Tag Archives: tasting

Mexican
 Perfection

February 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Anthony Bourdain was asked what food trend he would like to see in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), he said, “I would like people really to pay more for top-quality Mexican food. I think it’s the most undervalued, underappreciated world cuisine with tremendous, tremendous potential.”

At Hook & Lime Tacos + Tequila, North Downtown’s newest addition, you will find that top-quality Mexican food and all kinds of potential, though you won’t necessarily have to pay more for it.

Owner Robbie Malm says after selling his share in Dudley’s Pizza and Tavern, he wanted to do something smaller and more creative. With a little help from his wife, Erin, and his brother, Tim Malm, he has done just that.

Hook & Lime’s menu has a selection of a la carte tacos, small plates, and tortas, all for under $20.

But if you do want to spend some money and have a more decadent experience, you can try the family-style tacos or the tasting menu (with or without tequila).

For the family-style tacos, you can choose between the whole fish, which is currently fried, striped bass, or bone-in barbacoa, which is cooked for 72 hours, crisped in the oven, and sent to the table for you to pick apart.

Head chef Alex Sorens says the tasting menu is something he’s excited about because it gives his crew the opportunity to create dishes and test things out. If they’re good, they’ll go on the next tasting menu.

“It’s stuff that we wouldn’t normally serve to the public,” he says. “It will be a select amount of these things, and when we run out, we run out.”

The menu features a lot of fish, hence the “hook” in Hook & Lime. Sorens says he gets their fish from Seattle Fish Co. out of Kansas City, Missouri. He uses their program Whole Boat Harvest for some of the dishes, like the ceviche. The program sells the “leftover” fish from hauls, fish that would normally go to waste because they’re not as well-known as others.

“The reason for that is because I’m trying to do my part to not be in that same group that’s using all those super popular, over-fished species that are going on endangered lists right now.”

Sorens also tries to support other environmentally conscious businesses, getting a lot of their ingredients from local producers like Plum Creek Farms and Jon’s Naturals.

Malm says these are things you might normally only find at “higher-end, white tablecloth places.” He says their goal is to make that food available to everyone.

“We have this amazing menu, these amazing items, that we’re able to bring to people who normally wouldn’t get to experience them,” he says. “We’re trying to take that food, that approach of sourcing locally and treating these items with respect, and make it more approachable. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a suit and tie or flip-flops, we welcome everybody here.”

Malm says he has been “very, very fortunate” in finding the team to do that.

“Everyone seems to be really excited about their role in this,” he says. “So I quickly found out that my best role is really to enable them to just dive in.”

This enthusiasm extends to the front of the house, where bar manager Brian van Egmond works to create original cocktails using ingredients made in house.

“It’s a fusion between speed and craft,” he says. There will be a couple margaritas available on tap, but the fresh juices are added after they’re poured.

So far, van Egmond says they’ve made their own orange brandy, orange liquor, syrups, and crème de cassis. He is currently working on a strawberry tequila for their strawberry margaritas. They also have a hibiscus-infused reposado, which is used to make the Roselle cocktail.

“That’s one I think both Negroni and Cosmo fans will appreciate.”

Van Egmond says they also have a well-curated spirits list, and plenty of beers to offer, including many from local breweries. There are also several wine options.

Of course, if what you’re really looking for is some straight up, premium tequila, Hook & Lime has you covered.

“Tequila is my favorite thing to drink,” Malm says. “It is my favorite thing to drink,” he repeats, laughing. “And I’m a fairly recent convert.”

But once he fell in love with tequila, it became a little bit of an obsession. He talks excitedly about touring tequila distilleries in Mexico with his wife. He says they toured five different spots, including Cuervo and Herradura.

The restaurant’s offerings reflect his enthusiasm, with more than 100 tequilas on their list and four different styles of flights available if you want to do a little sampling before you commit.

“They say there’s no zealot like a convert,” Malm says. “And that is definitely true when it comes to tequila.”

Undoubtedly, Hook & Lime will do their share in creating converts, both to tequila and to a greater appreciation of top-quality Mexican food.

Hook & Lime is open Sundays through Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Fine Tequila Tastings at La Mesa

April 15, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Tequila was North America’s first distilled spirit. Sadly, for most of its history, it has been tarnished with a reputation as a cheap liquor often used to make margaritas or “shooters” with lime and salt.

In the last couple of decades, that has started to change as many distillers are producing high-end tequilas for export to America that are designed to be collected, sipped, and savored. I have been a connoisseur of high-end tequilas since the mid ‘80s. Back then they were hard to find, but nowadays most every reputable bar will have several high-end tequilas on their premium liquor list. Tequila is becoming the North American version of Scotch.

To be classified as tequila, it must be made from a distillation of at least 51 percent blue agave and be from the state of Jalisco. High-end tequilas are always made from 100 percent blue agave. Today’s high-end tequilas are highly coveted by collectors worldwide for both the smooth aromatic liquor and the handcrafted decorative bottle.

Tequila-Tasting-La-Mesa-20120124_je_1016-Edit-copy_2

Jose Salazar, manager of La Mesa.

Locally, the great people at the La Mesa Mexican Restaurants have embraced the popularity of fine tequilas. The managers and employees at the La Mesa restaurants are extremely knowledgable about tequila and take it very seriously. In fact, La Mesa was the first Mexican restaurant in the Midwest to be certified by the Tequila Regulatory Council. I have not found a better selection of high-end tequilas anywhere in town.

For the past several years, La Mesa has been hosting special Tequila tasting dinner events. I have attended some of these events, and I can tell you that these events are an excellent opportunity for novice tequila drinkers and connoisseurs alike to enjoy some fine tequilas and learn more about their characteristics and production. The events often include a presentation by the distiller and a multi-course dinner with each dish paired with a different tequila. The food at these events deserves special mention. The chefs at La Mesa must really enjoy these events because they go all out, and the creative Mexican dishes they come up with are reason alone to attend one of these events.

The next La Mesa Tequila Tasting event is scheduled for June 2. Make your reservation today at any La Mesa location. You’ll be glad you did.

Cheers!

For more information, visit la-mesa.com.