Event: Tequila Paring Lunch EPCOT
Date: September 28, 2013
Time: 12:00pm - 1-30pm
Cost: $75/person (inc gratuity)
Booked: The morning reservations for the Food & Wine Festival events opened (in this case, August 13, 2013)
Noteworthy: I couldn't decide if I should capitalize the word tequila or not, so to be consistent, I did not. Dawn, please don't judge me too harshly if I was incorrect.
Also noteworthy: Jon hates tequila. Yep, this is what true love looks like.
We arrived at La Hacienda (located in the Mexico Pavillion) slightly before noon…and slightly perspiring. (I may be late for my own wedding (someday) but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be late for tequila!) We waited outside until they began checking people in at noon (and not a moment before - so for future reference, don't fuss with getting there early as they wouldn't let you in and you'll be left to stand in the considerable heat with relatively little shade whilst twiddling your thumbs and looking longingly over at the margarita stand). When it was our turn to be seated, we were greeted by the manager of La Hacienda, presented with our "welcome margarita" and escorted to our table. The welcome margarita was a Horchata margarita, made with Exotico 100% agave premium silver tequila, Horchata liquor, agave nectar, Agua de Horchata, Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey and topped with a dash of cinnamon. Quite refreshing, but a bit heavy; I noticed Jon and I were among only a handful of guests who finished their drink before the lunch began. (You wouldn't have expected anything less from us would you?)
Horchata Margarita - YUM!
A word of warning to the more "introverted" members of our community - this lunch has a very “communal” set up. The La Hacienda dining room is arranged with one long table down the center of the room with seating for approximately half of the attendees, while the other half are seated along the perimeter at smaller tables seating 4-6. Jon and I were seated at a table with two lovely women - one from Florida, and her visiting friend from North Carolina. We made polite conversation at first, more as the afternoon went on, and ultimately ended the afternoon with the woman on Jon’s side of the table throwing her arm around him and offering him her dessert tequila. He loved it! (But I bet if you’d have told him that was how it would go, he’d have caught the first bus over to Animal Kingdom and begged to be eaten by the lions instead.)
The view from our table...quite lovely!
Our Tequila Expert was Umberto Soto, and what an expert he was! Umberto is actually from Tequila, Mexico (there's our next vacation done!). He was infinitely knowledgeable and equally entertaining, he made his initial introductions and then began by saying, “We’re in Disney where everything is magical…so what better way to start than, ’Once upon a time in a magical town called Tequila…’”
Oh Umberto, you had me at “magical town called Tequila." He was very easy on the eyes, too.
As Umberto began educating us on tequila, I began fantasizing about being a Tequila Expert. What is that saying? Do something you love and you’ll never be sober a day in your life. Wait, what? No? Ok then. Here are some fun facts I do recall:
- Tequila is a protected "Denomination of Origin" product made in only 5 states in Mexico (sort of like Champagne, Cognac, or Kobe beef).
- The margarita is the country’s most popular cocktail.
- The U.S. consumes almost twice as much tequila as Mexico each year.
- The top 10 states for consumption of tequila are: California, Nevada, Texas, Florida, New York, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois and Ohio. I'll be working on growing the Connecticut sector throughout the new year.
There are two kinds of tequila -
- Agave, or "authentic" tequila (100% Blue Agave Tequila) - the kind of tequila you would probably sip from a rocks glass while pondering the deep questions of the universe.
- And, "other tequila” (51% blue agave and 49% other alcohol sources) - the kind of tequila you would probably slurp out of someone’s navel while singing La Bamba.
Allegedly, “authentic tequila” (100% blue agave) will not give you a hangover like “other tequila” will.
If you drink “authentic” tequila, it must say so on the label of the bottle. If you drink “other tequila” you should probably sew your name on the label of your underwear.
On to the food! (And more tequila!)
Course 1: Pulpo en Escabeche (marinated octopus with vinegar, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, cactus and hearts of palm) paired with Jose Cuervo Reserve Blanco.
Yes, I know that the menu lists the cilantro soup first, but they spelled cauliflower wrong on the very same menu for goodness sake...you don’t think a little thing like correct ordering is going to make them lose sleep, do you? Perhaps they’d been dipping into the “other” tequila…
Having just discovered octopus in recent years, I am still reluctant to try it in new places. I needn’t have worried; this was delicious. Tender and flavorful, this dish paired nicely with the bite and burn of the Blanco - this being my least favorite tequila.
Course 2: Crema de Cilantro (cilantro and serrano peppers creamy soup, served with toasted pine nuts) paired with Milagro Select Repasado.
I was a little worried about this course. The only thing Jon dislikes more than tequila is cilantro…so this is pretty much where I expected the entire meal to fall apart for him. I quickly ate mine, secretly relishing the thought that I’d be enjoying doubles of this course, and then turned my spoon to Jon’s uneaten bowl. Only it wasn’t uneaten. In fact, it was empty. Well, empty except for a surreptitious index finger sliding across the inside wall of the bowl trying to retrieve the final drops of creaminess. HEY! His tequila glass was empty, too! Had I finally converted him?!?
A lovely, light and creamy course, the soup was delicious, with just a tiny bite from the peppers! It’s also amazing how much smoother the Repasado is than the Blanco.
Short interlude to try the Mezcal…ah yes, tastes like "regret wrapped in a brown paper bag" - just as I remember it!
Course 3: Mar y Tierra (grilled filet mignon over roasted tomatoes, dry peppers, almonds and sesame seed sauce, marinated shrimp with guajillo peppers accompanied with a cactus leaf vinaigrette) paired with Gran Centenario Anejo.
I love Anejo tequila. It is, in my opinion, sip-worthy by itself, but paired with the filet and shrimp, it was unstoppable! Truly a divine dish. The steak was cooked to absolute perfection, and the dish itself was a visual masterpiece! Definitely my favorite course of the meal.
(continued in next post as I'm not allowed any more photos in this one....)