I’ve heard both wonderful and not so wonderful things about visiting Cuba, but it’s a place with a fascinating history that intrigued me, and a people who are supposedly as friendly as there is. Those are solid selling points for visiting the island, especially now that I am a German citizen and can travel there on my EU passport. (Is it cheating? Maybe, but I’m ok with it.)
Right now it’s a fairly moot point since quarantine is still a thing, but hey, modern convenience makes travel date nights possible, so this week, A and I explored Cuba. There aren’t a lot of virtual museum tours, so we had to make do with what we could find.
Cuban-Themed Date Night
Eat: Pan-Fried Snapper with Mojo; Black Bean Soup; Cuban Masa Real
Cooking a whole fish is rather intimidating, but is something I wanted to do. I had my fish market (Glendale, California – my home town – has an amazing one called Fish King) gut, clean, and scale it for me, so all I had to do was pat it dry, dredge it in seasoned flour, and pan fry it. I served it with a mojo, a Cuban marinade (that I used as a sauce in this case) of orange, lemon, and lime juices, garlic, cumin, oregano, and olive oil. I also added some honey and thickened it with arrowroot to give it a slightly thicker texture.
Tonight’s star attraction!
With this I served my “famous” black bean soup. I say famous because it was my MasterChef audition dish, and Gordon Ramsey said he loved it. (On the show I served it with an avocado-lime crema and jalapeño-corn fritters.) I used canned black beans and vegetable stock, seasoned with onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, and cayenne.
As always, A added dessert. I had requested my favorite Cuban dessert: guava pastry. She made Cuban Masa Real, basically guava bars – two layers of a lightly sweetened dough with guava in the middle. The guava comes in a block, almost like firm tofu, which was absolutely fascinating!
Dessert was amazing. That guava paste is killer.
She also made us some rum cocktails to accompany, because Cuba.
Listen: Miami Sound Machine
While cooking, it’s important to set the mood. I put on some classic Gloria Estefan, perhaps the best known Cuban-American singer, to get us feeling the rhythm. Cuba Linbres (rum and coke) helped my dancing considerably.
Learn: The Five Minute History of Cuba
Our dinner documentary was once again an animated history. This time, though, it was a super abbreviated history lasting only five minutes. It was decent, but I wish YouTube had something a bit more in depth. If you don’t have dinner documentaries in your life, you are totally missing out!
Watch: The Cuba Libre Story
No, this isn’t a series about rum and coke. This is Netflix’s eight part documentary about the history of Cuba. We watched the first episode, which takes us from 1492 through Cuban independence in the early 20th century. It is remarkably well done, although could use a couple more female scholars for comments – there’s only one. I look forward to watching the rest of it over the next couple weeks.
Experience: Cuban Car Culture
A is really into classic cars, and Cuba is one of the best places to experience them. This half hour long show follows two cool Aussies and their interactions with some of the more interesting cars on the island. Some are in amazing shape, some are a bit more rickety, and one used an IV tube to connect its “gas tank,” which was just a bottle hanging off of the driver’s door. I’m not a car guy, but this was awesome! If we go to Cuba, a car tour will definitely be part of our itinerary!
Cuban car culture is about to start!
If you’re yearning for travel, a travel-themed date night can be a decent filler until the world opens again and we can all go back to exploring. Cuba makes an exciting destination, and I hope you get a chance to share the island with your loved ones!
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