That trip was a gastronomic tour de force called Aromas y Sabores de Mexico, which Quintana set up to show off Mexican cuisine to an international group of chefs and media people.
While on the road back to Mexico City, she got the news that the restaurant was set to open. After a quick change to an outfit from her extensive indigenous wardrobe, she arrived in time to greet the first diners.
Established in 2000, Izote was closed for a couple of months for renovation. "We needed to have a new look," Quintana said.
The changes include addition of an upstairs terrace for smokers, a new, temperature-controlled wine closet (right), a banquette that runs the length of the room and a lighter, sleeker, more open look.
For Tuesday's soft opening, Quintana invited her travel companions to a dinner of small plates. The food was traditional, because she has a passion for ferreting out and preserving authentic flavors, but the presentation was up to date.
That night's camaron en chía (shrimp with chia seeds) was one example. Barely cooked in lime-seasoned liquid, as for aguachile, the shrimp came in a small tumbler hardly bigger than a shot glass, with chopsticks for fishing them out and a spoon for scooping up the liquid.
Chia seeds often show up in Mexican agua de limón (limeade). Perhaps this was the inspiration for sprinkling them into the shrimp liquid, where they added subtle nutty flavor.
Above the fish, a tiny banana leaf packet contained black beans sweetened with caramelized onion, a small taste that made one long for more.
These were flanked by a knotted strip of cornhusk on one side and an ornamental smear of sweet red chile salsa on the other.
A cornhusk container of esquites (seasoned roasted corn kernels) came on a plate with a leafy salad. Sliced bread was stacked in a guaje (gourd).
The components included pasilla chiles, black beans, diced avocado and strips of cheese.
The wine did a good job of matching such a wide range of flavors. It was Casa Grande Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz 2006 Gran Reserva from Casa Madero in Parras, Coahuila, which had been a stop on Quintana's tour.
Quintana says she has researched Mexican cuisine since the age of four and is still making discoveries. On her trip, for instance, she saw for the first time the source of escamoles, ant eggs that are in season in Mexico until July.
Author of 26 cookbooks, she is widely copied, but not always successfully. One restaurant purloined her stir-fried duck in tortillas with black mole but cooked the duck improperly and used storebought mole. A perfectionist, Quintana makes the mole herself.
She acknowledges the celebrity chef movement in Mexico City. "The boys want to stand out," she said. "It's a new interpretation of the cuisine. The chefs are creating their own styles with eclectic, European tendencies."
But Quintana is already at the top and intends to stick to her own style, which is to preserve authentic flavors and ingredients while presenting them in new and stylish ways.