lunes, 26 de octubre de 2009

OMG GMO! or requiem for corn.

Just this last week, Mexican Government approved 15 out of 35 permits that will enable GMO corn planting. The beneficiaries of such permits are Monsanto and Dow AgroScience. This news has been received in a couple different ways. On one hand Greenpeace has strongly objected to this, arguing that SAGARPA (Secretary of Agriculture) is ignoring international agreements and advice from experts in the field. On the other hand, mainstream press personalities have expressed their approval of the motion. Their argument: that this will improve the yield of our fields, enabling a sort of "Argicultural Revolution".

I for one, find the move appalling. I believe that the press is missing on some big issues such as quality of the produced food, and where the revenue from that nasty corn is going. It's definitely not going into the poor journeyman's pocket. And that is where all the problem spawns. For a good deal of our history, we have had a history of exploiting the people tending to our fields. And it has been the greed of the people buying dirt cheap products from them that has led to the ruined state our fields are in. Take Vanilla, for example. Veracruz is the home of Vanilla, and for decades, Papantla vanilla was regarded as the best available. Seeing that their product was in demand, sellers (not the growers) entice extract producers to start messing with the product. Buyers notice and demand for our vanilla spirals down, resulting in being perhaps third-string option. Gladly, as with Coffee, responsible growing and movements like Fair Trade have started their rescue of Vanilla.

With corn, however, the outlook is definitely stark. I had the chance of meeting Diana Kennedy, recently. She asks: how can a country as rich as ours embrace a crap product like Maseca? We've just embraced worse. Lots of mexicans don't know what nixtamal tastes like. Now, I am reminded of David Patterson when I feel we're en route to forget corn.

The only word I can think of to describe what's going on right now is shameful. Eight years ago, when I was in France, you could see the strength of the anti-GMO shift. Producers were proudly boasting: Non-GMO in their labels. We seem to be bidding them welcome.

Need more? How about watching Michael Ruhlman and Dan Barber at Chautauqua. Mr. Ruhlman goes, as Mr. Patterson earlier, into detail about why the corn produced by the mass industries is wrong, even explaining how it affects the rest of the food chain. Chances are, you already read Michael Ruhlman's Blog but as I said earlier: if you don't, start doing so.

Finally, a big Thank You to Donna Turner Ruhlman for kindly letting me use her "Ear of Corn" picture. See more of her amazing work at

martes, 20 de octubre de 2009

Pics from the job

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Taking pictures onsite is challenging, to say the least. Lighgting in kitchens isn't quite adequate for good photography. However, I have been trying to get some better pictures into this blog.

Here's a sampling of some pictures taken of both dishes from our menu and others created for our wine tasting events.

martes, 13 de octubre de 2009

Cocinero del Año Menu

Last september I participated in the local semifinal of the Cocinero del Año contest. It was my first contest and I learned a lot about what needs to be improved for following attempts (meaning I didn't do that good).

Here's the menu I prepared:

Appetizer 1:
Smoked Salmon and Xiqueño Mole Tostada

Appetizer 2:
Escabeche Carrot Cappucchino and Pig Trotter Croquette

First Course:
Salt-Cured Nopal and Confit Tomato Salad.

Red Snapper with Beet Mole, Cacahuazintle Corn Raviolo, Oyster Mushrooms and Cilantro Pesto

Chocolate and Corn Millefeuille, Garapiñado Ice Cream, Coffee Sauce.

Maybe next year!

sábado, 10 de octubre de 2009

2nd CANIRAC Culinary Symposium

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Last year the State's Restaurant Chamber (CANIRAC) organized a culinary symposium focused on the "rescue and preservation of Northeastern Mexico's cuisine". Many of us were surprised to see that the seemingly simple cuisine of the northeast isn't shabby at all. True that we don't have the culinary complexity or popularity of the central and southern regions. But it's still worth taking a look into.

Last Wednesday, CANIRAC hosted their second edition of the symposium, and again, there was a fair share of great information to chew on.

The event kicked off with the early day being mostly about conferences, starting with Dr. Glafiro Alanís, from the State University's Faculty of Biology. His conference was a presentation of the edible plants available in Nuevo León, some of which were unknown to many of the assistants.

Eduardo Alvarado, host of the show "Reportajes de Alvarado" presented a recap of some of the show's moments highlighting the people of the state and their traditional foods. Asado de Puerco, Sweet Bean Paste, Beef Cortadillo and many other regional specialties were highlighted in them. After his presentation, CANIRAC presented Mr. Alvarado with a special recognition for the show's labor in the rescue and preservation of local culinary traditions.

Nina Mayagoitia, from Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma came up next and after a brief talk, gave way to Sommelier Humberto Falcón. Humberto talked about the company's premium brand: Bohemia, the characteristics of the different varieties, proper service for each and even pairing tips.

After a Short break, consultant Miguel Espejel took the stage and briefly gave us some pointers on Restaurant Marketing.

For the second part of the Symposium, we moved to the Museum of the Northeast's terrace for the cooking demos. Unfortunately, it was a bit hot last week so both Speaker Chefs and attendees were in a bit of an uncomfortable situation. The good part of this was that the demos were both entertaining and illustrating and more than made up for the weather.

First up, Saltillo's Juan Ramón Cárdenas shared one of his passions: Pecans. Being native of the region, pecans make up a pretty important part of our cuisine, particularly in the sweet side of it. Chef Cárdenas told us about how the Tlaxcaltecan women, finding themselves lacking avocado leaves to cook with, took upon the pecan tree for substitutes and proceeded to make a Pecan Tree leaf green mole. It was served over some pork rib carnitas... delicious! He also shared a quick way to make "Queso de Nuez", a local candy similar to Marzipan.

Chef Abdiel Cervantes was up next. Chef Cervantes has dedicated himself to promoting Mexico's culinary heritage both locally and internationally. He spoke to the many culinary students in the audience about the importance of discovering and mastering the local tradition. He also prepared a Prickly Pear Ceviche and a "Cactus Flan" flavored with saffron and served with a poblano sauce.

Last but definitely not least, Chefs Alberto Sentíes and Adrián Herrera took the stage and prepared a three course menu using flowers as ingredients. This was definitely one of the highlights of the day, as their contrasting culinary styles meshed together in some quite interesting dishes.

I was forgetting, there was one last, surprise demo held by Chef Rodolfo Onofre on fruit carving, unfortunately it was getting late and I had to go back to the restaurant to our regular Wednesday wine tasting.

Congratulations to CANIRAC and all the speakers for this second Symposium, our region definitely needs more efforts like this one.

martes, 6 de octubre de 2009

Introducing: TGRBT #1

After recently hosting a round of TGRWT, blogger Aidan Brooks comes up with a really interesting idea: They really go badly together, inspired by a recent Masterchef episode...

Worth a read if not a shot!