Cinco de Mayo is Sunday. How many of you know what it celebrates or why? Shaw Lash is one of the key cooks and brains in the Rick Bayless Chicago operations, places I really admire. Last year she wrote why, having grown up in Texas and later lived in Mexico, the Cinco de Mayo madness drives her mad. She wants you to know what it means and asks should we celebrate it at all. Her short answer: It’s a celebration of being Mexican. And it’s a brilliant American marketing gimmick. Shaw Lash is one of those aware people I admire, so when my able cohort Emilia suggested a tequila cocktail, I emailed Shaw. Shaw suggested a Margarita primer. There’s an extensive discussion of all drink issues in Rick and wife Deann’s book Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles Read On »

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Having drinks last month with Shaw Lash, a Chicago chef, after a steller meal at Frontera Grill (Shaw works for executive chef Rick Bayless, renowned Mexican cuisine authority), and the subject of Cinco de Mayo came up. Shaw, who had a few month earlier showed me how they make their own chocolate, above, shook her head and said, “Don’t get me started.” But she started anyway. I said, “Want to write a guest post for my site?” By Shaw Lash I grew up in Texas, a state that shares a 1,200-mile-long border with Mexico, and “carne asada” and slushy-swirled margaritas were as ubiquitous as longhorns and oil rigs. As a family, we’d take vacations as far past the border as we could get in a comfortable day’s drive.  We’d walk across the bridge, never with passports, to Read On »

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I’m such a homebody, I dread book tour trips and typically stress about them, and I nearly always return thrilled to have gone and surprised and amazed by what I encountered. Last week was Chicago and the schedule was so tight that I took a taxi from O’Hare straight to the Chicago Tribune’s test kitchen where Monica Eng, formerly a food reporter now on the investigative beat, reverted to her former purview to join me in making an easy Coq au Vin from Ruhlman’s Twenty (I forgot how good it was till I tasted it—haven’t made it since Donna took the pix). I had time for a quick lunch after across the street at The Purple Pig (pig ears and the artichokes), excellent casual place recommended by a twitter friend. That night there was a Read On »

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