Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cooking Class

Mantel decor at Reba and Pancho's
I know I'm over a week late, but the husband/lover/best friend and I had a delightful experience last Monday, on Cinco de Mayo.  We headed over to a local restaurant, Reba and Pancho's, for a group cooking class and meal.  Reba and Pancho's is a modern American restaurant featuring Mediterranean and Mexican dishes.  Along with eight others in the class, we learned how to make several common Mexican beverages and an appetizer.  Following the class, we were served a spectacular meal, prepared for us by the chefs and their assistants.

First we gathered in the kitchen where we all washed up and donned clean cooking aprons.  Our chef (nicknamed Nacho for short), along with his wife Reba, started the class by explaining the history of the Cinco de Mayo holiday.  Apparently it was an unlikely victory that day in the Mexican state of Puebla in which the Mexicans held off the French.  Nacho grew up in Puebla before moving to the United States, so he had firsthand knowledge of how Cinco de Mayo is typically celebrated in his hometown.

A major component of any Mexican celebration is tequila, of course.  Nacho explained how he selects his tequila and how various tequilas are different.

Throughout the class, Nacho showed us how to make three common Mexican beverages and an appetizer.

The first beverage was a rice, sugar, and ice concoction, tasting somewhat like a rice pudding smoothie.

Of course, Nacho offered to kick it up with a bit of tequila, if desired.

 Before the second beverage was prepared, Reba talked a bit about juicing.  She explained that even the families living in very modest living conditions always purchase fresh fruit each day at the local markets and make their own juices.  It would not occur to them to purchase a bottled juice at a supermarket.  After tasting these delicious juices, I could be easily persuaded to take up juicing.

The second juice was made on a base of fresh pineapple.  Nacho showed us how to shop for a pineapple that is ready for use.  The color should be mostly golden on the outside and it should have a strong pineapple fragrance.

The second beverage recipe included fresh pineapple and freshly squeezed lime juice.

Nacho recommends adding a pinch of salt just for good measure.

The third drink was similar to a fruit tea, and then next it was time for the hands on (or hands in) portion of the class.  Nacho taught us how to make simple quesadillas.  In his country, if one doesn't want to make homemade tortillas, there are plenty of vendors that come through the towns selling them every day.

Too much tequila?

After Nacho fried up our quesadillas, we chowed down and used them to soak up that excess tequila, then took seats to be served three more courses to our dinner.

First we were brought a cold tuna soup.  It wasn't a selection I would have normally made, but it was quite tasty.

A roasted tenderloin dish arrived next, served on a bed of caramelized peppers and onions.  I meant to take a picture after I just tried one bite, but, well, things got ahead of me and before I realized what had happened, it was gone.

Dessert was a flan.

Good company, delicious cuisine, and new information to challenge the mind.

All in all, it was a good evening.