It was a Friday… like any other Friday until… I clicked open the e-message from Urban Daddy/LA. In a moment, my spirits were lifted as I read the headline that I would soon be able to enjoy Enchiladas and Tequilas from one of my favorites, Rick Bayless, in Los Angeles. My only disappointment was the Red O would not be open until the 26th of May, as I was looking for a great spot to share dinner with friends on the 22nd.
So, what’s so special about Rick Bayless… and why am I writing about his new restaurant in a blog dedicated to all things chocolate? Quite simply, he’s nothing short of a culinary genius, he’s a really nice guy to boot and he loves chocolate, too! Some of his chocolate creations were the inspiration of our wonderfully rich and exotic Azetca chocolate available in our Bars section and select truffles as well.
I first became aware of Rick Bayless during one of my many trips to Chicago back in the late eighties. Chicago is one of the best restaurant cities in the country though, at the time, there wasn’t a lot of great Mexican or Latin cuisine in the mix (not withstanding some killer taco stands). Frontera Grill changed all that. Chef Bayless introduced vibrant flavors, bold colors and exciting textures from Mexico that, while foreign to most Midwesterners, created a buzz so intense that even one of his fabulous margaritas couldn’t extinguish it. Just two short years later, Topolobampo was born… an elegant sister to Frontera Grill located right next door. Chef Bayless educated Chicagoans about the regional flavors of Mexico and showed that the French have nothing on Mexico when it comes to fine cuisine.
While I could always count on finding a great chocolate dessert on either of Chef Bayless’ menus, his next creation—XOCO (slang for “little sister”), put chocolate front and center. Believe me, there’s nothing like quite being handed a rich and frothy cup of hot chocolate ground from Mexican cacao beans on a cold Chicago morning. It’s the perfect chaser for one of Rick’s sinful chocolate churros and is guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart and other body parts, too. YUM! Of course, you can enjoy a similar sensation—piping hot or chillin’ out—with Choclatique’s beverage mixes, each made from real ground chocolate (no cheap cocoa powders here!).
I’ve never met the Chef, but after watching him on Top Chef Masters last year, seeing both his creativity and humility on display under pressure, I can’t wait to do so. So, rest assured that come Tuesday, I’ll be priming my dialing finger to get a table at Red O as soon as the reservations line opens!
Are you a Bayless fan, too? Let me know what you love about Chef Rick… and chocolate, too!