By Ian Thurston, Symrise Senior Marketing Communication Manager
Bienvenidos a Miami! As we continue our deep dive into understanding the changing face of America, we joined our Scent & Care colleagues in Miami. This is their first stop on a cultural trek across the US to uncover how Latino communities differ from region to region and how they are impacting every aspect of the food and beverage industry. In Miami, we are able to see firsthand how the Cuban culture permeates just about every aspect of this city of sun and fun.
The US demographic is in a constant state of evolution, most specifically with the influence the Latino community which is made up of a diverse combination of people from the Cuban community in Miami to the Dominican and Puerto Rican community in New York City to the Mexican community in Los Angeles. It is fascinating to see the nuances each culture brings to the table so to speak and how their sweet, culinary and beverage specialties translate into products we see in our local supermarkets.
The adventure started at Lario’s Restaurant on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach complete with a healthy sampling of Cuban cuisine from croquets to fried plantains to tostones to Picadillo and of course ropa vieja, a Cuban classic that can’t be missed while in Miami. Ocean Drive, though a hot tourist destination with Cuban influences, neon lights, a heavy dose of skin exposure and one Ferrari sighting after another, is a far cry from an authentic Cuban experience. To find the “real” Miami you need to cross the causeway, yes, leave Miami Beach and head towards downtown Miami and Hialeah where you better brush up on your Spanish skills as you quickly realize English may not get you very far.
With coffee in hand, or better yet a “colada” as they enjoy in Miami, an insanely sweet and strong coffee drink, we met in the lobby of our hotel at 7:30am to begin our trek through Miami with Edgar and Matthias, our guides. Our first stop, “Better & Nice Produce Corp.” where we were able to see, touch and taste a variety of specialties used in Cuban cuisine – pomelos, plantains, guanabanas, bread fruit, green bananas, green plantains and of course the mountains of uncooked black beans and rice. We then piled back into the Suburban and headed to the Riviera Supermarket – Carniceria Latina – Cafeteria - Bakery in Little Havana.
What struck me most at the Riviera Supermarket was the fact that I literally heard no English being spoken as we walked through the store. Of course the shelves were stocked full of every Goya product imaginable from “Squeeze it” Mermelada de Mango to Panela Piloncilla (made from brown sugar cane). I immediately fell in love with all the ice cream flavors like Flan, Hot Chocolate con Churros, Quatro Leches, Guava & Cream Cheese Swirl and Coconut Mango Swirl. We picked up some Guava Cream – Crema de Guayaba, Queso Blanco, a type of white cheese used for frying and of course one of my favorite snacks, fried plantain strips. We of course made time for another colada to share with our small group, my favorite parts of drinking a colada is that it comes with small little thimble sized cups so you can share it with those you are with, trust me, that’s plenty because it is super sweet and potent, any more than that and we would be bouncing off the walls.
We then headed over to the “Guadalupe Dollars Store”, yes it was spelled “Dollars”, to see what was on the shelves. There was pretty much many of the items you would expect to find from bargain cleaning supplies to lots of packaged goods. They also had a section dedicated to Santeria with tons of candles and scented oils. I think what stood out most was that all of the mainstream soda brands where in the absolute back of the store and what was out in front on pallets were drinks like Materva a yerba mate soda, Jupina a pineapple soda and IronBeer, a soda brand.
Our next stop was a truly authentic “botanica”, a store that sells everything you can imagine for Santeria, a traditional religion of Caribbean and Spanish origins. We wanted to be as respectful as possible so we didn’t take any photos and made this a very quick pit stop so we weren’t “those tourists”. I even left a small offering to their statue at the entrance as I was told it would bring me much fortune, hope they are right.
Finally it was time for lunch time so we headed to La Carreta on Calle Ocho, a hot spot in Little Havana serving traditional Cuban food with extra large portions. Edgar and Matthias took over ordering so we could sample a little of everything from Arrroz con Pollo, where a single serving could have served four, to traditional rice and beans to yummy sweet plantains.
We ended our adventure with dessert at El Palacio De Las Jugos to sample their amazing fresh pressed and squeezed juices made with Papaya, Mamey, Pineapple, Mango, Watermelon, Cantelope, Oranges, Carrots and Remolacha – pure deliciousness!
I look forward to exploring more of Miami on my next trip down south. Hasta Pronto Miami!