I just love shooting (and eating!) the pop up dinners my friend Claudia Krevat, of Claudia's Mesa in Bozeman, offers. The one featured in this story, Nuevo Mexican, is a favorite from a couple years ago.

The dinner took place at architect EJ Engler’s home, a (former) historic grocery store in Gallatin Gateway. Guests were handed a “Montañita” (Krevat's twist on a margarita) as they walked through the front doors, where they mingled as appetizers of Vallarta Ceviche with Gordita Pumpkin Toast were passed around. Then they sat at long tables and enjoyed Jicama Slaw with Mango Vinaigrette and Butternut Squash Tortilla Soup with Baby Portobello Mushrooms. A lavish main course of Carnitas in Adobo and Vaquero Rub topped with Hominy followed. After polishing off a dessert of Kahlúa Flan Brûlée, many guests crossed the street to do a little two-stepping at Stacey's Old Faithful Bar before calling it a night.

Montañita (Claudia’s Mesa margarita)

"It is said that the origin of our state, Montana, is derived from the Spanish-Latin, for mountain. Because I like the notion, true or fiction, I named my margarita Montañita," Krevat said. "I dedicate this smoky and spicy drink to the land of Big Sky. When possible, support our local growers and use Montana’s cilantro and jalapeños, Gallatin Valley Botanical, Cloud Nine and Running Strike to name a few."

Makes 20 servings

Ingredients:

1 pineapple, peeled, cored, cubed

1 large jalapeño, seeded and chopped, finely

Simple lemon sugar with mint (recipe follows)

1 bottle pinot grigio

30 ounces tequila

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Ingredients for the simple sugar:

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Juice of 10 limes

1/4 cup mint

Directions for simple sugar:

Add sugar and water to a medium pot and boil. Add lime juice and stir. Add mint and muddle with a wooden spoon. Allow to steep while you roast the pineapple.

Directions for Montañita:

In a large bowl, place the pineapple cubes. Add sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Heat up a barbecue grill and line with foil, or turn the broiler to 400 degrees. Roast the pineapple until it darkens on the edges. Make sure not to burn. Add pineapple to a Montañita pitcher. Add remaining ingredients. Strain simple syrup and add to the pitcher. Taste and adjust sugar, tequila or wine levels. Sing while you sip.

Claudia's Colombian pork carnitas

"Our carnitas are succulent and full of flavor," Krevat said. "If you have any leftovers, use with a bun for a Latin style slider. We enjoy it for breakfast with a fried egg, or 'a Caballo.' "

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

6 pounds pork shoulder (Amaltheia Dairy in Belgrade is what Krevat uses)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced

12 ounces tomato paste

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons thyme

2 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons coriander seed

10 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 cup of beer (Krevat likes using Vigilante from Bozeman Brewing Company)

4 cups beef stock

32 ounces of crushed tomatoes

1 cup pitted olives

2/3 cup sliced pimento stuffed peppers, like Manzanilla

2 tablespoons capers

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1/2 chopped cilantro, as garnish

Directions:

Season pork shoulder with salt and pepper. Brown in a Dutch oven, turning to ensure that all sides are cooked; transfer to tray. Add onions, peppers, garlic, herbs and cumin, cook until soft. Add tomato paste, stir to combine and cook for about 4 minutes. Add beer, stir and cook scraping the pot so it doesn't caramelize. Return meat to Dutch oven along with tomatoes and stock; boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until tender, 3 to 4 hours.

Remove; allow to cool off and shred. Return to pot and add olives, capers, pimientos and vinegar. Cook on medium low until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.

Serve in a large serving bowl and top with chopped cilantro.

For a true Montana experience, serve carnitas over a cup of Timeless Natural Food farro or Mesa-style with cooked honey hominy.

Montana-based photojournalist Lynn Donaldson-Vermillion shoots and writes for Travel + Leisure, FoodNetwork.com, is an official Instagrammer for National Geographic Traveler, and contributes regularly to the New York Times. She is founder and Creative Director of the Montana food + travel blog, TheLastBestPlates.com

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TheLastBestPlates.com is a digital destination that serves up Montana's tasty food, travel and culture stories … one bite at a time.

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