Tequila and Sushi, Together At Last

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Hoping to prove his is a kinder, gentler brand of the Mexican ass-kicking liquor, Casa Noble Tequila's Jose Hermosillo invited local media to be his guests guinea pigs Thursday night for a pairing of his tequila with courses from chef Ve Le at The Fish in the West Village.

The suggestion here was that good tequila is subtle and smooth enough to drink alongside all kinds of food--Hermosillo recently hosted a tequila-and-cheese happening in Los Angeles--and that when you've got a good bottle of tequila, you can sip your way through a few rounds without turning into a Tracy Byrd anti-hero destined for a hangover.

I've been no stranger to pairing booze with sushi, but those nights involving tequila had a way of ending with Jackass-style contests taking pulls of wasabi straight from the tube.

With a menu of a much higher pedigree, then, how far under the table did we slip this time? And did raw fish even stand a chance against the drink's George Foreman-grade potency?

Hermosillo began by describing the tequila-making process at his family business, which started in 1776. Perhaps sensing he was talking to a native Californian, he pointed out the Casa Noble is one of just three organic tequilas (the brand is USDA certified) and is working toward a green certification in Mexico as well, limiting its environmental impact at its production facilities.

A glass each of the brand's blanco, reposado and añejo sat on the table in The Fish's private wine tasting room, and one by one, Chef Le's courses came out, each meant to accompany a particular tequila.

In what seemed to me like a bit of a copout, though, only the first course, which paired with the blanco, had an element of sushi to it: a few pieces of snapper alongside a Fuji apple salad.

A seared scallop quivered next to an arrugula salad with goat cheese and cranberries for the second course, which went with the reposado. (Casa Noble ages theirs for 364 days in French red oak barrels.)

By the time the third course rolled around, the whole tequila/sushi novelty act was finished. Our waiter brought out plates of sliced duck breast surrounded by apple puree and bing cherries, which went along with the last tequila, the darker añejo which is aged two years.

To finish off the evening, The Fish's chocolate cake came out for a second complement to the añejo, rounding out a wide variety of flavors we had to match against the tequilas. There's no doubt Hermosillo's is mellower and much more interesting than your garden variety shoot-it-and-fall-over tequila, the jury's still out on how nicely they'd play alongside a delicate plate of raw fish.

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