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A Slow Food Tour of Mexico at Milagro

Posted Oct 23 2011 11:30am

When I first became involved with Slow Food St. Louis , I felt like I had the mission down pat – eat locally, sustainably, and community-minded. I threw myself into this mission and still do. But there is a deeper side to Slow Food that I hadn’t acknowledged, yet was already practicing on my own:

the preservation of food tradition.

Food impacts our lives in ways that change us forever, for both the good and the bad. One doesn’t forget the times they struggled to get food on the table for their children, just as one doesn’t forget that once-in-a-lifetime meal they had on vacation that left them fat and happy for the rest of the trip. Both of these situations impact who we are and how we experience food.

But what about all those meals in between? The ones you look forward to more for the ritual than for the food, where despite how excellent the food is, it comes in second to the experience.

Imagine how differently you would go about your days if you ate every meal alone.

Our most recent Slow Food venture set out to address this. We partnered with Milagro Modern Mexican to provide attendees with a culinary tour of Mexico, the way Mexican food should be eaten. Our hope was to show people what Mexican food should taste like in hopes that the next time they have a choice between enchiladas covered in “cheese sauce” and chiles en nogada for dinner…well, you see where I’m going with this.

Let’s keep the tradition, the history, of food alive.

The dinner was on Monday night and with over 50 people in attendance, was quite the success. Slow Food did not make money off of this event – it was purely for education and appreciation. Also, I got to sit at this table, which pretty much made the entire night:

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Excuse my photos, as 1) Milagro is dark; 2) I was being hassled by my tablemates for whipping out my camera (heh); and 3) I was too hungry to take my time!

Chef Jason Tilford prepared the menu and did a fabulous job at that. Owner Adam Tilford allowed this event to happen and for that, we are thankful.

SOPE DE BARBACOA (Durango)

crispy corn masa “boat,” slow roasted beef barbacoa, refried black beans, charred tomatillo salsa, microgreens, crema, queso fresco

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There was no denying that this was going to be a meat-heavy meal but this was the perfect start. Not too heavy and the perfect taste of traditional Mexican food.

HUACHINANGO A LA VERACRUZANO (Veracruz)

pan-seared red snapper, salsa veracruzano, chayote squash, green olive, chile serrano salsa

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The snapper was excellent but it was huge. I managed to eat the entire piece but I knew this wouldn’t bode well for all the upcoming food. I’ve never had red snapper before but it was excellent and I would eat it again in a heartbeat.

COCHINITA PIBIL (Yucatan)

slow-roasted pork shoulder, hibiscus pickled onions, agave-roasted plantains (smashed), blood orange mango habanero glaze, achiote oil

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The addition of the pickled onion on this dish was a true palate-pleaser, at least for this onion-lover. It took the heaviness out of the pork and allowed for a great pairing. I do have to be honest and say I’m not a huge fan of plantains but I tried it and it was tasty. I ate the pork and left some plantain.

CHILES EN NOGADA (Puebla)

roasted chile poblano, beef picadillo, walnut cream sauce, pomegranate seeds

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This was, by far, the best course of the night. The pepper was spicy (in a good way) and the pomegranate seeds provided a cooling burst of juice to tame that spice. More than one person suggested that they add this to their regular menu!

BIRRIA DE CORDERO (Jalisco)

braised lamb shank, four chile broth, homemade corn tortillas, white onion, micro cilantro, lime

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People say you either love cilantro or hate cilantro. I’m OK with it, so while I don’t think I fall into either category, this “micro cilantro” was excellent. The soup was too, of course, but the cilantro and onion topping really made it for me. The broth was tamed down from the traditional dish and I’m grateful, as I don’t mix with spice well. This soup was excellent and the broth was appreciated after the previous heavy courses.

MEXICAN CHOCOLATE TAMALE (St. Louis)

steamed Mexican chocolate-scented corn masa, ancho crème anglaise, tequila-soaked raisins (!), goat cheese

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Just look at this dessert. Could it be any more perfect? Unfortunately, I was so ridiculously full that I could only manage a few bites. It was a bit too much chocolate for my taste as well (I know, I’m crazy) but it was beautiful and tequila-soaked raisins? Seriously awesome.

This was an excellent meal and you certainly left “fat and happy.” Even more so, you left with the feeling that you had just experienced part of what makes Mexico a country ripe with edible tradition. Mexican food continues to be served in a form so unlike it’s original that corn chips and cheese from a pump now constitute what we think of our neighbors to the South (I’m not innocent of this either, trust me).

One last note: my goal is never to make you feel bad about what you eat, but to open your eyes to a new way of eating. It’s to provide thought and discourse about food, not to bash your food choices. No judgment, only new information.

Hasta luego!

Question: What food traditions do you preserve?

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