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Front & center: Female chefs, mixologists preparing 10-course dinner event

Mixologist Jessica O’Brien of Sister Bar will showcase her award-winning skills during the 10-course League of Extraordinary Women Dinner. (Courtesy of Jessica O’Brien)

Women are the architects of society, famed author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe once said.

That continues to be true, with women trailblazing their way in male-dominated realms, including culinary arts and mixology. New Mexico women in both fields are ready to showcase their skills during a 10-course pairing experience appropriately named the League of Extraordinary Women Dinner. The all-female event on Aug. 2 at Hollow Spirits Distillery will showcase some of the best chefs and mixologists New Mexico has to offer. Chefs Marie Yniguez, Kayla Vallejos, Lisa Sanchez and Sara Tori-Green will construct courses for the extraordinary menu.

Award-winning chef Marie Yniguez, owner of Bocadillos, will be part of the all-female League of Extraordinary Women Dinner. (Courtesy of Marie Yniguez)

“I think it’s going to be some heavy hitters,” said chef Marie Yniguez, owner of Bocadillos. “To think we have some younger chefs coming in, and these girls have been doing amazing things, and I think it’s going to be the highlight of female chefs and what’s happening. A lot of the times, female chefs don’t get the front page and stuff like that, and it’s about time for everybody to do it and make some beautiful food, different concepts, and just bringing women chefs to the table.”

Mixologists Jessica O’Brien, Noemi Leon, Shannon Reyes and Zee Eskeets will develop cocktail pairings. The mixologists were able to choose the courses they will be pairing their cocktails with. O’Brien, who is responsible for the cocktail program at Sister bar and has won several bartending competitions, chose to pair a unique cocktail she created with the second food course of baked carrots with onion yogurt and chimichurri.

“I make this really good sweet pea gin drink, so I wanted to play on the vegetal aspects of it,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien will be pairing a less sweet version of a bubbly and refreshing vanilla rum mojito with the seventh course of baby back ribs prepared by Yniguez.

“I have to stick to my roots, and I’m a slow roaster and smoker, so I’m going to do cherry wood-smoked baby back ribs with a smoked watermelon and tomato gazpacho,” Yniguez said. “So I’ll have a cherry barbecue sauce with it. I’m more of the meat eater. If it was up to me, I’d put a slab of brisket on the plate but I have to be pretty and fancy.”

Yniguez also will be making a scallop ceviche cured in fresh citrus juices of orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime and salt served with homemade tostadas, avocado crema, pickles, red onion and jalapeño oil.

Chef Kayla Vallejos of Tractor Brewing Co. will contribute her culinary skills to League of Extraordinary Women Dinner on Aug. 2. (Courtesy of Kayla Vallejos)

Chef Kayla Vallejos, who is the head chef at Tractor Brewing Co. in Los Lunas, said she enjoys making fresh pasta. She creates it for the restaurant, as well as homemade dough and pizzas.

Vallejos’ other contribution is the ninth course that will consist of venison medallions crusted in juniper with a black garlic puree. Vallejos described the black garlic as being fermented over months, which gives it a balsamic flavor.

Shannon Reyes has been a mixologist at Hollow Spirits since it opened in December 2018. Unlike fully stocked bars, Hollow Spirits mixologists are limited to the spirits created by the distillery, which pushes them to be innovative and have a more adventurous take on drinks. So when it came to the dinner, Reyes did her research on the flavor profiles of the courses she would be pairing for.

Hollow Spirits mixologist Shannon Reyes will create exciting specialty cocktails to pair with some courses featured in the League of Extraordinary Women Dinner on Aug. 2. (Courtesy of Shannon Reyes)


“I got the Thai-style fish, and I also got the ricotta, which I’m very excited about,” she said.

Yniguez said she is looking forward to seeing the chefs in action.

“I’m super-excited to see what these younger chefs are doing,” she said.

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