Why not pack a Cuban-style picnic to suit the "Cha-Cha-Cha Medley," "Mambo Medley" and other caliente sounds?
Typical Cuban sandwiches don’t stray far from a traditional grilled cheese—with added ingredients. Often a submarine-type entrée, the bread is accompanied by ham, pork, Swiss cheese and dill pickles. Cuban Bread is the ultimate indication of a Cubano, but Italian or French loaves are acceptable. Traditional Cubanos are made with a plancha, or sandwich press, but a panini maker will suffice for picnic purposes. Make the sandwiches ahead of time and wrap in foil to conserve heat. Accompany with plantain chips and guacamole.
La Tropical Beer, otherwise known as Cerveza la Tropical, has deep roots. The Blanco Herrera family started brewing it in Havana in 1888. Immensely popular, the brand fell to Fidel Castro in 1960. Cuban-American Manuel Portuondo purchased rights to the company in 1998 and La Tropical reappeared—original recipe and all.
Cawy Bottling Company debuted in 1948, with its Cawy Lemon Lime soda. The beverage was well received, but Cawy’s plants were shut down in 1959. Two original partners revived the company in the United States in 1964, and the company went on to produce Materva, a yerba mate soda, and coconut-flavored Coco Solo.
Coquitos translates directly to “coconuts,” but its implications are much sweeter. This traditional coconut ball dessert is made from fresh coconut and comes in a variety of flavors. “Blanco” signifies white coconut, “quemado” means toasted coconut and “melcochados” have a caramel flavoring.
La Cubanita Bars are candy-based, usually with fruit or coconut as the primary flavoring. Other accenting flavors include pineapple, milk cream, orange cream and guava.
All aforementioned products are available at ethnic grocery stores. El Mercadito, 916 S. Whitney Way, (608) 441-7375, is a one-stop shop for the Cuban products.
Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and cervezatropical.com.