Review, Ambergris Today

Only three weeks after opening, a small restaurant by the name of ‘El Fogon' has been garnering much attention from island residents and other restaurateurs that most of the days they run out of food an hour after midday. Why this sudden popularity you may ask? There is a special little secret that I am about to reveal.

Patty Arceo, owner of El Fogon came up with a bright and unique idea to offer a menu dedicated to the home style cooking of Belizean Creole and Mestizo food all prepared in an open fire hearth (or ‘Fogon' in Spanish). What Patty has recreated at her establishment is an atmosphere typical of the old San Pedro Village kitchen 25 years ago with an outdoor fogon where all the food is cooked and prepared. On El Fogon's menu you can find any, if not all, of the typical home-cooked Creole and Mestizo foods that are typical to Belize, in particular San Pedro; you name it, they got it.

“What has happened in our modern, fast-paced life is that we are so busy with work and projects that there is not time to cook and prepare our Belizean favorites,” commented Patty Arceo. “And now we see that other places have modified these foods to cater to the tourists, which is not bad, but we are keeping everything traditional, original and old style.”

The menu of El Fogon is quite extensive for such a small and quaint restaurant, but what Patty has come up with is a small lunch menu that rotates every day of the week. A definite staple food that you will find every day is the traditional Belizean Rice and Beans with stew chicken or beef. Added to this will be three to four other items on the day's menu, something pretty much like the lunch specials for the day. You just need to call in and place your order of your favorite dish.

And these other specials come from a long list of traditional home-cooked meals. Where do I start? On the menu there is the Mestizo specials like Escabeche, Mechado, Chirmole, Relleno, Chechak (Fish soup), Pork Pibil, Tamales and Creole specials like Cow Foot Soup, Pig Tail, Boil Up and Beef Soup, these among other favorites like Split Peas and Dumplings. And you can wash these down with home-made Horchata or Tamarind Juice.

Food is not the only thing on the menu. During ‘Happy Hour' from 3p.m. to 6p.m. El Fogon serves up all your local favorite appetizers or snack foods (bocas) like Chicken, Conch, Horse Conch (Maimula), Lobster Dip, Bean Dip, Shrimp Cocktail, Chicken Wings and Conch Fritters. Enjoy them with a cold beer or drink.

I was also impressed with the variety of sweet deserts and treats that Patty has for sale. Most of them you can hardly find at the stores and can have them once in a ‘blue moon'. Have a craving for Maja Blanca (rice pudding), Fudge, Wangla, Jojoli, Tableta, Piñon, Crema de Coco, Cocoyol, Orange Cake, Casava (Elastic) Cake, Sweet Potato Pudding, Key Lime Pie and Coconut Pie. El Fogon has them on sale all the time. And if some of these treats sound unfamiliar to you, then it's best to give them a try as they are old treats that our grandmothers and great grandmothers used to create.

Also on sale is a variety of local breads such as Creole Bread, Powder Bun, Capricho and other sweet breads. Patty also brings in local wines like Cashew and Blackberry wine, jams, jellies and sweet stewed cashew all the way from Barrel Boom.

And you may ask yourself, how was Patty able to bring such a large variety of items together? Well she has an amazing group of cooks on hand including Susana Eiley, Shelly Prevett and Mercie Trejo, some of the best cooks on the island. They have learned the skill of cooking from the school of life; recipes passed on to them from generations back. Quite impressive!

Patty Arceo is running a family business which she had been envisioning for almost three years. Now a reality, she is keeping alive a special part of the island's rich culture, that which includes the delicious dishes, savory desserts and wonderful creations of our ancestors.

CLICK HERE for another more recent review in the Ambergris Today!

Columns by Angel Nuñez, 25 Years Ago
Let's Build a "Fogon"
Cooking with a "Fogon"

El Fogon
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Phone: +501-206-2121

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