Chicago is one of the Best Places to Eat!

When the James Beard Awards Gala was held in Chicago last month, visitors were met with banners at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and restaurants rolled out their red carpets to show everyone what I already knew. Chicago is one of the best places in the world to eat and not just because of my friend Rick Bayless and his wife Deann’s eating establishments.

Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post recently wrote a wonderful article on eating in Chicago as part of his search for America’s best food cities. I highly recommend reading it. Here is the link.

He interviews Rick and several other chefs and writes about the history of Chicago and its relationship to food.

Rick Bayless and Marilyn Tausend
Sooke Harbour House, Marilyn’s Birthday Celebration

He says of Rick, “To keep his menus fresh, the restaurateur takes staffers on multiple trips to different parts of Mexico every year.” Culinary Adventures is proud to have been part of organizing these trips and the chefs’ trips that continue are held each September. This year’s trip is in Campeche September 20-27.

Campeche Chefs’ Trip

September 20-27, 2015 This year’s chefs’ trip is to Campeche, a seldom visited state on the Yucatán Peninsula. The capital, also Campeche, is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and will be our destination for the chefs’ trip September 20 through the 27th. Campeche, formerly named Ah-Kim-Pech, which means “Place of Snakes and Ticks,” is an ancient settlement from the magnificent Mayan culture founded in 1540 by the Spanish.

Chef Ricardo Munoz

Chef Ricardo Munoz

The week is filled with classes, demonstrations and discussions with Chef Ricardo Muñoz and various local chefs who will teach Campeche’s local specialties such as muc bil pollo.

Malecon in Campeche

We will be staying at the Best Western Hotel Del Mar just across the street from the Gulf of Mexico and the colorful 3.5 kilometer malecon (boardwalk), for you running and walking enthusiasts. The location is just blocks away from the historic centro with buildings ranging from the 16th to the 20th centuries, including military, civil and religious structures. The folklore and history of this legendary city are still alive in its streets and one can easily imagine the Spanish conquistadors and pirates that once roamed here.

Photo by Ana Elena Martinez

There will be demos at the Panderia La Huachita bakery, and in the small town of Becal we will see how the jipilapa hats are woven by families and made in limestone caves to escape the Yucatecan blistering heat. There are some wonderful pictures here by Lukas Vacovsky of the process.

Next up is a demo on making muc bil pollo at the Hacienda Blanca Flor before driving to Uxmal where we will spend the night. In the morning we will tour the site before visiting the Eco Chocolate Museum, and returning to Campeche and more classes with local cooks.

Chefs Ana Elena Martinez and Ricardo Munoz

The trip starts and ends in Campeche and costs $4,000 with an additional $300 for a single room. The costs include two meals per day, hotel accommodations and transportation and fees during the trip. It excludes airfare to/from Campeche. The trip is limited to 20 chefs and food professionals (as of 5/5 there are 7 spots left). To sign up please use the contact form listed below.

Chefs’ trip 2014 – Yucatán with Rick Bayless and Ricardo Muñoz

This September 27 to October 5, we will have our twelfth chefs’ trip to Mexico, and this year we will return once again to Yucatán, where we last did one over 10 years ago. As you can see from the photo, it can be quite intense.

Besides Rick and Ricardo, other local cooks and chefs such as Roberto Solis will be sharing their knowledge of both the traditional foods of the Maya and the more modern renditions, all quite unlike those in the rest of Mexico and their more modern renditions.


Many of these dishes will have green, black or red recado seasoning paste with achiote for flavoring such dishes as cochinita pibil, originally prepared with the native peccary cooked in a pit. You will sample my favorite dip, sikil-pák, made with pumpkin seeds and dzotobichay, a huge tamal stuffed with chopped hard-cooked eggs and wrapped with chaya leaves.

Cochinita bibil

I always like to combine the rather intense cooking classes and other food related experiences with some time to learn about culture, especially in Yucatán so one day we will visit one of the major archeological sites, but, of course, eating some interesting food along the way.

These chef trips do fill quickly, and I always like to leave spots for those who haven’t been with us before so do let me know if you are interested in joining us in September. We have not yet confirmed the schedule so do not have a cost as of now, but I should know soon and will let you know. I expect it to be approximately $4,200, the same as last year. To hold a space, please contact us and we will send you the necessary paperwork for you to send back with a deposit.

Update:  We have had cancellations on this trip, if you are interested, please contact us. The final price for this trip is $4,200 and the dates are Sept. 27-Oct. 5.

Chefs’ Trip to Valle de Guadalupe

Part Two

Hugo D'Acosta

Hugo D’Acosta

On our day to the Valle de Guadalupe, we spent several hours with Hugo D’Acosta the wine maker from the Casa de Piedre as he took us through his very innovative wine school and winery, La Esculita. It was truly an amazing experience and anyone coming to this area should make a point of visiting. They do make their own wine and quality wine for other growers, as well as teach the basic principles of wine growing to those just starting out.

This is all done in a converted olive oil factory where the additional buildings are built of recycled materials, most connected to viticulture–wine bottles, thick hoses, wood stakes and fragments of barrels.

Some of their wines as well as other Baja wineries can be obtained from Baja Wines.

It was an incredible experience.

Chefs' Trip Baja 2012

Chefs’ Trip Baja 2012

Our next Chefs’ trip will be to Mexico City and Puebla, September 22-29, 2013. More details will be forthcoming.

You can see more pictures from this year’s Chefs’ trip here.

Chefs’ Trip to Baja was a Blast!

Part One

Rick Bayless Baja Chefs' Trip

Rick Bayless and Richard James
Baja Chefs’ Trip

What a whirlwind chefs’ trip we had the end of September in Baja Norte, where in 5 days 16 food professionals coming from all across the country participated in 5 cooking classes with Chefs Rick Bayless and Ricardo Muñoz as well as with local chef Diego Hernández from Corazon de Tierra located in the center of the wine country of the Valle de Guadalupe. Javier González, director of the beautiful Culinary Arts School and his staff and students were extremely accommodating. We also had three extensive wine tastings where the owners treated us to some of their finest bottles. It was quite an honor.

Ricardo Muñoz

Ricardo Muñoz, Baja Chefs’ Trip

One day the group spent the morning on several boats off the coast of Ensenada viewing the mussel and oyster floating nurseries and enjoyed sampling them all.  And of course, we ate! From exquisite seafood tacos made from almost any living thing from the local water–shrimp, marlin, crab, abalone, octopus, sea snails, mussels and even uni, to some of Baja’s most adverturous fine dining restaurants.

We had dinner our first night at the highly acclaimed El Mision 19 where Chef Javier Plascencia prepared a special meal for us, then in Ensenada we ate at La Manzanilla, and although Chef Benito Molina was out of town, his wife Chef Solange visited with us. Probably the group’s favorite meal was at La Querencia where Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero, a hunter-gatherer-fisherman, farmer, and diver shared his passion for the local ingredients with those of us around the long table.

Caesar's Tijuana

Caesar’s Tijuana

And, of course, who can go to Tijuana without visiting Caesar’s where we watched a Caesar salad for over 20 people be tossed. Here is the recipe that they use.

Newer Version used at the Restaurant
Serves 2
1 head romaine lettuce
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tablespoon ground mustard
1 clove crushed garlic
coddled egg
1 lime, juiced
Fresh grown black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 sliced baguette oven baked garlic croutons
6 anchovy filets

Clean lettuce thoroughly and refrigerate until crispe, at least 1 hour or more. In a wooden bowl, combine olive oil, mustard, anchoives, garlic and part of the grated parmesan, whisk with a wooden paddle until it forms a paste.

Once cooled, crack the egg and whisk yolk into dressing until thoroughly blended. Add whole romaine lettuce leaves and gently roll them into the dressing. Serve on a platter and add the rest of the grated cheese, croutons, fresh ground pepper and salt to taste.

Culinary Art School

Culinary Art School, Tijuana

The following recipe was given to us by the granddaughter of either Alex or Caesar Cardini, who I met at the Culinary Art School where she is a student.

Original Caesar’s Salad
Serves 2

3 medium heads romaine lettuce, chilled, dry, crisp
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Grated parmesan cheese, 5 or 6 tablespoons
Croutons, about 1 cup
Garlic flavored olive oil, about 1/3 cup
Wine vinegar, 1 to 2 tablespoons
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 minute coddled egg
freshly ground pepper

Chefs Trip Baja 2012

Chefs Baja Norte 2012

You can see more pictures here.