Saturday, April 11, 2009

An offer too good to pass over

We just returned from having a free breakfast and lunch at Rosa Mexicano, the gourmet restaurant in the Hackensack mall once known as Riverside Square. This was our third visit for one of the restaurant's cooking demonstrations and later, we were served a three-course lunch of the dishes we saw prepared. As always, the staff gave us a warm welcome, especially nice on a wet, chilly day.

We received handouts listing the ingredients and recipes, and watched the chef, Joseph Preziosi, assemble the dishes, providing cooking tips along the way. Because the restaurant prepares just about everything from scratch, components of the dish were made ahead of time, including the chicken broth. The sauce for the entree has more than two dozen ingredients and requires an hour of cooking.

Today's demonstration was of Mexican Passover dishes, matzo ball soup with jalapeno, a chili pepper stuffed with barbecued veal in a green mole sauce, and a flourless pecan-and-date cake in a butter sauce. About 30 people attended and if you brought a box of matzo, the cooking demo and the meals were free. (Breakfast was orange juice, coffee and scrambled eggs and tortillas.)

Rosa Mexicano opened last August and its generosity is refreshing, especially in view of the struggling economy and declining restaurant patronage. The restaurant is doing this on a large scale, but it reminds me of when Balthazar Bakery opened on South Dean Street in Englewood in 2002. Before its retail store was ready, the wholesale bakery gave away bread to passers-by who noticed its distinctive yellow delivery trucks and the loaves cooling in the open overhead doors.

By the way, the veal-stuffed ancho chili was outstanding and the cake was delicious (I asked the server to give me one without the butter sauce). I liked the Mexican matzo-ball soup, too, but it was a bit salty. We also were served mango margaritas and hand-made corn tortillas.

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