Jaliscan cuisine comes to Point Reyes

06/28/2012

The flavors of Oscar Sanchez’s sleepy hometown in Mexico are now available every Saturday through his booth at the Point Reyes Farmers’ Market, using all organic meats and other ingredients from Marin Sun Farms.

The booth, called Mezquitic after the tiny, picturesque mountain town where his parents hail from in the central state of Jalisco, will feature three or more different dishes each week. Although born in Sonoma, the 20-year-old entrepreneur has made frequent visits to leafy Mezquitic, where his grandmother and other family members still live. Whenever he arrived, his abuela would make his favorite local dishes — and it is these that he’ll be serving up each Saturday morning in West Marin.

“Right now we have special quesadillas, tacos and carne asada,” Mr. Sanchez said, “but that will change over the summer. I’m speaking with Marin Sun Farms to get some organic eggs to do breakfast dishes.”

This is not just standard California-Mexican fare; Mr. Sanchez will serve up regional takes on avocado salsa and special marinades, complete with toppings of tomato, cilantro and onion, inspired by local down-home cooking.

“Last week was our first weekend, and everything worked out well. People really enjoyed the food!” he said.

Mr. Sanchez first got the idea for a food booth about six months ago, when he was working at the Marin Sun Farms ranch. He approached founder and owner David Evans with the idea, who encouraged him to pursue it and offered his help.

“I heard about how Dave grew up and started his business. I looked up to him and I was inspired,” Mr. Sanchez said. So far he’s hired a good friend to do the cooking, while he handles the business side of things.

“Mezquitic is a small town just like Point Reyes, but everything there is different —the food, the people, the culture,” he said, describing a place where everyone knows each other as they meet on the cobblestone streets or outside the large stone colonial church. “It’s a great little town, with great food as well. I see similarities to here.”
Mr. Sanchez, who lives with his mother in Santa Rosa, has two brothers and three sisters, some of whom have gone back to live in Mexico. His father is currently staying with family in Mezquitic, but is expected to return to California shortly.

“My parents have been very proud of me for what I’ve achieved, and tell me to keep it up,” he said. “They’ve helped out, of course — my whole family wants to give me their ideas!”

Mr. Sanchez hopes to eventually expand his food business, but for now is focusing on the booth and his work with the ranch and as a landscaper. In the future he hopes to attend college to study business, in order to help grow his enterprise.

“People have come to me and mentioned that it was a hard thing to get approved [for the market] so quickly,” he said. “But everyone has been very supportive.”
Mr. Sanchez is one of 18 vendors scheduled for this market season, and only the second food stall after the “GBD” booth run by Stellina chef Christian Caiazzo. All produce and meats at the market must be state-certified or registered organic, although vendors of certain value-added products have been approved even if a few ingredients don’t meet regulations.

“We’re looking to see if they are as organic as they can be,” Allison Puglisia, the market’s manager, said. While interest in the market is always strong through the summer months, she’s hoping that a new calendar of events for this year — including guest chefs and live music — will keep interest high once colder weather sets in.

In the next few weeks, the market will also begin accepting EBT Food Stamps, Women Infant Children (WIC) stamps, and School Nutrition Program (SNP) vouchers. Users will be able to go to the information booth and collect tokens with which to buy their food.

“We’re just waiting to get the equipment,” Ms. Puglisia said. “It might be this weekend, but will be up and running for sure by July 7.”