Filtering by Tag: mexico

Dia De Los Muertos...Rick Bayless Style (2013)

I could barely contain my excitement when I received my invite to the Dia De Muertos event hosted by Negra Modelo.  First of all... everyone who knows me knows I'm OBSESSED with Mexican food.  It's my one consistent craving... a craving which I indulge far too often.  Second, Modelo, and Negra Modelo, in particular, are two of my favorite beers.  NOTHING is better than a delicious authentic taco and a crisp Mexican beer to wash it down.  I've even consumed this combo all over the US, all over Mexico, and even in the Domincan Republic.  Yet this perfect pairing of tacos and tamales with the complex Negra Modelo was made even sweeter because it was direct from super celebrity chef, Rick Bayless. Chef Bayless has become famous for his revered Chicago restaurants, Frontera GrillTopolobambo, and Xoco. He's even surpassed the "restauraneur" title and expanded his brand to include cook books, TV Shows, and his Frontera Foods line of salsas, and sauces.  The event was held at Kendall College and the entire event space was transformed into a gorgeous fall landscape with the mystical Mexican holiday, Dia De Los Muertos, taking center stage. Beautifully painted sugar skulls were everywhere and you actually felt as if you were experiencing this time honored tradition as it was meant to be.

Chef Bayless gave a very involved cooking demonstration that was filled not only with useful tip and recipes, but with stories and occurrences that were near and dear to his heart.  He gave us first hand information as to how Dia De Muertos is experienced and carried out among his friends all over small towns in Mexico.  What we learned was not cookie cutter manufactured info from a Mexican chain restaurant, but the intimate details of a deep and meaningful cultural tradition explained to us through Chicago's best Mexican culture and food liaison.

First he taught us how to "build" a basic salsa and guacamole.  He explained that once we knew the basics, that it's easy and fun to add on and improvise.  For his perfect salsa he started by roasting tomatillos and garlic under a broiler.   Mash it up together in a Molcajete, add chopped WHITE onion (Mexico doesn't even grow yellow onions!), cilantro, and chopped chilies, and salt.  So simple yet complex and delicious.  The guacamole is prepared in a similar way.  He mashes the avocados with a potato masher (he feels it should be called an "avocado masher"), seasons with salt and a HINT of lime, and adds jalepenos, white onion, and cilantro.  Then to spice it up even more and expand upon the classic recipe, he added Tomazula hot sauce (his go-to), crumbled queso cotija, and a ton of chopped chicharron!!!  It was an incredible demo because not only did we learn the basics of these integral mexican dishes, but we learned that even to put the unique Rick Bayless spin on it, isn't as complicated as we might have thought.  He gave very detailed instructions on where to locally purchase every common or distinctive item he used- for instance getting the Chicharron at Carnitas Don Pedro in Pilsen.

We were then invited to partake in the gorgeous buffet spread which showcased some of Rick's favorite authentic Mexican dishes.  My favorite, by far, was the corn tamale.  He described it in detail and said that the crema (fresh sour cream) he used was from a local farm that produced the most fresh and delicious cream he had EVER tasted.  He knew right away it would be the perfect compliment to his tamales.  I had to concur.  The entire dish was perfectly balanced with the fresh sweet corn as well as the tasty masa, the tang of the fresh crema, with the saltiness and spice of the queso cotija and the salsa roja.  I was going to go back for "seconds" (and probably "thirds) but the line was insanely long... clearly the word spread fast as to how incredible they were.

Actually meeting Chef Bayless is definitely a rite of passage for any Chicago foodie.  During our chat he was friendly yet soft spoken and he loved talking about Mexico, of course.  I mentioned to him how we have something in common as both of our shows (His- Mexico- One Plate and a Time, and Mine- Food Junkie: Chicago) are filmed and directed by the same director and crew! He seemed excited to discover this common thread and we discussed how amazing our crew is and how much we love working with them.  I just feel honored to have a strong link to this renowned chef and Chicago's very own super-star of Mexican cuisine.

Overall, the event was a blast and a huge success.  Let me tell ya, Negra Modelo really knows how to throw a party! And being able to drink the fine Mexican beer while eating some of the world's best Mexican food, WHILE hanging with Chef Rick Bayless really made it a night to remember... or should I say, Dia De Muertos to remember?! Buen Provecho todos!!!

*Compensation was provided by Crown Imports via Legacy Marketing Partners. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Crown Imports

Get Your Shine On (2013)

There is no better opportunity for me to write a blog than when I'm able to combine all of my favorite things into one event.  Turns out, 2 weeks ago was the epitome of eating, traveling, and rocking out... all rolled into one incredible 4 day trip.   Actually, the traveling began when my best Nashvillian friend, Nanci, asked me to drive with her from Music City USA to Los Angeles.... of course, the spontaneous lunatic in me said..."Hell Yes!"  We made our way from Nashville, through Memphis where we got to eat some of their famous BBQ and pay an obligatory visit to Graceland.  Stayin in Dallas and Fort Worth Texas was probably some of the most fun I've had in years.  Witnessing real life cowboy honky-tonks and learning to two-step were experiences I'll take with me to the end of my days.  Yet the craziness began while we're driving through New Mexico and I get a phone call from the manager of Florida Georgia Line, "Hey Kelly... ummm can you be in Cancun the day after tomorrow? We really need you for the lead in our new music video- BK said to call you asap."  So I hauled ass to Phoenix so I could hop a plane home to Chicago, so I could fly down to Cancun.  It was a whirlwind but was the best hasty decision I've ever made.  Turns out my good friends, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley (BK) of the smash hit Country Music duo Florida Georgia Line were filming the video for their big new single, "Get Your Shine On".  I was beyond flattered they wanted me to be BK's "video girlfriend" and one hell of a trip ensued.  I arrived on Monday at the Hard Rock Hotel in Cancun to find the entire hotel flooded with pictures and posters of FGL and their upcoming mega-concert on the beach.  Turns out, the band and over 50 person crew from all over the US and Mexico dominated the entire hotel that week.

Video shoot Days 1 & 2: These were no ordinary days in paradise.  Usually waking up at 5:00 is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to me... yet when it's accompanied by a beautiful sunrise, breakfast chilaquiles, and country music blasting at the wasn't so bad ;).  My fellow video chick, Estephania (Tyler's " video girlfriend"), and I got to watch the boys finish their first shoot... where their whole band was actually performing IN the Hard Rock pool.  It was surreal to actually watch the making of a huge production music video... let alone being a part of it.  The scenes over the next couple days included... The 4 of us playing pool, flying across the ocean on waverunners, partying at a swim-up bar, frolicking on the beach with Mexican wrestling midgets (yes, I'm serious), cruising through the jungle and through town in an old army Jeep, and diving into clear pools and caves in the Cenotes.  One of my favorites was BK chasing me on the beach in Tulum and trying to take pics of me with an old fashioned camera.  There may or may not have been an on-camera smooch as well.  Let's just say trying to act "romantic" with a crew of 40 people watching you is much more glamorous than it sounds!  The down side of all of the was that craft services was the most delicious authentic buffet of regional Mexican specialties...yet whenever I was about to load up my plate I got some interesting "looks" from my stylists and the directors as my wardrobe consisted of nothing more than a bikini, and that I should probably be indulging in the veggie platter instead.  Nevertheless... I would sneak some Empanadas con jamon y queso... and proceed to "suck it in" for the rest of the shoot.

The wrap party was bitter-sweet as we knew our time in Cancun was winding down.  Yet we still had some party left in us.  The entire crew and band bid adieu to the Hard Rock by consuming massive amounts of Tequila while head-banging to a Mexican hard rock cover band.  It was a blast and probably one of the best nights I can (somewhat)  remember.  The video will be released within the next week and I CANNOT WAIT for everyone to see it!  It will truly be an epic music video and will go down in my history books as one of my coolest life experiences and the time I got to Eat, Travel, and Rock Out Mexican/Country style!