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By tapping into the ritualistic flavors of fire and smoke, chefs Alejandro and Alberto Rodriguez are diversifying Mexican cuisine in Colorado. The brothers’ food and beverage business, Dos Caras, is dedicated to using pre-colonial cooking techniques from Mexico “to show deference to our community and culture,” as Alberto says. The results are fiery jarred salsas, corn tortillas nixtamalized with wood ash, and various takeaway snacks that the pair sell at farmers’ markets and pop-ups across the Front Range.
Dos Caras—or “two faces” in Spanish, a reference to ceremonial dance masks from the state of Michoacán—is driven by the Rodriguezes’ desire to honor the Mexican community’s past, present, and future. Alejandro is a first-generation immigrant from Zacapu, Michoacán, and Alberto was born in California; both spent most of their childhoods in the United States. But a family trip back to Mexico in 2020 reinvigorated their connection to their ancestral roots, which stem from the Indigenous Purépecha people. “[We’re] on a little spiritual journey in a sense,” Alejandro says.
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In the winter after the trip, Alberto, who was living in Colorado and running a modest side hustle selling mole and arroz con leche at pop-up markets, convinced Alejandro to join him in Denver to open Dos Caras. By the following spring, the brothers were purveying salsas, tostadas, and huaraches in pop-ups across town, including one at the Re:Vision campus in Westwood; in 2022, they expanded to the City Park and Highlands farmers’ markets. All the while, they keep the thought, “Is this what my ancestors would do?,” as their culinary north star. That means embracing simple ingredients, natural textures, open-fire cooking, and the flavor development that only time achieves.
These elements all factor into the Rodriguezes’ salsa macha rojo, a flagship Dos Caras product. “In the region of what today is Veracruz, the Olmecas and Totonacas made a salsa using toasted dried jalapeños (similar to moritas), chile comapeño, peanuts, and palm oil,” Alberto explains in an Instagram post. “The oil was meant to preserve the salsa for long periods of time.” The Dos Caras recipe stays true to the original, combining a number of chile varieties to create an extra-hot condiment with smoky, fruity, and nutty notes. The brothers also sell a salsa macha negra, described as a cousin to the red version, laden with pasilla chiles, black sesame, and black garlic.
Dos Caras has also amplified their impact through pop-up events and collaborative dinners. For instance, at the 2022 Harvest of All First Nations Corn Festival in Longmont, the duo developed a version of the k’urhunda, a Purépecha tamale their mother would make growing up that’s wrapped in corn leaves rather than corn husks. They brought the k’urhunda back last October at their City Park Farmers Market stand, but besides the staple salsas, the brothers are always experimenting with new masa- and vegetable-forward dishes that draw from their family’s cooking and personal explorations of Mexican cuisine.
Local trailblazers of Mexican cuisine have also been an inspiration, such as Rubén Hernández Barrios of La Reyna del Sur, Jose Avila of La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal and El Borrego Negro, and Dana Rodriguez of Work & Class, Super Mega Bien, and Cantina Loca (where Alejandro is currently a sous chef). They’ve shown the Rodriguezes that cooks can respect tradition without being confined to it and that, as Alberto says, it’s important to develop their own take on the food of their heritage.
Alejandro and Alberto’s long-term goal is to open a Mexican cafe in a historically Latinx neighborhood in Denver. But in the meantime, look for new Dos Caras products—including seasonal creations like tostadas, huaraches, and tetelas highlighting heirloom maíz—along with the signature salsas and pantry staples at the City Park Farmers Market this summer. Also keep an eye out for pop-up events and other announcements on Dos Caras’ Instagram and website.