|El Camino: Mexican Food, Local Ingredients|
|Features - Chefs and Restaurants|
|Written by Jon Ross-Wiley|
I have a real soft spot for Brunswick, Maine. Having attended Bowdoin College, I have walked the small town hundreds of times, and have eaten in every restaurant. A recent reunion at Bowdoin confirmed what no proud alum wants to believe...things get better after you leave. Sure, the campus had been upgraded, but it wasn't the new hockey rink that made me bitter about what we didn't have "back then." Rather, it was a Mexican restaurant off of the Maine drag (yes, Maine with an "e") called El Camino, which is owned and operated by Paul and Daphne Comaskey and Eloise Humphrey (Daphne's twin sister). THIS was the upgrade to Brunswick that I was most excited to explore, and, by the time I left, was the thing I most wished was part of my college experience.
I was directed to this restaurant via a Twitter "tweet" from Rob and Laura Ciampa, a husband and wife team whose blog, The Two Palaverers, focuses on the "regional character, culture, and cuisine of New England." It just so happened that this little information tidbit came two weeks prior to a planned trip up to Brunswick, so the timing was ideal. My appetite grew for those two weeks, and not only was I not disappointed, I was blown away.
El Camino, its bright yellow facade not withstanding, is a small, unassuming restaurant in an otherwise residential neighborhood. I love Mexican food generally speaking, but my primary interest here was seeing firsthand how this little place in Maine was making Mexican food with locally grown ingredients. It started for me with a drink at the horseshoe-shaped bar, while I waited for a table with friends. One look at the drink menu, and it was clear that my mission would be achieved on this day. I ordered a rhubarb mojito. I'll say it again. A rhubarb mojito. If you are a rhubarb fan, then, yes, this was as good as it sounds. If you are not a fan of rhubarb, this drink, and bartender, Dan Trefethen, just might win you over.
Once we got to the table the ride continued. We had some chips and guacamole for the table, and got right to ordering our entrees. For my entree, I chose one of Daphne and Eloise's creations; a homemade pork chorizo and sweet potato quesadilla. This sealed the deal. I crunched through the tortilla, which was cooked to perfection only to find one of the most flavorful combinations I have eaten in recent history. The sweetness of the sweet potato and the spice of the chorizo married perfectly. There was a generous portion on my plate (and we had all just come from eating appetizers at another local spot), but I cleaned my plate without a problem. It was almost an out of body experience. Each bite got better than the one before it. I should mention as well that each of these bites was followed by a sip of Allagash Dubble, a tasty, malty brew from just down I-295 in Portland, Maine.
If you've read some of my other pieces, you will know that the people behind the food are just as important to me as the food itself. The folks at El Camino are wonderful. Our questions were met with full attention, and one just gets the sense that it would only take one or two visits before everyone would know you by name. Great people and great food. It doesn't get any better.
So, the next time I head to Brunswick, Maine, I am definitely going to El Camino...maybe I'lll swing by Bowdoin too.
Visit El Camino at 15 Cushing Street, Brunswick, Maine or check out their MySpace profile.