Category Archives: Food Pairing

Tequila Pairing Challenge with Tequila Don Fulano

…At The Patio in San Diego

By Ryan Kelley

 patioTequila pairing dinners are always an adventure. Like fine wine, tequila has a way of inspiring and challenging chefs to marry just the right food to match the myriad and often complex flavors inherent in well-made, artisanal tequila. So when my friend Tequilier Mario Marquez invited me to join him and renowned chef Andrew Spurgin to judge a tequila pairing competition between both locations of The Patio in San Diego, I was all in.don_fulano_bottles2

Chefs at each of the restaurant’s two locations were given the challenge to prepare a five-course dinner with the five different expressions of Don Fulano tequila.

Day 1: The Patio on Lamont



In a large yet cozy room at The Patio’s Pacific Beach location on Lamont Street, General Manager Chris Simmons welcomed tasters and the judging panel and then introduced Chef de Cuisine Andre Fuentes.

As the first course was delivered, Don Fulano Brand Ambassador Sergio Mendoza told guests about Don Fulano—distilled at La Tequileña in the Tequila valley in small batches from 100% estate-grown agave from the highlands of Jalisco.

Day1_Course1Most notable about Chef Fuentes’ menu was that it strayed from the typical Mexican flavors normally paired with tequila.

The first course was a fried green tomato with herb-whipped goat cheese, watermelon and cucumber salad and watercress paired with Don Fulano Suave. The fried green tomato had a tendency to overwhelm the delicate and complex flavors of a blanco, but the watermelon and cucumber brought out the herbal and earthier flavors.


Day1_Course2It was a solid start, but then the evening took an unexpected twist.

At most tequila pairing dinners, courses will be paired with a vertical flight of tequila. That is, the first course is paired with blanco, the second with reposado, third with añejo, etc. Instead, Chef Fuentes served his second course, a chilled honeydew soup with pistachio gremolata, snow crab and lemon vinaigrette with Don Fulano añejo, which is a floral yet sweet and intense tequila aged for three years in French oak.

Pairing the sweet soup brought out the sweetness of the añejo—fine for a dessert course but a little odd this early in the evening. Interestingly, when I went back to sipping the blanco with this course, I found it to be a much better marriage.

Day1_Course3The highlight of the evening was the third course: fried soft shell crab cooked to perfection with a grilled corn puree, smoked pork belly and cantaloupe relish paired with Don Fulano resposado.

The hearty dish stood up to the well-balanced reposado, which offers a fruity, delicately herbal flavor up front and ends with richer flavors of caramel and maple. The freshness and fruitiness of the relish and corn puree brought out the sweet agave and herbal flavors, while the heartier fried crab opened the palate to the richness from the barrel.

Day1_Course4This was a true winner, and was the highest-scored plate by all three judges.

The fourth course, agave-glazed smoked duck breast paired with Don Fulano 5-year Imperial was unfortunately overpowered by the complex flavors of the extra añejo, but the evening ended on a high note with a watermelon-basil sorbet that brought out the fresh flavor of the sweet, intense Don Fulano Fuerte, a 100-proof blanco.


Day 2: The Patio on Goldfinch

Day2_Course1The second evening featured Executive Chef John Medall’s five course menu at The Patio on Goldfinch in the Mission Hills area of San Diego. Medall’s menu offered more traditional Mexican flavors, but was still creative and full of unexpected accents.

The first surprise came with the first course, a simple yet elegant watermelon and jicama salad dressed with agave honey, cilantro, cotija and pine nuts. Fellow judge, Chef Andrew Spurgin, hit it right on the mark when he described the dish as “honest.”

The fresh, flavorful salad complimented notes of grapefruit in the blanco and opened up the herbal aspect of the tequila without an overpowering sweetness.

Day2_Course2This was the first highlight of the evening. It even gave me chills!

The second course, a cantaloupe and mango gazpacho, was tasty but its richness and sweetness overpowered Don Fulano reposado.

The second highlight of the evening, and my favorite dish and pairing across both nights was tequila-braised pork carnitas wrapped in a house made tortilla and topped with salsa verde, served with Mexican rice and spicy pinto beans and paired with Don Fulano añejo.

Day2_Course3It was a robust dish worthy of the bold flavors in the añejo. The flavors of the dish heightened the agave-heavy entry of the añejo and accentuated the wonderful wood notes in the tequila’s finish.

Also notable was that the dish showcased Medall’s philosophy of using even “unusable portions” of his ingredients: watermelon rind leftover from the first course was smashed into the tortilla dough to give it a beautiful color and a mild, sweet flavor that added to the complexity of the dish and tequila pairing.

Day2_Course4The third course proved hard to follow, and the fourth course, a Puerto Nuevo-style lobster, came out a bit overcooked—likely due to difficulty choreographing and timing such an ambitious plate for so many guests. It’s pairing with Don Fulano Imperial was rather “ho-hum,” but I found that pairing the Imperial with the course’s side of roasted corn was a surprisingly good marriage of food and tequila, and this helped salvage the course and bump up the score a bit.

The pairing challenge came to a close with a tasty melon granita made from watermelon, cantaloupe and casaba complemented by the 100-proof aromatic and intense Don Fulano Fuerte. It was a solid way to end the night and the 2-day challenge.

And The Winner Is…

When the scores were tallied, the judging panel selected Chef Medall’s menu from The Patio on Goldfinch as the winner.




The Patio on Goldfinch plans to hold another five-course tequila pairing dinner on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 5:30p.m. with Tequila Montalvo. For reservations and details, click here or contact the restaurant, located on 4020 Goldfinch St, San Diego, CA 92103, at (619) 501-5090.



Writer Ryan Kelley and friends enjoying all five of Don Fulano Tequila’s offerings.


Never miss an article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.

La Palapa Cocina Mexicana Celebrates National Tequila Day!

la palapaLa Palapa Recipes You Can Create at Home

What is more appropriate to enjoy on National Tequila Day than an authentic Mexican culinary experience you can accomplish at home with the direction of Barbara Sibley, chef-owner of New York City’s La Palapa Cocina Mexicana.  She graciously provided us with three exceptional and easy to replicate recipes that either call for tequila, or another flavor equally indigenous to Mexico, hibiscus.  Viva La Palapa!

  • Flor Chelada and “the sweet spot” (art of sipping Chelada)
  • Pepito – tequila/lime marinated skirt steak sandwich
  • La Dona – tequila-hibiscus-citrus cocktail, perfect for summer sipping


Flor Chelada

la palapa, flor cheladaYou will need Wild Hibiscus Flower and Syrup, hibiscus flower salt, lime juice and your favorite beer (preferably Mexican!).  

Dip the rim of your glass into wild hibiscus syrup and then into hibiscus flower salt.

la palapa, flor cheladaFill 3/4 glass with ice.

Add 3/4 oz of Wild Hibiscus syrup and the juice of ½ lime (1 tablespoon) to bottom of glass.

Carefully top with your favorite beer.

La Palapa recommends Pacifico or any Mexican lager.

Garnish with edible Wild Hibiscus Flower.


Watch Barbara Sibley of La Palapa create the Flor Chelada:


sweet spot, la palapa, flor chelada, barbara sibleyBarbara Sibley explains The Chelada “Sweet Spot”

Layered Mexican beer cocktails such as Cheladas and Micheladas, are served in a tall glass rimmed with flavored salt and filled with ice. Delicious flavorings are then added.   For the Flor Chelada we use hibiscus syrup and fresh lime juice. To complete your chelada, slowly top with beer.  The sweet spot is where the syrup, juice and beer meet. To get the best mixture of ingredients, sip the beer through a straw, dipping lower or higher for a stronger or lighter flavor. Typically there’s enough flavoring to accommodate an entire 12-oz beer, so top off your chelada as needed and enjoy with that hibiscus-lime ‘sweet spot’ lingering at the bottom. Delicioso!


sweet spot, la palapa, flor chelada, barbara sibley, pepito The Pepito

is a traditional Mexican torta sandwich of grilled skirt steak that’s been marinated in a tequila and lime mixture and layered with fresh avocado, lettuce, tomato, plus pickled jalapeño and smoky chipotle crème. Here is a marinade for 3 pounds of steak.


sweet spot, la palapa, flor chelada, barbara sibley, pepito, recipeMarinade:

Combine 1 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup tequila, the juice of 2 limes, and 1 tablespoon each of sugar and salt.

Marinate for no more than half an hour, or the tequila will make the steak too soft.

(If you prefer chicken, check out this marinade recipe using Hornito’s Lime Shot.)

Serve with Flor Chelada or La Dona cocktail.


sweet spot, la palapa, flor chelada, barbara sibley, pepito, recipe, la dona, sweet spot, la palapa, flor chelada, barbara sibley, pepito, recipe, la dona, espolon,La Doña

2 oz of tequila (La Palapa uses Espolon Blanco)

3/4 oz triple sec (Combier or Cointreau)

3/4 oz fresh lime juice

Splash of agave nectar

Splash of orange juice

1 oz Wild Hibiscus Syrup


Put all ingredients together with ice in a cocktail shaker.

Shake vigorously and pour strained into a glass that’s rimmed with hibiscus chile piquin salt.

Garnish with a twist of lime and wild hibiscus flower.


Editor’s note:

Wild Hibiscus Flower Company just launched an exclusive line of all-natural, concentrated floral extracts and syrups:

  • b’Lure (ba-lure), made from the sensual blue butterfly pea flower, offering delicate sweetness and magical color-changing properties
  • Rose + Hibiscus, a fragrant blend of highly prized Bulgarian rose oil and fresh hibiscus juice
  • Hibiscus Flower, fresh hibiscus juice infused with premium dried hibiscus flowers for intensely brilliant red color and deep berry flavor

sweet spot, la palapa, flor chelada, barbara sibley, pepito, recipe, la dona, espolon, wild hibiscus, tales of the cocktail sweet spot, la palapa, flor chelada, barbara sibley, pepito, recipe, la dona, espolon, wild hibiscus




National Tequila Day Giveaway!

– Win a complete set of Wild Hibiscus products – Original, Rose, Heart-Tee, Hibiscus Pyramid Salt Flakes and NEW Floral Extracts, along with a signed copy of Chef Barbara Sibley’s beautifully photographed cookbook, Antojitos, Festive & Flavorful Mexican Small Plates, a collection of her restaurant La Palapa’s best-loved recipes. (Continental USA – excluding Alaska – Only).  $65 value.

Visit the Wild Hibiscus Flower Company’s Facebook page on National Tequila Day (July 24) for details!

Visit the Wild Hibiscus Flower Company’s Website today for more great recipes!

sweet spot, la palapa, flor chelada, barbara sibley, pepito, recipe, la dona, espolon, wild hibiscus, tales of the cocktail


Never miss an article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.

Victorian Truffles & Tequila: A Heavenly Pair

victorian truffles, tequila, red chile, tequila aficionado

The Trouble with Truffles

victorian truffles victorian trufflesWe recently made the acquaintance of the Head Chocolatier, John Alexander, at Victorian Truffles and, after much pleading on Twitter, he was kind enough to send us samples of two of their specialty confections, the Tequila & Lime Truffles and the Limited Edition Tequila & Lime Red Chile Truffles.

Unfortunately, the USPS being what it is and Christmas just around the corner, the Priority Mail package wasn’t as much a priority to the USPS as one might think.  Ever the consummate professional with a singular focus on customer service and satisfaction, John asked us not to eat those truffles when they arrived (which they did, a week later) because he would prefer to overnight a fresh batch.  Here at Tequila Aficionado, we understand small batch production and pride in quality products so we did as he asked.  He made a fresh batch on Monday and we received them today (Wednesday).  They were well worth the wait!

victorian trufflesWhen we received the box, the presentation was impressive.  Rich, dark, wrapping paper bound with golden ribbon greeted us.  Upon removing the cover, golden tissue paper sealed with a red wax seal told us this was no ordinary treat.  Pulling the tissue away released a wonder for the nose.  The scents of fresh lime, tequila, hints of other citrus, and cream danced as we breathed deeply.  The visual treat was no less lovely with bite sized morsels rolled in coconut, lime zest and red chile that seemed perfectly attired for the holiday season.

tequila, lime, victorian trufflesTequila & Lime Victorian Truffles

Retail $29 for 12 Pieces

The Tequila and Lime truffles are handmade and rolled in organic shredded coconut and fresh lime zest.  Mixed with Avion Silver Tequila, fresh lime juice and White Chocolate in the center, this Truffle is refreshing and makes for a year-round treat.

This is not your usual chocolate truffle.  We were expecting sweet chocolate but instead experienced delectable tidbits of joy.  Yes, there is white chocolate in it, but this is more like a light and rich ganache with far more to its substance than sugar.  This is old-school confection, not candy.  We were thrilled to discover that Victorian Truffles uses Avion Silver Tequila in their recipe.  It seems Mr. Alexander is a fan of sipping tequilas and has tried many but feels Avion Silver is the best choice for this truffle.  We agree!

This truffle is soft on entry with the light texture of finely shredded coconut and a sweet finish.  It coats your palate deliciously without all the heaviness of a syrupy blend.  This is not a shooter.  You’ll want to take 2-3 bites or more to savor each one.  The strong lime presence would make this the perfect accompaniment when sipping a highlands tequila.

We recommend pairing the Tequila & Lime Victorian Truffles with double distilled blancos like Acumbaro, Siembra Azul, Arte Nom, Tapatio, Viva Mexico, and 4 Canones.  A triple distilled tequila might be lost in the pairing.

tequila, lime, red chile, victorian trufflesTequila & Lime Red Chile Victorian Truffles (Limited Edition)

Retail $30 for 12 Pieces

These Tequila & Lime Red Chile Truffles make for a true Limited Edition offering, bringing together sweet and savory flavors accented with the heat from the chiles.

These too are handmade and rolled in organic shredded coconut, dried red chile & fresh lime zest.  (Medium Heat)

Mixed with Avion Silver and another premium reposado, fresh lime juice and white chocolate in the center, then rolled in lime zest, shredded coconut and red chile, this truffle will go over well at any party, event, or gift exchange.

“So pretty with the white coconut, lime zest and red pepper flakes”, I thought as I lifted one to sniff.  It smelled as delicious as all the others.  I took a leisurely bite and was surprised at the peppery pop as it hit my tongue.

Mike commented that this combination was perfectly balanced on the tongue and left him with a spicy peppery finish.  The finish was long and had just enough heat to remind us of the really amazing confection we’d had.  An anejo would go very well with this truffle.  We also discussed how this would be nicely paired with a sweet cocktail like a Margarita or Paloma.  Mike recommends a dark reposado to an anejo to pair with this.  Something like an aged Montejima or a 4 Canones anejo is a perfect pairing for the Tequila & Lime Red Chile Limited Edition Truffles.  Personally, I felt the aged Montejima complemented the pepper perfectly.  Be prepared when pairing these because any tequila you choose will reactivate the pepper and leave you with that zing, which is not at all a bad thing!

Both of these truffles are a worthy gift for anybody who enjoys tequila or pairing.  If you’re planning a dinner party with tequila pairings, these would be a perfect light dessert.  Though they are the size of the average truffle, they are rich and delicious, leaving you satisfied that you’ve had something special without leaving you feeling heavy.  (Tip: Try the Tequila Lime Truffles with cocktails before dinner and save the Red Chile Truffles for the after dinner treat with a sipping reposado or anejo tequila.)

Serve Victorian Truffles immediately at room temperature.  Don’t give your refrigerator the opportunity to dry these treasures out and do not keep them lying around.  These hand-made joys are a must share with a short shelf life due to all the fresh ingredients so don’t try to hoard them either.

Tequila isn’t the only spirit Victorian Truffles are made with.  They have a huge selection of truffle varieties made with vodka, champagne, beer, rum, brandy, scotch, whiskey, bourbon, Irish whiskey, Irish cream, amaretto and hazelnut liqueur as well as their original chocolate truffles.  Click on any of the images in this article to see for yourself.  We’re looking forward to sampling Bourbon Pecan, Amaretto, Hazelnut and Raspberry Truffles with more of our favorite tequilas!  

victorian truffles

 Victorian Truffles onFacebook

Victorian Truffles on Pinterest

Victorian Truffles on Instagram



Never miss and article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.