Trip to Mexico and Patron Tequila

25 Feb 2019

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This was a trip that I had been looking forward to for a long time & one as a chef that is definitely on the top 3 hit list of places to go to. I was travelling to Mexico city first & then onto Guadalajara. 

 

This was the 1st ever trip that I can say was a 100% jolly without any work or cooking required, so I was going to make the most of it. I had booked some great restaurants to try with only 24 hrs in Mexico city. 

I booked Rosetta for lunch & in the evening where else but Pujol. My brother had previously done a stage at Pujol so I contacted head chef Alejandro Bremont to book dinner and it has become one of the top places to dine at in Mexico always featuring in the worlds 50 best. Many of you would have seen it in the kitchen table series on nextflix.

My brother had told me of the most amazing produce that I would get to see and taste in Mexico & he was of course correct. The limes, avocado’s & generally all the fruit were out of this world, so much flavour & sweetness. 

First stop was the restaurant Rosetta which is run by chef Elena Reygadas. As you enter from the street it’s beautiful dining room makes you feel calm as soon as you enter. The lunch was very tasty, beautiful intriguing & creative and even though I had ordered too much food it was all still devoured. 

The Smoked sweet potatoes & beetroot were outstanding and the Quelite tamale hoja Santa Mole was a big hit. The grouper ceviche aguachile with orange & tomatoes was refreshing & delicious, haricot beans were nice & zingy, so were gobbled down in seconds.

Need I say all of the dishes were outstanding, the surprise of the day though was the rye bread with toasted flying ant butter, yes you heard me toasted flying ant butter. No they don’t catch them in mid flight but whilst they are congregating in the tree’s, scoping them up in big nets.

For main course we had a beautiful fresh pasta with rosemary & spiced sausage following on with salt baked Seabass cooked in a herb salt pastry crust that had the herbs blended through it to give it an aromatic taste & flavour. The garnish was steamed samphire & a salad leaf that looked a lot like mache salad, the whole dish was drizzled in lovely acidic rich olive oil …. Then onto braised wagyu short ribs with sweet plantain, an amazing dish of two different levels of sweetness, one more salty than the other. The super smooth purée of the plantain was great to smear all around the plate with the tender beef. Desserts were also well executed with milk ice cream and fresh sorrel which was ace. The next dessert being mango or papaya with a yogurt aspuma filled with an almond crumb, again a great combo. Then lastly this intense chocolate & caramel dessert with a few toasted cocoa nibs for crunch and what may have been a green tea or herb ice-cream on top & this crystallised leaf over the top but I could bewrong as my Spanish is not up to scrach.  

A lovely lunch was then followed by a trip to Mercado de Sant Juan.

Whilst in the market we saw lots of local wildlife namely insects, from scorpions, beetles, ants, worms ect, these had all been fried & some then dipped in chocolate like the big scorpions. I was at that stage of saving my appetite for the dinner ahead. 

But still we couldn’t have come all this way without trying some tacos at the local taqueria Los Cocuyos and this place is on one of the taco hit list of places to try. There was a single big pot of pork bubbling away in rendered down pork fat that had many different cuts of pork in from the belly, hock, head, foot, tongue, pretty much everything that could be cooked was in the pot. 

The pork was then chopped up, mixed with a little seasoning, placed into the taco with some salsa then you just added your own sauces: from the “blow your head off” chili sauce to the more mild pickles. It was now 5pm in the afternoon & we had dinner starting at 6.30pm, so I had a bit of a walk off to try & get a better appetite. 

Alex Bremont is the acting head chef of Pujol and from the first welcoming smile you know that you are in for such a treat. You cannot fathom how much they all love working here, it’s ingrained into them and they love the show. They love describing the food how it’s prepared & with so much passion. When you have seen this restaurant on #chefstable you already know what you may expect but of course seeing, feeling, tasting and smelling experiencing it live is just on another level of course.

Course after course knocks your socks off with flavours & textures that of course tests you to think how, what, where and why. Coming to places like this is a serious eye opener into a whole new realm of tastes & flavours that leaves you with an oh my god moment. The service in the kitchen goes by very quickly with 5-6 different sections around the central isle suite which has no cooking functions on it at all. All the cooking happens around the edge of the kitchen, which yes is a little bizarre. 

All the food & garnishes go out to the chefs and then onto the pass and with around 20 chefs in the kitchen all moving around at a speed it’s such a buzz to watch. Theres nothing like an insane service to get the heart going.

The food was exceptional, creative, with mouthfuls of explosives deliciousness, subtleness like a butterfly with care & attention to detail you can truly see why this place stands out, you feel the love & passion all around it. 

We had the amazing Pujol mole in the kitchen with Alex & two shots of mezcal which was a very special moment that you would want to bottle for ever. Eating the mole on the pass whilst the kitchen is still in full flight of service was special. You will see the service sheet which is very detailed down to the mm of how each table is cared for in minute by minute timings.

We then had a little palette cleanser that filled the mouth with a lip smacking rush of the most perfect sweet and sour citrus mango sorbet with lime & fresh pieces of mango…what an amazing first 18 hrs in Mexico City, then onto Patron. 

I think you instantly know you are going to have some fun when you land in an airport called Guadalajara & you get welcomed with a patron sign. I then went onto Tiaquepaque. It has the most beautiful little side streets & alleyways full of colour explosions and fruit sellers selling the sweetest pineapples & watermelon.   Mexico is a magical place that’s for sure & you can see why so many chefs fall in love with it.

The home of Patron is truly magnificent, we just had an hour class of the whole process of the farming to the distillation to the bottling and even though the volume they are making is large it’s still very much treated like a family run business. The details from the cord on each bottle being wrapped by hand, hand written labels for bottle no’s & the length they go to in extracting the very best agave juice for the tequila is very artisanal which I wasn’t expecting. The core team of employees have all been here since the very beginning & they all are so engrossed in the knowledge of tequila, making sure that the brand & flavours they concoct keeps them market leaders.  

  

The estate & agave fields are some 1,800 metres above sea level and the soil is a rich dark red, full of nutrients & minerals that gives the agave its special flavour. Out in the fields of the agave that are all owned by several different families and have been growing the agave for Patron for many years, this special way of harvesting the agave happens when they reach maturity of approx 6 years. They will have then reached the right level of sweetness to be harvested which is around 28%. They are trimmed with what looks like a spade but is called a coa, it’s exceptionally sharp, which it needs to be to trim the tough leaves off. The agave are called a piña & they generally weigh approx 50kg to the biggest of 100kg. 

Each worker will harvest around 100 of these daily, so it all soon adds up to a few tonnes. Each agave will produce a case of Tequila. This is done by a method of slow baking almost steaming in big steel ovens that are temp controlled. It’s a real science to get the best flavour & level of sweetness. The cut leaves are used for compost and the cooked fibre or Bagasse can be used for rope, paper, matting etc so nothing is wasted. 

It was an amazing few days spent at patron, an amazing product that has a great story of authenticity passion & heritage. It’s a very hands on approach from the farming to harvesting to cooking the agave & also the bottling. Now that I know there is a huge amount of sweat that goes into every bottle, plus the harvesting & lifting of the agave at 50-100kg, you have to take your hats off & respect to the farmers & families that work & farm the land. Mexico is a fascinating & beautiful country; I will vow to return.