Tag Archives: Cuban Food

Cuba Libre ***

cuba libre
10 S. 2nd Street (2nd & Market)
Philadelphia, PA 19106


This past month featured Restaurant Week here in Philadelphia, and I had the opportunity to check out Cuba Libre with a couple of friends. The beauty about restaurant week is that you get to sample multiple courses from a  prix fixe menu at a reduced price. In this case, we were each allowed to choose two appetizers, one entree, and one dessert for $35. But before we even had the opportunity to look at the food menu, we were distracted by the longwinded cocktail list, which includes 14 uniquely flavored mojitos!

Feeling pressured to try at least one of these specialty cocktails, we decide to order the Classic Mojito and sample it amongst the table. The mojito was  fabulous but definitely not something that should be in conjunction with a heavy meal, and so we opted for a pitcher of Red Sangria to drink with our dinner ($37.50 and we got 8 glasses from it). The sangria was good, but nothing extraordinary (it is also not very strong, as 3 full glasses did not get my 100-lb self even remotely tipsy!).

Cuba Libre Red Sangria

But onto the food, which is what we came for in the first place! To start, our server brought us a nice basket of bread with an o-u-t-r-a-g-e-o-u-s mango butter. This light, almost whipped, butter transformed the bread into a sweet french toast-like dessert. Honestly, the flavored butter was probably my favorite item brought to the table all evening. It was memorable and unique.

Cuba Libre Bread and Mango Butter

For my first appetizer, I ordered the Pulpo con Berenjenaswhich is a truffle and citrus marinated baby octopus that is then grilled and served atop a Haitian eggplant salad.  The octopus was cooked perfectly and wasn’t rubbery in the least bit. The flavors were all well-balanced and the portion size was perfect, leaving me wanting one more forkful.

Cuba Libre Octopus

The Eight Hour Guava BBQ Ribs, on the other hand, were not as good as I had hoped they would be. I had high expectations for these “award winning” St. Louis cut pork ribs, glazed in a Guava BBQ Sauce with jicama-Sambal salad, but they were VERY fatty with hardly any meat at all. Very disappointing. Sad face.

Cuba Libre Guava BBQ Ribs

Others at the table ordered the Empanadas stuffed with pulled pork, roasted poblano pepper, and charred tomatoes;


as well as the Sopa de Frijoles Negros, which was sweet rather than spicy; and finally the signature Cuban Tostones, which are twice-fried green plantains with a garlic-mojo dipping sauce. I thought the tostones and mojo sauce were both bland compared to those I’ve had at other Cuban restaurants.

Cuba Libre Tostones

Sensing that the Cuban food not up to par with what I had grown accustomed to in Miami, I decided to deviate from a traditional Cuban dish for my entree. Instead, I ordered El Pollo del Solar, which is a lime-garlic marinated chicken breast with caramelized onions & steamed kale, served with a black bean croqueta and a sweet and sour mango gravy.  Technically, the chicken was cooked perfectly–juicy and succulent, but flavor-wise the dish was really lacking. I didn’t think the chicken was well seasoned, in fact I couldn’t detect any garlic notes and the black bean croqueta was very, very dry. Not even the mango gravy could restore it’s moisture content. The kale on the other hand, was very soft and delicious, as well as the mango gravy that bathed it.

Cuba Libre Pollo del Solar

Everyone else at the table ordered the traditional Arroz Con Pollo, which is saffron-scented rice, combined with boneless chicken thighs, wild mushrooms, green peas, Manzanilla olives and a hard-boiled egg. Garnishing the dish was an asparagus, palacio chorizo, and roasted Piquillo pepper salad, finished with a splash of Estrella Damm beer. The dish was enormous, and had beautiful presentation with the bright yellow color of the saffron, and the contrasting green of the peas and asparagus. I stole a couple of forkfuls from my friend Liz, and enjoyed them thoroughly, although it is not a traditional Cuban Arroz con Pollo. It was much lighter but very tasty in a unique way.

Cuba Libre Arroz con Pollo

For dessert, I (predictably) ordered the Tres Leches de Caramelo, which is a vanilla sponge cake soaked in three-dulce de leche flavored milks with a mocha moose.  I am a tres leches connoisseur, and this one was right up to par.

Cuba Libre Tres Leches

The other dessert that was ordered was the Dulce de Leche Ice Cream. Ice cream is ice cream. It was good!

Cuba Libre Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Overall, I’m not in a hurry to go back to Cuba Libre for dinner. But, I am very interested in going back for a night of salsa dancing and mojitos (and maybe some bread with mango butter?!?!). Having spent 5 years living in Miami, I got accustomed to traditional Cuban food that was priced insanely cheap. This being said, I find it difficult to spend an exorbitant amount of money on Cuban cuisine that doesn’t satisfy my craving for the classic dishes. The restaurant atmosphere was very cool though and the mojitos are worth the trip.

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Filed under Bars, Buck's County, Cocktails, Dessert, International Restaurants, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Restaurants

{ Cilantro Lime Fiesta Rice }

When I was younger, my sister and I would play the “soup” game, combining all sorts of random food items into one container and daring the other to eat the concoction. Too young to understand flavor combinations, these “soups” were usually volatile (although we learned that two delicious things consumed together don’t always equal one magical new thing….just like two beautiful people don’t always make a pretty baby). I haven’t given up on my childish games though, and today–at the age of 22– I revisited the game of “soup.”

The result? This cilantro lime fiesta rice.

It has all of my favorite ingredients, and now 22 years of flavor expertise. It is perfect for a Mexican side dish (fajitas perhaps), a burrito rice filling, and of course, a base for Ropa Vieja. Buen provecho!

{ Ingredients }

  • 3 cups of cooked white rice
  • 1 vine tomato, small dice
  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 jalapeño, small dice
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 tablespoon fresh scallions, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Kosher salt to taste

{ To Make the Rice } Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix well. If the rice is dry add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some additional lime juice.


Filed under Recipes

{ Cuban Ropa Vieja }

The beef in Argentina is ri-freaking-diculous. Its tender, juicy, and requires nothing except a little salt and charcoal to taste divine (and this is coming from an au poirve/bernaise enthusiast) So why is it so much better, you ask? Because the the cows in Argentina roam about in pastures and feed on grass all day. Unlike the cattle in the US, which are kept in tiny pens, unable to move around, being force fed steroid-enhanced grain day in and day out. Of course thats not to say you can’t find grass fed beef in the US at all, but it’s usually that little package of meat in the Wholefood’s fridge thats like double the cost of all the others. You stare at it for like 10 minutes straight, debating whether or not it will really taste $15 dollars better than the other cuts of meat. Ahhh screw it, you’d rather get 2 for 1 drinks at happy hour with that money….back in the case it goes.

But in Argentina there is no meat grade hierarchy, it’s all good. You just have to decide which cut of meat is your favorite– a task that is easier said than done since they utilize a lot more of parts of the cow than we do in the US. Sometimes, I think they try to use too many parts…I found brain to the right of my filet mignon yesterday…ewe!

Anyways, while I am here, I am attempting to make every beef recipe that is in my pinterest “grub” file (aka my “to cook” list) because I know that it is going to be damn good. Recipe number one: Ropa Vieja….a little tribute to Casa Larios in Miami, which I happen miss more than anything.

Ropa vieja is shredded flank steak stewed in tomato sauce with peppers and onions, usually served over a bed of rice with black beans (and gobs of hot sauce in my case!). So fa, this dish has not made an appearance in Argentina, and so tonight I decided to cook it myself. The meat was very was to cook, although the shredding takes a little elbow work (I enlisted the help of my roommate since I had to shred 1.1 kilos!). And instead of serving this over plain white rice, I made a lime cilantro rice with corn, beans, and tomatoes. Top the dish with a little sliced avocado and some fresh green onions, and disfruta los sabores de Cuba!

{ Ingredients for Ropa Vieja }

  • 2 1/2 pounds flank steak (or 1.1 kilos of entraña if your in south america!)
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 onions, 1 diced for sauce and one halved for broth
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 hot pepper, diced
  • 2 cups of canned diced tomato and their juices
  • 1 cup beef broth (from cooking meat)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, as desired

{ To Make the Ropa Vieja }

Place the flank steak, the onion, the carrot, and the celery in a large stock pot and cover the contents with water.

Add some kosher salt to to the water and bring the water to a boil. Then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for an hour or two, until the meat is tender.

Remove the meat from the pot and allow to cool. Then using two forks, or your finger tips, shred the beef and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium high heat. Sautée the chopped onion, garlic, onions, and peppers until the onion is translucent. Add the cumin and cayenne pepper, stirring to combine. Add the tomatoes, beef broth, and kosher salt to desired taste (I also add a couple dashes of tobasco sauce, since I like my food spicy).

Add the shredded beef to the pan and continue cooking for another hour on a low heat. The consistency should be thicker than soup, more like a stew. Use tomato paste to thicken the sauce and extra beef broth to thin it out.

To serve Laddle the Ropa Vieja over plain white rice, or my cilantro lime rice, and top with sliced avocado. Or use the meat to make a delicious burrito filling, similar to a barbacoa.

**Remember: Ropa Vieja, like all soups and stews, develops more flavor the longer it sits. So this dish will taste better the following day, making it an ideal pre-made party food.


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Casa Larios ****

Ropa Vieja served with Black Beans and Rice

5859 SW 73rd Street
South Miami, Fl 33143


Today was the big day—my wisdom teeth have been removed and I have embarked on my depressing all-liquid diet, which equates to a permanent state of “fee-fi-fo-fum.” But even doped up on Percocet, with swollen cheeks that resemble a chipmunk going into hibernation, I still managed to get my butt to the grocery store today. I’m a hardcore foodie. My dinner, consisting of plain vanilla yogurt (no granola, no fresh fruit, no nothing), has left me shockingly unsatisfied and so I’m hoping that blogging about delicious foods might help satiate my hunger!
So let’s talk Cuban food! One of my favorite Cuban restaurants in Miami is called Casa Larios, which is located near Sunset Plaza. I’m usually the only English-speaking Gringa in the place, so its definitely authentic (and slightly intimidating, for me!). Look around the large indoor/outdoor restaurant and you will find tables of both older men and businessmen sitting around and smoking cigars over Corditos. As well as impeccably dressed women (most in pearls and sky high heels) sipping on white wine and gossiping with friends (it seems that no one in Miami works). You will also always undoubtedly find a group of Cuban policemen congregating around the door, drinking coffee and eatingcroquettas. It’s a fun scene for people watching, but the food is also outrageous…in a good way!
I love to start my meal with a basket of Mariquitas and Mojo dipping sauce. For those of you who don’t know, Mariquitas are fried plantain chips and mojo is a delicious blend of garlic, lemon, and vinegar (warning: be careful when consuming on date!). The combination of the sweet plantains with the contrasting acidic garlic sauce is perfection. And although it is not a low-cal appetizer, it’s a totally pleasurable way to consume your calories. Ohhh, and I almost for about the bread that is brought to the table, which is absolutely A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. It is warm, and light, and fluffy on the inside, yet flakey and golden on the outside. Put it this way, there are only two restaurants in Miami where I have been wowed by the bread, and those restaurants are: (1) Le Bouchon in the Grove, and (2) Casa Larios. The bread is really the highlight of the meal for me, and it is brought out in abundance with room-temperature butter packets that practically spread themselves on the heavenly dough. As author Elizabeth Gilbert might say, you need to go to Casa Larios with a “no carb left behind” kind of mentality–this is not the place to be tallying your Weight Watcher’s points!
For my entree, I usually order either the Pechuga La Plancha (simple chicken breast) or theRopa Vieja(shredded beef in a light tomato sauce), which is a special on Mondays. The Ropa Vieja is so incredible in my opinion, because I had never tried anything like it before coming to Miami. The meat is stewed with onions and other herbs in a flavorful tomato-based wine sauce, and then it is shredded to serve. The result is a very tender meat and pleasing rich dish. I put the meat over a mound of white rice and mix in some velvety black beans with a dash of Tabasco….Ooooo, it is so good! And Cubans make the best white rice…the grain is larger than Jasmine rice, which makes it pillowy and then they add butter (which makes everything better) and salt so that the rice has flavor when tasted on its own. It is something that I cannot replicate on my own at home, so I look forward to it every time that I go. The Pechuga La Plancha is a very simple pan seared chicken breast, but they cook it with butter (like everything else at this place) so it tastes like delicious comfort food. I always wondered why my chicken never tasted as good at home, but then I realized that butter was the secret ingredient and I’m too health conscious to prepare mine that way on my own. I always order my chicken with a side of black beans and rice, and usually Maduros too (fried plantains). It is a simple but classic Cuban meal that I have come to love and crave on a weekly basis.
The only thing that I did not like at Casa Larios were the Papas Rellenas , which are stuffed and then fried potatoes. When I ordered them they were brought out below room temperature, which reminded me of like the frozen Costco party appetizers…ewe. I’m pretty sure that they aren’t made to order and it was a bad experience that put me off to them completely. Everything else that I have tried has been great though. Go to Casa Larios…just don’t try to order a Cuabn coffee to blend in if you’re not used to drinking them! Benn there, done that, and I’m pretty sure that it was unleaded. I can actually compare my first Cuban coffee to my first shot of Limoncello…both made hair grow on my chest.

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Filed under Miami Restaurants