Tag Archives: Topolobampo

12 Days of Mexican Christmas, Day 3: Rompope


It’s Los Doce Dias De Navidad. Day three. Time to talk about rompope.

The big question about rompope is, is it eggnog?

The answer: Basically.

It’s true that eggnog often incorporates egg whites that have been whipped but not cooked, and that, in contrast, rompope is usually cooked fully. But in all other ways the two are twins.

Sometimes this sweet, custardy drink is spiked with booze, sometimes not. Sometimes people buy it at the store, where it’s available year-round (despite having strong ties to Christmas); other times, people make it at home.


It goes without saying that we like rompope much better when its made from scratch. Our housemade version is being sold in adorable little bottles at XOCO. Alas, those are meant to be consumed in the restaurant only. (If you want rompope at home, there’s a recipe right here.)

But wait. There’s a third option: Come to Topolo, order the Fiesta de Rompope and eat your rompope instead.


Behind The Scenes of Topolo’s New Art Menu

Slide background
Slide background
UNCAGED Lime-marinated Alaskan king salmon, Santa Barbara sea urchin, aji amarillo, creamy coconut, saffron-pickled knob onions, Bayless Garden micro greens, corn masa “jaula”
Slide background
SERIES: CHILDREN’S GAMES IV (detail) Rubén Leyva (b. 1953)
Slide background
JOY AT PLAY Tender local asparagus and radishes, spiced pumpkinseed “hummus,” savory tropical flavors, unexpected herbs
Slide background
BICYCLES AND CONSTELLATIONS (detail) Enrique Flores (b. 1954)
Slide background

TIMELESS WONDER Creamy tamal colado, tepary beans, garlic chive oil, homemade lardo,
allium in various guises

Slide background
THE CRY (detail) Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991)
Slide background
THAT MOMENT OF SELF REALIZATION Viking Village scallop crusted in sal de gusano, braised beef tongue, sorrel salsa verde, sea beans, cured nopal, Japanese root
Slide background
LEDA (detail) Rolando Rojas (b. 1970)
Slide background
THINGS AREN'T ALWAYS WHAT THEY SEEM Halibut steak, camote potatoes, escabeche vegetables, guajillo chile demiglace
Slide background
UNTITLED (detail) Filemón Santiago (b. 1958)
Slide background
THE WARM FLOOD OF MEMORIES Sweet-savory brioche bread pudding with Prairie Fruits tetilla cheese, blackberry-brandy sorbet, spiced rhubarb and almonds, local cream, young herbs
Slide background
UNTITLED (detail) Jane Alt (b. 1951)
Slide background
THE GOLD-PLATED HUG Cajeta-ganache tart (sweet spice, 2 chiles), fruits & flowers,
prickly pear meringues, gilding

Browse all seven courses of our new art menu—and the artworks that inspired them—in the slideshow above.

Six weeks ago, Rick gathered the Topolo chefs around the big wood table in our library.

“This is going to be absolutely the most difficult thing in the world,” he told them. “You’re taking an emotional reaction and turning it into another emotional reaction.”

The chefs—Andres Padilla, Joel Ramirez, Jennifer Jones— looked at him a little wide-eyed.

“You’re going to have to let yourself get into the artworks,” Rick continued. “Not study them in a studious way, but really get into them. You have to step back and think: How does this make me feel?”

I was the lucky one at the table—I didn’t have to create a dish—yet even I could feel the weight of the assignment. In embarking on the Topolobampo Art Menu, the chefs had to grapple with the intersection of aesthetics and emotions. Then, somehow, they had to make it edible.

Still, when Rick looked at the chefs and said “So, how does this feel as a way to start?” the chefs said it felt good. Then they got to work.

Each of the three chefs picked a few pieces from our walls—whatever they were drawn to. And, as Rick instructed, they spent time with that piece and paid attention to their guttural, emotional reactions. When Joel stared at Enrique Flores’s “Bicycles and Constellations” (pictured, as all the artworks on the menu are, in the slideshow above), he felt pangs of love mixed with childlike wonder. “It’s about relationships and space,” he told me. The dish he created—the third of the seven courses—is built around two ingredients entangled in a famous love affair: onions and garlic.

When Andres considered Leda by Rolando Rojas, he felt almost toyed with. The painting is based on the Greek myth about Leda and the swan; what appears to be just a bird on the canvas turns out to be a commentary on rape. “It can feel like a bait-and-switch,” Andres says. So his dish, the fifth of the seven courses, is a bait-and-switch as well.

Filemón Santiago’s untitled depiction of a picnic was nostalgic for Jennifer. It took her to a place “of eating in a place that you typically don’t, in a way that you typically don’t.” Her dish, the first dessert course of the night, contains all the elements of those all-to-rare picnics, including that feeling of excitement.

This is not the first time that Topolo has developed an art menu; the first was a few years ago. But everybody who was around then has commented that, while the first one was good, this is the one that got it right. When Deann ate it for the first time, she encapsulated many people’s thoughts: “This,” she said, “is the most brilliant work we have ever done.”

Make a reservation to experience the Art Menu 2014 here, or call us at 312-661-1434.



Cook Topolobampo’s chilaquiles for dinner (or breakfast, or lunch) tonight


We can think of many words to describe chilaquiles. “Sophisticated” is not necessarily one of them.

Topolo Chilaquiles

But when we saw what Julio DeLeon, a cook at Topolobampo, is doing with chilaquiles on the new lunch menu (that’s his dish pictured above), “sophisticated” is exactly the word that came to mind. There’s nothing rustic, nothing “artfully messy,” about these chilaquiles. No, these are chilaquiles you can serve at a dinner party.

That got us thinking—could we serve this at a dinner party? Really?

Yes, really. Let’s get started.


The sauce is simple enough. In a large (10-inch) pan (we use cast-iron lined with tin foil), dry-roast 3 unpeeled garlic cloves, half of a large onion sliced 1/2-inch thick and 1 or 2 habanero chiles. Get them nicely charred, like you see above. (This will take about 7 minutes.) Let cool.

In a medium-large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat. When the vegetables have cooled slightly, chop the onion, add it to the pot and cook, stirring, until it’s golden brown (3 or 4 minutes). Chop the garlic, add it to the pot and cook for another minute. Chop the chile and add it to the pot along with 2 15-ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes and 2 sprigs of epazote. Let all of that simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, then blend it until smooth and season with salt (usually 1 teaspoon).


Now comes the fun part. Return the sauce to the pot, place over medium heat and pour in 10 ounces of tortilla chips. You want thick chips here—thin chips will get mushy.


Fold the chips into the sauce until all they’re covered in sauce. (If you want to toss in some spinach, or some pulled [cooked] chicken, this is the time to do it.)


Cover the pot and let the chips soften in the sauce for 3 minutes.

Now you’re ready to plate. The guys at Topolo use ring molds for their chilaquiles, and this, essentially, is what gives them that white-tablecloth-ready look. Ring molds aren’t expensive (unless you buy them at Williams-Sonoma) but you probably don’t have them in your house. We don’t even keep them here in the test kitchen. So we came up with a hack: Ramekins.


It totally works. Line 4 6-ounce ramekins with plastic wrap, leaving a good amount of overhang on either side. Divide the chilaquiles among the ramekins, filling each ramekin to the rim and packing in the chips lightly with the back of a spoon. Put a plate over each ramekin and invert the chilaquiles. After you (gently) remove the ramekin and plastic wrap, you’ll have a plate that looks like this:


Don’t worry, it gets prettier. Top each mound of chilaquiles with 1 tablespoon crema and sprinkle the whole plate with 1 tablespoon queso fresco.


You could eat it just like this if you want to, maybe with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro. But to make it more Topololike, we added a little salad and topped the chilaquiles with a fried egg.


It was so sofisticado.



Servings: 4



Heat a large (10-inch) (non-stick or lined with foil) skillet over medium-high. Lay in the garlic, onion and chiles and cook, turning occasionally, until they’re softened and darkened in spots, about 7 minutes. Let cool.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium-large (4- to 6-quart) heavy pot (preferably a Dutch oven) set over medium. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, give the onion a rough chop and scoop it into the pot. Cook, stirring, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Chop the garlic, add it to the pot and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute more. Stem and chop the chile and add it to the pot along with the tomatoes and epazote. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Transfer the sauce to a loosely-covered blender jar and process until smooth. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon. Return the sauce to the pot, set over medium heat and bring back to a simmer.

Pour the tortilla chips into the sauce and fold them into the sauce with a spatula until coated. Cover the pot and let the chips soften in the sauce for 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.

Line 4 6-ounce ramekins with plastic wrap, leaving about 4 inches of overhang on either side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chilaquiles to the ramekins, filling each ramekin to the rim and packing the chips in lightly with the back of a spoon.

To serve the chilaquiles, place a plate over each ramekin, grasp the plate and ramekin firmly, then reverse the two. Gently lift off the ramekin and remove the plastic wrap. Top each mound of chilaquiles with 1 tablespoon of crema and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of queso fresco. If you like, crown the chilaquiles with a fried egg. Arrange the greens around the chilaquiles, sprinkle the radishes over the greens and drizzle the salad with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Finish the plate with a sprinkling of salt and you’re ready to serve.



James Beard Awards: A Weekend Full of Fiestas

Next week, The James Beard Foundation Awards are coming to Chicago for the first time ever.

beard12_photoby_danwynnWe’re looking forward to a few whirlwind days of top-flight food, good company and high hopes as the Foundation bestows its annual awards to the world’s best chefs and restaurants, including our very own Topolobampo, which is up for an Outstanding Service Award.

But first things first.

Nothing can really start without a great brunch.

For that, we head to Kendall College on Sunday, where Rick and Chicago-based food journalist Steve Dolinsky — co-hosts of The Feed podcast, which just earned the Foundation’s 2015 broadcast award for Best Podcast — will interview an all-star panel of six Beard-nominated chefs and dish to a rapt audience of the culinary school’s students and various VIPs from across the city.

Later that evening, we’re breaking tradition and opening the doors to Frontera Grill and Topolobampo on a Sunday evening  to accommodate our chef friends, their guests and anyone else looking to be part of the dining excitement in our fair city.

On Monday, we head to the elegant Lyric Opera for the awards ceremony, colloquially known as the “Oscars of the food world,” for a black-tie evening of camaraderie. (OK, OK, a little competition too.)

Later that night, we’ve invited our friends to “Circus de Mayo,” a Beard after-party like no other at Frontera Grill.

Table Lady-8

To help us celebrate, we’ve enlisted the help of the Table Ladies (elegantly serving dual purposes as live-art and snack table), the whimsical Wine Bike to pour special wines, the Napkin Ladies, whose dresses are made from cocktail napkins to be picked off as needed by guests and stilted servers passing fresh churros.

We’re going to have a DJ and dueling taco stations pitting Yucatecan conchinita pibil tacos against Oaxacan tacos with smoky brisket in black mole. Oh, and we’ll make the tortillas in the spot. We’re also serving Agua Chile (Mexican ceviche).

The Libation Machine, a human-powered cartoonish contraption, will serve our guests cocktails, and a contortionist will prowl around the restaurant, dazzling guests with feats of bendability.

All in all, it should be a really wild night to cap off what’s sure to be an unforgettable weekend.

Photo credits: Dan Wynn; Redmoon Events

Topolo brings it for late summer

Slide background
FRESH: Summer Tomatoes, Yucatecan Flavors Leaning Shed Farm baby tomato salad, modern sikil pak, clay-baked tropea onions, habanero-lime dressing
Slide background
ANCIENT:Joel's Shrimp Caldo Mexican shrimp, xoconostle caldo (arbol & serrano chiles, tomatillo, cilantro, sour prickly pear), local sweet corn, Italian cucumber, nasturtium
Slide background
SOULFUL: Black Cod, Yellow Mole Smoked Alaskan black cod, savory yellow mole,
roasted Gunthorp slab bacon, braised baby fennel, charred eggplant-corn purée
Slide background
BOLD: Lamb Loin, Green Pipian Grill-roasted Gunthorp lamb loin, herby macadamia
green pipian,tepary beans,grilled escarole with Kaskaskia cheese
Slide background
LUXURIOUS: Cacao Tree Moist chocolate cake, Rosita de Cacao ice cream with Chiapas chocolate chunks, cacao fruit mousse, caramelized cocoa nibs

Check this: Late summer eats are everywhere in Topolo’s newest dishes. We’ve got baby tomatoes paired with creamy sikil pak (it’s sort of like hummus—you’ll love it). There’s sweet corn paired with Italian cucumbers and prawns. There’s eggplant and baby fennel (and more corn!) in our black cod dish. And we’ve got chocolate. Because chocolate is so good it’s seasonless. So…see you before autumn hits, right?



Topolo in 60: A three-course lunch in under an hour


Life isn’t always as luxurious as you want it to be. Take your daily commute, for example. Chances are you got to work this morning via a car or train. A yacht would have been a more pleasant way to start your day, but there’s that whole time/money/body of water issue.

Lunch at Topolobampo used to be the same way: Fabulous. Luxurious. But time consuming, and thus something you couldn’t do every day.

Today, we change all that. Because today, we introduce Topolo in 60, a fabulous, luxurious prix-fixe lunch that gets you in and out of Topolo in an hour for $25. (Of course, if you feel like extending your stay, be our guest!)

What does a Topolo in 60 menu look like? Luxurious, obviously. Here’s a sample menu so you can see for yourself:


Classic Salad
Bayless greens, toasted walnuts, walnut oil, lime, chile threads

Sopa Azteca
Pasilla broth, chicken, crispy tortillas, avocado, local cheese, crema

Classic Ceviche
albacore, lime, tomato, serrano chile, olives, cilantro

Carne Asada
wood-grilled natural-raised flank steak, Oaxacan black mole, chepil tamal, smoky green beans

Atlantic Striped Bass
yellow mole (guajillo, hoja santa, tomato), crispy Chesapeake Bay oysters, fennel, local mushrooms

homemade tortillas, parsnip-camote mash, creamy cincho cheese, luscious black bean- habanero sauce, frisee salad

Cajeta Brownie Sundae
Mexican vanilla-milk chocolate ice cream, Mexican chocolate brownies, cajeta, whipped cream, meringue

Sopa de Frutas
creamy mango-coconut swirl sorbet, papaya, honey Manila mango scented with Bayless Garden kafir lime, sparkling Beck Grove lime-pineapple “broth”



Topolo’s Chefs Get Evocative with the 2015 Art Menu

Slide background
UNTITLED (Detail) Simon Sparrow (1925-2000)
Slide background
DESIRE Once is Not Enough Puckery cucumber ice, sweet-spicy sea scallop, lime-infused jicama, smoked pineapple, sour salted plum, sweet honey Manila mango, edible gold leaf, toasted hazelnuts
Slide background
MAGIC ACT Rubén Leyva (b. 1953)
Slide background
EXUBERANCE Spring Has Sprung A riot of herbs and flowers, creamy green "flan" (local goat milk and cheese, garlic chives and ramps), trout roe, fresh peas and shaved asparagus
Slide background
UNTITLED Paula Pia Martinez
Slide background
COMFORT Beans and Rice Heirloom Mexican beans three ways (creamy white been puree, three varieties braised whole, chipotle-black bean sauce), crispy homemade rice-sesame cracker, house-cured suckling pig ham, aromatic wild ramp mojo
Slide background
UNTITLED (Detail) Filemón Santiago (b. 1958)
Slide background

WONDER All's Right Wood-grilled Alaskan halibut, rich-and-meaty roasted poblano broth, spring snap peas and favas, spicy chamomile-infused carrot crema, pea tendrils

Slide background
THE CRY (Detail) Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991)
Slide background
SURPRISE After the Fall Black garlic-glazed lamb shoulder and freshwater eel, black zapote sauce, black salsa (chile pasado, cuttlefish ink, roasted rhubarb), yesterday's bread, charred broccoli
Slide background
WOMAN CARRYING A CATHEDRAL Felipe Morales (b. 1959)

“Draw what you see; paint what you feel.” – Francis Boag

Let us now alter the artist’s bromide to explain the challenge issued to Topolobampo’s chefs for creating the restaurant’s 2015 Art Menu: “Cook what you see; taste what you feel.”

“Much like absorbing an intriguing painting, eating brings forth powerful bursts of emotion. That’s the territory we’re exploring here,” said Chef Rick Bayless.

The concept for the 2015 Art Menu began when Rick asked Topolo chefs Andres Padilla, Joel Ramirez, Lisa Despres and Adriana Martell to list the different feelings associated with dishes they love to eat.

They eventually settled on six: desire, exuberance, comfort, surprise, wonder and nostalgia, tying each emotion to a painting found in the plush collection of Mexican art adorning the restaurant’s walls.

The tasting menu begins with Lisa Despres’ “Once is Not Enough,” blending sweet, sour, spicy, smoky and salty flavors that will leave you desiring ever more. It ends with Martell’s magic, nostalgic “Birthday Party,” which arrives at the table like a fine dining dessert but with one bite transports you immediately back to warm, wistful childhood.

In between, the dishes will take diners on a journey designed to elicit an emotional response.  The full menu, complete with descriptions, can be viewed here. 

We invite you to experience it for yourself.

To make a reservation, visit this page or call us at (312) 661-1434.




Topolo’s new March dishes

Slide background
Winter Salad Lime dressed beets, grapefruit, avocado two ways, Baja Olive Oil, olive wood-smoked scallops, homemade carne seca (dried beef), serrano chile.
Slide background
Tortita Ahogada Pork belly 2 ways (wood grilled, lardo), homemade "porridge bread," spicy tomato arbol sauce, pickled rutabaga, Mexican oregano.
Slide background
Lamb in Mole de Calabaza Smoky, slow-cooked lamb "porchetta," pumpkin mole (ancho, tomato, spices, pepitas), roasted sunchokes, fingerlings.
Slide background
Winter Walleye Cured Lake Erie walleye, braised heirloom white beans with guajillo chile, spinach & clam, creamy Iriquois white corn fritter.
Slide background
Tropical Tastes Papaya sorbet, pumpkin “pudding” & tropical mamey, crunchy amaranth alegrías, warm local honey.
Slide background
Queso y Frutas Warm brioche bread pudding (infused with queso anejo), poached quince, queso anejo ice cream, Seedling Farm persimmon puree, hazelnut crumble.
Slide background
Peaches in Cream Goat milk crema mousse filled with Masumoto peach gelatin & Klug Farm raspberries. Buttery shortbread, Bayless Garden geranium natilla.

The kind words we’ve received about our Mexico City 1491 menu have inspired us to keep those dishes on the menu a little longer (they’ll be around until March 29th). But we couldn’t help adding a few new things here and there. Our winter salad (yes, it’s still winter here) pairs silky scallops with rich dollops of avocado and crispy shards of carne seca (dried beef); our new lamb dish makes good use of chef Andres’s lamb porchetta; and we’ve not one, not two but three new desserts on the menu, including one topped with a geranium from Rick’s garden—a subtle hint that spring might finally be on its way.