Eating Moles and Flying Ants With Our Sister City

Did you know Chicago and Mexico City were sisters? Neither did we, but apparently we are, and have been for twenty years. Last night at Kendall College, chefs from both cities got together for a little cook-off marking that relationship (and raising money for further cross-cultural activities by the Mexico City Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International). As family get-togethers go, this one came off with just enough sibling rivalry to make it interesting. View our slideshow of the event below.

We especially liked what we ate from Mexico City’s Lula Martín del Campo (Roca) and Daniel Ovadia (Paxia), and from Chicago’s Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo), Carlos Gaytan (Mexique), and Arun Sampanthavivat (Arun’s). Daniel Ovadia turned in what was probably the most memorable set of dishes, with some outstanding mole (and that’s saying a lot, as this classic Mexican sauce turned up at several serving stations); Ovadia’s was ladled over duck with chayote… and the best worms we’ve ever eaten. The little bastards live under an agave plant and, damn, if tasting them didn’t deliver the slight tingle of tequila (then again, we were drinking some tequila, too). The insect theme was carried through by Enrique Olvera of Pujol who dished up some baby corn dipped in flying ant sauce, which was more challenging conceptually than in any gustatory way.

Kendall executive director Chris Koetke told us he was looking to present a range of dishes to reflect “the melting pot that Chicago is,” so he brought in folks like Randy Waidner of Gibson’s, Greg Elliot of Lockwood, and Jimmy Bannos of The Purple Pig. The Kendall College students handled many of the desserts, which included re-concepted sweet home Chicago confections like Three Musketeers (manufactured locally) and Dove bars. Chefs Amparo Torres and Erika Lugo from UVM gave us a final tickle with tiny chocolates filled with mole Poblano, an excellent balance of heat and sweet.

Daniel Olvadia of Paxia, serving up mole and agave worms.
Carlos Gaytan’s (Mexique) braised pork belly with spicy sweet potato puree and red cabbage.
Showing off Chicago’s culinary melting pot, Arun Samanthavivat (Arun’s) makes som tum (green papaya salad) with Thai heat.
Your correspondent works up the nerve to try Enrique Olvera’s (Pujol) corn dipped in flying ant sauce.
Rick Bayless blended Mexico and the midwest in his butternut tamales with Gunthorp Farm suckling pig and paw paw chile sauce.
Lula Martín del Campo’s (Roca) cactus, panela cheese and guacamole tostada.
Daniel Olvidia’s agave worm taco.
Eating Moles and Flying Ants With Our Sister City