Last November, I was invited by the National Honey Board to attend a honey-inspired 4 course tasting menu at Chef John Rivera Sedler's Rivera Restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles. This event was one of a 3 part series held across the country where the National Honey Board decided to focus on Latin Cuisine and tapped 3 celebrity Latino chefs to create honey-infused gourmet dishes. The other two chefs that participated including Chef Michelle Bernstein of Miami, Florida and Chef Aaron Sanches of New York, New York.
The dishes prepared by Chef Sedler was a fusion of Spanish influences and the American Southwest and started with a cocktail, a Pineapple and Serrano Licuado with Honey Infused Tequila. It was a refreshing cocktail that didn't initially give you any heat, but as you continued to drink it, you could feel a little bit of at the back of your throat. The spiciness definitely snuck up on you.
As we were enjoying our cocktail, Chef Sedler came out and shared some stories of how as a child, smearing honey on bread was one of his favorite sweet treats. Throughout the tasting event, he'd also come out to explain the ingredients for each course as well share any antecdotes. He also mentioned that clover honey was the honey used for all dishes we were going to sample that evening.
Our first tasting of the night were Crostinis of Queso Cotija with Hierbabuena, Pink Pepper Berry Infused Honey and Figs. Honey on its own can oft times be too sweet. By mixing the honey with the pink pepper berries and letting it sit overnight, the sweetness was cut back plus the honey had a nice peppery flavor to it.
Second to to arrive were Spanish Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Honey Raisins, Serrano Ham and Manchego Cheese. In this dish, the raisins were soaked with honey and sherry vinegar overnight. The honey was more subtle, but those honey raisins balanced well with the saltier ham and cheese to create a good balance of sweet and savory flavors.
Our third dish was the Jicama and Tomatillo Salad with Burrata Cheese and Honey Lime Vinaigrette. When Chef Sedler came out to talk about this dish, he specifically mentioned how his aunt used to cook for artist Georgia O'Keefe and how this particular recipe is based on one of O'Keefe's recipes. This was my favorite item of our tasting menu. I loved the textures of the soft chewy cheese with the crunchy jicama and the tart-sweet-peppery seasoning was spot on.
Last, but not least were the Blue Corn Quesadillas of Goat Cheese with Chorizo and Habanero Infused Honey. For this particular dish, the habanero was the star because there was definite heat when I ate into that quesadilla. When it came to this dish, Chef Sedler mentioned that the honey's role in this dish was to cut into the heat of the habanero, but to also lessen the pungency of the goat cheese. Both were accomplished, although as a goat cheese lover, I say "Bring it On."
To end, we were treated to a Mexican Ice Cream Sundae, which had scoops of vanilla ice cream, cinnamon, almonds, dulce de leche and also a little bit of honey. What a sweet ending!
Overall, it was a fun tasting event and as a honey lover, I really enjoyed learning ways honey could be used in Latin cooking. If you'd like to try out any of the recipes yourself, look for them below.
1050 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90015-5100
Click here to read about my past dining experience at Rivera!
Pineapple and Serrano Licuado with Honey Infused Tequila (Serves 6)
For the honey infused tequila:
12 liquid ounces of reposado tequila
9 tablespoons honey
For the pineapple chile juice:
1 ripe pineapple peeled, cored and cubed
5 serrano chiles stemmed, seeded and deveined
Combine in a mixing bowl the tequila and the honey and stir vigorously until blended. Set aside.
In a juicer or blender, place the pineapple and three chiles adding a little water if necessary to make a juice. Slowly add more chiles until you reach desired spiciness.
Fill 6 double old fashioned glasses to the top with crushed ice. In a pitcher mix the honey tequila with 30 ounces of the pineapple juice and pour into each glass over the ice.
Crostinis of Queso Cotija with Hierbabuena, Pepper Berry Infused Honey and Figs (Serves 6)
For the pepper berry infused honey:
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 ½ tablespoons pink pepper berries (also known as pink peppercorns)
For the crostinis:
1 fresh crusty French baguette
½ pound cotija cheese
12 large spearmint leaves
2 fresh figs thinly sliced
Combine in a mixing bowl the honey and the pink pepper berries. Macerate overnight.
With a sharp serrated knife slice the baguette diagonally about ¼ of an inch thick. Brush the crostinis with a little olive oil and toast lightly in the oven until golden brown.
Place the crostinis on a platter topping each one with a little more than ½ teaspoon of the cotija cheese, a small slice of fig, a mint leaf and a generous drizzle of the pepper berry honey over the cheese.
Spanish Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Honey Raisins, Serrano Ham and Manchego Cheese (Serves 6)
For the honey raisins:
3 tablespoons golden raisins
1.5 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (jerez vinegar)
For the peppers:
12 canned Spanish piquillo peppers for stuffing
2 cups grated manchego cheese
2 ounces sliced and cubed Serrano ham
1 shallot coarsely chopped
A day before serving the peppers, combine in a mixing bowl the raisins, honey and vinegar and macerate in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove the peppers from the can and drain on paper towels. In a mixing bowl stir together the cheese, ham, shallots and the honey raisins.
Carefully stuff each pepper with the mixture then line up the peppers in rows on a sheet pan.
In a cast iron skillet on medium heat and brushed with a little olive oil, sear the peppers until the cheese is melted and there is a light black char on the out side of each pepper.
Serve 2 peppers per guest topped with light vinaigrette of your choice and a few chopped chives.
Jicama & Tomatillo Salad with Burrata Cheese and Honey Lime Vinaigrette (Serves 6)
For the vinaigrette:
6 ounces extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice
2 ounces honey
Sea salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
For the salad:
6 cups jicama cut into very thin 2 inch long bite size matchsticks
6 medium tomatillos, husks removed, washed and sliced thin, about 1/8 of an inch
3 cubes, 6 or 8 ounces each, of burrata cheese cut in half
In a mixing bowl combine the lime juice, honey and the salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil.
In a large mixing bowl toss together the jicama and tomatillos and ¾ of the blended vinaigrette. Divide the mixture onto chilled salad plates and carefully place the burrata on top. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the cheese and season the cheese with a little more sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Blue Corn Quesadillas of Goat Cheese with Chorizo and Habanero Infused Honey (Serves 6)
For the habanero infused honey:
3 habanero chiles stemmed, seeded and deveined finely chopped
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
For the quesadilla:
12 blue corn tortillas
6 ounces grated manchego cheese
4 ounces goat cheese
½ white onion finely chopped
4 tablespoons finely chopped Spanish Chorizo
One day before serving the quesadillas prepare the habanero infused honey: in a mixing bowl combine the habanero chiles, honey and the vinegar. Refrigerate overnight.
Lay out 6 of the tortillas on a sheet pan. Evenly distribute the cheeses, onion and chorizo over the surface of each tortilla. Evenly drizzle about a ½ to ¾ teaspoon of the habanero infused honey onto each tortilla. Top each one with another blue corn tortilla. Press and cook in a cast iron pan until the cheese is melted and the surface of the tortillas are slightly charred and blistered. Cut each quesadilla like a pizza into about 6 pieces.