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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

Day1_Restaurant

 

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.

***

montalvo

 

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.

 

Day1_GroupShot

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


 

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Suerte Blanco Review & Tasting Notes

Suerte Blanco

Highlands sweetness with a down-to-earth complexity.

The Spanish word “Suerte” translates to “luck.” The bottles of all three Suerte expressions are decorated with a marketing-friendly rabbit designed by a tattoo artist in a native Mexican (Aztec/Mayan) style. It’s accompanied by a Partida/spirit bird-style origin story. This time, tequila was discovered by a farmer’s wife who saw a rabbit getting tipsy on fermented agave. It makes for an attractive package, and the rabbit is a fitting mascot, as this tequila has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Suerte BlancoBasic Stats
NOM: 1530 (Tequilera Simbolo, S.A. de C.V.)
Region: Highlands
Oven: Brick
Extraction: Tahona
Distillation: Stainless steel pot stills, double-distilled
Proof: 80 (40% abv)
Price: $30 to $36
Availability: Throughout Colorado, with possible expansion to both coasts soon.
Website: drinksuerte.com

Tasting and Mixing Notes
The blanco is rested in stainless steel tanks for two months prior to bottling. Sweet highlands baked agave is pronounced on the aroma and the flavor. This is definitely a plus for this reviewer, as I prefer my blancos to be fairly aggressive on the agave (highlands or lowlands). There are very nice, lingering notes of melon, grass, and mint on the nose. These aromas make it inside the bottle, too, with added flavors of pear, grass and a nice vegetal finish.

My one minor gripe with this blanco is that the sweetness and grass may be a little too pronounced, especially after being exposed to air for 15 or 20 minutes. The more subtle notes that give this blanco more complexity get less pronounced. (You have to catch this rabbit quickly!) Interestingly, I found that mixing Suerte blanco into a margarita not only retains the complexity I got with the first taste, but the sweet and grassy flavors are kept at bay in addition to bringing very lovely fruit and herbal notes to a traditional margarita.

Ryan’s Tequila Matchmaker Rating
Aroma – 23/25
Flavor – 24/30
Finish – 21/25
Value – 8/10
Drink again? – Yes
Recommend – Yes
Total Score – 86

So how does this rabbit age? While the reposado and añejo expressions are solid representations of highlands tequilas, and pleasant enough to sip, I didn’t find them as unique and interesting as the blanco, the clear winner in the Suerte lineup.

Also on Tequila Aficionado: Sipping off the Cuff with Suerte Tequila

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My Quest for a Universal Frozen Margarita Recipe

frozen margarita, tequila, ryan kelley
By Ryan Kelley | 07.24.12

Over the last month I’ve been developing and testing a recipe for frozen margaritas. I just published my findings at Examiner.com. Cocktails are what the Examiner readers want, especially today—Happy National Tequila Day! But for you, my fellow tequila-sippers and adventurous explorers of agave spirits, I thought you might like to know a few other things I learned in my month-long quest for a versatile frozen margarita recipe.

1) There is actually science behind our love of sweetened citrus juice. Lemonade (and anything with a similar combination of citrus juice and sugar) has stress-reducing and relaxing properties from both the citrus juice and glucose. Add the power of tequila to this, and it’s no wonder the margarita (frozen or otherwise) is the perfect antidote to the stress of modern American life.

2) Ditch the cheap triple sec. While Cointreau or Combier actually adds subtle flavors to a margarita, cheap triple sec just adds sugar and a flat tart flavor that tends to get lost when combined with fresh ingredients. (I like my margaritas to be agave-forward, so I tend to save the fancy orange-flavored liqueurs for cocktails where they can really shine.)

3) Don’t be afraid to put a favorite sipper into a margarita. I did my experiments (for the sake of cost and because I find it to be a decent base tequila for a house full of margarita-craving guests) using Kirkland Silver Tequila, which I bought for about $20 at Costco. But I also experimented with a few of my favorite sippers and some different ages. Just as these finely crafted tequilas offer you complex and unique flavors when you sip, these same characteristics shine through brilliantly in the frozen margaritas. Your tequila-loving friends will appreciate sharing this discovery (it is also a fun game to see if they can guess what tequila you used). One of my favorites was using Casa Noble Reposado in a frozen mango margarita—it was definitely a divine moment.

4) Sparkling lemonade/limeade adds pizzazz. I was hesitant to include this ingredient in the final recipe, but it was such a big hit, even though you don’t have to add very much. My theory is that the bubbles give it a lighter, more exciting texture that people find even more refreshing. I also think the carbonation may assist in a faster delivery of the effects of alcohol and sugar in the body and mind. I preferred to use sparkling lemonade and used the Trader Joe’s brand. I did not attempt any other similar or more widely available sparklers, but I suppose if you have rarely-used workout equipment or old appliances littering your front lawn, Sprite or its generic equivalent will probably be an acceptable substitution for you and your guests.

5) Feedback is not only welcome, but encouraged. My research and published findings are admittedly nonscientific and are in part biased, intended to spread the gospel and espouse the benefits of 100% agave tequila—even in a frozen margarita. I’m very curious for feedback from friends, brand reps, aficionados, mixologists, and the general public. Did you like it; did you hate it; can you offer suggested improvements; was there a fruit (or combination of fruits) that you really enjoy; etc.? If so, help us all on a journey of discovery by leaving a comment here or in the original article.

casa noble blanco, tequila, tequila aficionadocasa noble reposado, tequila, tequila aficionadocasa noble anejo, tequila, tequila aficionado

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A Taste of Tequila and Tamales by the Bay 2011

Highlights from A Taste of Tequila and Tamales by the Bay event in San Francisco and the Tequila Rocks! competition, sponsored by Casa Noble.

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Sipping Off The Cuff – Grand Mayan Tequila Ultra Aged

Alexander Perez and Mike Morales of Tequila Aficionado.com take their audiance through a tasting of the very special Grand Mayan Tequila Ultra Aged. Good things do come in small packages…

Grand Mayan

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