I’m so excited to finally share with you one of the most fun night out I’ve had in a while!

Myself and several other members of the Charlotte Food Bloggers group were invited to spend an evening at Charlotte’s Ritz-Carlton, experiencing their new wine cellar, cooking with the new executive chef of the Kinship lounge, and finally dining on the food we helped prepare.

The night was pretty magical, starting off by meeting in the lobby to share a glass of Champaign. After relaxing and catching up for a bit we started our tour by visiting Hidden Wine and meeting their great Sommelier. Hidden wine is tucked away in the lobby in the former rental car space and is an intimate spot with a large and unique wine selection. The small space was filled with locally-sourced reclaimed wood and dim lighting to make it feel like you’ve stepped into a completely different space from the lobby. You can have a drink at the table just outside Hidden wine, or grab a bottle to take home or up to your room at the hotel.

Our next stop really kicked off the evening. We walked into the part of the hotel that guests don’t get to see and it was my first time in a hotel restaurant kitchen. It was so fun to see all the chefs on the line and the many stages of meal preparation going on at once.

We went into a smaller private kitchen where we met Chef Juan Pablo de la Sota Riva and his wonderful team. The menu at Kinship is Latin-inspired with Mexican and Spanish influences. The food and concept was totally speaking my language and brought back some really great memories of my summer in Spain.

After donning our aprons and hats we got to work. My job was to cut about 2 heaping cups of jalapenos. I was extra thankful for prep gloves! We made two different tomatillo salsas, one raw that we ate with chunks of super fresh avocado and served with chips, and the other roasted for enchiladas. We enjoyed several drinks while we worked, including Meichelada- a Mexican drink with beer, spices, and tomato juice, and a tamarind margarita. This was seriously so in my element.

Next some of up prepped up some large octopus for a Peruvian-style ceviche with shrimp. This was not your typical ceviche, it was less citrusy and all of the seafood was pre-cooked, which I must say I was grateful for after a bad ceviche experience in Chile last fall. Octopus also happens to be one of my all-time favorite foods! If you haven’t tried it or haven’t ventured beyond calamari, I highly recommend it. I feel in love with Octopus while in Spain and haven’t looked back since.

Finally, we made a “new age” version of Crema Catalan, a traditional Spanish desert similar to Crème Brule. I loved that this version included fresh citrus. After a ton of hard work for all us food bloggers (just kidding), we went out to the Kinship lounge to enjoy the fruits of our labor, more drinks, and some really excellent live Latin music.

We sat in the dimly lit lounge area that didn’t feel at all like a hotel lounge, and sipped cocktails while enjoying the music and one another’s company. We snacked on the ceviche, followed by some of the best enchiladas suizas I’ve ever had- my favorite version of enchiladas with tomatillo salsa, aka “enchiladas verdes.” I was already completely stuffed at this point but managed to try the chef’s version of crema Catalan, which he whipped like cream and served in small jars atop orange marmalade.

It was really a magical night with some of my favorite things, great food, music, and company. I look forward to going back to the Kinship lounge and to checking out some of the other spaces at the Ritz.

Note: I was invited to attend this event with the Charlotte Food Bloggers and was encouraged to post about my experience, however I was not compensated for my time and all opinions are my own.