Karlicek also lauds tequila for its food-pairing possibilities. He gave us the low-down on tequila types and suggestions for setting up your own tequila-pairing dinner at home. ¡Salud!
Tequila: Types and How to Pair Them
Blanco (aka silver)
Aging process: “Un-aged, or aged up to two months in a neutral vessel of some sort, whether that’s cement or an un-charred oak barrel.”
Flavor profile: “Blanco is so beautiful because it’s maybe the most pure translation of the agave, with really clean, bright citrus, sort of garden-patch notes, vegetal, herbal. It’s something that reminds me very much of a young white wine. It’s vibrant, crisp, clean.”
Food pairing: “Lighter dishes. Ceviche is fantastic. Something like guacamole, with plenty of cilantro and maybe some vibrant ripe tomatoes. Anything that has a bright character, a fresh character. Even some poultry, but very much on the lighter side.”
Aging process: “Two months to just under a year, frequently in larger vessels that don’t have as much influence on the spirit.”
Flavor profile: “Just a little richer on the palate, with more intensity than a blanco.”
Food pairing: “Maybe we’re moving into some poultry or some lighter pork dishes, anything that might have just a little more intensity of flavor, some richness, maybe some subtle spice notes without it becoming very powerful. You might even say that a preparation of any dish would match with different styles. We could take the same fish and if we served it raw as a crudo, it’s fantastic with a blanco or silver tequila. If we took that fish and baked it or just sautéed it lightly, that’s an intensity that matches with a reposado.”
Aging process: “A year to three years, commonly done in small casks; a lot of evaporation, a lot of interaction between the spirit and the wood.”
Flavor profile: “Building richness, building intensity. Thinking about that spirit in the barrel as it sort of evaporates and some of the flavors reduce, and reduce almost in the same way that you’d reduce a sauce or something that would have a rich, intense, concentrated flavor to it.”
Food pairing: “With proteins we’d start to talk about something more heavy: something roasted, barbecue, maybe beef.”
Aging process: “Three years and above (aging); quite a bit of evaporation.”
Flavor profile: “A style much richer, more hedonistic. More akin to, say, cognac, or a spirit that spends a great deal of time in oak.”
Food pairing: “A less traditional pairing, but certainly a wonderful one, is an añejo [or extra-añejo] tequila with dessert of any kind. I’m a big fan of bittersweet chocolate... I’ve got a Vosges chocolate problem [laughs] and they have those assortments of bars. The really intense, sweet, spice notes of añejo tequila with a great bittersweet chocolate, and especially one that has chiles involved, is excellent.”
Most tequila is produced in the western Mexican state of Jalisco.
The spirit is distilled using the piñas (cores) harvested from the blue Weber agave plant, which takes 7-10 years to mature.
In 2011, the U.S. imported 124.84 million liters, 76 percent of all tequila exported from Mexico, according to tequila.net.
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