Friday, September 30, 2011

Little Havana Culinary Tour

I was recently invited to go on a Little Havana Food Tour from Miami Culinary Tours. Little Havana isn't exactly local for me, but it just so happened that I was in South Florida on the weekend that the tour was happening. Little Havana was mostly an unexplored neighborhood of Miami to me. I had driven along Flagler on a couple of occasions, but never been to Calle Ocho, so getting a guided tour to both the neighborhood history and food was wonderful.

The tour started out at a couple of the local art galleries, and then it was time for the first food stop. Casa Panza was one of the only Spanish restaurants in Little Havana, and once seated, huge amounts of food was immediately brought to the table. First up was patatas aioli, which was sort of like a Spanish version of potato salad. This was followed by a bowl of chorizo, and then a plate of fried chickpeas.

Next up was a tour of a Cigar Factory, then more food from El Pub Restaurant. After meeting the 85-year old owner of the restaurant, food was quickly served.

El Pub served two dishes that are apparently Cuban staples. Black bean soup was served first, then several plantain omelets were brought to the table. The plantain omelet were completely new to me and I wasn't sure how I would like the sweet plantains mixed with the savory eggs. It turned out that this was a really good combination.

What visit to Little Havana would be complete without a Cuban sandwich? Our next stop was Exquisito Restaurant where they had several sandwiches waiting for us to eat on the go. This was as classic as Cuban sandwiches come with ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread.

Next stop was Yisell Bakery for some guava filled pasteles. Can't go wrong with guava jam inside of a flaky crust. In fact, I actually returned here after the tour and bought a few guava and cheese pasteles to snack on for the ride home. Can't beat the price of $0.50 each...

The pastry was followed by a stop into Los Pinarenos Fruteria. This fruit stand sold all sorts of tropical fruit, everything from guava to mamey to these Hawaiian bananas.

We were there to try some freshly juiced sugarcane called guarapo. Stalks of sugarcane were fed through a machine and lots of juice came pouring out the other side. This was my first time trying sugarcane juice and I was a bit surprised at the flavor. The guarapo was nowhere as sweet as I was expecting...

A couple of city parks were toured in between some of the food stops, including Domino Park where a large congregation of old men (and a few women) were all participating in very intense games of dominoes and chess. Another park featured a memorial to the people that died in the Bay of Pigs, although I was actually more fascinated by the animal remains scattered around a nearby tree where Santeria is practiced. Back to the food though, our final stop was at El Christo Restaurant for some flan. I'm not a huge fan of plain flan, but we were served cheese flan. The cheese flan was somewhere between a normal flan and a cheesecake, topped with a sweet, syrupy sauce. Really tasty!

After enjoying our flan, the food tour of Little Havana concluded. I had a great time and definitely learned a whole lot about the history of Little Havana and tried foods that I probably wouldn't have tried otherwise. I've heard from quite a few people, as well as from experience, that Little Havana can be somewhat intimidating for non-Spanish speakers since so little English is spoken in the neighborhood. The Little Havana food tour took care of any potential communication issues and I got so much more out of my exploration of the neighborhood then I would of on my own. Totally recommended...

Be sure to check out Miami Culinary Tours online and read all about this tour as well as some of the the other tours they offer:
Website: Miami Culinary Tours
Twitter: @MIACulinaryTour

Casa Panza on UrbanspoonEl Pub on UrbanspoonExquisito Restaurant on UrbanspoonYisell Bakery Cafeteria on UrbanspoonLos Pinarenos Fruteria on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Please review your comments - that place is bad

Alen Laughton said...

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Alen Laughton said...

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Alen Laughton said...

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Jennifer Clark said...

Thanks for sharing nice blog...
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