2015 marks the 25th year since the Mexican Cultural Institute’s establishment. To honor that silver anniversary, the first program of Pati Jinich’s culinary series this year focused on the Silver Route of Northern Mexico.
Aguascalientes, Guanajuato , Queretaro, San Luis Potosí: evocative but obscure names along the colonial-era mining road connecting Zacatecas to Mexico City. Pati’s demonstrations of recipes from these areas, combined with an engaging slide show, captured the audience with a history lesson and her own personal stories from visiting that area. And, of course, the food was delicious.
Her story about the signature cocktail of the dinner, Trompo Zacatecano (Spinning Top), for instance: on vacation in Zacatecas, she saw so many people kissing in public, she was sure it could be blamed on the mezcal in the Spinning Top – or maybe it was because they were all so dizzily in love!
On the way to the dining room, I noticed the door to the kitchen was open. There was Pati, organizing the first course.
The dining room has an elegant chandelier, gilded ceiling detail, and a trompe-l’oeil cupboard on the far wall.
I found myself seated at a beautifully-set table along with Pati’s oldest son, Alan, and his girlfriend, Paula. I met her middle son, Juju, at the Gaithersburg Book Festival a year or two ago, so maybe eventually I’ll meet the whole family!
There were four courses, with formal service. The San Luis Potosi-style enchiladas of the first course cannot be found in Mexico City. Pati recounted how her father brought them back from his trips to the north when she was growing up.
The second course, Enjococadas (creamy turnovers), use allspice along with poblano peppers – “it’s magic!”
Pati introduced a guest chef: a cook from northern Mexico to demonstrate the proper way to make tortillas, with an admonition: “Never make enchiladas with flour tortillas!” and a lesson about masa flour and nixtamalization, which unlocks niacin for use by the body and “is one of those miracles, like vanilla.” So true.
Wedding stew, Asado de Bodas, was accompanied by nopalitos, cactus paddles, for a fragrant and succulent main course.
And then, a sort of dessert parade of waiters with Pastel de Mango - Mango Cake, which had been assembled in the room behind the demo table.
Coffee and tea were self-service, in the next room, affording a chance to admire the impressive built-in pipe organ. Alas, as I learned from Gustavo Morales, the MCI Deputy Director, the organ is no longer played.
But the wonderful murals covering the hallways of the MCI are as colorful as ever, full of movement and life.
Pati greeted her fans after the meal. I took a picture of my friend Amy from CHoW with her.
The MCI has many excellent events, programs and exhibits year-round. The culinary ones are my favorites (no surprise!)