Red O was jammed the other night, but for the real action, you had to have an invitation to the tequila lounge. The highlight of the party in there was an appearance by Rick Bayless, who had flown from Chicago to promote his upcoming appearance at the Food & Wine Festival in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, Mexico, from March 26-28.

Two festival chefs from Ixtapa Zihuatanejo also came for the party: Victor M. Terán Torres of Hotel Las Brisas Ixtapa, festival culinary director; and Edgar Navarro Vázquez, executive chef of Zi – the Restaurant at Club Intrawest.

Until Bayless appeared, they mingled with the guests, talking about the sort of food you might taste if you go the festival, which is presented by Food & Wine magazine. Look for very fresh, very simple ceviche; pozole, which everyone eats on Thursdays; relleno, a complex pork mixture popular for breakfast; tamales made from masa mixed with ashes, and chilate, a chile-spiced, chocolate-flavored masa drink. These are traditional dishes of the state of Guerrero, where Ixtapa Zihuatanejo is located.

Except for ceviche, such food wasn't served at the party. Instead, guests noshed on goat cheese and corn tamales, chicken taquitos, skirt steak tostaditas and pork belly sopes with Veracruz-style salsa negra.

Noshing over, they sat down to hear festival, food and tourism pitches. And then Bayless swept in for a few words such as: “In my adult life, that's all I've really done, help to share the richness of the Mexican kitchen.”

Then he swept out to another appointment, pausing in Red O's swerving tequila tunnel until bloggers got their fill of photos.

This meant the party was over. Servers dashed about, snatching plates and napkins from still-occupied tables. But there was compensation for the quick shove. Everyone got a copy of Bayless's latest book, Fiesta at Rick's, along with a box of Abuelita chocolate and a molinillo, so they could beat up their own Mexican hot chocolate when they got home.

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