Good Eats in Town ~ 10th Issue
On Friday, I turned 44, and as part of my birthday surprise, Tracy made reservations at Three Stones Mexican Mayan Cocina. We are usually pretty good at staying current on all the new restaurants, but somehow, neither of us had heard of this place, although it had been open since sometime around last Christmas. She found this place searching on line for Mexican restaurants in the Keene/Brattleboro area. There were some fantastic four star reviews floating around on the internet, so off the family went to Three Stones for my birthday dinner celebration.
Three Stones is located on the corner of Elm Street and Canal Street, in Brattleboro, Vermont. Its not very centrally located, and might be kind of out of the way for someone unaccustomed to Brattleboro. The restaurant looks small from the outside and very unassuming. There is an outside patio dinning area and parking on the street, as most places in downtown Brattleboro. It has been my experience that the best food always comes from these hidden treasures, tucked away off the beaten path, and that certainly proved true here.
Three Stones is, in fact, a family owned restaurant. When we arrived, one of the owners greeted us and found a table for us immediately. What a great, intimate dining room! It is decorated beautifully, with much of the artwork having been created by the head chef, a native of Ticul, Mexico. The ambiance was perfect. The Gypsy Kings were playing on a CD in the background, but the volume was soft and allowed easy conversation. I’m sometimes given over to anxiety in a loud, crowded environment, so this was a treat. I felt completely at home.
As I said, the atmosphere was very relaxed and comfortable. The dress code is casual, but it also feels like one could be dressed for a night out on the town, for a business meeting, in jeans and a T-shirt anything really, and still be welcome.
We ordered our drinks and began to read over the menu. Tracy and the kids wanted tortillas. The choices of how you have them prepared are endless. To start, you can choose what kind of tortilla you want, Uah, Salbute or Panucho (all of which are homemade, in house, daily) and how many you would like. Then you choose your meat, Pollo Adobado (chicken), Cochinita Adobado (pork) or ground beef, or you can go without meat for a vegan tortilla. Finally, you select the toppings and sauces… cheese, beans, mild tomato sauce, tomatillo salsa, hot chili salsa, cucumber salad with cilantro, red radish salpicon and cebolla curtida. They ordered 7 tortillas between them, each with a different mix of ingredients. Our waitress didn’t even seem the least bit annoyed at what seemed like an unusually confusing order. She just smiled and helped with the selections.
I went a different route. I wanted to try the empanadas. I had heard about them but never had the opportunity to try one. Dios Mio! They were soooooo good! They came with a delicious salad, too and all the entree's came with black beans and rice. Often times, when we eat Mexican, I forgo the beans and rice, but not this time. They were fantastic! What I normally expect to be a very plain, and often heavy side side dish, here was truly sublime.
Since the four of us all had selected different things, we ended up splitting and sharing. I know, it probably wasn't the best of manners, but we were in a frenzy of deliciosity! It was fun just to watch everyone’s faces as they tried another dish and experienced new pleasures all over again. There is still yet more on the menu to try, and next time, I want to try an onzicil tortilla…a delicacy made with pumpkin seeds. Finally, as our plates emptied and our stomachs filled, we finished dinner and moved on to dessert.
Tracy and Grace shared a Boca Negra… a fantastic chocolate dish. I split an order of the Dulce de Leche with Jeremiah; I was really so stuffed at this point, but as I said…the feeding frenzy was on and I at least wanted to try it! The kids each got a Chocolate Abuelita, which is a hot chocolate drink, which we also shared, to our delight.
But the night didn’t end with dessert and the check. Tracy had been taking some pictures of our food, and after our dinner one of the owners came over to talk with us. She gave us a tour of the restaurant and told us about the artwork, much of it her mother’s, and of the history of how the family started this restaurant. She told us how her mother grew up in Mexico and the significance of the three stones and cooking.
And here is what topped the evening for me. If you follow me on my other blog, “Life as Russ” or on facebook, you may know that I have been studying Spanish on my own for about two years, from books and podcasts. The problem is that I never really have anyone to talk to… and so I am really only a fluent reader.
I was hoping that our lovely guide, hostess and owner, might speak Spanish, especially if her mother was from Mexico, although I couldn't detect an accent when she spoke. Finally, after a lingering internal struggle, I took a gamble, summoned all my courage, and asked her a question in Spanish, “Entonces, ¿habla usted Español?” I know… not the height of fluent conversation, but it took all I had to get it out. She made my night by speaking Spanish with me!
In my nervous, embarrassed, food-drunken and excited state, I could barely think straight or say much of anything, nor could I understand much, but… I understood enough and did manage to make myself understood, and so for me… it was the cherry on top of the best night out in a long time!
I highly recommend this place to everyone, but do make sure to get a reservation. The hours are from 5 until 9, Wednesday through Saturday,and it seems like it is always very busy. I don’t think that there was an empty table the whole time that we were there.
And really, I can’t seem to find the words to express enough how good the food was… you just have to go and try it! Personally, I can’t wait to return and eat more scrumptious food, and maybe, just maybe, speak a little more Spanish.
105 Canal Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301