Area residents were invited out to Salt Creek Grille in Princeton on the evening of June 13 for its summer kickoff event where the restaurant teamed up with Clase Azul Spirits for a tequila dinner.
Patrons were greeted at the entrance of the facility’s back dining room with a glass rimmed with sugar, filled with a pomegranate margarita made with Clase Azul’s pomegranate liquor, La Pinta.
“This is the first time we are doing this, and we sold out, so hopefully we’ll do this again,” said Melissa Lahr, the private dining director at Salt Creek Grille. “We found this fantastic tequila and we heard the story of what they are doing in Mexico and their artisan tequila and bottles. We got so excited and felt that we needed to share this with the Princeton community.”
What Lahr is referring to is the effort that Clase Azul Spirits has been doing in Mexico since the company formed about 20 years ago. Based in a town called Jesús María, the tequila company provides jobs to local Mexicans not only on the agave farms, but in other ways as well.
“The vision of the owners is all about transformation,” said Lowell Supran, vice president of the company’s eastern division. “One of their goals is to transform lives, so they are very involved philanthropically in Mexico with the art, with the music and supporting local artisans. All of the bottles are all works of art.”
With the exception of the La Pinta liquor, each bottle is hand-crafted into the shape of a spire. Then, each bottle is hand-painted by local Mexican artisans displaying unique works of art.
“We want to stimulate their economy and give them jobs; we are very involved in that,” Supran said. “I think often people don’t equate that with Mexico, but that’s probably the most rewarding thing for me – that transformation and helping people.”
Following the cocktail hour where the guests mingled, patrons were ushered to their seats where they were each met with a sampling of three types of tequila. The La Pinta was served by itself so guests would be able to try the sugary drink on its own, while consumers were also met with two other types of tequila – the plata – silver – and the reposado.
Supran then gave guests an introduction to each type of tequila and described each flavor and what you could pair them with.
The first course of the night began was served as Supran concluded his lecture. Coming from the original menu of Sous Chef Feliciano Lopez, he and Executive Chef Wally Weaver prepared an authentic Mexican menu to be served with each drink. Paired with a grapefruit cocktail, guests were served mesquite-grilled beef brisket empanadas with a chimichurri sauce, lime sour cream and salsa verde.
For the main course, diners were served traditional Mexican pulled chicken over a corn polenta with red mole. This dish was paired with a mezcal, which most guests were visibly most excited for.
“One of the big things that’s getting popular with tequila is mezcal. Clase Azul makes amazing mezcal, so being able to taste it at its finest point is great for them,” said Salt Creek Grille’s Assistant General Manager Chad Landsberg. “Usually when you get tequila it’s different, but this is high-end sipping tequila, it’s in a class of its own.”
The bottle of mezcal, though, was uniquely different than the other bottles from Clase Azul. Instead of being made from glass like the traditional bottle, this one was sculpted from lava rock. Not being able to paint the rock, the tops of each bottle are delicately hand-designed with bead work from local artists.
Lastly, patrons were served a tres leches cake made with fresh cream, bananas and strawberries. The sweet treat was paired with Clase Azul’s extra aged ultra-premium añejo.
Landsberg stated that this was one of the first events in a series of what he hopes will turn into something much bigger.
“Me and the private dining team here do a lot of cool events and we are trying to get into the rhythm of putting together an event or two here per month,” he said. “We would love to do that, and we have a couple more on the way.”
Salt Creek Grille is located at 1 Rockingham Way, Princeton. For more information, visit its website at www.saltcreekgrille.com/Princeton, or call 609-419-4200.