Mexican Cena

Defined as a meal taken between 7 and 9, a cena can consist of a hot drink and bread, a chance to try out some street food or a nice meal eaten in a restaurant. With lunch being the biggest meal of the day items such as soups and tacos are more commonly eaten at this time.
A couple of weeks ago I jumped at a chance to attend a Pop-up Mexican Cena.  I did this for several reasons.  First and for most is my love of anything Mexican.  This is my all time favorite flavour palette and with Cinco de Mayo just a round the corner I figured this was a great way to kick it off.  The second important reason why I had to go?  The Chef cooking up this elaborate feast was my favorite lady Paola Solorzano from Santo Pecado Catering. Specializing in Mexican food Chef Paola is a vibrant, funny, down to earth and incredibly talented woman who loves to share with everyone around her the joy of this unique cuisine.  A month ago she taught myself and several others how to make our own tamales and as you will see later this week her patience and immense knowledge make a tamale queen out of me.  I didn’t even look at the menu before I purchased my ticket to this dinner; that’s how confident I am in her skills.

Mexican Popup (1 of 6)

The event was hosted at a wonderful little expresso bar on Dupont, Cafe Con Leche, owned by the incredibly friendly Sandra and Carlos.  Carlos has developed his own hot sauce line No.7 Mexican Hot Sauce, based on family recipes and before the dinner got under way he treated me to an extensive tasting of his sauces.  Homemade, preservative free and full bodied I had such a hard time deciding which one was my favorite.  Because they are made from pureed vegetables they have this great mouth feel unlike a lot of other more watered down brands.  Head over to the Cafe and grab a bottle or three and make sure you stock these in your cupboard.

Mexican Popup (2 of 6)

The menu that Chef Paola crafted was developed around these hot sauces and it was executed perfectly.

Mexican Popup

The meal started with a light and colorful ceviche of shrimp, crab and scallops.  Dressed with garlic and No.7 habanero hot sauce it was garnished with a  crispy tortilla that Chef Paola had made by hand.  A wonderfully light and refreshing starter with a little heat from the sauce and salt from the chip.

Mexican Popup

Perhaps my new favorite soup, mexican dish, beef dish, everything imaginable dish is this Carne en su Jugo.  A bowl full of thin sliced beef, black beans, bacon, cilantro, green onion and a broth from the juices of the meat and No.7 Jalapeno hot sauce.  Such a warm and hearty soup perfect for the drizzly day we were having.  This is next on my list of dishes I need to learn to make.

Mexican Popup

I was still dreaming of second helping of the soup when we were served this tiny version of a Pambazo. These potato and mexican chorizo sliders were soaked in No.7 Guajillo Barbeque sauce, fried and then topped with lettuce, queso and salsa verde.  The bread was buttery and crunchy and once I had cut mine in two I was able to try one side topped with No. 7 Garlic hot sauce and No.7 Extra Hot Jalapeno.  A bit messy but my plate was still clean when the last course was served.

Mexican Popup (6 of 6)

Of course the meal was not complete without dessert.  Bread puddings are one of my favorite desserts and what I loved about Chef Paola’s capirotada was that they don’t use as much liquid thus creating a crispier, lighter texture. A cacophony of flavors; cinammon, vanilla, almonds, queso fresco, raw sugar and a hint of chile ancho topped with chocolate, whipped cream, raisins and strawberries.  So unbelievably delicious.

Events like these are a great way to meet other food minded people as well as exposing yourself to a wider range of authentic cuisines of the world.  By pushing aside the idea that Mexican food is only tacos and burritos you discover all the other hidden gems that are just as delicious and open yourself up to new flavor combinations and dishes.  Make sure you keep an eye out for more dinners offered by Chef Paola.  Her love of food and her country is evident in every bite you take and will only enrich your senses for the better.

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