Saturday, December 7, 2013
If you’ve noticed that Taco Escobarr has been closed this week, there’s a good reason why. The menu is getting a good tweaking before the doors open again this Sunday for brunch.
Yes, the restaurant is expanding its hours to include breakfast during the week and brunch on Sundays. And the entire menu is being revamped with the help of chef Damian Sansonetti.
Sansonetti moved to Maine last year with his spouse, Ilma Lopez, who is the pastry chef at Grace. He’s planning to open his own cafe/catering business on Dana Street next month, but until then has been helping owner Tom Barr reinvent the taco spot at 548 Congress St. Barr is also an investor in Sansonetti’s cafe.
Sansonetti has spent some time in Baja and central Mexico, and when he lived in New York frequented the city’s taco trucks when he got off work at 1 or 2 a.m. He said he is “trying to bring in more bold flavor to (Taco Escobarr), almost a little more street food.”
“We’re trying to give it a little bit more of a deeper soul,” he said. “For me, really good Mexican cooking is like that abuelita cooking, that ‘grandma cooking,’ when you have long, slow braises or slow roast, and things are more hand made.”
He’s thinking along the lines of dishes like al pastor, traditional Mexican braised pork or beef derived from shawarma. cooked with chiles, garlic, Mexican oregano and pineapple.
Sansonetti said he’s toying with an horchata recipe right now. Other things in the works include a version of huevos rancheros for breakfast and a “killer” version of rice and beans that includes pinto beans, smoked bacon and chiles.
As for his own cafe in Portland’s Old Port, Sansonetti says it will probably open near the end of February. When I spoke with him yesterday afternoon, he said “we really don’t have a name completely tied in yet. We’re kind of letting it happen organically.” According to Eater Maine, Sansonetti has said the name will be Blue Rooster Food Company.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.
Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business before turning to journalism more than a decade ago. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs. A newcomer to Portland, she is an online content producer for the Press Herald.
Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod [at] pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @susansaxelrod