Cuban Fare at its best at 2nd Slow Food Night at Mount Lavinia Hotel

Combining elements of traditional Spain with foods original to the region, Cuban food provides a powerful link to island memories and traditions. Cuban dinners receive more time and care as there will be a place for family and friends to congregate at the end of the day. Domino playing, dancing and indeed the congas are a usual sight at a Family Dinner. The special dishes begin with a flavorful mix of onions, green peppers, garlic, oregano and bay leaves which are sautéed together. From this blend, dishes such as Pork Picadillo, a ground meat and olive dish to, an oxtail soup, are begun. Many dishes are accompanied by the Cuban classic combination of black beans and rice as well as plantains. The plantain, a relative of the more familiar banana, can be prepared in a variety of ways, from the sweet maduros to the twice-fried tostones. Due to Cuba’s abundance of sugarcane, it is not surprising that sweet dishes are popular on the tropical island. A rich egg custard dripping in caramelized sugar, called flan, is arguably Cuba’s most famous dessert though it is by no means alone.

For example, those with a sweet tooth can choose from treats such as trés leche. Another popular dish is Cuban Rice pudding, In fact, many Cuban sweet and savory dishes are based on using what was readily available in the most appetizing way. That is why the style has translated so well across cultures – the desire to share good food and good times with family and friends is a universal one. 28th August, the Tropical Hut at the Mount Lavinia Hotel was transformed to a typical Family Style Dinner with one rectangular table seating 51 guests. Chef Leonel Velazquez, President of the Slow Food Movement in Sri Lanka, was the creator of the 2nd Slow Food evening dedicated to his Cuban background. He stated, “All ingredients used were from local growers within Sri Lanka and that is the essence of Slow Food.”

Chef Leo states, “Most people who haven’t tasted Cuban cuisine think our food is spicy. Wrong! We sure are spicy – as a culture – sniff the air and it smells exquisite, the wonderful beverages and other activities synonymous to Cuba is also very visible at a Cuban dinner”. And indeed it was the 2nd Slow Food event at the Mount Lavinia Hotel was Cuba in all its glory. A dominos playing corner, Congas being played, and other synonymous products that typify Cuba was very significant at the event.

The menu consisted of Western Cuban cuisine significantly forms the basis of criollo (“creole“) cooking. Criollo or Creole, basically meaning from European peoples and styles, born or created in the new world; The Prawn Creole in fact. Others in the menu were a Whole suckling Pig, Oxtail braised in red wine, Fricasse de pollo, Black beans, White rice, Yuca with pickled onion, Fufu plantain and pork rind mash, Maduros fried sweet plantains and the delicious Cuban Rice Pudding.

The menu consisted of Western Cuban cuisine significantly forms the basis of criollo (“creole“) cooking. Criollo or Creole, basically meaning from European peoples and styles, born or created in the new world; The Prawn Creole in fact. Others in the menu were a Whole suckling Pig, Oxtail braised in red wine, Fricasse de pollo, Black beans, White rice, Yuca with pickled onion, Fufu plantain and pork rind mash, Maduros fried sweet plantains and the delicious Cuban Rice Pudding.

One of the key tenets of Slow Food is the belief in the right to pleasure.  The Slow Food Movement manifesto declares that: Quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life therefore Slow Food is dedicated to preserving and promoting traditional foods, recipes and the pleasures of eating well. And indeed it was at the Mount Lavinia Hotel when Cuban culture was laid out in the open for all to feast on and indulge in.

Slow Food Colombo began in July 2009 at the Tropical Hut with Chef Leo being the President of the Sri Lanka Movement, and the objective of the movement is to create a unique experience for people to enjoy and indeed just how good genuine global cuisine can be, especially when it’s locally sourced, creatively presented, and enjoyed in a casual ambiance.

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