2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival: Mexico Tequila Tastings plus Lunch Review

I was luckily enough (meaning I was on the phone for almost 2 hours getting a reservation for a month or so before…) while down for Food and Wine to get into the Mexico Tequila Tastings plus Lunch on Oct 8th. This is new this year after the success of the Tequila tastings of the last few years (a good review over at Disney Food Blog).  It takes the tasting and kicks it up a notch by pairing some of La Cantina and La Hacienda’s menu items with different tequilas, for only $20 more.


The session started out lovely.  We arrived early (thanks to the storm and some time confusion), and we were promptly presented with our “Welcome Margaritas”.  These were Rose Margaritas with a rose petal and rimmed with a spicy salt/sugar mixture. Sadly we were only supposed to have one, but due to not completely sold out, we were able to get one more.  It was very light and sweet.  A good palette cleanser before starting the meal.  The rose was completely organic and was edible. The balance between the orange and rose flavors was very well done. Not too alcoholic, but as Hilda (our tequila guide) soon would say, a few of these would make anyone very happy.

The seating itself was nicely laid out.  As I mentioned, we arrived early (about 30 min or so) so we’re told many times not to touch anything before we started. Sitting in front of all the glasses of tequila was difficult, but the margarita helped. We spent the time getting to know our new tequila neighbors, and sniffing (but not touching) the tequilas.

The event was hosted by Hilda Castillo, Mexico pavilion’s Tequila ambassador.  She host this, as well as all of Mexico’s Tequila events during food and wine. Handling the food portion of the meal is the Mexico pavilion’s head chef Ernesto Zendejas.

Before we started Hilda went over how to enjoy the Tequila.  First you should notice the color.  It will range from clear (typically blancos) to golden in color.  Next is smelling it three different ways.  I was a bit leery in needing to smell it three different ways but each way definitely highlights different parts of the tequila.

First is smelling the rim, holding the glass straight up.  This accentuates the main overtones of the tequila.  Supplied to help out with the sweet overtones was a selection of different objects to help point out what each tequila should smell like.  Next is sticking your nose right in the glass which gives you the smoothness (or not so smoothness) of the tequila.  Last you tilt the glass toward you and smell the top of the glass, which gives you the after-tones or spicy/sweet accents of the drink.

Then there is how to taste tequila. First you take a small sip, place it on your tongue and hold it there for 4 seconds.  Then you swish it around and swallow to get the finish. She was very specific to do it this way and repeated this each time we did a tasting.

Ceviche Verde paired with Milagro Select Barrel Silver Tequila
“Scallops marinated in salsa verge, served with avocado and crispy shredded carrot.”

The Tequila - the First tequila was a blanco.  This means it was aged in barrels between 1 day and 2 months.  While smelling the overtones of citrus were very apparent, however sticking ones nose into this glass I don’t recommend.  The hard smell of alcohol was very hard on the nose.  This was also the hardest to try to “taste” as it isn’t really meant to be drunk that way.  Blancos are typical for shooting and mixing.  It should be noted I’m not a huge tequila fan, not liking what I’ve dubbed the “ashtray aftertaste” flavor that is in many tequilas, and as such typically prefer balncos… but this wasn’t one of them.
The Food - This was probably my favorite of the dishes.  The scallop just melted in my mouth, and was very fresh.  The crunchy fried carrot shreds added a nice bit of texture, although I could have done without it.  My only complaint was this was the appetizer of the tasting, and not the main course.  I could have eaten a large bowl of this.  I search all three menus, and although Ernesto said all these items were available in the restaurants, I couldn’t find this.  I’m not sure if perhaps it’s a new item, but would love to try a larger serving of this.
The Pairing - The acidic nature of the ceviche paired very well and mellowed the alcohol from the tequila.  It brought up the “spiciness” of the scallops a couple notches and noticed that a lot of people didn’t finish the glass.

Sope de Chilorio and Empanada paired with Centenario Reposado Tequila
“Chile ancho marinated shredded pork and black beans over a sope.  Empanada stuffed with traditional Mexican cheese, topped with cream and salsa verde”

The Tequila - The second tequila was silver, or “Reposado”.  Silver tequilas are aged in barrels between 2 months and a year. This was much easier on the nose.  It had overtones of cinnamon and was much smoother in both smell and taste.  It seemed to be a bit smoky without the harshness of the previous tequila.
The Food - Since there was two items, we were instructed to start with the empanada.  The empanadas in EPCOT are quite light and airy and this was no exception.  The cream sauce on top helped added an additional moistness to the dish.  The salsa verde mentioned… I didn’t notice.  I’m not sure if they were rushed in getting the food out and just forgot it, or if it was a typo.  After eating the light empanada I expect the same lightness from the sope, but it’s a much tougher pastry.  The shredded pork on top was lightly smoky and moist.  The sope acted more as an edible delivery, than flavorful in its own right.  Still quite tasty overall.
The Pairing - The smoother oaky flavor of the tequila paired nicely with both the dishes, but in different ways.  The empanada, being much cleaner, lighter flavor tended to mellow out the tequila, while the sope being heartier seemed to pull more flavors out of the drink.  While the empanada seemed to be something you alternate with, the pork and tequila almost seemed to linger and meld with each other.

Grilled Tilapia and Pork in Mole Negro paired with Chinaco Añejo Tequila
“Adobo marinated tilapia over grilled vegetables.  Pork with home-made mole negro sauce over esquites (roasted corn)”

The Tequila - This was the smoothest of the three drinks, coming from the fact it’s aged or “Anejo”.  This means it was in barrels for 1-3 years typically. It had almost a milky smooth smell to it and was much easier on the tongue.
The Food - This was the “main course” of the tasting.  I’m not much of a cooked fish guy but this was fairly good. The fish wasn’t over cooked, and had a good flavor range. The squash it was over was still slightly crunchy and fresh.  Technically the pork is the “Puerco en Salsa de Mole Negro” that’s offered over at de San Angel. was pretty tender and the mole sauce was very mild and the sweet corn helped round it out.  However unlike the previous items, I don’t think I’d order either of these on their own.
The Pairing - This was the pairing I had the hardest melding together.  I understand that the tequila was more smoky and flavorful, but the meatiness and flavors didn’t meld well for me.  After a few sips with each item I ended up eating and drinking separately.

Tamal de Dulce paired with Agavero Tequila Liquor
“Sweet tamal dilled with guava, topped with strawberry coulis”

The Tequila - I wasn’t aware tequila existed in this form.  This is tequila that has been augmented with agave syrup after it ferments.  It was very sweet and smooth.  We didn’t really do the full “sniff and taste” method with this, as it was served in a shot glass, but this was hands down my favorite of the 4 “straight tequilas”.
The Food - I’ve had tamals before… but never a sweet one.  It almost reminded me of a moist churro with strawberry sauce.  It was surprising light and refreshing for such a bready desert.
The Pairing - Sweet and sweeter.  Was like drinking the tamal and then eating the tequila.  Both drinking were so sweet they blended completely into each other and started to be indistinguishable with each other.  I’m not sure if this was the intended result of the pairing, but you could have just made the desert with the tequila and I wouldn’t have noticed any difference.

We also were given a rather unique sangrita recipe at the end, and figured I’d share it with you here:

Sangrita Recipe (makes 1 gallon)

  • 24oz Tomato Juice
  • 6 Serrano Pepper (very fine chopped)
  • 1/2 red onion (very fine chopped)
  • 17 Mint Leaves (very fine chopped)
  • 7 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • 7 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice
  • 7 oz Fresh Orange Juice
  • 3 oz Agave Nectar
  • Salt

Mix all the ingredients together and shake well.

Overall this was quite enjoyable.  If you want to learn about tequila it seems the information imparted by Hilda is the same at both event, based on what I can find.  We headed by the bar before hand, and she seemed to be saying a lot of things that we heard later.  The venue in the Hacienda seemed to work better than the small crowded Cava del Tequila bar.

If you’re a tequila person, it’s definitely worth the extra $20 over the straight tequila tastings.  If you would like to try tequila, but aren’t a tequila person, I’d also so this is the way to go, as even if you don’t end up liking the tequilas, you have a great meal.   The only downside is that it’s only offered on Saturdays and Sundays, so it’s a bit harder to get into than many of the other events.  Most people won’t be down there for more than 1 or 2 weekends (if you’re lucky) so getting a space may be difficult. Might be a bit late to make a reservation, but definitely worth it if you can (407-WDW-FEST). 

 

Edit 10/27/11 – DisneyFood Blog just released their own review of this event from the first Tequila tasting on Oct 2nd.  Check it out!

 

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About Tasel

Sometimes writer on things technology, Disney and food.
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