Saturday, December 22, 2012

Oh how your food does enchant me Rick Bayless

This past weekend my husband and I, along with two of our friends, drove to Chicago for the day to visit the Christkindlmarket. We also decided that our short jaunt to The Windy City had to include a meal at a Rick Bayless establishment. Last November,  when NCTE was held in Chicago, I experienced my first Rick Bayless meal at his informal lunch-counter-style restaurant, Xoco (pictures in the link currently don't work. I'm in the process of contacting Flickr to find out what the problem is!) Over one year later and I am still craving that meal.

This time, instead of Xoco, we had brunch at Frontera Grill and I don't even know where to begin to describe what a delightful meal it was. Rick's food is sophisticated, yet rustic and unpretentious at the same time. He seeks to go beyond just the typical vision most people have of Mexican food that it's just tacos, burritos, and fajitas. In his travels through Mexico, he really sought to find all of the flavors and traditions, not just the typical ones most Americans are used to.

Our meal started innocently enough with guacamole. I would like to say for the record that I do not even like guacamole, but our friends ordered it and were over the moon that it was guacamole they've ever had. Since I'm not one to turn down an opportunity to prove myself wrong about a previous aversion, I decided to give it a try. And guess what? It wasn't just good, it was delicious. It was creamy and buttery and had just the right amount of garlic. The person who said she didn't like guacamole was proven wrong. Not only that but I am now craving it. I will drive to Chicago just for some of that guacamole.

In addition to guacamole, my husband ordered an appetizer of Mexico City-style quesadillas stuffed with molten cheese. And look what a cute, cozy package they're served in:

For my brunch I ordered the red chile meatballs cooked in a guajillo chile sauce, served with braised kale and crispy onions. And while it may look simple and rather bland, the side of black beans and rice I ordered to go with my meatballs was to die for. The flavor and texture of the black beans was perfection, something that many places often get wrong, making bland, mealy beans instead of the smooth and creamy and full of flavor beans Frontera makes.
Pork meatballs with braised kale and crispy onions
Simple yet perfect: black beans and rice

A pleasant surprise from our experience at Frontera was that Rick Bayless was making an appearance that day to sign copies of his new cookbook. So not only did we have a fabulous meal, but we got to meet a chef that I greatly admire. It was the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon in Chicago.
My husband and me with Rick Bayless

I still preferred the lunch I had a year ago at Xoco to the brunch I had last week at Frontera, but that is me being extremely nit-picky. Rick Bayless's food, no matter which restaurant you choose, is the perfect way to abolish any misconceptions you might have about what Mexican cuisine and flavors truly consist of.


  1. WOW!! Lucky you to have met him! I've been a fan of his for decades. I'm definitely going to have to get to one of his restaurants. I adore guacamole, so I'm sure I'd be over the moon with his version.

  2. It sounds like you had a great time, how lucky that Rick was there and you got to meet him. I like his taco seasoning sauces from the grocery store, they are so full of flavor.

  3. I watch Bayless' PBS show all the time. How exciting that you got to meet him! Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  4. What a wonderful experience! I love him on tv, but haven't had a chance to experience his food yet.

  5. Happy happy Holidays to you and yours!

  6. Amazing experience. So cool that you got that great food and then met the man himself.