Chocolate stars at this Mexican restaurant in Manhattan
Come along for a culinary adventure in Mexico right in the heart of Manhattan. Rosa Mexicano, a 24-year-old landmark in New York’s pantheon of groundbreaking restaurants, explores the nuances of our southern neighbor’s cuisine with a yearlong series of demonstration classes, Flavors of Mexico. Every fall the focus is on a single ingredient—chocolate.
In the chocolate class, Chef Susana Trilling, Rosa Mexicano’s culinary adviser and proprietor of Seasons of My Heart cooking school in Oaxaca, Mexico, teaches her students recipes that use chocolate in its most extraordinary applications: soups, sides, sauces. By the way, there’s dessert as well. Does it get any tastier than this?
Flavors of Mexico classes are held about every two months, led by Chef Susana or the executive chefs of Rosa Mexicano. The session begins with a buffet breakfast, followed by a cooking demonstration and a three-course luncheon featuring dishes taught earlier that day. The following month, selections on the restaurant’s menu highlight the class’s focus or special ingredient. "The series is like going to the movies," says Howard Greenstone, chief operating officer of the Rosa Mexicano restaurants. "You leave reality at the door and step into a Mexican cocina in your mind. This ‘food of the earth’ is ancient and flavorful, complex and simple all at once. That’s what people experience."
Once everyone has been fortified with breakfast, Chef Susana, assisted by Joe Quintana, executive chef at Rosa Mexicano Lincoln Center, starts class by explaining the qualities of Mexican chocolate. "It has an unexpected grainy texture," she says. "You experience the chocolate on three levels: the front taste on the tip of the tongue, the lingering taste, and the aroma. There’s an earthiness and a bit of almond and spice, which is why it combines so well with savory dishes."
First is Crema de Calabaza (butternut squash or pumpkin soup) with Chocolate-Chipotle Croutons. This creamy soup has a delicate hint of orange and cinnamon. The soup is poured over toasted croutons coated with ground chipotle chili pepper and grated chocolate. Sweet heat, indeed!
Beef tenderloin is the centerpiece of the cooking demonstration. Chef Susana combines red wine, chocolate, dried porcini mushrooms, and the tiny red chile de arbol (which packs a hot little punch for something so diminutive) into a dark, robust sauce to blanket the tenderloin. Using the "mushroom water" (in which the treasured woodsy-scented porcinis have soaked) adds another level of subtle flavor to the sauce.
Guest Lauren Santiago savors the aroma of Mexican chocolate.
Crema de Calabaza (Butternut Squash Soup) with Chocolate-Chipotle Croutons
Beef Tenderloin in a Porcini and Chocolate Sauce
Tamal de Cambray
Pineapple and Chocolate Empanadas