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Posts Tagged ‘chefs’

He had words.  I don’t.

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

I will miss your intelligence, honesty, passion, and respect for cultures different from your own.  Thank you.  Rest in peace, Anthony Bourdain.

How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also can provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.

 

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A couple of days ago, above the Plaza de la Danza, a mound of sand and a pile of bricks.

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There were guys doing the heavy lifting — bricks on their shoulders and buckets of sand in hand — carrying load after load down the ramps and stairs to the plaza below.

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The sand was spread and leveled and the bricks were carefully laid in a herringbone pattern.

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What were they up to?  Preparing a barbecue platform for last night’s gastronomic festival, El Saber del Sabor Oaxaca 2013, opening night buffet.  The entire Plaza de la Danza was tented, tables and chairs were set up, lights were strung, and by yesterday afternoon, all was ready.

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Last year we missed out on the barbecue — spit roasted lamb and pork — it looked and smelled divine, but the line was too long and then it was gone.  This year, we were not to be denied and so our strategy was to be first in line.

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That meant standing for at least 20 minutes in front of the newly constructed barbecue at the Cuenca station, where we had plenty of time to study the menu and salivate, as smoke from the BBQ permeated our clothes and burned our eyes.

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José Domingo Cruz Cobos from Tuxtepec did not disappoint.  I can’t even begin to describe how succulent the meat and how crispy the skin.  It was well worth the wait!

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However, this was only the beginning.  Cooks from the other 7 regions of Oaxaca were also there, preparing their signature dishes.

Aurora Toledo of Zandunga restaurant with chef and evening honoree, Patricia Quintana.

Aurora Toledo of Zandunga restaurant with chef, teacher, author, and the evening’s special honoree, Patricia Quintana.

Gluttony makes for a hazy memory, but in addition to the above, I had mole negro and tamalitos from the famed Mendoza sisters of Tlamanalli in Teotitlán del Valle, garnachas from Aurora Toledo of Zandunga in the city, and ???  Oh, and then there was wine, mezcal, and a cajeta flavored paleta for dessert.

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All this, and much, much, much more for only 350 pesos (about $27 US).  It was a lovely and delicious night.

And for those with deeper pockets, multi-course lunches and dinners with wine and mezcal pairings are being prepared by the top chefs from all over Mexico, at select restaurants throughout the city, including Alejandro Ruíz of Casa Oaxaca and Jose Manuel Baños Rodriguez of Pitiona, each recently named to Latin America’s 50 Top Restaurants.

¡Buen provecho!

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Thursday night was the kickoff event for the 5th annual El Saber Del Sabor (literally, the knowledge of flavor) Festival Gastronómico Oaxaca 2012.  Early in the day, the Plaza de la Danza had been tented and turned into a colorful banquet hall.

Interior of large tent decorated with multicolor tableclothes and papel picado on ceiling

A couple of the evening’s chefs arrived early and were cooling their heels, waiting to begin doing what they do best.  Hmmm… what’s with the bricks on top of the cantera?  (Stay tuned!)

2 chefs sitting behind brick platform

By 9:30 PM the tables had filled and cooking was well underway.

Young man in chef's toque sauteeing bananas.

Casa Oaxaca chef and event host, Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo circulated, greeted old friends and fans, and was interviewed by a crush of press.  Cameras and microphones were omnipresent — good for publicity, bad for navigating the aisles en route to food!

Chef Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo talking to a table filled with people.

To begin the evening and ready the palate, wines, beers, aguas, and (of course!) mezcals were offered.  We sampled a couple of mezcals from El Jolgorio and all I can say is, Wow!  (BTW, that’s a good, “Wow!”)

Bottles of El Jolgorio Mezcal on a table.

The festival seeks to promote and protect Oaxaca’s traditional cuisine and to inspire innovation.  For this evening’s event, we were invited to sample an incredible range of appetizers, side dishes, main courses, and desserts from 23 cooks, representing the 8 regions of Oaxaca.

A bowl of a stew surrounded by platters of limes, rice, cilantro, and onions.

I think I must have tasted at least 30 dishes — and this was late at night.  Needless to say, no breakfast for me the next morning.

Serving pans of food.

And, remember the bricks?   My favorite sight of the evening were the little piggies roasting on bamboo skewers over red and white-hot coals.  The tag line for the festival is, “tierra, fuego y cocina” (earth, fire, and kitchen).  Yes!!!

Roasting pigs on bamboo skewers over hot coals.

From the Plaza de la Danza, the festival moves to restaurants throughout the city, where 36 renowned chefs from all over Mexico have come to prepare innovative cuisine that pays homage to Oaxaqueño foodstuffs and traditions.

A big “thank you” to Henry and Rosa (Amate Books) for inviting me to share such a delightful and delicious evening!

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