One of my favourite things to do is a studio visit. It's an amazing opportunity to work directly with the incredible makers/craftsmen/artisans who wear our aprons. Being in Los Angeles, we are so blessed to be surrounded by talented, passionate hustlers who do everything from custom bike build-outs, to handmade ceramics, to floristry. Last week, I was able to swing by Kristen Caissie's studio, a bright and beautiful space nestled between Silverlake and Koreatown.
We're really lucky. We have a community unlike any other. The Apron Squad, as we call it, is compiled of a ton of chefs, makers, craftsmen and creative types from all of the world. They're hustlers who are passionate about their craft and it reaaaally really shows.
Last week, the inimitable Rose Lawrence of Red Bread origin came into the Apron HQ and was immediately recognizable, with her bright red lips and bright smile. She's an OG member of the squad and a frequent face on our social channels.
You might have heard a little peep about 100 Layer Cake taking over the Apron Factory just a few short weeks ago. WELL they blogged about it and we want to re-live every minute of that gnocchi, those cocktails, and of course the amazing squad that gussied up and dined amongst the aprons.
TONS of people have been asking me about my trip to Cuba. It's been a couple months, but it's better late than never. Here's the 411:
Bring a lot of cash! American credit cards are not excepted in Cuba yet so what you enter with is what you will have.
Don't buy cigars from anywhere except for inside hotels or at the airport! A lot of people want to sell you cigars on the street but you'll run the risk of buying counterfeit cigars which means they just rolled them at home and they don't smoke the same way as the proper cigar.
Romeo and Juliet are the best cigars. Cohiba is a little bit stronger and way harder to smoke.
Don't wear anything super flashy, wear casual clothes. Everyone wears pretty run down gear so you don't want to be walking around in some epic outfit or anything. Bring a good outfit and then stick to comfy walking shoes, a ton of shorts and breezy short sleeved collar shirts or button ups that are light weight. You can buy a Cuban hat when you're there.
For a really great time and a visit to a very classic place, go to la bodeguita del medio to eat.
Our favorite meal in Havana was at "Doña Eutimia". Believe it or not you have to make a reservation because it is always fucking packed. It is super delicious, like really delicious classic Cuban food and is it is very cute. Right next to it to the left is a really amazing art studio that you need to pop your head into before you sit down and eat.
PLEASE NOTE: Cuba does not have crazy epic delicious food yet because of the embargo. You will probably have better Cuban food in the United States but regardless you have to eat tostones- fried plantains, black beans and rice, rope vieja- shredded beef dish, picadillo- ground beef dish while you are there. Eat all those at Doña Eutemia.
One of the best experiences was walking by what looked like an old abandoned building and peering inside to find a freaking dance company in full fledged rehearsal. I took part in their rehearsal and looked like a goof ball but who cares! It was a real treat to see this go down in a very rundown building. It's near old Havana and if you look for the corner of Trocadero and Consulado, it's on the same block and same side as a place called hotel Lido Havana. It looks like a total neighborhood street but if you peer inside the different door ways, you will see a dance rehearsal in there that will blow you away. They usually rehearse from 10 am -12 pm. Please try and see that, it's so amazing!
You need to go visit the cigar factory in Old Havana.
The national art museum also known as The museum of Cuban art is also really great.
A very old school mobster like hotel you should visit and see the old school pool and architecture is the hotel habana riviera. Super old school movie stars would stay here and it's totally rat pack 1950s looking.
Walk down Obispo - another great street to cruise on.
Walk down Mercaderes, great street for walking and looking at the epic architecture.
You must go to "Fabrica Del Arte". This is a super cool and VERY ahead of its time, art gallery meets night club but it's really cool and totally unexpected and different.
The cemetery in the middle of Havana is crazy and is one of the biggest in Latin America so it's worth a stroll through there.
For a clean and simple meal where you can get delicious fresh pineapple juice and other drinks and talk to other interesting backpackers and world travelers, go to "el chanchulero."-Havana
For wifi you can go to the Saratoga which is the only hotel that if you stay there, they give you unlimited access to wifi. NO ONE has that in Cuba except for that hotel from what we saw. It's the nicest hotel in Havana compared to a lot of places we saw and it's really well located.
The other hotel that's really epic is called the Hotel nacional de Cuba. That one is really old school.
You can rent an old school American convertible for about 35 Cuban pesos and they will drive you around the city. They will stop you at different spots to take photos and charge you little one pesos and two pesos here and there though too so be prepared to get hustled.
A very cool antique shop on O'reilly street in old Havana - it is on Villegas (that's the street) #101 between San Juan de dios and O'reilly.
Attending a baseball game in Havana is also a really good time. That is something that tourists don't always but is legitimately super freaking fun!
If you want to go out of Havana. Everyone recommended Cien fuegos and Trinidad which are cities outside of Havana. We went to Varadero which was a very small town but had really beautiful beaches. We stayed there 2 nights which was plenty.
We bought our tickets online through a canadian website. We flew from Miami to Cayman Islands and then booked a separate flight back through Mexico City and back to LA.
VISAS- We got ours in the Cayman Islands at the airport for 20 bucks each on our layover.
It was pretty straight forward coming back in via mexico and we even had our passports stamped by Cuban immigration and American immigration didn't make a fuss of it. One thing to note though is we did check that we were there for business reasons + "professional research".
HOTELS- where to stay
We stayed at a pretty great hotel called The Saratoga and at another place called the Hotel Inglattera.
But lots of people stay at houses that are private homes similar to Air bnb. I have a handful of places that I could recommend. A lot of those home are on trip advisor too.
Master of all things smoky barbeque, Adam Perry Lang is rep'ing Hedley & Bennett chef aprons with Jimmy Kimmel in his Hollywood backlot. WHOA!!!! We're SO excited to eat the best ribs from now through Thursday then AGAIN next week Tuesday - Thursday.
All the profits from this event are being donated straight to LA Kitchen - an AWESOME program working to put food waste into the hands of people that can use it while creating jobs and community.
So if the aprons themselves, nor the star-power, or even the smoky-ass Hollywood BBQ doesn't get you excited, do it for LA Kitchen!
It's rumored that here at the Apron HQ, we wear aprons for any and all tasks simply because we love them so much. I neither confirm nor deny these rumors (**confirm**cough**cough**) but for me, the real cherry on top is when I go out in the world and see our aprons in action. This, my friends, fills me to the brim with genuine Apron Squad Pride.
Had you been at Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe earlier this week, you would have found me rolling on the ground, overcome with happiness. I'd gone in search of Zoe Nathan, new Apron Squad member and Pastry-Chef-Bad-Ass. Nathan and her husband Josh Loeb, are owners and operators of Huckleberry and Rustic Canyon Winebar & Seasonal Kitchen and what they're creating in both locations is nothing short of incredible.
The pastries...Give me a second to pull myself together to talk about the pastries....
First there was the bluberry cornmeal cake and the Niman Ranch maple bacon biscuit. It made sense to stop there. There was, after all, a full meal still to come. But both were so delicious, it was clear I'd be missing out if I didn't try more. I mean, come on, there's a reason Nathan has earned the title Pastry-Chef-Bad-Ass.
I finally left, content and full, having also nibbled on the cinnamon sugar donut, gluten-free lemon poppyseed teacake, organic brisket hash, egg sandwich, and the chopped salad.
Bottom line, we're proud to see our aprons on people who are hustling, whose craft is impeccable, and who feed us to our hearts content. Not only are Zoe and Josh some of the kindest and hardest working people I know, they really care so freaking much about their employees and the quality of every epic dish they send out. They somehow manage to juggle their kids and their now growing empire of bakeries, ice cream shops and restaurants all without missing a beat. I am so honored to know them and have them on the apron squad and they really are a shining example of how to live life to the fullest.