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The Gossiping Gourmet: Adding Chicano to the Mix

January 08, 2014|By Terry Markowitz
(Don Leach, Daily…)

Carlos Salgado spent a decade learning his craft in some of the best restaurants in Northern California. After returning to Orange County a few years ago, he started a food truck business with his sister Silvia using their parents' 25 year-old taqueria in Orange as a base.

After two years of selling prize-winning food, he opened a restaurant called Taco Maria (the same name as the truck) in the OC Mix, in Costa Mesa. He describes his food as "Chicano cuisine," an homage to the classic Mexican food of his mother, sisters, aunts and grandmothers, mixed with American and other nationalities, to create his own special fusion cuisine.

At lunchtime, he serves only tacos, but for dinner, Taco Maria offers a prix fixe menu of four courses with a choice of one of two items for each course. You may also select to have wine pairings with your food. The cuisine is sophisticated and delicious, and the wait staff is very pleasant and especially knowledgeable about the wine pairings.

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Since there were two of us, we were each able to select something different for each course, so we had eight dishes to taste. We were delighted with an amuse bouche of fried crispy sunchokes that came with a wonderful chorizo aoli. It was accompanied by a glass of Prosecco with Meyer lemon, lime and grapefruit juice. A citrus peel floated in this delicious, bubbly concoction.

We began with beet, avocado, fromage blanc, pistachio and pea tendril salad. I am not a beet lover, but these were mild and very sweet. The avocado was mashed and had a little bite to it. The salad was finished with cara cara orange zest. It was a marvelous combination..

Our second starter was rockfish crudo. The fish was bright and fresh, accented with serrano chile, sweet guava jam and Ensenada olive oil. Tiny radishes provided a garnish. The dressing was oil and citrus juice with red hot sauce. Another winner.

Course No. 2 offered a unique version of a Caesar salad featuring Spanish mackerel, a few leaves of little gem lettuce, a cold, perfectly cooked egg yolk that oozed over everything and Parmigiano cheese on top. Toasted sourdough bread came on the side. It was good but not great.

The other selection was a sweet tamale stuffed with autumn squash sprinkled with queso fresco and pipian verde (green pepitas) then drizzled with lime blossom honey. It was irresistible.

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