Miguel Garcia Lopez and his wife, Maria Elena Jimenez, having moved permanently to their Vermont vacation home from San Juan, Puerto Rico, are preparing to open Santos in the next few weeks.
The following is taken, in part, from a Seven Days article back in May, when Santos was still under construction. It's set to open in the next few weeks:
They've built an energy-efficient building on the Mountain Road on the former site of fancy French eatery Mes Amis. Garcia Lopez and Jimenez will begin dishing up Latin American cuisine — including fare from their native Puerto Rico and dishes from Cuba, Peru and Argentina — at their new restaurant, Santos Cocina Latina.
According to Garcia Lopez, the mix of casual and upscale eats will include "typical fritters, empanadas, mofongo — a mashed plantain dish — and roasted chicken." His famous ceviche will show up on the menu, as will whole barbecued pigs.
The chef — who is also a serious outdoor enthusiast — says the 75-seat restaurant will accommodate everyone from skiers looking to swig specialty rum to serious diners who come to sample the chef's tasting menu in the private dining room. Garcia Lopez, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, notes that pairing food with wine is his "specialty."
The pair will get help from Giovanni Ventura and his future wife Idemar Aldrey, both culinary-school-trained chefs moving from Puerto Rico to work at the restaurant. As if opening the place weren't complicated enough, Garcia Lopez is planning to manufacture a line of specialty products, including hot sauce, adobo rubs and cookies. "They'll be showcased in the restaurant," he notes. "We're trying to be as natural as possible, without the crazy [ingredients] they put in most bottled stuff."
In a novel twist, the exotic cuisine will also be localvore, save for a handful of imported tropical ingredients. "We always believed ... if you use local, fresh-as-possible food from your area, that quality is going to show up in your final product," Garcia Lopez says. In fact, he claims, the "eat local" ethos is part of the reason he and Jimenez opted to open their eatery in the Green Mountains.
"The fresh produce plus the beauty of nature were some of the reasons we decided to come to Stowe and be part of the culinary movement in Vermont," he says. Another reason: "We see a lot of opportunity of showcasing Latin food, since there's not much available in the state."