by Corin Hirsch
Stowe diners may still miss Santos Cocina Latina, but yucca, plantains and spice will reappear in town next week when Café Latina opens in the space where Thompson's Flour Shop used to be.
The breakfast-and-lunch spot is the brainchild of Karen Nielsen, who lived in Costa Rica for close to 20 years before returning to the States to raise her teenage daughter. There, Nielsen worked as a tropical biologist before seguing into the culinary life — she ran three eateries in the Monteverde Cloud Forest area, a mountainous center she likens to a tropical version of the Green Mountains.
Nielsen calls the fare she served there Nuevo Latino, or modernized Latin-American food, and it's resurrected on Café Latina's menu. The breakfast lineup includes huevos rancheros, tortilla espanola, eggs Benedict layered with pork carnitas, omelettes with local goat cheese and chorizo, and breakfast burritos; a baked-goods case will offer a North-South mélange of savory muffins, coconut macaroons, croissants, fig-almond bread and gluten-free chocolate muffins — plus hearts of palm beignets. At lunchtime, the kitchen will churn out fish tacos, rice and beans, mojito shrimp, chimichangas, and smoked chicken quesadillas.
The pièce de résistance, as Nielsen sees it, are the coffee beans she's importing from Costa Rica under the Thrive Farmers concept, which eliminates brokers and distributors to connect coffee farmers directly with the places where their coffee is being sold — and letting them take home five to 10 times more profit in the process. Customers will be able to sip on brewed coffee and lattes, espresso and macchiato, or take the beans home by the bag. Nielsen is also planning coffee tastings during which farmers talk about their coffee via Skype.
Café Latina is set to open Wednesday at 407 Mountain Road. In addition to the food, anticipate bamboo floors, terra-cotta-colored walls, Wi-Fi and a brand-new fireplace. Breakfast will be served from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., seven days a week.