Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Here is a re-run/repeat/re-tweet/encore presentation:
Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated in Mexico, not the Mexican Independence day or even a day or date of much significance, it is kind of like our President’s Day (if that). It is the battle where Mexico defeated the French army, or, to quote Jay Leno, “that is like saying you beat Sarah Palin at Jeopardy” (for those of you not from these cultures, that basically means not really worth bragging about unless you just like to drop names).
Even still, its the one day where we can enjoy another culture because its driven by many American marketers, and I really don’t mind this campaign. Why not enjoy Mexican food? Its more than tacos, rice and beans. Rick Bayless (www.rickbayless.com) has successful restaurants and PBS and Television programs which bring us back to authentic Mexican cuisine and cooking. What we forget is getting back to our roots (no matter where we are from) and we fail to recognize its all the simplicity of common foods, cooking and people is how we have lost our ways and settled for frozen food, fast foods, prepared meals and just going to a local “upscale” fast food chain like, you know, anything with a semi-mexican or southwest name. Its fine to dine out. But you know rice and beans have to be the cheapest and easiest things on Earth to cook next to pasta?
Chipotle is a chain, but by far the most healthiest and freshest I have seen (www.chipotle.com). Maybe I don’t get out enough, or don’t see enough healthy chain places, but anywhere where you can go and see the food made fresh in front of you is a plus. Additionally, they ask you what you want or don’t want in it. For example, no, I don’t want sour cream AND cheese in my burrito. Guacamole? Sure, on the side. You can knock the chain Subway all you like, but fact is, you control what kind of bread it goes on (whole wheat, grain, etc) and you control what goes in it unlike some places that automatically slap on a slice of processed cheese, mayonnaise, and any other thing that you might not like and/or might not be healthy. These places are not the answer to everything, but it is a step in the right direction to eating better and healthier if you MUST order in or need food in a hurry.
Back to the celebration at hand. Tequila has come so far since the previous century. We have rock stars making tequila and we have everyone cashing in on this now. Go to the liquor store, you will see a dozen brands from the old Cuervo to the new “artisanal” brands. There are your 3 basic types of Tequila: Silver (white); Reposad0 (aged in oak, light tan) and of course Anejo (dark) which is aged far longer and is the most flavorful. Silver is best for mixing, although, you can experiment and use silver and aged for a more complex taste. And, while some may say Anejo is best to drink straight, you can always chill it or follow up with a squeeze of lime. Purists say no, but it all depends on what you like. One thing is for sure, don’t always go by color. You can easily find a very dark tequila that almost looks like dark rum, but remember, it probably has food coloring added. Compare that bargain brand with a top selling brand in a clear bottle that is no where same in color but actually much lighter. You will see its a bit more expensive also.
Speaking of price, look at the prices, tequila once cheap, is no longer inexpensive. This is partially due in part from the fact that authentic tequila comes from 100% Agave and imported from Mexico (all imports carry a higher tax/tariff) but of course you also have the marketers driving up the price for higher profit. I happen to notice one brand by a popular American rocker carries a higher price than the best of the best. Again, marketing. Its not that the “celebrity” brand is bad, but it does not justify the $10 more per bottle over the best tasting/most reputable brand that is already expensive at $40. Really? $40 for a bottle of tequila? Wow, they are making a business of this like scotch, even vodka rarely gets over $40 per bottle unless backed by a celebrity. We know authentic Single Malt Small Batch Whiskey can be $120/bottle, but most of us are not going to spend that kind of money. If you are a causal tequila drinker, you don’t have to go for the discounted brand, but consider the SMALLER distilleries that are mid-range and offer a great product that is better than generic and even often better than “premium”. Granted, once they gain success, their price will increase, but as with anything (wine or whatever) if you experiment and find a gem, buy a case of it and save it for special occasions.
The same holds true for almost anything. Recently a major producer of Sour Apple Snapps changed their label (and formula) and it tastes like garbage. I sent an email with no response. I simply won’t buy that anymore because it is in fact that bad. So I move on to others, and now I know, if I love it, I should buy a case of it, because in today’s world, brand name does not mean as much and they can change the formula and taste at any time. So, better to buy it cheap, save it, so in a year from now when it costs double and the quality is half, you have a good amount for special occasions. Again, this goes for wine, or anything like this. In fact, I wish there was a way to freeze frozen Celentano frozen pizzas from the 1980s (yes I know that is a redundant use of terms), but no frozen pizza can stand up to that Celentano pizza. That small town Jersey company was bought out, sold to a bigger company, ruined then re-marketed under a new name. I know frozen foods won’t last 10+ years, but how I miss the taste of that pizza, even over some fresh pizza today since so many have lost their ways. Forget the “best” frozen pizza today, there is none, its ALL cardboard as far as I am concerned.
Ok, back to Cinco de Mayo: Enjoy some simple foods and a “flight” of tequila, perhaps 3 brands/varieties; drink with Mexican beer as a chaser, and decide what you like: silver, aged or anejo (really really aged). Sure, $50-75 might be a lot to spend on 3 bottles of tequila, but if you like it… there is an answer – juice from one fresh lime over ice will make that double shot of tequila very enjoyable. Add a splash of orange liquor or juice and your guests will enjoy the best margarita they have ever had over what the Texmex chains are serving from a pre-mixed vat of sweet and sour mix.