Alimentaria Mexicana will offer Vancouverites a glimpse into Mesoamerican culture and history

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      One of Vancouver’s newest and possibly most authentic Mexican restaurants is preparing for a busy week leading up to the annual celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

      Alimentaria Mexicana, which moved into one of Granville Island’s choice locations early last year and had a soft opening in July, is featuring guest Mexican chef Hugo Durán during the coming weekend for workshops and a special hosted Mexican dinner two days later.

      Alimentaria, a Mexican newcomer in a city that’s been swooning over tacos for the past dozen years, occupies the spot across from the Public Market formerly held by Edible Canada, which closed near the start of the pandemic, in 2020, after 10 years.

      The ambitious eatery is one of the latest projects of the partners—Mexican-Canadian executive chef Ernesto Gomez, chef Martín Vargas, and partner Darragh McFeely—that brought Vancouver such restaurants as Nuba, Fayuca (“North Pacific Mexican”), and Yaletown’s Chancho Tortilleria.

      The colourful year-old cantina describes itself as “an immersive culinary and cultural experience unlike any other that showcases the time-honoured techniques, traditions, and products of Mexican and local artisans in an authentic way that pays homage to their origins.”
      It includes a retail shop, a takeout window, and an educational space.

      Guest chef Durán made his name with his Ka’an restaurant in Tulum, a coastal town on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where he specialized in showcasing the foods of his Mayan ancestors.

      Durán, a former interior designer with no formal culinary training, started his restaurant career with Mexico City pop-ups featuring farm-to-table dishes rooted in his country’s precolonial history. His regular travels to small Indigenous communities to research regional food plants and traditional cooking techniques paid off when his open-air beachside Ka’an became popular with locals and tourists alike.

      The Mexico City native will lead two-and-a-half-hour morning heirloom-corn workshops on Saturday and Sunday (April 30 and May 1) exploring Mesoamerican culture and history, the importance of maize (corn) in the region’s food culture, and practical uses of maize in cooking at home. Dishes containing four types of heirloom corn will be available for tasting.

      Then, on Tuesday (May 3) evening, Durán will host a five-course dinner anchored in his Mayan cooking traditions. The meal will feature sikil pa’ak, a toasted pumpkin seed–and-tomato dip served with crudités; potato tamales; cured-fish tamales; seafood mixiote; and poached pear with dried herbs and corn-cacao porridge for dessert.

      A limited number of tickets for all three events ($35 per person for the workshops; $80 per person for the dinner, $40 for optional beverage pairings) are available at Alimentaria’s website.

      Next Thursday (Cinco de Mayo) will see Alimentaria offer celebratory takeout meals of beef-birria taco kits. Each kit serves three, costs $46, and contains one pound of the titular traditional beef dish, slow-braised in chilis and spices. Included are a dozen flour tortillas, salsa verde, cilantro, limes, pickled onions, and consommé.

      Options include house-made mezcal or tequila margaritas, margarita mix, and six-packs of Pacifico pilsener-style beer.

      Kits must be ordered in advance and picked up at Alimentaria or Chancho on May 4 between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.; quantities are limited.