Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cuban Heritage Tour

In our Cuban Heritage tour through Miami last weekend we stopped at the El Palacio de Los Jugos, or the Juice Palace.

Trisha and I In Line At The El Palacio de Los Jugos Eagerly Anticipating My First Beet Juice Smoothie

The open air market is at a busy downtown traffic area with lots of traffic down Flagler Street in front of the building and an alley behind that runs between SW 57th and SW 58th.

The Palace gave us a glimpse of what the markets were like in Cuba, a gathering place, a mini-mall, where you could get a meal, catch up with your neighbors, buy meat produce and dry goods all in one spot.

We pulled up in the Alley behind the building there was already a line developing at the front door of the produce/juice section.

Trish Show Off The Before And After Pictures Of Her Mamey Smoothie

As we parked we could see a delivery truck unloading a pallet of beef flap meat, probably a weeks worth of meat for this high volume place. Think Farmer's Market style as you walk in to the juice market, as the produce is in bulk on wooden shelves rather than a produce display case.

Trisha and I ordered with the intent to share, but when I suggested the beet juice she had second thoughts. We agreed that I would get the mixed version that was beets, carrots, and something else that I can't recall. She had the Mamey. Both were sweet. The Mamey was a creamier smoothie type texture, while my blend was more liquidy and juice like.

Leaving the juice area we walked around to one of the hot food areas, which was bustling with activity as people bought pork, beef, potato, rice, and vegetable dishes to go.

Green Coconut Water To Go Could Be A Hot New Trend For Take Out. Inventory Consists Of Green Coconuts Flex Straws, Machette, And Cutting Board

As we rounded the building on the outside there was a vendor with a basket of green coconuts that he was chopping with a machette, one after another.
Then he would pop a straw in there and sell by order to the line of people waiting there. I counted his fingers as I walked by thinking "only one misplaced machette wack and you'd be out of a job." They were all intact, which surprised me based on how slick his cutting board looked and the speed with which he worked.

The hot food counter around the front of the market had spare ribs that had been cut between the St Louis style and the brisket, both pieces marinated and grilled with a slightly different application. Chickens were roasted and sold whole, halved, and cut up some parts with bone, others boneless. The products were simple, prepared simply in several different ways, merchandised to use the whole animal, with nothing wasted.

Typical of Cuban food the flavors were mild not spicy hot.

The Palace Dining Room

Rather than the hot spicy food that so many of us Californians think of with Mexican food, this is a more subtle flavorful seasoning with hints of cumin, and garlic.

I think the take away from our cuban food tour is not that one flavor, technique, or individual item is going to be the answer for the "hot new trend" to sweep through the food world. Rather a blending of flavors, or reintroducing simpler foods fully utilized-like the ribs, cross merchandised as we say in the retail business, to achieve a better food cost target while keeping inventory items simple. While the Juice Palace was only a small sampling of what traditional Cuban Food is all about it is important enough to influence Chef's like Allen Susser, who we will discuss more later as he made an unannounced visit over the weekend.

Additional reading here at the New York Times.

No comments: