Host Dan Pashman plays a little game with a diner at the start of an upcoming episode of his award-winning podcast, The Sporkful.
“In what country would you find the best Italian food?” he asks.
“In Italy,” the diner responds.
The best Mexican food? Mexico.
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“In what country would you find the best Cuban food?” he asks.
“In the United States. In Miami,” the answer comes with a subtle thud.
And with that, Pashman comes to Miami to explore how Cuban cuisine has evolved on either side of the Florida Straits in an episode set to air Monday. It is available as a free download on the iTunes store, Google Play or wherever you download your podcasts.
When Pashman visited Miami, he asked me to take him to a quintessential Cuban restaurant. I took him to La Fragua, a year-old restaurant off Flagler, where the royalty of Cuban cuisine, Quintin Larios and his wife, Maria Teresa, have been cooking their traditional fare once again after folding their Casa Larios restaurants for financial reasons.
He encountered the monthly meeting of a group of men who were schoolmates in Cuba. They told him their stories of the loss of their country, yes, but also shared varying opinions about re-engaging with Cuba — and how the Cuban food in Miami ties them to their heritage.
And then Pashman explores the other side. He spends time with Doug Rodriguez, a James Beard Award-nominated chef who was among Miami’s original Mango Gang, which helped define a nouveau, refined Cuban cuisine here. Rodriguez has found new inspiration in cooking alongside Cuban chefs and is unabashed in taking culinary tours to the islands.
“I try to expose [people on my tours] to all different parts of Cuba,” Rodriguez tells him. “I let them have conversations with Cubans. But I don’t try to gloss things over, no. These trips are culinary tours, and it’s all about food the whole time we’re there.”
The episode, like the decades of tension between the two countries, arrives at an uneasy stalemate about which country can truly claim Cuban cuisine.
What: The award-winning podcast, The Sporkful, will focus an episode on whether Miami or Havana can lay claim to authentic Cuban food.
When: The podcast will be available Sept. 25 on iTunes, the Google Play store, or wherever you download your podcasts.