Home with a croqueta preparada

I have yet to hear a compelling enough argument to make me want to move back to Miami, (especially when I keep reading headlines about the city facing serious climate-related issues and one day sinking into the ocean) but let me tell you, Cuban food always gets the closest.

Cuban is pretty much the unofficial cuisine of Miami and as I’ve said several times here before, I miss it all the time. For as many and as varied as the food options are in New York, there just don’t seem to be that many Cuban ones so I’m often left wishing I had what’s so easy to get in Miami.

But after moving to Crown Heights last fall I’m now just a couple of stops away from a Cuban spot I had been meaning to try for some time, Pilar, the Bed-Stuy restaurant named after the Brooklyn-built boat Ernest Hemingway had in Cuba. (Is that not a great name and explanation?)

The restaurant is cute and laid back, with a mellow vibe and just enough cool factor to remind you that you’re still in Brooklyn, but not so much that you wish you’d worn something different (’cause that’s a thing, for me anyway). The menu hits all the classics: cafe con leche, maduros, Cubanos (as in the eponymous sandwich), ropa vieja and vaca frita to name a few, but I knew what I was getting the second my eyes landed on it, the croqueta preparada.

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It’s a slightly ridiculous thing really: ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and my favorite part, croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes), all smeared with mustard and sandwiched between two pieces of Cuban bread, toasted and pressed together to make one tight, dense, absolutely delicious meal.

Pilar’s croqueta preparada was great, getting the combination of different flavors and textures just right: the crunchy buttery bread, bright, tangy pickles, the spicy bite of mustard, gooey, melted cheese, juicy ham and tender roast pork, and then the soft, breaded (’cause it’s the weekend so I say, yes carbs on carbs!) ham croquetas to round everything off.

I’m not exactly ready to move back to Miami after eating at Pilar, but that croqueta preparada was definitely to make me want to check out flights for a potential weekend there in the near future. And as my mom can attest, it’s not just anything that makes me want to do that.

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Avocados for dessert? Yes, please.

When a friend told me recently, albeit half jokingly, that she wanted to open a restaurant where everything would feature avocados, I was one hundred percent behind her. It might not happen anytime soon, unfortunately, but dear sweet baby Jesus I hope it happens sometime in my lifetime, cause I LOVE AVOCADOS.

I love thick wedges as a side with rice and beans, and creamy slices stuffed in my sandwiches. Fresh-made guacamole makes me go batty, and even when it’s just plain and being scooped out of its shell with a spoon (something that always gets a “What are you eating??” from someone around me), I LOVE avocados.

So you can imagine what happened when I read about a new Cuban luncheonette/ 24-hour diner named Coppelia that recently opened and had avocado ice cream on their dessert menu. My mouth started to water and I could just feel the crazy look in my eye. The antsy dance (you know, like when you really need to pee) may have been involved.

My love for avocados just reached a whole new level: dessert.

Yea sure, there were other things to eat at Coppelia including ropa vieja, Cuban sandwiches, fried yucca and all sorts of other staples, but I’ll be honest, being from Miami (i.e. Northern Cuba) I’m kind of picky about my Cuban food. I like it cheap, abundant, and usually served by a little old woman with an attitude. It’s just part of the experience. So yes, I had dinner there, and yes, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything to write home about… especially when home is Miami.

But the dessert, the whole reason I went to Coppelia, was great. I’m not sure how Cuban avocado ice cream is, but I don’t really care either. I LOVE them, remember? And here was a whole dessert centered around it! The actual ice cream, a pale yellow-green color similar to the very inside of an avocado, the part closest to the pit, was buttery and smooth, almost the same consistency of a perfectly ripened avocado. The flavor, which I think is what would worry most people (though definitely not me) was much more subtle and delicate, so that really it was more of an avocado aftertaste that was left lingering on the tongue. To play up the avocado’s sweet notes, a couple dollops of fluffy whipped cream made it seem more dessert-like while crumbled panela, a hard, molasses-like, unrefined cane sugar, added a nice little crunch amongst all the soft sweetness. And finally, just to bring out a tiny bit of the avocado’s other, less desserty flavors, coarse Maldon salt and a few drops of lime juice. Sweet, avocado deliciousness.

If my friend ever opens her avocado eatery I’ll root hard for an ice cream dessert like Coppelia’s. And hopefully, as one of her most ardent supporters in her avocado endeavors, that’ll mean there will always be a table with my name on it.

Breakfast in Miami

This year, to celebrate our great nation’s independence, I headed south, to home, to Miami. On my to-eat list was just one category: Cuban food. Sure, I could probably find Cuban grub in New York (afterall, what country’s cuisine isn’t represented), but in Miami it’s everywhere. Literally. Every block has a Cuban sandwich shop, restaurant, coffee shop, food-by-the-pound place, food cart, or old lady selling the stuff she cooked up at home. And I missed that. I’m not Cuban but I sure love the food.

Saturday morning, when my sister asked what Flaneur and I wanted for breakfast I was quick to blurt out my answer: “Cuban!” It didn’t matter from where really (most places in Miami are good) but I had a few things in mind.

The somewhat unassuming yet totally delicious tostada and cafe con leche

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