Fresh from Mexico

"When Tony Amezquita was stationed at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, he missed his mother’s authentic Mexican cooking so badly that he had her express mail him tamales from southern California.His friends all loved the food so much that he urged his sister to open a restaurant in Oak Harbor and serve food made from their old family recipes.Apparently he was pretty persuasive. Blanca Amezquita quit her Post Office job in Fresno, moved to Oak Harbor and opened a restaurant this week with her business partner, Kory Palmer.The restaurant is called, appropriately, Casa Blanca. It’s located in the strip mall between Safeway and Rite Aid. Amezquita said she’s already getting many complements on the food from customers, especially those from the San Diego area. “They says it’s just like home,” she said.Her secret, she says, is preparing authentic Mexican food from extremely fresh ingredients. Nothing comes from cans, not even the green tomatillas, which she says is unheard of at many restaurants these days.The food is also made from scratch each day, which means some employees have to start making food as early as 3 a.m.“I think we’re the first really authentic Mexican restaurant here,” she said. “The food is not Americanized at all.”The carne asada soft tacos, for example, are made with tenderized grilled meat, cabbage, cilantro and her homemade salsa, all rolled up in a soft corn tortilla. The breakfast dishes are served all day, including the huevos rancheros made from eggs over a corn tortilla, topped with either Amezquita’s popular chili con carne or chili verde and covered with generous amounts of monteray jack cheese. Other specialties that comes from Amezquita family recipes include dishes that many Americans may not associate with Mexican food — namely beef short ribs and spare ribs. Amezquita said they are cooked in a “special sauce” and are either served as a dinner with side dishes, or wrapped up in a burrito.While Amezquita said the restaurant is already doing pretty good business just from “word of mouth,” she has lots of plans for the future. She says other family members will be moving up to help her run the restaurant and ensure that the food stays true to their heritage.Amezquita says that in the future she hopes to keep the restaurant open until late at night, perhaps selling tacos and burritos only, in order to give people a place to go to get good food after hours. She also hopes to feed all the tourists in the Deception Pass area someday by starting an off-shoot restaurant up there.But for now, Amezquita said she’s just enjoying introducing the community to “good, fresh Mexican food” that comes at a reasonable price. "

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