Latin American Cuisine Concentration: Things You’ll Want to Know

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The Latin American Cuisine concentration is more than just learning about the food from Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean, it’s about the culture. Over the course of my semester in San Antonio, TX, we’ve been busy with events and adventures. So, I thought I would catch y’all up on the gist. 


As we strive to learn about Latin American Cuisine, we take our skills and knowledge and put them to the test. Our class created three different pop-up dinners at Savor—the CIA’s newest restaurant. Our first dinner was focused on corn, the next highlighted chiles, and the last, was a taste of Mexico. It was lots of fun to have the opportunity to work with my classmates to bring what we’ve learned to life. I made a three-bite dessert course that included salsa mancha ice cream with a cajeta and a white chocolate espuma, poblano-lime cheesecake with a raspberry sauce with a habanero whipped cream, and  mango curd tart with poached prickly pear and spiced margarita sorbet. 


I had the chance to experience Austin for a day. The city was beautiful to travel around. It was filled with music and art from corner to corner. I went with a couple of friends and we found ourselves in Voodoo Doughnuts, where the doughnuts are made fresh daily. I tried the Portland cream, which is a raised yeast donut filled with Bavarian cream, topped with chocolate, and two “eyeballs,” which represent the vision of the great city of Portland. Voodoo Doughnuts produces the weirdest, most satisfying fare, from Mexican hot chocolate to apple fritters. 


Ranchos Las Cabras is a distincive landmark located above the San Antonio River. This ranch was built in the 1750s by Canary Islanders who complained that mission cattle were trampling their crops. At the Ranchos Las Cabras we had the opportunity to walk around the land that natives settled in. Researchers talked to us about the fossils and pottery they have been found around the area, as well as the indigenous plants the natives used as sources of food. 


The Live Fire Kitchen on the plaza right outside the CIA’s building, is run by student workers and a manager-in-training, over the weekend. The menus run from barbacoa or brisket tacos to breakfast bowls and Bloody Mary’s. I’m part of the crew of on Saturdays and Sundays. For St. Patrick’s Day, we oven-roasted a suckling pig and served suckling pig tacos. Once we brought the pig out, the atmosphere became charged with excitement and people were totally amazed.  


Big Daddy Ice Cream is known for having the best shaved ices. Usually I am not a big fan, but this was one of the best places in San Antonio. I ordered the Granddaddy Purp, which is shaved ice with grape syrup covered with gummy bears and sugar, though I could easily have chosen the Mangonada—made with Mangos, chamoy sauce, lime juice and chili powder.  Darn good.


Working with Chef Nelson, we dove into Caribbean cuisine. From the  major ingredients—sofrito, tomato, oregano, onion, cumin, garlic, and cilantro—to the music and culture of the region. To give us a true feeling of the area, Chef Nelson taught us about the rhythms and music of the area by playing the bongos, guira, and maracas. Having a Dominican background, I was able to help my classmates produce Dominican food and give them feedback as to the cuisine itself.


We’ll have the chance to go to Mexico and experience the food and culture there first-hand. We will be in Mexico City, Puebla, and Oaxaca exploring everything from tacos to the pyramids in Teotihuacan. We’ll even have the opportunity to dine in such amazing restaurants such as Pujol and Quintonil—both owned by CIA grads. We’ll be visiting markets, tasting traditional Mexican food, and studying the country’s ancient roots.  We’ll tour Puebla considered the birthplace of the famed mole poblano. My mouth is watering.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my update!

By Issac Roso