Traffic was the typical Friday nightmare and I thought I had left enough time for my friend and I arrive at Kendall on time, alas we were 10 minutes late.
At the entrance to the building where the Dining Room is located was a check in table, there each person was given the latest Diana Kennedy book From My Mexican Kitchen Techniques and Ingredients. As we walked up the stairs the director of Kendall took a look at my small Igloo cooler (filled w/beer) and decided that is not the image he wanted in his dining room. He said they were serving wine w/dinner and if I really wanted the beer they would accommodate me, however he would prefer to keep the cooler in his office. Seeing as wine was being served, I had no problems with this.
We were quickly ushered to the room where Ms. Kennedy was speaking. She is quite the speaker, very passionate, spunky and with good humor.
One of the responses to a question I felt could have been better prepared for by Kendall, when someone asked where in Chicago to buy ingredients, they should have had a good list prepared IMO, instead only three stores were listed.
After speaking she was signing books. However I choose to exit the room and obtain my margarita then come back and wait in the line to get my book signed.
To us waiting in line Ms. Kennedy said, Im sorry the line is taking so long. She then noticed my margarita and with a wink said, Some might be halved soused by the time they get to me. As I mentioned a great sense of humor.
Out in the hall where the hor'derves were being served, I met Cathy2 and some other Chowhounds.
Some of the hor'derves were carnitas on tortilla chips, a ceviche (Ms. Kennedy hates that word, she prefers something, something de Vera Cruz), shrimp fritters, and some others Im forgetting. The carnitas and the ceviche were incredible, I could have done w/o the shrimp fritters.
As the mariachis band started, everyone was ushered into the Dining Room and dinner commenced.
A large bowl with slices of corn baguettes was given to our table. I did not think this was anything special at first, but the taste grew on me throughout the evening.
Sopa de Fideo Y Acelgas Vermicelli and Swiss Chard Soup. A rich broth served w/the chard and vermicelli dumplings. I dont have the proper word to describe the vermicelli, but it seemed as if clumps of vermicelli were made then fried to make these browned vermicelli dumplings.
Then a plate of warm corn tortillas was given to our table. I must say I am a flour tortilla person mostly, but these seemed better balanced in my opinion and the flavor/texture was superior to any corn tortilla Ive had before, I really enjoyed them.
Camarones en Pipian Shrimps in Pumpkin Seed Sauce. WOW this dish was terrific; shrimp were robust, flavorful and cooked perfectly. The sauce had a depth of spice and heat that was delicious. Along w/the warm corn tortillas, yum.
The wine served w/this dish was Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc 02 from the Rapel Valley in Chile. Can you say grain alcohol?!!? Im not kidding the finish was grain alcohol, everyone at our table agreed; this was not a good wine.
Pollo en Naranja de China Yucatecan Chicken w/Orange. Apparently Ms. Kennedy was slightly upset as after dinner she remarked to our table how they had used the wrong peppercorns; I firmly believe she was the only one upset at the mistake that was made. Spiced bone in chicken served w/roasted onions, peppers, olives and an orange based sauce was sublime.
The wine served w/this dish was Goats do Roam 02 from South Africa. While this was a much better choice than the Sauvignon Blanc, it still was not that good. Ms. Kennedy remarked that she did not like red wine with Mexican food. She remarked that for lunch she liked to start w/some tequila, and then have beer w/lunch. For dinner she liked whites.
Flan de Café Coffee Caramel Custard. The custard had a cafeteria quality to it. But it was still quite good w/the mangos and tequila on the side. A small chocolate cup w/Kahlua coffee liquor was perched atop the flan.
Throughout the evening Ms. Kennedy was meandering around the room conversing w/the groups of tables.
I did ask if she had been approached by Burger King to do a commercial, she shot a quick look out of her eyes at me followed by a grin, I know what youre talking about, Alice Waters told me.
I did not get a chance to print out RSTs email before I went last night, so I asked Ms. Kennedy for her email address and I will forward to her.
She did say that she is ashamed that she does not know the Chicago Mexican cooking scene as well as people think she should, but she mentioned when she comes to Chicago she is here to eat other cuisines. The conversation never did come around to what those preferred cuisines are.
At the end of the evening I met two more Chowhounds, quite a nice showing from the board. All in all a wonderful evening that exceeded my expectations.
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