If Angelenos are becoming intoxicated by Mexico's culinary renaissance, Northern Baja has been our gateway drug. Several events have popped up in recent years (most recently, at Playa) in which chefs from Tijuana and Ensenada have come up over the border to showcase their talents to eager SoCal fans.
And now, our horizons are about to be expanded care of Test Kitchen's Latino Series, which is set for this weekend at Bestia, and will feature guest spots for chefs not just from Baja, but all across Mexico and Latin America.
The program is curated by Bill Esparza, L.A.'s "reverse coyote" and unofficial ambassador to Mexico. He was tapped by Test Kitchen's Bill Chait to put together a Baja-centric chef series, but thought it was time to move beyond just the border towns.
Esparza tells us via email: "I felt that it would be even more exciting to introduce L.A. to the best chefs in Latin America. I've started with Mexico -- the idea is to book only chefs who are at the top of their game, on the cutting edge, Latino-centric, and who are presenting unique regional cuisines with gusto."
So with that, he chose Mexican chefs Benito Molina (Manzanilla/Ensenada), Pablo Salas (Amaranta/Toluca), Jair Téllez (MeroToro/Mexico City) and Javier Plascencia (Mision 19/Tijuana), all culinary powerhouses in their respective cities. Per Esparza, their scheduled dates and (some of) their menu plans are as follows:
Chef Benito Molina, Thursday, November 1
- Clamato con Carne Seca y Mezcal: clam and tomato juice with dried meat and mezcal
- Tiradito de Pescado Sobre Crema de Ostion, Ceviche de Almeja y Algas: fish tiradito served over homemade oyster sauce with various clams ceviche and algae
- Pescado de Roca con Caldo de Camaron Nopales Frijoles y Sorpresa: rock fish with shrimp broth, cactus beans and a surprise
- Lomo de Cerdo al Chimole(yucatan sauce) con Manzanas a la Vainilla y Polenta de Chile Guajillo: pork loin marinated in chilmole served with apples and fresh mexican vanilla with guajillo polenta
- Panna Cota de Manzanilla: chamomile panna cotta
Chef Pablo Salas, Friday, November 2
- Tostaditas de Salpicon de Conejo (rabbit)
- Croquetas de Huauzontles ("Aztec spinach")
- Cola de Res(oxtail) en Mole de Chile Manzano (Manzano pepper is used heavily in Toluca)
- Pastel de Elote (corn cake)
Chef Jair Téllez, Saturday, November 3
Chef Javier Plascencia, Sunday, November 4
- Amuse bouche: "Agua Chile de Dos Callos" -- Baja scallops, beef tendon, cucumber gel, sea beans
- First course: local spiced lobster, winter squash, morita chile, baby roasted corn, huitlacoche mazapan, heirloom beans
- Second course: "Octomom'' -- wood grilled octopus, cow udder, guasanas, petite tomatoes, cilantro, smoked habanero oil
- Third course: "Burro Paseado" -- chilaquiles, pork asientos, fermented chayote squash, creamy avocado, salsa de molcajete
- Fourth course: "Cara de Res" -- cheeks and tongue, salsa verde, quelites, chochoyones, bone marrow, hominy
- Fifth course: Baja California cheese tasting
- Sixth course: Sweet potato, coffee, yogurt, persimmon
Esparza says a personal knowledge of the chefs was a guiding light for who he chose. "I had to know the chefs," he says, "and had to have experienced their cooking before. Chef Tellez has one of my favorite restaurants in [Distrito Federal] right now (
MeriTorious Mero Toro), chef Salas is championing a cuisine that's very fascinating (State of Mexico), and chefs Plascencia and Molina are two culinary giants in one of the hottest food destinations right now -- Baja California."
This weekend's Latin-centric series will be the first of many. Esparza says, "There are plans for more chefs from Mexico, and South America in the future. It's a chance for Angelenos to see what's going on in the finest kitchens of Latin America."
To make reservations, visit Test Kitchen's website.