Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sabor! - the Flavor of Loreto

Loreto and the surrounding area is blessed with an impressive number and variety of restaurants, due in part to the large ex-pat community and the growing numbers of visitors who come here.  One of the unique new additions this Season is Sabor! Restaurant, which I have enjoyed on several occasions, and thought would make an interesting subject for this week's Blog.

I first heard of Sabor (which means flavor in Spanish) last Season when they appeared on social media introducing a new Bakery specializing in North American and Mexican deserts.  Although I was intrigued I never got around to visiting their business last year for a number of reasons; first of all the directions to their location just outside of the town of Loreto were a bit vague and confusing, secondly they only baked to order and they needed a day's notice to pick up a desert, and finally living alone a whole pie or cake would be more than I could (or should) consume.  However, this Fall they launched a restaurant under the same name, and so I resolved to satisfy my earlier curiosity (and appetite) and meet the challenge of figuring out where they were located, and finally making a visit. 

Just south of the main Highway bridge as you are leaving the town of Loreto I had seen their modest sign off the side of the road and the beginning of a primitive road heading east into some low hills towards the Sea of Cortez.  But with the ongoing roadwork that begins at the bridge and is widening the Highway south of town, there has been no defined "exit" from the road onto the dirt shoulder where their sign is posted and the apparent roadway to the restaurant starts.  However, once I made it off the Highway and onto their road, I found my way through several twists and turns and up and down a couple of rolling dunes about a hundred yards to where I arrived at the corner of an sturdily walled compound with another "Sabor!" sign at the open gateway.  I had found it!

The gate opened onto a large gravel parking area with a big 5th Wheel  trailer along one wall and a low concrete building with a thatched roof viewing tower and palapa covered patio stretching along the far side of the compound.  After parking the car I followed a neat pathway through a natural desert garden to the main building where I was met by Chris, the Owner/Host of Sabor!, a big friendly "gringo" who by all appearances  enjoyed good food!

The patio area held 7 or 8 tables for four, mostly under the shade of the thatched roof palapa, with a small pool and fountain at one end.  Up a flight of stairs there were more tables on the patio of the tower with a panoramic view of the Sea of Cortez to the east and the Sierra de la Giganta mountains to the west.  Tucked in the corner between the garden and the pool was a compact outdoor kitchen with a wood burning grill separating the patio from the parking lot.  My first impression of this unusual set-up was that it didn't look like any other restaurant I had been to before - here or anywhere - and in spite of the outdoor ambiance (which is not uncommon here), things were meticulously tidy and spotlessly clean. 

I sat down with Chris and began by asking him his "Loreto Story".  He had worked in the US for over 20 years overseeing the development of Golf Courses all over the country.  While he enjoyed the work, it kept him apart from his Mexican born wife Mari for more than half the year and so about 7 years ago he started thinking about doing some small scale residential development somewhere they both wanted to live.  In 2005, on the advice of a friend, Chris and his family saw Loreto for the first time and they thought this might be the place they were looking for.

Eventually Chris purchased a parcel of land just south of town, between the Highway and the Ocean and started making plans for developing a cluster of homes there.  Using the many construction skills he had from his previous experience, he started by building a compound where the family started living in their 5th Wheel RV.  Next he started building a house to accommodate his growing family. 

However, a few years later, as they were getting comfortably established and ready to start the small housing development he had planned for the adjacent property, the world had changed and the market for the type of new homes he was planning was no more.  So Chris refocused and decided to apply his carpentry skills as a cabinet maker and he started a woodworking business in Loreto.  This kept him busy for the next few years, during which time the home compound continued to be developed with expanded buildings and an in-ground pool. 

Meanwhile Chris and his wife Mari had often talked about the idea of taking advantage of her well deserved reputation as an excellent cook and baker and start some sort of food related business.  This had its beginnings in last year's Bakery business, which met with enough success that over last summer  that they decided to expand into a full menu restaurant in the beautiful patio of their home.

True to the namesake, Sabor! specializes in fresh wholesome foods and flavors in the
Southwestern/Mexican style, using the best ingredients available and many family recipes from Mari's home in Jalisco, combined with fresh baked breads and decadent deserts, including North American favorites - this is truly Home-cooking in the best sense!  While Mari (with assistance from some local hired helpers) prepares most of the varied menu items from the regular kitchen in the house, Chris' friendly personality welcomes their Guests and he also doubles and the Grill Chef working over fragrant Acacia wood fires from his outdoor BBQs, while Ashley, their eldest daughter, provides the charming and attentive table service that is the finishing touch to a memorable meal.  While youngest daughter Dani does not have a Sabor! job yet - given the family involvement, it's can only be a matter of time!  

(Speaking of the finishing touch, here is a bit of advice (based on my own experience with the generous helpings of the main plates on the menu) if there's no room for desert after you have finished your meal don't pass up Mari's deserts - get it to go for a late night snack or a treat for another day - yumm!)
In many ways Chris' story (and finding his Restaurant) is an analogy for much of what appeals to me about Loreto - an uncertain, if optimistic beginning, with some ups and downs and twists and turns along the way, before finding yourself in an unexpectedly beautiful place meeting friendly interesting people - topped off in this case with a delicious meal!  Meeting new friends and learning their story while enjoying great food in stunning surroundings is it any wonder why I'm "Living Loreto"!

(Sabor! open Wednesday through Sunday, 11:30 - 9:00 pm, see menu and details: