Café Brown could easily be called Café Love, as chef/owner Iker Algorri says that the true secret to making delicious Mexican food is "to make it with love."
Although Iker is not a professionally trained chef, his food is authentic, flavorful home-cooked fare. Here you can find the perfect Mexican dish finished with a dash of Iker’s love. His training started at an early age when his family hired a woman from Tlaxcaltecan to prepare the family meals. She knew how to make the great traditional dishes of Mexico while Iker lurked in the kitchen taking mental note of all of her culinary secrets.
Iker has to put his cooking passion aside while he made a living working twenty years for the government; the last twelve years as a federal agent for the state of Baja California Sur. Taking early retirement, he allowed his passion for food to resurface in the form of Café Brown. Immediately the rifle was replaced with the spatula. Their loss and our gain as Iker is the most lovely, charming gentleman with a quick smile and a desire to impart his perspective on good food.
Initially, this eclectic café was simply a place to be served the best cup of coffee in Baja along with a pastry. Soon, the space became one for people to gather and take in the art, the music, the library and most of all the food. Born was the first arts-oriented cafe in town.
With a somewhat limited menu, it is all prepared and cooked by Iker, with love, of course. His focus on quality, local ingredients is supplemented by purchasing the best, seasonal items and making dishes from scratch. And, for those that like to learn how to cook these wonderful, delightful dishes, Iker also conducts cooking classes. I was lucky enough to get two such classes while I was in Todos Santos.
The first class was on Hueovs Rancheros with four salsas. One of the salsas was Iker’s version of Coloradito Sauce. A complex, thicker, brick-red salsa which added a depth of flavor unlike any huevos rancheros I’ve ever eaten. Each family has their own versions of this Oaxacan red mole sauce, but his recipe is easy and delicious. All it takes is time—and love.
In educating us about the four salsas, Iker started off with a display of the ingredients that go into each one. We were able to sample each salsa and then select one for our breakfast…I asked if I could have two different salsa and Iker laughed and said “we call that Huevos Rancheros Divorce.” That means putting the refried beans down the middle and your fried corn tortillas on each side with a perfectly cooked egg on top, a light sprinkle of pepper on the eggs and then the salsa is lovingly spooned over the egg. A final grating of local cheese on the beans and heaven is served!
The food was so incredible that I ended up going back for a class on Rajas de Chile Poblano con Crema y Elote. The base of this recipe is the most beautiful, locally grown poblano peppers. These slightly sweet and low-heat peppers give just enough spice to the rest of the simple ingredients: onion, sour cream, shredded chicken and fresh corn kernels. Served with warmed tortilla and refried beans makes this a hearty breakfast or a lighter dinner. When I got home, I immediately made these for my family and it was a hit. Now, Rajas de Chile Poblano con Crema y Elote is requested when we’re in the mood for Mexican food because the flavors are elusively spicy (poblano) with a slightly tangy sweetness (sour cream and sweet corn).
If you’re lucky, you can be at Café Brown when live music is being played, or a foreign movie is playing while Iker makes dishes from that country, or even drumming circles, but I must admit, my favorite are the impromptu salsa lessons!
Iker’s motto is “Happiness is only real when it’s shared” and sharing happiness is what the Café Brown is all about. Oh, and it’s an internet café as well. So, if you must, for only $2usd/hour, you can connect to the world.
Café Brown can be found on the corner of Calle Militar and Hidalgo (inside the Maria Bonita Hotel complex; entrance to Café Brown is in the back of the courtyard). It cannot be seen from the street, but is worth taking the time to find.
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