Sharing events with friends is always more fun. Our friends Al and Judy were here for the weekend with Al’s “Big Sis”. So for this lunch we had a fantastic time and got to do more than just focus on the food – we got to share with friends. We’ve already been talking with Al about doing more Food & Wine special events with them next year and we so hope they can come several times! We are guessing that Judy will have no objections… Now on to the event.
Welcome Rose Margarita
El Mayor premium silver tequila, orange liqueur, fresh lime juice, and rose infusions with a hibiscus Himalayan salt rim
We first sampled this margarita during La Hacienda’s soft opening last September. We enjoyed it then, we’ve enjoyed it since that afternoon, and we certainly enjoyed it as we waited for the lunch to begin (Big Sis wasn’t really fond of her’s, so Al got to have two!)
Tequila Lessons from Hilda Castillo
Hilda is the go to instructor for tequila tasting at Disney World. She’s originally from Tequila, Mexico. She has been at the Mexico Pavilion for 3 years now, she was instrumental in selecting the tequilas and getting La Cava del Tequila up and functional. Before that, she spent over 6 years working with the Jose Cuervo distillery. When she first arrived here, she had only been taking english lessons for seven months; her manager told her to just say “yes” to everything – maybe that’s why Hilda is so responsive and attentive to guests at WDW. She really enjoys what she does and it brings her much happiness. She made it a point to say thank you to the guests that have discovered her and follow her. Nora and Nick attended the tequila lesson at La Cava del Tequila last year during the Food & Wine Festival. Plus we talked with Hilda during the opening of La Hacienda de San Angel last fall. Hilda was giving away margarita samples and seeking feedback – we certainly gave ours!
There were three things that she wants from us…
- enjoy everything
Hilda promised to take us step-by-step through the tequila tasting and after three tequilas “you won’t remember my name” and “you will speak spanish.” There were three representative aromas on the table: lime, cinnamon, and coffee beans (one for each of the tequilas in our glasses).
Tequila comes from the agave plant (for full details from the Tequila Tasting we did last October, go here). There are basically two kinds of tequila: 100% blue agave tequila and blends that incorporate agave sugar. Silver tequila is barreled for 1 day to 2 months. Reposado (“rested”) tequila is barreled for 2 to 12 months. Anejo (“aged) tequila is barreled for longer than 12 months, usually at least 2 years.
When you’re tasting tequila (as opposed to drinking tequila), there are four characteristics to focus on…
- color – is it clear? straw colored? golden? deep amber? more brown than golden?
- body – look at the “legs” or “tears”, to see these you gently swirl the tequila in the glass; thin and quick tears mean that there is less sugar in the tequila and it is less viscous; thick and slow tears mean that there is more sugar (nora says “and less free water”) and it is more viscous
- aroma – you smell tequila from three positions of the glass and you want to really get your nose in there, inhale with your mouth slightly open; front rim will show you the citrus and agave notes (vegetation), the center of the glass shows you the alcohol, and the back rim lets you find the barrel notes
- taste – to taste tequila, take a bit in your mouth, hold it on your tongue for four seconds, the move from side to side using your tongue, swallow, exhale through an open mouth – what do you taste?
Hilda gets to take her turn first and we’re to watch and learn and then taste our tequilas.
Chef Ernesto Zendejas, the head chef at La Hacienda, was there to explain his role in preparing the pairings and to make sure that we enjoyed the food. We had problems with no food explanations at most events last year. Chef Ernesto did not disappoint. He came out with every course and explained the dishes and answered questions. This event was done very, very well!
In addition to Chef Ernesto and Hilda, Christina was also there to make sure everyone was taken care of. Christina is the manager for La Hacienda de San Angel. Christina kept the wait staff flowing and jumped in to help when anything got the least bit backed up (like clearing plates). This too impressed me greatly. I cannot say enough times what a great job everyone did during this tasting! At the end Christina passed out business cards and offered to help any of us with reservations or special needs when we visit their restaurant. That is service!
Ceviche Verde paired with Milagro Select Barrel Silver Tequila
Scallops marinated in salsa verde, served with avocado and crispy shredded carrot.
Al doesn’t eat shellfish, not an allergy per se, but it makes him violently ill. Even though Al didn’t want to disrupt the tasting, nick got Chef Ernesto’s attention after the intros and we had our menus. Chef Ernesto made a quick retreat to the kitchen and when we were all served ceviche, the chef personally delivered pork botanas to Al. (Note: we haven’t see these on a regular menu and suspect that they’re an amalgamation of the chicken botana on the menu and the shredded pork in our second appetizer course.)
Nearly every ingredient in the ceviche verde was green – the typical ingredients are lime juice, cilantro, mint, tomatillos, jalapeño, oregano, basil, parsley, garlic, and scallops. The unanimous verdict with our group was excellent, very yummy, wow!, and too bad we didn’t get a big bowl of this. The scallops were very tender and flavorful, the sauce was tart and tangy.
This item is not on the menu at La Hacienda, the manager of La Hacienda, Christina, said that she’s asked the chef to put it on the menu but that there’s a lot of preparation involved and chef isn’t ready to do that yet.
- color = crystal clear
- body = some tears but it’s not very viscous
- aroma 1 = very crisp and harsh, aroma 2 = loads of alcohol, aroma 3 = some citrus
- taste 1 without food = pretty much blow your doors off, nora is the only one is our group that REALLY likes tequila as if it were a whisky and this was too kabow for everyone, including her.
- taste 2 with food = now the citrus and tartness of the tequila is more noticeable, the pairing works, but it didn’t make any of us fans of silver tequila
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 Sope de Chilorio was very tasty and it’s a favorite of nora & nick. All of us enjoyed the pork filling and we all found the “sope” to be difficult to cut and too large for a single mouthful. Now that nora has looked up what a “sope” is (wikipedia) – it makes sense that it’s not easy to cut through with the side of a fork or with what’s basically a butter knife. The pork filling had a nice smokey flavor and was very moist.
The Empanada was a particular hit with Al and Big Sis, however we all enjoyed it. Most of us are suckers for anything cheesy, and this empanada doesn’t disappoint on that front.
- this particular reposado is aged for 8 months in the barrel
- color = straw or slightly yellow
- body = more viscosity than the silver
- aroma 1 = cinnamon, vanilla, caramel; aroma 2 = slight alcohol, but mostly it’s much richer and more pleasant; aroma 3 = more woody tones
- taste 1 without food = very pleasant, we knew going in that nora and nick preferred reposado tequilas and so we kept quiet, hoping to let Al, Judy, and Big Sis make up their own minds; they agreed that this was much more pleasant
- taste 2 with food = the smokiness of the pork went very well with this tequila, the slight alcohol tastes were toned down by the richness and fattiness of the pork; the richness of the cheese empanada went very well with the smoothness of the tequila, the flavors of each altered slightly when together becoming more pleasant
Grilled Tilapia and Pork in Mole Negro paired with Chinaco Añejo Tequila
Grilled Tilapia was a surprise for us all. Al doesn’t really like fish (remember, he doesn’t eat shellfish and that often extends to all fish), nora and nick have never really liked tilapia, Big Sis lives in the panhandle of Florida and has come across quite a few fish that she doesn’t like, and Judy hasn’t really eaten much tilapia (probably because nora keeps telling her it tastes like mud :)).
Pork in Mole Negro was very good, the mole negro is like a chocolate gravy. Nick was very pleased that the pork wasn’t over-salted this time (remember we had it the first time we ate at La Hacienda, Andy had the pork a few weeks ago and didn’t say anything about it being over-salted, perhaps our first meal was a fluke or was while the kitchen was still ironing out the kinks?).
- color = much darker
- body = much higher viscosity
- aroma 1 = coffee and sweet, aroma 2 = much much less alcohol, aroma 3 = oak
- taste 1 without food = all of us got a huge taste of black pepper, Al says that they’re getting better
- taste 2 with food = this married well with the pork, in fact it tasted a bit piney to nora; the tilapia didn’t go very well with this tequila
- overall, the group agreed that we prefer the reposado; the añejo in some ways is very much like a heavily oaked scotch – too strong for our palates
Tamal de Dulce paired with Agavero Tequila Liqueur
Sweet tamale filled with guava, topped with strawberry coulis
- Tamal de Dulce – the tamale is made with masa and sweetened condensed milk
- with each bite, it improved – the texture and the flavors are a bit unfamiliar to the american palate
- funny exchange… Al asked nora “isn’t guava bat poo?”, nora replied “no, that’s guano!” then of course she continued by telling him that bird poo is also called guano
- we didn’t go through the whole looking, observing, and smelling with this one
- Al liked it so much he drank his and someone else’s – luckily, Hilda came around with refills!
Other information and Wrapping it all up
We had found a few other reviews on the internet and were not expecting this to last as long as it did. One review at allearsnet (here) felt as though the presentation had been rushed and that it was quite a bit of tequila in a short time (they finished in less than an hour). Nora isn’t sure but it may be that this was the event that occurred right before a touringplans.com meet, there was another review of the Tequila Lunch that mentioned the meet (here). There was also a report on easywdw.com, buried in a long post about the Epcot Food & Wine Festival (here), that occurred the next week and nora didn’t see similar concerns about the pacing of the event.
There is a single mixologist located in New York that develops all of the different margarita recipes at the Mexico Pavilion. There are different margaritas found at each location (San Angel Inn, La Hacienda San Angel, and La Cava del Tequila)
If you like to do tequila shots, Hilda explained the “real way” to do that…
- salt to open the palate
- sangrita – and we were given a recipe for sangrita, turns out that it’s also a hangover cure and makes a wicked bloody margarita (as opposed to a blood mary)
Sangrita Recipe (makes 1 gallon)
mix all ingredients together and shake well
- 24 oz tomato juice
- 6 serrano peppers (very finely chopped)
- 1/2 red onion (very finely chopped)
- 17 mint leaves (very finely chopped)
- 7 oz fresh lime juice
- 7 oz fresh grapefruit juice
- 7 oz fresh orange juice
- 3 oz agave nectar
- salt to taste
The big questions
- Was the experience worth the price? – Yes. Most definitely. We all had a very good time, even those of us who were either hungover or who thought they didn’t like tequila. Both Al and Judy said they’d do it again.
- Did we feel rushed or hurried? – No. Perhaps the meet screwed up the timing for the first Tequila Lunch or perhaps they were still working out the kinks. Our dessert course was served at 2:10 and we were permitted to enjoy it slowly.
- Was it weird to sit with strangers? – No. There were five other people at our table. Nora did ask one man attending by himself if he minded moving to the other end of the table so that we could all sit together (funny that a Cast Member didn’t do that for us, the CM suggested that we ask the man if he minded moving). Quite a few of the Food and Wine Events (things you reserve and pay extra for) require that you share table space, so no problems.
- Did we learn a lot? – Yes.
- Did we feel like the food was adequate for the alcohol served? – Yes. We all left feeling completely full and satisfied with the food.
- Final Thoughts – Hilda is doing a wonderful job leading the lessons on tequila and teaching that tequila is a spirit that deserves more thought and accommodation than simply drinking syrupy margaritas and shooting back shots with salt and limes. The food was much better than nick or nora expected and we continue to be excited and happy at the prospect of more meals at La Hacienda (and that’s a pretty huge feat considering our food tastes and our overall grumpiness about foodies and food at Disney World). This is one of the best events we have attended at the Food & Wine festival. Maybe sharing the experience with Al, Judy and “Big Sis” helped make it so great!