November 10, 2011

Eating Aztec at Maya’s Kitchen

Owner Ernesto Delgado is beaming; he is excited about his new vegetarian kitchen. Yes, not just menu but kitchen. He greats us warmly. Even though he will not be launching his vegetarian menu until the following day he is eager talk to us about it, but first it’s time for us to sample some vegan offerings from this kitchen.

Our server too seems eager to serve and lets us know at the outset that he understands we are vegan and makes some suggestions on what we might like from the kitchen. It’s an easy decision for myself and CVR team member Ilsa Hess – let it be chef’s choice.

For an appetizer we are each served a delicious soup followed by a small tostada with diced tomatoes, chilies and nopalitos. Both are perfect – small portions, light and fresh, just right to stimulate your appetite.

The main event is a plate of guacamole enchiladas with chilies, mushrooms, carrots and fresh vegetables that are artfully presented in the colors of the most traditional of Mexican ingredients. Everything is impeccably fresh. The new menu items are not your typical tacos, burritos and quesadillas but something unique and noble.

After our meal Señor Delgado joined us to discuss that which vegans love to talk about most – vegan food! Señor Delgado credits his mother for instilling in him a passion for food, not just for the purpose of feeding the family but also for the pleasure experienced in the textures and flavors of traditional Mexican ingredients. From her he learned the art and chemistry of food creation. Like his mother he welcomes the opportunity to cater to unique tastes and special diet requirements. The vegetarian menu at Tequila Museo Mayahuel (Maya’s Kitchen) in Sacramento came about as both a way to serve different diet requirements and as a method to showcase the ingredients used in Mexico in pre-Colombian times.

Señor Delgado likens his menu to a “museum of food”. “We are not just a museum of tequila; we are also a museum of food.” He holds up the menu and smiles, “this is a museum”. Soon we were introduced to Executive Chef Ramiro Alarcon. He is a true chef. Food is his art. Señor Alarcon spoke with enthusiasm about the palette of ingredients from which he creates his museum pieces and with a particular reverence for the foods of the Aztec civilization.

The Aztec diet was plant strong and the Aztec people were primarily vegetarian, The Aztecs did not use cheese or dairy, they had no cows, but they had an abundance of the colorful healthy fruits, vegetables and grains that even today are what we recognize as distinctly Mexican. The Aztec main staple was Maize (corn). It was quite different than the corn of today but it was made into meal and flat bread similar to the corn tortillas of today. The Aztecs also had tomatoes, avocados, beans, squash, nopales (cactus), peppers and huitlacoche, a mushroom-like fungus that grows on the grains of maize.

Señor Delgado and Señor Alarcon were interested in discussing vegan dining in particular since it was clear that California Vegan Restaurants team makes this the focus of our outreach efforts. They show great respect for meat-free eater by dividing up their kitchen and creating a vegetarian prep area and separate utensils and cookware for vegan food. We offered some ideas for meat and cheese substitutes but in reality, I do not see the need for that at Maya’s Kitchen. The fresh and colorful ingredients from ancient Mexico provide the necessary variety to craft the tasty offerings on their vegetarian menu,

We were lucky to have this preview and share in the vision of these two extraordinary restaurateurs. We anticipate that the menu will continue to develop and expand and we will return soon for some food photo opportunities and more detailed and specific reporting on the menu items.

Maya’s Kitchen’s vegetarian menu at Tequila Museo Mayahuel is available now for lunch and dinner. They are located at the corner of 12th and K streets in Sacramento,