I never thought “gourmet” and “Mexican” belonged in the same sentence. Until I had dinner at Zarela's, a Mexican restaurant which had just opened on Second Ave. back in 1987. A revelation! Zarela Martinez orchestrated textures and flavors just as artfully and lovingly as the new chefs who were redefining Manhattan’s food scene. Zarela’s fast became the Nobu of Mexican food, one of the hottest spots in town. There, I learned the magic of mole and the enchantment that truffles could lend to an enchilada.
A generation later, Aarón Sánchez, the Food Channel’s charismatic Mexican rock star chef, hopes that his new Stamford restaurant Paloma (opening Monday, July 21st, in Harbor Point) will similarly introduce Connecticut to the fire and the finesse of fine Mexican and Latin American cuisines. Revelations run in the family -- Aarón (pronounced "AH-rone") is Zarela's son.
For all his celebrity, Sánchez feels he remains not only in his mother's debt, but also her shadow.
"I honor her because she did it first," he told us when we chatted last week, a comfortable conversation marked by his humility and respect.
"I believe family is at the center of the Mexican experience."