by Taylor Purvis
Marketing and Community Intern
Last Friday night, I was anxiously preparing an opening speech and drawing crude maps (I was never one for artistic abilities) on an index card highlighting the three restaurants on the Flavors from Iberia to Latin America Foodie Tour -- Ibiza, Bespoke, and Geronimo. As a Marketing and Community Programs intern at the Festival this year, I had been carefully coached about Bonnie Tandy Leblang, our Foodie Tour leader, and was praying that she wouldn't find me completely incompetent in the ways of cuisine and hospitality. As I looked at her online blog to learn more about her background, I grew simultaneously curious and terrified about the day to come.
I can't express, then, what relief I felt when I stepped into the doors of Ibiza. The tables were immaculately prepared, waiters with gentle smiles greeted me, and the co-owner Juan Gonzales kindly shook my hand and led me through his restaurant. Chef Manuel Romero prepared a delightful meal: scallops resting in potato foamy emulsion topped with asparagus, butternut squash, and sliced grape tomatoes. My newly-made friends at the table were intrigued by the delicate squash cubes and enjoyed the Spanish white wine which accompanied the dish.
We were met with another warm welcome at Bespoke, owned by Arturo and Suzette Franco-Camacho. With only a few days notice, Bespoke gracefully agreed to host the Tour, and prepared a meal that was anything but last minute. We were seated on the rooftop patio as owner and Chef Arturo made his entrance, serving us a ceviche melded with green apple, jalapeño peppers, and coconut milk. He then prepared a sweet corn arepa covered with succulent pulled pork, and topped off his luxuriant meal with a banana-chocolate gelato.
As I met with Jessica Ritoe, the manager of our third restaurant on the Tour, Geronimo, I was again heartened by her flexibility and thoughtfulness in preparing for our arrival. Geronimo, a first time Foodie Tour restaurant, set aside a patio and bar for our guests and proceeded to fill us with freshly prepared guacamole. As a California native and Mexican food enthusiast, I was surprised when Geronimo's guacamole proved to be one of my favorites--there was something so delicious about the fresh avocado textured with tomatoes, onions, and layered with just a slight kick of jalapeño. Bartender John Isaacs then demonstrated the Geronimo way of margarita-making, illustrating the slight variances between shades of tequila, pouring each of us a classic Geronimo margarita and a strawberry virgin margarita for those of us less tequila-inclined. Chef José Palacios continued to please us-his chicken and crab quesadillas had a flaky crust that was to die for, and his chicken mole convinced even the most skeptical that chocolate was not meant just for dessert.
What truly made this afternoon most memorable for me, however, was not the expertly prepared food: rather, it was the people I met during the tour. As a Festival intern, I have been surrounded by compassionate and talented members of the community for weeks now. But I have to confess there was something so enjoyable about watching Bonnie take careful notes during meals and get to know everyone on the tour personally, laughing with a couple as they caught me coming back for seconds and thirds, and meeting professionals in the restaurant and food criticism business who treated me and the guests with such consideration and respect.
Experience these restaurants yourself!
39 High Street, New Haven
266 College Street, New Haven
271 Crown Street, New Haven