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Sparkling Margaritas and Offbeat Guacamole

January 23, 2013

I have bubbles on the brain today, so I was reminded of a great demo by Rick Bayless I went to last year (meaning just a few weeks ago). He was promoting his latest book, Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks, so we reporters had to try both liquid and solid refreshments. And I have to say: Genius is topping off a margarita with a little cava. I'll also admit to feeling serious dread when I saw he was going to ruin his avocados with not just apples but fennel and thyme. I'm a guacamole hard-liner, adamant that it needs nothing more than onion, jalape?os, salt and cilantro. Maybe it was the sparkling margarita talking, but his variation actually worked. The roasted fennel "adds an anise hit," which actually tastes very Mexican. Mostly I'm glad I went because I learned a few more things. Onions for guacamole should be "deflamed," meaning rinsed under cold water or treated with vinegar or lime juice to break down the cell walls and tame their bite. You should use the seeds and ribs in your chilies; otherwise you might as well chop up a bell pepper. And guacamole made tableside, as so many restaurants now do for a fat markup, is not necessarily going to be good guacamole: "Most servers are not great cooks." Since I'm typing, I'll also give props to a friend, Paul Elledge, who did the outstanding photos in the book. I always think tequila is the crack cocaine of alcohol. Maybe margaritas are best drunk vicariously.

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