Category Archives: Happy or Hungry Eats the World

Happy or Hungry Eats the World: The Sultan’s Tent (Morocco)

This past Saturday I celebrated my birthday for the third time!

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And that was probably the most obnoxious thing I’ve ever written. To be fair, the first time was a total surprise to me, and the second time was just Evan being wonderful and making dinner which he does all the time… Still, I felt kind of ridiculous having a second birthday dinner with my friends when I already had a birthday dinner with my friends. But this was was already planned, and any excuse for a party!

I have been wanting to check out The Sultan’s Tent on Front Street for years, the self-proclaimed best Moroccan restaurant in the city. Not only is it authentic Moroccan food (or the most authentic Moroccan food we have in Toronto, anyway), which helps my eat the world cause, but there’s a belly dancing show! Each dining group is seated in their own tent-like situation, and once dinner starts belly dancers saunter by your area. Pretty groovy.

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I actually really liked the way the seating was set up in our tent. There were four tables of four, and it made it easy to talk to everyone because you could get up and walk around between the tables, or switch tables for a bit if you wanted to talk to a new group. This worked out well for me because I wanted to talk to everyone.

I was so excited my blog friends Casey, Shanondoah and Michelle came!

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And my longtime lovers Joanna, Dawn and Emily.

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Corey, Lisa, Brad…

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Corey, Lisa, Brad

(Every time I look at Brad now I think Otto Von Pinkelwurst from our murder mystery dinner — and funny because I think that was the last time we were all together and we were also eating Moroccan!)

Will, Sherrie, Evan.

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(Well, Will is fairly new but I feel like he’s been around for a while.)

And our new friend, our fantastic server.

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Pretty good turnout.

Okay, now for the eating. I was excited to colour Morocco in on my map.cuba

Drink-wise I ordered the Moroccan mimosa…

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And a Moroccan-style beer.

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I could not tell you what made either of those more Moroccan than regular mimosas or beer, but I enjoyed both of them.

There was definitely some delicious wine in there too. What, it was my birthday.

On Friday and Saturday nights you have to order from the three course prix fixe menu for $55, but there were a ton of options to choose from so no complaints here. Well, except that some of the options cost $5-$10 more. That was annoying and not really the point of a prix fixe menu, but what can ya do.

For my appetizer I went with the couscous since it is Morocco’s most well-known dish (actually their national dish).

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Delicious!

And I got a pic of Sherrie’s hummus, also very popular in Morocco.

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And also very good.

For my main I ordered the chicken tagine, Morocco’s other national dish.

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Tagine is a slow-cooked savoury stew typically made with sliced meat, fish or vegetables (Evan ordered the chickpea tagine) with various spices, nuts and dried fruits. It is apparently very popular in Morocco and named for the tagine pot it is cooked in. I enjoyed it, however the spices weren’t a combination that I would usually eat together so that was a bit weird. Definitely some ginger, cumin, cinnamon, tumeric and saffron going on in there, which tasted like an odd combo, though I didn’t dislike it. I also don’t think an authentic tagine is usually served over rice, but the alcohol had been steady over on my side of the tent by that point so it was probably good that rice was included.

For dessert I had the creme brulee with crushed pistachio, which was amazing. And then they brought me a little slice of couscous cake for my birthday, which was super interesting.

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It is called a sweet keskesu and it is a traditional dish with couscous, cinnamon, powdered sugar, roasted almonds, raisons, orange blossom water and creme anglaise. Different, but not too shabby at all.

Sometime during dinner the belly dancers started coming by. Since I was the birthday girl they were all about getting me up dancing with them. I didn’t mind.

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Of course I didn’t, I’m a jambon!

I essentially just mimicked what they were doing.

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And probably looked ridiculous doing it.

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But that’s alright, I’m sure it was entertaining to watch (judging by the amount of intrigued people in the background). Good times. We even got Otto von Pinkelwurst up there.

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And Evan made an appearance as well.

Oh man, last night was a TIME!

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Just click on that to play the video. It’s pretty dark, but hopefully you can make out Evan’s sweet dancing skills. The belly dancing definitely added to the hilarity of the evening.

Part of Dawn’s gift (which was a bunch of things that started with the letter B, for, as Dawn wrote in my card, my bra size — I wish) included a banana.

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Not weird at all. It all came in a Disney Princess gift bag, which Evan carried the rest of the night and I didn’t even have to ask him.

Afterwards some of us headed over to The Reservoir Lounge, a jazz bar basically across the street. It has a $10 cover so at first I wasn’t sure if it was going to be worth it but ohhhhh it was. It was. It was awesome.

The highlight of my night was watching Sherrie do the air saxophone on the dance floor, specifically getting a row of strangers to do this with her. She was SO INTO IT, it was hilarious and I was dying. It was killing me softly. When we woke up on Sunday morning the first thing that Evan said was “My cheeks still hurt from laughing at Sherrie doing the air saxophone last night.” Yep. I feel that.

Anyway, it was a really fun time and I’d recommend hitting up The Sultan’s Tent! But I think it’s better in a group setting than say, a date.

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Kanga (Australia)

G’day mate! I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.

Today I am talking about a land down under!

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A few weeks ago I hit up Kanga, a cute Australian meat pie counter-serve restaurant with my Ozzie coworker friend Rachel. Meat pies are iconic in Australia and New Zealand, and when I asked Rachel what their most authentic dish would be, a meat pie is the first thing she said. Though if you talk to an Australian they will tell you that New Zealand stole meat pies from them. It might be a bitter subject.

I love a good meat pie so I was all for eating Australia. Kanga is relatively new and I think it is the only place in Toronto where you can get authentic meat pies, and Rachel vouched that they are the Fair Dinkum*. She said that when she is feeling a little homesick here she just gets an Australian bottle of wine, goes to Kanga to get her some meat pies, Skypes with her family and she is all fixed up.

Kanga has several kinds of pies, but the choice for me was easy. Traditional Aussie.

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Minced beef in a rich beef gravy, with a hint of vegemite. I could taste the hint of vegemite! Rachel says she can’t, but I think it might be because she eats vegemite all the time, whereas I have only tried it once in my life and that distinct salty rye taste is different than anything I eat on a regular basis. It stood out.

As soon as Rachel noticed my little cup of Ketchup she was like “you’re doing it wrong,” and I looked over at her pie and saw that she had a pool of Ketchup sitting on the top. She explained that’s how they did it in Australia, just covered the whole thing. Huh. It made me wonder how many other things I am eating wrong when I don’t have someone from that country hovering over me.

The pie was everything I hoped it would be and more.

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I wish it was closer to me because I’d be picking up their frozen pies and bringing them home all the time.

I also ordered ginger beer (very popular in Australia, and sadly kind of hard to find here) and fries or “chips” because for some reason I was worried about still being hungry after my pie…

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But in reality I was so chockers** after my pie that I could not do them justice. I also needed to save room for my lamington.

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Lamington is an Australian sponge cake coated in chocolate sauce and coconut. Rachel assured me it’s all the rage in Australia and one of her favourite desserts. I get why, it was totally delicious.

So that is Australia done in Toronto. One day I hope to eat a proper vegemite sandwich in a land down under!

*Fair Dinkum: the real deal
**Chockers: full

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: La Creole (Haiti)

I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.

Next up in my culinary adventuring is Haiti, which shares a border with the Dominican Republic.

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Here’s a better visual.

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A couple weeks ago I had another dinner date with my coworkers Frances and Rachel, also for Winterlicious before it ended. This time we went to La Creole, a Haitian and French Caribbean restaurant on St. Clair West.

Haitian cuisine is similar to much of the caribbean, but does have its own unique flavours also. It has a lot of French, African, Spanish and Taíno Amerindian influence. According to this website, “the Tainos left their staples, the Spanish carried their cooked green peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, the French brought their stews and soups, the Africans introduced okra, pigeon peas.” So I guess they just have the best of everything!

The Haitian food culture is pretty underrepresented in Toronto — I think La Creole is the only Haitian restaurant we have, and I’m glad it exists! It’s really nice in there.

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Especially with the French pop music playing in the background. J’adore.

We started with Caribbean cocktails, as you do. I asked our server which was the most traditional Haitian cocktail and she recommended Le zouk, with rhum, passionfruit and mint, so Frances and I went with that.

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Ours were very good, though a bit pricy for their size (I think they were $9). I can’t remember what Rachel ordered (it looks like a mojito but I don’t think it was) but she said she enjoyed hers well.

To start I ordered the Akkra Ak Bannan.

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Codfish fritters with sweet plantain puree and criollo sauce. I was a big fan of this, especially with the sauce.

We ordered from the prix fixe Winterlicious menu but also supplemented our dinner with an appetizer from their main menu. We got le plat fritay, an assorted platter of amuse-bouche with dips and a side of spicy pickled slaw (pikliz) and watercress dip.

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Really I ordered it because I have always wanted to say “amuse-bouche.” There were crispy creole seasoned black eye pea fritters (my favourite), tostones (crispy plantain slices, also popular in Cuba!), potato fritters, and malanga root fritters. All very good but I do sort of wish I had ordered something different for my initial appetizer because I was pretty frittered-out by the end of that platter. We all shared it, but it was a lot. That watercress dip though, oh man. I loved that.

Frances and I both ordered the Poul Boukannen Ak Gwayave Ak Makawoni-O-Gratin for our mains.

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Or grilled creole chicken with guava BBQ sauce served with creamy creole macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese! It was all so good. I was really impressed. Rachel ordered the plantain lasagne and that was also delicious and something I would definitely go for next time. Plantain lasagne, like plantains instead of the noodles. Who knew that would be so good.

Our prix fixe menu included dessert and the exotic fruit was catching my eye but when we asked about the fruit our server listed a bunch of fruits that are available in Canada, like pineapple and papaya. I was hoping for something a bit more actually exotic. Oh well. I ordered La Tropicana and have no regrets.

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Golden butter cake soaked in whiskey, raisin and coconut served with sauce anglaise. Amazing. Dense and buttery and wonderful.

La Creole was a delicious experience and I would definitely go back! And that is Haiti crossed off my map. Onto the next!

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Le Montmartre (France)

Bonjour mes petits amis. I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.

Hey hey hey, my map is getting pretty purple!

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I need to focus on eating Africa and Asia, but today let’s talk about France. Last week I met up with my friend Hannah to eat Frawnch at Le Montmartre on Sheppard West near Downsview Station. There are a few French restaurants in the city that I’d like to try, but this one was in a convenient spot for both of us to meet up so it just worked out. I was not disappointed. Le Montmartre is super cute, and looks quite, well, French.

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Cute, oui? J’adore. Le Montmartre is named after the renowned 19th century artist’s quarter in Paris. With with the music of Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour playing in the background (I looked that up) and paintings by Van Gogh and Renoir on the walls (looked that up also), and the patrons around us speaking French, I felt like it was legit.

Hannah and I started with sharing a half litre of the house rouge wine, as one does in France (I presume).

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And our server brought us some French bread.

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And quite a lot of it, so I was impressed with that.

They did have a Winterlicious prix fixe menu running at the time, but nothing on it was really catching our fancy, so we both ordered from the main menu.

I really badly wanted to try la soupe à l’oignon “des Halles” gratinée.

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aka French onion soup with swiss cheese and gruyère, gratinée. Très délicieux!  It was so, so good. Apparently onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times, as onions were seen as food for poor people since they were so easy to grow. The modern version of the soup originates in 18th century France.

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J’adore. Highlight for me.

We also ordered les escargots bourguignonne au parfum d’anis.

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Snails flambéed with pernod (a French liqueur) in a garlic-and-herb-enhanced butter sauce. Really good also. I have to admit that I have had better escargot (in the Bahamas!), but I did like them.

For my main, the cuisses de grenouille, the traditional French dish of frogs legs caught my eye…but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m sorry, I will try many different kinds of foods, but I have to draw the line at frogs legs. They look too much like an actual frog. I can still picture it hopping. I also don’t think they would have a lot of meat on them, and I was trying to get my money’s worth.

So, I went with le canard braisé à l’orange. Classic French dish.

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Deboned roast duckling flambéed in grand marnier served in an orange sauce. Although not as exotic as frogs legs, I was still out of my comfort zone. This is not something I would order often. I liked it, and I cleaned that plate, but I have to admit that I still prefer chicken. Glad I tried it though.

Hannah went with les médaillons de veau forestière, sauce madère.

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Or medallions of veal with mushrooms in madeira sauce. I tried hers also and it was very good. I’d order that next time I think.

And of course we could not pass up dessert. Crème brûlée for me, because when in France!

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Magnifique.

Très bien! France was great! But I think I gained 10lbs from this.

Now a question… Have you ever tried frogs legs, and if yes did you like them?

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: Maha’s (Egypt)

I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.

As my map has been filling up, the African continent has been remaining quite bare. The only African restaurants we seem to have in the city are the countries with the “trendy” food, so, Ethiopia (eaten), Morocco (eating on my birthday), and Egypt. I don’t yet know how I’m going to eat all the countries in Africa but I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. In the meantime, Egypt was calling me!

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On Saturday I headed to Leslieville to Maha’s Fine Egyptian Cuisine for brunch with my pals the Bloggers and Lagers.

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After our failed attempt at a selfie someone offered to take a picture for us. Much better.

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Shanondoah, Jeannette (who is a fairly new and awesome addition), Casey, me, Michelle. I don’t want to get too cheesy here but I am so thankful that blogging has introduced me to these ladies. I like them a lot.

If you’re in the city I’m sure you’ve heard of Maha’s. It seems to be all the rage these days, and fair enough, it is super cute.

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It is so bright and fresh and welcoming inside. However, it is not very big and it is very, very busy so we did have to wait for over an hour. We were expecting it though, so it was no big deal. We had great company and it was a gorgeous day so we set up shop up outside on a bench for our wait. When we did finally get our table it felt a little crowded but I didn’t really notice after a few minutes.

The coffee menu was quite extensive so I asked our server for a recommendation and she suggested their signature honey-cardamom latte.

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It is apparently their take on a latte with Egyptian flavours and it was smooth, creamy and cardamomy, and it was really freaking good.

As I am finding with many other countries, Egypt has culinary influences from different countries that occupied them at some point in its history, in this case Greece, Turkey and France. This is definitely obvious in their delicious food.

We started with the dokka for the table, a dry mix of chopped nuts, seeds and spices paired with olive oil.

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You dip the pita into the olive oil first so that the seeds will stick to it. It was delicious, but obviously was not enough for five and we should have ordered two. Or at least more bread (always our complaint).

I also ordered the red lentil soup because a couple others at our table did and I couldn’t resist after I saw theirs.

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It was so good. I want to learn how to recreate it.

For my main I went with the Cairo Classic, since it included a variety of foods and was really a taste of everything.

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I’m just going to write the description for you:

On every street corner in the bustling streets of Cairo you can find vendors serving foole out of large copper vats. This traditional breakfast dish consists of fava beans and is prepared in multiple variations. In the Cairo Classic, we mix tomatoes and onions into our perfectly seasoned fava beans, and enjoy them with a hard boiled egg, a falafel, a dollop of our creamy home-made tomato feta (OMG HIGHLIGHT!!!! I could have eaten this all day!) charred balady bread and our house greens.

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Delicious. It tasted just as good as it looks. I looooved the feta cheese and I tried to make sure that every bite had some in it. Seriously so good. I also really loved their pickled onions. Unfortunately I was almost full from my soup when it arrived and I couldn’t finish it all. It was a huge plate!

Everyone else really enjoyed their dishes, too. I only have pictures from my side of the table, but Casey got The Max, which was basically just a ton of things shoved into a pita.

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It had foole, two pieces of falafel, a boiled egg, sweet onions, and their homemade tahina sauce (not to be confused with tahini sauce, though it is similar).

Jeannette went for the Egytian Falafel, served with cumin fries.

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The falafel was crispy on the outside and wrapped around a medium boiled egg. I didn’t try it but Jeannette liked.

We had such a good time and I would definitely go back to Maha’s. Everything was unbelievably fresh and it truly had the vibe of an authentic family-run restaurant. Just be prepared to wait. We met at 11am and we didn’t get out of there until at least 2:30, so go early or be prepared for it to take a good part of your day! For me it was worth it.

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Happy or Hungry Eats the World: La Cubana (Cuba)

I am on a mission to eat an authentic dish from every country in the world, right here in Toronto. You can find all past recaps here.

Today I am covering Cuba!

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Cuba is one of the only countries I have actually been to, having gone on vacation in Cuba the last couple of years. Evan and I are going again this year, too. It has a certain something that keeps bringing us back. However, most of my time in Cuba was spent on the resort and I have not seen (or eaten) a lot of “real Cuba”, so I am not exactly an expert. Ideally I would have convinced someone local to invite me over for dinner (Julio, I am looking at you), but unfortunately that did not happen (next time?). I did have a few real Cuban meals though (this, for example), so I do have some idea of authentic food there.

Evan and I were excited to eat Cuba mainly to feel like we were in Cuba again and not in our current below freezing temperatures.

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It didn’t really work but it was still a good eating adventure.

Toronto has a few Cuban restaurants and I have heard really good things about La Cubana, with two locations, Ossington and Roncesvalles Village. We headed to the one on Roncy, which is decorated like a 50’s style diner and that alone kind of reminded me of Cuba.

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I liked it. I also liked that right in front of the bar is an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs do their thing.

Cuba is really big on chicken, pork, sandwiches (or medianoches), beans and rice. I would say those are the staples. Beans and rice are actually their national dish, called Moros y Cristianos. Medianoche is a type of sandwich that originated in Cuba, and named because they are served in Havana’s night clubs around midnight. Drunk people like sandwiches. I get it.

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We started with a cerveza because this is how all our meals in Cuba started. The two beers in Cuba are Bucanero and Cristal, but La Cubana has custom brewed Cuban style Pilsner from Junction Craft Brewing.

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And it tasted like Cuba! Not as much as rum and Coke does to me, but I still liked it.

We started with chips and fresh salsa, which included plantain chips (popular in Cuba).

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Chips and salsa is always a good idea. The only negative thing I can say about that plate is it was over too quickly.

I feel like I would really enjoy a medianoche, it’s right up my alley, but I have been thinking about Cuban style pork with beans and rice lately… I couldn’t pass up the molasses roasted pork shoulder, which came with beans and rice, purple cabbage slaw, and tostones (twice fried plantain slices).

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I loved everything. I thought my dish was really, really good. I’m sad I didn’t also eat a sandwich, but no regrets on my order. It felt like real Cuba to me.

Evan got the same, but with achiote roasted chicken instead of pork.

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The flavour of his chicken was really good, however — and this was the only sore spot with our meal — the inside was cold. Like it had clearly been in the fridge and then reheated on the grill when he ordered it. Which is fine, I just wish we didn’t know that because it definitely takes away the illusion of everything being freshly prepared. I wouldn’t have known otherwise. We actually sent it back, which is a big rarity for us, but our server was awesome and brought him a new plate of (hot) chicken out quickly. No problems with his second one, and Evan enjoyed it. But it was too late — our meal had been tainted.

In my experience the coffee in Cuba is very, very good, so to complete our Cuban meals we went for the Cafe Cubano with dessert.

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And dessert was donuts.

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Because when I was in Cuba I ate a donut for breakfast every day. Yes, they were resort donuts, but I still needed to try these for old times sake. They actually tasted very similar to the churros found at our resort in Cayo Coco. We loved!

Traditional Cuban food is delicious and overall we had a delicious time… I just wish the minor accident hadn’t happened with Evan’s chicken because it tainted the experience just slightly. Although, that experience is consistent with Cuban resort food, so maybe it just makes it more authentic.

And now I can’t wait to go back to Cuba!

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