So, it has been some time since I have posted anything, but I have renewed energy to have a hand at blogging again. When I first moved to Roanoke, Virginia, I had the idea of blogging about my experiences with local restaurants, as well as places I went on vacation. Here it goes…
This weekend I visited two of our local farmer’s markets, Downtown and Grandin. I love the farmer’s market; there is always a steady bustling of people, lots of fresh, local produce, as well as many local artisan crafts. I had given an assignment to my Blue Ridge Writing Project fellows to capture their community in photographs and I wanted to try this myself. The Downtown Market was bursting with fresh peaches, peppers and some of the juiciest looking watermelons. I love that the farmers let you feel the produce and sometimes, sample the wares. Such a great connection to know where your food came from. I snapped lots of pictures and then ventured on to Grandin. Unfortunately, the stands were packing up as I arrived, but I was particularly drawn to one that was making fresh tamales. I approached the stand and inquired if they were still serving, but they were not. Their menu looked fabulous so I asked if they had a storefront where I could try them out. The gentleman replied “no,” but they worked out of a local kitchen on Williamson Road. They shared a kitchen with a Cuban restaurant called Cuban Island. I took a menu promising to make it earlier next week so I could try their Grilled Cactus Fruit salad and maybe one of those luscious looking tamales.
My husband and I made off for Williamson road famished from all of the looking and not eating. Cuban Island was a clean and inviting storefront with a good amount of parking. As we walked in we were greeted by a display case filled with homemade desserts. Our server was friendly and attentive. We ordered the seafood soup (highly rec’d by the gentleman at the market), a Cuban sandwich, and Ropa Viejo with yucca and black beans and rice. The seafood soup was indeed excellent. It was filled with chunks of plantain, yucca and clam. The broth was perfectly seasoned and delicious. The Cuban sandwich, though missing the requisite roasted pork, was just the right amount of crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy inside. It was chocked full of ham, pickles and mustard- just the right combo. The Ropa Viejo, though, was the true star. The beef was perfectly stewed and authentically seasoned with traditional Cuban spices. We actually took some of the beef and put it on our Cubans. This made the sandwich the perfect slice of pressed heaven and I highly rec. doing this. The yucca was steamed and elegantly seasoned with olive oil and vinegar to bring out the scrumptious flavor of the root vegetable. It was all delicious! My one piece of advice would be, bring your own hot sauce. Cuban Island has hot sauce but it is one of the basic vinegar-based sauces. I personally love Melinda’s Hot Sauce. It is vegetable-based and has a great deal of complexity due to the layering of ingredients. You can find it online or, surprisingly, at your local Kroger.
Needles to say, we were too stuffed to partake of dessert. Shame on us! They had a wonderful, homemade rice pudding and a tres leches cake that was obviously made in house. My husband and I have made a note of our transgression in this department and plan to rectify it immediately. As an added bonus to our visit the owner/chef came out to say hello and ask about our food. She was gracious and friendly and obviously a very talented cook. Cuban Island is a must do if you are in the Roanoke area and like traditional, homemade Cuban food.