Tequila tasting with Chef Richard Sandoval at Maya: varieties to drink and some authentic apps to pair it with | VailDaily.com
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Tequila tasting with Chef Richard Sandoval at Maya: varieties to drink and some authentic apps to pair it with

Chef Richard Sandoval creates dishes to pair with Cantera Negra

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What do you like to pair with tequila? If you said lime and salt, chef and restaurateur Richard Sandoval would like to expand your palate and introduce you to a different way of enjoying the blue agave-based spirit.

Sandoval, whose Latin-based restaurant concepts span from Colorado to Tokyo, was in town on Tuesday, Feb. 25 to pair his culinary creations with Cantera Negra, a family-owned and operated tequila distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. Sandoval and his team at Maya at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa swapped out the typical multi-course dinner with small plates.

“Instead of having four courses you’re trying seven or eight different dishes with various tequilas and it’s a little more exciting, it allows you to engage more,” said Sandoval, who had just flown to Colorado after being at the Miami Food and Wine Festival.

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Even though Cantera Negra was founded more than 40 years ago, it’s only been in the United States for two years (check out how it finally got to the U.S. at http://www.canteranegra.com). “This time last year we were in four states and we’re now in 20 states. We started distributing to Colorado this past Labor Day,” said David Szydlik of Two Sons Imports.

Szydlik offered tastes of Cantera Negra’s silver, reposado, añejo and extra añejo tequila to Maya’s guests and was greeted with the same response he’s heard the last several months while promoting the product. 

“Usually I hear things like, ‘I can’t believe that’s tequila’ or ‘this is the smoothest and best tequila I’ve ever had,’ and I’ve been in the spirits business for almost 20 years and I’ve never seen reactions like this. It’s so consistent,” Szydlik said.

Cantera Negra also has a cafe liqueur, which has just exploded in the last four months. It’s made with Mexican espresso beans, 100% blue agave spirit and liqueur. “It’s only 40 proof, 20% alcohol but the flavor that comes out from the Mexican espresso beans is just amazing,” Szydlik said. 

The food received rave reviews as well. Sandoval paired the Acapulco-style shrimp ceviche, the guacamole and the tortilla soup with the silver tequila. The subtle flavor of the añejo paired well with the tuna tostada and the stone crab taco. The al pastor pork belly taco stood up to the reposado.

“There are over 2,000 different tequilas today. It’s amazing what different distilleries do to it, whether it’s aging it in French or American oak, they are very different,” Sandoval said. “If you compare them, each one has a different profile. It’s very interesting to see what they’ve done and it’s fun to match the flavor profile with the food.”


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