Festive Feliz Navidad At The Mexican Cultural Institute

Earlier this month, I was lucky to be invited to attend the last in a series of demo-dinners featuring Pati Jinich at the Mexican Cultural Institute.  The building itself is a treat, with interior walls covered with murals and spacious rooms reflecting the grandeur of the original Beaux Arts mansion as well as its time as the former Mexican Embassy.  It now serves as a place to present the culture and art of Mexico to our local community.

Tables were set up in a large room with a raised stage at the front.  A screen showed Pati’s actions as she cooked, for those of us who were seated at the back, so we missed nothing.

 

Dining Room

Dining Room

She talked charmingly about Christmas customs in Mexico.  The season begins on December 12, the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and lasts until February.  Las Posadas is a nine-day celebration that ends on Christmas Eve, with processions every night representing the travels of the Holy Family.  There are piñatas, fireworks and, of course, feasts.

 

Pati From My Table

Pati From My Table

She then proceeded to cook her way through the night’s menu.  As we enjoyed the pomegranate cocktails with rims dipped in Mexican chocolate, she explained that Mexicans love pomegranate, especially as a garnish for special  Independence Day dishes.  There was an open bar with the cocktails, as well as beer and wine, available.

 

 

Pati And The Beautiful Tilework

Pati And The Beautiful Tilework

The tables were decorated with the paper cutouts that I last encountered in Santa Fe.  They gave the room a nice, festive look.

 

Table Setting With Paper Cutouts

Table Setting With Paper Cutouts

 

The first course was bacalao tortas.  Pati not only gave detailed instructions on preparing the dried salt cod, but a list of the best places to buy it (hint: for the best price, NOT where it comes in cute wooden boxes!)

 

Bar

Bar

Torta

Torta

Then we served ourselves the main course, buffet-style.

 

Buffet

Buffet

The pork tenderloin in prune sauce had an intriguing combination of sweetness from fruit and tang from chiles.  The salad contained Pati’s “homage to the traditional piñata fillings: peanuts and oranges.”  And the tamales came with a detailed explanation of exactly how to find, prepare, stuff, and steam the dried corn husks with masa flour and other ingredients (mushrooms and requeson cheese, in this case).

 

Dinner Plate

Dinner Plate

Pati described the special pot, called a tamalera, used to steam the tamales.  They come in all sizes – the Cultural Institute has one that can steam 120 tamales at once!

 

Then dessert was served – pieces of a traditional Rosca de Reyes, All Kings Day bread.  It reminded me of the King Cake made for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, down to the colored icing and “baby dolls” hidden inside.  My charming table mate, Imelda, who along with her sister Sonia, is a native of Mexico, found the baby!

 

Dessert

Dessert

 

The bread was served with excellent Mexican hot chocolate.  Afterward, Pati sat in the hallway chatting with her fans and signing cookbooks.

 

Imelda Y Sonia

Imelda Y Sonia

I got mine signed.  A fitting end to a delicious and enlightening evening!

Pati And Fans

Pati And Fans

About Judy

I have been cooking and eating all my life. I help run the Olney Farmers and Artists Market in Olney, Maryland, arrange their weekly chef demos and blog from that website (olneyfarmersmarket.org) on Market matters. This personal blog is for all things foodie: cookbooks, products, restaurants, eating.
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