I was so excited to be invited to take part in the Yucatan Appreciation Evening, which took place during WTM in London. I had an amazing time traveling around the Yucatan Peninsula a few years ago and this event reminded me of all those wonderful memories I made during that trip.
The event took place at Ella Canta Restaurant, at the Intercontinental Hotel in London. Between you and me, it’s not every day that it happens I go on Park Line, so that added to the excitement as well.
Ella Canta is an authentic modern Mexican restaurant, owned by Martha Ortiz, one of the most known chefs in Latin America. Very passionate about the Mexican gastronomy, Martha Ortiz has created an authentic menu in which she uses traditional cooking techniques to educate the British public about the real flavours of Mexico. The menu is designed as a performance, starting with the overture, passing through drama and the main act, and finalizing with the final courtain (which are the desserts, of course). The bar from Ella Canta says another story through the collection of rare Mezcals and Tequilas used for “Mexico’s Gifts to the World” – the restaurant’s cocktail list.
If you don’t know Spanish, Ella Canta translates as “She Sings”. How beautiful and delicate is this?
The journey began as soon as I entered the restaurant and I was greeted by the staff, with half of their faces painted – a reference to the just passed Dia de lor Muertos. Orange and black flowers, and large candles were completing the festive decor.
At the Yucatan Appreciation Evening, Martha Ortiz has worked together with chef Pedro Evia, who developed a special three course menu to highlight the Yucatan flavours. Pedro Evia is an award-winning celebrity chef from Yucatan who has revolutionized the local cuisine through unique gastronomical experiences which bring back the flavours of the past in modern reinterpretations.
Before dinner started the guests were greeted with cocktails based on Mezcal and aniseed liquor (my guess) with star anise inside the glasses.
Starter: Yucatecan lime soup
As the first course arrived, I couldn’t stop staring into the plate and admiring how everything was arranged to perfection. A colourful wreath of turkey topped with fined slices of pepper, lime, crispy onion, micro herbs and edible flowers was centred in the middle of the plate. The waiter then poured a clear broth over which made the flavours come alive.
The taste was exceptional, rich but refreshing, so flavoursome. The lime was very noticeable, but it wasn’t overpowering the palette. The crispy raw vegetables added texture. It was without a doubt one of the most delicious soups I have ever had in my life, which made my mind fly away to that beautiful beach in Puerto Morellos, at dusk.
Main course: Queso relleno
This traditional Yucatecan dish translates as “stuffed cheese” and this is exactly what it is: a big piece of edam cheese stuffed with minced meat and spices. It is an example of mixed cultures in the Yucatan peninsula, as this recipe is influenced by the Dutch cuisine.
The stuffed cheese was served with a tomato relish on top and a white flour-based sauce on the sides. On top, there was a fried habanero, which the waiter warned that it is very hot. A basket with freshly made tortillas was brought to accompany the dish.
As the starter, the main dish was delicious and full of flavour.
Dessert: The Honeycomb
The dessert was chef’s Pedro Evia interepretation of the Melipona bee, a species that produces the largest amount of honey in the Yucatan Peninsula.
I have to admit that I thought combining frozen dried mushrooms with polen infused rice and a honey cookie was quite odd. However, the light Balché poured over magically brought the flavours together. Balché is a ceremonial Maya drink made by soaking the bark of a species of evergreen tree native to Latin America, in honey and water, and let to ferment.
Have you been to the Yucatan Peninsula before? Have you tried authentic Mexican food before? I would love to hear your opinions in the comments below.
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