Dia De Muerto @ Bajo Sexto Taco Lounge
Dia De Muerto otherwise known as Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico where family and friends gather to pay tribute to those loved ones who have passed on and help support of their spiritual journey. While Day of the Dead is observed on November 1, Bajo Sexto is celebrating all week. Chef Kaelin Ulrich Trilling has created an authentic Oaxacan feast that is sure to please the palate.
It was so interesting to hear about the traditions surrounding Dia De Muerto. Chef Kaelin shared a story about his school days and how each grade would create an altar as one of the many ways to pay tribute to those who had passed. Kids would spend weeks crafting the perfect offering. The altar would contain various items that the spirits might enjoy when they come back to Earth to visit their living family and friends. Keeping with the Day of the Dead traditions, a modest but colorful altar was placed near the entrance.
The meal started with a Chips and Salsa Sampler. Five different salsa served with a basket of homemade chips. These were so good that I could have made a meal on that alone. Salsas were across the board with flavor. Pictured from top to bottom, left to right.
Pasilla Chile (Top left) Smoky and savory flavors with chiles from Oaxaca
Chipotle (Bottom Left) Bold tomato flavors with a hint of smokiness
Habanero (Middle) Quite fiery! If you can't handle spice, I recommend this in small doses
Tomatillo (Top Right) Light and refreshing; Perfect addition to any dish
Avocado Tomatillo (Bottom Right) My favorite of the sampler. The creaminess of the avocado combined with the tanginess of the tomatillo provided the right amount of spice with each bite. Refreshing!
Nothing goes better with Chips and Salsa than a refreshing cocktail. I opted for the signature cocktail on the menu, the Spiced Pear. This is one of those can't stop, won't stop drinks. The drink might sound a bit sweet by reading the ingredients, but the spiced pear puree certainly kicked the flavor up a notch. Featured: The Spiced Pear : sangre de vida, pear eau de vie, spiced pear puree, simple syrup, and lime.
Chef sent out tamales filled with braised pork and mole coloradito wrapped beautifully in banana leaves. I was like a kid at Christmas unwrapping the banana leaves because I knew deliciousness was in store. From the first taste, you can tell that Chef Kaelin's mole sauce is truly a labor of love. With over 50+ ingredients, the subtle hints of chocolate and pepper spice are the perfect compliment for the tamale.
So I have to let you in on a secret. Even though this item isn't on the Dia de Muertos menu, do yourself a favor and make sure you order this little treasure: Molotes. BLOWN AWAY! Molotes are fried masa fritters stuffed with refried beans, chihuahua cheese, and epazote. While the fillings and toppings can vary, the beans and cheese were the perfect combination. Perfect bite-sized appetizer for any party you might be hosting.
No Dia de Muertos dinner would be complete without tacos. Chef Kaelin created a specialty taco for this menu that is unlike anything I have ever tasted. Negro de Pulpo: squid ink tortilla, fried octopus, roasted garlic + chile puya. Having only had squid ink in pasta, I was really impressed that Chef Kaelin incorporated this into his tortillas. Octopus is such a tricky thing to prepare. Without attention to detail, it can be rubbery or chewy. The octopus was incredibly tender and the chile puya pulled all of the flavors together.
Did I mention that you will want to make sure that you wear a forgiving outfit when you make your way to Bajo Sexto for dinner( READ YOGA PANTS LADIES!)? Seriously, you will want one of everything. Basking in the flavors of the negro de pulpo, Chef Kaelin totally switched gears and flavor profiles and brought out a Pork Belly + Scallop taco. What? I know. He is wildly creative and imaginative when it comes to unusual tacos. Pork Belly, marinated in guajillo, served with a lightly seared scallop topped with mint and cilantro. This was the perfect coupling of flavor as the lightness of the scallop balanced out the savoriness of the pork belly.
Wait... there's more. Our final savory dish was by far one of my favorites, Pollo con Mole Negro ( half chicken, mole negro, rice+beans). My advice is to order one of these for the table so you have the chance to try more items off the menu. What a feast and one where you can choose your own adventure. Served with rice, beans, and tortillas, the options are endless.This chicken is grilled to perfection and maintains a juiciness level that is out of this world!
What Dia de Muerto feast would be complete without dessert? During the Dia de Muerto celebration, often times you will find the grandmothers poaching pumpkins and preparing dishes similar to what Chef Kaelin has on the menu, dulce de calabaza. As soon as I took my first bite, I was stunned. Dulce de Calabaza includes poached pumpkin, which takes between 3-4 hours to poach perfectly, candied pumpkin seeds, whipped cream, and local mint. I never knew that pumpkin could be this delicious. The candied pumpkin seeds seems more like bits of toffee sprinkled throughout. Forget the pumpkin pie, this is what needs to be on your table at Thanksgiving. Finally, I concluded my meal with a little bit of heaven, Chocolate Caliente. I could seriously see myself curling up by the fire, sipping on this rich, velvety deliciousness all winter long. This is not your typical " hot chocolate" as it includes three different types of cacao. You can taste the distinct flavors in each sip. Confession: I may or may not have resorted to begging Chef Kaelin to keep both of these items for his next Del Mercado menu :)
Thank you, Chef Kaelin, for sharing your Oaxacan heritage and traditions with the Nashville community.
For my Nashville readers, you have until Sunday, November 6 to devour this deliciousness. Both Bajo Sexto locations will be serving unique tamales, tacos, and cocktails, while the Charlotte Avenue location will have a few different offerings including a special entree and dessert. Make sure you check out my Instagram as I will be highlighting my favorite dishes throughout the week.