Baja Invasion: A Pop-up Series Inside Provecho Grill
Updated: Jan 30, 2020
OPEN WIDE & LET THE FIESTA DANCE ON YOUR PALATE
Not only does Chef Rosie O'Connor travel abroad to gain knowledge and inspiration, but she brings back some amazing souvenirs... or culinary masters. She also returns with unique ingredients to be incorporated in a series of pop-up dinners dubbed Baja Invasion. Chefs from Baja California and other regions, visit her Provecho Grill, in Sun City, California, to present a special dinner to ticket holders. From the guest chefs, to the culinary offerings, what I find here is pure excellence that is worth the cost.
It's yearend 2019 when I attend my fist Baja Invasion dinner. This particular occasion features two chefs: Julian Garcia from Mexico City and International Chef, Poc Saenz. Saenz flew in specifically for this special event and is in Menifee for one day only. She is a songwriter, traveler, gamer and chef! Saenz went from opening for bands like Guns & Roses to rocking the kitchen. Garcia's background is mostly culinary and his style is characterized by vibrant dishes that pay respect to products used, quality and taste.
The intimate dinner feels like a warm and inviting little fiesta complete with live music. The place is full with friendly patrons who make the experience quite sociable. The festive atmosphere has family style seating and elegant decor (excluding booth seating).
The dinner begins with a shot of mezcal accompanied by a chicharron bite. I LOVE chicharron and this one happen to have toppings on it. Mind you, this is not one of five courses. It makes part of the intro given by two reps from two different mezcal labels, Mezcal Metiche and Mezcal Los Javis. They are here to speak about their brand and product. I am so intrigued by this. The dinner goes on with mezcal tasting and food/ cocktail pairing by house mixologist, Kris.
The drinks, as well as the food, are full size... not bite size. You can't go wrong with five courses of good size portions, made by top chefs and drinks included. You really can't!
The first course begins on a sophisticated note. Chile ancho soup with foi gras brûlée is velvety, rich and out of this world! I believe Chef O'Connor picked up some ingredients in Baja. The soup has a hint of spice and sweetness. A well balanced soup that is probably one of the best I have ever had.
A salad as colorful as confetti has me feeling the bomb beets. Roasted beets decorate a swirl of cashew puree. Pistachio gremolata enhances the nuttiness in the dish with another layer of texture and a bit of brightness. Edible flowers make for a beautiful presentation that's utterly festive.
The third course advances to more exotic flavors. My dinner date doesn't usually eat octopus but after tasting this dish, they have a change of heart. Might I say this also happens to be my favorite way to eat octopus, slow cooked and charred. This protein is not easy to cook, yet it's made to perfection. The tender meat is visibly charred while maintaining its natural purple hue. This stunning presentation has the Spanish octopus on saffron aioli beside arugula and giant bean salad. Almond tapenade adds texture to this phenomenal dish.
I never thought two of my favorite foods could be combined like this. Take note because this is absolutely genius. With a meaty pink center and seared outer layer, the Rack of Lamb is dynamite, baby! Get this... The lamb is accompanied by pistachio, mint mole! As if a spark ignites a wick on my taste-buds and blew my mind. There's also roasted veggies which rounds out the meal.
A sensational aroma of cinnamon and coffee emerges from the kitchen and everyone at my table anticipates dessert. Cafe de olla is the common way to make coffee in Mexico. This coffee is made by way of stove top, in a pot with cinnamon sticks. (Olla means pot.) The coffee is served black, hot and is perfect to taste. A sweet empanada is served with the coffee which has a fruit compote filling.
I don't know how Chef O'Connor pulls it off. I mean, this type of excellence under one roof is rare. One thing is for sure, I don't want to miss the next one. Will you be there?
Purchase tickets at www.chefrosie.com/events/.
26862 Cherry Hills Blvd
Sun City, CA 92586