"You have to see this movie." Chef Movie Review and Cubanos

"You have to see this movie." 

I love conversations that begin this way. With a command. That means my friend, who knows me intimately, has something to share that I would love. And, in this case, MUST SEE. 

Further explanation comes: "It's got salsa music and Cuban food. You have to see this movie." There's an urgent tone in her voice.

The movie in question is called "Chef" and is the brainchild of accomplished director and actor, Jon Favreau. My salsa-dancing-Cuban-food-loving friend, Rosabelle dragged me to see it. 

I was not disappointed. In fact, I caught her urgent tone. Why hadn't I heard of this film? It's got a great plot, hilarious moments, clever storyline, wonderful acting.

And Cubanos.


This synopsis from IMDB: A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.

That's the premise: a chef starts a food truck. But people, he starts by cooking CUBAN SANDWICHES. And yuca fries. And arroz con pollo. And he marinates the pork ("pierna") in mojo criollo. 

When was the last time a movie spoke our language as clearly as this?

If you can still find it in a theater near you, go see this gem of a movie. (Warning: lots of f-bombs are dropped, but not gratuitously. It makes sense to the plot.)


Immediately after I went to see Chef, (in fact, as I was leaving the theater) I text my daughter, Amy: ""You have to see this movie." 

I make arrangements to take her and Lucy. After the 3 of us had seen it, Lucy took her boyfriend to see it. "You have to see this movie."

Then I insisted that Eric and Jon go, too. "You have to see this movie." (Yes, I went to see it 3 times, but that's not important right now.)

It's difficult to explain without giving too much away, so I end up sounding like a crazy person. "He's a chef. And he gets a food truck. And he makes Cubanos! And the music! Trust me. You have to see this movie!"

We all became very enthusiastic about Chef. So much so, that Amy started following Jon Favreau on Facebook and came across this:


It turned out that Monday, July 21st, Jonathan had an audition just a few blocks away from that very spot, at 5:30. It didn't take much convincing on my part to get them to go. 

He and Lucy found Animal Restaurant on Fairfax and saw that a line had already started to form, so they just jumped in and started texting me the play-by-play.

"The line's not too long. You can smell the sandwiches from where we are."

And then...

"Mom, he's here. Jon Favreau is HERE. And he's headed our way." 

And then, these photos:



They said he was lovely and personable and funny and took the time to greet everyone in line, while they blurted out something to the effect of: "We're Cuban! And Mom cooks! And we loved the movie!" 

After they got over the fun celebrity encounter, and as they approached the front of the line, the smell, they said, became overwhelmingly intoxicating. My people, of course, have been raised to recognize the awesome that is roasted pork. 

"The Cubanos look amazing!"


"They're using real butter..." 


"...and a genuine Cuban plancha."


And so the texts and photos kept coming.

The world of the food they'd grown up with and the world of movie magic colliding in a wonderful explosion of the Best-Cuban-Sandwich-Ever-Yes-Even-Better-Than-Mami's. 

If you've never had a Cuban Sandwich, or Cubano, here's the recipe: The Sandwich Generation.




We're grateful to Jon Favreau for putting Cuban Sandwiches on the map with Chef. And I'm particularly grateful that he made those Cubanos accessible to my Cubanos via the screen and in person.

Well played, Mr. Favreau. Well played.


"You have to see this movie." 

12 Days of Cucufate

Every year at Christmastime, I make it a point to find a really fun live show to enjoy with my girls. It's one of our favorite traditions and it has become kind of a big thing.

We start searching for shows and tickets early in the fall. And we fret and argue and try to choose a really fun show. This is what happened the year when Amy Kikita didn't believe she would enjoy the show I chose.

This year we were out-of-our skin delighted to find that our very favorite A capella group, Straight No Chaser was going to be in town. (Well, technically they were going to be playing in San Diego, and even if it's not in our area code it was on our coast, but that's not important right now.)

My girls and Christmas tree

So we traveled down to San Diego to the Balboa Theater and were treated to the most wonderful evening of amazing music. They are super talented and hilarious.

Balboa Theater San Diego

This is a photo the guys took from the stage and posted on their Facebook wall and asked the audience to tag themselves. Isn't that genius? (You should totally go like them on Facebook.)

Straight No Chaser in San Diego

After the show they stayed to sign autographs and meet the audience. As if we didn't love them enough before....

Straight No Chaser

We shook their hands and loved on them and they signed our CD and we were happy delirious.

Autographed CD Straight No Chaser

And we listened to their Christmas CD all the way home.

Inspired by their awesomeness, and playing their Holiday Spirits Christmas CD non-stop, I chose their incredible version of The 12 Days of Christmas for the opening of our family Christmas video. 

The pictures I used were ones we took last year in our Nochebuena Photobooth. The word, "Cucufate" means a total screw up. Hence our name, Cucufate Pictures. ;-)

We will show the video on Saturday night at our annual Nochebuena Celebration. Here's a sneak peak....

Watch. And love.

Feliz Navidad to you all!

Voices From Mariel - a Screening (or 2 or 3)

**The following post was written and brought to you by the one and only Kikita. Marta and the rest of the big, fat, Cuban family are currenty cruising to Puerto Rico**

Mami, Marta, has been collecting your Cuando Sali de Cuba stories for quite some time now getting ready for Hispanic Heritage Month. What better way to kick off the month than with a screening of the film that kicked off the Cuando Sali de Cuba story sharing?


Back in May, there was a giveaway of the DVD "Voices From Mariel."

Voices From Mariel logo

And now, at the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, there will be a couple of special screenings of this incredible documentary in select cities.

If you're in Miami, you can go see "Voices From Mariel" next weeked, September 9, 10, & 11 at:
90 NW 29th Street
Miami, FL 33127
(305) 571-9970
Click here for tickets and showtimes


September 9-15 at:
11865 SW 26th Street
Miami, FL 33175
(305) 221-1801
Click here for tickets and showtimes

If you're reading from New Brunswick, New Jersey there will be a screening for you, too!

On September 25th, "Voices of Mariel" will be part of the screenings offered in the New Jersey:

New Jersey Film Festival Location
Voorhees Hall #105
71 Hamilton Street/College Avenue Campus
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ
(You have to be sure and arrive about 30 minutes early to get your tickets at the door, though)

All of these screenings are fantastic, but a movie isn't really a movie until it's seen in LA, right?
Of course, right.

So, on September 10th at 8pm, as a part of Cuban Cultural Night at the MACHA Theatre in West Hollywood, there will be a special screening of "Voices of Mariel" complete with a Question and Answer session with some of the makers afterwards. ("The Makers" being Dr. Jose Garcia - the creator, Rob Tritton - a producer, and Steven Bauer - a totally awesome actor and if you don't know who he is I - Kikita - might be worried about how Cuban you really are!)

There are plenty of people who don't know anything about the Mariel Boatlift beyond Scarface or that one Pitbull album, those are the people you should bring with you to this event.

And, afterwards, please come up and introduce yourself to me.

Let's take a picture.
And you can tell me your Cuando Sali de Cuba story, or ask for tips on how to get your Taka Taka just right. ;-)

I hope to see you all on Saturday, September 10th at 8pm!
MACHA Theatre
1107 North Kings Rd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Click here for tickets

If you haven't submitted your Cuando Sali de Cuba story to Mami yet, there's still time! Go ahead and send her an email.
(600-700 words with photos.)

If you can't make it to any of the screenings because they're not in your area, there's only one thing to do: find a way to have a screening in your city! Go ahead and send me, Kikita, an email and I'll make sure you get in touch with the right people.

What a great beginning to Hispanic Heritage Month, no?

See you on the 10th!

This Girl

I fell in love with this girl the moment I first laid eyes on her. It was August 11, 1993.

Today is the 18th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Love Affair.

Lucy face

Her good friends, Brandon and David made the following film in her honor, with a little help from her brother, Jonathan and a few willing strangers. 

Get some popcorn.

And let the Birthday Games begin.




Lucy Message












Mailyn cafe

Steph & hilary





 Thanks to all of you who participated in all the cyber-fun. Lucy totally appreciated your presence at her Virtual Birthday Party. =D


The Help - And the winners are...

Thank you again for your willingness to share your stories. (And for letting me share mine!)

If you must know, my very favorite character, especially in the film, was Celia Foote. I loved how she totally disarmed Minny with her innocence - or was it ignorance?


And the winners of the giveaways are:


The Dreamworks The Help Gift Pack goes to:

Screen shot 2011-08-10 at 9.01.44 PM

A copy of the book, The Help by Kathryn Stockett goes to:

Screen shot 2011-08-10 at 9.01.26 PM

Congratulations to both of you!

Please send me an email with HEY, MARTA! I WON STUFF ON YOUR BLOG! in the subject line and your snail mail address so that I can forward to Dreamworks and get this cool stuff out to you ASAP.

Thanks again to all of you who played with me. And seriously.....GO. SEE. THIS. FILM!


A Pirate's Life for....you? - A Cool Giveaway

You know how much I love All-things-Disney.

And can I just tell you how ready I am for summer? Not just because I'll have lots of down time (yay!), but also because summer is Blockbuster Movie Season. Am I right?

Jonny & penelope


First movie on my List of Blockbuster Movies I'm Looking Forward To: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES which will be released next week just in time for my birthday. (Thank you, Disney People!)

Capn jack

Here are my reasons (in no particular order):

  • Johnny Depp.
  • Penelope Cruz.
  • The Fountain of Youth.
  • I can wear scarves and heavy eye makup and no one will think it's weird.
  • I have a Very Cool Piratey Giveaway.
  • Best movie quotes EVER.
  • One of Lucy's teachers from last semester, Tim Powers, wrote the novel that the screenplay was based on, but that's not important right now. (Notice the cool inscription, which reads: "For Lucy - Who will be signing books for me one day! Cheers, Tim Powers. I know. Shut up.)

  Tim Powers autograph

So, here's what the generous folks at Disney Studios Motion Pictures are providing for this Very Cool Piratey Giveaway Pack: 

1) PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES T-shirt in adult sizes of S, M, L (winner chooses)

Pirate stuff

2) PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES bandana in blackPirate bandana

3) PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES temporary tattoo (2 per winner)Pirate tattoo

I'm very pleased! This is some awesome pirate loot.

So, it's time to play along with me.

For a chance to win the Cool Piratey Giveaway Pack, please leave your favorite Cap'n Jack quote or dialogue from any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Only in the comments section of this post.Or just leave a piratey sounding comment.

I'll choose a winner on Monday, May 16th at 11 am PST.

The film debuts on Friday, May 20th.  (Yay!)

Just to get in the groove, I'm going to go Like” PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN on Facebook at: http://www.Facebook.com/PiratesoftheCaribbean

Please enjoy the movie trailer. Then think of your favorite quote and leave it here for me.

Okay, I'll start:

Cap'n Jack Sparrow: We are very much alike, you and I, I and you... us.
Elizabeth: Oh. Except for a sense of honor and decency and a moral center. And personal hygiene.
Cap'n Jack Sparrow: Trifles.
Good luck!

Welcome, Christmas!

The tables are already set.

The smell of roast pork is intoxicating.

The gifts are wrapped and tagged.

The creme de vie is already flowing.

The girls made a run to Porto's Bakery this morning for some REAL CUBAN BREAD (Thank you, God!), croquetas, pastelitos and Cuban tamales.

We are ready for Nochebuena.

Everyone is working hard around here, but they seem to be happier. There's already a lot of laughter in spite of the stress of preparing to host 24 noisy, hungry Cubans.

I hope your Christmas is wonderful, too.

So, from my big, fat, Cuban family to yours: Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad!

Let the celebrations begin!


Beauty and The Grid

When Amy was about 12, we had the opportunity to see Beauty and the Beast (the stage show) at the Music Center in Los Angeles. (At that time, Lucy was only 2, but that's not important right now.)

I remember the show being so breathtakingly beautiful. And I remember my surprise that the Disney animated film could translate so perfectly to the stage.

As the years passed, it turns out that My Lucy loved Beauty and the Beast. She could always relate more to Belle, the plucky, well-read heroine than to any of the other save-me-from-my-sad-life-and-take-me-to-your-castle Disney princesses.

It was around Lucy's adolescence that Disney locked Beauty away in The Vault. And it was only this year that the dvd and the stage show were resurrected.

At Christmastime, it's become our tradition to do a Girls At The Theater Night. Read about that here and here. Beauty and the Beast came to our local venue, The Orange County Performing Arts Center in November.

But we were crazy-busy in November.

Amy Kikita: "Mom, we have to take Lucy to Beauty and the Beast. Make it happen."

Me: "Aaah! We're going on a cruise, it's Thanksgiving, she's leaving for a week, she has school until really late, umm...Excuse #263.... FINE."

Beauty and the beast

Here we are at the Center with the stage (see the Rose?) behind us.

Obviously we pulled it off, but it was November. And it seemed anti-climactic to have already been to the theater so far before Christmas. (I'm one of those people who waits to decorate my home for Christmas until about mid-December, that explanation can be found here.)

Lucy was beyond satisfied and deliriously happy that we finally saw the stage production of Beauty and the Beast. The show was just as wonderful as I remembered. (Win!)

Me & girls

So last week, I was invited to the premiere of the film, Tron:Legacy. It was playing at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood.

Tron marquee

My first thought was that for sure the boys would love it....but I didn't count on Lucy to be as excited to see it as well.

But, I was very mistaken.

First, it was already appealing because it involved a Road Trip to Hollywood.

Hollywood Blvd.

Always fun, but much more so during the holidays with all the glitzy, you're-on-Hollywood-Blvd.-star decorations.

Hollywood Blvd.

And of course, you never know who or what you will encounter on the Walk of Fame.

Jon & Marilyn

Jon and his new friend, Marilyn. ;-)

Donald duck star

"The Duck has a star. Who knew?"

And so it was that we (Eric, Lucy and Jonathan and I) got to experience the Uber-Geeky Awesomeness that is Tron:Legacy in 3D.

3d glasses

It was so much fun because:

  1. Eric and I were both already old-school-1982-Tron fans, so it's always cool to get to share that sort of thing with the kids.
  2. Jeff Bridges. (Hello...?)
  3. We happen to enjoy the show Chuck, in which uber-nerd main character Chuck has a classic Tron poster on his wall. They were finally able to relate to it. =D

Tron poster

Lucy and Jon prepare to Enter The Grid of Awesomeness.

Jon & Lucy

It makes me happy to know that my very feminine Girly-girl can also hold her own with the Uber-Geeks.

(The apple does not fall far....)

The movie, by the way, was phenomenal in every way. The modern story stands alone while providing just enough nostalgia to keep us old-timers satisfied.  And did I mention Jeff Bridges? (Hello...?)

The Most Beautiful Beach in the World

Most of the decor in my home is bright and colorful and Cuban-esque.

My "theme"? I was originally going for Cuban Beach Cottage. (Our home is small.) And so, I have collected posters and art and maps and things that are a throwback to the simple days of my Cuban childhood.

These three framed postcards, for example, are of 3 places that I remember vividly: (from top to bottom) Varadero Beach, The Hotel Nacional de Cuba, and the Malecón.


I've shared with you before about my fascination with the Hotel Nacional and the amazing gift I received from my friend, Ody.

I've written many times about how many of my earliest memories are of the beach. Specifically Varadero Beach in the Cuban province of Matanzas.

I have been to some beautiful beaches in my lifetime, but I still believe (as do most Cubans that I've met) that there is no beach on earth that compares with Varadero.

I vividly remember digging my toes into the soft powdery sand. I can practically smell the sea air. The water was walk-right-in warm. It's one of those perfect sensory memories that is seared into my brain.

Ah, Varadero! How can anything compare with the memory of your perfection? The most beautiful beach in the world.

Amy Kikita brought back some souvenirs from her Cuba trip. Some were gifts from the cousins and uncles. Some she chose herself at one of the flea markets.

Cuba gifts 

There was a baseball hat from Los Industriales, some goat-skin maracas, a baseball bat & ball for Jon with his name carved into it, some jewelry for Lucy, wooden cooking utensils (how apropos!), an unusual wine-bottle holder.

How much fun we were having! We opened gifts and she told us the stories of how she came to acquire each one and who and where they were from. We laughed and celebrated the thoughtfulness of each item.

In the midst of this rowdy exchange she pulled out one last bundle which reduced me to tears...

It was a container made of heavy marble. (I have an extensive collection of small boxes/containers from all over the world, but that's not important right now) This one was from the amazing Hotel Nacional.

Hotel nacional box 

I thought this was "el colmo." ("the ultimate.")

Until she handed me the ziplock bag full of sand from the most beautiful beach in the world.

Varadero sand

I am still speechless. Gracias, Mimi.

I'm the little girl in the white dress, all Shirley Temple curls and big red airplane-size hairbow. Please go back in time with me to the Varadero of my childhood.... (bring tissues...)