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Paladares: Cuban Cuisine Redux

Communist rule in Cuba has done little to foster the development of its rich and diverse cuisine, but now a determined group of entrepreneurs is changing that, offering intimate and innovative dining options in their own homes, called paladares.

Paladar comes from the word for “palate” in both Spanish and Portuguese, and is an homage to a beloved heroine of wildly popular Brazilian soap opera Anything Goes who makes a rags-to-riches transition from a lowly food vendor on the beach to owner of an entire chain of restaurants.

The first wave of Cuba’s paladares appeared during the economic crisis of the 1990s, but heavy government restrictions meant that few paladares were able to survive.  In 2011, however, these restrictions were lifted and a new crop looks set to be a major force in Cuba’s emerging and very dynamic food scene.   Paladares range from exclusive upscale eateries with bars and live music to basic snack bars, since regulations still demand that the paladares are located in the owner’s home.  Food supply within Cuba remains unsteady and paladar owners are not entitled to wholesale prices enjoyed by State-run restaurants.  Despite these restrictions, Cuba’s entrepreneurs are forging ahead with new interpretations and twists on traditional Cuban and regional cuisine. 

Classic Cuban cuisine is a typically Caribbean fusion of many different cultures and flavors, predominantly influenced by Spain and African staples.   Along with the ubiquitous rice and beans, Cuban cuisine relies heavily on the island’s plentiful seafood and root vegetables and tubers.  Pork is by far the most popular meat, particularly in Cuba’s legendary pressed sandwiches.   Cumin, oregano, garlic, peppers, raisins, olives, tomatoes, cinnamon, and citrus are the accent flavors and spices in stews, soups, and Cuba’s signature Mojo sauce. 

Cuba’s principal agricultural product is sugarcane, which takes a starring role in many of Cuba’s legendary cocktails, such as the mojito or Cuba Libre.

Sampling these culinary delights and experiencing the warmth of Cuban hospitality at a paladar is an unforgettable way to round off your visit the island nation.  While advertising is still in its infancy in Cuba, tour guides and hotel staff are excellent sources of up-to-date information.  Because seating is limited, reservations are essential.

Alexander+Roberts are delighted to introduce all Americans to Cuba with a range of people-to-people itineraries including our history making Cuba by Sea Cruise on the Panorama II!

Posted: 7/6/2015 12:32:45 PM by Alexander + Roberts