I arrived at le marché de Sainte-Anne just before lunch time and one of the first stalls I came to was “Madame Taco.” Which was a good thing because I was hungry, and even better, I had been craving corn tortillas for weeks. This may seem like an odd thing, but I grew up in California, and went to school in San Diego, where there are lots of little corner “shacks” that served Mexican fast food until the wee hours to happy and hungry university students. Mexican food is like a comfort food to me.
The menu I see is simple and delicious: vegetarian or pulled pork taco, or a potato empanada with a chipotle mayonnaise. There were three choices of salsa: a sweet mango salsa, a hot tomato salsa, or a medium with yellow and red tomatoes. While waiting to place your order, you could sample from one of the three colorful pots.
Patti Murphy, a.k.a. “Madame Taco”, grabs a ladle full of black beans and slathers them on a corn tortilla that has been cooked up by her kindly assistant, the young Ishmael (a regular customer who made his way up to assistant about a month ago). She places cheese, guacamole, beautiful big slices of marinated red onion, and your choice of salsa on top. Must be eaten with a fork, or at least until you can get the topping small enough to wrap the tortilla around it.
As I was standing there savoring my Mexican treat, I kid you not, a family of three from Mexico pop up to get their taste. I am curious to their take on this. The woman tells me, “you can tell just by looking if it’s done right and if it’s going to be good. This is going to be good.” And as so many happy customers can attest, it is indeed. The black beans have a subtle, slightly sweet taste. And they are tender and savory. Patti tells me it’s a hint of cinnamon. The salsas are fresh. The empanada, which I brought home to share, is filled with herbs and potatoes and raisins. I find the raisins are a great compliment to the spicy chipotle mayonnaise she serves it with.
So how does an Anglo originally from Ontario (in our neck of the woods for about a dozen years now) end up cooking Mexican food – really good Mexican food – at Ste. Anne’s market? A self-proclaimed foodie, she worked in the restaurant business for several years, then combined her love of travel and co-founded “The Little Mexican Cooking School” on the Yucatan Peninsula, in a small town called Puerto Morelos, for travelers looking to spice up their trip (sorry for the pun, couldn’t resist). She no longer works there, but lucky for us, has come here and started sharing her expertise and passion with us in the West Island.
I may have just found out about her, but her reputation goes far. Another couple came up and said that the woman’s brother-in-law in North Carolina had heard of her, somehow coming across an article from one of the West Island newspapers. She had to try it and report back to said brother-in-law. Both she and her husband had huge smiles after tasting the pulled pork taco. I guess that would be a yes.
To get a sampling yourself of Patti’s savory south-of-the-border treats, you need to come to Ste. Anne’s. She’s there every Saturday, during the market hours, 9am-2pm. If you would like to get onto her email list, you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Like Patti says, “It’s all adventures in food.”