‘Streetwise MBA Program for Small Business Owners’

As many of you know, I’m passionate about my restaurants. It’s about the food and drinks, sure – but even more about the creation of something special, the challenges of running a business, the creativity and art I can showcase to share the love I have for my culture.

Because I am fueled by the excitement of running a business, I’m always seeking ways to learn more and improve upon my knowledge. Studying successful business owners has long been a necessary part of my daily routine – an inspiring way to start each day. I want to create a solid base to grow my businesses – and feel my best attribute is my ability to adapt to new concepts and opportunities.

When I learned about the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders Program, I felt it was made for me. It’s been called a ‘Streetwise MBA program for small business owners’ and focuses on the essential tools to grow a business. Participants attend weekly classes over an intensive 7-month study including thirteen in-class sessions and 7 out-of-class sessions with mentors who are leaders in their respective fields. This executive level program culminates in a three-year strategic growth plan developed by each participant. In addition to the training, small business owners are given the opportunity to work one-on-one with experienced mentors, attend educational workshops, and develop connections with city and financial leaders.

Competition for a space in the program was fierce. I underwent an intense application and interview process, during which a large field of applicants are reduced to only 20, who are accepted into the program.

I am honored and excited to have been chosen to participate. Even though the program has only been in progress for a few weeks, I can say I’ve already learned valuable insight into ways I can grow my business now and into the future. Working with some inspiring fellow business owners and gifted mentors is amazing, and I look forward to each class with enthusiasm!

Time for a Plant-Based Menu!

I’ve often been asked lately why I thought it was time to create a plant-based menu. It’s a good question – and with Mexican food, one that comes with a lot of history.

Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards to México, a plant-based diet was typical. For centuries, Mexican families made use of seeds, dried herbs, and plants to create meals. Corn originated in México, as did chocolate and a variety of other foods we now enjoy worldwide. The Aztecs, known for their bravery and ferocity, ate mostly plants.

As a little boy in México, one of my favorite memories is from a magical afternoon spent with my Father as he worked on his small farm. I was only four years old, yet the memory is as fresh today as if it recently occurred. The afternoon sun tinted everything golden, and as I followed my Father through the dirt path the dust glittered in the light as it floated up behind his footsteps. I was there to ‘help’ him harvest corn.

 

His work seemed fascinating to me, and I felt very grown up to be helping. My brother and sister tagged along, all of us listening with rapt attention to our Father’s words. We came to a fire pit with wood burning in the center and a rim of dry cow pies around the outside for fuel to burn the empty corn husks. Quickly becoming bored with ‘work’, I picked up a few kernels of corn and threw them on the fire. They popped and flew through the air, landing on the ground. Although a few burned up like small meteors, most remained edible and I reveled in the game of making food with fire. My love of popcorn, and later other traditional plants was born.

Most of you know how great my Mother’s influence was in my decision to become a Restaurateur. She loved to cook and shared her love with us through her delicious dishes. She understood that to serve others through good food was more than simply providing sustenance. Much of the wonderful food she prepared for our family was Vegan or Vegetarian, though those terms were not used in those days. It was just good food, prepared with equal parts of tradition and love.

Some of these dishes have always been on my menu at Mayahuel, but in the past year I have gotten more requests for plant-based dishes. It became clear to me that for those who choose to adopt a plant-based diet, it’s about more than simply food. My guests educated me with the reasons they choose this lifestyle; the avoidance of any food that contains animal products (such as dairy, eggs and honey) or are made with animals or tested on animals. Many of my guests are very careful to read labels and insure they aren’t contributing to the harm of other living creatures.

This made me think. How could I find a way to support this life-choice? My Executive Chef, Maria ‘Coco’ Mondragon and I began to work on recipes that have a combination of historic tradition and modern-day inspiration. Certainly, many of the dishes that bring back wonderful memories from each of our childhoods qualified.

We recently finished the menu – though it will continue to evolve and we’ll add items – and we’re pleased with the results. Some of the dishes are quite traditional – such as the Tacos Dorados de Papa, crispy, crunchy corn tortillas filled with smashed seasoned potatoes and topped with fresh lettuce and salsa. Another favorite in many Mexican homes is lentil soup. Lentils are full of nutrition – and lend themselves to the addition of herbs and spices that make a wonderful soup.

Chef Mondragon and I wanted to create a delicious nutritional drink that would also be wonderful with the addition of fine Tequila. After trying several possibilities, we settled on a drink that includes fresh spinach, watermelon, mango and a touch of mint. This is a refreshing example of plants used frequently in Mexican drinks and dishes – and while it’s wonderful on its own, it makes an amazing cocktail when Tequila is added.

The creation of starters was another area on which we focused our attention. We already feature the nutty, creamy Sikil P’ak, a dip made from roasted Pumpkin Seeds that is a staple of the Yucatan diet. Adding the Chipotle Almond dip seemed the perfect second plant-based starter – a creamy blend of ground almonds and smoky Chipotle chile goes beautifully with our house-made chips.

Mole – which is made throughout Mexico in dozens of delicious variations – is delicious over meaty Portobello mushrooms or Plantains. Our Pistacio Mole has a creamy, delicate subtleness with layers of flavor. Huitlacoche – a delicious Earthy mushroom/fungus that grows on corn – has been recently ‘discovered’ by some of the world’s top Chef’s. It lends a unique flavor to corn tortillas with mushrooms, black beans and fresh corn. Avocado – such as that in our Enchiladas Zapotecas – is a staple in Mexico and makes a very satisfying main ingredient.

One of the courses we had the most fun creating was dessert. Caramelized Plantains with dark Rum sauce have long been served south of the border. The Chocolate Pistacio cake, however, was new. This turned out beyond our wildest imagination. No one would ever think this moist, dark, rich cake had no eggs or dairy.

I’m excited about the opportunity to bring more diversity to my Restaurants and would encourage everyone – even meat eaters – to try some of our plant-based dishes. I’ll be modifying menus at each of my restaurants, including Mesa Mercado in Carmichael and La Cosecha Sacramento. It makes me proud to represent my culture through the passion of making traditional Pre-Hispanic foods.

My favorite quote of late? “Vegans are like your parents. First you hate them, then you become them and realize they were right all along.”

 

My Agave pick March ~ Ernesto Delgado

Clande Sotol

Part of the fun in sharing my Agave picks with you each month is getting to try (or try again) some great spirits.

One of the lesser-known but still amazing spirits from México is Sotol. Sotol is not made with the Agave plant, but the process is similar to the production of Mezcal.

Sotol is made with the Dasylirion Wheeleri plant, commonly called the desert spoon, or spoonflower plant. This plant is in the Asparagaceae, or Asparagus family. It’s considered a desert succulent and grows wild in arid regions ranging from Texas to Southern México. To be labeled ‘Sotol’, it must be produced in the states of Chihuahua, Durango or Coahuila.

Most of the Sotol imported to the United States comes from Chihuahua. There are mere dozens (as opposed to hundreds) of Sotol producers in this state, most creating small batches of artisan spirits.

Up until about 30 years ago, the Mexican government made it difficult for the native Sotol producers to bring their product to market because it favored luxury brands. Finally, through perseverance of the small farmers and those who supported their efforts, Sotol was legalized.

The terroir really shines through in Sotol. Varieties produced from plants in the desert can taste earthy and herbal; some produced from plants in forested areas have strong flavors of pine, eucalyptus, and menthol.

First Impressions:

Clande Sotol is presented in a stunningly beautiful bottle. The paper is clearly hand-made with fibers running through it. We looked for information about the origin of the fiber and were unable to ascertain what plant it came from, but we suspect the desert spoon plant is at least in part represented in this gorgeous label. The logo is die cut, which gives the bottle a unique appearance. The back of each label has detailed information about the specific batch.

History of Clande Sotol:

Sotol Clande is a co-op formed from producers across the state of Chihuahua. Each family has their own special recipe, handed down through many generations. In fact, Sotol in this region has an 800-year history. Clande hopes to bring a ‘single-village’ business model to the United States, with each expression representing a specific family recipe, terroir and ingredients.  Native people often cooked a number of plants in their recipes – whatever grew nearby would end up in the mixture. Clande has set out to honor the original methods of creating Sotol and supports the rustic custom of roasting the piñas like Mezcal in wood smoke and distilling in copper.

Founder Ricardo Pico believes that the distilled spirits of México are sacred when they are part of the culture and people of a region.

This artisan Sotol is not inexpensive – it takes up to 22 years for the desert spoon to mature, and it flowers only once in its lifetime. Each bottle of Clande Sotol contains an entire desert spoon piña, which grows up to 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Clande is working to develop methods to create a plan of sustainability so the desert spoon is never over-harvested.

Aromas, Flavors, and the Magic of Food:

We tasted the Clande Bienvenido Fernandez, Eduardo Arrieta and Chito Fernandez. In each, the aroma and taste of the soil was readily apparent – in fact, an expert could likely tell you exactly what region and family produced the Sotol.

The Bienvenido Fernandez was smooth and earthy – with strong herbal notes.  We loved this with a spicy fish stew – each brought out the flavor in the other.

The Forest variety, Chito Fernandez, brought to mind pine, cedar and a quiet forest floor of leaves and needles. It was strong and sharp – a fascinating, almost medicinal flavor that couldn’t be forgotten. This was amazing with a Tlayuda topped with black bean paste, lots of earthy mushrooms and spice.

Clande Eduardo Arrieta was soft and herbal, with a strong finish. This paired beautifully with a traditional corn cake dessert which was only mildly sweet – the flavors were wonderful together.

I invite you to come experience the wonders of Clande Sotol – it’s part of the history and passion of my beautiful culture.

Ernesto Delgado Agave Pick for February

It’s been a pleasure sharing my Agave picks with you – those I love and think you’ll want to experience as well. Some I’m quite familiar with; others I have tasted but revisit for this article.

First Impressions:

Don Amado Espadin Rustico represents the culmination of eleven generations of Master Distillers making fine Mezcal. The label truly takes me back to the México of my childhood – the traditional artwork hints at the generations of meticulous care that goes into each bottle. The rounded cork was particularly pleasing to hold as we began the tasting process.

 

History of Don Amado Rustico:

As with all fine Tequilas and Mezcales, it’s well worth taking your time when tasting. Those bottles hold the history and passion of the people who created it beginning 300 years ago.

Don Amado uses the Espadin Agave for this spirit – grown in Oaxaca at an elevation of over 5000 feet. They allow the Agave to ripen fully before harvesting, and roast them in wood-fired earthen pits. After crushing the piña fibers are added while fermentation takes place to add a rich Agave character. The spirit is double distilled in traditional ceramic clay.

 

My Impressions:

When pouring, I could see the clarity and silver-clear quality of this Mezcal. The aromas of Minero clay, a hint of smoke, crushed walnut and spice were evident.

The flavors burst on the tongue – at first a hint of fire, followed by a surprisingly smooth taste of citrus, apple wood, and a hint of the roasted Agave sweetness.

This is a surprisingly balanced Mezcal – one that could be enjoyed on a nice day with a friend. But our group decided to explore the pairing of foods to see what might evolve.

 

The Magic of Mezcal and Food:

We tried this Mezcal with some of the Tacos from our Mezcaleria and Taco Bar. While it was wonderful with everything we paired, what made the Mezcal dance on our tongues was the Taco de Camarón al Mezcal, which has flamed shrimp, bell pepper, Mexican crema, tomatillo salsa and pineapple. What we discovered is that this Mezcal tastes as if it’s made to be paired with pineapple, particularly grilled pineapple. What joy this discovery brought!

More Don Amado Rustica was poured while we experimented with the Grilled Fish Tostadas – the mango, pineapple, red onion, cilantro and pineapple salsa were delicious with every sip.

It was such a pleasurable experience, I invite you to come in and try these pairings. I think you’ll enjoy your experience every bit as much as I did.

 

My Agave Pick for January Clase Azul Ultra Añejo

Every month, I’ve been sharing a special Agave spirit with you – one I love and think you’ll enjoy.

Tequila aficionados love the anticipation of that first taste. We wonder if the spirit will live up to our expectations or – if we’re lucky – exceed them. As a Designer, I also love taking the time before that first sip to admire the bottle and label. It heightens my anticipation if they’re artistic and pleasing to behold.

First Impressions

Clase Azul Ultra Añejo comes in a beautiful bottle that hints at the treasure within. Every handmade decanter used for the Ultra takes Clase Azul two full weeks to create.  They are hand-painted with liquid platinum by a talented artisan and have a label made from 24 carat gold. The Clase Azul agave medallion is made from sterling silver.
This bottle is definitely a collector’s item – one you’ll want to proudly display on your bar.

History of Clase Azul Ultra Añejo

Clase Azul represents the passion of Mexican culture with their products – from the design of the bottles to the Agave spirits within, their goal is to create an appreciation of traditional Mexican art and traditions.

Once the Blue Weber Agave is harvested, it’s cooked in traditional brick ovens for 72 hours. It’s then fermented, and distilled twice. All Clase Azul Tequilas are produced in the Los Altos Highlands, in the town of Jesús María. Clase Azul ages the Ultra for five years in previously used sherry wood casks from Spain.

My Experience

Pouring this Tequila into a glass is a pleasure of its own. The color is a beautiful dark amber, hinting at the richness and beauty of the Tequila. The body is pure silk.

Aromas of caramel, vanilla, fruit and wood emanate from the glass. I took my time with this, because simply experiencing the aroma was wonderful.

The initial taste was very smooth, as you might expect. Flavor bursts from this Tequila, with a subtle sweetness that is very pleasing, hints of oak and just the right amount of spice.

With subsequent sips, it just got better and better. This is an elegant Tequila – one to take the time to appreciate from beginning to end. Truly more of an experience than simply a drink.

Other reviewers have had similar experiences. “Spectacular” and “Worth every penny!” are comments seen often. It’s no surprise.

Foods to try with Clase Azul Ultra Añejo

I tried this Tequila with our Tacos Poblanos de Arrachera and Pipian Verde con Chuleta de Puerco. It was excellent with both. The Ultra doesn’t overwhelm the flavorful dishes, but it retains its beautiful flavors throughout the meal. I think it would be great with our Ribeye con Chorizo and any Mole dish as well.
 
Special Offer at Mayahuel

Mayahuel has a very limited quantity of the Clase Azul Ultra Añejo. While it lasts, if you purchase a glass you can order any appetizer, entrée and dessert at no cost. We hope you experience this amazing Tequila at least once – you’ll remember it forever.

View our Tequila & Mezcal Club tasting event with Clase Azul!

My Agave Pick for December– Señor Ernesto Delgado

 

Every month, I’ve been sharing a special Agave spirit with you – one I love and think you’ll want to try.

As a designer, I always look at the bottle and label. The attention to detail often tells me what I can anticipate when I take that first taste.

First Impressions:
The original Crema de Tequila 1921 label features Maria de Los Dolores Eugenia Collado de Jazo, the Abuela of Juan Francisco Collado, President of Tequila 1921. She was known as one of the most beautiful women in the state of Jalisco, and revered for her creative culinary pursuits.

Tequila 1921 has created two additional special labels for the Crema. ‘Azul Riviera Maya’ is the color of the Caribbean. It represents spirituality, freedom, power and life as a divine essence, and pays tribute to the Maya Culture which settled in Southeastern México thousands of years ago.

‘Rosa Mexicano’ was chosen to express energy, life-force and love. In 1949, Ramón Mexican Valdiosera, a painter, cartoonist, designer and journalist introduced this shade as a symbol of Mexican charisma.

History of Tequila 1921:
1921’s acclaimed Blanco Tequila is used to create the Crema. Made from Agave grown in the Jalisco highlands, careful attention is given to ideal sugar concentration of the plants prior to harvest. They are cooked, rested and cooled over a slow 72 hour process.

Crema de Tequila 1921 is made in the City of León, which is located 90 miles East of the Jalisco Highlands in the State of Guanajuato. With an elevation of 5955’, León is a cosmopolitan city of over 1.5 million residents, many universities, and a center of commerce for the area.

To the Blanco 1921 adds spices and natural flavors that enhance the mild sweet Agave flavor. It is tested to ensure it has the desired velvet texture and aromas of caramel, nutmeg, coffee and cinnamon and flavors of coffee, chocolate, honey, caramel and toffee.

My Impressions:
This is an excellent dessert served lightly chilled in a flute. I love the aromas of coffee, caramel, chocolate and spices. The flavor is complex and full of cream, nutmeg, cinnamon, coffee and chocolate with a hint of sweet Agave.

I love this liqueur by itself. Truly, it doesn’t need anything to make it more perfect as a dessert to be savored.  However, I have also enjoyed the flavors this imparts to strong coffee and cocktails.  Most notably, our December holiday cocktail Maya’s Rompope which features Crema 1921, Almond liqueur, fresh cream, Agave syrup and Egg froth is one of the most creative uses for this amazing liqueur.

Foods to try with Crema de Tequila 1921:
Quite honestly, I feel this is a dessert and is best after a robust, spicy dinner such as our Tres Moles Enchiladas or Adobo de Res.  It is a perfect digestif, with a creamy cooling affect.

If I were to choose a dessert to pair with this, it would be our Imposible – with rich moist chocolate cake on the bottom and creamy, caramelly flan on top.  Truly an indulgent combination of flavors that will send you into a dreamy, blissful dessert trance.

I invite you to enjoy the experience of a glass of Crema de Tequila 1921, or enjoy it in our Maya’s Rompope – it will most definitely put you in the Holiday spirit!

My Agave Pick for October

Señor Ernesto Delgado –

I’ve been sharing a Tequila or Mezcal with you every month – one I think you’ll love to try.

The first thing that attracts me is the look of the bottle and label. So many of the small-batch Agave spirits are bottled in a way that’s artful and meant to pay tribute to a region or history. When I see that a lot of care has gone into the selection of the glass, the shape of the bottle, and design of the label, I also feel excitement that the same meticulous care has gone into the contents.

This month, I decided to try the Gran Dovejo High Proof Blanco. The bottle itself is intriguing, because it is lovely in its’ simplicity. The bottle and label are classy and elegant, but allow the liquid to take center stage. This is inviting to an aficionado – we want to know more about what’s inside.

A Local Connection

Sipping Tequila one warm summer day, Frank Mendez of Dixon and his cousin Jesus Venegas were having a heart-to-heart conversation about the desire of Aficionados to support the craftsmanship that goes into the finest Tequilas. At the time, there were many mass-produced brands on the market. Agave growers had an over-abundance of ripe plants, and opportunistic large producers were buying all they could at a low price. Frank and Jesus were concerned that the wrong people were getting into the business of Tequila for the wrong reasons- mainly profit – and both the purity of the spirit and the honor of the tradition were suffering.

Tequila and long conversations often seem to lead to the evolution of dreams. The two men felt passionately that Tequila should be created with craftsmanship and heart, and there in the heat of the afternoon, they made the decision to make their own brand. They wanted to do it right. Growing as nature intended; small production, proper distillation, patient aging. Making an ultra-premium, single estate Tequila with an Agave flavor.

They reached out to Leopoldo Solis Tinoco, who was something of a legend in the world of Tequila. He was a perfectionist. A Master Distiller who respected the Agave and the culture. They presented their idea, and were thrilled when he wanted to be part of the new brand.

Together, they selected fields of Agave which met their exacting standards. They chose the Feliciano Vivanco Distillery, located in the highlands of Arandas, Jalisco to process the raw Agave. Sen. Tinoco was joined by Gabriel Espindola Martinez, another influential Master Distiller whose reputation for integrity in the making of Tequila was legendary.

Today, Gran Dovejo is considered one of the truly Agave-forward ultra-premium Tequilas, earning numerous awards in prestigious Tequila competitions. Frank Mendez loves to give people an opportunity to taste what Tequila was meant to be. He hopes to grow distribution to allow a broader audience of people to taste fine Tequilas and learn how they are affected by micro-climates, terroir, and aging. How very much it resembles fine wine. One of his favorite activities is conducting blind tastings – asking people to pause and savor each Tequila, share the aromas and flavors they experience.

My impressions:

I feel the popularity of high-proof Tequila stems from the desire of people to have a more organic Agave experience. This Tequila is wonderful – at first aroma, it lifts your soul and makes you smile.

Gran Dovejo High Proof Blanco is extremely smooth, full of flavor, and exquisitely complex. No one aroma or flavor overpowers the other – it’s well balanced and consistent, with soft Agave notes throughout.

Aromas and flavors of fresh Agave, citrus, and pineapple pleasantly invite you to linger. This will be loved by Aficionados, of course – but even the uninitiated drinkers will love it. I’d be happy to introduce someone to Tequila with this Blanco – and I think it will easily convert a non-Tequila drinker to appreciate the amazing qualities of fine Tequila. It’s an elegant expression while remaining true to the spirit of Tequila.

 

Foods to try with Gran Dovejo High Proof Blanco

Unlike pairing fine wine with foods – where it’s typical to choose a lighter white wine to go with fish or fowl, I find that the contrast between a Tequila and a food can truly raise the experience to a new level.

Here’s what we tried and loved with the Gran Dovejo:

Enchiladas Tres Moles – ‘Exhibiting México’ – three enchiladas with three different moles: Mole Huitlacoche, Pipian and Poblano. These flavors are strong and full of spice. The Gran Dovejo High Proof Blanco’s softness was such a perfect contrast it complemented the flavors without ever competing. The Agave/citrus/pineapple flavors seemed to heighten the flavors of both the food and the Tequila, so that together they seemed like a perfect symphony – every note beautiful.

 

I invite you to experience Gran Dovejo Blanco High Proof Tequila – whether you enjoy a simple, perfect glass or try it with your favorite spicy dish – I think you’ll love it.

~Señor Ernesto Delgado

 

Why does my salad cost $15? The cost of running a restaurant.

It’s a hot summer day, and you’ve just spent the last eight hours working. You’re hungry, tired, and need to find a great place to relax, unwind and get a really good meal before heading home.

You walk in the door of your favorite restaurant and instantly feel the stress begin to leave. The air-conditioning is cool and the wonderful aromas from the kitchen waft out over the dining room.

As you’re seated by the window, you can finally simply enjoy the ambience. You know you won’t be rushed here – you are graciously greeted by a server – the person who is responsible to take your order, make sure it’s cooked to your desire and deliver it to you.

You order a salad – and when it comes, you’re struck by the colorful presentation. Crisp spinach, romaine, fresh corn, black beans, and red pepper are artfully arranged in a shallow bowl. With the first bite, your taste buds exclaim their joy.

Your salad is $15. Do you know where that money goes?
Here’s the average breakdown for your delicious salad in California restaurants:

Building Lease                                                            1.09
Equipment and depreciation                                     .19
Electricity, Heat and Air-Conditioning                   .98
Payroll*                                                                         3.81
Payroll taxes paid for employees                              .52
Employee Health Insurance                                       .48
Worker’s Compensation Insurance                         1.49
Liability Insurance                                                        .63
CPA, Bookkeeper, other overhead costs                 .38
Ingredients (food)                                                      4.68

Expenses                                                                  $14.23
*Payroll covers servers, hosts/hostesses, chef, line cooks, prep cooks, dishwashers, bus persons, management, etc.

Profit? Typically it’s 77 cents (roughly 5%)

THEN, the owner must pay income tax on that 5%. If your adjusted gross income is over $45,000, your federal and Calif state income tax will often be upwards of 42%. (Keep in mind that self-employment tax is 15.3%)

So…….. the owner of the restaurant takes home his paycheck for your $15 salad – a whopping 32 cents.

How do restaurant owners make a living and why do they do it?

The number of meals served. It’s important for restaurant owners to have guests at the tables during open hours. Of course, this number varies. The restaurant you see that’s packed at noon may have only a few guests at 2pm. The monthly average number of guests will determine the overall profit.

But if you own a business, you must be rich, right?

The perception is that small business owners in California must be wealthy. Most of those will tell you it’s far from the truth. Why do they do what they do? Because they have a passion.

The median income for individuals who are self-employed at their own incorporated businesses for twelve consecutive months was $56,142 in 2015. For individuals self-employed at their own unincorporated firms, this figure was $24,364. (Source: ACS)

What’s the takeaway? Next time you think your meal is pricey, take a look at what it includes.

  • Restaurants are one of the largest sources of employment in California.
  • They provide jobs, often entry level, to people who are attending college or helping to support families.
  • Restaurants create a need which is often filled by small farmers and local vendors.
  • California restaurants are the #1 generator of sales tax. Where do these sales taxes go?
    • Schools
    • Health programs
    • Public safety
    • Road repairs

Information provided by California Board of Equalization

Enjoy your salad! It’s providing much more than the tasty meal you’re eating.

My Agave pick for August – Senor Ernesto Delgado

This month, I chose to share Cielo Rojo Bacanora with friends. Bacanora is one of the lesser-known Agave spirits, yet like Sotol and Raicilla, has its’ own distinct flavor profile.

Cielo Rojo Bacanora First Impressions
Cielo Rojo, or Red Sky, comes in an intriguing bottle. It’s made from hand blown recycled glass with a pattern like an inverse hobnail – or if you prefer, thousands of little dimples. The bottle is pleasing to look at, and pleasingly heavy to handle. The tiny indentations in the glass feel good in your hand. As soon as I picked it up, I felt I was holding something substantial; something worthy of carefully bottling. The label depicts the sacred Rancho Tepua Mountain in the Sonoran Sierra Madre region of México.

History

Bacanora is produced from wild Pacifica Agave, called Yaquiana (A. Angustifolia), which grows in the mountain range that frames the State of Sonora. This is the only region where Bacanora may be produced. Interestingly, Bacanora was illegal in both México and the US from 1915 until 1992.

Cielo Rojo was the first Bacanora to be imported to the United States. It’s still produced on the same ranchero where it’s been made for four centuries. The wild Agaves are harvested from steep canyons in the Sierra Madres and packed out by Burro to the 25,000 acre Rancho Tepua of Roberto Contreras.

The Agaves are roasted in traditional rock and clay ovens in the ground, then given a long fermentation with wild yeasts before being double distilled in very small copper pot stills.

As you know, I’m partial to Blancos. I love the crisp, clear taste and appreciate that it allows me the luxury of tasting the skill of the Master Distiller and terroir without the addition of flavors imparted by barrel aging.

Here are my impressions:

Aroma: The aroma is sweet and mild, with hints of black licorice and herbs. A very slight smoky touch, very subtle. Just after opening the bottle, close your eyes. You’ll envision yourself standing on a steep hillside overlooking hundreds of sweet-smelling wild Agave plants on a hot summer afternoon.

Flavor: This Bacanora tastes pure and smooth. It’s elegant in its simplicity. Sweet agave dominates, with a very pleasant black licorice spice. The flavors tingle on the tip of the tongue and become more pronounced in the throat.

This Bacanora gets sweeter and more inviting as you sip, but it’s a natural sweetness like pure spring water.

Pairing with food:

Unlike most delicate and smooth Agave spirits, Cielo Rojo stood up to strong flavors in food without getting lost. We tried it with Esquites and found that it complemented the flavors of the sweet corn and spice – making us want to take a bit and a sip over and over.

We also tried it with house-made corn tortilla chips and fire roasted tomato salsa. Cielo Rojo was a lovely contrast with the strong flavors of tomato and peppers – it added a clear note of flavor.

This Bacanora is also well-suited to sit and sip with a friend under the stars on a warm summer evening.

I invite you to come in for a taste! ~ Señor Ernesto Delgado

 

 

 

The legend of the Goddess Mayahuel in Aztec Mythology

The myths and legends of México have been shared by storytellers for centuries. In many cases, there are multiple versions of a myth, such as this one about the origins of the Agave.

Long ago, when we were ruled by the seasons and feared the Gods, a young and very beautiful Goddess lived. She was the subject of much speculation – how could there be such a beauty, and why did she live in seclusion?

Ancient life was filled with rituals and passion. The Gods were equally mercurial – they fell in love and felt the rage of jealousy, experienced joy and sorrow, and had the power to rule the Earth and all its’ inhabitants. While 400 drunken rabbit Gods cavorted in the thirteen Heavens and Metztli delivered Luna each night to light the dark sky, young Mayahuel was hidden in a far corner of the universe by her jealous and possessive Grandmother, Tzitzímitl.

Young Mayahuel longed for love and passion in her life. She dreamed of romance, of rescue, of escaping the terrible confines of her secluded prison. She sat at the edge of a cloud every night and sang a song both alluring and filled with sadness.

The Serpent God of the Wind, known as Ehecatl, heard her siren song on the wind he sent to the four corners of the universe. Mesmerized, he followed the sound until he found beautiful Mayahuel. He instantly fell madly in love with her. His passion untamed, he curled his breeze around her body, caressing her. Floating on the air of Ehecatl, Mayahuel slowly danced with him until they became one. Each night they met, and each night they traveled on his soft breeze until she no longer returned to Tzitzímitl’s home.

Tzitzímitl was enraged. In her heart, she knew that trying to stop passion was impossible, for when it appears it is stronger than all the heavens combined. She plotted to kill the lovers.

Aware of Tzitzímitl’s plan, Ehecatl quickly enveloped Mayahuel in a powerful embrace of wind and swept her to Earth. As they embraced, their bodies melted in passion until they became a beautiful plant with many green spires to symbolize their ascent to the heavens and spikes to keep the furious Tzitzimitl away.

As a Maguey, their beauty shimmered in the hot desert; their passion still evident in the lush, water laden spires. When Tzitzímitl found them, she wielded her sharp machete as she cursed the power of love and swiftly cut the Maguey in half. Rage-filled destruction ensued, as she cut the plant into tiny pieces, which she cooked until it became a broth she fed to her legions of demons.

But in her haste, she missed a small, beautiful green spire and left it to dry and wither on the desert floor. Ehecatl swept the spire on his strong breeze and planted it in the rich volcanic soil. Overcome with grief, he shed great tears bestowed on him by Tlaloc, the God of Rain. Resolute in his grief, his tears gave sustenance to Mayahuel, and the spire transformed into a Maguey so beautiful it overwhelmed the Aztecs when they saw it.

Mayahuel re-awakened as the Maguey (Agave), and from that moment has been a symbol of passion and transformation as an elixir of a culture created around magic and love.

The equally interesting scientific explanation for the proliferation of Agave

The Trans-Mexican volcano belt runs from Jalisco to northeast Michoacán, and includes southern Guanajuato, southern Querétaro, México State, southern Hidalgo, Puebla, and Tlaxcala, to central Veracruz. One of these volcanos, the Volcán de Tequila, last erupted around 220,000 years ago, sending volcanic ash and mineral-laden lava flowing to lower lying areas. Although this volcano is now considered extinct, there are several volcanos in the region, including Volcán Nevado de Colima which is still very active.

This rich soil, a combination of arid clay and volcanic deposits, is perfect for the Agave, as is the climate. The higher elevation soil near Jalisco contains more red clay, and the lower elevations contain a higher concentration of volcanic soil, giving each a distinct terroir. You can thank Nature – and volcanos – for the glass of Tequila you’re enjoying.