On October 2, I attended the Mexico Tequila Lunch at La Hacienda de San Angel, the newest restaurant in the Mexico pavilion. This is a new event for the 2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival.
When I arrived, there was a check-in desk outside La Hacienda where cast members cross guests’ names off of a master list when they arrive. Guests are then sent inside to the restaurant’s foyer. Servers were waiting there to hand out the “welcome” margarita!
The Rosa margarita is made with premium silver tequila, and one of the ingredients is “rose extract,” which gives it a little bit of a flowery note, but not too much. The rim was decorated with red hibiscus salt.
There are no assigned tables here, you’ll seat yourself. I sat at a long table with a number of other guests. One of the few negatives I found about the event was the lack of room at this table. At least at the rectangular tables, the guests were seated closer together and all of the glasses for the tasting were already on the table, with the correct amounts poured, plus a small bottle of water for palate cleansing.
According to our first presenter, Hilda Castillo — the Mexico pavilion’s Tequila Ambassador, the glasses used for tequila are not champagne flutes. These are glasses designed for sniffing and sipping tequila. We were not expected to be throwing down shots here! But there were so many glasses and things on the table that my friend knocked one over while trying to take a photograph. No matter, a new glassful was provided straightaway.
Hilda starts off by explaining to us what tequila is — for example, to be tequila, the drink must use blue agave and must come from certain Mexican states. She also explained the difference between tequila and its cousin, mezcal.
This is essentially the same presentation you get when you book the Tequila Tasting over at La Cava del Tequila. But there is an extra component to this tasting, and it’s called LUNCH. So Hilda introduced Chef Ernesto, who was providing the dishes for us to sample that day.
Each dish served had a corresponding tequila. There was also a tequila liqueur that went with dessert. The first order of business was to learn about the types of tequila, then we got to eat the food. There are three types of tequila discussed: blanco (silver), reposado (rested), and anejo (aged). The amount of time the tequila is aged, not surprisingly, determines its type.
Hilda introduced the blanco first, and we were to use an “olfactory aid” to bring out the aromatic character of each tequila. For the blanco, we had a curl of lime peel. The tequila smelled a bit different if you sniffed it after sniffing the lime, and if you sniffed the glass from different angles. Hilda asked us to taste the tequila by itself first. Probably because this is the least aged tequila, it is the one with the most “burn” going down.
Then Chef Ernesto served us the first food course: Ceviche Verde (Green Ceviche). This dish consisted of scallops marinated in a salsa verde (tomatillo, avocado and lime juice). It was served with crispy shredded carrot for garnish, and a little spicy salt.
We are asked to try the blanco tequila with this dish. It was surprising how different the tequila tastes when accompanied by the food; the burn is pretty much quenched and the tequila has a different character altogether.
In preparation for the second course, we sniffed some cinnamon sticks along with the reposado tequila (aged from 2 months to 1 year). The reposado was much smoother than the blanco. The second course to go with it was Sope de Chilorio and Empanada.
The empanada (on the left) was filled with Mexican cheese, and was still warm. The sope (in kind of a bread bowl) contained ancho marinated shredded pork and black beans. We were instructed to try these with the reposado. It wasn’t as dramatic a difference as the blanco was when tasted with food, but a bit of a different character was brought out in the tequila anyway.
Next, we moved on to the Anejo tequila (aged one year or more), with which we were given coffee beans to sniff. Hilda also showed us a unique way to get our tongues to pick up the taste. She had us note the difference in color and flavor between the reposado and the anejo.
With the anejo, Chef Ernesto presented us with a dish of Grilled Tilapia and Pork in Mole Negro.
The tilapia, on the left, was marinated in adobo chile and served over grilled vegetables; the pork with mole negro sauce (which has a hint of chocolate) was served with roasted corn (esquites). The corn had a bit of a bite to it, so there must have been chiles involved there too.
I would note that although chile marinades are prevalent in these dishes, ancho is a mild chile. If you’re like me and are hoping for a bit of spice, you won’t find a jalapeno or serrano anywhere in sight. I did ask Chef Ernesto for something to kick it up with, and he did provide a bowl of chile paste. At any rate, these were the best dishes of the meal. I loved the tilapia, and the pork mole was tasty.
For dessert, we had the Tamal de Dulche, a corn tamale filled with guava and pretty much drowned in very sweet strawberry sauce. I have to admit I scraped most of it off, it was just way too sweet. With the tamale came a shot of Agavero Tequila Liqueur. This is a blend of tequilas infused with a sweet flower called damiana. This is a very good tequila for people who don’t like tequila, and for people who just like dessert.
All in all this is a really nice event, and well worth the $65 price tag (the tequila tasting at La Cava, with the same three tequila types and not nearly as much food, is $45). Look at all you get –- three tequilas, a liqueur, and a full-size margarita – and that’s just the beverages. The food is quite good also.
Hilda said they will be featuring the same menu at all the Tequila Lunches, so what you see is apparently what you’ll get.
While Hilda is extremely knowledgeable and knows her tequilas, she seemed to power through the tasting part. I don’t recall being able to finish a course before we were being asked to taste the next tequila. The whole thing was over in about an hour, and an hour and a half is allowed via the published schedule; so we finished up in record time for a Food and Wine Festival meal event.
Have you attended a Food and Wine Festival event this year? Let us know in the comments below!