Dare to Dairy

Last month, I was invited to participate in a pop-up restaurant event highlighting cooking with dairy.  The idea was to show that even for lactose intolerant folks, cooking with dairy is doable and delicious.  I was intrigued by the invitation.  First, it started off by appealing to my vanity referring to me as a “local blogger and socially-inclined sharer of family-friendly info and experiences to your readers and followers of Mand’s Mind.”  I couldn’t have wished written that better myself so clearly I was in.  Those that know me know that I’m just not that into cooking.  Like, at all.  But those that know me also know I LOVE to eat.  So yeah, sign me up.  I mean, who says no to a mouthwatering epicurean adventure?  Not this girl.


Did I mention that the meal was going to be 1) free, 2) at the beautiful Casa Rondeña Winery in my heart’s home of the North Valley, and 3) feature a celebrity chef?  Check, check, check.  I guess these are the perks of living life on the Internet and being an annoyingly super sharer.


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Allan and I arrived at the gorgeous winery, took a few photos and grabbed a glass of wine as the sun was setting.  Allan had the Meritage, I can’t remember what I had, but it was Chardonnay-ish.  Casa Rondeña is so picturesque; I’d wanted to have our wedding reception there until I realized that you can only have like 50 guests.  That would have never flown with our large family (plus friends).  Just wouldn’t accommodate the 200 person soirée that was our wedding.  C’est la vie.



It was time to get started on our tasting journey.  We were introduced to Chef Caitlin from Cooking with Caitlin.  Caitlin and her assistant/sister/BFF are bursting with personality just as the food we enjoyed was bursting with flavor.  Caitlin demonstrated a few of the nine recipes and we had front row seats for the show along with the other foodie bloggers.  There were also other guests who spoke sharing the health benefits and importance of dairy in a well-balanced diet as well as discussing the differences between lactose intolerance and a lactose allergy.

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The first item on the tasting menu was Monterey Jack Tuilles with Pico de Gallo.  This was so cool to see being made.  Basically, Caitlin made mini taco shells using a griddle, natural/aged cheese, and the bottom of a cupcake/muffin pan to shape the burnt cheese.  It was fast and delicious.  Mind blown.

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Up next was Pumpkin Soup with Chipotle-Roasted Sunflower Seeds featuring lactose-free milk.  I love soup as evidenced by our annual trip to the Souper Bowl and this one hit the spot.  Warm and spicy.

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Our third course of the evening was Blue Corn Blini with Maple-Chile Pork Tenderloin + Cilantro also featuring lactose-free milk.  I love how Caitlin added southwest flavors to each dish.  Some locals said it wasn’t spicy enough.  I’ve often thought I should have my New Mexican card revoked since I’m not obsessed with heat in food.  Maybe that’s why everything was just right for me.  Caitlin said to give them a break…they’re from Ohio!  🙂


Round Four brought Milk-Braised Beef Tacos with Calabacitas to our plates.  These featured lactose-free milk and natural cheese.  At this point, it was clear I need to hire Chef Caitlin to cook all my meals.  I think we scarfed the tacos before we snapped them so instead enjoy this picture of nosh.


I kept thinking, there’s going to be something I don’t like.  But it never failed; I liked each dish, including the Chile Rellenos with Charred Tomato Sauce featuring natural/aged cheese and Greek yogurt.


For the sixth dish, we dined on Slow-Cooked Chile-Chicken Thighs with Charred Corn, Lime Greek Yogurt + Cotija featuring Greek yogurt and natural cheese.


Phew!  We finally made it to dessert.  You mean there’s more?  Yes!  Time to try some Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with Piñon Nut Crust and Roasted Blackberries.  I was looking forward to the Piñon Nut Crust, but dropped mine.  Luckily, the nice folks sitting next to us from Bunches O Lunches hooked it up with another piece.  I must have been too busy dropping my dessert to take a photo, but here is some wine.


Then we had Homemade Sopapillas with Lavender Honey a la Mode featuring lactose-free ice cream.  This had such a North Valley feel to it.


Our night cap was Mexican Hot Chocolate with Homemade Honey Marshmallows featuring lactose-free milk.  Spicy, sweet, and warm; the perfect way to wrap up this amazing dinner.

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Throughout the night, I learned a lot about lactose and dairy in general.  Although, I’m not lactose intolerant, I’d be quick to share these amazing recipes with someone that is, so they could enjoy dairy without having to worry about tummy troubles.  And guess what?  I can.  We were given a swag bag that included all of the recipes and a few other cool DairyMAX items.



This was such a cool event; a great mix of fun, promotion, and education.  And it was so social.  From our Twitter handles on our name tags to our live tweets being captured and displayed on the screen.  It was a little dark so our pics don’t quite capture the beauty of each culinary creation, but trust me they were as lovely as they were tasty.  I even Periscoped a little and my friend Jacque (an amazing cook herself!) watched live from Austin!  Thanks to DairyMAX and Cooking with Caitlin for the delightful dairy dinner date.  We left with our panzas llenas y corazones contentos.


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