Jennifer calls us into her small studio. The garden outside colors the temperature of the room. She points to a nearly complete collage. Her annual labor of love for Valentines. “How do I resolve this corner? Do you think this? or that?”
We suggest an idea and smile emerges. The bird is free to fly once again.
“I’m just so influenced by Japanese art.”
“Seriously, Jennifer! Look around you. This is all about Central Mexico. You and Fred live like Frida and Diego”
“I tell you what. Let’s make a meal that fuses Japanese and Central Mexico. Your two influences. I’ll handle two dishes and you the other.”
“Can we include Mike and Robin?”
“Of course. And Daniel and Halle. These are two friends you haven’t met yet.”
“Will he bring his guitar?”
“I’m not going to ask. You do it. In the meantime I’ll suggest a few dishes. They are just titles. Do what you want with them.”
“I cannot wait. What a great idea.”
Three weeks later we met in Jennifer’s kitchen. She has brought to life many culinary inventions in this small space. It’s a room just big enough for 2’x3′ island. Already occupied with empty containers, ginger on a cutting board and a bowl of daikon marinating in vinegar and black sesame seed.
The serving plates must wait on chairs until they are needed.
Jennifer’s masterpiece is shrimp and black bean tostadas with daikon slaw. She simmered a brick red chili sauce for hours. Raw shrimp and cheese are mortared on a crispy tortilla. Once from the oven, beans, sauce, sour cream and slaw find their place on top.
The tangy slaw plays with the heady sauce and rich frijoles. The shrimp briny and tender.
It is a dish that requires two hands. One to lift. The other to catch the fractured pieces.
Next we try guacamole laced with ginger and wasabi in place of garlic and jalapeno.
“I don’t what it’s there, but I have to keep trying to find out,” says Daniel.
Then sriracha-mayo laced crab with cilantro paste. Easy conveyed to the palate on single chip.
Finally a twist on tempura. Mexican vegetables like jicama, poblano and chayote join 12-15 count shrimp and sashito peppers. Rice flour and cornmeal for the batter.
A soy-chipolte-key-lime sauce completes the dish. The smoky pepper steeps in soy until the mixture is reduced in half. Then equal amounts of rice vinegar and key-lime juice are added (1 part soy reduction + 1 part vinegar + 1 part juice).
We spent the rest of the afternoon singing on the grass in the back.
We brought Jennifer’s visual sensibilities to a culinary expression. We dined on amazing company and our hearts danced for a brief time.
And Frida laughed with chopsticks in her hair. Or so we thought we heard.
It’s a trip we’d make again and again.