Page 39 - WCM 2019 Winter
P. 39

When Spanish conquistadors brought sustainable meats to Mexico in the 1500s, they also carried with them sumptuous accouterments like olive oil, cin- namon, parsley, coriander, oregano, and black pepper. They also introduced nuts and grains such as almonds, rice, wheat, and barley. Also entered into the mix were fruits and vegetables such as apples, oranges, grapes, lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, and sugarcane.
But what about the savory sauces and creamy cheeses used in many favorite Mexican dishes? A variety of culinary cultures were interjected over the next few centuries, among them Caribbean, West African, and Portuguese. Then in 1861, the Second French Empire invaded Mexico, allowing the Mexican elite an oppor- tunity to develop a taste for French cuisine, and that eventually impacted daily fare.
This evolution hasn’t stopped. It continues today, right here in the foothills of the White Mountains, and focuses on dishes driven by local, sustainable ingredients, with an attention to seasonality, and a reverence for fresh, simple preparation.
In short, the entire history and scope of Mexican cuisine can be found along the length of Maine’s West Coast. Each of these places offers distinctly different dishes and atmosphere, but they all share something characteristically Mexican.
Guadalajara Inspiration
The backbone of the A La Mexicana restaurants, on Route 302 in both Bridgton and Raymond, is the Chavez family. Brothers José de Jesús (Ocho), and José Manuel (Parma) are two of nine siblings native to Mexico, and both have worked in kitchens since they were 14 years old. Along with their wives, Jerica and Paola, and their children, the brothers employ recipes used by their grandparents who were outdoor food vendors in the Guadalajara region of Mexico.
Expect to be greeted with a warm bowl of tortilla chips and fresh salsa when you walk through the doors. You’re in for a gentle breeze of fresh culture, where the rhythm of Spanish spoken by the staff
is woven into tantalizing aromas, and the colors of southwestern sunsets. Lively tunes of Duranguense bandas pulse in the background. The menu is packed with choices for every palate, and features their own chorizo, and a homemade molé sauce with more than 30 ingredients. They also serve Mexican sodas and beers. And don’t forget the deserts! Mexican flan and sopapillas are perfect endings to a traditional meal.
Getting to the point of operating two restaurants has been a long journey. The brothers arrived in Maine years ago. Their tremendous work ethic, a family leg- acy, kept them on task 80 hours a week, but enabled
A La Mexicana of Bridgton chef and owner José de Jesús Chavez takes pride in replicating his grandparents’ heirloom recipes from the Guadalajara region of Mexico.

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