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We've attended many "Taste of" events over the years but last week we had quite a difficult choice to make... Taste of Old Town or Taste of Downtown? They were unfortunately on the SAME night this year! In the end, we decided to eat, drink and be merry in historic Old Town San Diego. I suspect my interest in latin inspired food and alcohol has been increasing following events like Latin Food Fest San Diego and Tacos & Spirits at Harborfest.
The San Diego heat was still beating down on us at this event. I had gotten some kind of "flash flood" weather alert that morning, and came to find out it was only for INLAND San Diego. Old Town (as well as the rest of the city) was still hot and sticky but at least no umbrella was needed.
We came early enough to find great parking and pick up our wristbands and maps. There were 13 places to visit and 3 hours to do it. This year they seemed to be emphasizing the rules of two alcoholic tastes per person per station, even if there were more than two samples available. I thought we were able to try all varieties in the past. Most places remembered to mark off the map under the food and drinks columns.
Barra Barra Saloon has really amazing food based on the previous year trends. This year's pollo mole verde (chicken mole) was HOT off the grill and required a little cool down before we could nibble! Even though the sauce seemed thinner than previous years, it still packed some mole punch in flavor.
Maestro Dobel Tequila is new to us and had four different levels, the typical silver, reposado, and anejo, plus a new blend (reposado + anejo) with the color filtered out. The blend was the smoothest with a hint of flavor that we couldn't place and was one of our favorites of the night.
(photo credit Lynn)
Only the silver tequila comes in this special guitar-shaped case! That looks like a collector's item to me!
We walked over to the huge courtyard near Casa de Reyes. The talented Los Rios band kept everyone groovin' to the beats that evening.
We discovered Herradura Tequila during a previous Old Town taste and currently have a bottle of reposado in our personal liquior cabinet. This year there was a brand new bottle of Anejo Ultra! Dennis described it as "flawless." The next best thing was this surprisingly addictive clamato juice mixed with lemon, garlic and other spices to be used as a palate cleanser. We wanted to drink it by itself!
Casa de Reyes presented seafood with red sauce in an orange shell! It was kind of crazy all together but we liked it.
One of the biggest samples of the night were the TWO carnitas street tacos (per person) we got from Casa Guadalajara! I think they forgot that there were other restaurants participating! The meat seemed ok and Dennis went customization happy with the toppings.
The Casamigas Tequila seemed better this year, maybe because we hit it early on. The silver was different because it had a little kick in the end. The reposado was smooth and beautiful but the stronger anejo burned.
We had multiple samples from Rust General Store. Out front two guys passed out meatballs and slaw. The meatball kind of tasted like cumin or similar seasoning and was slightly rarer in the middle. The cole slaw was a very fresh vegetable kind, and not your typical mayo-variety. Out back, the samples included cookies, licorice, and gummies snacks. They also provided a prickly pear "mocktail", a delicious non-alcoholic drink. The tiny sample cups weren't enough to quench thirst in this humid heat and I wanted more! You can buy the prickly pear flavor in the bottle at their store and make your own at home.
This picture was PERFECT. Our Rust General Store reps in the back posed for the picture in character, sans smiles. Props to Dennis for making it black and white!
We found the leaning tower of churro (on a slider) at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. This mini short rib slider was so delicious and moist and juicy with extra carmalized onions and fried onions. I couldn't stop eating it and grudgingly left some carby crumbs behind...
We recognized the Milagro Tequila rep on the left and were delighted they brought their blood orange mixed drink again. I'll have a little more of that! It was hard to move on to the straight up tequila after such a girlie drink.
We decided to walk up the hill to Old Town Tequila Factory while the night was still young. After this uphill battle, we were rewarded with A/C inside! After cooling down, we picked up our sample of ribs with chili glaze sauce. My piece of meat was fall off the bone tender. I also enjoyed the mexican style corn which I don't get to have too often.
Try saying this out loud. U4RIK. Euphoric. Get it? I realized that as I typed up the review haha. There were two mixed drinks and two tequilas to sample here. We thought the U4RIK Tequila reposado was a bit strong on its own. We were big fans of the refreshing highland cooler mix, made with cucumber and mint mixed with tequilas, but the tequila-chata (tequila horchata mix) actually tasted a bit like diluted horchata.
At Miguel's Cocina, the sample was the same camarones jaliscos as last year. Our friend said his was really good bur ours was really crunchy and hard to bite. Overall it did seem spicier and less saltier this time.
The Cazadores Tequila reposado burned a little but the mixed drink was pretty darn good. Not sure of the ingredients though.
At Cafe Coyote, we climbed up to the second floor where the tasting was and each got two tickest. You can choose two drinks, two tacos, or one of each. Dennis's chicken taco toppings paired much better than what I had done with my carnitas taco. I slurped down the yummy passion fruit margarita while Dennis sipped his cadillac margarita.
Don't leave yet... the margaritas are NOT part of the 'spirits' portion of the taste. We headed towards the actual tequila tasting of Frieda Kahlo Tequila! The blanco was surprisingly kind of smooth.
Fred's Mexican Cafe had their popular chimichenga for sampling. The coating had softened by the time we ate them so I'd recommend trying them fresh.
Don't be fooled by this picture! Don Julio Tequila does NOT come in those sizes, but I think they make for great photo props! This is one of the higher premier tequilas and is really smooth yet mellow in flavor.
Old Town Mexican Cafe had another taco to sample which I'm sure would have tasted better on emptier stomachs. The dessert on the side was flan, creamy and simple in flavor and not too sweet which kind of coated your tongue. It seemed really great after drinks!
We recognized the Corralejo Tequila rep Bryan from last year. Dennis took a photo while I pulled up last year's photo to show him. It looked just like this.
Noooooooo! he exclaimed. I need a *different* bottle and *different* pose!
He grabbed the crown shaped bottle and did a NEW pose! Awesome guy. Make sure to say hi if you see him next time!
At The Patio de Old Town, we tried the molcajete trio: grilled steak, chicken, and shrimp, basically a protein style with sauce. I remember eating something that was super soft, almost like "fake" chicken yet there was another piece that tasted like "real" chicken so wasn't sure why... until I read the menu which included nopal, ie cactus! The rest of the meats were pretty good.
We had some La Paz Agave Wine next. It was pre-mixed into a smooth cocktail that was easy to go down. I also tried the wine by itself, which had a wine feel to it but reminded me of tequila, very fascinating.
The reps from Meloza Tequila were great guides of the experience. Smell it. Taste it. A little heat as it goes down. Long flavor and smooth. There was also some kind of Liqueur called Dreamcatcher that was mixed into a drink. This changed the flavor and I kind of liked it. I also tried the liquer by itself but it made me think of barley tea which Dennis disagreed about.
The chicken and beef rolled tacos from Alamo Mexican Cafe still seemed as stiff as last year's samples. At least there was fresh salad (carrots and lettuce) to eat here.
Rockin' Baja Lobster had several samples again. The shrimp had a thick batter around it though we preferred the simpled grilled char from last year. The beef underneath was tender but the corn too plain and undressed. Dennis thought it tasted like tequila but I'm thinking he may have needed a break from the spirits! There was also ceviche in a sampler shot which worked out for us. I somehow forgot to pick up the churro for dessert but Dennis said it was a good way to finish the night.
Last but not least, the nice Azunia Tequila reps. The resosado isn't as smooth as some of the others but their margarita made for a great last drink of the night. Our tasting tonight was done!
I was pleased with this year's Taste because there seemed to be more mixed drinks to choose from, which takes away the bite of tequila shots. We of course were stuffed beyond belief. Our friend was amazed how we were able to sample so much in one night! My feet were also happy that Old Town is much less walking than trying to hit 30+ spots in downtown. It's our fourth year in a row for this event and I think we'll continue to go each year if we can!
Disclaimer: We were provided tickets for this event but the opinions are strictly own own. All photos were taken by Dennis unless otherwise indicated.