A look at "Mexico City 1491," a pre-Columbian tasting menu from Rick Bayless and Topolobampo | Slideshows | Chicago Reader

February 10, 2014 Slideshows » Blogs

A look at "Mexico City 1491," a pre-Columbian tasting menu from Rick Bayless and Topolobampo 

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Michael Gebert
An ancho-cacao sauce and tepary beans simmer on the stove.
Michael Gebert
Sous chef Joel Ramirez plates the ceviche, which will rest in an amaranth-pepita crema. With no citrus available in pre-Columbian Mexico, Gulf red snapper is cured in crimson jamaica, a tannic hibiscus tea, which also dyes it an Easter-egg purple. Curing is also done with pineapple vinegar—"There's evidence they had fermentation, mainly pulque," an agave-based brew, says chef de cuisine Andres Padilla.
Michael Gebert
Red "ceviche" of red snapper cured in crimson jamaica and pineapple vinegar, topped with charred pineapple, hibiscus flowers cooked in honey, a crisp of amaranth dyed with spirulina, and oxalis leaves from Rick Bayless's garden.
Michael Gebert
Frog Leg Tamal, Cascabel Chile is the dish whose form comes closest to how it would have been made then, as tamales cooked inside corn husks or other leaves predate Columbus. The tamal is studded with bits of frog leg, which were also used in the broth for the tepary beans, a nutty-tasting heirloom bean variety (used both whole and in a lard-free puree). The tamal is topped with chunks of chayote and sits in a pool of cascabel chile and guaje-seed salsa.
Michael Gebert
Atole, a corn soup or gruel (sold as a hearty warm drink at the Maxwell Street Market), here forms a savory sauce for a crab dish.
Michael Gebert
Crab "Chileatole"—Alaskan king crab with "soup" of corn, pasado chile, and herbs; sea vegetables; and grated smoked duck egg.
Michael Gebert
Huauzontle is an anise-tasting herb; you see it mixed with egg in empanadas at Maxwell Street Market.
Michael Gebert
Rabbit Loin, Chilled Achiote Sauce—slow-cooked Gunthorp rabbit served on mashed boniato (a kind of sweet potato) with a little rabbit stock in it, huauzontle, and salt-cured nopales (cactus).
Michael Gebert
Chef de cuisine Andres Padilla plates the main meat course, featuring venison.
Michael Gebert
This course uses tatume squash they call "fossilized"—cured in a way that the outside becomes tough but the inside is creamy.
Michael Gebert
Venison, Ancho & Cacao features venison from Hawk's Hill Ranch, a vendor at the Green City Market. A chile-cacao sauce with pepita, pine nuts, and dried trumpet mushrooms surrounds a toasted pumpkin-seed "risotto."
Michael Gebert
Pastry chef Jennifer Jones found more flavors to play with than you might expect, given the lack of citrus or sweeteners beyond agave and honey. Here she pours honey over a papaya sorbet.
Michael Gebert
Tropical Tastes plants papaya sorbet over crunchy amaranth cubes, sitting in a pumpkin-mamey "pudding."
Michael Gebert
Warm Chocolate, Frozen Coconut is remarkably lush, with flourless chocolate-mesquite flower cake, coconut ice cream (made with atole) and espuma, and dots of creamy avocado pudding, which adds a savory contrast that heightens the other flavors.
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Michael Gebert
An ancho-cacao sauce and tepary beans simmer on the stove.

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