The dessert menu sat there, taunting me until my eyes locked on ”cherry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.” I think I swooned. A tart cherry crisp is definitely my favorite and I had not seen or tasted one for an eternity. My friend and I agreed that we had to at least taste it.
“Well, it is my first night back in Santa Fe. I should have a tequila.” I waved down our waitress who quickly suggested a small-batch Mexican blanco. I sipped it, noticing the mineral flavor undertones and a little too much bite at the finish.
When the deep red cherry goodness arrived, I scooped up a big spoonful along with a tiny scoop of melting vanilla ice cream. It was the perfect combination of tart and sweet, warm and cold. I grabbed my snifter and took a sip of tequila and to my complete and utter amazement, everything changed. The spirit tasted totally different, much smoother, and the bite had disappeared. I took another taste of the cobbler. The sweetness was there but it was less tart. I looked at my friend, wide-eyed. She nodded knowingly. We had accidently tripped on something we had never considered before: tequila was really good paired with dessert.
A few days passed when my husband arrived and we decided to attend the “Chile Amor” class at The Santa Fe School of Cooking. Chef Allen Smith was entertaining and knew his way around the kitchen, especially the peppers. Well traveled and trained, he was a walking book of culinary knowledge. As he spoke about cooking with chiles and how to adjust the heat, I was even more fascinated. He explained to us that adding more or fewer peppers wouldn’t control the spiciness but that sugar (brown, honey, agave) and salt could. My brain started clicking and as I stirred my red chile sauce, that creative light bulb went off in my head.
I called my friend and said, “If you can adjust heat from a chile with salt and sugar, why not apply those same principles to tequila and pair them with desserts?”
In the name of culinary science she offered to help my husband and I do more research. We visited several local eateries, talked to numerous enthusi-astic bartenders as we tasted, sipped, and experimented with multiple combinations of tequilas and sweets. We even held our own tasting at home. It was a tough mission but someone had to do it. I went back to Chef Smith’s premise in our cooking class, that if salt and sugar could cool a chile sauce, then maybe the level of sugar in a dessert could balance a tequila and vice versa....
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