I am sitting with Chef Antonio in front of an intriguing sight. Colachi tacos, a new addition to the dinner menu. At first it would seem I’m about to dig into veggie tacos topped with queso fresco. And that would be just fine with me! But this is, in fact, a cheese made of tofu, flavored with the Chef’s secret spice mix. If you are on the fence about tofu, this will sway you. It brings the mild, soft, crumbly texture of queso fresco, with a little extra sabor. I have walked a fair mile in this town to try veggie tacos. And with a few exceptions, the standard offerings really are an afterthought to the menu, something tacked on as an accession to anyone silly enough to walk into a taqueria and ask for vegetarian. You know, big lumps of boiled carrots, onion, and a few pasilla peppers. Nothing that a taste-minded person would voluntarily consume. But this, this my friends is a carefully considered offering straight from Chef Antonio’s heart. “I was thinking back to my childhood of the best vegetarian tacos I had, and I thought of what my Grandmother made me. These have my style, of course, but when I eat them, I remember my grandmother’s food. So when you taste these it’s important that you get that same feeling, of eating comfort food at home.” Roasted corn, squash, and tomatoes are sautéed in olive oil, fresh thyme, salt and pepper. That’s it. But the tofu cheese brings plenty of flavor, and the dish is so well balanced and interesting, you will wonder how it can be so delicious. “I’m very proud of these,” Chef says, “Because it’s delicious, simple flavors. I always tell my team, if you don’t enjoy the food, have a real feeling for the food, your cooking will be bad and it’s as simple as that.” He challenged himself to avoid the usual melty cheese or cauliflower, and the result is heart-warming and delicious.
Angela Borda is a Santa Barbara food writer who is delighted to be blogging about one of her favorite restaurants, Kanaloa Seafood.