Usually the majority of our time spent during our yearly spring break trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico is enjoyed beachside by the pool soaking up the sun and drying out from a year spent in the soggy Pacific Northwest.
But if there is one thing that can get us off the beach it is learning about food from people who have a passion and knowledge about it. (It's a first to be sitting here over looking the beautiful Sea of Cortez writing about our experience in the hot sun....thank you Fiesta Americana for finally supplying wi-fi. )
Lots of good food is always consumed in both great restaurants and made in our almost adequately equipped villa kitchen during our stays. But we've always wanted to find a cooking class of some type to learn more about the local ingredients. Yes, our resort has a fun little cooking class twice a week presented by the serious activities director, Victor. But we were hoping to find something a bit more than a quick ceviche made by the sea. (although it is how & where we first learned to make ceviche 10 years ago and we still use the steps we learned from Victor. So we are not knocking it.)
|Los Tamarindos Restaurant|
One evening at home while watching our fav Rick Bayless' Mexico One Plate at a Time PBS series we noticed he was visiting Los Cabos. It was fun to see him opening his segment standing on the beach at Fiesta Americana, our resort, and visiting the area we look so forward to visiting each year.
|Los Tamarindos Organic Farm|
And on this particular segment he also visited an organic farm in San Jose' that he mentioned had a cooking school, Los Tamarindos.
We immediately got online and checked it out. When we got checked in and settled into our resort we had the concierge help us set up reservations, rented a car and made our way to this little oasis of a farm about a short 30 minute drive from where we stay.
We were greeted to the lovely historic brick farmhouse turned restaurant and cooking school with a welcomed glass of lemongrass iced tea.
Refreshing and cooling in the hot sun.
Shortly our group of 17 participants were all gathered and welcomed by Chef, farmer, restaurateur Enrique Silva owner of Los Tamarindos farm, cooking school and restaurant Tequila in the town of San Jose.
|Chef Enrique Silva|
He took us on a tour of his lush organic farm heartedly providing fresh tomatoes, peppers, herbs, mangoes and a wealth of other fine ingredients for his restaurants, cooking school and various other restaurants around Los Cabos.
After the farm tour he led us up to his rustic open air kitchen with a wood fire oven that I'm certain we must try to replicate in our back yard in the future. I just have to figure out how to convince G that we can and must do this.
He first took us inside to start the dessert that needed to cook several hours called Dulce De Calabaza. Made with squash, Mexican raw sugar (lots of it...over 2 lbs of sugar) and cinnamon. So simple....more about dessert later.
|Starting with dessert|
Everyone was placed around the space with their own cutting board and chef's knife. Chef Enrique explained the secret to his dishes is that he always starts with a freshly made herb & garlic infused oil that he cooks and coats all of his ingredients with.
We each chopped some herbs & garlic to be used in creating the oil.
|Herbs used to make herb & garlic infused oil|
The first course to be made was a roasted tomato soup, of course made with all ingredients grown directly on his farm. The tomatoes we first brushed with the lovely herb oil and sprinkled generously with sea salt and then roasted in the magic creating wood oven.
|Tomatoes coming out of wood fired oven|
The tomatoes came out blistered and caramelized perfectly as only a wood fired oven could do. The aroma was fantastic immediately.
Chef Enrique then went on to show us how to make a lovely and again simple mole chicken with rice and the most amazing wood fire roasted vegetable side dish again rubbed with that fantastic herb oil we started out with.
Several hours into our experience Chef Enrique suggested we might like some wine which the entire group was more than ready to indulge in.
It was finally time to enjoy our group prepared meal at a large communal table shared with our new friends gathered together from all over the US with one common experience and space in time.
We started with our simple, rustic and absolutely delicious roasted tomato soup topped with fried sage and again drizzled with the flavorful herb oil. Truly this is a soup we will make again and again I'm certain. I can imagine it cold as a gazpacho this summer as well as during the winter. And made with zero cream butter or even vegetable stock it's 100% Paleo..BONUS!
Next we were served a lovely and again simple green salad with tomatoes, a wonderfully sweet red & white striped beet and a balsamic vinaigrette made with that herb oil again. It definitely is an enjoyable experience to be able to see exactly where you food came from as you are sitting there eating it.
Even as the unrecommended communal table topic of gun control conversation came up we enjoyed our view and our dinner mates. Cringing while listening to a gentleman explain why assault weapons are popular collector items could of likely ruined my experience back in the states but something about Mexico lets little get under my skin. We just ate our salad, sipped our wine and took in the ambiance of the experience.
Next the chef served us the main course; chicken with mole' over a simple white rice.
The mole's sauce was mild and wonderful.
And everyone at the table felt this was a dish they could easily replicate at home. Having spent a full day making homemade mole' before made me appreciate the delight of a chef using pre-made, store purchased mole that is easily found in Mexico not so easily found in Tacoma, Washington.
And how could I forget the perfectly seasoned and roasted vegetables. Oh, carrots prepared this way could make the absolute carrot hater a fan I'm positive of it.
The final dish was the biggest surprise of the meal. The caramelized sugar drenched squash was served in large slices drizzled with the natural result of cooking the squash several hours in sugar, cinnamon, cloves and water. Topped with farm fresh mint I have to admit the squash dessert wasn't my favorite dish of the day. But it was one that would surprise people. A new end to a Mexican themed meal that we will likely serve one day if only as a good conversation starter and vehicle to share today's experience with others.
|View of farm from restaurant's terrace|
Our day at Los Tamarindos farm & cooking school with Chef Enrique was a great one. One that we would recommend for any food interested visitor to the Los Cabos area.
A beautiful location. Great ingredients, simply prepared to showcase their natural and healthy flavors. No melted cheddar cheese or sour cream to be had in this authentically deliciously made Mexican made meal.
We vow to hit Chef Enrique's restaurant Tequila next time or the following visit we are town. For tonight we are all too full to think of food. Or at least for an hour or two more.
Chef Enrique's recipe for roasted tomato soup to be posted soon!