The Cuban bandleader Compay Segundo wrote the song “Chan Chan” in 1984 and it immediately became popular with Cuban musicians. When asked about how he wrote it, Segundo reportedly said, “I didn’t compose ‘Chan Chan,’ I dreamed it. I dream the music.”
The song is set on the beach and, for Noel Argote-Herrera, it evokes the spirit of the Cuban nation. As the executive chef and owner of Adelfa’s Comida Cubana, he said he’s doing the same thing with his food.
“On Sunday’s when I’m out I want to give people the feeling that I had with my mom,” said Argote-Herrera, “dancing, singing and enjoying food. I’m trying to bring people together with food and music, especially Musica Cubana.”
Adelfa’s Comida Cubana is a catering and pop-up restaurant started by Argote-Herrera. It appears most Thursdays and Sundays near a driveway on 15th and Bella streets in the North End of Boise and on Tuesdays at Clairvoyant Brewery at 28th and Idaho streets. People can follow the eatery on Facebook and Instagram for menu changes and pop-up times, or order catering via the website adelfascubana.com.
Argote-Herrera moved to the United States from Cuba in 1970 with his family; he grew up in Miami Beach, Florida, and Glendale, California. His knowledge and love of cooking come from his mother, Adelfa, who he named the restaurant after.
“This is just food from the heart, that’s all I’m trying to do,” said Argote-Herrera. “My mother had a tough life and she never complained. She had a way about her and people loved her and they loved her food.”
All of the food Argote-Herrera makes is food he grew up eating. He doesn’t use written recipes — he has it all stored in his mind from the years he spent watching his mother. He said he hasn’t been to Cuba for a long time but Cuba is in everything he does.
“I’m working every day trying to make more than a name,” said Argote-Herrera. “I’ve had some failures but I’m proud of my family and my daughters Ariela and Raquel, and I’m proud of my food.”
His food is something to be proud of, it is delicious. He originally moved to the Treasure Valley to work as a chef at Micron. After serving his Cuban fare successfully at different venues, including Boise State University, he decided to try it on his own.
On most days he serves flan made in what he called the Spanish Cubano way. It’s his most popular item and people flock to the pop up for it. He’s thinking of selling whole pans for Easter, which falls on April 4 this year.
He also serves guava marmalade pastries called pastelitos de guayaba. These pastries feature a crispy, light puff pastry and a not-too-sweet filling.
He’s also featured paella with chimichurri, mojo marinated chicken and more often, his version of Lechón, a pork dish traditionally made from slow-roasted whole pig.
Argote-Herrera even holds vegan days. Recently, the vegan day menu consisted of classic Cuban black beans, saffron basmati rice, yucca with mojo, avocado salad, and platanitos (fried plantains.)
He said he’s using local ingredients when he can. For instance, he buys guava from Campos Market, and adheres to traditional cooking styles whenever possible.
Argote-Herrera makes his food at Your Kitchen, a commercial kitchen rental in Meridian, and said the community has been supportive of his endeavor.
“What’s keeping me going is the response from the community,” said Argote-Herrera, “and it’s been really wonderful for me to get to share all of my food with people and my memories. I’m just giving people memories of my parents, and again, it’s all about dancing, singing and enjoying food. And I couldn’t have done it without the support of the Boise community and for that, I am forever grateful.”