If you could don a moustache and the look of a seasoned tequila drinker to convince a casting agent that you are the new face of Jose Cuervo tequila, would you do it? Maybe, but you’d probably need a bit more convincing that it’s worth your while. What if I told you that as Jose Cuervo’s Tequila Face you and a group of your bestest amigos/amigas would be whizzed off to Mexico for an all-expenses paid holiday of a lifetime? You’d even star in Jose Cuervo’s new film. Would you do it then? If margaritas and a good, chocolatey mole are your kind of thing, then I think the chances of a positive answer would increase manifold.
The chances of Epicurienne becoming Jose Cuervo’s Tequila Face are slim to nil, in spite of recent efforts at a Tequila Face event. I joined the Jose Cuervo gang at Cargo in London’s Shoreditch, where the guests were greeted with large white envelopes. Inside each pack was our new identity for the evening, along with a couple of key accessories to help us get into the Tequila Face mood. My new persona? Veronica de Sanchez.
My accessories? A beret and a pair of aviator sunglasses which were adopted so fast that I could have been Speedy Gonzales after his sixth double espresso. Taking a glass of margarita, I quickly decided that my alter ego has been drinking tequila since her grandfather first slipped some into her bottle when she was six months old. Apart from that, my identity brief told me that I was ‘One of Mexico’s hottest actors’, but fellow party-goer, Lolly a.k.a. Juanita, thought Veronica looked French. Apparently, Veronica is famous Mexico-wide for faking her own death in a soap called ‘Love in the Sky’, or ‘El amor en el cielo’. The soap is set in an airport. I love airports, so the creators of my new self certainly got that part right. I only wonder how she died. Was she caught in a propeller? Poisoned by in-flight food? Run over by a speeding baggage trolley? The intrigue grew and from behind the aviator sunnies my new theme song became: ‘I wear my sunglasses at night’.
With the help of some old buddies from Mexico - Zorondo, Juanita and Guillermo, now sporting wrestler masks and headphones and faux moustaches, we had a blast. And who wouldn’t with friends like these? Zorondo is the music-producing pioneer of the Mexican dance scene with an unhealthy obsession with Michael Jackson, although for this outing he thankfully left his spangly glove (singular) at home. Juanita is a DJ cum soap star bombshell who appears in La Fea Mas Bella – we swap make-up artists to keep our looks fresh. Meanwhile, mask-wearing Guillermo is a retired wrestling champ who keeps a clean-shaven chest for those plunging necklines he wears with brazen aplomb whilst practising his other favourite sport – ballroom dancing. So far, this was a seriously fun event.
(Veronica in borrowed ‘tache, taken by Juanita on her i-Phone)
Once dressed up, part of the deal was to sit on the casting couch with Jose Cuervo’s casting agent, Vince Frank, to have our ‘casting’ filmed. Suffice to say that Vince didn’t seem to like me very much. Gone was the soft-centred foodie; I was now a diva with attitude and a big, fat pout, in spite of the fact that the botox was wearing off. Veronica was taking this alter ego stuff very seriously and her (faux-Mexican) accent was getting stronger with each sip of margarita. Pity The Poor Vince. Was I Epicurienne? Or was I Veronica? It was becoming hard to tell.
Casting aside, there were tequila-based cocktails to try and Mexican hors d’oeuvres to nibble. Mention margaritas and I’m there with bells on so I was a happy little starlet to find that the Jose Cuervo margaritas did not disappoint. On the food front, one kind waiter fed me extra skewers of teriyaki chicken because it was oh-so-lipsmackingly tenderlicious that I couldn’t stop saying so. Perhaps he was just pleased to lighten his load on the tray, but my tastebuds were not complaining.
On the food front, prepare to drool because here’s what we enjoyed throughout the evening:
- Tangy tomato salsa and guacamole with taco chips
- Marinated olives with rosemary, lemon and garlic
- King prawns, jalapeno, red onion with coriander and lime
- Seared tuna with salsa verde served on a chic black ceramic spoon
- Tequila-marinated salmon ceviche – so succulent!
- Chicken teriyaki on skewers – melted in the mouth
- Thai beef salad, mint, soy and red pepper in a filo cup
- Torillia cigars, refried beans, cheddar, harrisa and coriander
- Chorizo and butter bean hot pot served in a crystal espresso glass – Mexican with elegance.
There were also three cocktails to choose from, all made with Jose Cuervo tequila, and in spite of the fact that they all looked divine, I stuck firmly to the margaritas. Deeeee-lish.
- Cuervo Classic Margarita: Jose Cuervo Especial Tequila, shaken with fresh lime juice and Triple Sec, served straight up in a salt-rimmed glass
- Cuervo Diablo Flower: JCE Tequila appears again, this time shaken with fresh lemon juice, pasteurized egg white, Vya dry vermouth, creme de cassis and a touch of lavender eau de vie
- Cuervo Maracuya & Apple Punch: More tequila, this time shaken with pressed apple juice, fresh passion fruit and Noilly Prat Rouge vermouth, sweetened with agave nectar and served long over ice. Finished with a float or cherry liqueur, these cocktails were as pretty as coconut ice in a glass, but even so I did not desert my beloved margaritas.
If all of the above isn’t excitement enough, we also had wrestlers to entertain us by slam dunking each other and some of the braver guests among us (not me!) WWF-style. Surreal or what?
Luckily, there was a photographer there to capture all the fun.
(Veronica with Zorondo, Juanita and Guillermo, and Splendid Organiser, Splendid Chris)
At the end of the evening, which was sensibly not too late, we were all presented with very generous goodie bags, including enough tequila to keep Veronica de Sanchez happy for a good while longer, more aviator specs in case Veronica breaks hers on set for her latest flick, ‘Tequila Mockingbird’, and a Tequila Face t-shirt, so that even if we don’t win The Big Prize, we can still pretend that we did.
So, my little chicos and chicas! If you want to enter the Jose Cuervo Tequila Face competition, you may. Just click here to visit Vince Frank’s Tequila Face casting room to find out what to do. Hint: a big moustache works wonders and a sombrero may not go astray.
You can follow Vince Frank on Facebook or tweet him sweet tequila on Twitter: twitter.com/VinceFrank, but be warned, he can be harsh. He recently told Veronica to get herself an appointment in Harley Street. Why? The pout needs more botox, apparently, and Diva Vonnie doesn’t need to be told twice. Andale! Andale! Arriba! Arriba! And she’s off…
Tags: Be the new face of Jose Cuervo tequila, Blog Till You Drop, Chris Pulicicchio, Competition to find Jose Cuervo's Tequila Face!, Jose Cuervo tequila, Laurence Borel, Mexico, Rax Lakhani, Raxraxrax, Role playing, Splendid Communications, Tequila, Tequila party, Veronica de Sanchez, Vince Frank, wrestling display
Pity poor Monsieur: he’s the one responsible for my love of Mexican food, the complex moles, the cactus salads (hold the spines) and the juicy ceviches. Yet Monsieur wasn’t with me at Wahaca last Thursday, for a much looked-forward to evening with Thomasina Miers, the Executive Chef and co-owner of London’s Mexican street food sensation, Wahaca.
Along with a couple of dozen perpetually-hungry fellow-Qypers, I was invited to Wahaca in the mammoth Westfield shopping centre to test the new season’s ‘Cold Months’ menu. With sharpened teeth and notebook at the ready (but no camera, where on earth was my camera?) we listened as Tommi explained the dishes we were about to try. Then I had the great good fortune of sitting next to her. Tommi was nothing less than the perfect hostess, juggling gastronomic inquisition from guests with managing the event and staff. It looked effortless, but I’m sure it wasn’t. This is a woman with (invisible) nerves of steel. She won Masterchef after all, something Tommi admits was scary, propelling her into the world of professional cooking. Then, two years ago, the first Wahaca was born in Covent Garden, a new take on Mexican street food with reasonable prices and a no reservations policy.
Tommi’s Wahaca business partner, Mark Selby, also joined us last night. Equally affable, he welcomed us all as we arrived, work-weary but excited to spend an evening with he and Tommi and a kitchen doling out delicious Mexican food. It’s evident that in business, Mark and Tommi are well-matched.
The Westfield Wahaca opened with the mammoth London shopping centre last year, but once through its doors you’d never know it had neighbours like Debenhams and other high street stores. Its atmosphere is slightly sultry with dimmed lighting, functional wooden furniture and bursts of colour. The patrons themselves add splash and vibrance to the space, each bottle of tabasco or plate of taquitos or stack of Mexican bean cans or chunky hand-blown glass of margarita with salted rim enhancing the overall vibe of originality. Yes, I like it here.
Now onto the important part – eating. Tommi asked us for honest feedback, to find out whether or not the new menu would work. Would it be good enough to serve to her public?
First up were smoked herring tostadas served with a squeeze of fresh lime. The smokiness stayed in my mouth for a minute or so afterward, which is a very good thing because I love smoky flavours, especially with fish.
We looked on, bemused, as bowls of feta, tortillas, coriander and avocado were smothered by jugfuls of black bean soup. Then, taking our Tommy Tippee-style plastic spoons, dipped into the muddy mix, we sucked our spoons clean of the dark and spicy creaminess. It looked so wrong but tasted surprisingly good, if a little heavy on the heat at our end of the table. Usually I’d never order such a pond of bubbling mud with mystery ingredients concealed within its depths so this was a surprise for me. Yes, it was good but no, I probably wouldn’t order it again, at least, not unless I was sharing my slurps with a rugby team. It was served in bowls of a size that even sharing between four of us, we barely dented the surface. Perhaps if the bowls were smaller I’d be keener? No, there are plenty of other options at Wahaca to delight me so I’ll pass on the black bean soup for now, but it did create some interesting debate about coriander (like it or loathe it?) and spoons.
“I like the spoons,” said one Qyper.
“Yes, everyone likes them.” Tommi agreed, “so much so that we’ve had to put a spoon amnesty on our blog.”
“A spoon what?”
“A spoon amnesty. So many people take them home in their handbags that we’ve had to offer an amnesty so people can bring them back.”
I can see why. They were dotted about our tables – sturdy, and ergonomically comfortable to hold in their pretty baby colours of lime, raspberry and sky blue, but no, I did not take home my spoon, although I’d be interested to know where to buy my own set, just to add a touch of fun to the dining table at home.
The huitacoche (corn fungus), field mushroom and cheese quesadillas, folded into warm triangles, were winter-warming and delicious. With a dab or two of red salsa, I thought “I’ve just found my new comfort food!” Yes, this time I had seconds, but that was silly, really, because there was so much more yet to taste.
There were soft corn tortillas topped with shredded slaw, goujons of Baja California fish and a zingy drizzle of chipotle mayo. As an A-FISH-ionado, myself, I can smile and say these were good. Very, very good. I enjoyed the winter salad of butternut squash and spelt, with pickled hibiscus flowers and orange to sweeten the combination and chilli and radish to warm it. The baked pollock was also tasty, flaking into tender tomato-infused morsels; this would certainly take the bite out of a chill winter’s day, although by this point I was slowing down my intake so that by the time we got to the burritos, I didn’t have stomach enough remaining to comment on whether the cabbage in it detracted from the overall texture or flavour, one of the debates taking place amongst this avid crowd of food lovers.
Concerning the bar contents at Wahaca, usually I’d jump right in and order one of their delicious margaritas, but tonight I accepted the offer of a Modelo Especial beer with fresh lime. It was a very pleasant lager indeed. Then, as the food arrived, the wine was poured – red or white. I chose white, but couldn’t tell you more than that, apart from the fact that somehow, when my back was turned or perhaps when I was paying more attention to something that was about to enter my stomach, my water glass was filled with wine, too. So when I went to have a gulp of water after a particularly spicy bite of something, I managed to down half a glass of wine before I realised what it was. That was a truly dumb Epicurienne moment. I’ll be more cautious in future!
Under Mark’s guidance, we tasted three tequilas from the Wahaca stable: a Blanco (white), served cold, a Reposado (rested) served at room temperature and an Añejo (aged), also served at room temperature, with a lovely, caramelly tang. As many will confide, I, too, have had the occasional clash with tequila, but the selection we enjoyed last night was an utterly different sensory experience to student union layback sessions in a vintage dentist’s chair. This was refined, smooth, flavoursome liquid, to be sipped and savoured, not consumed in one swallow. This was tequila for grown ups and it was better than good. Click here to find out more.
But now I was flagging. The past few weeks have been hell at work, the stress of it strangely absorbing all appetite along the way and causing sleep to be elusive. Last night it picked its time to catch up with me and I had to leave the party early in order to catch some much needed zzzzs. But first, churros. What a delightful end to this tasty respite of an evening – dipping doughnut fingers into molten chocolate. How very Willy-Wonka-Does-Mexico it was. After a few wicked bites of churro and a quick word to TikiChris and Mel Seasons, I left Domestic Sluttery table-mate, Alex and Qyper Jessica to enjoy my espresso because I had to leave, lest I face-planted into my salsas, which would have been very poor form indeed.
**Huge thanks must go to Tommi and Mark, and all the Wahaca staff who helped this week’s event to be such a success, including those hardworking, unseen folk in the kitchen. Everyone was kind, patient with our neverending questions, and generous to the hilt. Thank you, thank you, thank you all.
***And because I was a complete doofus, not being able to find my camera, which was all the time hiding in the bottom of my idiotically-deep handbag, TikiChris has kindly allowed me to use his photos for Qype of the Wahaca event. Chris is a talented photographer, second to none. To see the rest of his Wahaca pics, click here. And to offer Chris a fabulous photographic assignment (because he’s so worth it) you can tweet him @tikichris
OTHER USEFUL LINKS
Tags: Baja California fish, Baked pollock, Black bean soup, Burrito, Chipotle mayo, Churros, Domestic Sluttery, Food photography by Tikichris, Huitacoche, Mark Selby, Masterchef winners, Melanie Seasons, Mexican cuisine, Mexican food, Mexican Restaurants in London, Modelo Especial Beer, Mushroom and cheese quesadillas, Plastic cutlery, Qype Events, Smoked herring tostada, Tequila, Thomasina Miers, Tikichris, Tommi Miers, Wahaca, Wahaca margaritas, Wahaca tequila tasting, Wahaca Westfield, Wahaca Winter Menu
Splendid Becca did the unexpected: this afternoon she sent me a bottle of José Cuervo’s Margaritas with a stunning glass from which to consume this Christmas cocktail. Now, that’s what I call the incentive to drag me out of my pre-Christmas illness wallow-hollow and back into the festive spirit (no pun intended). Then, with superb timing, The Epic Brother called to say he’d be popping by tonight, so I’ll have a Margarita Partner-in-Crime for the tasting session.
The back of the bottle informs me that:
The Margarita Cocktail was created in 1938 in honour of a beautiful Mexican showgirl named Rita de la Rosa. A bartender, inspired by her electrifying performance, improvised a cocktail to capture her heart with Cuervo and the flavour of Mexican limones. Ever since then the Cuervo Margarita continues to capture the hearts of so many around the world.
Well, then. I know what they say about the effects of tequila, and I admit to having had some interesting experiences with it myself, but the question in my head now is whether said bartender succeeded in capturing Rita de la Rosa’s heart with a little help from Señor Cuervo? Intrigued by the tale and being a true Google-r, I visited Wikipedia to find that there are various theories on how the Margarita came about. No news on Rita de la Rosa’s cocktail shaking suitor, but in the end it doesn’t really matter who was first to create this tequila-lover’s staple; thanks to Becca, I have a bottle of Margaritas that’s begging to be opened and poured over ice in a Splendid-ly salt-rimmed glass. That’s far more important.
While I’m waiting for the Epic Brother to arrive, here’s another sort of Margarita to keep you entertained – Margarita Pracatan. In case you weren’t a fan of Clive James’ TV show in nineties’ Britain, Ms Pracatan is a Cuban singer with a boa wardrobe to beat that of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and a delivery that can only be called unique.
PS José Cuervo Margaritas contains José Cuervo Gold Tequila, natural triple sec and lime-flavoured spirit. Heaven help me!
PPS Epic Brother and I have thoroughly enjoyed the Margaritas. Thank you José Cuervo and Merry Christmas!