Alejandro Robaina: What is your favorite Cuban food recipe?
Claire Boobbyer: My favourite Cuban recipe is actually ropa vieja (which translates as ‘old clothes’) and is shredded stewed beef in tomato sauce. Not everybody cooks it well in Cuba but I’ve tasted delicious and succulent ropa vieja in restaurants and in private homes.
Other Cuban foods I particularly love are guava jam with cheese, a milkshake made from mamey, fish cooked in coconut sauce in Baracoa, fried malanga chips (the best are made in Viñales, in my humble opinion), a delicious flan de leche made in a casa particular in Morón, and, of course, a strong mojito…
Alejandro Robaina: What do you think of La Casa restaurant ? Why would you recommend this restaurant to a friend?
Claire Boobbyer: La Casa is an outstanding private restaurant in the capital. It has all the hallmarks of a very professionally run business but with the warmth and personal service of all the members of the family that are involved in running the paladar. When family members converse with clients, not out of obligation, but for the sheer fun of it, it creates a really warm, convivial atmosphere.
La Casa has also surrendered its Thursday nights to sushi. This is a great idea not least because good international cuisine is rarely available in Cuba. They’ve also not done it by half measures. A trained sushi chef prepares food behind a table that is laden with fruits of the sea for the benefit of the restaurant clients who can watch the chef in action from their tables.
Alejandro Robaina: Why Americans should travel to Cuba? What Americans might find interesting on the island?
Cuba is a country rich in culture, music, natural beauty and humour, and it seduces with its attributes. Americans could not fail to be seduced by their neighbour. Americans, in particular, would find riding the old American cars around the streets of Havana for 10 local pesos a ride, a fascinating adventure, as they would the highlights of 1950s Havana when Americans would fly over from Miami on cheap leisure flights — the Tropicana Club, the Hotel Riviera and the Hotel Nacional, for example. They’d also see how things are done differently — for example the organic farming plots — but, essentially, they’d be able to converse with Cubans and gain direct insight into the lives of their neighbours without the filters of anyone else’s political or social persuasion.
Claire Boobbyer is a freelance travel writer, editor and photographer. She’s also a Cubaphile and Cuba travel expert and currently writes and photographs for 10 Cuba travel guides.