This past week, renowned Colombian chef Alejandro Cuellar was in Puerto Rico giving local mixologists a seminar on Cuisine Meats and Cocktails, which is the principal theme of the second wave of the World Class competitions, held here in Puerto Rico for the 8th year in a row, and simultaneously in 50 other countries. The barmen in attendance learned all about this new tendency in the cocktail world where the flavors and ingredients from meat are used in the elaboration of cocktails. The chef also specializes in pairings that include elements of cocktail culture such as fish stock, chicken stock, among others.
His avant-garde trends in the kitchen and cocktails, as well as, his emphasis on cocina silvestre (the wild kitchen), have earned him accolades in his native country and around the world. The concept behind cocina silvestre is simple, everything the chef grows is used to prepare his dishes. Nothing is spared, giving way to the discovery of new textures, aromas and flavors. After working as a chef in various restaurants in Colombia, he now has a catering company called 5 Sentidos that specializes in fine dining events.
Puerto Rico Eats was lucky enough to attend one of the two events open to the public, which consisted a master class at El Atelier in Cocina Abierta on food and cocktail pairings. The cocktails featured during the event were prepared Joey Fernández, Nonna’s barman and winner of the second round of the World Class competition in Puerto Rico.
Our first course was a beet carpaccio with hints of mint, pineapple, tangerine, apples, pistachio, feta cheese, and a Zacapa 23 and balsamic vinaigrette reduction. I have to admit, beets are not something I would usually order, but the flavor profiles and textures in this dish were off the charts. It was paired with the Cosa Nostra cocktail, a deliciously sweet concoction featuring Zacapa 23, beet Shrub, Velvet Falernum (a liqueur from Barbados), and a ginger simple syrup.
Up next was the snapper fish over a mussel, laurel, and thyme broth, blanched asparagus and zucchini rolls. The tender fish, the light broth, and the crispiness of all the greens provided a perfect bit everytime. It was paired with the Pico Sublime Cocktail, a refreshing drink featuring Zacapa 23 rum, cucumber shrub, lime juice, and simple syrup.
For our third dish, Cocina Abierta’s own chef Cesar Perez wowed the crowd with his mouthwatering duck breast with zacapa Rum and coriander seed glaze and a pea puree. This dish was a showstopper! Beautifully tender meat and savory flavors all around. It was paired with our favorite cocktail of the night: the Apium Esposito.
The sweet finish came in the form of a glorious Nutella sponge cake, a Chocolate Rum Macaroon and a Chocolate Pot Du Crème. We usually opt out of dessert, but this baby was out of this world.