordered, and much confusion when it came time for the bill. Despite primarily serving tourists (Cuba is very segregated this way — tourists are restricted to where they can go and have one currency devoted to them), restaurants didn’t have the money or the resources to stock up on items, and I assume it’s better to not go over estimates for fear of wasted money — or just the plain fact that they only had the money for a certain quota of items. Although Americans have seldom encountered a restaurant running out of a main item, this is commonplace and highlights how much of a tight culture, economically speaking, Cuba has.

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One Response to “Food in Cuba, Part One: Oh, Those Tourist Traps: Hotels and Restaurants”

  1. Sherna Berger Gluck March 5, 2016 at 5:37 am #

    the website you created for the farm is fabulous! Muchisimas gracias

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