Woken up by María Sangrienta (aka Bloody Mary)

What better way to welcome a hot summer Sunday than with a Latin-style brunch? With the Gourmet Latino Festival kicking off June 4th at the Astor Center in Manhattan, I was able to savor some of the flavorful innovations that are happening in Latin American cuisine right now throughout the city. Led by chef Aaron

Salmon With Papalo Coconut Broth and colorful cocktails

Salmon With Papalo Coconut Broth and colorful Latino-inspired cocktails

Sanchez and other popular names  in the world of mixology, I picked up some ideas in the Mexican kitchen (ei. use an onion studded with cloves when you make home-made chicken stock ) and witnessed the creation of original cocktails inspired from traditional Latin ingredients.

The session I attended was a “Levanta Muertos” brunch seminar, a phrase ubiquitous in Latin America, that alludes to a dish or a drink that’s supposed to “wake you up from the dead” and help with your hangover.  As the first year of the festival, the turnout of people was  impressive. There was not a single seat available at the long tables set up for the diners throughout the space.  The event was well organized, although the setup of the space was a bit funky: I was limited to seeing the mixologists in action, but couldn’t really see the chef at work.

After a cheesy introduction that had the two hosts (Sanchez and Olson) playing a pair of drunkards at a bar, the event thankfully picked up. The first creation was a Maria Sangriente, or a Mexican version of the Bloody Mary. This drink was prepared by mixologist Steve Olson and had Mezcal, Tequila, hot chiles, tabasco sauce, salt and pepper as its principal ingredients. The drink was beautifully served in a tall glass with a half chile. It was a feast for the eyes and the palate. After my first swig, its lingering heat and balanced flavors made even a spice-adversed palate like my own second-guess itself. One thing Olson repeated throughout the class was that the key to making a levanta muertos successful is that you should use the same liquor you drank the night before. This he kept referring to as using the “hair of the dog” of the dog that bit you! Kind of weird, but probably true. To nibble on, the chef prepared a huitlacoche tamal with a saffron corn sauce. The tamal took the color of the huitlacoche ( it’s corn fungus), so its masa was a dark almost black color, but tasted heavenly, with a fluffy texture and sauce that was smokey and complex.

The courses that followed all had the colors, textures and heat of traditional Mexican cooking but with a refined twist. There was a Pepita Crusted Salmon in a Papalo Coconut Broth, which was paired with a drink from Phil Ward from Mayahuel restaurant in Manhattan. The drink echoed the colors of the dish as a clear peach elixir, prepared by mixing mezcal, Aperol, Maraschino and lime. The final tasting course was a Stuffed Sweet Plantain with Smoked Black Beans, Epazote and Crema Fresca. This was accompanied by a drink called the Marajoara Magic, by Danny Valdez, the most charismatic of the guests, who prepared a drink with Brazilian cachaca, Carpano Antina, Habanero peppers and Lime oil.

The session was educational and fun, but most of all, I walked out feeling not only impressed at how Latin American flavors can be, but most of all, very proud.

(I took the photos with my phone, the colors were vibrant in real life)

3 Responses to Woken up by María Sangrienta (aka Bloody Mary)

  1. norma says:

    I was there too. I volunteered and then was at the same brunch. Did a post with lots of pictures.

    Too bad we did not know each other there.

    Following your blog.

    Norma

  2. Jessica says:

    Oh, Aarón, Aarón.
    Su comida es tan nociva como el mismo chicharrón.

  3. Ozell Kloer says:

    Thank you so much, this was very interesting. I was actually born in Spain (I’m not telling what year though!) but moved around various parts of europe and finally settled in England when I was 6. I dont remember much of the few years I was in spain, but the delicious smell of spanish food always seems to ring a bell in me or something. Funny, how I dont remember anything except the smells,isn’t it! I even found a whole internet site dedicated to spanish recipes, which gave me great delight and thought I ought to share with your readers. Anyway, thank you again. I’ll get my son to add your website to my rss thing…

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