Culinary Night at the Mexican Cultural Institute with Pati Jinich and Fani Gerson, photo by Andrea Meyers

Chef Pati Jinich teaches about authentic Mexican cooking both on her tv show Pati’s Mexican Table and at the Mexican Cultural Institute in the Columbia Heights area. The institute sponsors a series of themed culinary nights featuring Pati and special guests with cooking demonstrations and plenty of food and wine for everyone. For 2011 the themes are The Moles of Oaxaca (February), Festive Mexico (May), The Cacao Route (October), and Mexican Fiestas: Pozole, Ponches, and Piñatas (December).

I treated myself to a night out in May for the Festive Mexico event, which turned out to be a truly enjoyable evening and well worth the trek from Loudoun. That night the guest chef was Fany Gerson, who is known for her sumptuous desserts and flavorful paletas, and we sampled two kinds of savory pipian (pumpkin seed) sauces with shrimp and chicken, gorditas, arroz verde, Mexican opera cake, paletas, and pistachio marzipan. Yes, we ate very well and enjoyed several wine pairings, too. As the evening came to a close, we were able to take home recipes for everything we enjoyed that night as well as some nice little goodie bags.

And that brings me to tonight. I’m heading back to the institute this evening for The Cacao Route event with guest Chef Jose Ramon Castillo, who is considered one of the top chocolatiers in Mexico. The menu will feature local ingredients paired with cacao, which should be quite exciting.

If you are looking for a fun evening out, great food, and great chefs, this series is not to be missed. To register for future culinary events, visit the Mexican Cultural Institute website.