De La Vega (Deland, FL)

You know, I get a lot of odd requests in life. One of the odder ones in recent history was, “Hey, can you send me a bunch of photos I can use for a training funeral?”. Since yes, among the various colorful people I know are not only legislators, lawyers, professors, Lords, and actual rocket scientists, but funeral home directors as well. My answer was, of course, sure. I assembled an eclectic selection of photos of myself (you know, like the one with the horse mask, or the bathtub one, or the creepy cowboy one) and thus, the legend of Paul Crawford was born, a man who bears a shocking resemblance to myself, but, alas, departed this world late last year. Sniff. It’s like I know the guy. In any case, part of the deal was that I would get pie (dutifully delivered via Fedex), and, if I found myself in Florida, dinner. Thus, on a somewhat recent trip to Daytona for testing at Embry-Riddle, I found myself with an opportunity to meet up with my friend Leslie, have a nice dinner at De La Vega with her and her husband Eric, and raise a glass in memory of poor Paul Crawford.

Nestled into a storefront in the surprisingly quaint little town of Deland, FL, De La Vega is a quiet little restaurant that’s serving up Latin Fusion Cuisine. Usually, I’m a bit skeptical of “Latin fusion”, since it can mean anything from “Cuban Tacos” (note: in general, Mexican and Cuban do not combine flavor-wise) to some surprisingly great food. Well, De La Vega is definitely on the better end of that spectrum.

I’ll start with Eric’s plate, which he was happy to share: a selection of vegetarian enchiladas. Here, it wasn’t just beans and cheese, but a particularly flavorful medley of simmered vegetables served up in a good tortilla with a nice selection of sauces (some with a rich green salsa, others with a pleasant mole). A good dish overall, and I can say that I was also impressed that De La Vega wasn’t giving short shrift to the vegetarian options.

On a similar note, Leslie went for the hibiscus tacos. I rather like hibiscus (indeed, my love of a proper, fresh aqua jamaica is legendary, and I’ve been known to return from the Southwest with half a suitcase full of dried hibiscus buds), and was rather pleasantly surprised by these. I was expected something with a bit of the texture of, well, a used teabag, but the simmered jamaica ended up with a pleasant texture that was much like a good spinach, but just oozing with that wonderful hibiscus flavor. I still need to try and recreate this recipe at home (especially since I still have literally pounds of dried hibiscus in the cupboard).

Myself, I opted for the Chilango Con Carne, a rather structurally impressive dish consisting of yucca, chunks of sirloin, and caramelized red onion covered in a white wine crema and a stuff ancho. This combination actually worked: the yucca providing a steak-frite-like complement to the rather nicely execute tender, rare chunks of seasoned steak. Add in some bold note from the roasted ancho (I could live on roasted peppers) and a good crema, and this was a great dinner.

Overall, I was pleased with De La Vega. It’s not often that I’m leaving a place vowing to try and remake a dish that wasn’t even the one I ordered (Leslie’s hibiscus tacos, and I’m kicking myself for not yet having made a stab at it). And hey, it’s not every day that I get to pay homage to a departed caricature of myself. So thanks, Leslie and Eric, for a great dinner.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply