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August 23, 2014

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A festival of Mexican liquors and luscious flavors at China Poblano

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Beverly Poppe

The vibe at China Poblano will get you primed for special pairings of tequila and mezcal drinks with dishes from scallop ceviche to crispy chicken wings studded with raisins, olives, capers and chile.

Tequila’s reputation often precedes it. But treated with respect—and the appreciative hand of a masterful bartender—tequila is a spirit of sophisticated nuance. And its frequently derided mother mezcal? Equally exciting.

The Details

Tequila and Mezcal Festival
March 12-25, special tastings March 14 and 23.
China Poblano, Cosmopolitan, 698-7900.

China Poblano’s Tequila and Mezcal Festival will celebrate these two Mexican liquors with special dishes, new cocktails, tequila and mezcal tastings and seated dinners. But more than an ode to agave, the event is about how booze meets food in a country where flavors come strong and spicy. Or, as chef José Andrés puts it while clearing decorations off the table at a recent festival preview lunch, “This is not Martha Stewart, people.”

This is Andrés. It’s crispy, 24-hour marinated chicken wings served in a Yucatan orange sauce studded with raisins, olives, capers and chile and washed down with the smoky Oaxacan Swizzle. It’s scallop ceviche served on the half-shell with a spritz of mezcal, tiny pickled oyster sopes the size of a quarter and pozole de langosta—the classic Mexican hominy stew made with large chunks of sweet lobster claw meat in stock so powerful it feels like a swim.

If you make it through the menu with room for more, finish things off with the paloma postre, a tri-textured mix of icy granita, grapefruit foam and cool vanilla cream with roasted peanuts—tart, rich and nutty in each memorable bite. It’s not the prettiest dessert, but the flavor is downright sexy. After all, this isn’t Martha Stewart.

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