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Mexico -- One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless

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The variety of corns available in Oaxaca boggles the mind and the taste buds. Rick introduces us to Amado Ramirez Leyva who believes that corn, domesticated some 9,000 years ago in Mexico, is the basis of Mexican culture. From championing the protection of ancient varieties, to cooking and grinding it into masa for tortillas, Amado just might be the corn guru of Oaxaca. All manner of enticing snacks served at Itanoni, his Oaxaca restaurant, including memelas, tetelas, tostadas, and tacos, use carefully selected types of maiz criollo (native corn).

There's a long heritage of good food in Tijuana: It has an amazing taco culture and is the birthplace of the Caesar salad. Today, Tijuana boasts one of the top culinary schools in the country and some of the best chefs in Mexico. Rick and three fellow food lovers dine at the ultra-modern Mision 19 located in Mexico's newest Leed Gold Certified building. Chef Javier Plascencia wows them with his creative twists on classic Mexican dishes such as braised beef short ribs wrapped in fresh fig leaves and served with black mole and kabocha foam.

Two of Ensenada's best seafood chefs, Benito Molina and Alain Genchi, join Rick for a lesson in mollusk farming. Juan Carlos Lapuente of Acuacultura Integral de Baja California takes the trio to the rich coastal waters to see oyster and mussel farming. Along the way, we learn that the quality of these waters is what makes the seafood from this area so outstanding. They cook their catch at Muelle Tres on the Ensenada waterfront, then Rick accompanies Benito to his fine-dining restaurant, Manzanilla, for sauteed abalone and two oyster preparations.

If there's a face of Mexico City's restaurant scene, it might be Jorge Vallejo's. (Of course, it may also be Enrique Olvera's, or Gabrielle Camara's ... who's counting?). Vallejo's cooking, found at his intimate restaurant Quintonil, has long been an inspiration for Rick and Deann. But what inspires Jorge? What propels him to put together dishes such as his stunning mole with beef tongue? In one word: Tacos. So in this episode, Rick follows Jorge on a taco tour, from the simple vegetable preparations at Tacos Gus to the super-rich and satisfying suadero-style tacos at Taqueria Los Cocuyos.

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