Tag Archives: Latin America

Latin Dining in Gurnee, IL


I just finished working on a book about the history of corn. I’m also working again with Maria Baez Kijac, with whom I worked on the award-winning cookbook The South American Table. So a friend figured a restaurant that focused on Latin American corn dishes would be of interest. She was right.

Momcorn, at 5101 Washington St #2 in Gurnee, IL, is not hugely convenient for me, but it proved to be well worth the drive. Asked about the name, owner Sergio Rivera said he figured everyone knew popcorn, so momcorn needed to be introduced to the world.

The menu was a delight. For drinks, the corn-based choices were atole and chicha morada (they have several non-corn drinks, including soft drinks, tea, and coffee, but I was there for the corn). I’ve had atole a number of times in Mexico, so I went for the chicha. It was tasty, sweet-tart, tinged with cinnamon, and (as the name suggests) deep purple. Sergio brought over an ear of the dark purple corn used in making the drink, to show that the color was natural.


I ordered a cup of pozole, which was spicy (but not brutally spicy) and flavorful.

Sergio recommended the quesadilla, which was outstanding — made with cheese, epazote, and serrano chile.

Next we had sopes topped with meat and avocado and two kinds of tamales (rajas and chicken with green chile).

We finished the meal with a warm, sweet empanada filled with guava paste and cheese.

Sergio related that the ingredients are locally sourced and all natural. Nothing is frozen, and everything is made from scratch. To underscore the authenticity of the dishes, he related that some customers get tears in their eyes when they eat some of the specialties he produces. They said his food was just like their grandmother’s. I’ve had a fair bit of experience with Latin American food, both from my travels and from working with Maria on her cookbooks, so I did have a pretty good idea that these were on the exceptional side of authentic.

While there is a menu, Sergio noted that if there’s something you love from Latin America and it involves corn, ask. They might be able to make it for you.

This might not make anyone want to travel to Gurnee, but the restaurant is right behind Great America and not far from I94. So if you happen to be heading up that way for other entertainments, you might want to add this to the list of places worth visiting.

To see their menu, you can visit their site. http://www.momcorn.com/



Filed under Drink, Food

The South American Table…and more

The South American Table

The South American Table

Maria Baez Kijac is an amazing woman. Her experience ranges from cooking shows on PBS to teaching at culinary schools to writing award-wining cookbooks to developing recipes for magazines to hunting down the best dishes to represent the cuisines she loves.

I’ve known Maria for more than seven years now. She is certain that our meeting was fate. When we first met, she had already spent 15 years traveling and collecting recipes from all over South America, testing them and adapting them to North American kitchens, and organizing them for what would become an authoritative and widely acclaimed survey of South American cooking. However, she needed someone who could help with writing, editing, and testing. It didn’t hurt that I’d also traveled in, and loved, her native Ecuador. We worked together for more than a year on the project—a delightful period during which I learned a huge amount about the diverse culture and cuisine of our neighbor to the south—and got to sample a fabulous array of foods from all across the continent—amazingly tasty dishes that ranged from comforting to exotic. Maria’s recipes really are sensational.

The result of Maria’s long and thorough work was The South American Table. Subtitled The Flavor and Soul of Authentic Home Cooking from Patagonia to Rio de Janeiro, with 450 Recipes, the impressive work boasts a foreword by Charlie Trotter and rave reviews on the back cover. It was an instant classic. It was published in 2003, and was named the best Latino cookbook in the world that same year at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Barcelona, Spain.

The thing that brings this up to date is the announcement in October 2008 that the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards have named The South American Table “The Best of the Best”–the best Latino cookbook in the world for the entire 12 years the awards have been given (1996–2008). The wine-colored circle on the lower right hand side of the cover is the ‘Best of the Best” seal, which was added for the most recent printing of the book.

Maria now has a blog, so you can find additional information and new recipes—stuff that might evolve someday into a new book. Maria puts a lot of work into each entry, so new posts only occur every few weeks. The link at right will take you to Maria’s blog.

You can check out (and maybe order) The South American Table on Amazon, or look for it at your local library. Find out what it is already considered a classic.

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Filed under Books, Food, Thoughts