Diana Kennedy, the highly-esteemed cookbook author and Mexican cuisine authority, was at Loteria Grill in Hollywood last night for a special event to promote her latest (and supposedly last) cookbook, Oaxaca al Gusto. The event, costing $100, included two drinks, a cookbook for the table, appetizers, an entrée, and a dessert (all from recipes contained in the book). We arrived for the first seating, at 6:30 p.m. and enjoyed some mezcal while waiters made their way around the floor, handing out albondigas para fiesta (fiesta meatballs), stuffed jalapeños from Tuxtepec, and mini tostadas with fresh shrimp sauce. There was no sign of Kennedy yet, but we did spot Mozza's Nancy Silverton; Bricia Lopez of Pal Cabron and the upcoming Mitla; and La Casita Mexicana chefs Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu.
Shortly after, Shaw addressed the packed restaurant through a microphone, saying, "It's an incredible honor to have Diana Kennedy in the house." He went on to add that, "nobody has documented Mexican food the way that Diana Kennedy has." He then gave the floor to Kennedy, who, after receiving a rousing applause said, "I'm always amazed that people come out for these things." With a bit of comic self-awareness, Kennedy went on to say, "I'm here in L.A. to sell a book," before cautioning that "this is not a book for Americans to cook Oaxacan food. This is about how Oaxaca eats."
For the rest of the evening, Kennedy took her time walking to each and every table, in a loop, smiling constantly, posing for pictures, and signing books. The food kept coming too, with beef barbacoa cooked in banana leaf, stewed chicken in a complex sauce, white rice, picante beans, and stewed squash. As an extra perk, the menu items were also listed alongside their accompanying page numbers in the cookbook, allowing guests to read about the contents and preparation of each dish as they ate. The evening concluded with rice pudding, served with chickpeas and syrup.
Loteria Grill: 6627 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 465-2500 .
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