is here and with it comes the holiday season, which is the theme for
this newsletter. From the recipes, to the gadget, to our menu
spotlight, it's all based on the season.
Speaking of fall, the
Frontera Farmer Foundation grant application
is now available to be downloaded. If you're unfamiliar with this
program, it's open to Midwest family owned farms and the grants are for
capital improvements. Please pass the word on to any farmers that
might be interested. Also, you can make a
donation to the foundation year-round and support our efforts in assisting local farmers.
Rick only has one appearance this month and it will be on Nov. 17th at the
Green City Market. The market has moved to the parking lot of the
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
for the fall season. Look for the big white tent on the Cannon
Drive side of the building. The demo starts at 10:30am. If
you're in the area, we hope you'll attend the demo and support the
During the holiday season, our restaurants have special hours and days that we're closed. Check out our
holiday schedule for more specific information.
Spotlight on XOCO
Melissa Novak, pastry chef for both
Frontera and XOCO,
sat down with me this month to talk about her vision for
pastries/desserts at XOCO. Pictured above is one of the new fall
desserts on the menu, a pear and pecan frangipane tart. Although
Melissa's approach to creating desserts for both restaurants are
similiar in terms of seasonality, the difference comes into play in the
presentation. Mel's challenge is to create desserts that although
they look simple, are packed with complex flavors, (and it goes without
saying are delicious) without relying on the other elements that are
part of her dessert menu at Frontera, i.e., sauces, ice cream, the
garnishes. With this tart, she's accomplished that in spades.
she also has a Ginger Lime Tres Leche Cake and a Apple Oat Muffin
topped with struesel to name just a few.
Coming to the fall dessert menu, a quince and cranberry empanada, a carrot cake cupcake, and several new muffins.
So the next time you're in XOCO, be sure to check out the desserts, satisfy your sweet tooth and revel in the season.
Meet the Visionary behind Monte Cristo: Fernando Ramirez
Our last stop on this year's Mexico trip was at
where we met Fernando Ramirez and had one of the most amazing meals of
the trip. Fernando has created or should I say beautifully
restored his grandfather's hacienda into an amazing dining experience.
In the early 70's the hacienda stood in a neighborhood on the outskirts
of Mexico City, surrounded by dairy and cattle ranches. Today,
that neighborhood has become an industrial area, and the hacienda is now
located next to an expressway overpass, a fact you soon forget once you
walk into the courtyard of the restaurant.
Throughout Fernando's long career in the corporate world, law, banking,
marketing, communications, and finally an internet company, it was
always his dream to create a restaurant which allowed him to honor the
memories and traditions of his childhood and his heritage. Monte
Cristo opened in 2006, but Fernando had been planning for that moment
for a very long time. What's even more amazing, is that just a few
years before, the hacienda was in near ruins. Today, when you
walk into the restaurant, it's as though you are walking back in time,
into an old Spanish meson or inn, it's a true oasis in the city.
As beautiful as the surroundings are, they merely serve as a
backdrop to the food and service. Fernando has assembled an
amazing team both in the kitchen and the dining room, and their
commitment and passion are evident in every aspect of the
All of the dishes on the menu are made daily from scratch using
artisanal and organic products with many of the recipes dating back to
the early 19th century. The salsas are made fresh tableside with
an amazing array of ingredients so that you can customize your own
salsa, and if you're looking for a bit of whimsy, order the sangria
which is mixed at your table using a baseball bat.
Fernando and I talked a little about his vision and he shared a quote
with me that he and his team feel best represents what they are striving
to achieve with all of their guests. The quote is from Mother
Theresa of Calcutta "That everyone that comes to you, when leaving,
leaves better and happier", and that's exactly the way we felt when we
If you're planning a trip to Mexico City, make time for at least one visit to
Monte Cristo. You can make reservations via their web site or by phone 52.22.5577.9262.
Recipes from the Test Kitchen
I've also posted another recipe from
"Fiesta at Rick's" for
Garlicky Habanero Macadamia Nuts, and Fernando Ramirez from Monte Cristo has graciously shared his
Prickly Pear Sorbet
recipe (also known as catcus fruit or as it's referred to in Mexico,
tuna). If you've never work with Prickly Pear before, this is a
great recipe to get started with.
consider a remote thermometer an essential piece of kitchen equipment
which I use year round, not just at Thanksgiving time, for roasting,
grilling, and also for deep frying. There are many different
varieties of this type of thermometer, both wired and wireless made by
many manufacturers, but this one is my favorite. It's made by
Cooper Atkins, it's fully programmable, has a stainless steel probe, a
braided wire cable that allows the oven door to close securely, and also
includes a timer. It retails for $40.00, however, I found it on
NorthWest Cutlery for $35.95.
See you next month.
Test Kitchen Director/Web Site Culinary Director
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