Sunday, March 05, 2006

My Project Menu

First, the complete one that Genevieve designed is available here.

Below, is my post in text-only format. Following that is my essay which accompanied in, detailing how I chose the menu items I did. Enjoy!

Snacks:

Chilied Peanuts – tossed with roasted garlic - $3.50

Peptias – oven roasted pumpkin seeds - $3.00

Roasted Jalapenos – drizzled with crema - $3.50

Pickled vegetables – a mix of carrots, beets, and other seasonal vegetables - $4.50

Tortillas – made fresh to order and served with 3 types of cheese and 3 salsas - $6.00

Appetizers:

Posole – a hearty stew slow cooked with pork, hominy, garlic and spices - $9.00

Sopa Seca – a fiery mexican pasta dish with a chipotle-tomato sauce - $7.00

Chilaquiles – homemade tortilla chips cooked in a spicy tomato sauce and covered with melted asadero cheese - $7.00

Sopes – warm tortilla cakes topped with refried beans and homemade chorizo - $10.00

Daily Special Tamale - ask your server about the tamale of the day - $12.00 (order of 3)


Main entrees:

Grilled Sea Bass - marinated in a mixture of cascabel peppers and pineapple, served over a bed of jicama - $22.00

Pork Roast – rubbed with ancho chilis, slow cooked and shredded. served with a chayote salad and a basket of warm tortillas - $20.00

Fire-Roasted Chicken –topped with a traditional mole sauce and served over green rice - $17.00

Winter Squash - roasted in a corn husk package prepared Veracruz-style with tomatoes and olives, served with vegetarian pot beans - $15.00

Tortilla pie – shredded chicken and roasted poblano peppers slathered with crema, layered with tortillas and baked - $15.00


Dessert:
(all desserts are $6.00)

Churros – sweet fried pastry served with chocolate, vanilla and raspberry dipping sauces-

Flan – enrobed in a traditional caramel sauce

Sweet Empanadas - stuffed with sweet potatoes and toasted almonds

Grilled Plantains – enrobed in a caramel sauce and topped with vanilla and lime crema

Tres Leches Cake – a butter cake soaked in cinnamon-infused milk and served with a rich coffee frosting


Drinks:

Hot chocolate – homemade and served hot and frothy with shaved dark chocolate on top - $6.00

Rompope - a rich Mexican eggnog lightly spiked with rum - $8.00

Horchata – a rice and almond drink. Crisp and refreshing $4.00

Café de Olla – a coffee drink, infused with cinnamon and sweetened with unrefined sugar, prepared in an earthenware pot - $4.00

Atole – a tarm, thick cornmeal drink flavored with a mix of fresh vanilla and Cinnamon - $4.50


My interest in Mexican cooking extends even farther back than when I began to cook. When, as a young boy, I first tasted a chili pepper, it was like a light went off in my head. I immediately became enthralled with their fiery bite and flavor, going so far as to taking a large chunk out of a habenero when I first found one, an experience in pain that I will never forget. Also, being from Ohio and with a cornfield literally in my back yard, I grew up loving that sweet vegetable. When I found out that Mexican cooking had a backbone in these very ingredients, I just naturally fell in love with it. Admittedly, it wasn’t until I was older and more adventurous when I began going off the beaten bath and exploring the restaurants and mercados that I got to taste true Mexican cuisine, but it just made me love it all the more. The environment was festive and family-oriented. There was a tendency towards involvement with the creation of the foods you ate. A simple taco would be accompanied by a wealthy of salsas, pickled vegetables and the ubiquitous cilantro and white onion mix, allowing the customer to choose what they wanted.

I wanted to convey this festive feeling in my dishes. There’s no pretension of ideas of haute
cuisine throughout the menu. It’s simply, fun, good tasting food with an emphasis on the balance of sweetness and heat that Mexican cuisine does so well. In addition, I sought to offer the customer variety. One could easily make a light meal from some tortillas, a bowl of posole and a bottle of cerverza or there is the typical 3-course meal available as well.

The addition of drinks was something I couldn’t avoid. As I wrote it, additions like hot chocolate and rompope kept finding their way into my dessert menu, until they simply overpowered it. The Mexican culture has such excellent drinks, especially for the winter months. I just couldn’t keep them out, hence their inclusion.

There were a few things I sought to steer clear of in creating this menu. The first was not to do any fusion or Neuvo Mexicano fare. Though I greatly enjoy this type of cuisine, it’s often the antithesis of the homestyle and rustic menu I sought to create. When I traveled to southern California, I found restaurants were often divided into two kinds: the taquerias, which were rarely visited by gringos, except myself, of course; or Neuvo Mexicano establishments, which seemed to completely catered towards a middle-class, white, English speaking audience. My goal with this menu is to offer something in between that. Towards that end, I made a point to avoid some of the typical taqueria fare (though if designing a lunch menu, I don’t think I could avoid offering tortas). So, though tortillas do make their appearance (it would be impossible to create a Mexican menu and not offer this most universal of Mexican breads), I’ve chosen use them in ways other than your typical taco bar.

This menu is written to reflect the winter season, especially December-January, a time of celebration in the mainly Catholic Mexico. As such, I’ve made liberal use of more expensive ingredients like crema, which finds it’s way into a number of dishes. I’ve also catered towards the season by offering hearty, warm and comforting foods. If doing a summer menu, I’d bring things like tomatoes, fresh corn and fruits to the forefront. But, in winter, I tried to stick with dried chilis, masa and chocolate, food that knows no season and whose rich flavors would warm up the dishes and the customer.

I hope this menu conveys all these ideas and my deep love of true Mexican cuisine.

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