nickbadovinus[4] copy.jpg

Nick Badovinus

is the tastemaker and Executive Chef behind some of Dallas’ most successful restaurants. Such award-winning places as Neighborhood Services, Off-Site Kitchen, Fireside Pies, Hibiscus and The Porch have benefited from his creative mind, endless enthusiasm and remarkable cooking skills. Born in 1970 in Bellevue, Washington, Badovinus began his culinary career after graduating from the University of Washington. A member of a large extended family that valued the outdoors, family dinners, and large events with friends, Badovinus realized that preparing and sharing food with others was his high calling. Arriving in Dallas in 1996, with all his possessions in the back of his pickup, Badovinus began the journey that has allowed him to work with some of the best chefs and creative restaurateurs in Dallas, including Dean Fearing, Phil Romano, and Tristan Simon.

In 2008, Badovinus started Flavor Hook, a company devoted to restaurant development and business management. Flavor Hook opened the highly acclaimed Neighborhood Services, a neighborhood restaurant, in late 2008, in the park cities section of Dallas. It was an immediate hit with the customers from all over the city.

This initial success was followed in 2010 with the opening of Neighborhood Services Tavern and Neighborhood Services Bar & Grill. In 2012, Badovinus opened local favorite burger and sandwich shop, Off-Site Kitchen. The third Neighborhood Services opened in Addison in November 2014 and has been very well received by families and businesses alike. Montlake Cut, an homage to Nick’s hometown of Seattle, opened in December 2015. D Magazine awarded the restaurant the “Best Seafood Restaurant in Dallas” in 2016.

Badovinus upped his game again when he built the opulent upscale concept, Town Hearth, from the ground up. The interior is classic Badovinus (yes, he does his own design!) Sixty-four crystal chandeliers illuminate the room accented with a giant fish tank with a yellow submarine and a 1961 MG parked in front of the open kitchen.

Badovinus knows what Dallas wants to eat. Recently he debuted Perfect Union Pizza, a new concept with a menu featuring pizza and a few Italian-American classic dishes.  This will be Badovinus’ first trip to Cuba, but he’s certainly familiar with the cuisine. He was the brains behind the popular Henderson Avenue restaurant Cuba Libre. 


Nancy Nichols

was the Food and Travel Editor at D Magazine for 21 years. It was a perfect job for her as she loves to eat and travel and travel to eat. Nancy’s culinary adventures have taken her to Cuba for 8 tours over the last 3 years, Africa (11 times), Vietnam, Thailand, Borneo, Brazil, Uzbekistan, Czech Republic, and many other destinations. She has studied cooking in Bangkok, Singapore, France, Italy, and England.

Besides writing about food, Nancy has led successful group culinary tours through Cornwall, Italy, the Caribbean, Alaska, New York, Los Angeles, Texas, and Havana. She is currently concentrating on Cuba and offers three to four of her successful Eat, Drink, Think Cuba programs each year. She also customizes trips for groups who are looking to discover Cuba with a slant on music, art, photography, and art.

Nancy traveled all over Cuba and lived with families. She learned to cook (and eat!) local foods from home cooks. Her hosts took her to local markets and restaurants where she was introduced to Cuban chefs, cooks, and agricultural workers at fresh food markets and farms. In February 2016, she participated in a tour of Havana focused on the music scene. 

Before her tenure at D Magazine, she spent close to 20 years working in and around the food business working in many different capacities --- from her first job as a waitress at the J. C. Penny's coffee shop to catering Christmas parties for Steven Spielberg and Jane Fonda. In between she was an event coordinator for the L.A. Coliseum and Sports Arena and produced events ranging from NBA basketball games to Bruce Springsteen concerts. A native of Dallas, she spent 11 years in Los Angeles before returning to Dallas in 1992 just as the local dining scene began its transformation.

Cuba Educational Travel (CET) is a leader in cultural travel to Cuba. CET unlocks the best of Cuba by providing access to the country’s top artists, academics, tastemakers, and cultural figures. CET’s tailor-made programs enable clients to experience Cuba’s vibrant culture and gain a deeper understanding of the island, while ensuring full compliance with all U.S. regulations.  

CET has been on the frontlines of cultural collaboration, helping to bring Cubans to the U.S. and Americans to Cuba. From Yoga retreats to concerts to dance performances, CET has wide-ranging experience and contacts. Recent highlights include organizing the Diplo Major Lazer concert in Havana, which drew a crowd of over 500,000 people and bringing Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, the country’s top dance group, to perform at the Latin Grammys. 

Sign up deadline: July 20, 2018


Monday, October 29

Arrive to Havana. (pending flight information)

Settle in to the historic Hotel Capri, which was one of the first hotel casinos built by the American mafia in Cuba. Owned by mobster Santo Trafficante, and run by George Raft, the hotel was at a time one of the largest casinos in Havana. Located blocks from the University of Havana, Coppelia ice cream, and the Havana seawall, the recent remodeling provides first class amenities, while leaving the history and original charm of “The Capri.”

Welcome Dinner at Paladar Atelier. This restaurant is equally known for its atmosphere and exquisite cuisine. The lighting and textures of the house, which was home to a pre-revolutionary senator, coupled with walls adorned in modern art, create a cozy but modern setting.

Tuesday, October 30

Walking tour of Old Havana’s Historic Center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982. Wander through the Plaza de Armas, a scenic tree-lined plaza formerly at the center of influence in Cuba. It is surrounded by many of the most historic structures in Havana as well as important monuments. See the Plaza de San Francisco, a cobbled plaza surrounded by buildings dating from the 18th century, dominated by the baroque Iglesia and Convento de San Francisco dating from 1719. Visit the Plaza Vieja, surrounded by sumptuous houses of the Havana aristocracy from the 18th and 19th centuries. Visit Plaza de la Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana.

Lunch at Havana 61, a new paladar in Old Havana. This paladar is known for its excellent local cuisine, that goes outside the norm of Cuban food. 

Visit to the Museum of the Revolution, which holds hundreds of artifacts from pre- and post- revolutionary times and highlights the tense relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. 

Tour of agricultural market and food ration store to better understand purchasing power and consumption. 

Wednesday, October 31

Visit to a Cigar Factory. We will receive a tour and learn about the cigar making process. 

Depart for Finca Marta, about a 40-minute drive to the west of Havana. 

Meeting with Fernando Funes and tour of his farm Finca Marta. Funes is one of the most sought-after figures in Cuban culinary circles. Finca Marta, the 20-acre farm he named in honor of his late mother, is the result of the organic-farming work he’s done for the last quarter century and it supplies organic produce to many of Havana’s top- rated “paladares,” the privately-owned restaurants that are transforming the island’s reputation for uninspired dining.

Enjoy a farm-to-table experience on the grounds of Finca Marta. 

Return to Havana.

Visit to the home and studio of mosaic artist Fuster, who has converted his                                          neighborhood into an art project featuring murals, mosaic tiles and other designs.

Rum and cigar tasting at Café Madrigal. A local expert will explain the qualities and traits of fine Cuban rum and cigars, pairing them together for the perfect match. Café Madrigal, owned and run by film director Rafael Rosales, is housed on the second floor of a beautiful Vedado home, where the walls are lined with captivating art work.

Dinner at Paladar San Cristobal. Located in the heart of Central Havana, this paladar has a reputation of excellence in both atmosphere and local cuisine. Enjoy great food while the local takes you back to the 1940s and 50s. Prior to the meal, enjoy a discussion with Restaurateur and Executive Chef, Carlos Cristobal Marquez.

Ask your Cuban guide about tickets to Halloween events.

Thursday, November 1

Day trip to Viñales. Considered by many to be the most beautiful place in Cuba, the Viñales Valley is a National Monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is encircled by mountains and its landscape is interspersed with spectacular dome-shaped limestone outcrops (mogotes). Traditional techniques are still in use for agricultural production, particularly tobacco, which makes Viñales famous for being the premier tobacco growing area in the world.

Enjoy a farm-to-table experience on the grounds of a local farm, Finca Paraiso Agroecologica (the Organic Paradise Farm), where we will learn about Cuban agriculture and tobacco production, while indulging in an organic meal. 

Explore downtown Viñales. Visit the central plaza, walk through the main street and see the local markets and small business: private restaurants, Airbnbs, craft markets, among others.

Afternoon stroll with a local guide through the valley and tobacco fields. Learn about the most important crops, and other flora and fauna of the area. Stop at the home of a local tobacco farmer, who will teach us about the cultivation and production process, followed by a rolling demo.

Return to Havana.

Evening free

Friday, November 2

Visit to La Finca Vigía. Formerly the home of Ernest Hemingway, today it still houses his expansive collection of books. It was here where he wrote two of his most celebrated novels: For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. The beautiful grounds and bizarre tales from Hemingway’s many years in Cuba are captivating.

Farm visit and cooking lesson followed by lunch at Café Ajiaco, located in the little town of Cojímar, where Ernest Hemingway used to go fishing in his boat, El Pilar, and the setting for his story The Old Man and the Sea, which won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

Behind the scenes art tour. Visit different homes and neighborhoods to tour the studios and galleries of established and up-and-coming Cuban artists:

  • Mabel Poblet, one of Cuba’s most exciting new artists. She graduated from the National Academy of Fine Arts (the famous San Alejandro School) with highest honors and quickly became a great and well-known artist. Her work is intensely personal, precise and carefully crafted.
  • Frank, Adrian and Alex, three up-and-coming artists who are mixing their art training and talent with business skills to create profitable enterprises.
  • The Merger Gallery, a collaborative studio of three top-of-the-line Cuban artists Mario González, Niels Moleiro and Alain Pino.

Dinner at Doña Eutimia paladar. Famous for its ropa vieja and frozen mojitos, this cozy paladar made Newsweek Magazine’s top 100 restaurants in the world in 2012. The restaurant’s location in the beautiful cathedral square is unbeatable.

After dinner: Join Nancy and Nick for “The Hemingway Pub Crawl”

  • La Bodeguita del Medio. Located on a side street in Cathedral Square, this is apparently where the mojito, Cuba’s famed National drink, was first created.
  • La Floridita – one of Hemingway’s favorite watering holes. Famous for its reputation of its delicious daquiris.
  • Sloppy Joe’s pub. This recently renovated bar-restaurant was once the hangout of Babe Ruth and the likes when visiting pre-revolutionary Havana.

Saturday, November 3

Morning and lunch free

Visit to the Nostalgic Cars restoration garage and discussion with the owners Nidialys Acosta and Julio Alvarez. This husband and wife couple has become the face of entrepreneurship in Cuba, taking advantage of the new economic changes to restore and operate these American beauties. 

Discussion with Cristina Escobar about US - Cuba relations. Cristina is a news journalist, political commentator, one of the most visible figures on Cuban television and an expert on US - Cuba relations.

Enjoy a discussion and private performance by Banda Ancha, a jazz band led by Yissy Garcia, an amazingly talented young percussionist. Banda Ancha calls its style “high-speed Cuban jazz,” a mixture of different rhythms like funk, reggae and samba, with Afro-Cuban influences.  

Sunset driving tour in American classic cars from the 1950s. Coast along the Malecón, Havana’s seawall, visit the mansions in the Miramar neighborhood and experience the bustle of Neptuno and San Lázaro streets in the city center.  

Dinner at Tierra, Havana’s newest international dinning spot. Located inside a container in the Fábrica de Arte Cubano, the restaurant mirrors the eclectic crowd, serving dishes from around the world. Prior to the meal, enjoy a discussion with Tierra’s owner Niuris Higueras about running her private businesses in Cuba.

Following dinner, enjoy live music, art and dancing at La Fábrica de Arte Cubano. Rock star X Alfonso has turned this into meeting spot for a young, eclectic crowd of Cubans and foreigners.

Sunday, November 4

TBD                Check-out and depart for airport.