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Tequila & Ice Cream

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I stopped by NYC's Hill Country Barbecue & Market last night for a semi-impromptu blind tasting of tequilas (no rest for the weary, indeed). The general gist of the thing, concocted by Hill Country bar director extraordinaire Jessica Stone and exec chef extraordinaire Elizabeth Karmel, was to determine whether the tequilas I think of as my default faves were actually that when tasted blind against a gang of other candidates. Not a bad undertaking for a Tuesday night.

Out of the blancos, my top pick turned out not to be my usual El Tesoro but a brand that was new to me, El Mayor (about $40) which combined intense agave character (more on the herbal than vegetal side) with a bit of pepperiness and a sleek finish; no rough edges, but no lack of character either. 

From the reposados, my top pick (over some much more recognized brands) was the Siembra Azul Reposado (about $40). It stuck out from the pack partly because the wood notes it had were so gracefully integrated into the spirit itself—several others tasted like wood planks dipped in hooch—and partly because the agave shone through so clear and pure above those wood/spice characteristics. It was eminently balanced, and eminently drinkable as well.  

Finally we went through a few añejos. Gran Centenario, usually my go-to, non-crazy-expensive añejo, ended up my number two after the Sauza Tres Generaciones (about $46), which I thought was appealingly un-vanilla/caramel-ish, with an intriguing salty note to it and a lot of aromatic spice. (I'm not, as is probably clear, a big fan of añejo tequilas that taste more like wood than like tequila.) 

After that we reached the crucial part of the taste test, which was to determine which of our favorites went best with Bluebell Ice Cream (if you're from Texas, you know how great Bluebell is; if not, go to Texas, or Hill Country in NYC, to find out). The answer? El Mayor Blanco and Bluebell Pecan Pralines n' Cream (think of it as an ad hoc añejo with cream and sugar. Sort of). I admit there might be some skepticism out there as to the wisdom of drinking tequila while eating ice cream, but I'm here to tell you that this particular combination is an all-out party in your mouth.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

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