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Cooking Demos at Mercadito Heat Up River North

By Anthony Todd in Food on Apr 22, 2011 6:00PM

Mercadito, the modern Mexican hotspot in River North, has been hosting a series of cooking demonstrations for the past several months. We got a chance to attend last month's sold-out show, run by Chef Patricio Sandoval, and came back slightly deaf, pleasantly full and rarin' to go again. Take a look at some of the dishes and drinks from our experience and learn about the next demo, scheduled for April 25.

The demos are held underneath Mercadito, at cocktail bar Double A. The space is a bit cramped, but there's the attendant feeling that you are descending into a secret hideaway. A very loud, booze-saturated secret hideaway. After we jostled ourselves in amongst the other guests, the chef got started. There's nothing quite like watching the food you're about to eat being cooked, and that goes double for smelling it. Sandoval (who is quite a showman) set up a station at the front of the slightly-cramped room and previewed every dish before it came to the table. The menu included three kinds of guacamole, two kinds of tacos and a homemade seafood chorizo. The price also included cocktail pairings, and the bartenders made a show of explaining and mixing the cocktails.

Sandoval clearly loves showing people his cooking, and came around to each table anytime a dish deserved a close-up. He also didn't pull any punches - at some demonstrations we've attended, chefs refuse to cook anything challenging or pungent. "It's gonna get a little smoky and a little spicy," Sandoval warned while toasting chiles. "You might start sneezing." Some helpful, practical cooking tips were mixed in with the fancy dishes - Sandoval dished out advice on how best to cut an avocado, how to cut fish and how to mix guacamole.

On April 25th, to "prepare for Cinco de Mayo," Chef Michael Fiorello (of Mercat a la Planxa) will be joining Chef Patricio Sandoval to cook up a 5 course feast, paired with cocktails. The price is $55, and reservations are required - the space is small, and it was packed when we were there. We'd suggest making reservations early - if the word has gotten out about the last event, this month is going to sell out fast.

Mercadito is located at 108 W. Kinzie Street.