Mexico -- One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless

In his cooking and travel series, chef Rick Bayless explores the cuisine and culture of Mexico. He samples regional specialties, explores colorful markets and beloved old churches and town plazas, visits off-the-beaten-path restaurants and food stalls and takes in local festivals. He also cooks — and occasionally fishes and hunts — alongside the finest Mexican chefs, home cooks and market vendors. At his home kitchen, Rick then translates the intricate cooking of Mexico into everyday dishes for American kitchens.

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Rick Bayless

Rick Bayless

Rick Bayless is an award-winning chef, restaurateur and cookbook author, and humanitarian known for his contributions to popularizing Mexican cuisine in the United States.

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A Chef's Path

Episode #1002H · Ever seen a kid in a candy store? Their excitement pales next to a chef in a market. An early morning trek to the Central de Abastos, one of the world's largest markets, with Rick Bayless and Chef Eduardo "Lalo" Garcia, proves exhilarating. Neither chef can talk fast enough about all the dishes they want to make from the mind-boggling stacks of nopales, the fragrant herbs, the crisp greens, the juicy pitayas and mangos. Chef Lalo's path to his wildly popular Maximo Bistrot in Mexico City includes migrant work on produce farms and stints in fine-dining establishments in Atlanta and New York City. Today, his suckling pig carnitas have a massive following. Lucky for us, he and Rick cook the dish in his restaurant kitchen. Rick and Chef Enrique Olvera, owner of Pujol and arguably Mexico's top chef, talk about the evolution of Mexican food and the challenge to change people's perception of the cuisine. At home, Rick coaxes amazing flavors from humble tomatillos, pork and potatoes.

Island Time

Episode #1003H · "Eat your veggies" - it's a line children from Mexico to Morocco hear from their parents. In this episode, we meet a pair of chefs who took that advice seriously. As Rick discovers, chefs Israel Montero and Alfredo Chaves of Kaah Siis Restaurant aren't just eating their vegetables, nor just cooking them - they're growing them at Xochimilco, Mexico City's ancient floating gardens. The chefs give Rick a tour of the chinampas, small man-made islands amongst the canals, where some of the city's chefs are growing organic and specialty produce. They talk about sustainability, the future of organic, and, of course, kale. Back in Chicago, Rick takes us to the closest thing he has to Xochimilco: Green City Market, where he visits his favorite vendors and takes their wares home for a taco party.

Under The Influence (Of Tacos)

Episode #1004H · If there's a face of Mexico City's restaurant scene, it might be Jorge Vallejo's. (Of course, it may also be Enrique Olvera's, or Gabrielle Camara's ... who's counting?). Vallejo's cooking, found at his intimate restaurant Quintonil, has long been an inspiration for Rick and Deann. But what inspires Jorge? What propels him to put together dishes such as his stunning mole with beef tongue? In one word: Tacos. So in this episode, Rick follows Jorge on a taco tour, from the simple vegetable preparations at Tacos Gus to the super-rich and satisfying suadero-style tacos at Taqueria Los Cocuyos. Back in Chicago, Rick makes his own amazing tacos at home, complete with homemade tortillas.

Mexico: It's (A) Wine Country

Episode #1005H · Rick's got nothing against cerveza and margaritas, but in this episode he explores another side of Mexican drinking: Wine. Mexican wine. And no, that's not a misnomer. In fact, the burgeoning craft of Mexican wine is growing, often in unusual places. Marvin Nahmias and partners have transformed a high-rise rooftop in Mexico City into a small vineyard and winemaking facility; after they give Rick a tour, they give him the keys to the kitchen. The winery's brick ovens and grills speak to Rick's inner pit master, so at the San Juan Market, Rick selects cabrito to cook over hardwood, tender chayote to roast in the wood oven for tacos and eggplant to char into a salsa. Salud!

Artisanal Bread In Tortilla Land

Episode #1006H · In the land of the tortilla, bread can often get overlooked. But if Chef Elena Reygadas has anything to say about it, bread will soon rise as an important player in Mexican cuisine. She certainly has the right tools to effect change: At her bakery, Rosetta Panaderia, she crafts transcendent versions of Mexico's classic pan de pulque (pulque bread) and sugary-topped conchas. Rick swoons over these treats and engages Reygadas in a conversation about their shared philosophies of cooking and building community. We get a sneak peak at Elena's process for conchas before Rick teaches us his foolproof method at home. Then, it's sandwich time: Rick visits Eno, Chef Enrique Olvera's casual spot that serves tuna and chicken milanesa tortas in homemade bollilo rolls. Then we head back to Chicago, where Rick makes a torta at his casual spot, Xoco.

Shaking Up The Margarita

Episode #1007H · The Mercado Lazaro Cardenas is pretty standard as far as markets in Mexico City go. But turn one corner and suddenly you're in a different world: The world of coffee geeks, of which Rick is a proud citizen. The Passmar Cafe Finos stall brews espresso with natillas and cappuccino with blue curacao using unique brewing methods and award-winning baristas, and Rick geeks out in the best possible (caffeinated) way. Fully charged on caffeine, Rick's ready for a cocktail. So he pays a visit to mixologist Joseph Mortera, who takes Rick through a couple of his delicious creations including a mescal cocktail made with fresh hoja santa leaves and absinthe. Next up: Ricardo Nava, a bartender at Polanco's sleek bar Limantour, who shakes up his margarita by using mescal, pineapple juice and hot chile. Lucky for us, Rick makes cocktails with herbs from his garden plus some very tasty snacks in his home kitchen.

How to Feed A City

Episode #1008H · Chef Edgar Nunez wants to change the world. Like Rick, Edgar believes everyone should have access to fresh, local food; he believes Mexican chefs should embrace their own cuisine; and he believes in mentoring the younger generation. Rick and Edgar strategize over a meal of duck carnitas with mole negro at Sud 777, Edgar's strikingly beautiful fine dining Mexico City restaurant. Then they take it to the streets where Edgar's mission continues via food trucks that serve fresh, affordable tacos, tostadas and caldos to all manner of customers. At home, Rick shares his tips and recipes for a stress-free tostada party - including great guacamole - sure to change your world.

A Passion for Cheese

Episode #1009H · Carlos Yescas is a cheesehead on a mission: Put the fine, outstanding artisanal cheeses of Mexico on everyone's radar screen. Yescas scours the country for the best cheese producers; then, he scours Mexico City's best restaurants for chefs that will use those cheeses on their menus. One chef he's had success with is Jorge Vallejo, owner of Quintonil, who happily uses a super-rich doble crema cheese from Chiapas to make his mother's version of huazontles, and a tangy, bouncy quesillo from Chiapas for an elegant cheese soup. Luckily for the residents of DF, these cheeses can now be found at Carlos's stall, Lactography, in the sleek new Mercado Roma. Lucky Rick gets to sample the wares before heading home to Chicago, where he teaches us how easy it is to make whole milk ricotta.

Market Inspirations, Local Genius

Episode #1010H · Everywhere Rick goes, he asks chefs about Mexico's up-and-coming talent. These days, Mexico City's chefs all have the same answer: Pablo Salas. The odd thing? Salas doesn't work in Mexico City - his restaurant, Amaranta, is in Toluca, about an hour's drive away. Undaunted by the trip, Rick meets Pablo at the Santiago Tianguistengo Market to get a look at the traditions that inspire Pablo's modern Mexiquense cooking - from the myriad of chorizo choices to the pasilla chiles and vegetables. The chefs also visit a local carniceria for a peek at Toluca's famed chorizo. In the Amaranta kitchens, Pablo shows us the simple tricks to his favorite mole with oxtail. At home, Rick makes an easy version of chorizo to use in crispy potato sopes.

Mexican Chocolate: The Next Chapter

Episode #1011H · Mexico and chocolate go together like salsa and chips. But if you hear "Mexican chocolate" and think of something to dip churros into, you're only getting a part of the story. A few Mexico City chocolatiers see more potential for Mexican chocolate - they see single-origin chocolate bars, beautiful hand-formed truffles, even ambitious sculptures made of the stuff. Hector Galvan of La Casa Tropical talks with Rick about the cultural importance of chocolate in Mexico and why he is working so diligently to save ancient varieties of cacao. And pastry chef Jose Ramon Castillo - proprietor of DF's hippest chocolate shop, Que Bo! - shows how he creates some of Mexico's finest chocolates, from bonbons to beverages. At home, Rick puts Mexican chocolate to work in a chocolate cocktail, Mexican truffles and a stunning chocolate-mesquite cake.

Building a World-Class Cuisine Starts with a Sound Foundation

Episode #1012H · As the restaurant scene in Mexico City has exploded, so, too, have the culinary schools. Rick takes us to the Coronado Cooking School where the mission is to educate the next generation of chefs. Rick talks with students in the traditional Mexican kitchen classroom as they make a pipian sauce for shrimp. The school's outdoor live-fire kitchen includes tortilla lessons. In the "Dave" Creative Kitchen we see a beautiful presentation of pork loin with vegetables and huaximole. Coronado's students also help run Raiz, one of Mexico City's top destination restaurants. Chef Arturo Fernandez guides them on a path that includes new tricks and techniques, but with the soul of his aunt's home-style tongue in caper sauce. Rick, a consummate and patient teacher, hosts culinary students in the Frontera Test Kitchens to create a memorable meal that ends with the classic crepas con cajeta dessert.

It All Begins with Beans

Episode #1013H · Chefs can get excited over the littlest thing. For Josefina Santacruz, that thing is beans. She believes every cook should know how to cook beans and rice before venturing any further in Mexican cuisine. For an example of beans done right, Rick and Josefina head to Nico's Restaurant, which has been cooking perfect beans since 1957; their bean soup proves a thing of beauty. Rick and Josefina likewise admire the perfect barbacoa made daily by Chef Moises Rodriguez Vargas of Hidalguense restaurant in Mexico City. He shares his careful preparation of this classic dish with Rick and Josefina at his home. At Yuban, in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, young Chef Paloma Ortiz respects the cuisine of Oaxaca while adding her personal flourishes. In Chicago, Rick steps us through a simple barbacoa sure to inspire all cooks.

The Hunt for Caribbean Lobster

Episode #1101H · Deep in the Sian Ka'an nature reserve, there's a seriously remote village called Punta Allen, where a team from the local sustainable lobster fishing cooperative brings Rick and chef Juan Pablo Loza out for an afternoon at sea. The day's catch? A Caribbean lobster, simply prepared in coconut soup. Back at the ultra-luxe Rosewood Mayakoba resort, Juan Pablo showcases the tranquil resort gardens before preparing a feast of grilled lobster zarandeado with adobo mayo and sweet corn puree in the kitchen of La Ceiba, an outdoor garden party area. Inspired by the tropical abundance, Rick heads to his backyard garden with master gardener Bill Shores before making greens with grilled honey-lime dressing and a sweet-and-spicy, chipotle-honey glazed shrimp dish.

A Tour of Traditions

Episode #1102H · Ask anyone about traditional cooking in the Yucatan and you're bound to hear the name Miriam Peraza, a grandmotherly dynamo who knows every nook and cranny. She brings Rick to the bustling Mercado de Lucas de Galvez in Merida for a quick tour that includes a rare look at the making of recado spice pastes. Flanked by villagers in the remote town of Yaxunah, Miriam and Rick drop in to watch the making of pit-cooked cochinita pibil, the Yucatan's iconic dish of achiote-smothered, pit-cooked suckling pig. At Manjarblanco restaurant in Merida, Miriam shows her take on classic panuchos, sopa de lima and queso relleno. Then, Rick brings some of the Yucatan back to Chicago, where he cooks papadzules and shows how to make cochinita pibil at home - banana leaves and quick-pickled onions included.

Off The Beaten Path In Playa del Carmen

Episode #1103H · Rick brings you out of the plush resorts and into the streets of Playa del Carmen, where street vendors and roadside stands serve real-deal Mexican food. Rick heads to Antojitos Yucateco for cochinita pibil tortas, then to nearby Las Karnitas for tacos of golden, crispy carnitas with spicy salsa. Then Rick follows the smoke to a little roadside cart, where crowds gather for cecina estilo Yecapixtla, thin-cut seared beef with grilled onions and nopales. At Le Chique, a modern dining room between Cancun and Puerto Morales, Chef Jonatan Gomez Luna dazzles Rick with feats of Mexican molecular gastronomy. Back in Chicago, Rick shows how to execute the perfect taco party of your own, complete with slow cooker carnitas, summer squash and guero chile, and grilled achiote catfish with spicy habanero mayo.

Ceviches Gone Wild

Episode #1104H · The fertile waters of the Caribbean Sea provide exquisitely fresh fish, a bounty perhaps best translated on the plate through ceviche. Or sometimes you don't even need a plate, like when Rick and chef Juan Pablo Loza make a ceviche of freshly caught lobster on a boat in the Sian Ka'an nature reserve. At Catch, the Thompson Hotel's swanky rooftop restaurant in Playa del Carmen, chef Pedro Abascal teaches how to make a Peruvian-inspired mandarin, carrot, habanero and ginger ceviche with leche de tigre broth. Then, it's off to nearby Axiote with chef Xavier Perez Stone, who shows Rick how to make outrageously good coconut-shrimp ceviche. A delightful ferry ride brings Rick to picturesque Isla Mujeres, where young chef Diego Lopez builds an absolute stunner of a dish, a ceviche of pargo with an herby green "mojito" broth. At Rick's new Chicago restaurant, Lena Brava, he makes a deceptively simple aguachile in a cocktail shaker and teaches how to make a "Bloody Maria" coctel, complete with a spicy salt rim.

Cooking Like A Local

Episode #1105H · Hartwood, one of Mexico's most in-demand restaurants, sits nestled between the crystalline beaches and dense jungle in Tulum. Here, chef Eric Werner explains the fascinating farm-to-table supply chain that brings ingredients into Hartwood's unique live-fire kitchen. The rustic simplicity inspires Rick to shop for produce and chiles in Playa del Carmen's laid-back markets. Back in the funky kitchen of a Playa condo rental, Rick prepares poblanos rellenos with tatume squash and longaniza sausage, a beautiful grilled fish with avocado salsa and coconut bread pudding for dessert.

Love of Live Fire Cooking

Episode #1106H · In Yucatan, cooking over fire is a way of life. Rick meets up with chef Juan Pablo Loza, who ignites the wood-fire grill for octopus with local pineapple. At Zama Beach Club in Isla Mujeres, Cancun chef Federico Lopez fires up his seaside grill to make tikin xic, a Yucatecan grilled fish dish smothered with achiote, the region's hallmark spice paste. And chef Eric Werner shows off his all wood-fire kitchen at Hartwood in Tulum. Forever obsessed with cooking over fire, Rick goes to Lena Brava, his new all wood-fire restaurant in Chicago, to make poc chuc, a traditional citrusy grilled spicy pork dish, then to his backyard for spatchcocked chicken al oregano worthy of a summertime fiesta.

Baking Up Comfort

Episode #1107H · David Sterling, chef and author of "Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition," brings Rick on a whirlwind tour of the peninsula. The pair of Oklahoma-born, Mexico-obsessed chefs begin their journey with a conversation in Hunucma, where Dona Lupita serves home-cooked meals at the kitchen table of her family's cocina economica. Though the Yucatan is not known for its bakeries, David goes to the rustic wood-burning ovens at Panaderia Liz in Merida. Then it's back to the gorgeous kitchen at Los Dos Cooking School, where David makes a pan of buttery, indulgent hojaldras - a sweet-and-savory pastry stuffed with ham, cheese and chile and dusted with sugar. Inspired by all of the homey comfort, Rick makes a nourishing frijol con puerco and a hojaldra all his own.

The Splendor of Yucatan's Enchanting Markets

Episode #1108H · Revered by his Mexican peers, Federico Lopez is one of Mexico's most affable and talented chefs. He joins Rick at the enchanting Mercado Municipal in Valladolid to extol the virtues of unique Yucatecan produce. After that, the pair head to Temozon, to a decades-old meat market where they smoke pork in rustic ovens behind the store. With a basket full of market produce and smoked meats, the chefs return to Federico's sleek catering kitchen in Cancun, where Federico artfully recreates the market in a salad of local beans, squash, heirloom tomato and chile dulce. Federico also makes pork tenderloin with longaniza sausage and beans. Back in Chicago, Rick makes lima bean soup with ham hock, plus pork lomitos.

A Place of Deeply Rooted Innovation

Episode #1109H · If you could define the singular challenge facing Yucatecan chefs, it's about honoring the past while pushing forward. Perhaps no one is more emblematic of the effort than Pedro Evia, co-owner of Ku'uk, a molecular fine dining palace housed in a restored Merida mansion. Rick and Pedro start their day talking tradition over tacos at Wayan'e, a busy family-run taco stand in Merida. Then, Pedro invites Rick to his home, where Pedro and his mother make traditional sopa de lentejas. At Ku'uk, Pedro shows us his ultra-modern take on the same dish. Back in Chicago, Rick makes recado negro to complement cured duck. At home, he makes tacos with eggs and burnt habanero salsa, avocado and red onion - the perfect chef's late-night snack.

Chocolate Dreams, Cacao Fantasies

Episode #1110H · Belgian-born chocolatier Mathieu Brees brings Rick deep in the jungles of Ticul for a tour of cacao groves. The serene setting is the backdrop for a complete bean-to-bar chocolate education, with Mathieu, Rick and the plantation's caretaker tromping around the lovingly farmed cacao fields. Then, Rick and Mathieu head to the Ki' Xocolatl chocolate factory in Merida. Still daydreaming about all of that chocolate, Rick makes a trio of cacao-inspired dishes, including a chocolate cake with candied ancho chile, red mole with chocolate and a cocktail featuring macerated cacao and chile-infused tequila.

Dreaming of Sustainable Agriculture

Episode #1111H · Chef Pedro Abascal is changing tourist's perceptions of the food in Riviera Maya, using local farms to supply his hip hotel restaurants. Rick and Pedro discuss his challenges and successes of his approach over a traditional Yucatecan meal at Faison y Venado. Rick pays a visit to a lamb farm in Tizimin for a conversation with a rancher, then heads to C-Grill, Pedro's hip restaurant on the shores of Playa del Carmen, where he makes a beautiful roasted lamb in adobo. In Chicago, Rick heads to the outdoor Green City Market to gather ingredients for his grilled leg of lamb with green garlic mojo and camote mash, accompanied by grilled asparagus with pasilla crema. Oh, and an incredibly delicious skillet cake.

Pit Cooking, Sacred and Smoky

Episode #1112H · Cooking in underground pits is an elemental part of Yucatecan cooking. In fact, it's downright sacred, as seen during the preparation of mucbil pollo at an intimate candlelit Hanal Pixan ceremony (think of it as the Yucatan's version of Dias de Los Muertos.) Rick heads to Yaxunah to see the entire process of making cochinita pibil, from the digging of the pit to the garnishing of the tacos. Rick also visits the smoky ovens in Temozon, a village known throughout Yucatan for its purveyors of smoked meats. Then, he places a big order at Momocoa, a Southern-American- slash-Yucatecan barbecue joint in Merida run by chef Paloma Ponce. All of the smoke stokes Rick's inner pit master, so back in Chicago he makes short ribs with ancho BBQ sauce and pollo pibil.

Examining the Yucatan's Abundant Natural Resources

Episode #1113H · The salt marshes of Celestun and a seaside octopus farm are unlikely places for a chef to get inspired. But Chef Roberto Solis' approach to food has always been a little different - just see the menu of his revered restaurant Nectar in Merida, which continues to charm and dazzle. In Nectar's kitchen, Roberto shows Rick how to make three of his restaurant's favorite dishes: cebollas negras, poc chuc de pulpo and deeply satisfying crispy, seared pork belly with grilled pineapple and tomatillo. At home, Rick prepares tostadas of charred octopus and escabeche, plus a succulent slow cooker red chile pork belly with braised kale. To finish it off, Rick makes manjar blanco, a traditional Yucatecan coconut dessert.

It's A Shore Thing

Episode #401 · Wading through the surf at Guayabitos, a charming fishing village on Mexico's Pacific coast, Rick sets off in search of the ultimate catch - the Mexican seafood dish that captures everything that's perfect and irresistible about a day at the beach. For starters, he checks out what's shaking at a thatch-roofed, laguna-side restaurant not far from Puerto Vallarta, where the "specialty of the hut" is Pescado Zarandeado, "Shaken Fish," seasoned with a sweet-spicy red chile marinade, flame-seared and flipped over hot coals in a special grilling basket. At home in Chicago, Rick shows us how to recreate this dramatic dish on a backyard barbecue. Then it's back to Mexico City, to check out the cooler side of seafood at the sleek, modern Manzanilla restaurant, where a lively young couple from Baja California serves up a series of refreshing raw seafood specialties with the Zen-like simplicity of a cutting-edge sashimi bar. In the kitchen of his own Frontera Grill, Rick gives pointers on the seafood "laws of raw," from judging freshness to serving ideas. It's all about getting as close to the source as you can. And with that in mind, Rick buys some fish right off a boat at Guayabitos, and then shows us how to make a bright, fresh Ceviche Salad - a weeknight main dish that's ready in minutes. The quest ends right where it began, back on the shore, where Rick discovers what might just be the ultimate beach food: juicy just-caught shrimp, grilled with a little lime juice on - of all things - a bicycle!

Fusion Revolution

Episode #402 · Standing amid the excavated layers of ancient civilizations in the Templo Mayor, right in the heart of modern Mexico City, Rick points out that Mexican cooking has always been a product of diverse cultural influences layered one on top of another. It might even be called the original fusion cuisine. And at the convent of Sor Juana, now a cooking school in Mexico City, Rick points out that of all the dishes in the Mexican repertoire, mole is doubtless the ultimate example of fusion food, born of a baroque melding of influences from nuns and native women who mixed old and new world ingredients to create a sauce of dazzling complexity. In his home kitchen, Rick prepares a less baroque version, Apricot-Pinenut Mole, served with turkey breast. Then it's back to Mexico for a look at where fusion fever has taken the cuisine today, with Asian influences ranging from sushi in Guadalajara to MP restaurant in Mexico City, where the in-crowd feast on Asian-fusion small plates that reinvent classic Mexican antojitos, with ingredients like wonton wrappers and hoisin sauce. Back at home, he reinvents one of these fanciful dishes, Seared Duck with Asian Flavors for Making Soft Tacos, a cross between a classic taco filling and Peking Duck. And finally, he takes us way off the fusion radar screen to a tiny stand in the village of Pitillal, where two culinary traditions, burritos (which, we discover, are a North American invention) and grilled shrimp, come together to create a fabulous fusion snack, known only to locals. Who says fusion has to be highfalutin?

Quest for Fire

Episode #403 · Rick can't resist the kind of well-seasoned, simple food grilled over a live fire - the stuff he's enjoyed at thousands of markets, kitchens and restaurants all over Mexico, where cooking comes down to the simple combination of fresh ingredients and flickering flames. Deep in the Mexican countryside, he pulls over for a sizzling roadside snack - chicken grilled on an improvised oil-drum barbecue; then he shows us how to bring the idea home with a recipe for Roadside Whole Chicken with Knob Onions grilled on his backyard barbecue. At the bustling El Farolito in Mexico City, Rick gives us the lowdown on another Mexican fire-cooked favorite: Tacos al Pastor - succulent pork, grilled "gyros-style" on a vertical spit with pineapple. And that gets his appetite working for easy Chorizo, Potato and Mushroom Tacos made in his outdoor kitchen in Chicago. Then it's a visit to the mother church of meat and fire, El Canelo, an over-the-top outdoor restaurant in Guadalajara built around a giant fire-pit where pork, lamb, and other succulent meats are slow-roasted on spears around a crackling fire and every meal is a fiesta with dancers and live mariachi music. Inspired by all this heat and meat, Rick shares his technique for making Carne Asada, marinated beef, on his backyard grill.

The Capital of Hip

Episode #404 · With more than 20 million people, and a dazzlingly rich cultural and culinary history, Mexico City is like its own planet - and these days, it's a younger, hipper planet than ever. Rick takes us on a dawn-to-dusk insider's tour that separates the hip from the hype, sharing some of the city's quirkiest, most happening hotspots, starting with an early morning Cappuccino and Enfrijoladas (creamy bean-sauced tortillas) at an organic market and cafe in ultra-cool Condesa, the " SoHo of Mexico City," and shows how to replicate this soulful breakfast in his home kitchen. Then it's back to Condesa with daughter Lanie for a stroll and shopping spree that yields all kinds of uniquely Mexican urban-chic treasures. For lunch, Rick settles in at a table at Pujol, the renowned leader of the city's cutting-edge culinary scene, discovering a spectacular parade of dishes that recreate traditional Mexican foods in stunningly artful presentations. He then takes us to La Bella Italia, an eighty-year old ice cream shop that's now a retro-chic neighborhood hangout - and the visit inspires them to make an easy Jamaica Ice at home. Surveying the city at sunset from the rooftop bar of a hot new hotel, Rick muses on the unique combination of old and new that defines everything he loves about the "Capital of Hip."

Welcome to Tequila

Episode #405 · Tequila has come around - from "lick the salt and suck the lime" firewater, to chic drink of connoisseurs and hipsters alike. What exactly is this quintessential Mexican spirit, and what makes one tequila so-so and another sublime? Rick's on a mission to find out, and he takes us straight to the source, to the town of Tequila in Jalisco, where the first families of tequila still brew the stuff the old-fashioned way, from the slow-roasted heart of the blue agave plant. It's a crash course in tequila that takes us through every step, from the fields to the historic Herradura family hacienda, where the beautiful copper-clad stills of the original tequila works can still be seen alongside a state-of-the-art production facility. Along the way, we stop for tacos and a lesson in tequila drinking at a local restaurant, and Rick shows us another side of tequila - it's great for cooking, too. Back in Chicago, he shares his recipe for Tequila-Infused Queso Fundido, a classic warm cheese dip that's Mexico's answer to fondue, and Crepes with Tequila-Infused Cajeta (goat milk caramel), a rich "adult" dessert. It all adds up to one tasty conclusion: A good tequila is right up there with brandy - a national treasure that's literally and figuratively the spirit of Mexico.

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