Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Spotted: Carlos Santana

"Wait - who reminds me of a west side story?"

That would be "Maria Maria," whose namesake graces Carlos Santana's new group of restaurants. And we gots one, y'all!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Santana last night at the newly-opened Maria Maria on Colorado. Picture this: soft duck tacos and a white sangria perched in either hand. Me, kneeling adoringly at Santana's feet. He picked a guitar solo for me and only me, nodding his knit beanie in contentment, as I swayed gently to his "ritmo".....

Ok ok. I was actually packed in a room with 20 other reporters.
We each strained to hear what Santana was saying, and all I caught were snippets as he addressed the throng of us: "One family," "Not Taco Bell," and "Barack Obama." America, Carlos Santana would like you to know that there is one family - not the Taco Bell family, though - and that's the Barack Obama family. It's like he's a modern prophet.

Austin is one of four cities in the U.S. lucky enough to get a Maria Maria, which is basically high-end Mexican food. The menu has a few surprises, however, like the
Cinnamon Brioche French Toast (served during weekend brunch only: Take french toast, which is usually pretty unreal all by itself, then top it with with baked apples and Mexican cinnamon and maple syrup and whipped cream - OMG!). Austinite Roberto Santibanez, former executive chef at Fonda San Miguel, helped develop the menu and is putting his own spin on it. Remember the blackberry-infused mole sauce at Fonda's Sunday brunches? It is now reincarnated at Maria Maria, on the Braised Short Ribs. To my delight, I should say.

Anyway, in between all the fanfare I asked Santana what his favorite home-cooked meal was. Any guesses? Chili relleno. Austin, would you like to hear what's inside Maria Maria's signature chile relleno? I'm reading the menu, and it's making me
want to cry I want it so bad: "Ancho chilis stuffed with roasted zucchini, red onions and potatoes served over melted cheese and roasted tomato chipotle sauce topped with crispy sweet potatoes and zucchini." Nom nom nom!

I also got to meet Joe Gross from the Statesman and Austin Musi
c Source, as well as the lovely Addie Broyles, new food writer for the Statesman (who took over Dale Rice's spot). She did a great write-up of the event last night, and I'm going to steal one of her pictures too:

Jokes aside, Carlos Santana is an absolutely warm and spiritual creature, and I savored the few seconds I got to chat with him. Besides being kind of a crazy entrepreneur, what with the shoes and now the restaurants, he is politically-engaged and activist-oriented. He referenced Bob Marley many times, and weaves Marley-isms ("one family," "one world," etc.) into his verbiage. I thought he was delightful.

Austin: What celeb do you want to open up a restaurant here next?


Raychelle said...

It's where that old sports bar is right? I saw it & was thinking it was an unusual name...now that I know whose restaurant it is...completely makes sense!

Michael Caroff said...

What a great review of Santana's Maria Maria Restaurant. Thanks for posting it! I'd love to get to one, but sadly there are none in this area (Los Angeles).