Mexico City Chef Elena Reygadas: My Favorite Escape

Elena in the Fringe Dress

My Favorite Escape is a new series featuring people we admire in a space where they are most at ease. For Elena Reygadas, the chef and owner of Mexico City’s beloved Rosetta Restaurant and Rosetta Bakery, that space is her home kitchen.

Elena Reygadas is the consummate host. Walk into Rosetta, her award-winning restaurant in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood, and you’ll quickly understand that for Reygadas, the perfect dining experience demands not only innovative food — in her case, Italian with Mexican accents — but an intimate atmosphere and exquisite design details. Housed in a 19th-Century Beaux Arts mansion, those lucky enough to get a table are immediately transported to colonial Mexico — diners shrouded in greenery, surrounded by good company, art and furniture that spans centuries.

And this isn’t just an experience she provides her customers. When throwing dinner parties at home, the scene is equally joyous and the food sublime.

Attersee spoke to Reygadas about assigned vs. open seating, the importance of shared plates, and the art of la sobremesa — the Spanish tradition of post-meal reflection — complete with plenty of drinking and conversations that last all night.

Read the full interview below — along with Reygadas's famous berry mille-feuille recipe.

What are the essential ingredients for a good dinner party?

Shared plates. I think it’s important to break the idea that everyone should have a dish for themselves. I really believe that the ultimate meaning of cooking is to generate community bonds. It is a vehicle for us to share with our beloved people — to build a time of sharing.

What's on your table?

My grandmother’s tablecloths (my favorite), plus a mix of vintage dinnerware and ceramics made by my talented friend Perla Valtierra . I usually get flowers from Alberto and Ramiro at Flores Cosmos , and my favorite candles made by Ramón Ramírez López and his family in Guanajuato.

Assigned or open seating?

Open. The dynamic should be relaxed and casual. There is no separation between my kitchen and dining area at home, so everything happens between the kitchen and the table. When I have people over for dinner, everyone gathers around the island next to the stove where we end up drinking and eating some bites while I finish dinner preparations. I feel it’s good for the kitchen and the table to be close because it feels intimate and easy. I try to do most of the cooking before guests arrive, but I like for them to be part of the setting — to feel like they’re helping to create the meal. When we finally sit down at the table, it happens naturally.

Wine or Mezcal?

It depends on the food I’m serving. But in general I think Mexican food is great with beer and the different agave distillates. I look for artisanal distillates that are produced with the most sustainable practices possible, respecting the cycles of nature. I confess that I also love serving non-alcoholic beverages with food. We recently made an amazing bread ferment, a Kvas, with some of the leftover bread from Rosetta's Bakery. I’m also fascinated by tepache, a drink native to Mexico that’s made by fermenting pineapple and mixing it with spices

Most overrated ingredient:

I think there is something marvelous in all the ingredients. You just have to know how to listen to them. Be like a medium who transmits their message. And always respect their seasonality.

Most underrated ingredient:

There are many wonderful ingredients in Mexico that aren’t yet sufficiently known, like the pixtle, the bone of the mamey fruit native to Mexico. Or the tequesquite, a mineral salt that has been used as seasoning in Mesoamerica for centuries.

And the sobremesa : worth the hype?

The sobremesa [the post-meal Spanish tradition of lingering at the table] is the best sign of a good meal. It means that everyone is comfortable — not too full! — and they want the dinner to go all night, long after dessert has been eaten. To me, food is a way of bringing people together and achieving this conviviality that’s not easily achieved otherwise. Sometimes you start a meal sitting next to someone you don’t know, but you have an amazing sobremesa and form a real bond. The art of a good sobremesa is in the details and the shared experience. 

Berry Mille-feuille

Serves: 10

Puff pastry ingredients:

butter (355 g)

wheat flour (440 g)

salt 7.5 g

ice-cold water 150 ml

  1. Using your hands, mix 280 grams of the cubed butter with 110 grams of the flour until you form a paste.
  2. Make a 10-by-10-centimeter square and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. Mix the remaining 75 grams of butter with the remaining 330 grams of flour and the salt. Once everything is well mixed, add the ice-cold water all at once. Bundle the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  4. Spread out the dough with a rolling pin until you have a 35-by-35-centimeter square. Remove the plastic from the butter and flour mixture and place it perpendicularly in the middle of the dough, so that it looks like a rhombus.
  5. Fold the four corners of the dough toward the center so that you cover the butter and the dough maintains its rhombuslike shape.
  6. Rotate the dough 45 degrees and spread it out with a rolling pin until you have a horizontal rectangle.
  7. Make imaginary vertical lines to divide the dough into 4 equal sections.

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