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Tequila tasting at Wahaca Soho

On Wednesday night we hosted the second of our tequila tastings in Soho, with the aim of selecting a new range of special guest tequilas to put on our bar list over the next year.

Since opening Wahaca, we knew we had a job to do when it came to tequila in the UK. It is such a misunderstood drink here, and there’s good reason for that – The prominence of low quality tequilas that leave you with a burning throat and a lingering feeling of regret has done huge damage to its reputation as a quality spirit. So we pledged to only stock tequilas that were of superior quality, 100% agave, and that had passed our own taste test. Move forward 4 years and we’ve got a list of tequilas that we’re really happy with, and we are developing this pledge further. We have been working with the Mexican Tequila Board to search out tequilas that are not available outside of North America. Tequilas that have been made with quality in mind, rather than mass production. The kind of tequilas that are sipped by those that really know what they are talking about. Our aim is to not only be able to offer these tequilas to you, but also to give these smaller suppliers the opportunity to give their products international recognition for the first time.

The Mexican Tequila Board very kindly sent us an early Christmas present of around 35 bottles of just such tequilas. None of which are available outside Mexico, none of which we had tasted before, and all of which sounded like they would be welcome additions to our bar list. But we don’t want to just add any product to our list, so they needed tasting. You don’t get this opportunity every day, so we thought that we’d share them around with our most deserving friends. 

We invited our facebook fans to write in and tell us why they should be chosen to join us and we had a great response. We narrowed the field down and selected our panel of experts, who would be lending us their taste buds for the evening.

The evening was masterfully compered by Henry Besant, of the World Wide Cocktail Club, and who is about the most knowledgeable tequila aficionado in the country. He introduced us to a mixed selection of 9 tequilas that he had picked from our consignment and we diligently set to work tasting.

We ended the night having sniffed, slurped and swilled our way through 3 blancos, 3 reposados, 2 añejos and 1 extra añejo. There was debate, an exchange of words such as vegetal, herbal, woody and even bacon, and a pleasant feeling of having been involved in something that signified another small step in the right direction for tequila in the UK. Our voting system led to 4 winners, but there was a general consensus that in fact 3 of these had something extra special which made them stand out: A blanco named Tequila Gran Orendain, an Añejo named La Fortaleza (or Los Abuelos) and an Extra Añejo named Tequila Campo Azul.

Now, we should say here that the funny thing about tasting tequilas that you’ve never heard of before and which aren’t available outside of Mexico, is that occasionally you realise why that’s the case!  We did taste some slight duds on the night, especially in the Reposado category. We happily supplemented them with a comparative tasting of our current house pour, El Tesoro Reposado, and were all agreed that there wasn’t any need to force the issue, none of the Reposados could measure up on the night, so they’d stay in Mexico for the time being.

Thank you so much to Kate, Ed, James, Yashoda, Jesús and Paul for responding to our request and coming along and lending us their taste buds and opinions. Thanks also to the Mexican Tequila Board for supplying us with tequilas that wowed, challenged, delighted and surprised us in near equal measure. And finally thank you to Henry for leading the way once more.

You will be able to see the final results from all of our tastings up on our blog soon, and most importantly taste them for yourself as they each take up their monthly guest spots over the coming year. We really hope you’ll enjoy our choices.  If you have any thoughts on our tequila list, or general musing about this magical drink, please feel free to let us know in a comment below.

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Do you want to be on our tequila tasting panel?

ALL SPACES ON OUR TEQUILA TASTING PANEL ARE NOW TAKEN

Following a flurry of excitement amongst our facebook fans, we are now looking for an exclusive panel of 5 tequila experts from amongst you lot, the followers of our facebook, blog and twitter pages, to join us for a tequila tasting with a difference, to be held at Wahaca Soho on Wednesday 23rd February 2011 at 6.30pm.

Do you know your agave from your auto-clave, your piña from your pot still? What on earth would you do with a Tahona Stone?

If you would like to join this tasting, send an email to ola@wahaca.co.uk explaining in no more than 100 words why you are qualified to help us select the next top tequilas that will be featured on our bar list. The deadline for entries is the end of Monday 20th February, so get cracking.

On the night, we’ll taste a range of tequilas which have been sent to us by the Mexican Tequila Board that aren’t available outside of North America. They’ve kindly searched out 30 top quality tequilas from Mexico’s smaller distilleries just for us. It’s not just for fun though, at the end of the tasting, we’ll pick out 4 favourites, which will be appearing as guest tequilas in our bar over the next year. We’re hoping that by putting them on our list, we’ll help to introduce these brands to the international market, and their amazing products can start to be shared with the world.

The tasting will start at 6.30 with a cocktail to get us in the mood, then it’s down to the serious business of choosing our top tequilas. The tasting will be led by the all-knowing tequila aficionado Henry Besant, who will help guide us through a range of platas, reposados and añejos and will finish at about 8pm.

Don’t get confused, this is not the same event that is being organised by QYPE (That’s one’s going to be just as good though!) This one is just for all you Wahaca fans out there in the world-wide-webernet. (If you’re looking for the Qype event, head over to their page for details).

We’ll look forward to hearing why you think you’ve got what it takes to help choose our next favourite tequilas. Those still looking for a worm in the bottom of their bottle need not apply.

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Wahaca's new summer menu… launches today!

Today is the big launch of our new summer menu… good luck to the wahaca team and hope you all enjoy our new dishes.

We did a tasting of most of the new dishes last night with some food bloggers, tweeters and friends – it was a great success and the feedback and comments from all was really positive.

Here are some of the fab photos and comments… Hope this inspires you all to come by and try out the new menu!

@tomdotcom_uk This is the @Wahaca summery new potato taquito. It has a new orange habanero salsa on it which is a delight!

Summery new potato taquito

@eatlikeagirl Really impressed with the @wahaca summer menu. Really vibrant and delicious. More please!

@tikichris And @wahaca’s corn bread with mole, sesame seeds and crema? Wahoo!

Corn bread and mole sauce

@SimonG_1 And the food keeps coming @wahaca – summer menu is incredible – the mole is mind blowing

@tomdotcom_uk OK @Wahaca have outdone themselves! I am the biggest fan of their churros & chocolate, but the new Flan de la Casa is the best pudding ever!

@MathildeCuisine @wahaca has come up with an absolutely delicious summer menu. Ceviche is so tasty and flan is to die for!

Flan de la casa

@LibbyEAndrews Delicious meal @wahaca tonight – the summer menu is def the way to go

@BeccaChaplin Just had an amazing evening @wahaca sampling new menu. Must haves are ceviche, mole taco, new habanero sauce, hibiscus & passionfruit jelly!

Chicken mole taco

@1mgoldstars Tons of yum on @wahaca’s new summer menu, particularly good veggie options, and great evening as usual :-)

Grilled cactus taco

@simondoggett Found some heaven in the @wahaca shrimp and scallop ceviche. Lovely chat with Mark. Top restaurateur dude.

MSC ceviche tostada

@SimonG_1 It was a great event @wahaca just shows you can have great tasting ethically sourced food without breaking the bank.

Chicken guajillo tostada

Thanks to all for joining us and for all your wonderful comments. Hope to see you all down in wahaca soon and look forward to hear your feedback on the new dishes.

Thanks to Niamh @eatlikeagirl for her great photos which can be seen on flickr. Check out her new blog where she has added a post from last night. Also congrats and hello to Tom who became the foursquare mayor for wahaca Westfield last night after the menu tasting – thanks for all your support!

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Wine Training at Bibendum (Guest post)

Estapor Venir Tasting

We went to Bibendum Wine to enjoy one of the many perks of our job – wine training! Dan from Bibendum has written a post about the day, including a video where our very own Pedro and Robin describe a fantastic addition to our list:

It’s probably not your average common or garden wine. “Oh yeah, I’ll have your Cabernet/Zin/Barbera/Petite Sirah blend from Baja California please” is not a phrase you’re likely to hear down the local pub. But that is the point of it – this wine is so unique! Estapor Venir is a voluptuous, sinful and downright sexy wine that burst all over your tastebuds like spicy, fruity depth charge. But it’s not something that many diners will have heard about before they sit down so education is key.

Last week Bibendum was very excited to welcome Wahaca staff into our office for a day of wine training. Amanda and Liz took the guys through all the wines on the list, with one eye on the menu and possible food matches. The Estapor Venir has just gone onto the Wahaca wine list and is rich and packed with red and black fruit and hints of chocolate. I think it would work well with a hearty, meaty dish like Pork Pibil or Mole. It has good fruit sweetness which means that it can stand up to chilli and spicier dishes. But don’t listen to me! Why don’t you listen to what the Wahaca guys thought?

Not only is it a great wine that celebrates Mexican produce, but it also has a great story. Produced using sustainable viticulture in the Guadalupe Valley in Baja California, Winemaker Hugo d’Acosta favours Zinfandel and Grenache which are particularly well adapted to the climate and need little intervention. With minimum use of chemicals and only natural fertilisers the vines are encouraged to form long roots and in some vineyards no irrigation is needed at all.

Estapor Venir

At the “Escuelita” winery, where Estapor is produced, Hugo has set up a non-profit winemaking school. His aim is to promote small-scale winemaking in the area by educating local people about winemaking traditions and teaching them winemaking skills, thereby providing a means of supporting themselves. Built on the site of a former olive oil production plant Hugo and Alejandro have tried to set an example by their own recycling. They have made extensive use of old bed and boxsprings, barrels, wine bottles, vineyard poles, irrigation hoses and plastic bottles by turning these into an art form. Old PET bottles are heated and pressed into layers to use as insulation in the walls and ceilings of new buildings. In time there are plans to make use of solar energy.

Bottle Wall

Hugo

And if you’d like to hear what one of the wine trade’s most respected tasters had to say about it, here’s a quick interview with Steven Spurrier (of Decanter Magazine) at our Winestock Festival last year.

Thanks Dan, we’re looking forward to the next training already and look out for Estapor Venir on the menu.