As a Venezuelan I have been highly disappointed every time that I’ve gone to a Latin food restaurant or cafe expecting to eat flavors that remind me of home. Yes, there are some places that may have good Puerto Rican, Cuban or Colombian food, but nothing good enough for me to make me want to go back to them. On Some occasions I have made the big mistake of spending money at Don Pan, a bakery where I could get my fix of good enough Venezuelan food. However, The Arepas and Cachapas (Two very typical Venezuelan dishes) served at Don Pan are only good if you haven’t eaten Venezuelan food in a very long time or ever. So I had to find something else!!!! It was was in Don Pan where I found out in a Latin newspaper about a little Venezuelan joint called “Un Solo Pueblo.” I decided to go an try it out. “Un Solo Pueblo” is a small cafe where they serve the most typical Venezuelan food that you can ever find in Tampa. The Owner and the Chef are two very nice women who work there solely because they love making people happy and at home. Every time you go there you feel more like you are going to eat at their houses instead of a restaurant, and at least for Venezuelans, it might feel as if you were going to eat at your own mother’s house. All of their food is good and very hearty, and of course made with lots of love. Not only do they serve Venezuelan dishes that you can find at Don Pan (Arepas and Cachapas) they also serve great Andean-Venezuelan dishes like pisca Andina (a soup made with eggs, potatoes, chicken, milk and vegetables) and drinks like Chicha Andina (a drink made out of fermented pineapple). Now, don’t go there any day expecting to be able to order of the menu. They will only cook big meals Fridays and Sundays. Additionally, they are always changing a few plates in their menu, so some weeks they may serve Andean Venezuelan dishes and others they may decide to make food that is more typical to the plains of Venezuela. Nevertheless, every other day of the week (except Saturdays, when they are closed) you can get other great small Venezuelan dishes like empanadas and tequenos. In adition, they also sell most types of Venezuelan cheeses ( about 5 different kinds) and other products that I have only seen in Venezuela.Ok Ok, I am actually not expecting every one to understand what Cachapas, Arepas and Tequenos are. I remember trying to explain to a guy I met what arepas are. I kept telling him “they are this things that that are made with pre-cooked white corn flour” and he kept telling me (about 4 times) “ooh like tortillas, right?” Now, I seriously don’t think that everyone that reads this is going to think that Venezuelan food is “just like any other Latin Food…tortillas, tacos, rice and beans.” But since my explanation of this dishes apparently is never clear enough I will provide you with a few links taht you will be able to find at the end of this article that may describe them better than I can. But remember to go with an open mind, try new things….don’t discredit food form Latin American countries as being just rice and beans….or burritos! Ah, and just in case…Latin American Food is Latin Food (from Latin America), not Spanish food!(from Spain)…I had to stick that somewhere :)Un Solo Pueblo is here:4023 W Waters AveTampa, FL 33614(813) 243-3487For those who want to go to “Un Solo Pueblo” but want to know what to expect, or for those who just like to learn new things:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuelan_cuisinehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VenezuelaMy humble Blog:http://thetampafoodie.wordpress.com/
There is a hidden little place that my wife and I have gone to eat numerous time called Ceviche, a restaurant in south Tampa that serves Spanish tapas and paellas. The Restaurant is actually a great idea. When you come in you feel almost as if you were entering a small-underground tapas restaurant in Madrid. They also have a great menu with mostly hot and cold tapas plates and a few paellas options. The menu is great, however, the last few times we’ve eaten there we were somewhat disappointed. One of our favorite plates is the Berenjenas Asadas which are grilled eggplants baked in a tomato sauce on a bed of portabella mushrooms. The first few times we ordered that plate it was actually great, but the last couple times we had it they were cheap with the sauce and the portabella mushrooms, since there were none. We were also disappointed by the “champinones de Sevilla,” which are supposed to be “Woodland” mushrooms with peppers, garlic and bread with goat cheese. Again, they were great the first few times we had it but the last time we went there they only served us baby portabella mushrooms with way too much oil. On the other side, many of their seafood and meat plates are actually great. The “Gambas al Ajillo” or “garlic shrimp” in english are usually very good One of my favorite plates there are the “Calamares rellenos”, which are squid stuffed with veal and chorizo in a tomato sauce with manchego cheese. Its almost like eating the most delicious surf and turf plate tapas style. But like I said, may be it depends what day you go there and in what mood the cooks are. I know we wont be going back to this place any time soon; nevertheless we might still go back one day. The main reason for this is the price of the restaurant. Its just not worth it for us. Every time we leave Ceviche we leave feeling hungry and we usually spend at least $100 ( and we don’t drink). I think I prefer going to other restaurants in Tampa where for the same price we get much better food in a much more comfortable place and we don’t end up felling hungry. But if you want to have good Spanish food and don’t care to spend too much for little plates of food, Ceviche is probably your best bet.
In this weeks Top Chef episode, the contestants had to make a Latino inspired plate for the cast of a telenovela from Telemundo. Now, most latinos grew up eating the food that their mothers and grandmothers cooked and it is very well known by every Latin@ that Latin mothers can cook great food; however, Hung had the great idea that he could make “arroz con pollo” better than any Mama or Abuela. In order for chefs to wow the cast from the telenovela they had to make something that was different to them and that they did not eat every single day of their lives growing up. Lets be honest, there is only so much you can do with “arroz con pollo” (rice with chicken) and if you are a latino you know this.
Hung’s arrogance didn’t annoy me as much as hearing other chefs ( like the now eliminated Lia) say the term “Spanish” when really they were referring to Latin Food. Latin food is basically all the food that is common to most Latin American countries. That includes rice, beans, mojitos, chiles etc. Spanish food is food from Spain which is in Europe, not Latin America. Now, when I think of Spanish food I think of paellas, saffron, smoked paprika, jamon serrano, manchego cheese etc. And yes, a lot of the ingredients may be somewhat similar, but Spanish people cook very differently than Latino people cook. Moreover, just because Spanish people and most Latinos speak Spanish doesn’t mean that Latinos are also Spanish. If that was the case then everyone that speaks English in the world should be called English instead of Australian, American, Indian…
OK, that matter aside…. I though that Sara’s Chiles Rellenos was a very good idea and it certainly looked very tasty as well. Howie’s plate seemed to have worked for him (Braised Pork Shoulder with Yucca Sour Orange Mojo) and I also thought that it was a very unique idea. Both of their plates were very original and very Latino inspired. That is what I think the judges were looking for.
On a side note: I noticed that it seems that Padma usually has the bitchiest comments when it comes to judge the food. I though she was only the host. God she’s gotta be very annoying!!!