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Restaurant Happenings - June 2006

A Fiesta in every Forkful!
By Deirdre O. Keating

Fiesta Mexicana
202 South Main Street
Moab UT 84532
(435) 259-4366

Shimmering, sizzling, and shiny…

Fiesta Mexicana, a South-of-the-Border restaurant in Moab since 2004, creates a Mexican party for every customer. From the brightly colored décor that is more-Mexican-than-Mexico to the dizzying array of menu choices, the restaurant evokes familiar memories of similar-themed family dining. The distinguishing feature about this place is its claim of authenticity, supported by an all Latin American staff who assured me that the food is truly what they would eat in their home countries.

The spacious restaurant is segmented into rows of booths that recreate the impression of eating in a small cantina. The front displays fountains, lanterns, wooden parrots and bronze bells. A replica of a Spanish-tiled veranda runs the length of the restaurant, completing the image of a Mexican courtyard. Although the set-up of the restaurant creates a cozy feel, both the interior and the enclosed patio are roomy, making Fiesta Mexicana an ideal place for hosting large parties.

It is also well suited to family dining with children because of the booths’ semi-privacy. Upbeat Mexican music plays throughout the evening, allowing kids to make a little noise without disrupting nearby diners.

If the description of this festive restaurant sounds familiar, it could be because you’ve already eaten in one, located somewhere else. Fiesta Mexicana is the latest of ten to open up. The others are located throughout the west, in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.

Although the owner is a Durango resident named Martin Rangel, the current manager of the restaurant is Tony Ramirez, who is originally from Guadalajara and speaks English with a Hispanic accent.

His explanation of why Rangel chose to open his tenth restaurant here is simple and compelling, “We wanted to open this unique, authentic restaurant in a unique place, which Moab is with its arches and red rocks.”

Recipe of the Month
Fiesta Mexicana

Mole Poblano

1 pat of butter
1 square chocolate
(preferably the brand “Chocolate Abuelita”)
3 tsp. Chiles Huajillo
(that have been rehydrated with a bay leaf)
1 tsp. Paprika
10 crushed Animal Crackers
(I was assured that the “elephantes” work the best)
3 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Peanut butter
1 tsp. Sesame seed paste (like Tahini)

Blend the chocolate, chiles, paprika and animal crackers to form a mole paste. Heat a pat of butter in a frying pan. Add sugar and sautee for about 5 minutes, until sugar melts. Add the peanut butter, sesame seed paste and mole. Sautee until well blended together. Pour Mole Poblano over chicken or chicken enchiladas and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

 

Edgar, the corporate chef, is originally from Guadelajara, Mexico. Although he has spent the last ten years in the States, he speaks little English and has kept very close to his Mexican roots. He asserts that the food he prepares for Fiesta Mexicana is truly authentic and his background would indicate as much. He acquired his culinary talents as much from classes as from watching his mother and grandmother, whose recipes he uses.

The menu seems never-ending in its options of seafood dishes, chicken entrees, enchiladas, burritos and salads. There is also a plentiful selection on the kid’s menu and many vegetarian options and side orders. The portions are as plentiful as the choices.

Fiesta Mexicana offers several house specialties, such as Mojarra Rellena (a whole Tilapia fish filled with octopus and shrimp) and Tacos de Pescado (two fish tacos, marinated and sautéed in butter, Pico de Gallo and spices).

For the month of July, Chef Edgar has planned some particularly tantalizing specialties, particularly for seafood lovers. He plans on offering Camarones Borrachos, a savory dish of shrimp sautéed in brandy and red Burgandy (justifying the name of “Drunk Shrimp”). Edgar is making sure that the summer season is a great time to be dining at Fiesta Mexicana.
Although Tony sounds like he’s quoting a familiar pop song when he describes the restaurant as a “shiny, happy place,” he hits the nail on the head. Fiesta Mexicana succeeds in creating a festive atmosphere fit to celebrate any occasion, evidenced by the bulletin board of birthday photos located in its entrance.

The staff at Fiesta Mexicana makes birthdays fun and special by giving the celebrant flan for desert (watch out for whip cream on your nose - it’s part of the photo op) and singing “Happy Birthday” in English and “Las Mananitas” in Spanish.

Of course, you don’t have to wait ‘til your birthday to celebrate Latin-style. Eating at Fiesta Mexicana is a festive occasion every day, a fiesta in every forkful.

Fiesta Mexicana

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