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Mexico -- One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless

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Everywhere Rick goes, he asks chefs about Mexico's up-and-coming talent. These days, Mexico City's chefs all have the same answer: Pablo Salas. The odd thing? Salas doesn't work in Mexico City - his restaurant, Amaranta, is in Toluca, about an hour's drive away. Undaunted by the trip, Rick meets Pablo at the Santiago Tianguistengo Market to get a look at the traditions that inspire Pablo's modern Mexiquense cooking - from the myriad of chorizo choices to the pasilla chiles and vegetables. The chefs also visit a local carniceria for a peek at Toluca's famed chorizo.

Maybe it's the water, maybe it's the desert, but there's definitely magic in the charming Baja town called Todos Santos. It all starts at Art & Beer, a funky roadside bar on the outskirts of town that serves generous cocktails and outstanding appetizers. Then Rick checks into the Hotel California before meeting up with his local buddy, Sergio Jaurequi, for a history lesson about the town's disappearing and reappearing water supply. Together they taste the local sweets and get a lesson from local cook Dona Ramona, in transforming dried beef and cactus into delectable dishes.

Mescal is having a real renaissance, both in Mexico and in fine cocktail emporiums all over the United States. Rick takes us on a journey to see how a small Oaxacan distiller hand-crafts this fine spirit renowned for its rich, smoky complexity and brightness. As with any great artisan product, there's always a great story. With Rick around, there's always great food, from hand-pressed memelas topped with a bright avocado salsa to vinegar-infused snacks. We learn to sip mescal with fresh oranges and sal de gusano - chile-spiked salt.

Mexico and chocolate go together like salsa and chips. But if you hear "Mexican chocolate" and think of something to dip churros into, you're only getting a part of the story. A few Mexico City chocolatiers see more potential for Mexican chocolate - they see single-origin chocolate bars, beautiful hand-formed truffles, even ambitious sculptures made of the stuff. Hector Galvan of La Casa Tropical talks with Rick about the cultural importance of chocolate in Mexico and why he is working so diligently to save ancient varieties of cacao.

Rick's got nothing against cerveza and margaritas, but in this episode he explores another side of Mexican drinking: Wine. Mexican wine. And no, that's not a misnomer. In fact, the burgeoning craft of Mexican wine is growing, often in unusual places. Marvin Nahmias and partners have transformed a high-rise rooftop in Mexico City into a small vineyard and winemaking facility; after they give Rick a tour, they give him the keys to the kitchen.

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Tue Aug 20th, 3:30am
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San Pedro Atocpan is a small town that produces some 60 percent of the mole eaten in all of Mexico, and Rick is pretty much the perfect tour guide to show us around. We'll see mole in its many mouthwatering forms, including the elegant mole madre at Enrique Olvera's Pujol. In his Mexico City kitchen, Rick leads a lesson in red mole making. In Chicago, he makes a herbacious mole verde with fish that will make you the hero of the kitchen.

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