Cooking Class in La Casa Jacaranda
What a delight this cooking class turned out to be. I had researched cooking classes in Mexico City, read all of the reviews, and everyone was right--BEST COOKING CLASS EVER!
We met up with Chef Alberto at the Mercado Medellin, an historic market, famous not just for offering Mexican ingredients, but also serving native ingredients to the many foreign cultures that have lived and are living in Roma Norte. Our tour and tasting of the market took us to many shops frequented by the Chef, where we were offered tastes of the merchandise. These were the stands where our lunch came from. We first learned about chiles, smelling them first was new to us. Next we visited a gentleman from the Yucatan, with his specialty salsas from the region and much more. We tasted, compared and purchased, of course. Next to the produce market where we tasted Mexican spices including epazote and papalo, two ingredients that the Chef said "make Mexican food Mexican." On to tasting coffees grown in Mexico, brewed by a master barista, a tasting of several mole pastes that you can buy and reconstitute with chicken broth, and a cheese tasting including cheeses anejo, chihuahua (first produced by Mennonite farmers) and cotijo as well as some delicious membrilla (quince paste). One more stop to taste hand-crafted ice cream developed by a Cuban immigrant from his grandmother's recipe. Pure, creamy, delicious. If that wasn't enough, we then visited a vendor making sopes, which we were to make later in the day. Finally, off to a tortilla factory, where they make tortillas the old fashioned way with nextamal. I ate the most delicious tortilla ever, fresh from the press and hot off the grill. In addition to food, we learned about the origin of the pinata--a seven pointed pinata used by Spanish conquerors to teach the indigenous people about blind faith (thus the blindfold) and original sin. My Catholic school teachers never tried to make anything fun!
An introduction to La Casa Jacaranda
The beautiful home where we spend our afternoon is owned by Chef Alberto and his partner. The art was very much my taste and the beautiful ceramic dishes and pots added to the dreaminess of the day.The kitchen where we worked was a beautiful island, complete with individual stations and all the tools we needed. In addition. Chef Albert has created a soundtrack for the day, Music Casa Jacaranda, which you can find on Spotify.
Cooking with Chef Alberto
It turned out that we were the only students that day, so a private lesson! I had chosen the menu, Mole Poblano, a dish with 26 spices that requires chopping, roasting, frying, grinding, boiling, burning and simmering. Understatement, it is very complex! Every Mexican chef and home cook has his or her own recipe. Albert's recipe, "The Mother of Mole" came from his grandmother, who taught him to cook. And although Alberto was a bit dubious about a class of two taking on this project, Paul and I dove right in and we got it done. We also made homemade tamales, the old fashioned way, fresh salsas both red and green, and sopes like you buy from street vendors. The Casa Jacaranda team in the kitchen prepared baked chicken for the mole, heavenly guacamole, chorizo, huitlacoche, salted beef and onion to top the sopes. Finally, Alberto prepared cocktails for us, a "Crafted Paloma."
Cooking with Alberto was such a pleasure. He showed us how and let us do it. His comment was always, "That's Perfect." That's also how we felt about the day. Here's how it came together!
Dining on the patio
After guacamole, sopes and cocktails in the kitchen--usually a meal in itself for Paul and me, we went up to the patio for our lovely tamales, mole and dessert. Both the food and the conversation were excellent. Alberto is warm and very interesting, on his second career, quite a change from working in banking. Paul, who doesn't like tamales, loved this one, with a delicious sauce prepared in the kitchen. Finally came the Mole Poblano, rich, tangy, deep and sensual served over tender roasted chicken with rice and tortillas to sop up the sauce. The Mexican wine Alberto served was the perfect accompaniment to meal. Finally, desert was craft ice cream from the market accompanied by a piece of fig and a drizzling of Mexican honey.
It was hard to say goodbye. We enjoyed our day from 10--4:30 and the patio was a perfect setting for the meal. I hope we are able to meet up with Alberto again to cook and converse.
Next on our menu, a castle, a wresting match, a soccer game and a performance by Ballet Folklorico. Hasta la vista! (See you soon!)