Cuban Summer in Cebu
Dr. Nestor Alonso II (The Freeman) - May 31, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Summer of 2019 is nearly over and the pages in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Snapchat, Tumblr and others are filled with posts of the excitement and bonding shared among family and friends. Cebu has the edge for these activities because it has the beautiful beaches, lovely resorts and easy access to facilities.

Jpark Island Resort & Waterpark, Cebu invited mainline and online journalists to their summer special called “Cuban Summer in Cebu!” at the resort’s Havana by the Sea. We had the privilege to taste Cuban-inspired menu created by Executive Chef Mattia Stroppa.

Jpark President and Chairman Justin Uy, CEO Jason Uy and GM Jonathan Nowell know that the resort needs to keep evolving and keep pace in a rapidly changing sector like the hospitality industry. That their food outlets need a point of difference with its food and services to distinguish it from their competitors.

Cuban cuisine is a mix of Spanish, American, African and Caribbean cooking. White rice, black beans, plantains and rum are abundant and accessible. Havana is the capital of Cuba, a cosmopolitan city where dishes from other countries are also available.

At the Jpark event, 14 Cuban-inspired dishes were served: Croqueta, Flat Bread with Parmesan Cheese & Spicy Marinara, Pan con Tomato, Havana Nachos, Empanadas, Prawn Ceviche, Gambas, Sliders, Dino Rib, Chicharrones de Pollo, Caldo de Marisco and Entraña, grilled flank steak. Drinks were rum-based signature cocktails like the Classic Mojito (rum, sugar, lime, soda water and mint), Havana Stinger, Surfer, Dream, Sunset, Breeze and Blue. With so many drinks to choose, I was lucky not to be driving at the time.

The croquette had a cheese and ham filling, while the bread was topped with parmesan cheese and spicy marinara (tomato sauce) or with tomato salsa and spicy salami. I liked the Havana nachos, tortilla sheets topped with cheddar, refried beans and carne asada (beef) then baked. Then it was topped again with sour cream and pico de gallo (tomato, onion & cilantro) and these layers of flavors were in each bite.

They served the Sliders (pulled pork with BBQ sauce), Dino Rib (smoked short rib), Entraña (grilled flank steak), Baby Squid (with chipotle mayo), Caldo de Marisco (stewed seafood & tomato sauce) and the Chicharrones de Pollo. The ribs had too dominant smoke flavor while the Caldo de Marisco was delicious, made with really fresh ingredients with a hint of sea breeze. I nearly ignored the Chicharrones de Pollo but luckily, I was able try it and encountered a really tasty dish. The chicken parts were soaked in garlic, lime and rum marinade then dredged in flour and deep fried.

I tried the Prawns Ceviche, Gambas and Empanadas, and I was totally surprised that the two shrimp dishes were no match for the superb delicious empanadas! I had to do a little reading on what made these empanadas exceptional (minced beef filling with peppers called peccadillo) and all of us present were agreed that this was the best dish served in that dinner.

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