We headed to the Spa City to talk with Diana Bratton, owner of Taco Mama, about her favorite dishes and what she loves about the Arkansas food scene.
At Home in Arkansas: Tell us about your earliest memory of cooking. Chef Diana Bratton: My earliest memory of cooking would be making salsas with my dad’s special mortar when I was about four. The mortar has a bull’s head and I still have it. I’ve never seen another one like it.
AHIA: Where did you receive your training? DB: I graduated culinary school from El Centro College in Dallas, Texas, but I really received my training at City Café where I worked with a wonderful chef & owners who were very talented.
AHIA: What is your favorite dish at your restaurant? DB: It’s a toss-up between the pork and veggie sopes and the shrimp diabla quesadilla. On the pork sopes, I love the texture of the sope itself. It has a crunchy outer crust with tenderness on the inside. I think in general our carnitas are some of the best I’ve ever had. For the diabla quesadilla, I love shellfish and our diabla sauce has a smoky heat, which pairs nicely with the shrimp.
AHIA: Thinking a little broader, what is your favorite dish worldwide? DB: I would have to say mole. There’s something nostalgic about my heritage and mole and the complexity with which it’s made. Whenever my mother would make chicken mole, I would do a happy dance.
AHIA: What do you love about the Arkansas food scene? DB: I’ve been a part of the Arkansas food scene for 22 and a half years as a restauranteur. I love seeing how each restaurant’s menu ties into the chef’s history.
Sweet or Salty? SALTY. Even as a chef I prefer to cook savory over desserts. I do love to make desserts but the range on salty foods is more diverse. I appreciate all of the different spices and variations.
Coffee or Tea? COFFEE.
Red Wine or White? WHITE. I really love both but feel that white wine is understated. I’ll take the crispness of a good chardonnay and some champagne any day.
Visit Diana (and try her sopes or the quesadilla) at Taco Mama in Hot Springs. www.tacomama.net