Monthly Archives: May 2015

Laura Martínez, First Blind Chef to Open a Restaurant in the US

La Diosa's chef and owner, Luisa Martínez. Photo: Brenda Storch

La Diosa’s chef and owner, Luisa Martínez. Photo: Brenda Storch

I  accidentally stumbled upon La Diosa (Spanish for “goddess”), a little café in Lincoln Park that I did not remember having seen before. I was first curious about the name, and since we had already had lunch, we decided to go in for dessert.

I had no idea that I was really in for a treat.

We were greeted by La Diosa‘s owner Laura Martínez, a young Mexican chef trained  at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. We exchanged pleasantries in Spanish (the restaurant had just opened in January). The pictures on the wall prompted more questions. I learned that Martínez honed her cooking skills while interning, and later working for Charlie Trotter. 

As if these accomplishments were not already impressive, Laura Martínez happens to be the first blind chef to open a restaurant in the US.

The entire concept behind La Diosa, from the menu to the name, are both her idea and her dream.  Losing her eyesight as a baby, Martínez is convinced that her condition pushed her to succeed. “Being a chef was not the easiest path for anyone in my situation, and I did not want anybody to tell me that I was not able to do something. I am the only one in my family with a degree,” she said.

Her kitchen is completely open and pristine, and watching her prepare empanadas with great precision, is nothing short of amazing. Her husband,  Maurilio, doubles as both Martínez’s eyes and her sous chef. “Sometimes it can get frustrating, you wish you could see when it gets busy so that you can move faster,” she added.

Why La Diosa? Martínez said the name is a nod to her faith. As she spoke, I could not help but be reminded of her strength and resolve. Plus, if I could ever imagine of anyone embodying supernatural powers, it is her: Martínez  masterfully wields a knife without sight.

Tequila pie is to die for a La Diosa in Lincoln Park

Tequila pie is to die for a La Diosa in Lincoln Park

If you visit La Diosa, please say hi to chef Martínez from us. We recommend that you try her tequila-cheese pie or the flan. The hot chocolate is heavenly indeed.

La Diosa

2308 N. Clark St.

773-372-5559

Open hours:

8 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday

9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday  

 

 

Mexico’s Day of the Mule: Hybrid Animals, Hybrid Celebrations:

Photo credit: Lissette Storch – Mexico City, Mexico

If you find yourself in Mexico during the months of May or June, and you see mules made out of dried corn leaves being sold everywhere, you might wonder if this handcraft is part of the local charm. It is, but only seasonally. This hybrid mammal appears just in time for the Catholic celebration of Corpus Christi or Día de la Mula (Mule’s Day), and sometimes you may find them stuffed with candy.

Some attribute the association of mules with this festivity to the fact that in the 1500s, the faithful went to church carrying the best of their harvest on their mules to give thanks. This is a nod to pre-Hispanic rituals, in which gratefulness was shown to several deities through offerings.  Even today, more than 500 years later, it is easy to see pre-columbian traditions seeping through modern-day celebrations.

Others explain this whimsical tradition with legends featuring mules kneeling down in reverence. My favorite one is the story of a man who, while wondering if he should dedicate himself to a life of priesthood, asks God for a sign. When he went to church on a Corpus Christi Thursday, he found himself in the midst of a crowd of men and mules. The man said to himself that if God were present, even the mules would kneel down. The story, of course, tells that a mule did.

Curiously, the word “mule” is also used it to refer to someone who is advantageous. If someone wishes you un ‘Feliz Día de las Mulas’ it could be either friendly ribbing, or time to wonder…

Nuestra Mesa: Receta para Hacer Flan de Queso (Video)

Con mucha emoción aquí les tenemos la receta del chef Aldo Saavedra para preparar un delicioso flan de queso. ¡Con todo y video!

 

INGREDIENTES

  •  4 huevos
  • 700 ml leche
  • 300 ml crema de leche
  • 250 gr requesón o queso doble crema
  • 200 gr azúcar
  • 1 vaina de vainilla o 2 cdas de extracto de vainilla
  • caramelo líquido para el/los moldes.

PROCESO

  1. Pon a hervir la leche y la vaina de vainilla abierta por la mitad y con la semillas sumergidas para que suelten todo el sabor. Pon a fuego lento durante 15 min.
  2. Tapa la cacerola y deja enfriar.
  3. Una vez que la leche esté fría, licúala junto con los huevos, la crema, el requesón y el azúcar.
  4. Vierte la mezcla en un recipiente de plástico y deja que se disuelva la espuma que se formó.
  5. Pon el caramelo al molde o a los moldes donde se va a preparar el flan
  6. Ya con el caramelo en los moldes, y una vez que la espuma se ha desvanecido de la mezcla, tapa los moldes con aluminio y pónlos a baño María.
  7. Precalienta el horno a 150ºC y mételos ya en baño María al horno y dejar hornear por  al menos una hora y media.
  8. Saca del horno y deja enfriar sobre una rejilla.
  9. Ya frío, meter al refrigerador durante al menos 3 horas.
  10. Pasar un cuchillo por la orilla del molde,  voltea sobre un platón y sirve.

El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México. Encuentra más información sobre el chef Saavedra en México de mis Sabores.

Speaking Mexican (and What it Really Means)

Phyllis Marquitz is a food-industry professional. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, her job relocated her and her family to Mexico City, where she had the opportunity to enjoy, understand and appreciate the local culture and flavors first hand. These gracious guests were in turn, a gift to Mexico- they are vocal Mexico enthusiasts, even to the point that Phyllis’ husband is the editor of soccer blog, soccer mexicanaPhyllis is also a long-time reader of La Vitamina T. Earlier this year, I had the privilege to meet her personally during one of her business trips to Chicago.

Although zapote,  the fruit Phyllis talks about in her post, is also available in Central and South America, she associates this fruit to the time she spent in Mexico.

By: Phyllis Marquitz

 

Photo credits: Manuel Rivera

Photo credits: Manuel Rivera

This morning I was yapping with my son (he is four, so we usually weave in an out of subject matter and  season the “conversation” with silly-sounding words).  We were discussing colors and fruits and how to make juices of different hues.  We eventually settled on green and used some fading, very ripe kiwi to bring it to life.  Along the way, giggling and thinking he had stumped me,  he asked, “what about BLACK  juice?”  “Zapote!” I immediately responded. But, “how do you say it in English?,” he said.  Since there isn’t an English translation,  he filled in impatiently, “do you mean, the name is only in español?”

I’ve been dwelling on it all morning.  Because to me, the name is not only in español, the name is in… Mexican.

Today I miss Distrito Federal and the genius chilango with a little stand that would mix zapote with citrus to balance it out.  I miss drinking pudding and sweet orange nectar.  I miss real jugo verde, even though the kiwi juice is pretty good.

If you don’t know black Zapote, this seasonal fruit is apparently a distant relative to the persimmon.  It has a pulpy middle that gets squeezed into an amazing pudding texture.  People say it is like dark chocolate pudding, but I get light hints of anise too.

Photo Credits: Luisa López

Photo Credits: Luisa López

When I was growing up, saying that someone was “talking Mexican” could be taken as a snide or as an ignorant remark about someone speaking Spanish, whether or not they were from Mexico.  This went along with all the assumptions people make about immigrants.  This resonated, with me, as my mother was an immigrant, even when she wasn´t Latin American.

I always associated the idea that people used the term “Mexican” to describe the language, with ignorance. Just like everything else, now I know it is much more complex than that.  Years later, here I am, wanting to tell my son (I didn’t because we had moved on to talk about snails and chess) that Zapote wasn’t only Spanish, it was much more specific and loaded with memories:

It was, well, Mexican.

 

Cinco Facts You Need to Know About Cinco de Mayo

Puebla is the state where this delicious mole comes from.

Puebla is the state where this delicious mole comes from Photo: Lissette Storch

As a Mexican transplant in the US, the festivities around Cinco de Mayo don’t resonate with me.  Although proud of the Mexican unlikely victory against the much better equipped (and considerably larger) French army in 1862, the connection between the Battle of Puebla and images of sombreros, cacti and mustaches continues to puzzle me.

I must admit I have become much more adept at keeping a blank face when people wish me a “happy Cinco de Mayo”. I still interchangeably try to deliver a history lesson or change the subject. This is no easy feat. How do you break the news that a party in honor of a Bacchus dressed in mariachi garb is not at all how Mexicans celebrate? Plus, and more importantly, this is not the point!

In fact, Mexicans don’t usually throw Cinco de Mayo parties. This holiday to us is more about parades and essay writing. We also sometimes get a day off (my favorite part). I worry that by exploiting this poorly-timed celebration of Mexican heritage, Mexicans themselves are just perpetuating this misconception. For example, I was horrified at the rendition of the Mexican national anthem during the recent Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight with this pretext. If this was not contrived, I do not know what is.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize and appreciate the opportunity to celebrate, as long as it is clear that this festivity has nothing to do with Mexico’s Independence Day, and more importantly, that Mexico’s cultural contributions cannot be summed up in a few clichés. So, if you are going to throw a big Cinco de Mayo party, here are cinco things you need to know.

Now, if you ask, me, I’d rather get a day off.

  1. Cinco the Mayo commemorates the Mexican unlikely victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.
  2. Puebla is the state in Mexico where you can find one of the finest mole such as mole poblano (Pueblan).
  3. In Puebla, you can also find cemitas, a brioche-like bread with sesame seeds.
  4. The Mexican victory was short lived. Napoleon regrouped, and two years after the Battle of Puebla, finally won. With this, Mexican gastronomy was transformed.
  5. Mexicans celebrate with a parade, a day off and representations of the battle. If you want to receive a puzzled look, wish a Mexican a ‘Happy Cinco de Mayo’.