Kansas Is A Hotbed For Agave Spirits

[From September 11 to October 2, 2016, Tequila Aficionado Media, sponsored by 34 expressions representing 21 brands, embarked on a monumental RV road show dubbed, The Heartland Tour.  In these next passages, we recount the historic–and epic–highlights.  Felipe’s Mexican Restaurant provided us with no payment, but the food was well worth it!  *FTC Disclosure: Brands appearing on the Tequila Aficionado Dia de Los Muertos & Heartland Tour had to be vetted as Brand of Promise Nominees and paid a nominal fee to be on the tour.] 

Kansas Is A Hotbed For Agave Spirits http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4xc

Back To Felipe’s

Tequila Aficionado’s Heartland Tour started off with a bang from the get-go.

We had visited Felipe’s Mexican Restaurant in 2014, and fell in love with the food, the owners–the Lujano family–and their history as stalwart members of the Wichita business community for almost fifty years.

Once again, for the third year in a row, they have been voted Wichita’s Favorite Mexican restaurant by the Wichita Eagle newspaper.

Kansas Is A Hotbed For Agave Spirits http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4xc

Working Together

This time around, we made a special whistle-stop at Felipe’s to meet with Adam Clary, Craft Spirits Specialist for Standard Beverage Corporation, and several selected staff members.

Kansas Is A Hotbed For Agave Spirits http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4xcStandard Beverage Corporation, one of the more well respected distributors in Kansas, has a firm reputation of forging solid relationships with the customers they serve, including Felipe’s.

Felipe’s is known for their innovation in Mexican cuisine, and for a keen feeling for what will keep their customers coming back for more.

The Lujano family also has a deep love and affinity for all things agave, especially craft tequilas and mezcals that aren’t available in their home state.

Kansas:  A Hotbed For Agave Spirits

Our timing through Kansas during the Heartland Tour had the makings of an Agave Perfect Storm.Kansas Is A Hotbed For Agave Spirits http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4xc

We simply wheeled in our stash of agave goodness to share between Felipe’s lunch and dinner hours, and let everyone go to town.

Almost immediately, there were oohs and ahhs from both camps.

The Lujano family and the Standard Beverage staff acted like catadores who had just spent the entire day blind judging tequilas for a serious competition, and then cut loose on their favorites during the after party.

Kansas Is A Hotbed For Agave Spirits http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4xc

Knowing that Adam had a great appreciation for craft spirits in general, I still anticipated that I would need to translate some of the nuances of agave to some of the attendees.

I expected that most would gravitate to the aged expressions that we had laid out for them, especially considering we were touring through a part of the country that is heavily influenced by darker spirits, namely bourbon and whisky.

Surprise, surprise!

Such was not the case.

Kansas Is A Hotbed For Agave Spirits http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4xcIn an astonishing move, the group made a beeline for every unaged expression belonging to our sponsoring brands.

Tasting the Goods

On a personal note, whenever I participate in tastings or demonstrations, I search for specific clues from the audience to alert me to whether I’m dealing with a well-informed crowd or a roomful of newbies.

Usually, it’s a cross section of both.

Unlike public tastings and dinner events we’ve conducted in the past, or staff training at restaurants or distributors, no instruction was necessary for the chosen and invited staff of Standard Beverage.Kansas Is A Hotbed For Agave Spirits http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4xc

Any tequilero or mezcalero worth his or her worm salt will tell you that the character and integrity of their brand can be measured by the quality of their unaged expression.  Most will never shy away from a chance to pit just their blanco tequila or joven mezcal against any other competing brand.

The folks of Standard Beverage understood this.

Without exception, each staff member followed Adam Clary’s lead in sampling the unaged versions of our sponsoring brands, first.  Only when they were satisfied with what they were experiencing from each tequila or mezcal did they proceed in sampling the rest of the lines.

Kansas Is A Hotbed For Agave Spirits http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4xc

The effort it takes to understand agave spirits, especially in a region where it is not the average go-to sip, is a quality sorely missing from small-to-medium distribution houses these days.

It’s a testament to the training received by the staff and management of Standard Beverage, and to the courage and enthusiasm displayed by the Lujano family by asking for and acquiring more and better agave spirits.

It was such a joy, and a relief, to simply share stellar agave spirits as one would do with family and friends.

Isn’t that what it’s all about, any way?

Kansas Is A Hotbed For Agave Spirits http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4xc

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Felipe’s Mexican Restaurant–It’s In The Blood

2014-08-22 19.57.43Felipe’s Mexican Restaurant’s humble beginning exemplifies the meaning of the Latino American Dream. 

Voted a Reader’s Choice award for Best Mexican Restaurant in 2014 by the Wichita Eagle, the family owned chain has been in business for nearly 50 years pioneering its style of Mexican cuisine and feeding generations of families in Wichita, Kansas. 

On a bustling and muggy Friday night in late August 2014, Tequila Aficionado Media was invited to meet with the proprietors of Felipe’s, the Lujano family, at the northeast Wichita location of their four venues.  

Family Is Everything

Felipe's logo.

 2014-08-22 20.59.43It is the family patriarch, Don Roberto Lujano, who captures all the attention.

Strolling through the clean and brightly decorated restaurant, Don Roberto, brother of the deceased Felipe for whom the restaurants are named, visits every table to shake hands with his regulars.  He responds with a wide grin and a kind word as people of every race, creed and color call him Papa.2014-08-22 20.58.13

In the next two clips, Don Roberto’s son, Miguel Lujano, manager of the northeast restaurant on Woodlawn Blvd., recounts Felipe’s vast history as the first establishment to introduce Mexican cuisine to Wichita in 1967.

Think You’ve Tasted It All?

I’ve ingested just about every single style of Mexican food.  From glitzy chain restaurants with signature tropical fruit-based tequila drinks, to hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop diners that serve handmade tortillas and guacamole, I truthfully thought I had tasted it all.

2014-08-22 20.20.01

Not the usual “gringofied” spicy Mexican food that is served in the corporate-owned eateries, Felipe’s relies heavily on a medley of traditional herbs, spices, and heirloom family recipes.  Still, they are not without its own unique cuisine challenges as Miguel Lujano explains…

Mild vs. Hot 

2014-08-22 21.12.04With the influx of more Mexican and Mexican Americans into Wichita establishing diners of their own, Felipe’s continues to find ways to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack.

Noting that their customer base is trending toward more spicy hot ingredients, the Lujano family has taken advantage of this turnabout by adding some picante to their signature dishes.  Don Roberto Lujano and his wife, Maria Teresa, still cook in the kitchen with most dishes made from scratch.

And in a state whose liquor is controlled (state run), the task of obtaining more authentic tequilas for Felipe’s emblematic cocktails can be even more challenging, especially when competing restaurants plagiarize them for their own menus.  The secret, Miguel Lujano insists, is educating their customers.

Maestro Dobel Special Edition
Maestro Dobel Special Edition
Felipe's Special Edition selection.
Felipe’s Special Edition selection.

Miguel admitted that it also helps to be friendly with representatives from Glazer’s and Standard Beverage Corporation, liquor distributors who share his passion for tequila.  Through his relationships, Felipe’s has been able to acquire such sought after tequilas as Suerte, Siete Leguas, Demetrio, George Clooney’s Casamigos, and participate in Maestro Dobel’s Special Edition program.

2014-08-22 22.53.24

 

Craving Felipe’s

Here, Miguel Lujano explains how Felipe’s is so artful at getting their customers to crave their cooking and cocktails.

Three Keys To Success

Miguel Lujano shares his father’s three keys to a successful Mexican restaurant.

In The Blood

In a city that has seen its Hispanic population boom from a scattering few in 1967 to close to 60,000 strong in 2014, Felipe’s has actively enticed the unpredictable tastes of its community over the decades.  But, what keeps the Lujano family passionately pushing the limits of their traditional fare?

Simply put–

It’s in their blood.

***

Enjoy this Felipe’s signature recipe for homemade sangrita…

Felipe's signature recipe for homemade sangrita.
Felipe’s signature recipe for homemade sangrita.

 

2014-08-22 22.26.35
and Miguel’s signature Margarita.

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Salud!!