Shelves at Miguel's Latin Market stocked with difficult-to-find foods, ingredients

Owners of the shop say they've seen success in serving their hot food

Puerto Rico native Lydia Mercado unloads her cart of Hispanic ingredients that her daughter, Gladys Dimino, center, will cook in Latin dishes. Beth N. Gray   |   Special to the Times
Puerto Rico native Lydia Mercado unloads her cart of Hispanic ingredients that her daughter, Gladys Dimino, center, will cook in Latin dishes.Beth N. Gray | Special to the Times
Published July 8 2015
Updated July 8 2015

SPRING HILL — The deliciously excitable and expressive sounds of the Spanish language fill the aisles at Miguel's Latin Market, certifying owner Roland Contina's assertion about Hernando County:

"Many Hispanics here."

"Puerto Rican, Cuban, Jamaican," enumerates his son, Alfredo Mirt, 17, the grocery's summer gofer and most knowledgeable translator for the growing number of English-speaking shoppers gobbling up hard-to-find Latin ingredients for recipes touted by television's popular foodie programs.

TV's Food Network groupies gleefully shop Miguel's, salivating over such finds as queso fresco, Mexican chocolate, coconut soda, tamarind and taro, fillet of bacalao, goat, lamb and rabbit meat, to name a few specialties.

"You find all the ethnic foods that you need that no one else has in Spring Hill," Gladys Dimino offered as she unloaded her cart at the dual-language checkout. The Spring Hill and New York resident shopped with her mother, Lydia Mercado of Spring Hill, who relishes the homemade cuisine of her native Puerto Rico.

With many Latin dishes concocted around rice, the staple is stocked at Miguel's in shoulder-toting 20-pound bags in a whopping nine varieties and brands.

Other native ingredients include fava bean flour and pea flour, guava cream and guava paste, each with recipes in English.

Among groceries, dairy products and beverages, Latinos recognize such staple brands as Goya, Conchita, Abaco, Iberia, El Milagro, Sula, Corona and Devassa.

Behind the old-fashioned, glass-front meat case, the in-house butcher of the day, Venezuelan Oswaldo Cherubini, portions and wraps for customers chicharron pork belly, chuleta de punta, bistek de palomilla and chorizo sausage.

Wares available for the Latin kitchen include a family-size wooden mortar and pestle, a cast aluminum tortilla warmer and a hand-cranked grain mill.

For those who prefer to have someone else do the cooking, a mini-kitchen and three-table cafeteria tucked into a corner of the market serve eat-in or takeout meals, the menu varying daily, always including choices from three proteins and four sides.

Cook Lilia Abreu, a native of Cuba, serves up, for instance, Cuban shredded beef, goat stew, sweet plantains, cassava, yellow rice and red beans, plus "always available, our famous pork skins."

Hot food is one of the market's biggest draws.

"We sell 30 to 40 meals a day," said Contina, 41, whose native Venezuelan family bought the 10-year-old market in November. They moved to Brooksville from Hudson, where Contina worked in a vending machine business.

Although several smaller Latino groceries exist in Spring Hill, this family market fairly thrums with busyness. Observed son Mirt: "I think it's (because of) the best variety, the wider variety, so we can provide the best prices."

A website and online ordering are in the offing.

Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]