Restaurant at 626 S. College Ave. in Fort Collins to talk to the owner, I also picked up a menu to help with the review. After three hours looking at the menu and proving Pavlov correct, I finally dropped the pen, picked up the phone and placed a to-go order. Onlyfull-stomach journalism from now on. A little over a year ago, Hugo Caballero brought his family from Apatzingan, Mexico, to Fort Collins to open Los Tarascos restaurant. Even thoughhe came with 25 years of restaurant experience, he admits this Fort Collins venture has carried a large learning curve. For starters, he entered the United States with Spanish as his only language. Now, in remarkably good English, Hugo described fighting back tears of
frustration with some of his initial, failed conversations with gringo customers. The language hurdle was mild, though, compared with the day lawyers from a large California-based corporation stopped by with the threat of a
trademark-infringement lawsuit regarding Hugo’s original choice of names, “Viva La Salsa.” (Hmmm, now what nationally known Mexican
food-products company could that have been?) I imagine Hugo’s business plan did not include an extra $100,000 for a legal spat, so he opted to expeditiously change the name of the joint to Los
Tarascos. Two closed days were spent erasing “Viva La Salsa” from signage and menus. Then business sputtered for several weeks to regain
momentum as the restaurant’s clientele adjusted to the new name. Bienvenido to the United States. With the cuisine, Hugo has played both the role of student and educator. Los Tarascos is dedicated to serving “authentic, traditional recipes from the
state of Michoacan.” Some of these preparations have roots all the way back to the Tarasco Indians, the indigenous people of Michoacan. I get the impression Hugo’s
family isn’t any more willing to alter these time-honored recipes than the Tarascos were to change their cooking methods after the Spanish conquest. Upon arrival at Fort Collins, this commitment caused some consternation, as sourcing of authentic ingredients was difficult and, at times, pricey. The
example he gave was for chilies guajillo, which are 68 cents a kilo in Mexico and $3.65 per pound here in Fort Collins. Hay Caramba! While their menu offerings include the Mexican restaurant standards – tacos, chile rellenos, enchiladas, burritos – their daily specials and house
specialties are generally for the upperclassmen in Mexican-food studies. This is where the family and staff of Los Tarascos have had to offer a bit of tutoring to the customers. Charbroiled Guilotas (quail), Carnitas
(slow-cooked pork), Chile Verde made with roasted tomatillos and a Mole sauce that is not sweetened with chocolate, are all slices of culinary heaven,
but not the kind of dishes that have a U.S. following like, say, fajitas. Their task of selling the clientele on esoteric items has probably been made easier by the salsa bar: a selection of eight killer condiments displayed
salad-bar style. Upon arrival, patrons are given steaming-hot, handmade tortillas upon which they can apply these various salsas. Tasting these
daily-made creations, first-timers will realize they are in good cooking hands even before they have to order from the menu. While these recipes are unique, they are also heavily reliant on very fresh ingredients. Thus, herein lies the schooling for Hugo – if a dish does not
spark immediate interest on the menu, using ingredients with little or no shelf life makes it an expensive experiment. It was interesting talking to Hugo to find out that in Apatzingan his restaurant primarily dealt with seafood, yet he has only cautiously dabbled with it
here in Fort Collins. His concern is that their style of seafood preparation, which is spicy and heavy on the use of lime juice, might be too much for us
gringos. Though, most nights that I have been in the restaurant, it has been busy, and it looks as if Hugo and company are doing a very respectable job at
convincing Fort Collins to sample some truly regional dishes. If anything, it seems that the ball is now in our food court. Perhaps it is time we as patrons begin convincing Hugo that we are ready for some further
“advanced studies” in the cuisine from his Michoacan home.
Restaurant at 626 S. College Ave. in Fort Collins to talk to the owner, I also picked up a menu to help with the review. After three hours looking at the menu and proving Pavlov correct, I finally dropped the pen, picked up the phone and placed a to-go order. Onlyfull-stomach journalism from now on. A little over a year ago, Hugo Caballero brought his family from Apatzingan, Mexico, to Fort Collins to open Los Tarascos restaurant. Even thoughhe came with 25 years of restaurant experience, he admits this Fort Collins venture has carried a large learning curve. For starters,…
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