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Side Dishes: Homegrown Cuban cuisine takes off in Burlington

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When it comes to mining for new market niches in northern Vermont, Yurisleidis Mora may have hit the motherlode.

It was only last week that the Cuban-born Burlingtonian launched La Cocina Cubana, turning over her Willard Street home kitchen to dishes of her native island that customers preorder and pick up. One week later, Mora says she’s been “a little busy” cooking up plates of ropa vieja, arroz con pollo and, the most popular so far, camarones al ajillo, or shrimp in a lime-infused garlic sauce.

Mora, who studied agronomy in Cuba and is currently a photography and early childhood education student at the Community College of Vermont, says simply, “Well, Vermont doesn’t have any Cuban restaurants, and so I looked to try something.”

Her inaugural menu is succinct but full bodied: Diners, who must call by 1 p.m. for an evening pickup, can choose from four or five menu entrées and four or five kinds of rice — including a yellow rice spiked with turmeric, garlic and onions. They also get sopa del dia or fried plaintains or both, and an avocado or traditional Cuban salad in a lime vinaigrette.

Jared Carter, Mora’s husband and the former director of Rural Vermont, calls himself her “assistant chef and dishwasher.” He first took note of the power of his wife’s cooking when friends swooned over it at dinner parties. “The whole focus is trying to imitate the paladares, the home restaurants that are scattered throughout the country,” he says.

La Cocina Cubana is open Wednesday through Saturdays, and the menu will rotate based on both seasonality and availability.

La Cocina Cubana, 54 south Willard Street, Burlington, 431-3625. cubankitchenvt.com

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