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Why did you choose Asheville to open your restaurant?
Alex Fraga, Vice President: My father, Antonio Fraga moved here over 12 years ago. We’ve all fallen in love with this city and both our families have made Asheville home. Asheville has a diverse culinary scene that offers so many opportunities to try different food from around the world. Our family wanted to share Cuban cuisine with Asheville. Share the culture. Share the Fraga family hospitality legacy.
What is your favorite part of being a restaurant owner in Asheville?
AF: Our family is proud to introduce and share Cuban cuisine with Asheville. We wanted to share our families Cuban heritage with the locals and visitors by offering an experience you wouldn’t expect to find in the mountains of Western North Carolina. It’s wonderful to hear from those that are familiar with Cuban cuisine that they love the restaurant. Also, being able to introduce Cuban cuisine to those that haven’t tried it before has been wonderful experience.
What is the background of your restaurant’s name?
AF: My father was born in Cuba and lived there for 17 years. While there, he was very familiar with the restaurant El Floridita in Havana. This restaurant was a well-known favorite of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway is known for his true love of Cuban culture and Cuban cuisine. We share that deep love of our culture and being able to introduce it in Asheville was always a dream. Naming the restaurant after Hemingway was a perfect fit.
What ingredient could you not live without?
Duane Fernandes, Executive Chef: At Hemingway’s Cuba we could not live without Sazon seasoning. It’s a wonderful seasoning blend and a staple in Cuban cuisine. Personally, I don’t think I could live without hot sauce. Right now, I have been into this Naga Jolokia hot sauce. It’s pretty hot but has tons of flavor.
What is your favorite dish on your menu?
DF: Vaca Frita. It’s a braised beef dish that is crisped up and “fried” before serving and tossed with garlic, onions and lime. The braised beef, various texture combinations and garlicy lime notes are incredible.
What is your favorite dish from a fellow AIR restaurant’s menu?
DF: I recently had this greasy bean, fried egg and spicy sausage dish at Buxton Hall that was outstanding. Saucy, spicy…so good!
What is your favorite chef’s tool and why?
DF: Swiss peeler. It’s a very simple often taken for granted tool that is used often. It really makes peeling large quantities of vegetables etc. quick and smooth.