“If we are only going to be sampling food, will there be enough for us to eat?”
“The reviews say that there’s going to be plenty of food”
“Sure, but you always eat enough for two people, what if you get hungry again?
“We are still going to get that Cubano though right? So I’ll be ok”
That was how a brief conversation between my husband and I unfolded, on a recent trip to the sunshine state of Florida (our first time there). We had spent much of our time in and around Orlando, but found enough time to squeeze into our schedules to head down to Miami. We wanted to check out South Beach (SoBe to locals) too, but we only had a few hours. So what were we to do? I’m an avid food blogger with an almost morbid passion for food, so enter Miami Culinary Tours! And I wasn’t going to leave Miami without eating a Cubano Sandwich either. I had just recently watched the movie Chef, after all.
Grace, our tour guide, was fantastic! She had so much knowledge to share about the place, the people, the buildings and most importantly the food, and her passion for all of that truly enhanced our experience. I learnt so much more in those two and a half hours than I could have any other way. For starters, I didn’t know that Argentinians typically start a meal with something sweet and that Churros were even better when they were a little chewy. And that’s exactly how we started our tour. My preference for how I like to eat churros has forever changed.
At Bolivar, we had Passion fruit ceviche, beef and potato empanada and a refajo colombiana drink, which is a mix of beer and cream soda, and that’s what they serve instead of water, which they top up for you throughout your meal. Now that’s a custom I can absolutely get on board with.
I learnt a lot about mother dough at Block’s Pizza Deli where we had Panouzzo with spinach, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and homemade pesto. Now I’m inspired to make my own mother dough!
Throughout the tour, we had Beef ropa vieja, plantain chips and garlic mojo sauce, Moroccan chicken and ended things with authentic Italian gelato.
The establishments we visited varied from fine-dining to hole-in-the-wall type restaurants and the attention to detail and service were just as great in each place. As someone who loves to play with flavours and experiment with different types of cuisine, I learnt so much, which I’ve been applying to all of my cooking ever since I got back. The tour inspired me to make sofrito from scratch (recipe below) and dulce de leche at home. It taught me how to appreciate the history of certain foods, inspired me to learn more about where the things we eat come from, and how to combine different food cultures and their diverse influences in the food I make.
Our day in SoBe ended with a Cubano sandwich and boy, what a way it was to cap that tour! It’s the epitome of a culture, a region, and how simple and fresh ingredients come together in unique ways to make something that tastes incredible! I have recreated that sandwich (with my own twist) several times at home now and I’ll be sharing that recipe on my blog soon too.
I’m so glad that I get to share this wonderful experience with you all, through the “Out of the Kitchen” series from Bon Appetit. It’s amazing how much we learn and grow through unique experiences like this when we wander out of our own kitchen.
- 2 large red bell peppers
- ½ of a large sweet onion
- 6-8 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup crushed or finely diced canned tomato
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- salt and lemon juice to taste
- Chop the peppers, sweet onion and garlic finely, OR roughly chop these ingredients and finely chop them in a food processor (make sure they do not turn into puree).
- Heat the oil in a non-stick pan, then add all the ingredients to the pan. Cook the chopped ingredients with about ¼ tsp of salt on medium-heat until the mix starts to turn translucent and you begin to smell the mix. Add the oregano and continue to cook further until it softens - for about 15 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and sugar and cook for a further 15-30 minutes (it could take longer, depending on the heat of your stove). Make sure to stir the mix occasionally to prevent the sofrito from sticking to the pan and burning. You want to cook it low and slow until it thickens and all the flavours come together.
- Add more salt and a little bit of lemon juice to taste (and to brighten up the sauce), and stir to mix.
- Store the sauce in an airtight jar or container and keep it in the fridge.
Want to meet purveyors who are making a difference with their customers? Check out BonAppetit.com’s “Out of the Kitchen”, an ongoing exploration of the relationships that build and sustain the food industry. See how hyper-local food markets operate and how their focus on quality and service keep customers coming back for more.
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